My current 5 favourite books

 

  1. The Little House in the Big Woods

 

Please don’t judge but this is not the only children’s book on this list. I guess I will forever be a child at heart which I don’t really see anything wrong with. I studied this book in my first year at a university which specialises in children’s literature and it was during this period that my passion for the genre blossomed. The simplicity of a story which tells the lives of a humble yet strong family unit seemed really appealing to me. A nice and welcome break from the dreary likes of Great Expectations or Shakespeare, I must say. It was also a lot quicker to finish which was nice! The big font and spaced out words was visually a lot more inviting especially alongside the sweet little illustrations to accompany the idyllic storytelling of detailed descriptions of how the Ingalls family would survive the harsh habitat of the Canadian wilderness. I would highly recommend to anyone who fancies a humble and refreshing read.

 

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

A classic story by one of the most controversial authors in the history of literature, Oscar Wilde. A dark and mysterious tale following the handsome and wealthy Dorian who crosses paths with artist Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton who lead him down a dark path of vanity and pleasure. In his wild pursuit to remain as handsome as the moment that Hallward captured him in his portrait, Gray finds himself in a whirlwind of obsession, sex and murder. This thrilling tale taught me valuable lessons that money cannot buy happiness and that one should not prioritise appearances.

 

  1. Wuthering Heights  

 

Another classic by one of the most celebrated authors in literature, Jane Austen. A romance novel unlike no other which tells the story of Cathy and Heathcliffe whom are both driven to madness by their passion for each other that developed in their isolated country home, Wuthering Heights, located in the unforgiving surroundings of the Yorkshire moors. The harsh weather and location are tools cleverly used by Austen to reflect the nature of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love which is raw, passionate and transcends the realm of the living. Their story is reflected in another generation which is told in the second half of the novel which follows the lives of their children who suffer a similar fate thanks to the cruelty of Heathcliff, his insatiable lust for revenge and his inability to let go of his beloved. In all honesty, this is a challenging read which many suffer at some point of their education but it is indeed a powerful tale that tells the power of desire and love and teaches to pursue such with caution and reverence in order to avoid the torturous madness experienced by the characters in the novel.

 

  1. The Lord of the Flies

 

This too is a story that many experience in their school lives for its use of symbolism and allegories which portray the darkness of man and the consequences of different styles of leadership. The Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who find themselves washed up on a desert island. Although they are but children, they naturally coordinate themselves into establishing some sort of order through the use of a conch shell which only he who holds may voice their opinion. Through this clever device, things on the island start off nice and peachy but as always in this style of equalitarian government, the greed of man can not be subdued and so the group of choirboys form a rivalry which values having a single strong leader rather than everyone being treated equally. The book shows the darkness and faults in each of the two groups and leaves the reader stunned at the capacity of children, reminding us that humans too are animals with raw and primal instincts.

 

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Finally at number 1, my favourite book is Margaret Atwood’s novel entitled The Handmaid’s Tale which was written in response to the right-wing style of government run by Ronald Reagan who was in office at the time of the novel’s publication. This is a dystopian novel set in the nation of Gilead which is run under a strict military regime. Religion is favoured highly in Gilead and the puritan way of life in which women must conceal the bodies as much as possible is enforced by the government as law. A woman caught up in this military take over is Offred, a name given to her when she was assigned to a military commander named Fred as a handmaid. There are several roles in this regime which include military roles such as commanders, there are then commander’s wives, aunts who act as strict teachers and aid in enforcing the laws of Gilead in to the citizens and there are also handmaids which is in my opinion the worse role that one could possibly be assigned as your only function in life now is to be raped repeatedly by a commander until you bear a child. We follow Offred’s experience fulfilling this role and the encounters of hypocrisy and corruption that she witnesses alongside brief flashbacks to the time before Gilead which include memories of her mother who was a radical feminist and stood for everything which this totalitarian government is against. An insightful and thrilling read which really opened my eyes and sparked in me an interest for politics which is particularly thought-provoking now that Trump is in power. It is no surprise to me that this novel appears on so many lists of top books to read and I recommend this to pretty much every person I meet as I can honestly say it changed me and made me question a lot of my political views. It’s message of ‘Nolite te bastardes carborondorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) shall be forever engraved on my mind.

The fate of Ash Fete

Being an 18 year old who has just returned from a bustling life at university in which I would visit nightclubs and trendy bars on a weekly basis with large groups of my peers, I am sure you can imagine my enthusiasm at the prospect of having something, anything to do in my tiny home village of Ash at the end of last month. Although humbly beautiful, Ash does indeed lack in hang out spots for anyone under the age of 50 and so Ash Fete tends to be the only thing that it can offer which may slightly appeal to my demographic.

Oh how wrong I was. Upon stepping out of the car into the rainy field that I am all too familiar with, I felt somewhat embarrassed when greeted with the 3 cake stands, a charity stall and a single singer with pretty much nothing else. I can safely say that I had more fun at my University on any other day of the year than the day of Ash Fete. I remember it feeling much bigger as a child, with a large orchestra accompanying the now lonely singer, at least triple the amount of stalls and the May Queen parade, all of which had now vanished. What on Earth happened?

Well for starters, the neighbouring church (Ash Church) which has sat opposite the field in which the fete takes place for the best part of 1000 years had refused to take any part in the event in which it used to help fund. Instead, it decided to hold its own event which just so happened to take place on the very same day! Imagine, clashing events in the tiny village of Ash in which absolutely nothing happens all year round. So yes, the church decided to spend its extra funding that it received this year on its own flower show or something rather than the event which has been cherished by the community for generations.

So this year there was no sign of the friendly Vicar walking around who would usually integrate with the local community and make people feel welcome. The lack of funding from the church would most likely explain the lack of an orchestra and more stalls also. The general spirit of the fete which I had felt in previous years seemed to be missing which I felt was epitomised in the absolute non-existent response from the ‘crowd’ when the tug of war was announced, a tradition of Ash Fete in which the boys would compete against the girls and almost always triumph. With the sad, limp rope lying untouched on the ground for a following two hours, my family who made up around a third of the attendants of the event decided to humour them and due to the slight 

19424771_130138624236502_2984619516119482368_n(1)majority of females in the Collard family, we won!

 

Credit given where credit is due, I do enjoy archery and so the stall tucked away behind the remaining embarrassment was the only thing that prevented me from leaving earlier. That and the tiny beer table in which the guy poured three pints which were 90% foam for every one he managed to do right. The main cake tent I guess was alright but also not up to the standards of the years before, again due to lack of funding by the church and was left to the responsibility of the scouts, a group of youths who have no idea how to bake. Still, I bought a slice of banana bread out of politeness. This is why I went to any and every stall at the event really; out of kindness and embarrassment.

I was saddened by the lack of community spirit I must say. The rope was there to be tugged but no one came. The fete was there to be enjoyed but no one came. The fate of the fete is generally not looking great.

The Sad Life of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston to Aurelia Schober Plath and Otto Plath. Plath’s father was an entomologist and a professor of biology at Boston University who authored a book about bumblebees which gives the poet’s collection of poems on bees a much deeper meaning. Otto Plath died on November 5, 1940, a week and a half after Plath’s eighth birthday, due to complications following the amputation of a foot due to untreated diabetes. Raised as a Christian, Plath experienced a loss of faith after her father’s death and remained in this mindset about religion throughout her life. In one of her last prose pieces, Plath commented that her first nine years “sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle—beautiful inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth”. I feel that many feel this way about childhood. An untouchable memory that we hold dear; fragile and beautiful and nothing but innocent but we can never quite reach it again no matter how hard we try.

In1950, Plath attended Smith College and excelled academically. She wrote to her mother, “The world is splitting open at my feet like a ripe, juicy watermelon”. The experience, however, was not what she had hoped it would be, and it began a downward spiral.She became furious at not being allowed at a meeting with Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who was a  writer whom she loved, according to one of her boyfriends, “more than life itself.” A few weeks later, she slashed her legs to see if she had enough courage to commit suicide. Many of the events that took place during that summer were later used as inspiration for her very dark semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. During this time she was refused admission to the Harvard writing seminar. Following electroconvulsive therapy for depression, Plath made her first medically documented suicide attempt in late August 1953 by crawling under her house and taking her mother’s sleeping pills. She survived this first suicide attempt after lying unfound in a crawl space for three days, later writing that she “blissfully succumbed to the whirling blackness that I honestly believed was eternal oblivion.” Anyone who has experienced depression and suicidal thoughts will know this feeling all too well. She spent the next six months in psychiatric care, receiving electric and insulin shock treatment.

Plath first met poet Ted Hughes on February 25, 1956, at a party in Cambridge and later went on to marry him. Their daughter Frieda was born on April 1, 1960, and in October of the same year, Plath published her first collection of poetry, The Colossus. In February 1961, Plath’s second pregnancy ended in miscarriage; several of her poems, including “Parliament Hill Fields”, address this event. In a letter to her therapist, Plath claimed that Hughes beat her two days before the miscarriage. In mid-1962, Hughes began to keep bees, which would be the subject of many Plath poems.

In 1961, the couple rented their flat to Assia and David Wevill. Hughes was immediately struck with the Assia’s beauty. In June 1962, Plath had had a car accident which she described as one of many suicide attempts. To worsen matters, in July 1962, Plath discovered Hughes had been having an affair with Assia Wevill and in September the couple separated.

Before her death, Plath tried several times to take her own life. On August 24, 1953, Plath overdosed on pills in the cellar of her mother’s home. In June 1962, Plath drove her car off the side of the road, into a river. When questioned about the incident by police, she admitted to trying to take her life.

While for most of the time she had been able to continue working, her depression had worsened and become severe, “marked by constant agitation, suicidal thoughts and inability to cope with daily life.” Plath struggled with insomnia, taking medication at night to induce sleep, and frequently woke up early. She lost 20 pounds. However, she continued to take care of her physical appearance and did not outwardly speak of feeling guilty or unworthy.

Plath was prescribed anti-depressants a few days before her suicide. Knowing she was at risk alone with two young children, her doctor says he visited her daily and made strenuous efforts to have her admitted to a hospital; when that failed, he arranged for a live-in nurse. Many have argued that because antidepressants may take up to three weeks to take effect, her prescription would not have taken full effect. The nurse was due to arrive at 9:00 the morning of February 11, 1963, to help Plath with the care of her children. Upon arrival, she could not get into the flat, but eventually gained access with the help of a workman. They found Plath dead of carbon monoxide poisoning with her head in the oven, having sealed the rooms between her and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloth. At approximately 4:30 am, Plath had placed her head in the oven, with the gas turned on. She was 30 years old.

Cartoon Networld

Image result for casualty Reality is depressing enough. We experience arguments, fights and drama enough in the real world so why on earth would anyone take time out of their day to watch a fabricated version on shows like Eastenders or Coronation Street which seem to be never ending and pretty much show the same thing every episode? And dramas like Casualty are just plain sick. I don’t want to spend my evenings watching a traumatic car crash and then see the victim being sliced and diced until they die. What sicko would call this entertainment??

Image result for candy kingdom

Cartoons are different. They’re interesting and help me escape the confines of this dark and depressing universe where tragedies such as racism and car crashes occur on a daily basis. There is no cheating, bullying or profanity. Just pure innocence. Something I believe we all secretly crave. Why should this unadulterated pleasure be exclusive to kids though? As an 18 year old, I always feel a weird sense of shame when I
change channels from BBC which my parents watch to Cartoon Network which is only a page away from the shows that are targeted at toddlers.

 

It’s not just the dilution of oImage result for gravity fallsffense which I enjoy but the artwork. The vibrant colours, the detail in every object on the screen. It’s an art which I highly appreciate and wish that I could create. The creation of fantasy lands such as the Candy Kingdom from Adventure Time or the park from Regular Show or the forest in Gravity Falls, all of them are simply idyllic and mesmerising. These places are much more aesthetically pleasing and I know that I’d sure rather live in any of these locations than Albert Square or Coronation Street.

Exploration of age and the preservation of youth 

For my final module in 3D art, I decided to study appearance and how we often desire to change it to how we looked at an earlier time. This concept reminded me of masks and how they are used to conceal one’s true identity. I therefore made a series of clay masks based on pictures of my family and friends at different points in their life. The following is an extract from my art journal: 

Once the masks were fired and glazed, they had a much nicer finish. They reminded me of ancient artifacts, especially due to their cracked and broken state. As I suspected, the smooth, pristine texture of the masks contrasts nicely with the wrinkled and aged skin of the models. However the shiny glossy surface is not at all similar to the texture of skin, making them seem unrealistic. I therefore prefer the more organic finish of the unglazed red terracotta clay.

After using a transparent glaze on a few of my pieces, I began to wonder about using coloured glazes instead. Before experimenting, I decided to carry out research into an artist which uses colour in 3D portraits. I then discovered Marc Sijan whom creates hyper-realistic sculptures which he describes as “homages to humanity’s fascination with its own forms”. Critics believe that his sculptures are so lifelike that they are on the verge of movement. I was initially drawn to the artist’s’ use of colour; particularly in how he suggests that the subject is wearing makeup through the use of bright red on the lips and nails. Not only do i like the aesthetic of this, but also what it connotes. I feel that wearing makeup shows one’s desire to appear youthful and attractive. However, this is not always the result.
Sijan’s use of costume and posture portray which point the sitter is at in their cycle of life equally as much as their facial expression and wrinkles do in my opinion. I feel that this concept would be highly beneficial and easily applicable to my project. Portraying his pieces wearing a swimming costume or police officer uniform gives context to Sijan’s work. I therefore feel that, for example, my mother wearing her wedding dress as well as a mask would be highly effective. As I looked at photographs of my parents on their wedding day, I thought it would be fitting to photograph them at their current age whilst wearing their wedding clothes in order to evaluate their progression through the cycle of life.

I, as well as my mother, thought that the series of photographs was very unsettling yet effective in evoking my intended emotions for my audience. Not being able to zip the back of the wedding dress, I feel that my mother realised how much her body, as well as she, has changed over the 24 years that a passed since the day that she married my father. This feeling is what I predicted to evoke: a realisation as well as the desire to reverse time. Although my mother is beautiful, I cannot help but feel she looks uncomfortable in the dress, as the time that it was intended for is in the past. Thus, she no longer belongs in it.

The creepy and disturbing atmosphere was amplified with the addition of the broken masks. The dark hollow eyes remind the viewer that the piece is just a mask which I felt was similar to the work of Gillian wearing. The broken edges and dark hollow eyes which contrast with the expression on the mask which my mother is wearing conveys an ominous, macabre atmosphere which compliments the old and outdated wedding dress. It felt as though my mother was embodying the photographs of her found in my grandfather’s family albums which was both nostalgic and unsettling. A similar effect was created in the series of photographs that I took of my father whilst he was wearing his wedding tie. It appears as though he was frozen in time at an age where he was at the pinnacle of his youth. The cracks in the masks suggest how time can decay, how ageing is inevitable and cannot be reversed which is portrayed in both the mask and also the ageing of my father.  My dad seemed very nostalgic when showing him the mask which is what I wished to evoke. He also touched upon how unsettling the empty eye holes seemed stating that they truly are the “windows to the soul”.

I like how the aged, wrinkled skin of my grandfather contrasts the smoothness of the mask which depicts him at a much younger age, when he was at the pinnacle of his youth and beauty.  I thought it would be interesting to compare the appearance of my family members at different generations, it almost acts as a prediction of what the young will look like when they age which can be seen in the photograph of my 20  year old brother, Sam wearing the mask which depicts my grandfather.  Although I feel that the masks seem closer to the texture of skin when they are not glazed, I feel that the shiny finish portrays how people wish to capture and immortalize their beauty.

In response to my research on the artist Marc Sijan which gave me much inspiration, I decided to experiment with the use of colour on some of the masks. I used bright and vivid colours to suggest that the subject matter was wearing makeup and felt that this conveyed a desire to appear young and beautiful. I am not particularly fond of the mask which I entirely covered in a coloured glaze as it makes the piece seem very unrealistic. I prefer the matte, rough texture of the terracotta clay as it is highly similar to the texture of skin. I was keen to see the outcome of my grandmother wearing these masks in order to convey how the elderly wish to go back to their youth, when they appeared more beautiful.

In conclusion, I am very pleased with the outcome of this project, particularly because the final concept was thought of as a result of an accident. I feel that I have successfully explored issues of ageing as well as paying homage to my family and their progression through the cycle of life. My family members are also impressed with my work for this project and feel flattered that I used our personal life and precious memories to explore the cycle of life. They admit to feeling nostalgic and melancholic when looking through their old photographs as well as the pictures that I took of them wearing the masks that I created of themselves at younger ages. I therefore deem this project successful as my intended feelings were indeed evoked in my audience. I am eager to find out how others react to my work in the upcoming art exhibition and whether their reactions will differ from that of my family.

Finding My Religion

I’ve always considered myself as a radical atheist. Hating the idea of God and everything and anyone that was connected with it. I would always stay at home when my family went to the Christmas service at our village church. They’d be surrounded by people celebrating, uniting together as one to sing carols and stick candles in oranges and be happy. I’d always be unenthusiastic at Easter or Christmas while the people around me are happy. 

I’ve never really met anyone who was a serious church goer until I came to uni which is what I suppose sparked my interest initially. The idea was laughable to me, dedicating time to worship or whatever. But seeing how much happiness and sense of belonging it brought him made me question myself.

Enrolling in a module titled ‘The Meaning of Life’ did not at all help the existential crisis that awoke inside me. I began to question everything. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? 

It was during a seminar on the subject that I realised a higher being existed. The First Cause argument is what persuaded me. There MUST have been something that transcends our understanding of space and time that caused our existence. And I believe that something to be what Christians call ‘God’. 

I am yet to decide on whether I identify as a Christian but I am attracted to many of their core beliefs. I hope that my newly discovered faith will give me comfort in my existential crisis of not knowing where I come from or who I am or what my purpose is.

Art & Culture on the Southbank

Now that I’m technically a grown up, being 18 years old, my mother finds it difficult to buy Christmas presents for me. Even though I would’ve been quite content with a litre of vodka, I also received tickets to the Globe theater in London to see The Little Matchgirl (probably because I’m a literature student). Never seeing a play before in my life, I was unsure of what to expect. As she paid £50 for each ticket, it felt only fitting that I take my mother (although I probably could’ve impressed the hell out of a tinder date). The show was at 7.30 p.m.so we decided to spend the day enjoying the fruits of the Southbank, a strip along the Thames known for its art, culture and entertainment. Our first stop was at the Tate Modern.

I was amazed at the variety in the Tate. To be honest, I was expecting blank canvases and piles of garbage that are labelled as subjective, abstract political statements but was pleasantly suprised to see such pieces as that of Picasso.

The quote on this piece stood out to me for some reason, possibly due to the current political situation and the protests that were happening a few miles away in Westminster today. Protestors rudely interrupted the inauguration of President Trump yesterday during his message of peace and giving power back to the people. This quote seemed very relevant to the world’s response of America’s new leader.

Moving swiftly on from my controversial politics, I also enjoyed this study of the female form. The quick, harsh pen strokes suggest a sense of negativity and anger. The singular eye also stood out to me.

After we finished at the Tate, we didn’t know what to do for the remaining 2 hours so we walked along the river until we reached Borough Market. The street food from around the world was quite amazing, the Jamaican soul food, the Germans sausages, all in one place was quite beautiful and stood as a symbol of how we as a nation are accepting of all cultures.

After purchasing some weird oils and spices that my mother seems to like we went for a sort of pre-drinks at one of London’s oldest pubs. The old leather chairs and distressed wooden architecture was the perfect preparation for the historical architecture of the Globe theater.

Before the show, we had an extremely fancy 3 course meal and cocktails at a restaurant joined on to the Globe.  This was probably the highlight of the day, especially after a month of my attempts at cooking food at uni. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend this restaurant if you ever happen to be in the area and fancy feeling upper class for a few hours.

I was unable to take many pictures inside the theater for obvious reasons but above is my view of the stage. It was quite spectacular with the musicians looming above and the small, intimate atmosphere created by the circular seating. The play itself was not entirely what I expected but very well done. It was a collection of stories by Hans Christian Anderson: Thumbellina, The Emperor’s New Suit and The Princess And The Pea, all told by a narrator to a little puppet girl. Due to the comedy and infantile tone of the performance, it felt similar to the cringe worthy pantomimes that celebs who have hit rock bottom appear in at Christmas at times. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the theater and the talent of the actors was spectacular.

All in all I had a very enjoyable day. The intertwining of modern art, culture and history was quite amazing. The people, the food and the architecture all took my breath away and gave me a new appreciation for the beauty of what one can find on the Southbank.

December Drawings 

I was interested in the human form and expression of emotion last month. 

My first piece explores passion and the internal feeling of it conveyed as a physical form. A fluid object flying through the air, with two beings joining together as one. The pink heart shaped flare of light highlights the two lovers that may have otherwise been missed.

I decided to explore light and darkness in my second sketch, using the medium of charcoal. I drew from a leftover picture from when I photocopied my face (don’t ask…) to create a flat, squashed portion of my own face. A unique style of self portrait. I love the curves and contours in this piece as well as the darkness where the remainder of my appearance lies.

Invisible Disabilities

I have lupus. Ever heard of it? Neither did the guy on the train that i tried to convince to give up his seat for me when I was returning from my regular visit to the hospital. Its embarrassing! Having to submit an argument whenever I require help or assistance. From the outside I look normal, so why should anyone let me sit?

So lupus is a kind of rare condition and there’s not much knowledge about it. It’s come to light recently in the media with Selena Gomez being diagnosed with it and Lady Gaga naming her new album after her aunt Joanna that died of the disease. From my experience it just makes you feel weak as hell. My muscles and joints ache after doing the simplest of activities but most people would just see this and call it laziness. Very disheartening after I try with all my might to not let my condition get in the way of my life.

I know that thousands of other people are in the same boat as me and it’s very upsetting. Coming to terms with the fact that I am ‘disabled’ is hard enough, asking for help is also hard, suffering the pain I feel on a daily basis is even harder… but someone judging me for stepping out of my car from a disabled parking space when I look totally fine is extremely difficult. I feel ashamed. I’ve sometimes even faked a limp just to avoid people from looking out for ‘what’s wrong with me’. It’s pathetic I know.

I often think about how someone would react if they were told that the guy they refused to help with his suitcase up the flight of stairs had cancer and such. Maybe they’d think ‘damn I missed out on a chance to look like a good, thoughtful guy that cares for the less fortunate’. Why is it that we only want to do things if they benefit ourselves? It’s saddening to think of the selfish nature of mankind.

I sincerely hope that maybe the Christmas season will encourage everyone to be considerate not just to those who look like they need help but to one and all. Hold a door or two open. Move your bag off that train seat in rush hour. You never know how much these little things can help a person… especially one with an invisible disability.