Love Letters in Sunshine

For hours and miles it is nothing but dry, yellowed fields of grass, occasional farms and distant, yet slowly approaching mountains that almost hug the sky. Despite it being unusually chilly for late June in Spain, it is serene. I was cursing the humid, sticky weather back home, but here I think I like it. We pass a long, distant castle; protector of the skies, guard dogs of the Spanish countryside. It is incredibly unlike Ireland and yet, I am strangely not homesick.

The next few mornings are hectic and I am continuously vibrating, a robotic battle bee, floating around the scenic La Alberca. I settle in well, meet new people and become part of a summer camp family. It is the most unexpected kinds of people that you will bond with the most. I thought I would eventually be slapped in the face with the mental train wreck that is homesickness. But no. I don’t want to go home. I am almost like a new person out here, with a double dose of manic, colourful crazy energy.

The bell tower chiming is a rhythmic prayer, an hourly lull away from the busyness of camp afternoons with over 90 hyperactive teenagers. I do not yet know whether it is them or I who is crazier.

I think I will miss the quiet moments in the mornings, with only the bell tower chiming for company the most. It is distraction from an otherwise never ending day of bouncing, laughing and constant excitement. Butterflies come and go from my balcony, I can almost hear their tiny morning song.

I think at last I have found peaceful escape. But could I ever truly forget the hectic yet small, rainy and usually chilly Cork? I don’t think so.  But for now I will flourish, watching morning sunlight filter through the tree branches, hearing the chirps of new kinds of birds and learning to be a little daring, writing my love letters to Spain.

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Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent Van Gogh

 

The Woman

I am not a barbie doll,
A toy in all your games.
I am not a factory,
A baby making machine.

I am someone’s sister,
A daughter,
The love of someone’s life-

I am not your slave
to beat, nor pawn to be controlled.

I am human, that I vow to teach.
I live, learn and love-

I breathe, I dream,
I shall be forever free,

This I know I will make you see.

The Coping With Life Book

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I am a terrible impulse buyer. But when I saw you sitting there, with thick pages and a hardback cover, I knew I had to have you. I am of course speaking of my sketchbook that means more to me than diamonds. (If I had any diamonds of course) It may not have cost much and I’ll definitely run out of pages at the rate I’m flying through them, but this little thing makes a difference. I’ve dubbed it the “Coping With Life” book.

Rather than bake cookies at 2am and maybe, probably, definitely burn fingers in the process, I’ve delved into the therapeutic realm of art as a method of de-stressing. Too many deadlines? Consult the book. Don’t get paid for another week? Consult the book. Feel betrayed by your cat who walked right past you to his food when your arms were clearly open wide for a hug? Consult the book.

I find myself consulting a sketchbook more than I consult the advice of human beings. Sometimes talking is hard, but sometimes it’s okay to shut the world out for a few hours and spend time with your new best friend Faeber Castell. The “Coping With Life” book used to be the “Wall of Emotion”, but I’ve been running out of wall space for my pictures.

Summer is coming and you may not see your friends for a few months. Maybe you’ll visit each other and of course there’s Skype, Facebook, goofy filters on Snapchat you’ll almost certainly spam them with. But sometimes we get lonely. That’s okay too.

Consulting the sketchbook might be lying on the floor with your dog, or holding wool while your granny knits you a scarf because it won’t be long before that grand old stretch in the evening is gone again. It could be football and bruised ankles with your brother, a drive with your girlfriend who will always remind you to fasten your seatbelt as you pull out of the driveway. It could be anything. But always do something and remember you’re still alive.

I’m betting on you to remember that.

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August 2016 – Monthly Good Reads!

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I have once again returned from the dark recesses of my bedroom, (kind of, I got out of bed, does that count?) to write you another review of what I’ve been reading this month. I would like to say that I’ve been productive this last month, going on adventures. The reality is I’ve read a lot, making the most of my free time while I still have it, before I’ll be swamped in essay deadlines and exams. In Spain they would call me “una rata de bibioteca”; a library rat. (Bookworm). A name I enjoy living up to. It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you will be when you can’t help it. [Oscar Wilde]. Books are a small taste of heaven and an escape from the everyday stresses of our vague and so often dim reality. Books can reimburse that missing delight from your day and lift the heavy weight of the world from your shoulders, even if only for a short time. Without further ado, here are my three recommendations from this month.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Starting the month with a novel that embraces our childhood belief of magic that walks amongst us. The only novel (so far) by Morgenstern, she magnificently captures that childlike innocence that has been hidden away in all of us. Creative, unique and captivating, this book was so incredibly enjoyable. I’ve never read anything like this. It takes fantasy and twists it into something so fresh and delightful. Although the human pain of love and loss are felt, it is backed up by magical imagery that is so hard to find in a book these days. It is like the divergent fairy-tale we have spent all our lives searching for. In summary; this book is incredible and you should probably read it.

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Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder.

There is no other way to describe this book other than the fact that it is strange and I love it. It is a steampunk novel and masterfully composed as such. Steampunk, for those who may be unaware of this peculiar genre, is a specific sub-genre of science-fiction. It takes the 19th century Victorian era and twists it into this technological, hipster world where technology and aesthetic design collide into a world of industrial, steam-powered machinery. Mixing this obscure, industrial world with one man that carries the burden of his past, leads us to the adventures, excitement and danger of this fictional universe, which leaves one gripping the book in eagerness. Hodder creates complex characters and shows off his deep knowledge of Victorian urban myths. It is indeed a strange, yet inviting book, perfect for those looking for a taste of obscurity, or for those who bathe in it.

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Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

The beauty of this book is how human it is. Although I am an intense lover of fantasy novels, there is something incredible about books that remind us of the fragility of ourselves. This novel takes a mother’s love and the both struggles and sometimes dangers of being a guiding figure for our children. Not every home is perfect, in fact few are. Every family has its issues and the Hurst family are no exception. Take three children, all with their own intense problems and a mother with a fondness for control and authority. Now we have the fun ride that is Mother, Mother. I enjoyed this book immensely, I hope you do too.

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My Monthly Good Reads – July 2016

This month I reread some of the most captivating novels I own. Second time around, they are still as enchanting, some of the most emotion evoking books I have ever been lucky enough to stumble across. These books are of great importance to me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I have and continue to do.

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1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 

Published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, this was Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel. Much like her poetry, particularly like the poems from her collection Ariel, Plath used her own emotions and life experiences as inspiration. This semi-autobiographical novel follows the young Esther Greenwood, who comes from the suburbs of Boston, working as in intern for a prominent New York magazine. Frightened and disorientated by the large, glamorous city, Greenwood finds herself falling into deep and intense depression. This dark novel is both a powerful story and an extraordinary insight into the feelings Plath struggled with for much of her life. Plath is one of my favourite writers, and The Bell Jar is one of my favourite works written by this incredibly talented woman.

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2. Sylvia by Leonard Michaels

Set in 1960’s Manhattan, this short novel tells the fictionalised tale of Michaels’ first wife, Sylvia Boch. Michaels, having finished university, is doing little else but writing during his abundance of free time, when he meets Sylvia. A story of paranoia, drugs and sexual fantasies, it is an emotional tribute to their self-destructive relationship, heavily influenced by Sylvia’s precarious mental health. A short, but beautifully written novel, it is an unforgettable story that will sit with you for days after you have finished reading it.

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3. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2013 and also known as Where The Moon Isn’t in the American edition, this debut novel of British author and mental health nurse Nathan Filer, is one of the most mesmerizing, eye-opening books I’ve ever, in all my days read. It follows a 19 year old named Matthew, who suffers from intense paranoid-schizophrenia, as he struggles to deal with the grief of losing his brother to a tragic accident during their childhood. Written in the form of a diary by our protagonist himself, it gives us an insight into what the struggle with mental health issues, for many people, really looks like. It is both stunning and haunting, a story that you will never forget.

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4. Birds Nest Soup by Hannah Greally. 

I first read this book while doing research for a history paper, on the development of mental health services in Ireland, focusing in particular, on the Lunatic Asylums, which became the dumping grounds for people who were different, embarrassing or simply in the way. This book is the story of Hannah Greally, a nurse who came back from London during World War II, traumatised by the war. She entered St.Loman’s Psychiatric Asylum in Mullingar, Ireland, intending to only stay for a few weeks. She would spend the next 18 years of her life there. This book gives us a look into the horrifying and disturbing torment that patients were put through. Mental health was so poorly misunderstood in these days. Unfortunately, this meant that those struggling mental illness, were the ones that bore the brunt of this vacancy in the field of mental health and psychiatric care. This book gives us, even just the smallest perception of what it was like for the thousands of patients who spent some, of if not all of their lives in these prisons.

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My Productive Last Week of July

It is typical of me that I decide to be a more productive being, when the summer holidays are now starting to come to a close. My August is going to be attending Fresher’s Orientations as a Peer Support Leader (a programme I highly advise anybody to get involved in while they’re in college) and shopping for stationary. (I am a stationary addict. Nothing pleases me more than a pretty notebook.) It will be a fairly busy month for me, though I do look forward to being out and about again.

However, this week I was a bit busy! I had my last show of the summer on UCC 98.3FM, attended an outdoor production of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles and attended a free gig by The Academic, courtesy of Cork’s 96FM! It was a fun week being outside and taking advantage of new Pokéstops in Pokémon Go.

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First in my week was the stage production of Sherlock Holmes, held in Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens. Behind the stage we had the view of the beautiful early 19th century mansion, with the rolling green hills and gardens stretching behind both us and the house. The show was produced by Chapterhouse Open Air Theatre Company, which focus on outdoor shows, despite whatever weather is thrown at them. The actors were fantastic, fitting their roles perfectly. It was a wonderful tribute to the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written and published by Arthur Conan Doyle from 1887 to 1927, a span of forty years. With only 6 actors, they cleverly juggled the different roles required to tell this entertaining tale. The Company are touring all around, having performances not only in Ireland, but in the UK also! They’re definitely ones to keep an eye on, they do many different productions every summer and seem to make a regular return to Fota House. They’re very talented actors and I have high hopes for their futures.

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The next day I had my last show of the summer on UCC 98.3FM. Although a little sad to be finishing, we had a fantastic show full of banter, good tunes and political debates, which seem to make a regular appearance in most of my conversations. No apologies for those I may bore. I’ll be making a return to 98.3FM in September and I truly cannot wait! It was an amazing experience, one I’ll certainly never forget. I never envisioned myself on radio, but I’m so glad I went for it. It made my summer much better than I expected it to be!

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Later that day was The Academic’s free gig in Bishop Lucy Park, AKA, Peace Park. Arranged by 96fm, this pop-up party was their way of saying thank you to all the listeners. The band itself originate from Mullingar, made up of four lads who were in school together, hence the name The Academic. From what I’ve heard, they’re only about 19 years old, making me feel just a little bit like a cougar. They’re incredibly gifted musicians however and definitely have a strong career lined up in music. They’re genuinely down to earth people and had no problem meeting fans after the show, signing autographs and taking photos. It was incredibly admirable, especially considering how daunting it can be to suddenly be jumping into fame. Admittedly, I had no idea who they were going into the gig, but I’ve definitely come out of it as a fan. You can dance away to their music, which I did plenty of, despite my dancing resembling something like dad-dancing. The Academic’s new song Mixtape 2003 is available on iTunes and Spotify, so definitely check that out!

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It was an enjoyable last week of July, although a bit tiring. It was a lot of fun and I’m certainly hoping that August is just as fun, though I’ll be glad when September comes and I’ll be back in college.

My Monthly Good Reads!

I read a lot. I have a fine appreciation for curling up in fuzzy pyjamas with a book. Sometimes I will even go as far as to say that I prefer books over going outside and socializing. (What sort of blasphemy is going outside anyway?) Since finding out that my local library was now completely free to join, I have been practically living there. I go down at least once a week to change books. I have spent a lot of my free time lately reading, now that I can read anything I want and not just academic reading.

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Hopefully I will update this list every month so keep an eye out for another post next month with new books!

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Originally published in April 1925, this is a book that I think everyone should read at some stage of their lives. This book, to put it simply, is amazing. The use of language is mesmerising. The plot is simple yet sucks you in; I couldn’t put this book down. Set in the summer of 1922 in a fictional town named West Egg. Nick Carraway moves into West Egg and meets his neighbour Jay Gatsby, a man who holds a lot of parties. I don’t want to delve too deeply into the storyline for fear of spoiling it. This book was enjoyable, dramatic and exciting to read.

  1. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

It was a close friend that nagged me to start reading this series and boy am I glad she did! A dystopian young adult series, this first book is full of twists and intense, feels-inducing drama. The story is easy to follow; every month a new boy arrives to The Glade. They must solve the maze and escape. Thomas is the latest to arrive. They remember nothing but their names. Just like the characters, we start off just as clueless as Thomas. But slowly we learn and follow along like Thomas. Dramatic and emotional, this book quickly became one of my favourites. If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. I’m really looking forward to reading the second book of the series.

  1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I watched the movie version years ago and fell in love. As much as I enjoy the film however, the book offers so much more to the reader. The Lovely Bones is about a 14 year old that gets murdered at the very start of the novel by her neighbour, Mr. Harvey. She watches her family from heaven, seeing how they all deal with the grief. It’s a beautifully written novel that will tug on your heart strings. It’s dark, tragic but an enlightening insight into grief and how it can affect people. A wonderful book but be prepared to get emotional!

That’s all for today folks! Tune in next month when I’ll have more books to review and keep an eye out for posts about music, films and general life!

Rose x

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My Experience Learning Spanish!

Hello friends, or should I say…hola amigos! This year in university I did beginner’s Spanish as one of my four arts subjects for first year. Despite the stress that came with exams and my occasional sassy remarks in class, I had a pretty nice time. Spanish is a beautiful language that isn’t too difficult grammar wise. (I say now having finished classes, knowing I am not keeping it on due to my love for sociology) Even irregular verbs tend to follow a fairly straight forward pattern.

I’ve learnt a lot this year, like how to juggle 3 in class tests, a group project and an oral exam. I’ve also learned that despite my anger with the subject throughout the year, I actually love the language! Although I am not keeping it on for 2nd and 3rd year, I do plan to keep up learning the language. I’ve come to appreciate a few handy know-hows that really help with learning a language.

For example, using a variety of colours can really help. My notes resemble a jumbled up rubix cube at the best of times, due to the sheer number of different colours I use. (Being a stationary addict helps supply this; I cannot walk around the 2nd floor of Eason’s without leaving with a new notebook or set of pens that come in at least three different colours). I always have highlighters and coloured pencils by my side when I study. As a visual learner, this made a massive difference. Also, the splash of colour peaked my interest, much like silver does for a magpie…

Doing a little bit of revision every day is important too. Do NOT do what I did at times and leave a lot of it until last minute- it only creates more problems.

But finally, I’ve come to re-appreciate a dear friend living in Seville. She basically never speaks English when we’re texting each other; which is both a blessing and a curse. (But mostly a blessing.) She’s been so helpful for letting me practice my sometimes dodgy language skills with her.

Learning a new language is a challenge. It’s sometimes stressful and requires a lot of work. But the rewards you get out of it are worth the hard work and occasional I-want-to-rip-my-hair-out moments. Being able to actually visit Spain and know that I can survive (somewhat) without speaking English is a huge achievement. I’m proud of myself and I invite you all to try your hand at a language. You never know, you may discover a passion you never knew you had!

End note: if you are interested in learning Spanish or another language, memrise.com or Duolingo (app available for Android/iPhone) do fantastic courses in a variety of languages, for free!

 

My Patrick Rothfuss Obsession- a Collection of Fangirling

I am a big advocate of fantasy as a form of escapism. In a world of widespread war, increase of suicide rates and scary talk of banks ruling the world, there is a need for escape. Reading is one of the best ways of escaping the frightening reality in which we live. Fantasy novels offer a whole new world, where dragons are definitely more than a figment of a six year old’s imagination.

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One fantastic author I find myself turning to again and again is Patrick Rothfuss. Best known for his epic fantasy trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicle, Rothfuss is a modern day fantasy genius. His incredibly creative mind has invented remarkable background myths, followed up by a unique set of characters and one legendary man’s life journeys, pulling together into one very epic, fantastic story, spanning out over soon to be three books.

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Rothfuss is a man to be admired and adored. He is a model author, someone I feel that as an intending novelist, I can look up to. Achieving anything like what Rothfuss achieves in his writing would an honour. The Name of the Wind is one of the cleverly plotted and most well written books I have ever read and a definite favourite of mine. It can be read time and time again, it never ceases to amaze and bewilder me.

Rothfuss is an unforgettable man with a talent that never stops giving. (And with a beard as epic as his, reminds me of a grand and wise wizard.) He is one author to certainly keep an eye out for. Who knows what he’ll come up with next?

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Indie Games and Procrastination

I have this awful habit of procrastination. When I have something super important, like exams, I tend to do anything but prepare for said exams. This entire post is a literal example, I have a history exam on Tuesday and have yet to study. (As I’m writing this, it’s Saturday).

I am also a big lover of video games and they’re usually the root of my procrastination problems. Study week is a tough few days, when you have Skyrim begging to be played. Regardless of my poor attention span in terms of college work, I thought I would take the time to talk about Indie games. I have spoken about video games before and they will definitely feature in future posts. However, I thought I would post about the ironically under-appreciated Indie genre. I’ve fallen in love with indie video games. They may not have flashy Fall Out 4 level graphics and don’t have as much gameplay time as you would get out of something like Skyrim or Dark Souls, but they’re still amazing games in their own right.

About two years ago, I stumbled across a couple of RPG maker video games. These freeware horror games are probably some of my favourite games to play. (Next to Ocarina of Time; nothing will ever take its place as number 1.) Some of these titles included Misao, Ao Oni and Ib. One would think that with graphics similar to early Legend of Zelda titles, they wouldn’t be scary. Oh boy was I wrong.

Misao, created by Sen.

Misao is probably my favourite RPG Maker based game. It’s creepy and tragic all in one. The background music is unnerving and the character you play as is honestly a bit frightening at times.

The basic story, without giving too much away, is that a young girl named Misao went missing three months ago and is presumed dead by her classmates. Bullied a lot and unhappy, she curses the school and fills it with evil spirits. Now Aki (or whatever you choose to rename the character, who can be either a girl or a boy) must find Misao and rescue the school and its students.

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It’s a very unexpectedly dark game. It terrifies me in all the right ways. It has little jump scares, because jump scares do not make a game scary. It just makes the creator a bit of an uncreative poop, for lack of a better term. Sorry, not sorry. I think there are better ways to scare your target audience than just throwing in some jump scares. It’s not original or anyway entertaining, which is what a video game is supposed to be.

It’s free to download and can be found here: http://vgperson.com/games/misao.htm The creator does ask not to make a profit from gameplay videos or redistribute the music used. However, do enjoy playing it!

Ib, created by Kouri

Ib is another RPG Maker based game. This one is based on puzzle solving and is designed for all to play. However, it is rather creepy. Thankfully, there aren’t really any jump scares. Just creepy music and a butt load of different endings. (Which means we get more play time, because you want to try and get all the different endings to the story.)

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The story is basically about a little girl named Ib who visits an art gallery with her parents and suddenly finds herself alone. Then all things strange begin to happen in the art gallery and she is surrounded by dangerous paintings and strange puzzles that need solving.

It’s a fun game, though the music used is once again rather eerie and ominous. It’s an entertaining game however and once again is free. It can be found here: http://vgperson.com/games/ib.htm

Amnesia, created by Frictional Games

This video game is not free sadly. It’s also not an RPG maker based video game. Finally, it isn’t quite so much the indie game it used to be, as it is quite popular now. However, it can still be classified as an indie game, and shows up in that section of the Good Old Games website. There are two video games in this series so far; The Dark Descent and Machine for Pigs. They’re survival based horror games that do a fantastic job of scaring the pants off me. It sometimes contains jump scares, particularly with custom stories like Obscurity. (A fantastic custom story by the way, despite nasty jump scares.) You can’t fight the monsters, only run away and hope they don’t see you, or you die!

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Custom stories can be downloaded and added to the game for free, for when you’ve either finished the main story or grown bored. (Or got stuck like I did several times). There are hundreds of them out there. Hours of frightening fun at your fingertips! The story for The Dark Descent begins with you waking up in a castle with amnesia. You can only remember that your name is Daniel and that there is something after you. The castle is quickly falling apart and you must work quickly to remember where you are, why you’re there and what you must do to stop the monster coming after you. It’s a fantastic game and costs about €20.00 on Steam. (Though Steam regularly have sales, so keep an eye out and you may get it cheaper).

That’s all for today folks! Keep an eye out for more video game related posts and be sure to check the rest of my blog out!