Wednesday, 15 December 2010


So, once again, the majority of the British population (indeed, most of the world) is supposedly approaching a time of festivity, joy and happiness. Christmas. It's true that Christmas generally does bring with it fun memories and gifts and other pleasant occurrences, but the Christmas period as a whole can be rather stressful.

There are hundreds of Christmas cards to be written (to people who already know that you care about them without a card that simply says what you will say to them in person anyway), presents to be wrapped, having been bought first (which is actually easier said than done, because I haven't found time to go shopping yet, and Christmas Day, scarily, is just over a week away!), annual updates to be sent to distant relatives (with whom this is the only contact, in the entire year), homes to be cleaned and tidied in case of visitors, and much, much more.

Not forgetting the fact that the Christmas cake has to be made, the mince pies sprinkled with extra sugar, the marzipan rolled and cut into delightful shapes, and the mulled wine mulled.

But on top of this, for those of us who have to go to school for approximately 40 weeks of the year, and especially for those of us who are nearing the end of our compulsory education, there is homework to be done, coursework to be completed, and exams to be prepared for. Science revision, in my case, is not what I'm most looking forward to about Christmas.

Add onto all of this any extra-curriculum activities which need preparation, such as finding sheet music, practicing accompaniments for various school choirs and musicals, and along with that, consider any additional hobbies, such as piano practice (for a grade 8 exam in the next term) and violin/viola practice (for a grade 8 exam in the forseeable future), and you have a large list of things which need to be done.

I have lists, written on post-it notes, stuck to my cupboards, in the hope that by the end of the Christmas holidays, everything on them will have been crossed out. It's a long shot, but it's worth a try.

My point, at long last, is this: Are 'holidays' really holidays? Yes, we have a break from school, but my view on the upcoming Christmas holidays is that they are a chance to catch up with sleep, work, and music practice; a chance to get on the ball with everything; a chance to maybe even get ahead of the game. It's not a holiday, not for me! And I don't think that there is anyone, anyone at all, who will have these two weeks as one long holiday. Everybody will be catching up on sleep / working / catching up on things that they don't usually have the opportunity or time to do.

Don't get me wrong - I am by no means complaining about the Christmas holidays. I shall enjoy them immensely, and will not be at all willing to go back to school at the end of them.

I'm simply considering the terminology. The irony of it..

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Death Penalty.

I've been thinking a lot recently about the death penalty.
I discovered a copy of The Green Mile by Stephen King in an Oxfam bookshop a couple of weeks ago, and on a whim decided to buy it (despite never having heard of either the book or the film, but only of the author).
I started to read it, and then as a matter of coincidence we started talking/learning about the death penalty in rs at school...

It's a topic I've always known my opinion on, but now I feel so strongly about it, that I can and will debate with anyone about it.

To some, it may seem like an efficient way of clearing society of danger, clearing prison space, and acting as a deterrent, but this isn't true. It's proven that the threat of the death penalty does not act as a deterrent - average crime rates in England actually decreased after it was abolished here. As well as this, the death penalty removes all chance of reformation and a second chance for the offender, and prison isn't the only option for minor offenders, so prison space does not necessarily have to be limited.

But primarily, the reason for my feelings against the death penalty are actually because it such an inhumane and cruel way to die. Despite the fact that these men/women may have committed horrible crimes, they are humans too. The torture of knowing that they are waiting to die is a concept that most of us can barely even consider, never mind imagine. And as for the last few hours, as they consume their last meal, and say their last prayers or take their last counseling, and as they walk their final steps to their final destination of a large reinforced chair, or a noose, the emotions which must surely curse through their veins are horrific. And yet they are induced by members of their own species.

It's so hard to put into words, especially when writing, but although people on death row (and equivalents) may have made terrible mistakes, I believe that it is our own terrible mistake to allow such things to happen.

And as for when innocents happen to become mixed up in such occurrences...

In the end, more lives are taken. In most cases, the life/lives of the original victem(s). And then we add more injury, but taking the life of the original offender. We are as bad as they. Even for putting up with it, or supporting it.

The human race (including myself) sickens me.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

When the Moon Is Shining...

Why is it so much easier to think at night?

Never having been one to fall asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow (I wish!), I often find myself thinking more than I ever do during daylight hours about anything and everything. This, of course, has its advantages. Being fairly introvert at times, I enjoy just lying in my room having some peace and quiet (sad, I know - I'm supposed to be the teenager!), and having the time at night to think through everything keeps me fairly organised and calm.


It has direct consequences the following morning! I am not a morning person at the best of times (consider that a warning!), and thinking means that was awake at night when I should have been asleep, and therefore I am tired!

Also, once the brain starts thinking, it takes a while to deactivate, so to speak. Which means that I waste sleep time, and am even more tired in the morning. For instance, right now, despite having been shattered for most of the day, I am blogging in the hope that my fully-awake brain will want to go to sleep!

Life would be so much easier if we didn't think at all...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Holiday Time.

The holidays seem to have gone really quickly, but at the same time, have stretched on forever. A week in China, two weeks in Norfolk on two different holidays, plus sleepovers and going out and other such activities have certainly kept me busy, and I'm soon going away for another week. In the midst of all this, I've had food technology coursework to do (which is eating up hours of my time), serious violin and piano practice to crack on with, and other bits and bobs which don't usually get done in term time.

So I've made good use of the holidays, making sure that I have time to relax, too, and do things which I definitely won't have time for come September (such as The Sims 3, to which I am completely addicted...). I've really enjoyed just having time. Time to sleep, time to relax, the freedom of being able to do work when I actually feel like it.

The freedom shall be short lived, though. On return to school, in two weeks' time, I shall be attending two county music groups, accompanying the school musical + rehearsals, accompanying the school choir, taking part in the school's Eisteddfod rehearsals and being a part of all the other music groups that I'm involved in. Plus working towards more GCSEs.

After last year's stressful, depressing revision period, I am not looking forward to year 11 in the slightest in terms of actually doing work. Although I won't be doing Latin any more, there shall be far more subjects to revise for! I had about 12 exams in year 10, and will probably have about the same number this year, but the exams will almost all be different subjects, meaning more revision! Thankfully, though, there will be exam leave. Having exams in year 10 without exam leave meant that I was being given homework, coursework and piano practice for accompanying So Mad (a school production) at the same time, all with strict deadlines, as well as revising for 12 exams.

Talking of exams, the tension at the moment is almost unbearable. My latin results will be available on Tuesday, and, if I were in year 11, I would be able to go and receive them from South. However. Since I've just finished lowly year 10, I have to wait until September before I find out how I did. I'm extremely curious, since I had not target or attainment grades at all throughout the Latin lessons, and therefore I have no idea about how I've done. I'm hopeful, considering the sheer amount of work and revision I did (and the exams went well), that I've done ok. But we shall see - in September. I'm so impatient.

In the meantime, I just have a growing dread about returning to school, waiting for the chaos to start...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Friendly Catch-Ups At Costa Coffee.

Today, I once again went down to Bromsgrove's ever-so-exciting high street, but this time it was not to mooch, nor was it to shop. Instead, I made my way to Costa Coffee - the coffee shop of pure indulgence (for a price...). I don't even like coffee.

I like Costa. The atmosphere is relaxed but sophisticated, and sitting inside at a window table (in order to people-watch) on high stools with a friend whom I had not had a catchup with in a while was extremely pleasant. Of course, the hot chocolate with marshmellows, cream, and chocolate sprinkles added to this effect!

But even more than my liking of Costa, is my liking of catch-up chats. Most people know this. I'm the inquisitive (or nosy, take your pick) kind of person who likes to know what's going on in other peoples' lives, and who likes other people to know most of what's going on in my own. I think that it takes a lot of trust for two people to have a proper, two-way catchup, and it builds the relationship between them. Knowing what is going on in someone else's life helps to understand them better as a person, and with understanding comes stronger friendship and companionship.

As for sharing your own life, burdens are much heavier when they're not shared. Obviously, catchups are not about sharing every single thing that has ever happened in your entire life, but the important, big, relevant (and appropriate) things are often better shared, because it means that there is at least one ear out there to listen to you. This applies to good news and updates as well as bad or upsetting ones.

I'm a firm believer in catchups. Especially ones in Costa Coffee.

Friday, 30 July 2010

The Land Where Everything Is Made

The stamps in my passport (along with my flight tickets, free hotel slippers, and other various momentoes) declare that I have officially entered and left the country of the People's Republic of China. And true enough, I have.

I was initially going to write about what I did, and what I saw, and blah blah blah, but my reasoning is that if you are truly interested, you can see my photo diary on facebook, and read the captions to gain more information.

So, instead, here are some little things I've thought about on my return from China.

The Size of the Place! Population Desity, Traffic, and Bicycles.
China, the fourth biggest country in the world after Russia, Canada, and the USA, could fit the UK into it 37 times. It's absolutely huge. Beijing and Shanghai, the two cities I visited (the capital followed by China's largest city) echo this hugeness. They're busy, preoccupied cities, with many, many people. Even at night, everywhere you look, there are people. People driving, people walking, people riding bicycles (more about that shortly), people sitting on the pavements lighting small fires and playing cards with each other. There are huge skyscrapers - particularly in Shanghai, where there are apparently 3000 of them, all having been built in the past 10 years - housing people, but also more poverty-stricken homes on ground level.

The traffic is horrendous in most areas of these cities, in that there are simply so many people on the roads. And they're all Chinese, too - we only saw one other western tourist group whilst out there. But the roads are extremely dangerous. If there are any laws about driving, or allowing people to cross the road for that matter, they certainly aren't upheld very well! Crossing the street is a nightmare - bicycles fly at you, cars beep at you, and then you get laughed at when you try to run out of the way! Very interesting.

When in Beijing, I tried to count the number of bicycles I saw, to see if Katie Melua's song 'Nine Million Bicycles' was anywhere near accurate. After seeing and counting 850 after a mere hour or so, I decided that yes, it most probably was... And rather sensibly gave up counting.

Pride! Tourism, Contrasts, and Hidden Sights.
It is a fairly well-known fact that in many rural parts of China, the living conditions are extremely poor, and many people are in poverty. It is less commonly known that there are also areas of poverty right under the noses of those in the touristic areas - especially Beijing. It is easy to see the wonderful structures, buildings and tourist attractions, most of which towered into the sky and headed towards the sun. But when one looks closely at the ground level, behind walls and billboards to see the homes behind, the sights are not pretty. It gave me a taster for what rural China must surely be like.

It was interesting to see, though, how the Chinese try to hide these things away. As said before, the homes were often hidden behind walls and such in order to appear a 'better' city. In Shanghai, this was even more apparent. Even the main roads are above tree level, and the hundreds and thousands of skyscrapers mean that your eyes are attracted to the sky rather than to the ground, for the sights that the sky offered are a lot more impressive than those of the ground conditions.

Price! Cheapness, Haggling, and Total Westerners.
Everything in China was cheap. It was something which amazed all of us for our entire stay there. We bought large bottles of water for the equivelant of 10p, and bottles of coke for 40p. We had whole - huge - meals for about £2.50. Shop prices were very low, and money was no problem whatsoever - everybody had plenty left over by the end!

As Westerners, however, we had to haggle a lot, particularly when in markets and / or souvenir shops at the tourist attractions. Because of our white skin, tall bodies, fair hair, and light eyes, many vendors attempted to 'rip us off' by charging much more than they expected, in the hope that we would, in our ignorence, give them more money. That failed. We haggled and bargained, getting items and gifts for very little money - much less than we would in England.

Because of our 'Westerner' status, we were seen almost like tourist attractions ourselves for the Chinese. Whenever we had a group photo taken, lots of Chinese people would take it too. We were approached by many people in the street, asking to have their photo taken with us. And we were also photographed by people who didn't ask! I suppose, for people in Aisa, it is a rarity to see someone with white skin and fair hair, even in places like Beijing (where many there are visitors anyway).

Food! Meals, Fish, and Chicken Heads.
The food was interesting. Each restaurant meal was served on a circular table, and large (very large) plates of very many dishes were placed in the middle, for us to help ourselves. There was so much food! We could never eat it all. We never even attempted to finish it. As for what there was to it, rice was everywhere. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Meats were varied and generally tasty in spicy sauces, but goodness only knows what they were. I'm not aware that I ate any dog, but I have no idea.

However, I did eat some fish which arrived on our table(s) with their heads, bones, skin, tails, etc, still attached. A chicken was presented in a very similar way at one particular restuarant, although the head wasn't cooked. As well as this, there was some soup which looked more like raw eggs and some other disgusting ingredients (see one of my facebook videos) and some other strange concoctions. We were intending to go to a scorpion restaurant, but too many of us wanted to go - the restaurant wasn't big enough for us all.

Would I Go Back?
Yes. Without a single doubt in the world. I have every intention of going back. In fact, I'm not convinced that I won't end up living there for at least a while. Despite only having stayed in the country for 10 days, it now has an extremely big place in my heart, and being there felt like it was actually my home, and coming back to England felt more like leaving to go somewhere new, which was a strange thing to discover. As well as this, China is a very godless nation, and to share Jesus' amazing love with people out there would be incredible... But I shall say no more of this now, but simply wait to see what God has in store for my future. If I end up living in China, I certainly shall not complain. My trip there with the Worcestershire Youth Orchestra was the best experience of my life... so far.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Adventure Time!

It's July the 17th, a cloudy but mild Saturday in Summer, and in but 2 days' time I shall be on a plane, heading towards Asia.

I shall be with my orchestra, the Worcestershire Youth Orchestra, and we'll be touring around Beijing and Shanghai, for a total trip of 10 days. We'll be doing concerts but also sightseeing. I shall see for myself one of the seven wonders of the world.

I cannot express my excitement.

However, adventures are never pure excitement. There's always an element of thrill to them - they usually have anticipation or apprehension of the unknown lurking. And sure enough, I'm slightly wary. I have never been outside of Europe (the furthest away from home I have ever been is only Germany), and Asia is going to be a totally new experience - completely different from anything I've ever known. With being in China come all the worries about health and safety, and although these threats are present in England, they are but tiny in comparison with China. And the language is another thing entirely. Most languages in Europe are fairly comprehensable if you have a general grasp of European languages in general. However, Chinese... If you don't know the language, you don't have a chance. Thank goodness for translators.

However, the general feeling is complete and utter excitement, as adventures often are. I can't wait to be flying above the clouds (although I'm sure the novelty will wear off after about 17 hours...), walking the great wall of China, eating proper Chinese food, and playing music to an audience who aren't English!

Prayers and thoughts for safety and health over the 10 days I'm out there would be much appreciated... I shall see you all soon, with many, many, MANY, pictures!!! :)

Sunday, 23 May 2010


Change is a curious thing. I know very few people who willingly allow their lives to be twisted and morphed out of shape every time change comes along, and yet really, there is nothing we can do to stop it. We can try to delay it, change the change (ironic) in some way, or deny it, but in the end, it still happens.

And it happens on a daily basis. Little things change all the time, and we don't kick up a fuss. We discover new things, meet new people, adapt and change our environment and clothing to the current mood we're in or phase we're going through.

Despite this, most of us act totally surprised when slightly larger changes come around the corner. We often don't see them coming, but they do, and we're never prepared. At least, I know that I never fail to get knocked off my feet by some big(ish) news or a different situation.

My point is this: I should be prepared for change. I ask God to change me, I ask people to point out to me the things about me which need changing, and I wish for change to happen, and yet when it does I'm still surprised. Why? I've asked for it! We should expect change to happen, and be excited about it. We should welcome new opportunities and situations which we may not be totally comfortable with, so that we can experience new things and become more rounded characters. We should even embrace changes which we may not particularly like, because, in the long run, they will make us who we were designed to be.

It's my aim, anyway.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Mooching Around.

I like the word 'mooch'.
It's a strange word..
The dictionary says that to mooch is to 'wander around aimlessly; To beg, cadge, or sponge; to exploit or take advantage of others for personal gain; To steal or filch'.

Personally, when I say that I'm mooching, I generally mean that I'm wandering around with no particular purpose or sense of rush, rather than taking advantage of others!

I had a dentist appointment this morning at 8:20am, which would be nasty on any day (I am most definitely not a morning person), but considering that today is a teacher training day, meaning that we have no school today, it was particularly hard to drag myself out of the comfy retreat that is my bed. However, I managed it, and mum dropped me off at the dentists' and I got that all sorted out.

Afterwards, I decided to go and have a look around town. And then I realised that it was only 8:30am, and that the shops didn't open until 9. So, on impulse, I went to Costa Coffee (which was open), and spent a pleasant half hour simply sitting in there with a hot chocolate - plus marshmellows and cream, of course - and thinking quietly. I felt slightly out of place, considering that almost everybody else was obviously a regular - they were all asking for "the usual", but even so, it was nice.

Feeling relaxed, at 9, I walked around town and did a spot of shopping, and then went up to the library and spent a good half hour sitting on one of the sofas reading a good book, before walking home.

I enjoy mooching. I enjoy it a lot.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


I had a concert this afternoon; a showcase concert in which I was playing the piano. I hadn't particularly been looking forward to it, and while I was there all I was thinking about was the fact that I wanted to be at the Gracechurch Family Together service instead. The concert went well, but I just wasn't very interested in being there - in fact, I was becoming moodier by the minute.

But when we finally arrived at Gracechurch and walked in late, my mood improved almost instantly. I settled myself down by good friends and was soon laughing, chatting, dancing (?!), and goodness knows what else.

And it just makes me think. Because I personally find it so easy to think that I'm clearly lacking the joy which the Bible talks about, and which I know I should feel - I mean, Jesus has defeated death! What is there not to be joyful about?! - but today proved otherwise. Simply allowing the joy to express itself through laughter, conversation, worship and socialisation at Gracechurch today made me realise that the joy is always there in my heart - I just need to act upon it and not wallow in self-pity.

Of course, life has its ups and downs. We cannot constantly be happy (although I know a number of people who are fairly good at it!). There are going to be hard times for each and every one of us - we know that. And yet, even in the darkest hour, we can look back to the cross and see what Jesus did for us, and be filled with hope again and again, and be lifted out.

Today has been a mixture of emotions.
And tomorrow will be, too.
As will every day for the rest of my life.
But so long as I remember what he's done, the joy which God has given me will never die.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks.

It always astounds me how music has the capability to influence our thoughts and emotions. How, without having a single word spoken or even thought, music can touch the heart and of every single person.

The reasons for why I still play music is not because I started learning when I was little. It's not because I can play it, and so I do. No. It's because when I play it - when I really get into it and let my mind go -, music touches my very soul in a way that I can't even explain. Everything just detaches itself from me. Problems cease to matter as much as they did before. Answers to problems often show themselves to me without me even thinking about it. And I always end up feeling better than before I started playing.

Yes, it's hard to practice on a regular basis, and yes, it's hard to not feel pressured by weekly lessons and expectations and concerts and business of life in general. But music isn't just a hobby; it's an entire way of life.

So, in terms of 'hobbies' and 'interests', there is nothing that I would recommend more than playing music. Nothing. It is one of the most beneficial things you can do, I reckon...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

People People

Earlier, I made the mistake of putting some old photographs up on facebook from years ago, and one of my photos was one that somebody did not approve of, to say the least. They asked me to delete it in no polite terms, and when I apologised lightly on his facebook profile, they replied, and then completely deleted my comment off their wall.

And it actually hit me quite hard. There are people out there who are so obsessed about their reputations and what they look like to other people that they will go out of the way to be rude and inconsiderate to those who aren't in the same group or who aren't 'cool'.

The need to be accepted is such a tough one in today's society. It's everywhere... Walking down the streets, you'll find shops advertising what 'everybody's wearing'. Around school, it's so easy to spot the people who feel the need to be with certain people and doing certain things. And because it's so easy to spot them - and they're everywhere - it's so easy to get caught up in it.

I am so very blessed to have friends who I love for who they are and not what they do or what they look like, and who I know at least enjoy my company...!