Sunday, 17 July 2016

Five powerful pieces of content I found on the Internet this week | The Small Desk

I'll keep this blog post brief as there is a lot of content to consume through these links, but I wanted to share them with you as I thought all of them were very powerful and pieces of content that made me think. The most important thing about all these pieces of content are that they are human: they put faces to masses and voices to big issues.

The first piece challenges our idea of home, and questions why home has to be a permanent structure that you aspire to own. It looks at the ways in which people are challenging this norm set by society. The second piece is a piece you may have already read as it has been discussed widely on social media this week. It looks at what society defines as a 'complete' woman and who has the right to decide these choices for another.

The third piece is a piece that I found through Facebook and hangs on an idea I've been reminding people of myself for years. Every since I finished my Anthropology degree I've hated the word race, as it really is a social construct and this woman in the video I'm sharing with you reminds us of that.

The fourth piece puts a face to the mass of refugees that get portrayed in the media, it reminds the public that these are real people just like me or you and it could happen to us. Behind the 'mass' there is always the individual.

The final piece is just devastating, and is the story of one of the worst incidents of trolling I've ever seen. Please, if you have the time, read all of these pieces and share.

1. How we live now: inside the revolution in urban living

2. For the record

3. Why do we hate?

4. Exodus: Our Journey to Exodus

5. After Nice attack, internet trolls try to frame Sikh man as a terrorist, again


Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Muse: Book Review | The Small Desk

I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on a proof of Jessie Burton of The Miniaturist fame's new book, The Muse. Having loved The Miniaturist, I was very excited for this release. I am only posting this now as it is now available for general sale, but I actually wrote this review mid-April.

The novel is set is two separate years with two separate sets of characters. It switches between Odelle from the Caribean in 1967 and Olive from London in 1936. Both of the main characters are around the same age and both have moved from their country of origin. Odelle is now living in London and Olive in Spain.

It all begins when Odelle meets a man named Lawrie who brings a painting to her work place in order to work out who painted it. There is romance but this is a minor plot line in comparison to everything else that happens to Odelle. Her boss Marjorie Quick plays a lead role in Odelle's life and offering her a job was only the beginning of the journey she would take Odelle on.

Later in the novel we go back in time to learn about the lives of Olive, her parents and their maid and companion, Teresa and Isaac. Having recently fled to Spain, to their horror they slowly realise they are now living in the middle of a revolution.

Painting is at the centre of this novel and it is clear that Burton has done her research in terms of the art history canon. Referencing Picasso and Peggy Guggenheim, is clever of Burton as it makes the whole story that much more believable, and as a master of Art History it made the book even more appealing to me.

The beginning of the book took a while to get started but by the end I was literally reading and walking home. It got pretty racy in parts, actually a bit like The Miniaturist, and there were so many twists and turns and unexpected events. Sometimes you thought you could guess things and other times you were completely shocked by the turn of events.

The descriptions of the paintings were brilliant, and the descriptions of the events that unfolded were gripping. The ending is absolute genius. It is haunting and brilliant and insanely moving.

But again, as in The Miniaturist, I found it difficult to picture the characters. I could picture the scenery and the events, but not the characters. You could understand their emotions and feel for them, but not picture them, perhaps this is intentional, or reflects how little importance Burton puts on looks in real life, which is commendable.

With both of Burton's books there are no romantic endings, and no positive male character. The women always suffer because of the men's whimsical and often reckless behaviours and decisions. I'm interested to see what Burton has to offer next and whether this will change. To be honest though, it's a nice change to the norm and she just writes so well!

You may also be interested in reading my review of her debut novel, The Miniaturist.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

June Favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

Where has June gone?! This month has been mega hectic and has gone so fast! I can't believe I didn't even post one blog post in June! I think it's been a month of mixed emotions. Brexit has had a lot to do with it. I don't know which way you voted, but I voted remain and am therefore very upset about the result. I couldn't believe it when I was told that the UK had decided to leave the EU, I thought someone was pulling my leg. Then the week that followed was an absolute disaster and an embarrassing time for British politics. I understand why so many people voted leave though, as Westminster and London really are in their own little bubble and are ignoring the problems that have plagued the North and Midlands for the past 30 years, but it does feel like a protest vote. It's obviously still very uncertain here in the UK and I really hope we can have some clarity on what is going to happen soon.

In positive news, on a personal level, I bought a house this month, like actually got the keys and moved in and everything. I think I've mentioned having the offer accepted etc. in previous posts and again I want to reiterate that I did have help from my family and inheritance in order to make this purchase. Plus I moved out of London, which means I could buy a small house instead of a flat. It's all very new still and I'm still getting to know the area and my new commute, but I'm so so happy here and it's 100% been the right thing for me. Anyway, let's get on with the favourites...

1. Bought a house
As I just said, we bought a house! We exchanged on 3rd June and got the keys on 8th June! We made the offer in March, so it hasn't taken too long for it all to complete. I'm in the middle of writing some blog posts that offer advice to first time buyers, as it is mega confusing and stressful and there's lots of things I wish I knew before I started the process. An example is: did you know only two mortgage providers lend for buildings made from concrete? Anyway, yes, this is obviously my favourite favourite of the month!

2. Moved into the house
The moving part was very stressful and tiring and I injured myself multiple times, but it was enjoyable at times as well. The craziest time was from the 8th June to 10th June. I went to get the keys on 8th June and we moved two car loads worth of stuff down that day. Then on 9th the removal van came and picked up all our furniture. On the 10th I had to go back to our old flat and let the end of tenancy cleaners in. That day it was 27 degrees! And that evening we had a delivery of some new furniture. Lifting boxes and working out logistics are not my favourite, but spending time with my parents and getting everything unboxed was really fun.

3. Moved out of our flat
As you would expect by moving into our new home we also had to move out of the rented flat that we had lived in for the past four and a half years. We had some really good times there and it was a great first home for the both of us, but ultimately it was too small and cramped, and in the final few months we got some awful downstairs neighbours who made me dread going home. It was such a relief to get away from them, and to not worry about having a landlord anymore. I feel like I can finally relax. I completely understand now how bad it is having bad neighbours: the space you need to be relaxing just isn't and there is nowhere that you can have down time. 

4. All the parents came down to see the house
The weekend after we'd moved in my parents and the fiancé's parents came to visit. We went to the local cafe and into town. It was the first time the fiancé's parents had seen the house and only the second time both parents had met. 

5. My colleague's leaving lunch
This is not a favourite because she left, far from, but a favourite as I had a nice time at the lunch we had for her. I'm really sad that she's left, as I worked with her for the last five years, and she taught me so much, but I'm excited to meet up with her next weekend and have her as a friend as we have a lot in common such as a minor obsession with dolls houses!

6. Dinner at Wahaca with old school friend
After the move I felt really distant from my old life for some reason and I began to really miss my friends even though I'd seen them relatively recently. I craved their attention and tried to arrange a gathering but only one friend could come, so I jumped at the chance to go for dinner with her! She's an old school friend and one of my best friends in the whole world. We went to Wahaca and gorged on the best Mexican food London has to offer. 

7. Taste Festival 
Amazingly my friend had loads of free tickets for Taste Festival this year, so a bunch of us headed to Regents Park to try out taster dishes from some posh London restaurants. My favourite by far was from Trishna, a restaurant I've actually been to once before!

8. Oven cleaned
Now I know this sounds really boring but oh my... having your oven professionally cleaned is bloody amazing. When we moved into our new house the oven was unbelievably dirty and now it's been professionally cleaned it looks like new. It was 100% worth the £80 it cost!

9. Meal for Mum's 60th
My Mum turned 60 this month – you wouldn't believe she's 60 if you met her, she looks like she's in her forties! We went for pizzas in a town near where I live with my Dad, sister and fiancé and had a good laugh!

10. Friend's birthday drinks
I couldn't stay for long because we were heading for Wales the next day and I still hadn't packed, but it was a good chance to catch up with friends. 

11. Wales holiday
I went to North Wales for a week with the fiancé's family. We stayed in a cottage and visited lots of villages. The weather was terrible, but we made the most of it by playing many board games and ducking into cafes and shops when needed.

12. Climbed Snowdon
During my Wales holiday I managed to climb Snowdon, which is the second highest mountain in the UK. It was way tougher than I had imagined and ended up taking me almost six hours to complete. Needless to say my legs did not feel good the next day.

That's all for this month! How was your June?

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