Category: Personal

Paris Montmartre

A Celebratory Trip to Paris!

Last time I posted was over a month ago, and I was in the process of writing my end of year report for university – I’m very pleased to say this is now all finished and submitted! To celebrate with me, Bill flew out and we spent a fantastic weekend in Paris practising the art of the flâneur.

Paris Tourist Louvre

Poser with Louvre

Being only three hours away by train, I don’t know why I hadn’t visited Paris already! When asked if they like Paris, people often claim that they love the city but find the Parisiennes to be rude – this was far from my experience, as everyone we encountered was friendly and very patient with my bad French.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica Paris

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre

Having never explored Paris before I was keen to take in all the touristy sites, and in our brief visit we managed to see a lot. We stumbled into the Grand Carnival in Montmartre, walked the Champs-Élysées, and ate an inadvisable amount of macarons.

Macarons Paris

The first of many

After quite a few successive weekends in the lab working on my report, a trip to Paris was just what I needed. I’ve got a few months ahead of me without any uni work, so expect some exciting posts on the following:

  • A super fun design collaboration with the excellent Versatyl & Pilgrim of New Street Records for their new single, Lessons/Underground Sound – follow them on all the social medias so you don’t miss it!
  • Complaints about camping and snarky comments about all the acts I get to catch at Eurockéennes Festival next weekend!
  • A guest post exchange with the fabulous ALMSEE, who’s fresh off the plane from Trek America – find out more about her travels on her blog!
  • A picky vegetarian restaurant review for my follow chemistry student Greg of the brilliantly named new food blog Boy Who Eats – I can’t wait to get back to Birmingham and check out some of his recommendations for myself!

Of course you can also find the usual travel snaps and self-important ramblings right here – I’ve got two months left in Basel, so I’m hoping to explore the surrounding area some more before flying home to England! As usual, I’d love to here where you think I should go – I’m currently thinking Milan for next month – so let me know in the comments!

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New Street Records Launch This Week in Birmingham

In an effort to keep up with whats going on at the University of Birmingham while I’m on my industry year, I’ve got involved in a really cool project thanks to their Circles of Influence campaign. I’m really excited to be the head of In-House Graphic Design for New Street Records, a brand new student-run record label in Birmingham. We will be seeking out a range of student artists, and help give them the springboard that they need.

The lovely faces of the New Street Records team!

The lovely faces of the New Street Records team!

Keep an eye out for more news hear soon about our first signings, but in the meantime, here’s the poster for the launch night THIS THURSDAY:

FINAL JPEG AUDIENCE 0.1

If you’re in Birmingham, I highly recommend you head along – it’s set to be a great night. In the meantime, you can find out more about New Street Records on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

An Awkward Vegetarian Problem

When I moved into my Swiss apartment, I was surprised that not one of my new housemates (of which there were almost twenty) was vegetarian. I guess vegetarians have a tendency to surround themselves with other vegetarians for convenience’s sake.

It was only a matter of time before my new housemates started to question my vegetarianism. I never try and “recruit” people as vegetarians, and as a rule I presume that no one cares what I eat which is thankfully most often the case. I’m always really happy, though, to tell people more if they show an interest – and not once since September have I had to field the age-old, “but where do you get your protein from??”. Nine times out of ten, people don’t want to lecture you on your dietary choices – more often they’re just making polite conversation.

My problem is, this topic of conversation always seems to get raised around mealtimes – for obvious reasons. My choice not to eat comes from a purely ethical basis; I’m always a bit smug when I read about the health/environmental benefits of cutting down on meat, but I can’t pretend that’s my number one reason for avoiding it. For this reason, it’s quite difficult to answer this question in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I’m judging everyone else. When the rest of the table have just ordered massive steaks or veal-and-foie-gras-wellington or whatever, I really don’t feel like getting all Morrissey about it. This usually leads to me claiming I, “don’t know” why I’m vegetarian (which is unconvincing at best), or point blank refusing to discuss the matter, which I’m pretty sure is just as much of a mood killer as going into the gory details of the beef industry during the main course.

So, this goes out to anyone who’s quizzed me on my eating habits recently: Thanks for asking! I know this probably reads as a deeply entitled, self righteous rant, so well done for making it to the end.

And for any other vegetarians/vegans reading: Do you encounter this problem too? Let me know how you field it in the comments!

I left my felt tips in England

I came across some old drawings on my hard drive and it made me realise something: I didn’t bring any of my pens or sketchbooks with me when I moved to Switzerland. My blog is already a mish-mash of topics, and is pretty much the definition of vanity publishing. So, all in the name of content, I thought I’d stick these pictures up here – they may as well be somewhere.
Ray Charles portraitRóisín Murphy portrait

Stoya Lyra PortraitCaitlin Moran portrait

Obviously any and all criticism is greatly welcomed! Balancing work and studies is proving a challenge right now, hence the slightly irregular posts. Saying that, my post about #shirtstorm has had a great response (thanks to everyone who took the time to read it!) so I felt I should post something!

I’ll be bringing my felt tips back with me from the UK next chance I get. Anyone else getting back into drawing? Say hi in the comments!

All My New Favourite German Words

The view from the top of Stanserhorn, a mountain near Luzern. My favourite part of Switzerland so far!

The view from the top of Stanserhorn, a mountain near Luzern. My favourite part of Switzerland so far!

It’s been a while!

Apologies for the silence – wifi at my new apartment is ropey etc etc EXCUSES. But, I’m here! I’ve just finished my first month at my new job, so I guess that makes me pretty much fully integrated.

Except that I speak about 10 words of German, and precisely 1 word of Swiss-German.

This evening at the supermarket a siren went off, they evacuated everyone (“Raus! Raus!”) and a bunch of emergency services turned up. About five minutes later, the fire engines and police cars drove away. They let everyone back into the shop. A bit more German would have been handy in this situation I think! I’m going to assume it was a false alarm, but I’d have a much better story to tell if I’d understood anyone..

Nonetheless! Here are my top 5 German words:

  1. Kichererbsen – Chickpea. But, literally “giggle pea”. I’d like to say this has been useful – even in my households quest to find hummus in Swiss supermarkets – but it really hasn’t.
  2. Bluesliebehaber – A blues enthusiast or “blues-love-haver”. I found this gem on a poster for Luzern Blues Festival. Compound words are the way forward, seriously. I’ve tried telling people I’m vegetarian by claiming “Ich bin ein tofuliebehaber”, but I’m told that “vegetarier” is also acceptable.
  3. Kopfkino – “head cinema” ie. mentally picturing something. Is this also used in the nadsat language in A Clockwork Orange? I feel like it is..
  4. Naschkatze – “nibbling cat”. Someone who has a sweet tooth is considered a “naschkatze”.
  5. Doch! – An exclamation/response/adverb/intensifier that seems to be able to mean literally anything depending on the context. I know it’s used to express disagreement or doubt but beyond that, no idea. Anyone?

So thats pretty much all I have – apart from the word for every piece of equipment in my lab.  Can anyone suggest any more reasonably useless German words (or even better, Swiss German words!) for me to add to my vocab?

The Last Few Days of Summer

Well.

For anyone who’s been following my posts – the time has finally come. On Sunday, I’m flying out to Basel, Switzerland – and I start my new job on Monday!

I’ve managed to squeeze a lot into my summer break, but as a result I’m now running around trying to sort everything out this week. As an added bonus,

ooops

ooops

I managed to drop my phone, leaving me with a significant repair bill to deal with…

But, I can’t complain – I’ve had an excellent summer! I just got back from a great weekend in Bristol with a few of my old school friends. We stayed at the Rock & Bowl, a hostel which is, according to trip advisor, “a great place to meet other hipsters”. I can confirm that it was indeed very hip, and you could order pizza to the comfort of your own sofa.

Before this, I spent a week in Marmaris, Turkey, for some chill out time before starting work. This was a proper holiday – sun, sea and beer for a week. I even got slightly tanned! As you’ll see from the photos below, my trusty disposable camera went everywhere with me…

Drinking a cocktail in the sea because I was literally on holiday

Drinking a cocktail in the sea because I was literally on holiday

Eagerly clutching some raki on the hotel balcony

Eagerly clutching some raki on the hotel balcony

Midway through a jeep safari with my bff Drum, the most touristy yet brilliant thing you can do in Turkey

With my bff Drum midway through a jeep safari, the most touristy yet brilliant thing you can do in Turkey

I’ll stop with the gratuitous holiday snaps now.

So, that’s how I’ve spent the last month of my summer break. Coming up – posts about living in Switzerland. (Which is why I started this blog in the first place!)

Is anyone else starting a new school or job? Are you as nervous as I am? Let me know in the comments!

The countdown begins! China, ink, and one last great gig in Birmingham.

In exactly one month’s time, I’ll be beginning my internship with Roche in Basel Switzerland. Now seems like a good time for an update!

The Bund by night.

The Bund by night.

Firstly, I’d like to wrap up a few things from U21 Undergraduate Research Conference at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I had such an amazing time, and met so many fantastic people. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it was genuinely inspiring to hear about the exciting research being carried out all over the world. I can’t thank everyone enough who made the week possible. Here’s some photos that never made it into my blog posts while I was out there!

An amazing street food vendor near the hotel - cooking up fresh rice and noodle dishes to order for only 10元 (about £1) a bowl!

An amazing street food vendor near the hotel – cooking up fresh rice and noodle dishes to order for only 10元 (about £1) a bowl!

More great food - this time at a neat little restaurant in Old Shanghai. This time I was really glad to have some Mandarin speaking dinner companions!

More great food – this time at a neat little restaurant in Old Shanghai. This time I was really glad to have some Mandarin speaking dinner companions!

Gardens in Hangzhou - we came here on a day trip thanks to the conference organisers

Gardens in Hangzhou – we came here on a day trip thanks to the conference organisers

They were even kind enough to send us all on a boat trip around Hangzhou Bay

They were even kind enough to send us all on a boat trip around Hangzhou Bay, which was amazing

We climbed up this pagoda in 38 degree heat - but it was worth it for the view!

We climbed up this pagoda in 38 degree heat – but it was worth it for the view!

The view of Hangzhou city from the top of a pagoda

The view of Hangzhou city from the top of a pagoda

So, that was my trip to China. A week was nowhere near enough to see all of Shanghai, but it was an amazing week nonetheless. It’s definitely given me the urge to travel more though – I came back and promptly booked a holiday to Turkey with my bff Rosie. We set off in about 12 days, so it’s shaping up to be a busy summer!

ink guys

ink guys

In the meantime, you might imagine I’d been sitting around and generally having a rest – ha! Boring. Since getting back from China, I managed to fit in meeting Caitlin Moran (and eagerly blogging about it here) and making a fairly eventful trip up to the West Midlands. I got myself a little going away present; a tattoo that I’ve been after for the best part of a year, thanks to the lovely Lizzie of the appropriately named Bon Voyage Tattoo Studio in Stourbridge. I can’t recommend her highly enough!

I won’t lie, it’s been met with a mixed reception – ranging from a highly satisfying, “Oh my god – and I mean that in a good way!” to a predictable, “I just wish you’d had something prettier…” Nonetheless, I love it. Without boring you with the oh-so-deep-and-meaningful motivation behind it, it’s exactly what I wanted and I wouldn’t change one thing. The detail Lizzie has put into it is just amazing (click on the image to zoom) – as is her other work. Her instagram page is well worth checking out – you might even spot my delightful back on there….

 

Aside from that, I also had the chance to catch Velvet Texas Cannonball supporting Rose Windows at the Oobleck in Digbeth.

I try and catch Velvet Texas Cannonball whenever they’re playing, so this might be the last gig I make it to before I move out to Switzerland, sadly! Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint. If 60s psychedelic garage-rock is your thing, they’re well worth a listen. The headliners, Rose Windows, were also fantastic. They came all the way from Seattle to bring us some great psych-y folk. Recommended.

I stayed up in the area for a little longer to go to a wedding (Congrats to Maz & Stu – have fun in the USA!) and then came back to my Mum’s house in Somerset. I’ve now got 4 weeks to get ready for the move to Basel – wish me luck! Any advice is very, very welcome…

 

How to Build a Fangirl (Caitlin Moran at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham)

Guys. I MET CAITLIN MORAN.

(This might not be of interest to everyone – if you’re not bothered, consider yourself excused!)

Omg guys 😂💗

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In the way of proof, here is a picture of me grinning nervously while she hugs me.

Last week, I went up to Birmingham to see her live show with Anna of ALMSEE. Only a few days after flying back in from Shanghai (more on that later!) I wasn’t exactly keen to make that train journey – but it was more than worth it!

She opened the show by announcing that her new book, “How To Build A Girl” had made it to number one. By way of celebration, she shotted an M&S trifle; it was truly a beautiful moment. Then ensued an evening of shouting, feminism, and Catmo’s “Top 5 worst menstruation stories” (They are exactly as bad as you think. Without spoiling anything for anyone, Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents have white sofas.)

As someone who has read most of Caitlin Moran’s work (apart from the brand new book, which I am currently half way through!), I was worried that she might not have a lot of new material for the live show. I was wrong! The evening consisted of maybe 10% readings, and the rest of it was anecdotes, observational humour, and audience participation (ie, making everyone stand on their chairs and shout “I AM A FEMINIST!”) Brilliant. After the show she did a signing, so we managed to get hugs from her! It took ages to get to the front, as seemingly more than half of the audience decided to line up. How Moran managed to be so smiley and happy even after hours of posing for photos I don’t know, but credit to her for it!

During the second set, Moran talked about her technique of, “if you can’t do something, just pretend to be someone who can!”, and how throughout her teenage years, that person was Courtney Love. I think it’s fair to say that, for a few people in the audience last week, that person is Caitlin Moran.

Top badge set from #caitlinmoran in Birmingham last week – expect a blog post soon! #feminism #books

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Lab Boot Camp: Complete

It’s been a busy few weeks! Six days after my last exam and I was straight back in the lab, completing a “boot camp” for students taking an industrial
placement next year. This came to three weeks of synthesis, distillations and the ever-divisive titration (they’re not that bad, guys!) following which I feel pretty prepared for my placement with Roche.

Transition metal complexes are the most fun to synthesise #realtimechem

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Many a macrocylic complex was synthesised today @unibirmingham #realtimechem #chemistry #synthesis

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There were times when the sun was shining and everyone else who had finished was out enjoying the weather, so a 9am start in the warm undergraduate labs didn’t seem all that appealing. Handing in my completed lab book came with quite a sense of achievement, though!

After three weeks in "lab boot camp", I'm gonna say I earned this. #summer

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As well as being the last day in the labs, yesterday was also results day. Grim. Queueing up to get results is just the worst, so a few of us did our best to avoid it. However, it got to 15 minutes after the release time and we could wait any longer. Mine were okay – I got what I needed to carry on with my course – but I wasn’t thrilled. I did get some really good marks in some of my modules though, so I’ll take that!

Now I’ve finished with year two of University, I can focus on whats coming up next; In 12 days (!) I’ll be off to Shanghai! I’ve still got a few things to sort out before I go, but at least now I’ve got ample spare time. I’ve also got my last two days working with Hands on Science next week! I’ll be sad to leave (although I’m hoping to return in 2015) so expect an emotional blog post about that in the coming week…

In other news: As the latest incident in my war on gadgets, last week I inadvertently washed my phone – I’m talking a full cycle. Picture me, calling my phone to find it, getting no answer, and then turning around to see it going round and round in the window of the washing machine. Fab. Luckily it was on it’s last legs anyway, so I ended up upgrading. New toy, new apps, and I can’t stop playing around with all the photo editing software on it. I’ll leave you with my latest creation:

Accurate.

Accurate.

Did you get exam results this week? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing for U21 Undergraduate Research Conference, Shanghai

Image courtesy of Kate Ter Haar

Image courtesy of Kate Ter Haar

Everything seems a bit crazy right now – I can’t believe that this time in 3 weeks I’ll be in Shanghai! That is, if everything goes to plan. Flights are booked and my visa is on it’s way. I’ve got a 9 hour stopover in Amsterdam too, so I should have the chance to do plenty of exploring! Aside from that though, I am going there for a Universitas 21 conference. At the moment I’m putting together a presentation for said conference, which is on the theme of “Food Safety”.

Anyone who saw my guest post on The Tofu Diaries will probably be able to guess what I’m presenting on; I’ve been looking into meat production methods, their impact on the environment, and the alternatives available. You might have heard of the “In-vitro beef burger” created by Maastricht University last year – I thought this was really exciting!

This brings me on to the big ask – I want to know what other people think about this. Here is a three question survey on meat and meat alternatives. If you could spare 30 seconds to fill it out, it would be a massive help! In return, expect lots of exciting photos and blogs about Shanghai 😉 Are you going anywhere exciting this summer? Let me know in the comments!