Friday, 31 August 2012

Bookworm: How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

Said to be a more comedic take on the ideas of feminism and what it means today, this book caught my eye as something different.

I'd heard of quite a few women reading it and thought it'd offer a mix in my holiday selection.

Granted I've read most of it since I got back from Thailand, it has been a good commuting companion too.

I've never really considered myself a 'feminist' as such, certainly not the stereotypical idea of one at least.

Moran starts the book by going back to her childhood and how she grew up, what she was like as a little girl. I found this real life reminiscing made me chuckle and kept thinking back to silly things I'd said, done and thought when I was young.

Throughout the book there were constantly funny moments which at times made me laugh out loud.

Yet there are also points that focus on more serious issues and create a darker feel, in particular the chapter on adoption.

Each chapter refers to either a different topic, or a different time throughout the author's life. I found the book easy to read and got through it pretty fast.

However, I did find myself confused at times as to when the writing was meant in jest and when comments were entirely serious.

In addition, I'm a pretty open minded person and certainly not easily offended, but there are references and terms used in this book which are a tad inappropriate, PC this book is not. Which again in a way is refreshing as at least the writer is not afraid to say what she thinks and constantly concerned with whether she will offend or not.

My other quibble was with the overall aim of the book - was it to mock the idea of feminism, get modern women more involved in feminism or a bit of both? I couldn't quite understand.

Often Moran's writing seemed a bit over the place and points made were contradictory.

Good points
Most of the book really did make me laugh
Interesting learning more about feminism
Easy to read

Not so great
No real point made
Contradictory writing and mixed writing style
Offensive terminology and inappropriate references used

Overall I liked the book for the bits that made me laugh and I found it a refreshing change. The writing wasn't fantastic though and parts made me feel uncomfortable with the way people in bad situations were mocked or used as an example despite their misfortunes.

Give it a go and decide for yourselves

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Does paradise really exist?

Before I went on holiday I was a bit worried I’ll admit – I was panicking about turning 30 on my birthday and I was nervous that my trip wasn’t going to live up to all it was being described to be. People had told me how amazing the two weeks would be, how beautiful the location, and I kept wanting them to stop. What if they’d beefed up the whole experience and the scenery? What if I didn’t have the greatest time and the whole thing turned out to be a bit of a let-down as a result?

Now I’m back and my holiday is slowly becoming a distant memory, my tan is fading and my clothes feel tighter I’m dreaming of another place.

My head is filled with images of perfectly clear blue skies, soft powdery white sand so bright it hurts your eyes, calm waters lapping the shore, completely transparent sun-warmed seas and a peaceful quiet occasionally interrupted by the sound of waves or tropical birds tweeting.

My head is filled with Thailand.

Still nearly two weeks after landing back in the UK, I can’t quite believe what a great place it was - the kindness of the people, the customs, all the things we experienced and overall the beauty before you.

At times when we were lying in the sun on the islands, I found myself stopping reading my Kindle and just looking up and trying to take in the view before me. I started to annoy my boyfriend as at regular intervals I would let out a contented sigh – I just was so relaxed and happy. I also tend to listen to music when I’m abroad and relaxing by the pool and on the beach. Not here. I just didn’t want to miss any of the peace and quiet.

I’ve always thought where I live is a relatively quiet area and although there is a road nearby it has never disturbed me, nor have I ever really noticed it. Since getting back from Thailand (particularly ending on the tiny remote idyll that is Salad Beach on Koh Phangan), I feel surrounded by noise – sirens, buses pulling up, cars sounding their horns.

Don’t get me wrong, there were of course other people in the locations we visited and it wasn’t silent the entire time, yet there seemed to be such a relaxed atmosphere around you that it wasn’t unpleasant or disturbing.

I’d been a little concerned before leaving as I’d read that Thailand has been spoilt and it’s overrun with tourists now. I can totally understand if you’d travelled here before and then returned after it became such a popular location for backpackers and holidaymakers it must seem so spoilt and built up. Yet to a first timer like me, I just cannot even comprehend how amazing it must have been before, if it’s this stunning and tranquil in the present day.

Years ago I’d thought about visiting Thailand, but I’ll be honest I was unsure. I – wrongly – assumed it was going to be a bit of an unsafe place to be and I was hesitant even just before we went concerned I might get there and feel constantly uncomfortable.

I couldn’t have been more wrong – no matter where we were – on a serene perfect beach, walking down unknown dirty streets, on a trip to visit sights, buying items to remember our stay, trying to cross the buzzing Bangkok traffic – I felt safe and moreso I felt extremely welcome.

We saw such a magical mixture of sights in just two weeks, I took an epic 1200 photos in my attempts to try and capture it all! Although photos alone simply can’t showcase the colours, sounds and smells we experienced.

Where else can you go and encounter all this? Temples, tuk tuks, elephant trekking, holding a baby monkey with its arm looped round your neck, lying under an elephant’s gigantic foot with its trunk on your back, being twisted to unbelievable proportions in a traditional massage. Walking barefoot around historical buildings, quietly contemplating as you stand in temples in front of a huge Buddha and ornate decorations, sampling all the spices and new flavours of the cuisine, quenching your thirst with an ice cold local beer, shopping from a wooden boat on a floating market, getting handmade coconut leaf jewellery on the back of an elephant, being bowed down to and seeing smiles everywhere you go, encountering stunning sunsets and all sorts of new creatures. I can’t even list it all here and already I want to jump on a plane back right now remembering.

And this is why I have the post-holiday blues. Big time. I’m also concerned unless we keep going back to Thailand, are other holidays ever going to compare?

I’ve been to Egypt, South Africa, America, Greek islands, Australia, Turkey, the Caribbean, to name a few destinations. Thailand and its people have beaten them all and completely won me over.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bookworm: Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons

On purchasing the e-book version of this fictional tale I’d already seen on review sites it wasn’t too popular and there weren’t many fans.

However, it featured Thailand and seemed a nice easy beach read so I decided to go ahead.

Well the book blurb explains the story revolves around the Finn family and features a former taxi driver in the UK moving with his family to Thailand to live, but it’s not quite the paradise they thought.

There are a lot of descriptions of Thailand – some I could identify with as I holidayed in this amazing location. However, many seemed a bit odd or far-fetched. I can’t really comment too much on them as the story is based in Phuket – somewhere I haven’t been.

Unfortunately the story itself is a little dull and it switches so many times between the family’s life in the UK and Thailand and even the start of the book seems to be in an odd place. Although the story itself is an easy read and not very taxing, it’s not necessarily the most enjoyable book ever as you kind of end up feeling a bit like you don’t really care.

The characters are okay, but I didn’t particularly warm to anyone in particular.

Good points
Some nice descriptions of Thailand
Easy to read on the beach when relaxing – not taxing at all

Not so great
Story not that interesting
Characters quite dull
Some events are quite far-fetched

Overall, the book is good if you want something that isn’t hard to read and doesn’t require much effort. If you want to learn about Thailand, reminisce about your holiday or get your teeth into a meaty read – don’t choose this book.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bookworm: The Beach by Alex Garland

So I don’t really know anyone who hasn’t seen the film The Beach – you know Leonardo DiCaprio discovers an island paradise, they all go a bit mad… I’d imagine I’ve seen it at least 3 or 4 times now.

However, on booking my trip to Thailand and thinking of books to take (I went for a Thai inspired theme), I realised I’ve never actually read the book. And as we all know nine times out of ten, the book is always the better option.

I downloaded said book onto my Kindle and after leaving Bangkok and arriving on Koh Samui I decided to get stuck in and start reading.

On a side note this is the first holiday I’ve actually taken my Kindle with me, rather than paperbacks. I have been on holidays before since owning my e-reader, but have always worried too much about sand, sun tan lotion and losing it to take it away. Never again will I make this mistake.

It was so much easier taking a lightweight e-book device, rather than 3 or 4 chunky paperbacks, which not only weigh down your bag and take up precious luggage allowance, but tend to get loose pages, are a pain to hold and at times block out the sun.

I loved having my Kindle to read and the battery lasts so long, I didn’t even have to charge it that often either.

Anyway, I digress.

So The Beach. What did I think?

Well I loved it. I really like the film and as I’d hoped, the book keeps you hooked. You just don’t want to put it down. Interestingly the book is a lot darker as well and at the end there are real mind-messing events, not featured on the big screen.

As you’d expect, the film had created some variations compared to the book and certain things I’d been expecting to happen in the book didn’t occur. However, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.

Good points
Addictive reading
Good descriptions
Accurate information on Thailand and visitors to Thailand will identify with situations and scenery referenced

Not so great
Ended too soon – I wanted to keep reading!

Overall I would definitely recommend The Beach, if you liked the film you will love the book!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Time for a break

Next time I write this blog I'll be 30. I'll have also been on what (I hope) will have been one of my best holidays ever.

I am so excited today, in five hours my parents will pick me and my boyfriend up and take us to the airport.

I'm also pleased because for once in my life I seem to have actually learnt to pack light and my case seems well under weight!

Moreover I started my day with a big smile as I weighed myself one final time before our holiday. I've managed to lose just under three pounds in weight.

This figure now means I'm one stone and nine pounds lower in weight than I was when 2012 began.

In typical female fashion I'm still not satisfied and wish I could have got down to a lower weight. However I can't deny I'm really pleased with what I've achieved and feel I can hit that beach with a bit more confidence.

Whether my body rebels once the dieting stops and the spinning subsides who knows. Though I have been assured by people who've been to Thailand before that I'll likely stay in shape what with the humidity-induced sweating and the sorts of foods we'll be consuming.

It's odd, I always find I get a bit emotional near my birthday. One of my Granddad's birthdays was the same day as mine so I do often think of that. I always seem to think about things a lot more.

Embarrassingly it's already started and I've found myself overly emotional over a number of things. A kind gesture by work friends, feeling worried about my parents whilst I'm away and - I cannot believe I'm admitting this - I saw a clip of Eastenders last night and seeing even flipping Ian Beale homeless and helpless made me sad.

Thank goodness I am off for sun, new sights and relaxation before I turn into a complete sap!

So this will be my last blog for a little while and as with other holidays I hope to have a complete relaxing break - no phone, no blog, no social media (Facebook friends and Twitter followers will be relieved of the break I'm sure!)

I'll see you when I'm back!!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The horror of hats

I have a problem.

It leaves me feeling foolish, insecure and confused.

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one with this issue, nobody else seems to struggle so much!

My problem? It’s with hats!

Some people can put any sort of headwear on and immediately ooze an air of being cool and trendy. Even if you’d be a bit unsure when seeing said hat on a shelf in a shop for example, once it rests comfortably on their barnet it becomes fashionable.

I do not possess this quality.

I remember our niece and nephew when they were really young, they both hated anything on their heads. Anything that got even near their head got knocked away or thrown off. I can relate to this, unfortunately my feelings are still with me.

There’s something about a hat on my head that immediately makes me feel stupid and a bit nerdy if I’m honest. You know the way when people put on sunglasses it seems to make them look and feel cool? My feeling with hats is the exact opposite of that.

Even those fascinator things at weddings - I braved my first one this year and I spent the whole time conscious of this big thing sticking out of my head. Yet looking at other females around with similar pieces on I thought they looked great!

Where this has come from I have no idea. I just seem to have a inferiority complex associated with hats.

The problem is when I need to wear a hat. Don’t get me wrong for things like horse riding I obviously wear my riding hat without fail or question (regardless of how silly I might look).

When it comes to the sun and going on holiday though I struggle. I have over the years invested in a few straw/cowboy hat type things for festivals and let’s face it by the time I’m out the tent I’m probably already a tad tipsy so I don’t care how good or bad I appear!

I’ve also had a white floppy number for protecting me from the heat whilst sunbathing. When I bought it a friend at the time had a similar one, so that was all I needed to reassure me it was okay. However on having to wear it on holiday I felt stupid.

Hats just seem to attract so much attention. I feel like I'm saying look at me and that I'm trying to make some sort of statement.

Over the years I've gotten better, in that I manage to convince myself in the shop the hat actually looks quite good. When it comes to wearing in 'real life' though, it's a whole different story.

With only two days until I go to Thailand I've had to purchase a sun hat. Everybody has warned me about the heat and humidity. In the past I have suffered with random fainting spells (not just heat related), so I'm a little paranoid now.

Off I went to get a hat. I bravely decided one of those big floppy straw sun hats would be best. I must have tried it on at least ten times in the shop, I still wasn't sure if I looked okay.

In the end I just bought the damn thing. Well, I need something to protect me after all.

Ever since I keep seeing it on the pile of my other holiday gear, waiting to be packed, and I am filled with doubt.

Am I going to look stupid, does it make my head look big, my face too fat?

Believe me this will continue to go on until I get to Thailand, where on some days I'll convince myself it looks okay.

Then we'll get home and I'll look back over photos and it'll start all over again...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Fitness Fail

I'm lying with my feet up after dinner, with the TV on and it feels great!

Yes I should have been just getting home from my fourth spin class in a row. However I haven't stuck to my challenge of five days in a row. Yes you could say I've failed my challenge I know and don't get me wrong I am disappointed in myself.

On the other hand I think this break tonight is a wise decision (as well as one very strongly suggested by my boyfriend).

The reason for this lapse in leg turning and foot pedalling is down to the fact I am exhausted, pure and simple.

Last night when I did the third spinning session I found it tough. It probably didn't help I had a stomach ache on arrival (which didn't ease during the session). I was just so tired though too.

I kept trying to push and push myself and I stayed for the whole session as normal. The only thing is I didn't feel great, I felt nauseous throughout the session and once I left the studio I felt extremely light headed.

Normally this temporary feeling subsides once I eat my dinner, but last night it didn't shift. In fact even when I woke up this morning I still felt 'out of it'.

Trying to relax and ease my achey muscles I had a bubble bath last night too. What happened? This morning I woke up with stiff legs and a tight achey chest.

Describing how I'd felt last night to my boyfriend he argued I should definitely take a day off today and to be honest the way I still felt this morning I started to agree.

I still took my spinning kit off to work with me 'just in case', but have left it there ready for tomorrow instead.

I've also got to be in work again from 6am tomorrow, so already feeling tired during the day was a pretty strong sign I needed to rest up.

I have to admit I'm not missing the class tonight and am grateful to be indoors relaxing.

So I know I'm rubbish for not sticking to my challenge - which was only five days after all - but if it means I can push harder tomorrow and be healthy and well for my holiday then I think I've got a good excuse!