Monday, 24 February 2014

AMSTERDAM ON THE CHEAP




When a student breaks up for the summer they usually have high expectations of what is to come over the next 3-4 months, then there is the sudden realisation that they have in fact maxed out their overdraft. I was in this same sad situation. However, over the summer of 2013 I found a solution and it came in the form of a big blue bus with a podgy man dressed in yellow on the side- Megabus. By using this incredible service I was able to travel to and from Amsterdam for the extremely small fee of £30, and the only thing between me and my Dutch adventure was an 11 hour journey. Despite delays the whole endeavour went fairly quick, due to travelling with a bunch of my excited girlfriends. Being a group of poor students we were all low on funds, so we decided a hostel was the best choice of accommodation, and so we stayed in an all female one, entitled Hostelle, which was a 20 minute metro ride into town.



Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited, with every corner having something new to discover. The cleanliness for a major city was also something that was noticed and admired by me and my travel buddies. In the 3 days we spent there we packed in as much as possible, the diversity was pretty epic, one minute we would find ourselves checking out the fake willies on display at a sex museum and the next we were paying our respects to Anne Frank and all those whose lives were turned upside down in World War 2. The Anne Frank Museum was a massive eye opener, visitors are given the opportunity to visit the actual house where Anne was forced to hide for two years, and even see the bookcase which hid their secret Annexe. The house is littered with information points and videos by her nearest and dearest, offering more intimate details of what Anne Frank was like as a young girl growing up in such a chaotic time.

One of the most weird parts of the city is the Red Light District, prostitution is legal and regulated in Holland, and is one of the biggest cultural shocks I have ever experienced. Girls are standing proudly scantily clad in the middle of windows, lit up by an invasive red colour, beckoning passing tourists to come in with the wiggle of their finger. For prudish British people, Amsterdam's completely open nature to sex is something that can make you feel quite uncomfortable. Tourists are also offered the chance to see a sex show and shop at their many sex shops.



During our jam packed trip, we paid a visit to the Amsterdam sign where people climb all over the various letters hoping to take home the most unique picture they can. I found it one of the best places to people watch ever. On another day we took a trip to the infamous Amsterdam Zoo, which was huge, and it was not difficult to get lost amongst the large amount of wildlife showcased here. You also cannot go to Amsterdam without taking a trip on the canals which cover the city. It was great to view the city from an alternative prospective after being on foot all week. Although we didn't have time to hire bikes to travel around one of Europe's favourite cities it is another great option to consider, I've heard it is a lot of fun.






Overall, it was a fantastic trip which cost under £100 for hostel and travel, and I would definitely recommend not only Amsterdam, but the Megabus to all looking for a similar experience. If you were to also consider an unforgettable holiday this summer on the cheap, Amsterdam is not the only cheap destination the Megabus offers but it also travels to France, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Scotland and Wales. Although, I would warn that the return journey is a lot less fun, and all we wanted to do was crawl back into our own beds for a well needed long sleep.* What did you do this summer?

*Since my trip Megabus have brought out their special Gold buses which offer beds and luxury travel which although they are a little more expensive, it could solve the return journey issue.

Monday, 17 February 2014

IS LUISA ZISSMAN A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL?


Luisa is not one to shy away from controversy having openly admitted to being a regular attendee at sex parties and describing herself as a “free spirit” that cannot be tamed by a man. It is then no surprise that Daily Star have quickly capitalised on this new Katie Hopkins type and employed her as the latest online columnist.

They are presenting her as a sexy Katie Hopkins and she will be encouraged to voice opinions that many may find outrageous. She has already been doing this since she became runner up in the Apprentice. An example would be her claim that glamour models are better role models to their children than stay at home Mums. Her tweet read “If page 3 is bad role model for women, is being a stay at home mum? Teaching girls 2 have no ambition and live off a man? At least pg3 earn £££.” She has obviously framed this statement in a way to get the most press attention, but the values of it I sort of have to agree with. It's not that stay at home Mums aren't role models but if I were to rate who was more role model esque to young girls it would have to be the working Mums. My Mum has always installed into me the notion that I should never be reliant on a man for money or happiness. In fact when I moan about being single she lectures me furiously and tells me that it is not how she raised me. However, the problem with Luisa's claim is that she ignores the fact that being a full time Mum is no easy job, and each woman should make the decision alone on their individual merits as to what is best for them and their family.

In her recent stint in the Big Brother she presented herself as a modern day feminist and we saw her flip out when Dappy made a sexist remark about the different opinions we all seem to accept when it comes to a person's sexual exploits (Video avaliable here). Dappy claimed that if a girl were to have sex with multiple partners then she would be a “ho” whereas if a man were to do the same it would not be as bad. Luisa was quick to describe his remarks as “sexist” and endured a long argument trying to show him that these opinions are wrong and belong in the past. She also argued with Jim Davidson in an infinite amount of times during Big Brother, but the one that sticks out for me is when he told her that his wife irons all his shirts for him, and questioned why she wouldn't do the same for a man. She replied by telling him that “because my Dad used to say to my Mum, they’re wrong, do it again. And so I swore I’d never iron a man’s shirt” and “we’re not in the 1950s…you’re trying to wind me up.” It appeared that a lot of the men in the house had very old fashioned and patriarchal beliefs and unlike other female housemates Luisa was unafraid of standing up to the men and challenging what they were saying.

I feel that Luisa brings press to key issues that a woman encounters while living in the 21st century and highlights the gender inequalities and prejudices that we still face on a day to day basis. So do you think that Luisa Zissman is a positive role model for young girls or are her antics and opinions just too outrageous?


Monday, 10 February 2014

DESTROYING THE CHRISTMAS GUT

A Christmas fueled by binge eating, drinking, minimum exercise, heaps of revision food (including ordering numerous pizzas to the library) and just recovering from a break up meant that my weight gain was rapid and significant. I am sadly the sort of person who puts on weight really easily even if I just let myself go for a couple of days, so after a month of bad habits the outcome was frightening...

While getting ready for a night at the Student Union's famous 'Lash', I discovered that I no longer fit into 80% of my going out clothes. My Christmas holiday antics had left me with an unwanted bulge that refused to squeeze into my size 10 clothes. I had two choices; I could go and buy a whole new wardrobe (dangerous on my fastly dwindling student loan) or I could attempt to shift the weight. Even though the first option seemed a lot more fun, I instead decided I would follow in the footsteps of the TOWIE gang and take on the “no carbs before marbs” diet plan (sadly without the Marbella bit, but Mum if you're reading?). According to Ellie Redman, ex-TOWIE cast member and creator of this slogan, you will be amazed at how your body rewards you with increased energy levels as it doesn't have to worry about dealing with hard to digest foods that have little nutritional value.” Ellie Redman has gone on to create boot camps which educate people in this way of living, you can find her website here.

Here Ellie is in action educating TOWIE's favourite yo-yo dieter on the no carbs lifesyle:




I must warn that giving up carbs is not an easy feat, I did not realise how many things were actually carbs and so the first few days on the diet consisted of me pulling various food out of the cupboard and asking my fellow housemates “Is this a carb?” and the answer was almost always a chorus of “yes”. I found out quickly that my food options were limited. The main carbs to avoid when undertaking this diet are bread, pasta and sugary foods. I asked my housemate Ben to hide or eat my multipack of crisps along with some other high in carb food products. However, despite his best efforts I found myself waking up at midnight and manically searching the kitchen cupboards like I was on a mad Easter egg hunt... I felt like an addict. After a few days I started to get more into the diet and although my energy was low at first eventually I started to feel much better in myself and the weight dropped off me amazingly fast. It's not healthy to give up all carbs forever though and so I have now slowly started to introduce the more healthy ones back into my diet, along with allowing myself nights off for meals out as a reward for exercise. My motivation was that I just didn't want to be single and fat, it's just too sad and this is probably part of the reason this has been my most successful diet ever. In the words of reality star Vicky Pattison "revenge is best served skinny".



As we all know there is a whole array of different diets out there, and I have tried many of them including the day off day on diet otherwise known as DODO, weight watchers, various detoxes and even giving up meat. How is it possible to choose the best diet that can help us to loose weight in a healthy manner? What diets have you found to be the most successful?


Me (on the right) after a week of alcohol and gyroses in Zante! 

And me (fourth from the left) after two weeks of no carbs...

Monday, 3 February 2014

LIVING WITH A BIRMINGHAM ACCENT



It seems inconceivable in these modern times that people can often be judged and stereotyped just from their regional accent, but people from Birmingham know all to well that this definitely does take place. 

It may sound ridiculous, but before I moved to Cardiff I didn't even realise that I had a distinctive accent. It's not like I'd never been outside of Birmingham, I had done a fair bit of travelling. However, I just presumed when people repeated the word “Birminnnnnngham” after I said where I came from that it was a TV show catchphrase or something (maybe living up to the Birmingham people are stupid stereotype). But as soon as I crossed the border into the land of the welsh, boy was I made aware of my accent. I don't mind my friends ridiculing me for my accent at all, I can admit I do have a unique way of pronouncing words such as “bus” which I pronounce as “buzz”. It took me a while to explain what I meant to my new southern friends. In the end I had to result to pointing at one that went past, “ohhhh bus” they proclaimed. Also, the term “dank” (which is sort of the Brummie equivalent to lush) is something that I have had to drop whilst living in Cardiff to avoid funny looks. When I'm home it again becomes part of my regular dialect along with a much faster pace of talking which if I adopted in Cardiff people would show me their puzzled faces.

However what is annoying about having a Birmingham accent and a great daily annoyance is the way people believe they have the right to repeat after you everything you say, or I have even experienced people I barely know laughing in my face. I am proud to come from Birmingham, and don't believe I should hide the way I speak just for these sorts of people that are quite frankly idiots. 

It's not just me who becomes annoyed by these remarks, recent controversy and anger was expressed over the new 'Hotels 4 U' advert, which has been called more annoying than the GoCompare advert, and we all know that takes some beating. I think the media as a whole under represents certain regional accents and instead the standard 'Queen's English' accent is shoved onto us, making that first time someone hears a real Birmingham accent first hand a shock. Although it's not all negative and things could be said to be looking up with Jamelia a born and bred Birmingham girl having just recently joined the Loose Women panel. Also let's not forget we'll always have Ozzy Osbourne making us proud with his trademark “Sharonnnnnnn” and Lenny Henry jumping on those reasonably priced Premier Inn beds. So to all the people with Birmingham accents, or Black Country accents, no to anyone with an accent at all never be ashamed or hide it, it's part of who we are! How do you feel about your accent?