Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Bad at blogging.


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Quick post: weekend in Wales

Well I wasn’t kidding about keeping up the blog, and I had a fantastic response to the last post, so thank you! Thank you especially To Adam Tinworth, who actually wrote a post about me writing a post about him. Blogception.

However, the next one I’m working on is proving slightly more time-consuming and complicated than I expected – and I am also graduating this week, so there my be an unexpected delay.

So here, instead, are some pretty pictures of Southerndown in South Wales, where I spent my weekend. It was pretty beautiful.

Southerndown

Southerndown

 

Sea

Sea

 

Barbecuing at sunset

Barbecuing at sunset

As a Midlands girl, I still get extremely excited about being on a beach, or near the sea at all. There’s something pretty breathtaking about reaching the very edge.

And, best of all, this particular beach is also the set of this heartbreaking scene (and, I am reliably informed, many others):

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and cry for the days when Doctor Who was still good. Cry like a sad, sad baby.

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The Tube and the Tate: 5 things I learned in London

So after my initial coming-to-London post which, reading back, is laced with just a whiff of an oncoming breakdown, I realise I did not publish anything for two weeks. Probably looks a bit worrying, but I can confirm that I was not swallowed up by the hungry jaws of the city. I even got used to my breeze blocks and empty flat, although I never met the owner of the muller corners in the fridge. I can only assume that there actually was a yoghurt-loving ghost in the room next door.

In truth, I just got so caught up in the day-to-day process of going to work, meeting friends who lived or worked nearby, then going home and going to sleep, that blogging was put on a back burner.

Unlike the Olympics, empty seats are a blessing which you taunt you only by their absence.

However, I am back now, and there’s only a week before I’m back at uni in Norwich and things really do get busy. So here’s some things I learnt in London while I was there:

1. I can read pretty much anywhere.

At peak time in the centre of London, the tube is pretty full, and no one around you is happy about it. Sure, there are some tricks to ease the growing sense of claustrophobia (such as going to the end of the platform and getting on the oft-neglected final carriage). However, sometimes even they don’t prevent you from being squashed in with a bunch of strangers. But even in the smallest of spaces, I could still find room to turn the pages of the first book of my pre-reading for third year: Belinda by Maria Edgeworth (1801). It’s not too bad – it has lots of disease and unhappy marriages, and even some controversial mixed-race unions. (Racy stuff.) Plus, I can now confirm that the questionable decisions of our heroines Belinda and Lady Delacour were just as baffling and socially uncomfortable pressed up against a stranger’s back on a packed Piccadilly train than they were in my room on my own.

2. The Tate gallery is infinitely more fun whist playing spot-the-dick-symbolism.

Now, I’m not one of those people who regularly dismisses and mocks modern art for being “worse than my two-year-old’s”. For one thing, I don’t have a two-year-old. For another, that’s clearly balls, and I actually think a lot of it has the potential to be more emotional and interesting than more traditional stuff.

“Gothic Landscape” by Lee Krasner, painted after her husband Jackson Pollock died in a car crash, was probably my favourite.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not even more fun to point out every phallic symbol you can find amongst all the other pretentious art critics.

3. Camden Market is as good as everybody says.

Slightly overwhelming when I first stepped into the market, I was soon swept up in the atmosphere and tempted to buy everything I laid my eyes on. Maybe it was the magic of the first time, but I would still rather find something there than Primark. My only complaint was that, for some reason, the legendary Goths who apparently spend all of their time there must have got tired of tourist season and found somewhere more hip to hang out. Sad face.

4. Even the booze is better.

Chando’s may sound like a cross between the two most unappetising words in the contemporary English language (“chunder” and “Nando’s”), but it is actually a pub just off Leicester Square, and it was a beauty. I always feel a little awkward at these fancy hipster pubs which sell a hundred different types of independent beers. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of these things, and the pressure of wanting to order something cool is only added to by the fact that, without my glasses, I can’t read the labels of most of the stuff they sell anyway. Am I supposed to ask the bar staff for recommendations? Make something up which so that they think I know about even more obscure and independent beverages than even they stock? Point at the nearest thing and yell “PINT OF THAT” in a sheer panic? I don’t even like beer anyway! In the end, I usually cave and order vodka and coke because I know that everybody in the world is going to stock it. Then I shuffle back to my table in the shame of my unoriginality. But at Chando’s, their independent hipster vodka and independent hipster coke made it completely worth it. No cheap Asda knockoff and 2-for-1 diet cola will be the same again.

5. If I could find a flatmate, a flat and a job to fund myself after graduation, I’d probably be happy.

Any takers?


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King in the North: the five best things I saw in Yorkshire

In my quest not to be bored this summer, while I wait for various work experience placements to start – I am going to be the best local newspaper intern there ever was – I have not only been catching up on all the pop culture I seem to have missed, but have also been visiting various friends around the country.

Last week, I went to Yorkshire for four days, during which time I visited York, Whitby, Scunthorpe and Westwoodside, a village which is technically in North Lincolnshire. But never mind that.

I saw many things during this journey into the North, many of which included Game of Thrones references. But really, if you go to “the North” and there’s a “Wall” there, what else are you supposed to do?

So, without further ado, here are the five best things I saw in Yorkshire:

1. York wall, which may or may not protect the rest of the country from wildlings and White Walkers.

That is probably the last reference now.

2. Whitby, where Bram Stoker’s Dracula was set. I was kind of expecting Whitby to be the tackiest themed tourist town ever, but in the end it turned out to be quite classy and well thought out. I was sort of disappointed.

It was very pretty though.

3. Some horses sleeping by Whitby Abbey. As I was taking this photo, one of them snored.

It was cute.

4. Some Hebridean sheep. I was going to help shear them, and I already had an entire blog post planned about the future experience. I was going to be so bad at shearing! It was going to be hilarious! There would be posed pictures of me looking useless! All the farmers would probably hate me!

But then it rained so instead I just helped to feed them instead.

I sort of wanted to steal one.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man. Ignore anything anyone says about those other versions, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are probably the two greatest people alive.

I mean, really. I would marry them both.


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Four girls, three days: dos and don’ts of Prague

You are in Prague for three days. You want to see as much as you possibly can. You don’t want to spend all your money. You don’t want to your feet to rebel against you and threaten to stage an uprising if you make them walk any further.

I can promise two out those three things.

Do: go on one a free walking tour.

They leave from the astronomical clock in Old Town Square, and they show you all the main landmarks – you can identify them by the bright yellow t-shirts and umbrellas which say “Free Tour”. It’s subtle, but if you look closely, you might just spot them.

Of course, by the time you get to the end and they ask you for tips, you’ll have developed a deep, meaningful love for your Hungarian tour guide’s accent and you won’t be able to say no, but it will be worth it. (Or maybe that was just us.)

Katie and Alice have tracked them down.

Don’t: try the trams without a map.

Once you figure out where you want to be and which tram will take you there, it’s all good, but it can be confusing. This is especially true on your first day, when you spend five minutes trying to locate the elusive Kouření Zakázáno stop on your map, attempt to ask someone for help through a shared third language, and finally realise that it translates to “No Smoking”.

Once you have learnt this valuable lesson, however, the trams are a great way to travel, and a pass for three days also includes buses and the metro (which, with its primary colours and A, B and C lines, is easy enough for even the most cartographically illiterate tourist).

The metro does not look this fun though.

Do: check out the Communism museum.

The history of the Czech Republic is fascinating, but more so was the humour with which this museum often presented it. Which isn’t to say that the past was not taken seriously – in fact, part of the museum was dedicated to the abuse of human rights in North Korea, reminding visitors that government oppression is still very much a reality in many parts of the world – but that it will not be allowed to define the present.

It’s a difficult atmosphere to explain. Perhaps the best illustration is the gift shop, which sold postcards featuring vintage-style propaganda artwork with catchphrases like “You couldn’t get laundry detergent but you could get your brainwashed”. Alongside exhibitions revealing genuinely horrific acts on the part of the Communist regime, the effect was surreal, but undeniably charming.

And that’s not to mention the candles shaped like a bust of Stalin’s head.

There was also no discernible logic to the display choices. (Photo by Katie Davies)

Don’t: spend two hours walking in the wrong direction in search of a giant metronome.

Situated in Letná Park, the metronome replaced the colossal statue of Joseph Stalin which was unveiled, after five years of work, in 1955 – just as he went out of fashion during the period of de-Stalinisation following his death.

The view from Letná Park is beautiful, but the metronome itself is somewhat of a disappointment when you walked a mile or two in the wrong direction, then back again.

If you reach the motorway, you’ve definitely gone too far.

Probably worth it for this though.

Do: eat at local restaurants.

Sure, it’s a tourism cliché, but it’s true. You did not travel all that way for McDonald’s, and the dumplings are not only cheap if you look for somewhere off the beaten track, they’re delicious.

Don’t: go to restaurants without checking a menu outside first, especially in the main tourist areas.

Otherwise you might end up paying the equivalent of £35 for four slices of cake and some water at a place in Wenceslas Square.

You know, for example.

Do: make sure you keep looking up.

The architecture is breathtaking and even local corner shops are often occupying a gothic or baroque-style building with so many elaborate windows and statues, you’ll wonder whether it’s all just a big game of “my wall has more cool stuff than your wall”.

Told you.

For other takes on the same trip, and the “No Smoking” story a couple more times:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Justine Czech-ed out Prague