March round up

March began, as all months should with a bout of randomness. I found myself  going on an impromptu trip to Cardiff (all the best trips to Cardiff are hastily planned tbh) to visit the Doctor Who Experience, which was amazing btw – totally go while you still can. Remember how for the past two year’s I’ve been on the judging panel for the local talent show? Well, this year was no exception and I did a momentous thing in March. You see, there are lots of places I want to visit, but I am perpetually alone, so I came to the conclusion if I want to visit somewhere, I should just go because if I wait around waiting to make friends, I may never get there, so I spent a few days exploring Edinburgh! You can read more about that here. It was with a heavy heart landing to the news from Westminster, but as that (sadly) fake sign says, we will bloody well keep calm and carry on.

What I read this month:

The Subtle Knife – Phillip Pullman
I can’t believe this is my first re read since the first time I read this series! Maybe I should make a more active effort to re read great things every now and again, I’m feeling very nostalgic heading back into Lyra’s world, but also, it seems so much richer to me now I’m older and understand more of the subtleties, getting very excited about the new Dark Materials books, whatever they may be!

The Amber Spyglass – Phillip Pullman
This was always my least favourite of the three and it was just as much a struggle this time around, the thing is, there is so many different strands to this series that I want to read about, Lord Asriel’s plan, Will and Lyra’s story… but there are so many passages dedicated to Mary and the wheeled animals she meets, which I know is important to the ending but still, just like the first time I spent those pages being anxious to get back to everyone else!

Yes Please – Amy Poehler
I ended up in the library the day after international women’s day and nabbed this off the women’s authors display just as it was being taken down. I do love Parks and Recreation and I do often gripe about the fact that I can only watch SNL on YouTube, so I was excited to see this. I did a proper review here (as is fitting for such a fine book.) and can tick another off my list of non fiction reads!

All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews
I’m still debating doing a review of this book because I have a lot of thoughts. So, this is the story of two sisters, one of whom has a seemingly perfect life, but is suffering with manic depression and the other (who narrates the story) having the complete opposite but not dealing with the mental ill health. On the one hand I liked this book because it proved that your circumstances do not equate to your mental well-being, that you can be rich and have a dream job, but still not enough chemicals in your brain and learning about a new culture was interesting, but I didn’t get on with the formatting of the book and I think it would have been more powerful from Elf’s point of view than Yoli’s as Elf was the one suffering. I might re read it…

High Rise – J.G. Ballard
Ngl, I did pick this up in the library because it was the movie tie-in edition (I’ve still not got round t watching it yet, any of you seen it?) and had Tom Hiddleston in a suit on the front… Honestly, I finished it and was a bit like… wtf did I just read? It is basically Lord of the Flies with grown ups. With Lord of the Flies, it was kind of plausible that the events would happen, being children and not spending so long in civilised society, but with this, I’m not entirely sure that a group of people living in an expensive, but badly serviced high rise, would form their own uncivilised society seeing them attack each other and eat dogs and stuff, but there you go. It was still fun though and whiled away the hour I was sat in Edinburgh’s departure lounge.

Hello you, it’s me – various
I was sent this for review, its a collection of letters from people aged 17-24 who have experienced mental health issues writing to their younger selves about the experience and how to survive it. As always with books I’ve been sent, I have reviewed it properly here, but for now, just know that this was an incredibly uplifting collection of stories that showed a lot of strength and I’m adding it to my to buy list for the actual release date.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon
I might do a whole review of this because having finished it, I have so many thoughts… Nicola Yoon is a gifted writer, her narration is engaging and endearing and although the insta love is kinda frustrating, it is an interesting take on the trope trying to use science to explain it, for me the main theme of cultural identity was what cinched it for me, the idea of being more than one culture and how those things coexist and also butt heads is super interesting – recommend me more books like that please!

The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey
I read the Fifth Wave forever ago (I’ve still not seen the movie though – are you sensing a pattern?) and although the romance got on my nerves a bit, I did love the overall idea, so when I saw the library had a copy of Infinite Sea, I was all over it. The switching of the narrators was a little harder for me to keep up with this time around (it has been a looooong time since I picked up the first book), but now I’m ready for the third one!

The History of Twin Peaks – Mark Frost
I’ve been watching the series this month after my friend recommended it to me, now I’m prepared for the revival! It is genuinely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen (seriously, there is a woman who tells the future using a log who is just known as the Log Lady). I liked it, but I’m not sure why! The book is made up of dossiers, documents and articles about the various strange goings on in Twin Peaks with cameos from the show’s characters, it’s a fun companion to the series, so do check it out if you’re a fan!

The Cows -Dawn O’Porter
When I was sent a link to Dawn O’Porter’s new book I couldn’t just ignore it! I loved Paper Aeroplanes and while I wasn’t as enamoured with the sequel, The Cows did have me at the introduction! Plus, the cover is super pretty, you can see my full thoughts soon!

Films I watched this month:

You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television this month!

  • How to train your dragon
  • Logan
  • What if
  • School of rock
  • Doctor Strange
  • Star Trek Beyond

TV I watched his month:

  • Riverdale
    This is my new obsession! We must protect Jughead at all costs.
  • Supernatural
  • Twin Peaks
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Iron Fist

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

Hanging at Cardiff Bay doing the Doctor Who Experience today

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still on the birthday bandwagon

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done a judge didnt i? insanely jealous of how talented everyone is hoping to soak up some by osmosis

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when in edinburgh you have to check out the birth place of ya boy hp

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What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:

Ok, first, ya boy Joe made a video every day this month, so check out his channel, Dan and Phil did that thing Nintendo told us not to, but the reactions were funny af, Casey Neistat uploaded this movie WHICH MY GOD WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED, he also uploaded this video about getting help in Somalia and yaaaaas to the vlog making a come back! Amelia Ace made this video about demisexualitywhich was super interesting and watching Emma Blackery take down a certain pos was also pretty great. Also, I can’t not with this Deadpool Beauty and the Beast parody.

I went to the library

and I got a bit over excited, a novel, by me.

So, I did have a bit of a rant about libraries the other day, not the libraries themselves, but a bad experience that I had within one and the way in which it is being callously treated by the local Council. Anywho. I had to return some books. Also there were things I wanted to read… So, I ended up spending an hour picking through the shelves and came away with six items. Also, it was wonderful to be there in the middle of the day, during the week and see the place full of young parents, toddlers and retired people, as well as a few folks like me that were clearly putting their free time to good use!

library haul featuring a rec from @sophoes

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Here’s this trips collection of books.

Like I said, I had things to return, but I was also on the hunt for some Mhairie Mcfarlane after watching this video, I found lots of her, but… You know, there is a limit to how much one can hire at a time. I’m also searching for a copy of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty because everyone tells me its wonderful – is this true?!

I ended up with:
Girl Up by Laura Bates | Still on that non fiction train and still have a copy of Every Day Sexism I’ve not managed to finish but you know…
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt| I actually debated buying this in the airport the other day, glad I didn’t now I know the library had it!
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Everyone raves about her books, I’ve never read them, so… Figured I would.
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey | Read the Fifth Wave forever ago, never finished the series, think I might now!
Who’s That Girl by Mhairie Mcfarlane | Sophie made me get it. I’m very excited to read it!
The History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost | My friend Chris is a massive fan of Twin Peaks, he’s lent me the series to watch (I’ve not finished it yet) and there is a reunion series coming soon which he is very excited about and as this is one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen, I thought I’d do a bit of wider reading to understand it a bit more!

Any of you guys read any of these? Let me know if they’re any good!

Solo adventures in Edinburgh

There are lots of things I would like to do in life, travel being one of them, that I don’t do because I’m scared at the idea of doing it alone. Which is kind of stupid really because I spend 99% of my time alone, being an introvert will do that to you. Anyway, I finally bit the bullet and decided if I want to experience new places, I have to face my fears and just go, whether I’m alone or not, because if I wait around for someone to go with me, I’ll never get there. So we’re starting small I guess, by taking a solo trip to Edinburgh, somewhere I have always wanted to go and now my only wish is that I had gone sooner.

Ya’ll know I’m a city girl at heart, there’s something about a city, a vibe that you don’t get out of town and Edinburgh might be one of the most instragrammable places I’ve ever been, even if getting there was a little traumatic. This was the first time I was going somewhere completely new by myself and the first time I was flying alone, flying alone kinda sucks by the way, but I dunno, maybe I’ll do it again. My journey began with being chosen for a random security check at the airport, which honestly was the most inefficient thing I have ever witnessed. Like, I know security is important and as I had nothing that could pose a threat, I didn’t have a problem with them singling me out other than the fact that I am slightly anxious in airports anyway and was about to go in a plane by myself, but I did kind of assume that during the check they would ask to see some ID (they didn’t) or you know, check my pockets (they didn’t). Once that was over though, I could really start to enjoy the experience, which was in equal parts terrifying and liberating. Like, I was in a city by myself, I could do whatever and go wherever I wanted and no one knew where I was at any one time. But anyway, Edinburgh.

Once I’d alighted the plane, I made my way to the front of the airport where I had been told by other visitors that there was a shuttle bus which would take me to the city centre, the air link service does open returns for £7.50 btw if you’re considering a visit and the handy voice over tells you which stops are which, so I stayed on til the last one, which took me to Waverley Bridge, a place I now know is slap bang in the middle of a generic looking high street, a mountain and several very old, exciting looking buildings surrounding it. Honestly, there is nothing more exciting than looking out of a bus window at 8.30 in the morning and seeing a very normal looking British road system with a snow capped mountain in the background. Like seriously, this place is beautiful.

This was the first sight to greet my eyes when stepping off the bus in the heart of Edinburgh, the Scott’s memorial (which it turns out is for Walter Scott and not Scottish people in general, though that would be a nice thought).

Well, I thought to myself glancing from the Whetherspoons to one side of me and this beautiful piece of architecture to the other, this is off to a fabulous start. I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3 p.m. so, naturally I did the next best sensible thing, I looked beyond the memorial towards the castle and thought, I’ll go there first. So, I walked in its general direction for a couple of minutes before consulting google, who decided to abandon me in my hour of need and took me on a fifteen minute detour through Princes Gardens around the place before I found a group of school children to follow. Wait… That wasn’t meant to sound as weird as it did. Take that in the most innocent way possible!

The castle reminded me a bit of the Tower of London, there were lots of little exhibitions and a great view and there were even crown jewels, though much like in London, you aren’t allowed to photograph the jewels there either. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I am a nerd and I love learning, I was actually surprised and ashamed of how much I learned at the castle about Scottish history, like guys, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and yet, I had been told nothing of Scotland in history lessons at school, I guess I arrogantly assumed that it was all British history. Sorry, Scotland.

After spending several hours soaking up the castle and getting blown into oblivion because once again, my ignorance of Scotland was being proved by the fact that I, someone living in the South of England, thought  to myself, its March, how cold can it be? It was bloody freezing. It was snowing on and off and blowing a gale. But anyway, after taking way too many photos and visiting all the exhibitions, I left the castle grounds to explore the Royal Mile, which is what my previously visiting friends had all raved about and honestly, it is possibly the most beautiful street I’ve ever walked down, seriously Edinburgh, you need to stop with all the things to look at, my eyes can only do so much.

At the other end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood, which had some commotion going on outside because there was a debate of some sort going on inside. Much like the rest of the city, Parliament was a very pretty building, as was the palace over the road and the mini mountain behind it. Can we take a moment to appreciate the fact that I was considering climbing Arthur’s Seat because google told me it was a hill? One thing to take from this trip, google is not always to be trusted. The closer I got to Arthur’s Seat, the less hill like and the more mountainous it became,  I got a little way through the park and thought, nah, you know what, I’m happy just being here.

By this time it was getting fairly late in the afternoon, so back along the Royal Mile I went, debating ticking off something else off my bucket list and getting a tattoo from one of the many shops along the High Street, but my rumbling stomach won out, so instead I headed back to Waverley and across the bridge to Princes Street on the search for a vegan restaurant called Henderson’s I’d found, again on my not so trusted friend, Google. Turns out the place does exist and had a very exciting menu, however, until the evening it didn’t do main meals, only salads and well, it was snowing out and I hadn’t yet eaten, I didn’t want salad. So, a high street chain provided me with lunch instead, which was a shame, but my stomach appreciated it.

By the time I’d eaten it was late afternoon and what can only be described as a blizzard was taking place, so I checked into the hotel for some respite, before going on the hunt for a hat and scarf in one of the many shops along Princes Street. Sadly, it being ‘spring’ not a single woolly item could be found. So, I decided to continue my exploration of the Royal Mile and its side streets in a bid to keep warm, I did find a Writer’s Museum (which doesn’t open on Tuesdays, boo) and perhaps the most exciting thing, the Elephant House, where J K Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

Not being much of a drinker and having been up since 3 a.m., I retired much earlier than I’d have liked and I had to be up fairly early to get back on the bus to head to the airport. Next time, I am planning a much longer trip!

One final thought about Edinburgh, I love you. You’re aesthetically pleasing, you’re friendly af, you have the best atmosphere and I am very sorry I didn’t visit sooner.
Also, the Scots have the best sticker grafetti, seriously:

Probably a broken record but…

Hello there friends, it feels like its been a VERY long time since I last sat down and just wrote how I was feeling… I think its because although I rarely get things to the standard I would like, I am a virgo… So like perfectionism and planning is sort of my thing… Anyway, I had a point I wanted to make and I’m already getting distracted, see, this is exactly why stream of consciousness posts so rarely work for me!

The thing is, the thing I kind of want to talk about today is a thing that is talked about (I certainly have mentioned it several times before) a lot, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am going to mention it again. Libraries. They are important and they are under threat. I love libraries, I think they’re hugely important aspects of our communities and they need funding and they need saving and they need to stay. I seem to talk about it a lot when in front of a camera But…  Today I kind of came to the realisation that there are many libraries that really don’t help themselves.

Let me explain.

I am fairly lucky in the sense that I live in an area where there are several libraries fairly near to me and thanks to an agreement among them, I can use any one of them I choose. So I literally can stroll into a random one and hire books if I so wish. That’s pretty cool.

Here comes your first bit of back story.
Recently, there has been a bit of an uproar because Bath’s Central Library and one of the smaller services in a town on the outskirts of Bath are about to have their library services cut and the two libraries moved. The local council would like you to believe they haven’t made a decision on this yet, but they don’t seem to have told their marketing department this. Ooops. Anyway, the people in Bath city centre took it upon themselves to save the central library and serve the council with some pretty scary legal stuff, but the people on the outskirts of town could not care any less that their library service is being cut which for a while really bugged me because its probably the library I use the most, that was until today.

Second bit of backstory.
Through the summer and ending this month is a library run scheme called the Reading Passport where you get the chance to win a load of books if you happen to collect stamps from certain decades in your passport. Genius idea, I love reading and being a stationary nerd, I quite like stamps too.
I mean, check it out, I am so nearly done! (Though sadly, won’t be done in time to actually enter the competition.)

Only five stamps to go and my reading passport is complete!

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Here comes the bit where the two backstories come together. I visited the smaller library today partly because I was in that part of town, partly because I wanted to try and get an extra stamp in my passport and partly because I wanted to see how well advertised the consultation on the move was, seeing as no one seemed to care.
Firstly, the library was packed, which was great to see.
Secondly, the two librarians on duty were more concerned with chatting to each other about their holidays than helping any of the people trying to use an out of order machine to hire out books or put away anything that had been returned. Not so great.
Thirdly there were no posters or consultation forms and when I asked, neither of the librarians seemed at all bothered about the fact that their jobs might not exist soon.
Finally, when I approached them with my reading passport and a selection of books, despite the reading passport having posters around the place and loads more attention than the actual important consultation about the library being moved into a much smaller space, neither of them knew what it was or what they had to do with it.
And there I was wondering why people are so passive about library services being cut. I love libraries, I know that one sour experience will not change my love for libraries, I know they are important and they are used, sometimes quite well, but honestly, if the people working in them don’t care, why should the wider community?

Though I love the concept of libraries as a quiet space for education, the collecting of books and archives, a study area and a community hub, if they want to survive, they have to change. If they want more people using them and engaging with them, the people in them need to take notice of schemes they’re running and engage in them too, they need to be attentive, no a library isn’t a shop, but god damn it, you are there to provide a service, so when an elderly lady is trying to hire some books, offer to book them out for her, don’t just watch her struggle with the self service machine and if there is a threat to that service, maybe be vocal, tell people where they can get information and send their opinions and for heaven’s sake, display the damn consultation papers. I want libraries to survive, I want to join the fight to save the two that are currently under threat in my area, but they need to want to save themselves too.

Yeah, I have no idea what this post is.
I should not write without planning in future.

Leah out.

*edit*
This is a complete stream of consciousness and is in no way meant to bash librarians – I always wanted to be one after all! It is merely me venting my frustration at the apathy exhibited by two particular librarians, who I’m sure were just having a bad day.
Also, if you are interested in helping the residents save the libraries, there is a consultation on at the moment via bathnes.gov.uk and Save Bath Library have a very informative Facebook group!

2016 – the highlights

I think we can all agree, 2016 has been one hell of a weird year. Aside from the huge losses to the creative arts, all the political and economic craziness and the general wtf-ness of the past year, there have been a few lovely highlights, so I thought I would go back through my monthly round ups and relive some of the best moments!

Now, I am not someone that does New Year’s Resolutions, but this year, I did have a few things that I wanted to get done this year. I wanted to upload an actual proper uke cover to my YouTube channel… Check! I wanted to finish the novel I was working on, check! And I started another two writing projects and finally, I wanted to get a load of short film scripts written so that 2017 could be the year of the film. I managed to finish two of them, so I have been kind of productive! In the coming year, I’d like to make healthier choices and I’d like to get back into playing piano because I have been very lax on that! Let’s see how we get on with that shall we?!

Favourite memories of the year:

  • Getting hearing aids fitted and actually realising how much noise my coat makes when I move. Clue, it is a lot of noise.
  • Spending a few months learning how to camera at college, which basically resulted in me wandering around dark car parks and then finally figuring out what apertures are in my last session!
  • Getting to see twenty one pilots twice, once in Bristol (blurryface tour), once in Brussels (the emotional roadshow). Both were incredible, I can’t wait to see what these guys do next, though whether or not I’ll attempt to cross seas to see them next time remains to be seen!
  • Visiting the Cosmonauts exhibit at the Science Museum in Kensington and generally having the nerdiest times. It was so good! I wish I lived nearer London so I could check out all the exhibits!
  • Impromptu trips to see 5sos.
  • That one time Chris, John, Rhys and I went to see Captain America and I arrived way too early and had to hang around the cinema waiting for them and then basically only ate m and ms for tea and then we decided to go for a quick drink even though we’re all tee total and then getting asked to leave for over staying our welcome. Fun times.
  • Joining the Frome Ukulele Club.
  • Being part of the town that held the first ever rural pride event.
  • Getting to spend time with my favourite mini humans.
  • Building a coffee table at the dead of night. Where dad failed, my brother prevailed.
  • Bowling with the homies.
  • The Pokemon Go phenomenon. Does anyone care about Pokemon Go anymore?
  • Bristolian based sibling bonding. My brother and I went on a nerd road trip. It was awesome.
  • The Doctor actually being in town. Is anything more exiting than comic con coming to town?
  • Finally revisiting the London Dungeons and being hung at Newgate Prison! When I first visited, I was very young and we got shot for treason because my dad was wearing a West Ham shirt. The dungeons are on Southbank now and these days they hang you for treason. Was much less intimidating than the Berlin version!
  • Birthday bantz, wii tournaments, failing to make Yorkshire puddings and too much drag race…
  • Experiencing a Lush bath for the first time. Like omg, how did I reach 28 without doing that?
  • Watching friends get married
  • Going to DisneyLand Paris
  • Robert Sugden declaring he’s bisexual. What a day.
  • Reading Emma’s lovely things posts every Sunday.
  • Manneken Pis.
  • Watching my dad get mad at tourists whilst being a tourist!
  • Visiting the Houses of Parliament with my parents and my mum glaring at a statue of Margaret Thatcher whilst demanding to know why Harold Wilson didn’t get such a big memorial.
  • Playing my first ever ukulele show to a sold out audience!

According to goodreads, I read  77 books this year! That’s more than my target! That’s not all though, this year I decided, just out of interest, to keep a tally of the genders of the authors I was reading over the year. Come the end of December it turns out that I’ve read 28 books with male authors and 53 books with female authors (some books had more than one author…). Part way through the year I embarked on a goal to read more non fiction and managed 6 of them!

Best books of the year:

  • Jacob’s Colours
  • Reasons to stay alive
  • The Translation of Love
  • When we collided
  • My heart and other black holes
  • Asking for it

Favourite films of the year (as in things I watched for the first time this year, not necessarily new films!):

  • Intersteller
  • Deadpool
  • Die Hard
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • The Wolf of Wall street
  • The fundamentals of caring
  • Finding Dory
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Over the past year, I’ve watched 113 films!! I thought I’d not watched that many this year, but I think I watched more than enough!

Best TV of the Year:

  • Making a Murderer
  • The Nightmanager
  • Peaky Blinders
  • izombie
  • Stranger Things
  • Great British Bake Off
  • Go 8 bit
  • Brooklyn 99
  • Class
  • Gilmore girls

Instagram best nine:

This year's #bestnine turns out you guys like gnomes, cats and my weather updates 📸

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I think you guys should brace yourselves for more of the monthly round ups in the coming year, they were probably my favourite thing to compile during the past year and going back through them all to find bits and pieces for this post was so lovely! It’s just nice to know that despite all the weird and not so nice things that happened this year, there were some glimmers of wonder, here’s to 2017!

ARC haul, the reading passport, being a proud big sister? A book video in three parts

Yeah, I’m still doing that YouTube thing even though Dan Howell still doesn’t know I exist and I still don’t have enough subs to get into the YouTube space, but the YouTube thing is fun! And sometimes my love of books bleeds into life over on my channel, so one post spread across two social networks I guess!

Welcome to A book video in three parts:
Part one, a little round up of the arcs I’ve been sent recently, they’re probably the last ones I’ll get this year and a couple of them have appeared here before, but you know!
Part two, the reading passport, a new initiative happening at a couple of my local libraries that I thought was super cool and wanted to share, plus the books I picked up while I was there!
Part three, borrowing a book from my little brother who hated books when he was younger and now loves them and the proud big sister feels I have about that fact!

If you’ve read any of these, plan to read any of these or like the sound of any of these you should let me know so we can discuss! (also, *takes deep breath and prepares for the Philly D spiel* if you liked that video and you like what I do on that channel hit that like button and if you’ve not visited me over on YouTube before hit that subscribe button).  If any of ya’ll live near a library taking part in the reading passport, hit me up so we can discuss which books we’ve picked up and how many stamps we’ve earned!

Brussels: an emotional roadshow

When I booked to go to Brussels to see twenty one pilot’s emotional roadshow, I didn’t know just how emotional a roadshow it would be. I think the best way to think about my recent trip to Brussels is that every cloud has a silver lining. Let me explain.
I was due to leave for Brussels at 10.30 a.m. on Monday morning. At 7 p.m. the Friday evening before, my travel companion told me they were now not coming. Cue two days of panic and stress as I tried to find someone to take their place or, alternatively, tried to make other arrangements. Which as you can imagine, is quite difficult with less than two days notice.
Spoiler alert: everyone carried on with their lives and I went to Brussels.

So, the trip didn’t get off to a particularly good start, this is where the silver lining bit came into play. Yes, this wasn’t the trip I had planned, yes, this was an emotional roadshow in more ways than one, but I do love a city and Brussels was, if nothing else, an interesting place to be.
My adventure began on my first full day in the city, after asking at the hotel reception how to get to Grand Place (the thing Lonely Planet recommended) I hopped on a tram (trams are a bit exciting aren’t they? Don’t see many of them in south England!) and less than 10 minutes later, I was wondering around one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Grand Place is essentially a square flanked with the most incredible buildings, I couldn’t possibly capture all of it with my mediocre camera skills, but I did my best!

Grand Place |Brussels

If it was possible, it looked even more amazing as night drew in and the buildings lit up! (Also I accidentally caught a romantic moment during the taking of this photo!)

Grand Place by nigh | Brussels

Exploring Grand Place also led me to find the one thing that absolutely everyone told me I had to see, Belgium’s national treasure, Manneken Pis.

Manneken Pis | Brussels

Yes. England has Big Ben. France has Eiffel Tower. Germany has the Brandenburg Gate. Belgium has a small, urinating child. Not only does this thing exist, but if you, like me, head to the Museum of the City of Brussels which is located in a wonderfully gothic looking building in Grand Place, you’ll discover that sometimes, they dress the statue up in various costumes and you can look at them all on display.
Here are a selection of my faves:
mannekenSo. Many. Costumes.
Literally, this thing has more items of clothing than I do.
Once I’d exhausted the many bantz to be had with Manneken Pis, I partook in a Belgian speciality, the famed waffle (wasn’t overly impressed tbh) and then found my way to the City Sight Seeing Tour bus. I’ve done the hop on hop off bus tours (you know the ones, they’re bright red open top busses) in a couple of different cities around the world and as it transpires that Brussels is very oddly laid out for a capital city, I figured it would be a good way to see some of the sights. Honestly, it was the worst of all the city tours I have ever been on.
In Brussels there are two routes, the first bus took me to some fancy gardens, the atomium (which was a part of a world expo) and looked a bit fancy and to a few other pretty buildings. Only… It didn’t actually stop at any of the places it was supposed to and after we got stuck in traffic and hit the end of tour time, the driver just made us all get off the bus! What an absolute shambles! Didn’t put me off attempting line two the second day, even if it did start half an hour later than advertised leaving me standing in the rain at the bus stop, this one took me to parliament, the EU and the royal palace and gardens. Only, again, it didn’t stop at any of the advertised stops!
Driving past the EU parliament bought back super sad memories of June 24th and realising we’re all screwed, though with the amount of traffic around that place I think I’ve realised why so many of the elected representatives never bothered to turn up to meetings. They’re probably just driving around the place trying to get there.

Whatever I said, whatever I did I didn't mean it, I just want EU back for good

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That evening though was the point of the whole trip, twenty one pilots at Forest National for the emotional roadshow. Now, one cool thing about gigs at Forest National is that they give you free tram tickets to limit the amount of people driving to the venue, which meant not only did I have a free tram ticket to the gig but also instructions of how to get there. Thanks Forest National! However, even if I did have instructions and a free tram ticket, I speak very little French and even less Dutch, so finding how to get to the tram was a bit of a struggle, which led to me approaching two girls wearing top shirts in the train station and asking them for help. Turns out they were Dutch (remember that bit about me not speaking any Dutch?), one of them could speak a bit of English, the other could not, but she could speak a bit of German. Many bants were had as they showed me how to get to Forest National with the three of us conversing in a mixture of English, German and Dutch and a slight tram hitch, but I got there, I got into the venue, I got a good spot and I had a bloody good time.
Firstly, Bry supported (yes, Bry, who I have been watching on YouTube forever!), he was awesome and his album is now on my must own list! Also after spending two days awkwardly trying to understand French, it was so nice to hear a familiar accent! Secondly, the emotional roadshow was just amazing! As lame as it sounds, it was kind of akin to a religious experience. It was so much more theatrical and exuberant than the last tour with Tyler literally disappearing from the stage and reappearing in the crowd seconds later and then dropping to the ground and appearing balancing on a pillar the next moment, the lighting, the staging… Just everything was perfection. I usually get a bit lame and emotional when talking about twenty one pilots so I won’t bore you with it, just know that they are the only band in existence that excites me and makes me want to be alive and create things.
Basically it was amazing and I want to leave you with this:

E m ø t i ø n a l r ø a d s h ø w

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Of course, there were further adventures on my way back to the hotel, mostly because London tubes during peak time have NOTHING on those trams and my fellow gig goers saw a full tram and instead of thinking, wow, I’ll get the next one, all thought, challenge accepted. It wasn’t much better when I got on the tram, I was pressed against a window like a cartoon in a comedic situation. Still I got back in one piece, I survived being let down at the last minute, I survived Brussels and even though it wasn’t the trip I was expecting, it was still kinda lovely. I saw some beautiful buildings I wouldn’t have done otherwise, I experienced a unique city and I got to see an incredibly magical musical performance. I don’t know if I’d visit Brussels again, but I am keen to see more of Belgium and learn more about its culture and history… I’m thinking Bruges or Antwerp, anyone been to either of those places? Thoughts?

To sum up, here are the things I learned from this trip:

  • My French sucks
  • I want to learn all the languages
  • Belgian waffles are over rated (sorry)
  • For a city, there are very few road signs
  • The army appear to hang out in the train stations which really doesn’t make me feel safe!
  • Any city that has a small weeing boy as their thing is a city I want to spend more time in.
  • The Belgian clique are super friendly
  • The coach is the worst way to travel
  • My parents are awesome (though I did already know this)

So, there we go, that was my very emotional Belgian roadshow.