A Day in London: Lenin’s House, Greek Artefacts, Westminster Abbey!

One of the (admittedly very limited) perks of where I live is how fast you can access London while not actually living inside it. So when a friend texted me saying she had a ticket returning from London that she needed to use, and suggested a day together in London, I was all for it. To stick to our budgets, we planned the day in advance and had a list of things we wanted to see which went in a convenient line towards the Thames.

We were considering looking around the Platform 9 3/4 shop as our first stop, seeing as we would both be arriving at King’s Cross within minutes of each other, but as it’s the summer holidays, there was quite the queue going on. How I miss the days when it first arrived, and even when the trolley sticking out of the wall first arrived, and you could look around with no problems… Alas, those days are long gone. (Unless you arrive at King’s Cross around midnight after seeing a show at the West End on a Thursday night, in which case it’s usually deserted and you can take photos no problem. I’ve done this many times.)

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So, our first stop was the British Library. Neither of us had visited it before, and while you can’t see much of it without being a member, the atrium was pretty cool, and the shop was really good. A lot of the books they had on display at the front of the shop were to do with the 1917 Russian Revolution and the years afterwards, as they are currently running an exhibition on it.

There were some really ornate copies of the books as well; one of my favourites was this copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace

Once we’d spent a good half an hour or so having a nosy around and buying postcards and the like, we headed for our second destination of the day: the British Museum. We had travelcards, so we could have just saved ourselves the time (and the rain) by hopping on the bus or the tube, but if you’re having a leisurely day in London, why miss out on the sights? Plus, I’d brought my new camera with me and was determined to get some good shots, like this one of the Bloomsbury Coffee House:

And this one of Ghandi in Tavistock Square (a place which I had never heard of but hey-ho, that’s what exploring is for):

Not to mention that we also found, rather by accident, the former residence of Vladimir Lenin, who had spent a brief time living in London a few years after the 1905 Revolution. We found this rather fitting, considering the exhibition we had just left. It looks surprisingly humble, sandwiched between a B&B and what is now Albany Hotel. I would definitely recommend blue-plaque-spotting in London, even just for the amusing ones – two doors down from Lenin’s was Jerome K Jerome, an English writer with just a great name.

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Some considerable time later, we arrived at the British Museum. I’ve been there a few times before over the years, though not recently. We mainly just wanted to see the Greek and Roman galleries while we were there – after all, you can take history students out of the classroom and all they’ll do is find the history in the real world. Who isn’t at least slightly curious about those two ancient civilisations anyway? I won’t bore you with all the photos of the galleries, just the highlights:

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(You may notice, as I have, that a lot of the artefacts in the British Museum are either headless, limbless, or torso-less. A lot of the Egyptian artefacts are missing noses. We actually saw a sign in one of the Greek galleries which informed us that the heads of the statues we were standing in front of were in a gallery in Greece. That’s the real definition of being all over the place!)

Our third destination of the day was a particular favourite of mine: Trafalgar Square. I don’t know why I like it so much, but it just always has such a good atmosphere whenever I’m there. It feels a bit like its own little world, to be honest. We didn’t make it inside the National Gallery, but we did find two Pikachus, two floating Yodas, a floating Grim Reaper, and a Mad Hatter (who jumped out at me and made me scream) wandering around, together with a guitar-playing busker. There was also a thumb statue which I’m fairly certain wasn’t there two years ago, when I last visited… Trafalgar Square can be the most bizarre place.

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Time was moving on by this point, so we had to skip the National Gallery in order to make it to somewhere my friend was particularly keen to visit: Westminster Abbey. By the time we left Trafalgar Square, we had actually missed the standard weekday last entry to the Abbey, but on Wednesdays they have half price late entry until 6pm – again, highly recommend. I only have limited photos of Westminster Abbey as photos inside the building are not allowed, but I’ll give you a brief rundown of what’s inside…

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When you get inside, it’s a sort of one-way system. The first object (is object the right word?) of note is the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, which was about as stately and extravagant as you’d imagine. You can walk all the way around it; it’s in a small room off the main floor. Next is Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, which includes the RAF Chapel and Battle of Britain window. On the other side of the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, again as extravagant as you’d expect. Then there’s Poets’ Corner, where you can find burials and commemorations of the likes of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens.

On the other side of the Abbey, you have Scientists’ Corner, where you’ll find Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. There’s the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and a Sir Winston Churchill memorial, and finally, the Coronation Chair.

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And that’s about all we got up to! When we left Westminster Abbey, we got the tube back to King’s Cross rather than walk all the way back up again. I love days exploring cities like this, I always find things I wasn’t looking for, especially in London. Here’s hoping for many more days like it in the future…

Katy x

Create Your Own Confidence

I’m amazing.

When I was growing up, I heard my mum repeat these words hundreds of times. When I left for university last autumn, I noticed that I’d started saying it myself.

Now, I should probably explain. I don’t go around telling everybody I meet that I’m amazing, and nor does my mum. It would be weird if we did, and would almost certainly come across as big-headed. I do sometimes say it when people ask me how I’ve managed to achieve something, or how I’m coping with six successive deadline weeks because they didn’t think they could if they were in my position. I might say it in jest, I might say it seriously, but I always say it with a grin.

And I’d like to just talk about the power of something as simple as two words like these. It’s hardly news that we live in a world where too many of us lack self-confidence. I’m quite conscious of the fact that throughout my childhood and adolescence, my mum made a deliberate effort where I was concerned to ensure that I wouldn’t fall into that trap. And the best way she could do that was by showing me how to build confidence of my own.

So, over the years, she’d let me in on certain “secrets”. I say “secrets” in quotation marks because these things shouldn’t be secret and aren’t really secret, but they are often hidden. She told me that as a young adult, she was tired of feeling like she knew nothing, so she decided to ask the questions on her mind – no matter how stupid, because usually, somebody else was wondering it too. She encouraged me to ask questions as well.

When I was anxious about presentations, she’d tell me confidence wasn’t necessarily about straight up being confident, but acting like you are. If you act confident, people will see you as confident, and in turn, that will make you confident. It made sense to me. My mum had always appeared confident to me, and people reacted to her as such, because even if she had no clue what she was doing, she would improvise and pretend like she did. (I will make a note: this is not the same as being cocky.)

I like to refer to this particular skill as the ‘art of bullshitting’. I’ve used it many times myself. As a leading prefect, a peer mentor, and a project leader in school. As a group chair at university. Even in every day situations. I truly believe that it is an art form, and a skill.

But you have to build a foundation of self-confidence, and instil in yourself the belief that you can do what you either want, need, or have to do. Hence the phrase at the top of this post: “I’m amazing.” I think this is harder for women than men, and please excuse some generalisation here, but on the whole I’ve found it to be true. Men get into the top jobs because when somebody asks them what they’re good at, they will reel off a list of accomplishments and skills. Women have this idea that we need to be modest and humble, and so we bow our heads and neglect to mention all the things we can do.

One thing you can do to change this habit of shying away is to slowly train yourself to acknowledge when you have achieved something, and to state out loud that it is a positive thing. Just finished your fifth essay in five weeks? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.” Going through a hard time but still functioning as a human? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.” Managed to get a really stiff-lidded jar open? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.”

It’s the small habits, like acknowledging your accomplishments (of any size), that make the difference. And in the spirit of this, here are a couple of TED Talks I found to the same sort of tune:

If you’ve got any tips for confidence, please feel free to comment down below!

Katy x

Loose Posters & Spider Cleavage (When it’s Hot in England)

We Brits are well known for complaining about the weather. If it’s cold, we don’t like it. If it’s hot, we can’t cope with it. If it snows, we think it’s pretty initially, then a pain in the arse to drive in. Essentially, if it’s anything other than a mid-range temperature where you’re not hot but not cold (i.e. on extremely rare occasions), we will find something to complain about.

So I came home for the summer the weekend before last, having spent the majority of the past nine months in windy, windy Liverpool. Did I mention it’s windy up there? Anyway, so I come home and suddenly the country has a heat wave! It is not windy where I live. I honestly think my town could run for the least windy part of the UK. As I look out of my window at the trees right now, there are about four tree branches that are vaguely shifting maybe a couple of inches side to side. The rest of them? Still.

Anyway, this past weekend has been especially hot. 32C, or 89F, which may sound cool enough to those of you from countries that are meant to be hot, but heat in England is way hotter than heat in a hot country. I don’t know how it works, but our land and our buildings and the fact we only have heating, not air con, means we cannot cope.

I’ve adopted a fan in my room which hasn’t really been off much for the past week. And early on Saturday morning I woke up to a persistent flapping sound every few seconds. Turns out that the fan had loosened half of the blu tac holding up the poster I have above my head. There was some debate going on in my head – you know, do I leave it there and risk it falling on my face when I go back to sleep… and so I ended up standing on my pillow at half five in the morning, putting the poster back up.

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(The poster in question)

Then on Sunday, father’s day here in the UK, I went to the outhouse to grab an ice lolly (that’s where we keep our freezer), when a spider came out of nowhere, and fell into the cleavage of the playsuit I was wearing, causing me to freak out. I thought it simply fell through from the top and out of the bottom, ’cause it’s a short playsuit, but I wasn’t 100% sure. So I go back inside, place the lolly on the counter, and then notice it crawling up out of my cleavage! I’m an arachnophobe, if you don’t know, and so there was much squealing and flapping around, then it ended up in my hair and there was more squealing and flapping around, until eventually it fell onto the floor.

And finally, today, I checked behind my curtain, where there was a new candle I’d forgotten existed, which had melted from the heat and sun coming through my window, leaving a huge puddle of wax on hte windowsill… What’s been happening this week?!

Either way, I’m trying to be productive in this jobless time, and have been working on my writing. Not blog writing yet, but other writing, and I feel like I’ve been making good progress. Hopefully I’ll get this project I’m working on done soon enough, and then I’ll probably be able to focus more on other things. For now, I’m just typing away.

Katy x