Celebrating My 21st Birthday!

One week ago, I turned 21! Yes, that does mean my birthday was on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which is why I decided to primarily celebrate my birthday the day before.

My parents drove 200 miles to Liverpool from home on the Friday night, and arrived at my uni house early on Saturday morning – with a bunch of stuff I’d left at home in September in tow. This was quite an amusing collection of things – reheatable hand warmers, a new jumper, my waterproof coat, and some other bits and bobs. When I moved into this house 2.5 months ago, I had belongings spread around the country – it took some time to figure out where everything was!

We didn’t linger in the house long; we walked down to Liverpool’s Key Lime Café, where they serve a variety of breakfasts, including American style pancakes alongside more savoury things like Eggs Royale. After a leisurely breakfast there, we headed to Central station and hopped on a train to Chester.

We’d decided to spend the day there rather than in Liverpool, as my parents had never been and I enjoy going. I think it’s almost the perfect city, in my mum’s eyes – plenty of history, interesting architecture, good size, but without the same mania that can surround places like London.

My entire family has a thing about history, I think – we’re all interested in it, and so I knew my parents would enjoy seeing the cathedral. We spent quite a long time in there, actually; I think we spent an entire half an hour trying to find one particular feature by a window… it turned out to be on a different window than the ones we were looking at. But by this point, my dad had a hankering for a coffee, and I was a little hungry, so we went to the cathedral’s café for lunch.

It was at this point, while we were waiting for our food, that my mum decided to reveal what she’d been lugging around all day in her backpack – when I’d enquired what was in it, her answer had been “space”. For some reason, I actually believed her! But, alas, she unpacked a collection of coloured envelopes and presents.


Photos courtesy of my dad, who a) has a far better camera than I do, and b) was the only one to actually bring said camera with him… I forgot mine. I was also paying absolutely no attention the fact he was taking photos.

Now, in all truth, I hadn’t been expecting this – I knew their stay in Liverpool wasn’t going to be cheap, and I’d already had an intended-21st-birthday-present earlier in the year (awkward timing meant it arrived a little closer to my 20th birthday instead!). Nevertheless, I received a pair of earrings (which I’ve worn every day since), some perfume, chocolate and notebooks from my parents, and some other jewellery and cash from other relatives, which I’m very grateful for.

After lunch, we left the cathedral and had a bit of a lazy wander around the city walls and exploring the city, including a visit into a tea shop (my parents are definitely tea people, I can’t say the same myself) and an old pub with a good few centuries of history behind it.

Soon enough, the sun was starting to set and we went over to Miller and Carter for dinner – and odd thought, considering I’m pescetarian and they’re primarily a steakhouse, but they had a fair menu of non-meat dishes so I had salmon. I’m pretty sure my dad had steak, but I have no clue what mum ordered! Terrible memory, I know. I think I was a bit caught up in conversation to notice.

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The next morning, my parents turned up bright and early at my house again (it was now my actual birthday) and we went straight back to Key Lime Café for breakfast. This café is conveniently positioned opposite Lime Street Station, and thus in close proximity to St George’s Hall, where Liverpool’s Armistice Parade was due to take place. As we ate our breakfast we saw various groups of people in various uniforms getting ready for the parade.

We were careful to leave the café with a good amount of time before the parade was due to start, and managed to find a fairly good place to stand, a little way to the left of the monument pictured above. It was a lovely thing to watch; the crowds filled the area and during the ceremony, poppies were released from the roof of St George’s Hall, and petals were released from the top of the radio tower – the wind was blowing in the right direction so they all fell over the plateau and crowds.

I didn’t capture any of the parade and ceremony on camera; aside from the fact I forgot to bring my camera again, it seemed a bit inappropriate. But I had my poppy on, and my mum grabbed a programme they were handing out beforehand, and she managed to catch a few petals (that woman is amazing), so I do have some souvenirs.

After the ceremony had finished, we waited for the barriers to be moved so we could get closer to the monument (which I have walked past dozens of times and know quite well, but we wanted to see the wreaths). Then it was down to the docks to find some lunch, because the world would have turned upside down if an outing with my family didn’t largely revolve around food!

Sadly, the early afternoon meant it was time for my parents to leave. We got a taxi back to my house (instead of the 30+ minute uphill walk), and then my parents were off on their journey home.

So yeah, that’s what I did for my 21st! I’m never that big on birthday celebrations, and celebrating at uni can be a bit weird when your friends and family are miles away, but it was really nice to spend this time with my parents.

10 Tips to be Kind to the Earth this Summer

Our environment is screaming for help at the moment, and it’s within our power to help it. I want to help, and so should you.

I’ve seen so much on the news over the last few months about how our actions are destroying the environment we depend upon, and there have been some positive reactions – Iceland is going to stop putting palm oil in its own brand products, Tesco is banning non-recyclable plastic packaging – but none of that will be enough if we as individuals don’t do something to help, too.

With recent reports including stories of seals with plastic in its stomach and a whale with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, it is far past time to make some lifestyle changes.

Here are some of mine.

1) Stainless steel bottle

Okay, so this is a brilliant thing to own, because not only is it environmentally friendly but it keeps your water cold! I’m one of those people who’s never been the greatest water-drinker, but I’ve been making way more of an effort in recent years. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that cold water is millions of miles better than warm water. I have a few reusable bottles, to tell the truth: a gym bottle that lives in my gym bag, my stainless steel one for daily use, a litre filter bottle, and two others. You never know if a friend will need one, right? But the point is, I haven’t bought disposable bottles of any drink in months.

2) Stainless steel straw

This is a fairly recent acquirement on my part – I’m fine living a life without straws on the whole. I don’t see them as a necessity. But every now and again, you just… fancy one, y’know? I grew up with plastic reusable ones in my own house, so the idea is old hat by now. But the grand thing with these is they don’t squish when you gnaw on them. (Don’t lie, we all bite straws!) And they’re easy to wash – most come with a little pipe-cleaner brush, to get any remnants of smoothie out. Personally, I think all restaurants should invest in these – it’s surely no different to using stainless steel cutlery.

3) Spork

Who doesn’t love a spork? The fork/knife/spoon combo that looks oh-so-dorky but is oh-so-good. I’ve had a spork for years, I used to take it to school on occasion and it’s just so easy to shove in your bag, maybe in a little pouch so it doesn’t get dirty. But if you suspect you’ll be grabbing some food while out that would usually come with plastic cutlery, just whack that in your bag and you’re all set. Guilt-free munching is the best type of munching, after all.

4) Lunch boxes

We all ought to be familiar with this one. Who didn’t walk to primary/secondary school, lunch bag swinging in the wind? or tucked in your backpack? If you didn’t personally, I’m certain you had friends who did. But lunch boxes are the best way to avoid wrapping sandwiches etc. in foil or cling film, particularly if they’re partitioned. Just pack it tightly enough and nothing will go rolling around!

5) Flannels

The most popular methods of taking makeup off, at least that I’ve encountered, are with cotton pads or wet wipes. Both of these produce tonnes of unnecessary waste for something that can be achieved so easily with flannels. I personally use the Garnier Micellar Gel face wash with a wet flannel to remove my makeup every day – just chuck ’em in a bowl until you get a chance to wash them with your regular towels (the makeup comes out with no extra effort, though add stain remover if you wear liquid lipstick a lot!). But this is both cheaper, because I rarely need to buy cotton pads, and more environmentally friendly. Plus, the flannel gives you a bit of an exfoliation while you’re there.

6) Bags for Life

You’ll have heard about these to no end over the last year or so if you live in the UK, ever since the government introduced the 5p charge for disposable plastic bags. But I’m gonna go into it anyway! I have a variety of these types of bags – from totes, to hessian, to some indescribable fabric and more. And it’s so easy to fold up a tote bag or another bag of thin fabric into your handbag (or pocket, if you’re a dude). Just keep one there. Permanently. If you take it out and use it, put it back as soon as you’ve emptied it. Be like me and my lip balms – have one on hand 24/7! Even if you don’t need it during the day, a friend might. And it’s worth lending it to them if it means one less animal accidentally swallowing a disposable one, right?

7) Sign petitions!

If you sign one, you’ll get emailed about more. That’s the general rule with petitions, as far as I’ve found – I reliably sign Greenpeace ones, which pop into my inbox every now and again, but if I stumble across any on social media I’ll usually pop my name on those too. But recently it stopped Holland and Barrett selling krill, which is whales’ main food source and vital for ocean health, so they do work if enough people pay attention! And you can easily share them around, as me and a friend frequently do to each other.

8) Reusable baking sheets

It’s beyond easy to just wrap something in foil and shove it in the oven, but in many instances, it’s just as easy to use a reusable baking sheet. Just give it a good scrub each side between uses and you’re good to go.

9) Go for glasses and cans

When you’re doing your weekly shopping, or just decide you need some drinks in, try to go for the ones that come in cans or glass bottles, rather than the ones in plastic bottles – they’re easier to recycle and won’t contribute to the plastic-in-the-ocean problem. This works for things like coke, lemonade, tonic and other juicy drinks. It’s not always possible (you rarely find water in glass bottles, but that’s what tip 1 is for), but it is a lot of the time.

10) Watch out for palm oil products

The tips I’ve given so far are pretty quick and simple, I should think, but this one can be trickier. So many products on our supermarket shelves include palm oil, and I try my best to stay away from as many of them as possible. Take peanut butter, for example – this is something that definitely doesn’t need palm oil in it, and there are some brands I can tell you are 100% palm oil free: Sunpat, Tesco’s own (a new range that I am thrilled about!! they now do a variety of nut butters which only contain the nut, nothing else), and Meridian (more expensive). If you’re unaware about the problems with palm oil, click here for an overview.

So there we go! 10 easy ways to start being a little kinder to the earth this summer. Why not switch it up?

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What Getting Into Your Insurance Uni Is Really Like

This isn’t a pity-me post, and it isn’t meant to warn anyone off university, or even my university – just an honest post about what it’s really like to get into your insurance choice university.

Way back in early 2016, I was considering which universities out of the five I had applied to I should put as my firm and insurance choices on UCAS, the system UK students use to apply for university. If I’m honest, the decision was half-made already: I wanted to go to the University of Nottingham, so that was clearly my firm choice. I knew I didn’t want to go to two of the universities I had applied to, because I didn’t like the courses – I’d applied mainly to fill the spots. So, really, the choice I had to make was between the fourth and fifth universities: Liverpool (the one I’m at) and Southampton.

As is probably clear from the title of this post, I put Liverpool as my second choice. I felt like the impression I had gotten from the applicant day I attended was that it was a better fit than Southampton. To me, the campus just seemed more comfortable. There wasn’t a huge amount in it between the courses, from what I can remember, so I was mainly going off of the vibe I got from each of the universities when I visited.

Fast forward to August 2016, and one of the most emotionally confusing mornings of my life: A Levels results day. Having pretty much hated the process of A Levels for reasons worthy of a post entirely their own, I actually didn’t care what my grades were going to be. I only cared about getting into one of my chosen universities, so I decided to wait for UCAS to update at 8am, rather than head straight to school for my grades. I’ll spare you the long and confusing version of events: I was accepted into Liverpool with no issue, even though my grades hadn’t been what they asked for.

I say it was emotionally confusing, because while I was so relieved I had been accepted into university and hadn’t had to go through clearing, I had been so set on going to Nottingham. For the whole of that day, I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling. By the end of it, I was disappointed I didn’t get into my firm choice, glad the A Levels ordeal was finally over, sad I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped, and relieved Liverpool had accepted me. On top of that, I was just really tired. Sixth form was intense, and spending the summer waiting for something that was now out of my hands and would decide on the course of the next 3 years of my life hadn’t been all too pleasant.

In the weeks after, however, I felt excited. Beyond excited – it had settled in that I was going to a good university, the course looked good, and it was a major life goal that I was about to realise.

So what’s it been like in the time since? A lot of students you see in university prospectuses will say how they were accepted into their insurance, but they wouldn’t change it for a thing, and they now prefer this one to the one they’d intended to go to, and they’ve never had so much as a second thought.

Yeah, that’s not quite true for me.


Don’t get me wrong, I do love being here in Liverpool and it has given me some great opportunities. The course is, on the whole, exactly what I wanted. I have a lot of control over the modules I take, and my grades are doing well.

However… When you do get the impression that a certain place would be perfect for you, it’s hard for the place you felt like was a runner-up to beat it. Admittedly, some of the things sound quite arbitrary: I still prefer the actual Nottingham campus to the Liverpool one. I think the variety of societies and social activities seemed better there, especially as a non-drinker – personally, I’ve found being a non-drinker in Liverpool a bit tragic. Most society events that I’ve found are pub crawls, or will be a short event followed by a night of clubbing. And I think gym membership was cheaper at Nottingham. But sometimes it is the small details like these that can make all the difference to your experience.

Of course, I can’t say any of this for sure; I don’t know if the impression I had from Nottingham would have turned out to be entirely accurate, and I don’t know if I would have found other aspects of university there more difficult. I can’t say for sure whether I would have gone for a year abroad if I’d gone to Nottingham; I chose not to here, because my course only facilitates a semester, and I didn’t feel like that was a long enough time to get settled in in an entirely new environment and enjoy it. There’s every possibility that I could have gotten to Nottingham and found just as many things to dislike, or which I may have wanted to be different.

There are some things that I’m sure are true of all universities: I’m sure there’s always some divide between those who came to university to study and focus on their degree, and those who simply came for the ‘student life’ (a.k.a frequently getting drunk and missing most of their lectures). You’re always going to run into people you don’t get on with. Student accommodation is notorious around the world for its turbulence in terms of arguments with flatmates about cleanliness and noise – that pretty much comes down to your luck of the draw. After all, most people at university are young adults; we don’t all have everything figured out, and some people you’ll run into will have been doing chores for years, and others won’t have figured out how to use a washing machine yet.

So I won’t say that my experience getting into my insurance choice university has been perfect, as I saw in so many prospectuses when I was researching universities. I’m not going to pretend there haven’t been some days where I’ve thought my firm choice could have turned out better. But I do like my university! It’s an experience I won’t regret, and I love the work I’m doing. No matter where you go, there will be things you love and things you wish were different. And that’s always worth bearing in mind.