Work Outfit

I am currently doing a summer marketing internship (hence the lack of posts recently!) and I thought I would quickly share with you my typical work outfit. The office is quite relaxed in terms of dress code but I try and dress fairly smartly as it makes me feel much more confident and professional.

I love Primark, so I’m afraid this outfit is very Primark heavy! I think a lot of the items, such as the trousers, look like they are from a much more expensive shop. This outfit is great for a hot day in the office, being a perfect combination of cool and smart fabrics.

Chiffon Shirt, Primark

Chiffon Shirt, Primark

This shirt is really smart yet also made of a cool chiffon material for hot days. I love the daisy print and white collar!

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Trousers, Primark

I really love these trousers; they are so smart and are made of a beautiful, thick material. I really love shorter trouser lengths at the moment, and although these are not cropped all I do is roll them up to create a smart yet casual outfit. I also bought a pair in black as I loved them so much! They are a great alternative to a pair of boring, black work trousers.

Close-up of trousers

Close-up of trousers

As you can see, the trousers have a beautiful brocaded pattern. This was one of the things that drew me to them in the first place, as it makes them a bit more quirky and special.

Brogues, Matalan

Brogues, Matalan

Although I don’t often shop in Matalan, I often find that if you look hard enough, you can find some absolute gems. I picked these up for around ten quid, and they are so versatile that they just go with any outfit. A worthwhile purchase!

Satchel, Primark

Satchel, Primark

I love satchels, but hate paying the high prices asked for by Cath Kidston and The Cambridge Satchel Company. This is really similar to a lot of pricier satchels, but without the designer price tag. It has lasted really well, and is not showing the typical signs of wear I usually see in bags from Primark. My only criticism is that it could be a tiny bit bigger, but maybe that’s just because I have too much stuff!

Hope you enjoyed reading my post! I would be interested to know what you guys wear on a typical day to work – do you value fashion or function?

In The Flesh: Review

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I decided to write this review as I feel that In The Flesh is one of the most underrated shows I have ever seen on TV, and I am seeking to rectify that. Despite recently winning a BAFTA for best mini-series at the 2014 BAFTA TV Awards, the show has still remained relatively unknown, and has not managed to achieve the ‘buzz’ of other BAFTA TV winners such as Broadchurch. What I loved so much about the show was its variety: it is a strange but successful combination of gritty Northern realism and family drama with zombie horror.

When we first enter the story, we learn that four years ago there occurred a zombie rising, in which many dead people rose from their graves and caused an uprising between the humans and zombies with untold horror and casualties. However, the present setting of the show is a world in which the government has attempted to implement a programme of medical treatment for these zombies which takes them out of their rabid state into their normal human one again. Although the treated zombies look different, they act as if they were human. The show’s main location is a sleepy Northern town in Lancashire, which is shaken up with the return of several zombies, or ‘PDS’ sufferers, into its community, including the shows protagonist Kieran Walker. The show is all about how the Roarton community reacts to their return, whether with acceptance or violence.

The standout feature of In The Flesh, was, for me, the incredible acting on behalf of all its cast members. The writers and directors of the piece have said that they deliberately chose lesser known actors in order to showcase a whole new range of talent. All of the characters, alive or undead, are so beautifully complex and human, who despite their niceties also have flaws and faults that make them undeniably realistic. Despite their flaws, they are all loveable in different ways, and as the show progresses the audience will grow to really care about their respective fates.

Luke Newberry, the show’s 24 year old lead, is undeniably the standout of the show in terms of truly great acting, aptly recognised in his nomination for Best Actor Award at the TV BAFTAS this year. His northern accent is so realistic one would not suspect even for a second that he comes from the South West. Newberry perfectly manages to capture Kieran’s endless complexities; his internal battle between longing to be human and fit into normal society yet longing to fight back and make people accept him for who he is. His complex relationship with his family, especially upon first arriving back in Roarton, produces some of the most touching and moving moments I have ever seen acted out on TV. Newberry’s screen presence is just hypnotic, cemented by his ability to act out all his unsaid emotions through his enchanting brown eyes.

Another of the shows’ standout performances is the incredible talent Emily Bevan as Amy Dyer, who manages to perfectly capture the fun, excitable scattiness of her pseudo-hippy zombie character. In a way she is Kieran’s saviour, taking him out of his self-hatred and loathing to realise that even as a zombie, he can still have human experiences and ‘live.’

The show’s writing is just fantastic, and the audience can tell that ample attention has been put into its amazing script. It is almost hard to believe that this is the first feature the shows writer, Dominic Mitchell, has written for TV. He is a young talent to watch out for. The writing of the show is not all high action and jumpy horror, despite the zombie horror film connotations one would expect. Above all, the show is a drama of human relationships just like any other, demonstrating the complexities of family, friendship and romantic relationships for both the zombies and humans of the Roarton community. The action of the plot of subtly and cleverly drawn out bit by bit, with slower episodes building to dramatic crescendos in their conclusion, leaving the audience wanting more. Despite all its melancholy, Mitchell’s script does also have many humorous moments which provide a bit of fun and light hearted relief to the serious nature of the plot.

The main bulk of the plot is less about the horror of the zombies but their innate humanity. Mitchell seems to have a very deliberate agenda of symbolism with the zombie element of his story, with the zombies used to represent anyone who has ever been seen as an outsider in society, and persecuted for their difference. Although many people have likened the treatment of the zombies to a symbolism of hidden homosexuality and also race, Mitchell himself has stated that the story was inspired by the treatment of mental health patients who have been integrated back into society. I believe that the symbol of the zombie could represent infinite things; left deliberately ambiguous, it is up to the audience to interpret as they wish.

I love movie and TV soundtracks that introduce me to new and beautiful music I had never heard before, and this was no exception. The soundtrack for the show is very chilled out and melancholy, presumably to fit with its sombre mood and tone. The songs used are predominately acoustic guitar pieces by the incredibly talented Keaton Heston. They go perfectly with the events happening within the story, summing up all the soaring and heartfelt emotions the audience are feeling at the shows’ saddest moments.

I honestly cannot fault this show (except for the fact that I wish there were more episodes!); and would definitely go so far as to say it is one of the best things I have ever seen on British TV. With its unusual storyline, beautiful soundtrack and flawless acting by all its cast, it will not fail to impress even the biggest of scepticals.

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Barcelona: A Tourist’s Guide

For my birthday my boyfriend and I went on a three night mini-break to Barcelona. It is somewhere I have always wanted to go, having heard it revered for its quirky architecture, relaxed lifestyle and trendy atmosphere by friends and family alike. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona did not disappoint, and will long remain one of my favourite European cities. Here are all the things I got up to on my trip, both good and bad.

Magic Fountain

Although this fountain does not live up to its name in the daytime, at night it comes alive in a coloured lightshow which is simply breath-taking and almost magical.

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In the daytime, far more impressive than the actual fountain itself is the building of the Museum of Art Catalunya, overlooking the fountain with a stately and ornate decadence.

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Montjuic Cablecar and Castle

This cable car was more than worth paying for, saving a strenuous walk uphill to allow you to walk down through Monjuic’s steep park at your own pace.

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Although the views from the cable car were incredible, they were beaten by the 360 degree views affording from the roof of the castle. Although I felt that the castle’s entry fee was perhaps a bit pricey, given that there was not much to see of the inside of the castle, the views of the city from the top were breath-taking.

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Guell Palace

This was one of the biggest surprises of the trip for me. I had read reviews which seemed to suggest that this was pretty average, that there was better and more interesting Gaudi architecture to see. However, because of this lack of popularity, the entry fee was so much cheaper than the more popular Gaudi sites. The Palace was big, with many different floors to see, meaning that you actually got a lot for your money.

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Some of my favourite parts of the palace were in the basement with its dome shaped pillars creating an unusual contrast between light and shade, and the roof terrace with its gorgeous Gaudi pottery style chimneys.

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The Gothic Quarter

This is a beautiful area providing the opportunity to wander around and look at its numerous shops, small, shady streets and beautiful architecture. I would say this is an area that can be explored relatively quickly, and makes for a nice excursion from the tourist hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas.

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One of my favourite parts of the Gothic Quarter was its beautiful, ancient cathedral boasting an impressive façade which allows you to walk all the way round it. Just one tip: if you want to go inside the cathedral (it is free entry) make sure you wear something that comes below the knee. I got caught out on this wearing my shorts and, sadly, was not allowed to look inside this magnificent cathedral.

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Las Ramblas

For me, Las Ramblas was one of the most overrated elements of Barcelona. Although I could appreciate the street with its tree lined pedestrian walkway, numerous shops and impressive architecture, I found it too busy and crowded with tourists to fully enjoy it. I had been warned that bags were easy to pickpocket in such a crowded space, so was constantly checking my bag (which, luckily, did not get stolen!)

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Another thing that annoyed me about Las Ramblas was the prices. We were staying on the Avenue Parallel, a relatively cheap area, and the contrast between the prices there and on Las Ramblas, only a mere ten minutes away, was outstanding. Restaurants will frequently conn you by offered you an outside table on the street, only to charge you a premium price of almost double for eating there. Las Ramblas is definitely worth exploring as a go-between route, but not worth going out of the way for.

Casa Batllo

Having been recommended this by several friends, we pre-booked our tickets for this before our trip. This turned out to be a beneficial decision, allowing us to see Gaudi’s masterpiece cheaper and with a queue jump opportunity. Even if you don’t want to pay to get in, the outside of the house alone is a masterpiece in itself, a jarring contrast between the shapes of bones and skulls and the fluid, calming colours of the sea.

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One can also see this contrast inside the house, a contrast between the practical and the whimsical which is so explicit in Gaudi’s work. The house itself, in Tardis fashion, was surprisingly bigger on the inside, and one felt its numerous collection of quirky rooms would never end.

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The highlights for me were the magnificent front room with views out to the street from its beautifully stained glass windows and the central staircase space with its terracotta tiles of varying shades of blue. As one would expect from Gaudi, this is one of the most imaginative pieces of architecture I have, and will ever, see.

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The Segrada Familia

Despite having been warned off this by one of my friends who dismissed it as too ‘touristy’, I felt that a trip to Barcelona would not be complete without seeing Gaudi’s famous cathedral. As soon as I stood outside its impressive, almost crumbling looking façade, I knew I had made the right decision. The outside of the cathedral, well, the side not covered in scaffolding and building cloth, nearly took my breath away with its intricacy of design and attention to detail. As you get even closer to the building, you notice that what looked like simply a jagged bit of stone is actually a person, donkey, or angel.

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However, what most surprised me was the inside of the cathedral. I had not seen any photos of it so had no idea what to expect. When I walked in what I saw was almost indescribable, the vast spaces of the cathedral supported by magnificent bone-like white pillars that stretched high up to the ornate ceiling.

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When buying a ticket, I would recommend going up one of the ‘Towers’ if you are not too afraid of heights. It affords beautiful views over Barcelona and is a great way to explore the inner workings of the cathedral.

Montserrat

This was without a doubt the highlight of my trip. Situated only an hour on the train from Barcelona, Montserrat is a jaw-dropping mountain-scape rendered into beautiful, incredible and uncanny stalagmite-like shapes by the wind and weather. We went up in the cable car rather than the tram, which gave incredible views over the surrounding mountains and countryside of the region.

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Once at the top, there is not an awful lot to do except admire beautiful views and scenery, so if this is not your thing then I would not recommend this as a day trip. We did manage to get a quick glimpse into the monastery and its cathedral, but would have liked to look round for longer when there was not a service going on.

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If you also want to walk or take the funicular up to one of the highest points of the mountain, this will soon become less of an excursion and more of a full day trip. We spent nearly eight hours there in total! Once at the top, there are even greater views to be had. 

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However, the greatest views by far were afforded by performing the treacherous task of climbing one of the mountains. Although there is a walkable path that people can use to walk up, it was nevertheless a nervous but also adrenaline-fuelled experience. 

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Once we got to the top, we could not believe we had climbed so high. We could see so far and so wide, it left us a little speechless.

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If you get to the top, I recommend walking down the mountain rather than getting the funicular down. There is a wide, clear concrete path that takes you right round and down to the monastery again.

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Guell Park

I felt slightly let down by Guell Park, not because of the park itself but because I did not realise you had to pay for it. Apparently this is a measure that was only brought in late last year, and before that entry to the monuments area of the park had been completely free. We went here on the morning of our last day with our flight in the afternoon and therefore only had a limited time frame, but when we got there found it packed with queuing tourists, who, even upon buying a ticket, were not allowed to enter the park except within a specific time frame. The earliest slot we could get was 2.30, leaving it as out of the question we would be able to pay and get in even if we had wanted to. Although we got to see Gaudi’s gingerbread-like buildings standing at the entrance of the park and a very distant view of Barcelona towards the sea for free, I felt that I missed out on seeing one of Barcelona’s best, and iconic, views.

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I hope I have given you some idea of what this beautiful and quirky city is like, and shown you how to enjoy Barcelona as a pure, unadulterated tourist.

Dreams Take Flight: The Wind Rises Review

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Hayao Miyazaki’s farewell animation is an absolute masterpiece, a whimsical film that is as much a film made for himself as it is for his fans. Miyazaki’s avid interest in planes and aviation is no secret to Studio Ghibli fans, especially those who have seen Porco Rosso with its celebration of the beauties of flight.

One cannot help but compare the films protagonist Jiro Horikoshi and Miyazaki himself, both whimsical dreamers with their head in the clouds, whose sole vision is to create beauty in the world. Jiro’s ultimate dream is to design and fly beautiful planes, following in the footsteps of his hero, Italian aeronautical engineer Caproni. Although on the surface this dream of Jiro’s is sweet and touching, lurking beneath its light, nostalgic tone are some very dark themes. After all, the planes Jiro helps design are the fighter planes that were sent into battle to bomb whole towns and cities in WW2. In other words, they are beautiful killing machines. Although he is pursuing his dream, Jiro and his colleague also feel guilt at the heart-breaking devastation that their designs cause to others. However, the film only ever skims over this notion, mainly choosing to celebrate the beauty of the planes rather than on their consequences. It is up to the audience to decide how to interpret this moral ambiguity that lies at the core of the film.

The film plays out like a historical drama, spanning many of Japan’s key historical moments such as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic and Japan’s plunge into war. Many of these do not make for easy watching, causing heart-breaking consequences and devastation. This, I feel, is one of the things that makes The Wind Rises such a refreshing film for Studio Ghibli: it is not a happy film, it is a grown-up look at both imagination and nostalgia but also the harsh realities of the world. The ending of the film is bittersweet, demonstrating that sometimes a dream is not always what you expected it to be.

Miyazaki has certainly created a roster of beautiful films throughout his Studio Ghibli career. The Wind Rises, however, has to be one of his most beautiful. The hand painted countryside animation is simply breathtaking, with Jiro’s flight dream sequences allowing us to see numerous beautiful locations. The film itself takes us on a journey through many different locations, from rural Japan to Tokyo to Germany. Not all of these are images of lightness and sweetness, as we see images of ultimate destruction flashing before our eyes, from the devastating Tokyo earthquake to the bombings caused by WW2 fighter planes. Despite being images of untold darkness, they are no less beautiful; indeed, they provided a refreshing contrast to the typical sugary sweetness of the studio’s animation.

Whilst being a film with incredibly dark themes, the film contains a surprising amount of humour within its script and actions. The main bulk of humour comes from Jiro’s grumpy boss, whose gruff, sarcastic remarks cannot help but draw a smile. Jiro’s friend Honjo also provides a humorous element to the dialogue with his cynical remarks about Japanese plane design. This is unsurprising when we learn that he is voiced by The Office funnyman John Krasinski.

Whilst undoubtedly a love affair with flight and aviation is the main purpose of the movie, as a secondary plot is the touching and heart-breaking romance between Jiro and his devoted sweetheart Nahoko. Their ‘love at first sight’ romance, despite being a little clichéd, is beautifully acted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, who manage to capture its sweet innocence perfectly. I could not help but be frustrated at Jiro as he seems to put his planes before Nahoko, without realising that she is the true beauty that lies right in front of his eyes. Fans of a Studio Ghibli romance may be slightly disappointed by this romance, purely because it feels rather rushed, unsurprising when you consider all the other events that Miyazaki has tried to squeeze into the plot.

A final element of beauty in the film can be found in its mesmerising soundtrack. The classical violin and piano themes in the film are just beautiful, and work perfectly alongside the gorgeous scenes of flight and aviation to create an experience that is almost magical. The films main theme is so beautiful, and I feel it is a shame that it has been consigned only to the credits scene. With its steady build up from a soft song to a powerful ballad, it perfectly reflects the soaring intensity of flight.

Overall, The Wind Rises is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, an artistic and directorial masterpiece. However, its slow plot pacing is something that would put off a lot of Western viewers, meaning it will never quite live up to the popularity of the Studio’s greats like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Gwen Stacy’s Style: Spiderman 2

I went to see Spiderman 2 yesterday and really enjoyed it, despite my apprehensions (I am a massive Tobey Maguire fangirl.) One aspect of it I could not help noticing was the excellent costume design, not only for Spidey himself but also love interest, Gwen Stacy. Although I am by no means claiming this is the highlight of the film, as soon as she entered the screen Gwen’s costumes instantly caught my eye. This comes as no surprise as she is played by the beautiful Emma Stone, who would probably still manage to look good wearing a bin bag! Moving on from the first Spiderman film, Gwen’s style seems to have changed quite a lot, becoming a lot more grown-up and sophisticated. This, I assume, is to show her character arch and how Gwen has grown up as a person, entering into the adult working world. Every one of Emma’s costumes was absolutely beautiful, showing off the kitsch, preppy and quirky sides of her character in equal measure. Not only this, but Emma had a lot more direction with her costumes in this film, allowing her to show off some of her individual style and personality too.

Outfit One: Graduation

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Despite the fact we cannot see much of Gwen’s outfit under her graduation gown, I really loved the Peter Pan collar and bright red pattern of her blouse underneath. The red colour matches so perfectly with Emma Stone’s pale skin and blonde hair, creating a pop of colour that instantly grabs your attention.

Outfit Two: Yellow Trench Coat

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I really love this coat, not only for its sophisticated style but its pastel yellow colour which perfectly taps into the pastel trend this year. I love how it has been accessorized simply with cute cream coloured tights and vintage-style brown heels.

Outfit Three: Smart Casual

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I absolutely adore this outfit, which combines a touch of glamour with an everyday, casual jeans look. The bright blue blazer is absolutely stunning, acting as the focal point of the blue-green colour scheme of the outfit. I love how, rather than playing it safe with black or brown brogues, the outfit has been accessorized with baby pink brogues, which provide a nice contrast to the otherwise neutral tones of the outfit.

Outfit Four: Pink Coat

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Similarly to the earlier pastel yellow coat, this pink tailored coat again works perfectly with a pastel trend. It is the sort of coat that one could wear with anything, either dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a black dress. This is a very understated but nonetheless beautiful outfit, with just the right amount of subtle styling added with the blue floral scarf.

Outfit Five: Preppy

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This outfit is so cute, in part due to its undeniably preppy, all-American vibe. Everything in the outfit works together perfectly, despite the variety of colours and textures from the olive green velvet shoes to the purple wool skirt. That is because the colours are muted rather than bright, meaning the eye is drawn to the outfit as a whole rather than one particular feature. My favourite parts of the outfit are the cute knee-high turquoise socks and the layering of shirt, cream jumper and navy tailored blazer, both of which add to the preppy feel of the outfit.

Outfit Six: The Spoiler Outfit

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To readers of the Spiderman comics this has come to be known as the ‘spoiler’ outfit, as it perfectly resembles Gwen Stacy’s outfit from a key moment in the comic books. However, putting spoilers aside, I absolutely loved this outfit: it was probably my favourite of the movie. I love purple, so the pairing of the patterned purple shirt and purple kilt-style pleated skirt immediately got my thumbs up. Its unpredictable styling with black fishnet tights and knee length black boots was a great way to add a tougher edge to the otherwise girly outfit. However, without a doubt the highlight of the outfit is Gwen’s beautiful mint green coat. The loose, boxy style of it fits her perfectly and the white detailing is a lovely touch. It is surprising to see these two seemingly clashing colour schemes of green and purple fit together so well, creating a smart outfit with a hint of quirky personality.

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Eight Reasons Why Everyone Should Watch Downton Abbey

1) Costumes

Although the costumes do go downhill as the series go on, they are still undoubtedly the most beautiful costumes I have seen in any period drama. As one would expect from a household of that magnitude and wealth, the female costumes and dresses encompass a stunning array of styles and materials. From sleeveless to full sleeve, black chiffon to red velvet, there is rarely a moment when you are not taken aback by the beauty of the fashions of this time. Although the male costumes of the show are not nearly as exciting, it is their relevance in social context which is particularly interesting, with several characters mocked for not wearing the right sort of jacket to dinner. Although silly, it is cultural details like these which reiterate the idea of how important dress and outer appearance were in a society of pomp and decorum. It is very clear that the costume designers had done their research with the costumes, evolving and changing as the show spans eras, representing the evolution of fashion through the decades.

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2) Acting

With a cast including the likes of Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, you would expect nothing less than incredible acting. One of the standout performances for me was Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, whose character, as the series go on, turns out to be a lot more multi-faceted and complex than we had originally thought. Bonneville does an amazing job of demonstrating the pompous power yet crippling vulnerability of his character. However, some of the lesser known cast in the show equally match up to the standard of these living legends. Joanne Froggatt as Anna and Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes were two of the stand out performances from me, representing two equally strong and feisty female characters who brilliantly defy the stereotype of the weak and passive female servant.

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3) Storyline

What I, and so many other people, love about this show, if the variety of its storyline. Not only does it focus on the lives of the privileged upper class Crawley family but also the servants who work for them down below, in a sense their own little family. Spanning a huge period of time from the lead up to WW1 to the wild decadence of the 20s, Downton Abbey constantly manages to keep its reader hooked, with its interesting historical background playing a key part in the events of the storyline. One cannot but be gripped by the will-they-won’t-they love stories of both the Crawley family and the servants downstairs, family feuds and the evil schemings of Thomas and Mrs O’Brien. Even the everyday running of the house makes for an interesting, multi-faceted storyline that demonstrates the trials and tribulations the Crawley’s and their servants face daily in their everyday life.

4) The House

Highclere Castle, the absolutely beautiful, majestic house where Downton is filmed is reason enough to watch this incredible show. The way the set designers have decorated the rooms instantly transports you back to the turbulent times of the early twentieth century. It plays a focal point in the storyline, with the contrast between the grand, stately upper rooms and dark, confined lower rooms acting as a microcosm for the chasm of wealth between the upper and working classes, the ‘upstairs’ gentry and the ‘downstairs’ servants. In fact, with the title of the show being what it is, one could argue that the house itself if one of the most central characters of the show. In backstage interviews, all the cast have said how much they love filming in this stately location, and it is easy to see why. I hope to be able to visit it someday!

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5) Humour

Although there are sad moments in Downton Abbey, on the whole it is a very cheery show that, unlike most period dramas set in the north, does not purely focus on the dreary bleakness of Northern life. There were so many witty one liners and awkward moments in the show that had me laughing out loud, testament to the amazing writing talent of Julian Fellowes. The show would not be complete with Maggie Smith’s performance as Violet Crawley in all her hilarious pomposity. In my opinion, and unsurprisingly, Smith gives the best comedy performance of the whole show, constantly leaving both the characters of the show and its audience with an open mouth after yet another witty, scathing comment. Rob James-Collier as Thomas, Jim Carter as Mr Carson and Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore also give great comedy performances, their droll, sarcastic observations providing moments of light relief into the tough, hard days of the Downton servants.

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6) Eye Candy

Although I am not so shallow as to claim this is a major part of the show, the inclusion of the gorgeous Dan Stevens as Edward Crawley certainly made me brighten up upon watching the first episode. One cannot help but be transfixed as his piercingly blue eyes which seem as if they are staring into your soul. For the males out there, there are also plenty of beautiful women in the show. Mary and Sybil Crawley, played by Michelle Dockery and Jessica Brown Findlay, are stunningly and naturally beautiful as the graceful and elegant Crawley sisters.

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7) Yorkshire Accents

I don’t know about anyone else, but I adore a Yorkshire accent. Being set in Yorkshire, there are plenty to be heard in Downton! What I really loved is that all the accents on the show, from northern to well spoken English, sounded really authentic and natural, not forced in any way.

8) Music

Not only is Downton a feast for the eyes with its sumptuous costumes and sets but also a feast for the ears too. The show’s main theme, The Suite, composed by John Lunn, is a beautiful sweeping violin and piano piece that perfectly encapsulates both the melancholy and happiness that the show has to offer. The other pieces of music in the show are similar to this main piece but perfectly capture the mood of the show, creating tension, sadness and joy at its most intense moments.

Review: From Up On Poppy Hill (Goro Miyazaki, 2011)

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In case you didn’t know, I am a massive Studio Ghibli and anime fan, and in my opinion Spirited Away is the best animated film I have and ever will see. I was surprised how long it has taken me to watch Studio Ghibli’s most recently dubbed film, considering I usually jump at the chance of any new offering from the studio. However, I have just recently got round to watching this film and I am so glad I did.

The film is set in Yokohoma in 1963, a time where Japan was desperately trying to pick up the pieces of devastation left after WW2 and move on to more optimistic times such as hosting the 1964 Olympics. The animation and artwork of the film are absolutely breath-taking, with the magic of the seaside town brought to life by the sun-drenched gardens, bright turquoise ocean and bustling shops and markets.

The story centres around our lead heroine Umi Matsuzaki, who is by no means the typical teenager, having to help run a busy boarding house and look after her sister and grandmother whilst also juggling her school work. Umi is a completely likeable and relatable heroine, with the charming sweetness and naivety that one sees in so many anime heroines.

The main bulk of the plot focuses on Umi and the other students at the local high school, who are petitioning to save their club house, a relic of ‘old’ Japan which many believe must be knocked down to start afresh. Their humorous campaigns cannot but be seen as a microcosm for the larger Japanese situation in the 1960s, where many thought that the solution to Japan moving forward after the war was to knock down the old and build new, modern buildings. However, the film takes a nostalgic angle that is very much against this notion of complete, totalitarian modernity, arguing that although Japan did need to move on and rejuvenate it also needed to look to the past to learn and teach them about their culture. As one student eloquently puts it, “You cannot move into the future without first knowing the past.”

There are other elements to the plot besides this, with problematical family issues being represented through Umi’s absent, dislocated family. With a mother at University in America and a father lost at sea in the Korean War, Umi is left without a real family to talk to and confide her problems in. One of the most touching symbols of nostalgia in the movie is Umi’s raising of a string of signal flags. These seem to be, rather than an act of remembrance for her father, a symbol of Umi’s naïve hope that her father will eventually return to her.

However, for me, the most poignant element of the plot was the blossoming romance between Umi and Shun Kazama, editor of the student paper and one of the leads of the clubhouse campaign. Their romance is touching, awkward and totally believable, perfectly representing the delicate blooming of young love. Although I am making it sound like their romance is all sugary sweetness, a lot of the saddest and most heartbreaking moments for me came through the interactions between Umi and Shun. All I will say, to avoid any spoilers, is that their romance is not exactly ‘plain sailing’… (Hope people who have seen the film will appreciate the very bad pun!)

Goro Miyazaki’s Up On Poppy Hill looks at the ordinary, everyday lives of the Yokohoma residents, representing a retreat away from his father’s legendary fantasies. Although many Studio Ghibli fans may be disappointed by its lack of fantasy and magic, I was delighted at seeing something new and different from the studio. For me, this was a nostalgic, touching and beautiful film that cannot fail to tug at the heart strings, perfectly capturing the difficult, everyday problems we all face, even in our modern society so far removed from 1960s Japan.

The Stars of Tomorrow: Up-and-Coming British Actors Under 25

Whilst all eyes at the moment may be turned to British actors who have made it big across the pond in Hollywood like Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, these young actors represent a new generation of talent which surpasses that of many Hollywood stars.

Kaya Scodelario

Beautiful, waif-like Kaya, 22, first made her name in an incredible breakout performance as Effy in Skins, tackling a really difficult role involving mental health issues. From then on, she has gone on to act in a wide range of films, from period drama Wuthering Heights to Hollywood epic Clash of the Titans. Whatever she is in, Kaya brings a forceful intensity to her performances, and a physical presence on screen which is absolutely spellbinding. 

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Nico Mirallegro

23 year old Manchester native Nico Mirallegro started out in the role of paranoid schizophrenic Newt in that soap we all love to hate: Hollyoaks. He has gone on to tackle many challenging roles that deal with mental health, with an incredibly moving, standout performance as shell-shocked soldier Joe in BBC WW1 drama The Village. Mirallegro is a wholly versatile actor who has demonstrated his love for homegrown British film and TV, having starred in a range of British features from period drama Upstairs Downstairs to Stone Roses indie flick Spike Island. Most recently, you will see him lighting up the screen as awkward heartthrob Finn in E4’s unique teen drama My Mad Fat Diary.

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Jack O’Connell

Jack O’Connell, 23, is an incredible actor, there is no doubt about it. Ever since his first role as Cook in Skins he has tackled some really intense roles in gritty British dramas like Harry Brown and This is England. Without a doubt, his standout performance is in recent British prison drama Starred Up. He plays Eric Love, a violent and troubled young teenager who is thrust into the harsh realities of the adult prison system. O’Connell manages to perfectly capture the intensity and frustration of his character, creating a commanding and powerful presence on screen. He can most recently be seen in Hollywood’s Greek action epic 300: Rise of an Empire.

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Craig Roberts

23 year old Craig Roberts started out in the Tracy Beaker TV series (nostalgia, anyone?!), but has since gone on to bigger and better things. In his starring role as Oliver Tate in Richard Ayoade’s quirky British comedy Submarine, he gave a perfect performance as a pretentious but loveable teen trying to lose his virginity. He seems to be veering towards a comedy angle, with a lot of up and coming projects for 2014 including a role in the much anticipated Seth Rogen comedy Neighbors.

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Maisie Williams

At just 15, Maisie Williams has firmly cemented her place as one of the young stars of tomorrow. With a major role as Arya Stark in the addictive HBO series Game of Thrones, it looks like she will be gracing our TV screens with her presence for a little while longer (unless, of course, George R.R. Martin decides to kill her off!). This year, she can be seen in offbeat British comedy Gold alongside Hobbit star James Nesbitt.

 

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Bargain Ball Dress

On Friday I am going to a formal ball at my University, and was in a panic yesterday as I was still dress-less! A quick trip to H&M yesterday, however, soon set my mind at ease.

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Dress, £34.99, H&M

I was reluctant when I first saw this dress on the rails, as although I love maxi dresses for a glamorous ball look, I wasn’t too sure about the colour, not being a ‘pink’ or girly person myself, and also thought it would make me look washed out and pale! So it was with trepidation that I took it to the changing room. However, as soon as I slipped it on, I could see it was a winner. It is a beautiful, flattering fit, just the perfect combination of being figure hugging and figure skimming.

The length, without heels, is definitely longer than I expected. However, I am going to wear mine with killer heels so am hoping on the actual night it will be the perfect floor skimming length. Its pale colour means if it drags on the floor it will get very dirty so I will have to be careful of this!

The chiffon material is beautiful, I am a big fan of chiffon for a smart, evening look. I liked the fact that it was strapless as this creates a very glamorous look, however, even for someone who does not own a strapless bra (you should own one, they are essential!) there are optional straps that can be put on for extra support. 

One of the best things, however, about this dress was the detailing on the bodice, which I think is really beautiful and unusual. Although some could see it as ‘too much’, as long as it is teamed with minimal accessories I think it will create an eye catching feature without being too over the top. I will be wearing mine with black accessories as I don’t have nude coloured accessories, but I think these will contrast nicely with the paleness of the dress.

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Bodice detailing

Overall, this is beautiful dress, which I feel is a bargain for its £34.99 price tag because of its quality materials and expensive look. Although I would have preferred it in a different colour, such as a black, navy or turquoise, not everything can be perfect! Maybe it will make a pink converter of me yet.

New Obsession: My Mad Fat Diary

“I am a body dysmorphic without the dysmorphic. I am a bulimic without the sick. I am fat.”

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I will be the first to admit that I judged this show when it came out last year. The trailer made it look awful, cheesy, and predictable, and I cringed when I watched it. However, having been recommended it by a friend, and for the sake of procrastinating from my essay I decided to give it a go this week, and boy was it worth it!

I have become completely and utterly addicted, watching both seasons in only 2 days! With only six or seven episodes in each series and each episode 45 minutes long they are the perfect length for dipping in and out of, although the storyline is so exciting and gripping it is unlikely you will find it possible to watch just a single episode.

The story centres around a 16 year old 16 stone girl called Rae living in the 1990s, who has just come out of a 4 month stint in a psychiatric ward. It details her difficult transition back into everyday life again: making new friends, family issues, starting college and finding romance. Although the actual premise of the story itself is quite cliché, the mental health angle of the story is deeply moving and insightful to watch. Unlike typical ‘teen’ dramas such as ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, the acting from the lead and secondary characters is powerful and believable. The scenes between Rae and her councillor Kester provide a real insight into what is going on in her head.

The most touching and riveting part of the story by far is the blossoming of an unlikely romance between Rae and Finn, a fellow member of ‘the gang’. Played by the insanely handsome up and coming actor Nico Mirallegro, Finn starts out as a sort of modern day ‘Mr Darcy’ figure, being quite unlikeable at first in his moody demeanour and rudeness to Rae. However, as the series goes on, we realise that this is due to his shy nature and difficulties in meeting new people. Their romance is touching yet frustrating, as we realise fairly early on that they are perfect for each other, but it takes them both a long time to realise it. Mirallegro does an amazing job of capturing Finn’s shy, sweet, awkward and caring qualities, with a lot of his unsaid emotions played out through his facial expressions, looks and gestures. It is so refreshing to see such a unique romance played out on the screen, and the incredible chemistry between Rae and Finn is echoed in the real life friendship the two actors formed during filming.

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The storyline and issues the show deals with, despite being dark, display emotions which are universal: everyone has felt the paranoia, inadequacy, panic and sadness Rae grapples with in the show. I would defy anyone to say that they haven’t looked at themselves in the mirror and hated what they see, just as Rae does. Her hatred of her body is shown in this beautiful and innovative scene where Rae imagines herself ‘unzipping’ out of her fat to become thin.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfuxnx163qU) Interestingly, it is not only Ray that has these feelings towards herself; so does her seemingly perfect, beautiful and skinny best friend Chloe. Ultimately, the show demonstrates that a lack of confidence in body and self are issues that affect everyone, no matter what their size.

Being set in the 1990s, the show has an amazing 90s soundtrack with classics by Oasis, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Blur and Talking Heads. It has rekindled my love for 90s music again, and made me readjust my scornful stereotype that 90s music was defined by the pop sounds of The Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys. There are playlists with all the songs from the show available on Spotify. The 90s setting has a very retro feel, giving those who didn’t live through the 90s an interesting insight into 90s fashion, culture and lifestyle and those who did a nostalgic trip into the past.

Overall, My Mad Fat Diary is an incredible, addictive, funny and touching TV show that goes beyond its teen genre and audience to provide universal appeal. With a great storyline, strong acting, catchy soundtrack and gorgeous eye candy (in the form of Finn), what’s not to love?!