Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Saying Goodbye: Leaving the Place where I Grew Up

This week my family and I are moving away from where I've lived for nearly 19 years of my life; the Lake District. Technically. Yes, technically I've already been living in at uni in Edinburgh for a year, but now my mum and brother will be moving out of this house and heading across the border to Glasgow. This past year, when I've taken time away from uni to visit my family I've always been going 'home' to the Lakes, and the thought that 'home' isn't going to be there anymore really scares me.

For as long as I can remember I've been complaining about living in the Lake District.This may sound shocking to people who live outside the area, who have been maybe once or twice on a holiday and absolutely adored it. I don't blame people for thinking that; if I came here on holiday I know I would most likely never want to leave. 

Actually living and growing up in the Lake District is different. Yes, I know people who are Cumbrian born and bred and would never dream of saying a bad word about the place and have never had any problems growing up here. I, on the other hand, found myself feeling trapped for most of my teenage years in a place where I didn't really fit in.

I don't know when I began to notice this feeling, perhaps it had been there all along? I was born in London, and although I did move to Cumbria when I was six months old, I always felt like I was different. Although my Dad is from the area, my Mum, who is from Ipswich, felt twice as much like an outsider as I did. She was used to a completely different way of life and experienced a massive culture shock, which I think had an effect on me. My natural accent at the time was southern, and from a very young age I felt singled out for the way I talked, for example, people would make fun of the way I said 'grass' and other similar-sounding words. I know it sounds like a silly thing to get upset about but if someone says things like this to you as a very young child you really take it to heart; I even became scared to speak for a while. Now I just have this weird amalgamated northern and southern accent which I absolutely HATE! 

When I was a teenager I became aware of just how isolated I felt. Literally though, I've lived in a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere for most of my life, 20 miles away from my school and at least 10 miles away from any of my friends. Let's just say it wasn't the ideal place to spend your teenage years. I found myself feeling lonely 90% of the time I wasn't in school; I even remember one summer holiday when I was eleven, I thought if I closed my eyes and wished hard enough I could magic up a friend to come and play with me. I'm aware that this all sounds very sad, but that's what it was I guess. 

I feel like I've missed out on a lot of experiences because of where I've lived and I can't ever get that time back. I don't know where I'd be without university, and the friends I've met there. I still lack confidence and can sometimes be a bit too introverted for some people's liking, but leaving Cumbria has made me realise that it's not my fault. I'm proud of the person I've become over this past year; the things I've done and the people I've met and I can't wait to grow even more. Maybe I need to leave this place behind to make that happen.

Despite everything I've said, I still can't shake the feeling that I'm truly going to miss the Lakes. It is beautiful here, and there's nothing I love more than being out walking in the valley on a clear day and feeling as if you're the only person for miles and miles, That, to me, is not a lonely feeling, but one of safeness and a sense of knowing your place in the world. Living here has taught me how amazing this world can be, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and that I wouldn't trade for the world, but everything has to end. It's time to move on and face the next chapter of my life. I've been isolated for too long and I need to immerse myself back in the world for the sake of  my own state of mind.

So Cumbria, I wish you a very fond farewell. Hopefully we'll meet again someday.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

My Top Five Highlights from the Scottish National Gallery

Nestled between The Mound and Princes Street lies one of my favourite places to visit in Edinburgh; the Scottish National Gallery. It has always been a place of escapism for me, ever since I first visited when I was 16. Now that I live in Edinburgh, I often make the trip to see my favourite paintings whenever I have a spare moment. There are many wonderful works of art in the national gallery, but I thought for this blog post I would talk about my top five highlights.

A Study of a Girl's Head - Edgar Degas

I remember the first time I saw this painting I found it particularly striking, mainly because I had never seen a Degas painting like this one before. Thought to have been painted between 1870 and 1890, it depicts a sketchy silhouette of a young ballet dancer. It has been suggested that Degas abandoned the piece at first, only to return to it some years later. The yellow and green tints ensure that aspects of the painting stand out, and give the sense that the girl is next to some form of light source, possibly a window. The sketchiness of the image seems to convey the concept of memory, which can be vague in some areas and more focused in others. The title 'A Study of a Girl's Head' can be taken literally, or it can be taken metaphorically, as her pensive expression makes you wonder what thoughts transpired in her mind in that moment.

Before the Performance - Edgar Degas 

I think the main feature of this painting which I found the most intriguing was the colour scheme. Like the previous Degas painting, it was unlike any that I'd seen before. To me, the oranges and yellows seem to portray some sense of anxiety or worry, which fits perfectly with the title 'Before the Performance' and the sense of anticipation that the dancers must have been feeling. Painted in 1898, this piece harks back to some of Degas earlier paintings depicting ballet dancers, however, these dancers appear to be more abstract and faceless, like they are the product of a hazy memory he observed a long time ago. It has been suggested that when Degas painted some of his later works, such as this one, he had become less concerned with naturalism than he had been in his earlier years, thus explaining the indistinct nature of the ballet dancers.

Sous-bois (Undergrowth) - Narcisse Virgile Diaz De La Pena 

This painting is perhaps my current favourite piece in the gallery. It shows a dense wooded landscape in the Forest of Fontainebleau, just south of Paris. It is said to represent the entrance to the Vieux Dormoir du Bas Bréau. Despite the fact that it was painted in a French setting, the piece reminds me of walking through the woods back where I used to live in the Lake District; a place that has always been close to my heart, and especially now since I've moved away. The wood in this painting to me is not dark and frightening, but safe and inviting. The cavernous trees protect the glade below, where not a single living soul has entered. The sun that shines in the blue sky beyond permeates the gaps between the leaves, filling the glade with light that bounces off silver lichen that clings to the trees.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw - John Singer Sargent 

I have to admit, this painting holds a personal significance to me, predominantly for the reason that everybody I know says that she looks so much like me it's almost spooky! It's certainly very flattering to be compared to a work of art, although I'm not sure I see it myself! The woman in the picture is Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (Gertrude Vernon prior to her marriage) who lived from 1865-1932. In 1892, her husband, Lord Andrew Noel Agnew, commissioned John Singer Sargent to paint his wife's portrait, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898. The painting was the spark that ignited Sargent's success in the art world. The story of Lady Agnew herself, however, is quite a tragic one. Although the portrait's success appeared to launch her superficially as something of a society beauty, the reality of her life was grim by contrast. Pictured at only 27 years old, Lady Agnew had been suffering from an unknown illness for quite some time, and continued to do so for the rest of her life until her death in 1932, aged 67. Some have suggest that she suffered from 'nervous exhaustion,' a term used at the time to describe fatigue, anxiety and depression. It be possible that Lady Agnew's predicament was not fully understood during the time in which she lived. When you see her painting, however, you cannot help but get a sense of feeling from her piercing gaze, a feeling that has transported through time, through the medium of art.

Poplars on the Epte - Claude Monet 

I'll finish this post with possibly one of my favourite paintings. I've long been a fan of Monet and I have so many notebooks with this on the cover, so the fact that the original is only down the road from where I live is just amazing! As part of his poplars series, in 1891 Monet painted this piece a year after he moved to Giverny, a French commune, on a boat used as a floating studio. I love his style of brushwork, and how he intricately captured every detail of the reflection of the trees on the water. In fact, the trees in seen in the painting were due to be cut down and sold for timber, but Monet bought them at auction so he could continue painting them. Now that's dedication!

So there we have it! Those are my top five highlights from the national gallery. I hope you take time to visit; it truly is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. (Plus, entry is free so it's ideal if you're visiting the city on a tight budget!). If you liked this post then let me know and maybe I'll do more like this, as there are many wonderful paintings in the national gallery and I could talk about them for days!

If you want more posts like this, then go follow my museum and gallery review blog Capturing Yesterday.

Images from

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Thoughts on Blogging, Confidence and Self-Belief

So I thought I should probably explain a bit about what I'm actually doing here. The truth is, I'm not entirely sure! I honestly have no idea where I want this blog to go, but hopefully that will become clearer over time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've made many attempts at starting a blog but never really followed through. I think, when it came down to it, I never really believed I could do it. I would try to write something but then get frustrated when it didn't work out. I would look through other blogs and think "how the hell do they make it look so easy!?" There was no way I was ever going to be able to learn so much, and I didn't really see the point in carrying on. I then justified my giving up by listing reasons why writing a blog wasn't a good idea anyway. How would I find the time to post things on a regular basis? Would I be comfortable with people I know in real life reading my posts? Would anyone actually want to read my blog or was I just wasting my time? There was just too much uncertainty, so I decided to remain content with just reading other people's blogs.

I don't know what's changed this time. Maybe it's because I've grown up a bit? Since coming to university I've become a lot more confident, therefore some of the worries I had before don't really bother me as much. I still lack self-belief. There's still a voice in my head saying "you can't do this, why are you bothering?" Maybe this time I'll be able to stop my self-doubt from ruling my life?

I guess the point of this post is, if you're like me and there's something you've always wanted to do, but have lacked the confidence to do it, then maybe it's time to give it a go? Lord knows I haven't a clue what I'm doing, but I'm giving it a try all the same. I just hope I can take my own advice and stick at it.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

June Favourites

Wow, my first blog post! I should probably introduce myself. I'm Ruby, a history student at the University of Edinburgh and I guess this is my blog. This is by no means the first time I've attempted to start doing this; I've tried in the past but then chickened out because believe it or not, I find the internet one hell of a scary place. This time will hopefully be different, I mean, maybe this time I'll actually (god forbid) post something! *shudders*

I don't really know how often I'll do blog posts, we'll just see how it goes! For my first one I thought I would just do a quick summary of things I've been into this past month. I know, so original right? Bear with me, I'm new to this. So without further ado, here are my June favourites...

Book - The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

I'm actually surprised to be including a book in my favourites for this month because lately my track record for reading has been TERRIBLE. Being busy at uni has meant that unfortunately I have barely any time for reading any more. I mean, I've read a grand total of three whole books this year so far. Compare this to when I was at school, where one year I managed to read EIGHTY-FIVE in one year. As my first year of uni is now complete, however, I finally have time on my hands which means books, books, books (yay).

I read The Girl in the Photograph after my mum bought it for me as a gift. I was sceptical at first as I had a suspicion that it might be chick-lit disguised as historical fiction, but I actually found that it was more of a gothic thriller (think The Turn of the Screw but less weird and with a proper ending). I've always been a fan of books that jump time periods each chapter and focus on the perspective of more than one character. This book centred on a girl named Alice who unexpectedly becomes pregnant in 1933 and is sent by her mother to stay in an isolated manor in the English countryside, where she gradually discovers that her new home has a dark past. The perspective of Elizabeth, the wife of Lord Stanton, who just happened to mysteriously disappear, is also explored in flashbacks to the manor in the 1890s. As you progress through the book you begin to notice that Alice's life is becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth's. I really loved how the book dealt with sensitive topics such as post-natal depression and other aspects of mental health, whilst still managing to accurately portray some of the attitudes of the time.

Film - Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Yes, it's shocking. I had never seen this film before and this month I finally got around to watching it. I've been trying to watch as many classic films as possible lately after my friend Mae was outraged to find out that I'd seen absolutely none of her favourite films (sorry haha). If anyone has never seen 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' then WATCH IT. There are so many great one-liners in this film and the characters are amazing. It's the kind of film that makes you laugh hysterically while questioning the meaning of life at the same time.

TV Show - The Musketeers

Ok I've loved this show since day one and now it's on its final series *cry* but if you like history or period dramas then I definitely recommend giving this a watch (the first two series are on Netflix!). There's a new villain each series which gives the show more variety, plus there's also a host of kick-ass female characters like Constance Bonacieux, Queen Anne and of course the ruthless Milady de Winter. I also think the actors who play the Musketeers themselves are exceptional, and not just because they're hot ;)

App - Earthmiles

I decided to try out Earthmiles because I watched Hannah Witton's video on sport and exercise in which she recommended it as one of the ways you can be more active. You basically earn points (Earthmiles) for the amount of walking/running/cycling you do each day which you can trade in for rewards such as online discounts and free yoga classes. I thought since I've already started tracking how many miles I walk on my phone via Moves (another free app) I would give it a go. I haven't earned many Earthmiles yet as I'm not really walking that much each day and the GPS signal tends to cut out when you're in the middle of nowhere (i.e. The Lake District) but hopefully I will earn a lot more when I go back to Edinburgh as I'll be walking literally everywhere. It's an incredibly clever concept, and the app is completely free, so as long as you have a phone that can track your movements then what have you got to lose?

Youtube - ChewingSand (Hazel Hayes) 

I've long been an avid Youtube fan and there's nothing I love more than binge-watching everything in my subscription box.This month I've really been loving Hazel's channel (ChewingSand). I've been subscribed to Hazel for a while now and had seen her in collabs with other Youtubers such as Jack Howard and Hannah Witton but I never really properly watched her content until recently. I love her "Time of the Month" series which is basically a series of monthly vlogs. Now, I've watched many vlogs in my time, but Hazel's are something else. I've never seen such a genuine Youtuber; in her vlogs we experience both the good and bad times in her life, all beautifully edited into a 30 minute long episode. She usually ends her vlogs with a message about what she's learnt from that month and also the series as a whole which I think everybody can relate to in some way. Also, Hazel is a brilliant film-maker so her sketches are also worth checking out. Oh and did I mention she can sing? What more could you want!

So that's been my June favourites! Hope you enjoyed reading and who knows, maybe I'll actually do a second post ;)

(Disclaimer: sorry for the bad quality of my photos, I'm new to this so I don't have a professional camera as of yet)