A Good Resolution

A Good Resolution

Rather than adopt one of the cliched resolutions that cover the pages of women’s magazines – lose weight, get fit, be mindful – I decided this year to work on my perspective. Reading The Good Immigrant made me realise how my perspective of other cultures and people of ethnic minorities is completely disparate from their actual experience and opinions on their racial treatment in Britain. Unless you are Mo Farah or Nadya Hussain – immigrants who have transcended British social culture to become a UK household name – the treatment of immigrants in the UK is very different. The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays edited by Nikesh Shukla, aims to alter the perspective of the British public on race and immigration. British black, Asian and minority writers discuss their human experience of what it is to be ‘other’ in a way that makes the reader aware of the personal impact of cultural misunderstandings and insensitivities. Each essay presents a different experience of the treatment of BAME writers, alerting the reader to their ignorance surrounding cultural backgrounds different to the white privileged individual who is paraded over the television and social media. As a Bristol student, Nikesh Shukla’s essay about the word ‘namaste’ as a ‘bastardised metaphor for spiritualism’ in white British culture made me aware of my personal ignorance surrounding the Hindu culture from which this word originates, and the impact of this ignorance on Indian immigrants. This is a book that everyone should read. It reassures those who have had racist experiences that they are not alone, and educates others in understanding other people’s cultural experiences and difficulties. In 2018, I think we should all consider the experiences and perspectives of those different from ourselves. It would hopefully bring more empathy into the British cultural conversation around race, and that can only ever be a good thing.

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla is available to buy at Amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

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STYLE: Thelma and Louise USA

STYLE: Thelma and Louise USA

I was lucky enough to experience some of the more enjoyable parts of Thelma and Louise’s roadtrip this summer, as I travelled from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, through the famous Monument Valley in Utah and on into Colorado.

I watched the famous film of female friendship, upon returning home, and the famous American style of Thelma and Louise inspired me to brainstorm inspired wardrobe staples, suitable for your own American adventure, or simply a very stylish walk to the shops. With only a few new wardrobe items, you can use basics already owned to recreate the simple yet affective style of 60s America, with not one star spangled swimming costume in sight.

The striking natural beauty of America inspires a stripped back wardrobe of denim layered with upgraded white basics. Adding in accents of colour through accessories elevates a simple outfit, whilst maintaining the versatility of the outfit and sartorially reflecting the inspiring rebellious attitude of these two famous women.

 

STYLE: Asian Influence

STYLE: Asian Influence

On my recent trip to China, I enjoyed many hours browsing the markets, stalls and shops offering almost anything made out of the well known Chinese floral silks, cool t shirts emblazoned with Chinese characters meaning who knows what and jewellery with an Eastern influence. Everything on offer was so different from the things you could buy in Western countries, which was part of the allure. However, in recent weeks I’ve noticed that high street stores have been recreating some of the silhouettes and fabric patterns I saw on my adventure. So much for trying to have a unique style!

Here are some of the high street finds which I particularly loved:

For a versatile Chinese-inpired outfit enhancer:

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This Bershka robe can be used as a pool cover up, or layer over denim and a white t-shirt to dress it down for everyday wear.

For a statement item that can be worn in many ways:

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This Kimchi Blue zip-front cropped top can be dressed up with a leather skirt and fishnets for the evening, or worn with jeans and a denim jacket for a more casual daytime look. It will be difficult to run out of ways to incorporate this top into outfits for various different social events.

For a stand out party look:

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Reclaimed Vintage has nailed the traditional Chinese silhouette in this number. The jewel blue colour together with the embellished sleeves ensure you will stand out at any event. Wear with fishnets and boots for an edgier look, or a silver barely there heel if you’re more girly. Try a size up however – it fits very snug!

Eastern Asian Adventure

Eastern Asian Adventure

In February of this year, I was lucky enough to explore Eastern Asia with my dad. We started in Hong Kong before going on to Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei. I had never been to Asia before, and while the well-trodden gap year routes of South East Asia are well publicisied, I had no idea what to expect of the more foreign cities of China and Taiwan.


HONG KONG

Arriving into Hong Kong, my dad tried to explain to me numerous times that this was actually a separate country to China, therefore quite different from the other cities we were going to visit. Although it had a growing Chinese population, Hong Kong is know for the expat community throughout the city, which gave the place a slightly more Anglicised feel. Don’t go imagining London or Paris however, this was a world away from Europe. The smaller streets on Kowloon side, with the many Chinese signs hanging across the roads, and shops selling everything from antique pennies to dried foods I couldn’t even attempt to recognise, was a sensory experience like none I had ever had. I found something so beautiful in the Chinese characters found everywhere from street signs to menus, that were so artistic yet impossible to decipher.

Hong Kong didn’t feel like a huge city, it felt like somewhere you could really get to know and learn to love. Although I was only there for three days, I certainly felt as if it was somewhere I would love to live in the future, and discover more of its quirks, culture and amazing food!

Peak Tram

Amazing panoramic view of the city. The tram travels up through the tropical greenery which is scattered across the city. The higher you get up the hill, the more expensive the property becomes. You are able to walk up or down from the peak, or do what we did and walk halfway then take the tram the rest of the way!

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View from the Peak

Star Ferry across to Kowloon

One of the TripAdvisor top 50 things to do in Hong Kong. Kowloon itself is interesting – smaller streets and feels like an older district than Hong Kong side.

 

Stanley 

One of the upper class districts of Hong Kong, known for its large expat community. The Stanley Market is not to be missed – unique Asian clothes, art and jewellery. Try out your hand at haggling!

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Streets and Stalls in Hong Kong

Food

Little Bao was one of the best restaurants we visited – try it for a trendy Asian fusion experience. See my review of the restaurant here.

 


BEIJING

After Hong Kong, believing I knew more of what to expect from China, I arrived in Beijing completely overwhelmed by the masses of people coming from all angles. I knew that it was one of the busiest places in the world, yet in reality it is so much more overwhelming than you expect. As a people, the Chinese are much more pushy, loud and rude than any other people I have encountered, yet this is understandable if you had grown up in a place as populated as Beijing. Although initially quite a shock, I grew used to people’s behaviour but after a few days I began to tire of it as I had to push and shout to be heard.

In my naivety of what to expect from this completely alien country, I had no clue what the weather would be like. It was freezing, honestly one of the coldest places I had been to. It was winter when we went but the city was so much colder than my home in England. Lesson learned – pack lots of layers and a hat if you visit in February!

The city was much older than Hong Kong, with large streets edged with proud buildings with ornate, sloping roofs. This was more like the China you see in the movies.

Great Wall of China

Take a day out of your time in Beijing to visit this wonder. We hired a private guide for the day which was worth every penny, as we could go at our own pace.IMG_9536 We stopped off at a Jade Factory on the way to the wall which was an interesting insight into this Chinese trade. One the way back to the city, we had a tea ceremony which was something else not to be missed as we were educated as to all the different teas drunk and sold in China.

Forbidden City

Another amazing historical insight into the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty. Amazing architecture and design. A true Chinese experience. IMG_9610

Food

I recommend XiBei XiBei Cai for amazing noodles and pork sandwiches.

1949 specialises in Peking Duck. The dinner we had there was an exciting experience in itself – our duck was delivered to our table with the announcement of a gong sound, with the chef carving it at our table.

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Noodles at XiBei XiBei Cai – one of the culinary highlights of the trip

SHANGHAI

Instead of flying, my dad and I decided to take the high speed train to Shanghai – why would we turn down another new exciting first? I am not exaggerating when I say that the train station in Beijing was the busiest place I had been to in my life. There were people swarming the huge space, and for some reason most of these people were taking photos of anything they could see. The arrivals board. The waiting area. The queue to get on the train. They took a photo of it. I was baffled why they felt the need to document EVERYTHING they did. What on earth would you do with a picture of a dustbin on your phone? But they were all doing it so there must be some reason for it.

Shangai was more Alglicised than Beijing, and although it felt like a large daunting city, it was more similar to Hong Kong in the fact that it was modern and well sign posted!

 Oriental Pearl Tower

An iconic building. Go up to the glass viewing deck about two thirds up for a stomach churning view of the city beneath your feet.

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Yu Yuan Gardens

A highlight of my time in Shanghai! Beautiful gardens that once served as the summer gardens for an emperor. The surrounding streets are worth a look, as they sell handcrafted souvenirs, much nicer than the tacky stuff on offer elsewhere. The City God temple is right next to the gardens and is an interesting old temple right in the centre of a maze of streets.


TAIPEI

For the one day we were in Taipei, I was guided around the city by two of my dad’s Taiwanese work colleagues. This was both very exciting and very daunting. It gave a proper insight into the city from a local’s point of view – I was able to point at anything I saw and say ‘translate that’, which was as close as I’m going to get to reading those arty yet indecipherable characters. However, they threw me in at the deep end with a meal in their favourite restaurant. Very thoughtful and kind of them, but they ordered CHICKEN TESTICLES. It was a difficult meal to say the least, but I can’t complain that I didn’t get a full insight into their lives.

 

Maokong Mountain 

We took a glass-bottomed gondola up the Making mountain, where we visited the temple at the top. It is well signposted on the gondola, and there are various other attractions up the hillside so it it a good activity to do with amazing views of the city beneath. IMG_9703

 

Little Bao Wow

Little Bao Wow

A trendy, hip restaurant where exciting flavour combinations dominate, with a modern spin on traditional Chinese ingredients.

On a recent trip to China, I spent a few days in Hong Kong. When researching how to spend my short time in this exciting and buzzing city, I came across Little Bao, a trendy restaurant specialising in bao – a type of steamed bun. I was surprised how tiny the restaurant was – knowing how popular and in demand it is I expected something much larger. But the tiny, crammed 20 seater restaurant added to the charm of the experience, creating a sense that although this stylish and hip place was difficult to get a seat at, it is all the more worth the struggle because by simply getting a seat you’ve achieved something before you have even ordered.


The atmosphere of the restaurant was exciting – bustling and crammed, augmented by the tiny size of the restaurant. The decor was stripped back and functional, with the stainless steel kitchen taking up half of the floor space and the counters wrapped around the edges. The pink neon sign on the outside of the restaurant, proudly emblazoning the baby head logo on the shop front, was the only external décor, while inside the restaurant a few photographs of plastic containers reclaimed as mailboxes served as the only visual enhancement to the interior. Although sparse, the clearly carefully selected décor enabled the restaurant to appeal to the stylish, trendy cosmopolitan crowd who queue for hours to get a stool at the restaurant.img_9460

The stripped back interior allowed the food to dominate the dining experience. The menu was simple, with only a few different flavor combinations of the famous ‘bao’, and a few carefully selected side dishes. The choice was difficult to make, as the menu was rife with intriguing flavor combinations, but I settled on the Pork Belly Bao and the Szechuan Fried Chicken Bao, with a Green Tea Ice Cream Bao to finish.


Pork Belly Bao: Slow-braised pork belly, leek & shisho red onion salad, sesame dressing, hoisin ketchup

The pork belly was cooked so it was falling apart, which was just what the bao called for. The hoisin ketchup was the highlight of the dish, injecting it with a tart sweetness to contrast with the smoky pork. The onion salad added a sharpness which cut the other flavours. 

Szechuan Fried Chicken Bao: Chinese black vinegar glaze, Szechuan mayo, coleslaw

This was my personal favourite. The chicken was coated in a batter which contained Szechuan seasoning, adding flavour even in the main building blocks of the dish. The Szechuan mayo added more of the slightly smoky spice to the overall dish, and the black vinegar glaze added a deep sweetness, contributing a Chinese element to the largely western flavours and adding a different dynamic to the dish – absolutely genius flavour combination. Pickled onions added sharpness to this dish as well which seemed the perfect garnish for the dish.

The fluffy steamed buns which held the fillings took a back seat in terms of flavour as they only really added a squidgy texture to the dish and a means of presenting the fillings.

Ice Cream Bao: Green tea ice cream w/ condensed milk

This was a creative and ingenious take on the savoury bao which the restaurant specialise in. The bao bun was deep fried and coated in sugar, almost like a donut. The green tea ice cream was not overly sweet, yet the condensed milk added the right amount of sugar. This dish seemed an opposite to the savoury bao I enjoed, as the sugar coated bun took centre stage with the fillings acting as a way of completing the dish and complimenting the bun, not the other way around.

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So, if you are in Hong Kong (or Bangkok for that matter – they have recently opened a second restaurant there) I would urge you to make the effort to get to this restaurant. Get there early, however, as the demand for seats results in a long wait time if you get there much past 6pm – I learnt this the second time I attempted to visit the restaurant!

 

 

 

Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club

I have been listening to Two Door Cinema Club’s music for years now and after the emotional turmoil of their tour selling out, I was gifted gig tickets for Christmas (shout out to my sister for saving the day and bossing present giving). It has definitely  earned a place in my top three concert experiences. It wasn’t only because of Alex Trimble’s, the lead singer’s, effortlessly cool aura and enviable gold metallic shoes, which didn’t even manage to pull my attention away from the performance for too long. (I have since been searching for a similarly cool pair, however, so suggestions would be welcome).

“It’s so good to be back together,” Trimble beams. “So far, the shows have been so much fun, and we’re enjoying each other’s company…. This isn’t a contractual obligation, we’re doing it for pleasure.” 

You could tell from watching the band perform, that this tour is something that they are doing for pleasure. They clearly found joy in their musical performance and all appeared more at ease with themselves and each other, after a few tumultuous years. While their popular songs from Beacon got the whole crowd singing along, their newer material from Gameshow, including ‘Are we ready? (Wreck)’ and ‘Bad Decisions’ seemed to resonate with the band after their struggles with identity and the overwhelming presence of social media and the internet in their lives. It seemed a creative risk so openly criticising the internet, something which the millennial generation that made up the bulk of their fan base clearly depends on, yet it was evident that the new musical sound was enjoyed by fans just as much as their previous material, or even more.

The staging was simple; screens positioned at the back of the set, which played varying graphics to fit with the hits the band kept reeling off, adding an unexpected exciting visual element to an auditory experience. The interludes between songs did not serve as an opportunity for the band to fill us in on ‘inside jokes’ and personal details, which I  actually found refreshing. Two Door Cinema Club instead allowed their popular music to completely dominate their show, using the visual effects as a way of enhancing the listeners’ experience rather than serving as a distraction. I believe they are one of the few bands that manage to perform their songs live to a higher standard than their recorded singles; the electronic sounds of their well known songs were augmented with a heavier bass guitar in their live performance which filled the O2 Academy, pulsating through the crowd, enveloping us in a more immediate sound. The intimate O2 Academy arena enhanced the sound and supported the acoustics of the performance, making it a gig that really celebrated the hits which propelled Two Door Cinema Club through their musical career, the sound they created for themselves and the enjoyment which they have brought to such a number and variety of fans.

The Radical Eye

The Radical Eye

Each of these photographs serves as inspiration for me in my life; they line the walls of my home and I consider them precious gems. I want people to think, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before, never knew this kind of thing existed’ – just as I did when I first saw these photographs.

– SIR ELTON JOHN –

Yesterday, whilst trying to understand the understated and simple yet deceptively complex interior of the Tate Modern, I managed to find my way to The Radical Eye, a collection of modernist photography from The Sir Elton John Collection. Maybe I’m reading too far into the exhibition title, but it seems radical that someone who knows next to nothing about photography techniques, analysis and history is attempting to write a review about a hugely popular and anticipated exhibition. But that’s what I loved about this exhibition; how it honed my currently underdeveloped interest in photography and was able to appeal to refined photographic critics and amateurs alike, through the carefully planned layout of so many photographic themes and photographers.

The brief yet impressively accessible introductions to each photographic theme, and descriptions of certain works and collections enabled a level of understanding otherwise difficult to achieve. I arrived verdant in my understanding of the technicalities of photography as an art form, and left with an insatiable desire to see more, learn more and even take more photos.

The exhibition intends to capture the photographic revolution of the 20s, 30s and 40s when experimental techniques and creative decisions were pushing boundaries and changing the way in which people saw everyday objects and situations. I think this collection of innovative modernist photography does just that in a way that is accessible to a huge breadth of people, giving an insight into the exciting developments in this artistic field as well as inspiring many people of today to look at the world in a different way through the medium of photography. And I think that makes it more than a worthwhile visit.


 

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Underwater Swimmer, 1917, Andre Kertesz

This was one of my favourite photos from the exhibition. I love the way the camera captures the light on the water, and the distortion of the body seen through the pool. This photo also exhibits the way in which the camera is able to capture movement with a clarity unattainable with the naked eye, changing our perspective of and finding a beauty in a common situation. This photo reminds me of Hockney’s paintings of swimming pools, and the difference in the presentation of light reflection becomes interesting through the comparison of mediums – photography and acrylic on canvas.

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Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972

“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel of palpitating flesh.” EDWARD WESTON

 

 

 

 

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Patricia, c.1942, Josef Breitenbach

This photo, in contrast to the last, demonstrates the more experimental and creative side of photography, transforming a mundane portrait or landscape using a variety of techniques. The physiognomy of this portrait is pensive, distant and serious, which contrasts with the more playful and irregular colour injected into the image. Alone, the portrait is interesting through the psychology of the sitter, yet Breitenbach lends the image another dimension through the light exposure, creating a complex masterpiece.

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This series by Man Ray titled Noir et Blanche feels poignantly relevant to today’s society. The contrast between the white skin of the model and the dark ebony of the traditional African mask captures two opposite shades in the vast spectrum of human skin colour. Yet when this image is positioned next to its negative, any preconceptions of the model or the mask due to their skin tone are rendered irrelevant through the reversal of colour. It seems to me a powerful message about the irrationality of racial discrimination and the intrinsic similarities between humans, a connection that goes further than skin-deep.