I spent eight years living in the North East of England. It’s still my home base. In such a beautiful coastal landscape, lies a deep painful reality.
Just under 35% of children find themselves in poverty in Hartlepool. There are families who can’t afford their weekly shop. Adults are desperately struggling with debt problems. Unemployment is a stress.
However, it is not just the North that struggles. These same problems are seen all over the UK. Poverty is real and we can’t turn a blind eye to this. 14 million people in the UK are suffering from poverty! It is not a problem of the past.
When my home church set up the initiative to provide a free meal every Friday to local families, I was suddenly made aware of such poverty. For two years now we have seen the positive impact that feeding people and eating with families around one table can have. We’ve been able to disciple those who walk through the doors. Some have decided to settle debts. Jobs have been found. Families and neighbours are connecting.
For many of these families, free school meals are a huge blessing. But what happens over summer when schools close?
1.5 million children receive free school meals. For low income parents, budgeting for 7 extra meals a week, for six weeks is incredibly hard. That’s why so many families end up relying on food banks over the summer period.
Make Lunch Initiative
As well as the Trussell Trust (https://www.trusselltrust.org), other initiatives exist. One fabulous project is Make Lunch, set up by Transforming Lives for Good. Make lunch is a weekly free lunch club that not only feeds children but gives them space to play, make friends and grow in confidence. Parents are able to meet one another too. This story of Joanne and Marcie speaks for itself:
Summertime for me is so often filled with travels, good friendships and peace. Yet for many it’s the opposite – complete turmoil.
Heading home after a year at university means that I have to budget less. Returning to family essentially means that I don’t need to buy food for at least two months. I have so much to offer.
I want to see the end of poverty. We can start by sharing some of our happiness this summer.
What do you spend on food during term time? Can you give even just 10% of this each week to your local food bank?
Is there anything unopened and imperishable left in your cupboards? Before you leave or head for a holiday, please donate instead of tossing!
Spare time? Could you volunteer for a local community project?
There are so many more things to be thankful for!
Joy often comes incredibly naturally to me. I live to see light in all that I do and holding onto hope is a default. Not that I wish to boast, but things have pretty much been on track for the past few years.
Recently I have found joy a struggle. My grades have not been the best and I am daily finding it a challenge to keep on top of uni work. I feel burnt out and tired most days. I’ve experienced waves of complete homesickness…
Earlier this year I challenged myself to seriously step into a worry-free life. I finally owned up to the fact that I have anxiety. I actually accepted it as a fact and decided to do something about it. For three whole months (by the grace of God) I experienced absolutely no anxiety at all. How? I started to depend on God daily, pray and simply abide in Jesus. He answered and took all the anxiety away.
This year God has taught me so much more about his loving freedom and He has been so faithful in carrying all my burdens!
Unfortunately, now that I have entered the last two weeks of the semester, the work is piling up and I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t understand why but the anxiety has returned in full force. Admitting it makes me feel so weak but honesty is so important.
I have been so crippled in fear some days. Other days bring discouragement from tutors or peers. Sometimes I just need a bit more sleep and so my emotions run wild.
Living alone is hard too. I can’t run to my Dad downstairs anymore and cooking for myself is an added task.
However, this time around it’s different. I might feel like I’m drowning but I know that I am not. Every time something tries to steal my joy I remember to have gratitude regardless. Whenever I hear voices that tell me to give up, I find a slither of strength to fight back and persevere.
Gratitude is getting me through. It doesn’t matter how many difficult things you are facing today because there will always be so many more good things.
I know that God’s hand is on me and therefore the enemy will throw all sorts of anxieties at me, trying to steal my joy. I refuse to give in to that.
So what am I thankful for?
- Zara – my beautiful flatmate has been cheering me on, laughing with me in the hard times and cooking me dinner when I need it.
- Morning Coffee.
- Guinea Girls – we may not be living together anymore but their daily messages and encouragements are so amazing.
- Flatmates – we have become family for one another.
- Bath – what a beautiful city to be in!
- Course mates – these guys understand the work load and we can live alongside each other in the studio.
- Church family – seriously, what would I do without them? They have fed me, prayed for me and encouraged me.
- The opportunity to study.
- Financial Provision – I haven’t had to budget or scrimp this semester and I really do not deserve such abundant grace!
- Time stretching – God has just stretched time in every moment of feeling drowned and surrendering my control.
- Pink cafes and meeting friends on weekends.
- Musical moments.
- Instagram free Lent.
- Miracles in the every day.
- Lessons learnt when my work is criticised.
- The promise that my grades don’t determine my future.
- Struggles – they are an opportunity to learn and witness God’s power in my life!
I am so thankful in this season. I might be fighting a lot of anxiety, discouragement and stress but there is a light and hope greater than all of these things.
As Newton Faulkner would say: “people should smile more. I’m not saying there’s nothing to cry for.”
What are you thankful for?
What is it really like to study architecture?
If there’s any degree that receives bad press, it’s definitely the seven years of RIBA accredited study.
Let me start by telling you what architecture is not. It is not an impossible work load leading to hundreds of all-nighters. It is not going to steal all of your time. Architecture is not a boring, delayed transition into adulthood or a career. It is definitely not just ‘cutting and sticking’ either!
Architecture is an incredibly creative and structured course. The principles of design are integral to every aspect and at all points you are encouraged to express your own interests. Architecture is a rich, unique mix of subjects: arts; environmental sciences; engineering; culture; history…
Studio life requires discipline but it generates an exciting creative community that does life together.
Before coming to university, I was close to giving up on architecture. Every where I looked, course reviews and information panels painted this picture of a crippling course. The internet portrays the degree as this all consuming, never ending, impossible burden of work. It seems this is what many people have come to believe.
When I tell people that I am studying to be an architect, the conversation instantly changes. People gasp and make comments like, ‘wow isn’t that a really long course?’ Or, ‘will you really finish the whole degree?’ “All you do is glue paper models.’ The worst? ‘I know an architect who tells everybody to never practise the profession.’
Stop shutting us down
Seriously? ! I am fed up of people killing our passion for architecture! I’m pretty much wired to study this degree. Yes, it calls for a certain type of person but so what? That might just be me or you.
I delight in the long studio hours, working on a model that is worthy of a showcase. A huge enthusiasm is experienced every time a new brief is presented. Rejoicing is my attitude through the trials of not knowing where a design is leading. I persevere when my design looks like utter crap.
I refuse to let the anxiety of deadlines overload me. I actually sleep every night. I socialise and take weekends. Granted, there is a certain discipline required to prioritise my work but this comes out of an excitement for my design – not an anxiety.
If anyone is considering architecture, do it. Don’t listen to the people who make you feel like you’ll never be good enough or the worries about keeping up with the pace. The diversity of the course is incredible. Your interest in culture, design, materials and architectural history will increase rapidly.
Studying architecture is like going to a dressmaker. It is made to be a perfect fit – adjustable for all. This robe can be styled and purposed for individuals. It looks and feels beautiful. Architecture is worthy of an award – not a bad press.
Investigate architecture. Pay attention to what it has to offer and don’t just write it off!
How do you pay tribute to something as beautiful and complex as a musical instrument?
I’m sure you’ve visited multiple museums in your lifetime and found yourself bored to death and a little perplexed as you stare at something locked away behind a glass screen. Why is it that in museums, the things exhibited are actually shielded?
Ironically a precious object is presented as an irrelevant item, impossible to engage with.
As part of my Architectural design project this semester, I was asked to design an exhibition stand for a unique musical instrument. I was given the Componium (Holland 1821), a huge, mechanical composing-machine which is incredible in its industrial nature. Revolutionary in its time, the instrument can be played by a single handle yet generate infinite compositions of music.
Currently the Componium sits within a dimly lit box inside the MIM Brussels. Sadly, an instrument designed to be infinite, is prevented from continuing to engage.
Thus, I proposed Oneindig: a timber platform scheme that allows 360 degree views of the Componium. The altar-like plinth deifies the instrument and timber cladding shields most of its nature, creating suspense on approach. Organ pipes project upwards out of this envelop. Visitors to the exhibition can embark on a journey around the exhibit, resulting in a very individual playing experience that allows them to fully engage with the instrument.
The timber cladding is inspired by the Lavender-Planted Hill Temple in Japan. Enveloping the altar defines an intimate and pure space whilst the shear height of the Componium escapes and pays tribute to the idea of infinity. Steel infinity shaped brackets tie the timber beams within the cladding together, reflecting themes of infinity and paying tribute to dutch vernacular traditions.
Does Preservation Have to Mean Imprisonment?
Whilst preservation cannot be neglected, it does happen to ‘freeze’ a subject in time. As a child, visiting museums was one of my favourite activities because I could interact with the information presented to me by use of buttons, costumes, puzzles… Yet now, I can’t bear to wander around a museum and read countless, static display boards that detail something I can’t quite see, because of lighting-glares on glass displays.
I think there’s a real need to reconsider how we protect a precious object and still allow for it to be exhibited. Is a glass box really the way to do it? Or can we use paths, lighting, narrowing spaces or other ideas to control crowds, reduce touch, and maintain without limiting interaction completely?
Palm oil, the cause of all shame this winter. Who remembers Sustainable Struggles? Back in August I wrote about all the things I was finding difficult about shopping for sustainable fashion. Little did I know that the challenge of sustainability wasn’t entirely limited to this…
The Palm Oil Scandal Everyone’s Talking About
Has anyone seen the Greenpeace palm oil film that Iceland wanted to run as an advert? It’s difficult to avoid such a huge publicity scandal but if you did miss it, here it is.
This advert was banned on the basis of being too controversial and political. Despite this, it’s gone viral and has a really powerful message. I didn’t realise that palm oil was such a huge contributor to environmental damage. Nor did I realise that 50% of food products on shelves in the UK contain it. This is huge!
Palm oil contributes to deforestation and therefore the loss of wildlife, as well as global warming. Recently I have been studying climate change and it’s shocking to learn about what we have done to the earth.
Not Just Plastic
It’s seems as though we are finally leaving plastics behind and recycling more. But what about palm oil?
The problem is that choosing to go palm oil free is easier said than done. Not only is palm oil an ingredient in around 50% of products, but it also has many different names. Brands disguise ‘palm oil,’ with variable names (that don’t even contain the key word, ‘palm’), making it more difficult to spot. I’ve been familiarising myself with these names lately – here is a helpful guide.
Three weeks ago I naively sat in my flat and declared to everyone that I was going palm oil free. What a challenge! It’s definitely not a quick switch.
Sustainable Struggles 2.0
When I food shop, I check the ingredients in everything and am left totally perplexed… It’s impossible to remember all the names for palm oil! Often shops don’t stock a lot of palm-oil-free options and if they do, they are expensive so I have to go without – student budgets don’t go very far.
I have found that a lot of Sainsbury’s own breads and snacks either don’t use palmitate or at least claim to use a sustainably sourced palm oil (better, but not perfect.)
Tis the Season
At this time of year, the palm oil ban is really getting to me! I just want to eat all the chocolate and Christmas goods I can; except most brands use ridiculous amounts of palm oil. I failed to find an advent calendar that was palmate-free and even if so, it would have been made entirely of plastic. I ended up hunting the Sainsbury’s aisles, searching for a palm-oil-free chocolate and could only find Lindtt. Thankfully, it was on offer so I stocked up and did a bit of advent diy!
Palm oil isn’t just found in food. It wiggles it’s way into beauty products, shampoos, soaps, detergents… It’s in these cases, when the names tend to be very confusing(cue – ‘hydrated palm glycerides,’). I used to think that buying cruelty free products was sufficient, but no! I have since switched to buying The Body Shop’s eco-friendly range, or even better, purchasing shampoo and conditioner bars (Zero-waste and package-free).
Essentially, I’m still very new to this palm-oil free life. I am still failing in many areas but I’ve made a positive start. I really challenge you to think about the products that you buy. Yes it might mean giving up a few things, but hopefully brands will start to catch on – look how far we’ve come on the plastics front!
Once again I’m totally confused about it all and just wandering through life trying to do my best!
The world is ours to look after. Let’s take care of it!
Who else gets a little angry every time they see “palmate” written on a label?
Student life is no longer a future thought. Three weeks ago I was determined to love university but terrified to actually get there. When you’ve had something in the distance for so long, it’s truly daunting to stare it in the face.
I live in a flat with 16 other people, I spend most days 9-5 in a studio and I’m juggling a million other things in typical Eleanor-style.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of questioning what the heck I’m doing. There have been days of “I hate this course and I want to give up.” Not to mention, the late nights and early mornings of student life.
When you finish an adventurous season such as a gap year, things get a bit dull. Throughout teenage years, our lives are constantly getting more and more exciting. Last year I hit the climax and now I’m back at “school.”
Remembering what student life looks like
It’s vital that I constantly remind myself of this dull truth. A flatmate also pointed out how much they studied for A-levels… A-levels are a lost memory for me and I guess I have to remind myself that I can and will have to prioritise the studies for now. I did it in 2016 and now I have to learn to do it again.
I have to put last year’s adventure aside and stop comparing this season with the last. Once I do that, I can fully throw myself into experiencing life at university.
I am starting to find my passion for architecture again. I am loving the extrovert environment created by a house of 17 students. I have enrolled in (too) many sports and societies. I have made incredible friends. And I’m enjoying the variety of lecture content!
University is crazy. But it’s also such a great opportunity to live alongside people and try new things!
I’ve stepped down the adventure level and I’m busier than ever. But I’m learning, experiencing and loving student life.
Has anyone else started univeristy recently? How are you finding it?
I’ve discovered the best way to have a good morning. Bold as I may be to claim this, it’s really worth a thought. I feel good, productive, and calm!
In the past few months I seem to have slipped back into the UK norm. The things that I learnt to prioritise whilst living in Guinea now just sit at the back of my mind. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes. Does it feel as though I’m wasting precious life lessons? Definitely!
A good morning is one without Wi-fi
One of the greatest influences during my time overseas was the lack of mobile phones. I’m not going to stand and say that before I left last October, I was addicted to my phone. That just isn’t true. I did however spend a lot of time on social media. I had Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Time-hop, Pinterest…
A good morning was one without wi-fi.
I used my phone for 30-60 minutes a day in Guinea. If I wanted to chat to someone, I phoned them or visited them. I lived in the moment and didn’t think about recording it. Call me a recluse, but I delighted in the idea of a few days’ “disappearance” at a time.
Now I use Pinterest and Instagram – these are the only social media apps on my phone. Facebook gets checked every few days for the sake of blogging and university updates. Why? I got so used to having real life interactions! I stopped caring what people think of me. I realised that I don’t need to update the world to qualify a good happy moment.
Getting my good morning back
Lately, I’ve been reaching out for my phone again. I’ve been scrolling endlessly rather than uploading, checking and leaving. I get distracted and then I feel like I haven’t done anything today.
So I’m finally forcing myself to seize back the reality that I’ve recently lost.
Every morning when I wake up, I leave my phone exactly where it is. I get up at 8am, put on some clothes and go straight downstairs. I make a good morning breakfast (granola, eggs, pancakes, porridge…), grab a coffee and eat slowly. I then spend time reading a good book. Often I find this time a great opportunity to study my bible but I also love a good novel or creative article! I’m working my way through the summer reading list!
What’s so good about this morning?
- It fuels my day with good words!
- I don’t feel rushed.
- In just 1 hour I have eaten well, read something good and can be ready to leave the house!
- It creates a boundary between your real life, and the life that all your friends are viewing.
- It sets you up for a positive day.
By 9am most days I feel like I’ve already done so much – that is a brilliant achievement. When I eventually switch airplane mode off (my new favourite setting) I no longer have the desire to scroll through everything that everyone posted last night. In fact, once you go without your phone for a while, it is surprising how rubbish social media appears!
I have always been a morning person but I haven’t always felt good every morning. Now I feel amazing and this one little change carries itself through the day. One boundary leads to a day’s discipline. Yes I still post. Yes I still love Instagram! But my relationship is healthier. I enjoy it but real life memories always come first.
If I’m waking up, I wake up. If I’m watching TV, I watch TV. If I’m with friends and family, I ignore messages.
And all of this starts with a good morning! Forget waking up on the wrong side of the bed – wake up on the right side of a screen!
Try it! You’ll feel in control of you and your day.
If you want to read more about my Guinean Adventures and lessons learnt, you can find it all here.
Another month has come and gone in a flash. Perhaps it’s all the summer sun, or just a busy pre-holiday schedule that seems to always chase me down in June. Whatever the culprit, I find myself sipping my coffee and discover that I have only finished one book… A book that issn’t worthy enough for a summer reading review.
Sometimes we just have to prioritise other things and reading certainly hasn’t been top of the list for a while! However now that I have a long summer ahead, I can finally catch up. I have quite a few books piled up ready to read. Therefore, for this month’s Coffee Time I am sharing the books that are on my summer reading list.
- The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak – This novel is set in Istanbul and follows a stowaway boy during the sixteenth century who lands himself in Istanbul. The book explores how a lowly character rises through a “city of easy forgetting,” and encounters a royal architect. As a student about to start architectural studies, this book caught my eye and the plot intrigues me since it weaves both muslim and christian culture with adventure and mystery.
- The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman – Set in Rome, this is going to be a brilliant read as I will be spending two weeks travelling through Italy this month! Whilst I’m not sure how great the plot will be (the story of eleven characters who depend upon a newspaper about to fall apart), my Dad has read some good reviews about Rachman’s writing, so both of us are eager to test them.
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Who doesn’t love a good historic novel based on a true story? I know I will enjoy reading this! The book is based upon the tale of two Slovakian jews who find themselves at Auschwitz: the male character is employed as the tattooist and as he begins to etch a number onto the arm of a young girl, the two fall in love. The plot then follows them both in their attempt to survive the horrors of the holocaust.
- The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey – There is no denying that Jesus is a historical figure who existed. The question is, who was He? Was He who He claimed to be? As a christian, I have heard many people talk about this book. Yancey looks at the Jesus described in the bible and gives a new perspective of who He was and what He did. He also challenges the reader. The book is said to answer many questions, raise many others and “uncover a Jesus who is brilliant, creative, challenging, fearless, compassionate, unpredictable, and ultimately satisfying.” However with all devotional books, I am aware that this may not be as great as crowds make it out to be.
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson – I have currently read two out of the three original books in the Stieg Larsson Millennium Series. The series plays with the issue of crime in Sweden by employing a character, “Lisbeth Salander,” who has been neglected, abused and previously a victim of sexually related violence. In fact throughout the series, Larsson draws upon Sweden’s large issue of violence against women. The trilogy follows Salander and a journalist Blomkvist, who end up solving and creating all sorts of mysterious thrillers. Whilst the books are very dark, it’s definitely an interesting insight into Swedish crime.
So there we have my Summer reading list! Perhaps one of these five will make it into next month’s Coffee Time review?
Are there any books on your reading list this summer? I’d love to hear about them and maybe even add them to my list!
After a very long break, I’m returning with Coffee Time! Coffee Time is a monthly book review. I share books that have taught me new things or inspired something within me. So, as always, let’s all grab a coffee and get talking!
This month I am talking about a novel that I read back in January. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a fantastic historical novel that follows a female spy during the first world war. The younv British woman is recruited to work in the French Alice Network. The plot follows two parallels: the horrors of an Alice Network spy and an American searching for a disappeared cousin. The plot then comes together when the traumatised, drunken spy meets the desperate cousin searching for answers.
I couldn’t put this book down! Based on a true story, you find yourself living the life of a female spy. You encounter the truths behind the Alice Network and horrors are exposed. It really opens your eyes to a previously hidden side of war. As a lover of history I find the parallels allow two time periods (1910s and 1940s) to intertwine providing a war and post-war perspective.
The greatest thing I took from this novel was the consequences of the war for the female spies in the Alice Network. Not only were they essentially neglected and starved, but when fleeing dangerous situations they were sent back to the field. This led to time spent as prisoners of war – even murder! These women suffered on behalf of our country, sourcing as much information as they could and were tortured for it. Our country owes so much to these women!
I definitely recommend giving The Alice Network a read. If you love history, are interested in intelligence or simply want to learn from strong females, this will certainly inspire you!
Have you read any other books that tell of strong, suffering women?
Find The Alice Network Here:
It’s time that I introduced you all to my “housemates.” Meet Team Guinea! Seven months ago I met three wonderful girls for the first time and flew across the world to live with them for six months. I left all my other friends behind and quite literally, ended up stuck with them…
Lauren, Cara and Mhairi have been the best team mates I could have asked for! We worked together, lived together, cooked together and pretty much didn’t spend any time apart for six months! In some ways this has been incredible but of course, living together does have challenges too and we have learnt to navigate our way through all of these things together – ups and downs. Most importantly, I’m incredibly proud of these three girls and all that they have accomplished this year.
After learning to live alongside each other as a team, we are now best friends and whilst its was definitely difficult at times, we certainly are glad we did it. Today I’m sharing our top ten tips for team living, whether you are currently about to live with flatmates for the first time at university, or are working in a team of colleagues.
- Have give and take. Living with house mates or team members really can be a challenge. If you think about your family, you don’t always agree with one another, or be kind to each other. Families argue. They contrast yet have grace for each other and are built on love! If your family doesn’t always get along, your house won’t either! Accept that, choose which battles are important to fight, and leave those that really won’t matter in the long term.
- Cook good food together! As a team in Guinea, we found that cooking together was such a relaxing and enriching activity. When we all came together to share ideas, tastes, skills, we didn’t just manage to cook something incredible but when we shared it, we could all enjoy the reward of our creation. Our favourites were curry complete with homemade naan bread, pancake brunches, lasagne, stews, soups…
- Laugh together, cry together. This was one of our team values! We had to understand that sharing in good times was just as important as accompanying one another in tough times. Having this as a grounding allowed us to support one another, to encourage each other and have a deepened understanding of each other’s emotions, circumstances, joys and tribulations.
- Be quick to forgive. Seriously – grudges are no good for team living! Anything unsaid can build up to cause explosive arguments. If something was upsetting us or annoying us, we would honestly tell our team member, resolve the problem and then move on, forgetting it happened. We all make mistakes and living together is difficult! I definitely learnt to be patient with my team.
- Share the roles. Now it’s not a healthy team if one person is carrying a heavier load. It’s vital that you share roles and each take up a fair amount jobs. It’s not just about getting a fair rest but also learning to serve your house mates, proving that you care for and value them as individuals. In our house we decided to create a “day off” rota so that each day, one team member would be excused from all cooking and washing up. This was brilliant! There were still three people to share the load, and we’d all get the chance to put our feet up twice a week.
- Employ each other’s strengths. It’s pointless forcing the quiet team member to stand up and present a whole lesson to a class of 80. Likewise it’s silly to ask the outgoing, active one to just work on the sidelines and do all the administration. This applies to living together too! Pick out one another’s strengths and delegate roles based upon that. For example, I am strong in Mathematics and was encouraged to manage our team’s finances and food budgets. Lauren however was really good at coming up with social activities to do on an evening, so we’d often get her to plan a film night or worship night whenever we needed some down time…
- Celebrate each other! We all love to be built up! So celebrate each other’s successes as friends and compliment one another’s efforts.
- Find a mutual activity. You can’t just live together and never socialise together. Discovering mutual interests or trying new things together is an important for bonding and also maintaining a good relationship with your house mates. In Guinea this looked like watching films, playing games and journalling together. Now in the UK, it’s going for walks and even doing crazy things like going to a trampoline park to destress for an hour!
- Take the short straw. There will always be jobs that no-one wants to do. Sometimes you just have to big yourself up and do them because if you all stand around, you’ll be there for ever! I hate to admit it, but I even had to unblock a toilet and kill a mouse for my team! These things need doing and if you just get it over with, you can move on as a team. Your housemates will really appreciate you for serving them in that too!
- Have hyper moments! Sometimes you just need to scream hysterically at each other or dance stupidly around the house. It’s these crazy memories that really build a happy team – you’ll remember wild nights forever!
We are still living together and learning to navigate through life together… We are now spending eight weeks travelling around the UK, talking about our trip and meeting one another’s families. With this comes new challenges and these ten lessons still play a huge role in our team!
What tips do you have for living with house mates?