Friday, 28 December 2012

Lover of Literature

There is nothing better on a cold winter's day than curling up next to a log fire with a cup of fruit tea and a good book. Books have the power to educate, enlight and let you escape from the world around you. In my time at University and at School I have read a very wide range of books some that have become personal favourites and others that will never be touched again. However, when it comes to compiling a list of a good books where does one begin?

Previously I have mentioned the BBC's Top 100 Book list and it is this that I have found to offer the most comprehensive list of good books. One of my aims for this year was to increase the number of books on the list that I have actually read. It goes without saying that the Russian works of literature are covered but now it was time to target some other genres of literature.

Below is a list of the Top 100 Books and the 'x' denotes those I have read while the 'y' denotes books in my posession that I will endeavour to read in 2013.

The list;

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen X
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman X
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling X
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee X

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne X
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell X
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis X
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë X
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë X
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger X
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame X
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens Y
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott X
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy X
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling X
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling X
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling X
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien Y
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll X
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson X
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl X
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen X
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen X
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery X
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald X
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh X
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell X
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens X
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett X
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy X
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl X
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden X
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens Y
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl X
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding X
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson X
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl X
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson X
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot X
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie 


My Current total is 36. New Year's Resolution Number 1 - to hit at least 50 by the end of 2013.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Funemployment 3 - The Job Centre

Call me old fashioned, but I like being able to pay my rent, buy food and you know generally have money, so given that my numerous job applications had not led to actual employment it was time to register for Job Seekers Allowance, or JSA as it is more commonly known. 

After my first eight attempts to battle with the registration part of the website had failed, I half gave up, made a cup of coffee then prepared for round nine. No website was going to stop me from receiving the money back that I have paid in through income tax! Eventually, after much swearing I was in and registered. 

The next day I got a text informing me that I would need to come into my local Job Centre Plus for an initial registering interview, to confirm details, have the process explained etc etc. 'Excellent' I thought, 'that was much quicker than expected!' Only problem, the time of the interview was when I would be on a train heading back to London after visiting my Grandpa on his 93rd birthday.

So I called the number to rearrange my interviews and was greeted with a pre-recorded message informing me that they were 'only open 9-5 Monday through Friday', so why text me at 6:30pm?! Clearly someone was there or else the text would not have been sent!

The next day I had slightly more luck, I got through to a person, was transferred to under 25s department and was met with a very surly man for whom customer service was clearly not his vocation. This is the conversation that followed;
Me - Hiya, I have had a text come through for an interview for JSA, but I cannot make that appointment and I would like to change it.
Man - Why can't you make the appointment?
Me - I have a prior engagement.
Man - Oh, so what is SO important that you do not feel that you can turn up to your JSA interview?
Me - Well, my Grandpa is turning 93 so I am out of London visiting him and I'll be on a train then heading back to London. So you can make my interview then but I won't physically be able to attend.
Man - oh. So what day can you attend?
Me - Any day but Monday.
Man - *sigh* fine, I'll let them know and they'll give you a ring, but I can't promise anything.

Three hours later I had a 30 second conversation with a women who moved my interview back by one day and said that it was no problem at all.

It is at this point I should have realised what my experience in the Job Centre would be like.

After my initial registration interview I had to return to put all of my details onto the system and check that my approach to job hunting was correct etc. As a person who is qualified and under 25 I am classified as 'High Priority' as my only reason for not working is simply that I do not have a job. My conversation with my adviser was what could politely be described as 'an experience' and some part of the conversation follows;
Job Centre Adviser (JCA) - Highest level of education?
Me - Masters Degree.
JCA - What's a Masters Degree?
Me - Pardon?
JCA - What's a Masters Degree? Is it like a degree?
Me - Yes, I have an Undergraduate Degree and a Post-Graduate Degree
JCA - So you have a PHD?
Me - No, I have a Masters.
JCA - *looks lost*
Me - PHD is the highest qualification you can get from a University, then it's Masters, then BA. I have the second highest level of University education.
JCA - Oh! In what subject?
Me - *bracing myself for the usual response* Russian...
JCA - Oh cool, so are you Russian?
Me - No, I'm English I just studied it at school etc etc
JCA - So do they need many Russian speakers in Russia?
Me - *slightly bemused* Erm... well yes, but they also need them in the UK too.
JCA - So do you think you'll go back to your home country?
Me - I am currently in my home country, I am English.
(some more time is spent explaining that I am in fact English)
JCA - So do you speak any other languages?
Me - Yes, French to A-level standard and Czech to A-level standard
JCA - How do you spell Czech?
Me - C-Z-E-C-H
JCA - What does to A-level standard mean? Like, can you speak them and read them?
Me - Yes....
JCA - Wow, you speak a lot of languages, clearly they are you thing!
Me - Well I am a language student..
JCA - Any other languages?
Me - Well, English obviously
JCA - *looks blank* what? You speak English?
Me - Well, yes that is what this conversation is taking part in....
(some more time and conversation elapses where I am asked where I have been looking, I list some job sites and am told that I have the correct approach, we then move on putting in my job choices on the database)
JCA - First job preference?
Me - Translator, interpreter, you know that sort of thing.
JCA - In which language?
Me - Erm... Russian?
JCA - And second?
Me - Content writing.
JCA - Context writing?
Me - CONTENT writing, you know articles, papers, blog posts that sort of thing.
JCA - I'm not sure what that comes under *searches database* erm it's saying writers and authors, does that sound right?
Me - yes...
JCA - Third choice?
Me - Teaching or tutoring.
JCA - So you want to be a Primary school teacher?
Me - *slightly confused as to what is happening* no, I can't legally teach in a school I don't have a PGCE but I can tutor children or adults one-to-one.
JCA - Ah ok, in what?
Me - Russian......?
JCA - Cool. Right that's all done. Can you just check the details and then I think we are done.
(I check the details then point out that half of them are in fact wrong, they get corrected and we continue)
JCA - Oh.
Me - What?
JCA - it's not saved.
Me - *look of despair that we'll have to go through everything again*
JCA - Oh no wait it's all fine. I just have to check that you know that you have to come here on a weekly basis?
Me - *resisting the urge to cry and shout something like oh God I have to come in here for this EVERY WEEK!* yes I am aware of this, every week until I get a job.
JCA - Until you get a job?
Me - well, yes because then after than I will be employed so I won't need JSA....
JCA - Oh yeah! 

After this conversation there were some more details about other ways to find work, I was informed that I was clearly qualified, I knew what I wanted and that to be honest their database probably would not be much use as my area was so specific. It was at this point I was about to ask why I was even being put through this until I remembered that this person is the one who has the authority to allow or deny my JSA payments so I simply smiled wished them a Merry Christmas and headed for the nearest coffee establishment (not Starbucks) to try to work out whether or not I was on some new reality show or if that had actually just happened. It turns out it had. My motivation to get a job is now even higher. If you are a future employer reading this, please hirer me!

Film Review - Kuka

During the research part of my dissertation I had the opportunity to watch a wide variety of Russian film, some of which I had never seen before, some of which scared the life out of me and some, like Kuka, which have now before new personal favourites.

Iaroslav Chevazhevskii’s film Kuka is set in St. Petersburg and follows the title character Kuka, a six-year-old girl who lives alone and is too independent for her age. Kuka is an orphan, who receives her Grandmother's pension and runs the house by herself; cooking, cleaning and doing the shopping. When her Grandmother dies the girl, fearing that she will be taken away to the children's home, keeps it a secret and lives alone in her Grandmother's house. Despite being completely alone in the world Kuka's only problem seems to come when she wants to leave the house as waiting for her is the mortal danger of a huge, toothy German shepherd (who she later befriends and keeps as a guard dog).

Juxtaposed against Kuka is the character of Lena, a 38 year-old woman, whose life it would seem is sorted - she lives in Moscow, has a career, a 'prestigious' boyfriend etc but Lena knows that this all leads nowhere and decides to move to St. Petersburg to do something more useful with her life. While out on a job with Social Services Lena and Kuka's paths cross, seeing that Kuka needs help Lena decides to track her down and offer her assistance. Having found out that Kuka is parentless Lena decides to adopt Kuka giving a happy end to this melodramatic fairytale.

Despite living completely on her own and being totally independent Kuka’s childhood is portrayed as a generally happy one; she does not need to worry about money, she plays in the park with other children, plays make-believe with her teddy bear, her only adversary is the dog who bars the entrance to her house (who she later befriends), and on the whole she does not seem upset by the absence of a parental figure from her life. In the end Lena is able to resolve her issues of not having a child by adopting Kuka and Kuka is able to return to the realm of childhood as she now has Lena to take over all the adult responsibilities.

Unfortunately, a childhood on the streets is a fairly common occurrence in the post-Soviet period; although it is hard to calculate exactly how many street children there are currently in Russia as a whole in St. Petersburg alone it is estimated that there are 16,000 street children. Sadly the situation is nothing new; following the Revolution and Civil War by 1922 there were an estimated seven million children living rough in stations, derelict houses, buildings sites, rubbish dumps, cellars, sewers and other squalid holes, and as with the street children of today begging, peddling, petty crime and prostitution were the means by which they survived.

When watching Kuka it is important to bear two things in mind; firstly, the director wanted to make a film that would raise awareness of the fact that there are a high number of street children living in Russia today, and secondly, that this is a fairytale. Kuka may be set in present day St. Petersburg but had it been filmed more realistically then it would have been a much darker, grittier film more akin perhaps to Lilia 4-eva or The Spot.

Sadly, I have yet to find a copy of this film with English subtitles meaning that only those who speak Russian can enjoy this wonderful film. I have managed to find a trailer of the film which gives a flavour of what happens in the full movie. As I said earlier, this is without a doubt one of my new favourite films.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Funemployment Part 2 - Skillz

It has been a couple more days and I am still funemployed and still having to rest, dropping that box on my foot clearly did not help the healing process, so I have decided to harness social media and use my blog as a way to find a job. My JSA agreement states that I have to actively look for work so I am hoping that this counts. In this post I am going to list all of my skills and hope that this will impress any future employers enough to hire me. 

Education:
I have an MA (Hons) and BA (Hons) in Russian Studies from University College London.
A-Levels, GCSEs, Additional Maths and various Language Qualifications.

Languages:
English - Native Speaker
Russian - Near Fluent
French - A-level
Czech - GCSE/A-Level
Welsh - Odd Words and Phrases

Written For:
In my time as a blogger I have written for my blog, Voices of the 7 Billion, UCL Conservative Society, UCL Chocolate Society, The Hackery Blog, and the TRG blog.

Political:
Events Manager for CFoR, Social Sec for UCL Conservatives, Website and Publicity for UCL Conservatives, Tastings Officer and Publicity for UCL Chocolate Society, Deputy Area Chairman for Bristol and Gloucestershire CF.
I have campaigned in Local Council Elections, By Elections, General Elections, and both Boris Mayoral Campaigns.
I am currently listed in the Top 50 Conservative Bloggers in the TP Guide to Political Blogging, and have featured in that list since 2008.

Misc:
I worked the entire time I was studying for my MA in order to pay my way through University.
I have lived in Russia and travelled as far East as Siberia, South as the Caucasus Mountains, North as Saint Petersburg and West as Moscow.
I can cook, sew, knit as well as wire a fuse and assemble my own furniture.
I play Violin and Piano.
I am first aid trained meaning that I have the knowledge to potentially save a life.

Let the job hunt continue...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

iOrphan Charity Dinner

Over the summer I wrote my MA Dissertation on the subject of Childhood in Post-Soviet Russian Cinema. Despite my initial thoughts that this would be a rather jolly subject matter I quickly learnt that this is sometimes not the case. One section of my dissertation focused on the issue of orphans in Russia and how they are represented in film.
One website that I used while doing the research for the section on orphans was iOrphan.On January 14th 2013 iOrphan will be hosting a fundraising dinner at Samarqand Restaurant in London. The guest speaker will be Craig Murray the former Ambassador to Uzbekistan who will be sharing some of his experiences of his time there. 
The event looks set to be a great one and luckily there are some tickets still available. To buy tickets and help raise funds for this worthy charity click here.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Funemployment Part 1

As of November 30th at 4pm I became unemployed, or as my housemate has dubbed it 'funemployed.' Since then, aside from registering for JSA and job hunting, I have also had an operation on my foot, which has slightly hampered my ability to literally look for work. Especially since I was explicitly told by the NHS to keep my foot elevated and to rest. Anyone who knows me well will know that me and sitting still just don't happen. 
Anyway, as it turns out my foot hurts so much that walking or running around is physically impossible, so my attentions have turned to filling my time with other activities to stop myself from going crazy. 
After several Google searching for 'Jobs Using Russian' and several pages of results suggesting that I either become a Nanny or register as a Love Bride, I decided it was time for a break. It was at this point that my eyes fell upon my craft box. A box I have had for as long as I can remember which contains all of my arts and crafts materials. A box which I have not opened properly since I began to study for MA and work to put myself through University. A box which now has kept me amused for the last week and stopped me from going stir crazy.
Since opening Pandora's Box, as this box shall now be called, I have become slightly obsessed with arts and crafts to the extent that in the last week I have made; 5 name badges, decorated 12 Christmas tree baubles, embroider one card, one picture and near completed embroidering two cross stitch patterns, planned out two cushion covers and two aprons, and continued knitting myself a blanket. I have also baked 1 cake and 2 batches of ginger biscuits, the only thing stopping me from working my way through my reciepe book is the fact that standing for long periods of time hurts my foot.
The conclusion to this piece is that being funemployed and being under enforced bed rest do not mix and that I need some kind of occupation to do. As my foot continues to get better, leaving aside earlier when I dropped a box on it, I can start to physically job hunt until then it is back to arts and crafts. If anyone has any requests for things they want me to make send them in, or if anyone would like to employ me that would also be great.

Things I have made thus far;

Monday, 3 December 2012

Dear Santa

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us, my flat is decorated and my friends/family are already fed up with my terrible renditions of 'All I want for Christmas', 'God rest ye merry gentlemen' and 'Baby come home'. So all that is left to do is write my letter to Santa so that he knows exactly what to bring me on Christmas morning.

Dear Santa,

Thanks for the gifts last year - that Onesie was spot on and combined with the gin and tonic in a can and all the chocolate made for a very merry Christmas, so nice one there. Apart from my standard requests for an Aston Martin DB9, the winning lotto numbers to the Euromillions draw and a bottomless bottle of Gordon's I would like to add a few new things to my Christmas list.

This year if it is not too much trouble I would like the following books to my list; A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Les Miserables, The Hobbit, The Winter Palace, The Count of Monte Cristo, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. Plus the following films; The Mirror (Tarkovsky), The Island (Mamonov), Spooks Season 9 and 10, Brideshead Revisited (The one with Jeremy Irons in), and Beauty and the Beast (Disney, not the French version). 

If there is space in your sleigh after tossing all of that lot in a girl can always use more jewellery, clothes and shoes (ignore what the BF says I do NOT have 100 pairs and I really do need more). Oh and a Furby! I'd love a furby, I am not allowed pets in my flat so this is the next best thing.

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas,

Yours,

Laura xoxo

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Power of Words

Words are much more powerful than you think. They have the power to build someone up, yet tear another down. Even a careless word said in jest has the same power as one said with intended meaning. Words can bring a smile to the lips or tears to the eyes, it all depends on how you use them.
Recently there have been stories in the papers that show the power that words truly have. Take for example the case of Lord McAlpine. All it took was for one person to use the word 'paedophile' and an innocent man was labelled as something he was not, and underwent 'trial by Twitter' as thousands of users logged on to add their metaphorical fuel to the fire.
Eventually it was proven that Lord McAlpine was not a paedophile as so many had been quick to call him, but once a label has be stuck to someone it is very hard to remove it. Despite the fact that we live in the UK, a country whose legal system is built around the precedent of 'innocent until proven guilty'. Once judgement has been passed it very hard to change it.
Lord McAlpine is not the only one to have been the victim of 'trial by Twitter' or to be labelled with a word that has nothing to do with him, many of us have fallen victim to the power of words. So next time you are about to label someone, remember the power that your words can have.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

By John McCrae

Lest we forget.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Public Transport Fail

After living in London for several years I am used to travelling on public transport and have become accustom to all of the unwritten rules - do not talk, do not make eye contact etc. I have also learnt that the best thing to do if you want an enjoyable journey is to listen music. Doing this will drown out screaming babies, vacuous conversations, and mean that you are generally left alone on your journey.
To this end, I have a play list designed specifically for public transport it is a compilation of some of my favourite tracks and ones that are good at drowning out other noise. However, it is this play list that also lead to a somewhat awkward incident while travelling home from work.
On this particular bus trip the bus was filled with annoying, noisy school children and screaming babies. Realising this I turned to my trusty favourites play list and instantly was met with the sound of My Chemical Romance and all the other noise was instantly gone. MCR turned to The Vaccines, then to the Manic Street Preachers. My music must have been pretty loud as when I first started listening the woman sat next to me looked at me and sighed slightly, but I didn't really care as the 'children' had just changed to the topic of X-Factor and there was no way in hell I was going to listen to that.
All was going fine on my trip home until the track changed and I realised, to my horror, that on this play list I had added One Direction. No word of a lie as the track started five different people on the bus turned round to look at me in surprise, amazement and disbelief that the girl who had been sat listening to the angry rock was now listening to cheesy pop. The worst bit was that my iPhone then got stuck in my pocket and I was unable to change the track back to some Rammstein and save face.Fail.
It is indeed a sad moment when even a group of thirteen-year-olds are laughing at your choice of music and old people are looking at you slightly bemusedly. Sad times indeed.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Shameless Self Promotion

As pretty much all of my friends will tell you subtly is not my strong point. So it is with very little guilt or shame that I am using this post to shamelessly self promote three things relating to myself.

1.Voices
This week Voices launched it's first e-magazine. This  issue is the Party Conference Special! Featuring reviews of the Green, Labour, Lib Dem, and Conservative Party conferences, as well as my culture review of the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library. To download your free copy click here.

2.Blogging
This one very much links in with the first one, as we at Voices are now looking for more people who may be interested in writing for us. Either for the website in general or for our new e-magazine. If you are interested in this then drop us a line to submissions@voicesofthe7billion.co.uk

CFoR 
The chances are that if you are reading this then you are mostly likely interested in Russia, Politics or myself. If it is the first two then I have a treat for you! With the US Election hotting up on Tuesday October 30th Conservative Friends of Russia will be hosting a debate about how the US election could impact upon Russo-American relations. The debate will be from 7pm in Swedenborg House, London. To purchase tickets for the event and for more details click here.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Flu

Being sick sucks. Fact. Ever since last week I have not felt great and it would appear that being that almost everyone I know is either ill, or just been ill, it would appear that I have caught whatever it is that is going around. Those of a more conspiracy theory bent would note the correlation between the fog descending and sickness beginning, but I just think this is coincidence.
Like I said, being sick sucks, I have now been ill for most of this week, had to phone in sick to work, cancel going to a party I had been looking forward to since September, and basically stay in bed resting. By now I have exhausted everything on iPlayer, Sidereel and 4OD. So bored and lacking distraction am I that I am almost considering braving the educational sections of these sites. The worst bit is I feel so rough that not even a nice depressing Russian film can cheer me up. 
I am an active person and am used to rushing round and always having somewhere to be, so being too ill to stand properly and unable to talk with out coughing like a Dickensian street urchin is not something I am overly enjoying. Yes, admittedly, at first having a valid excuse to sleep until noon was fun, but even that has lost its charm. 
The one joy in all of this is that the literary side to myself is beginning to understand the works of some of my favourite authors through the crazy, fever enduced dreams I have had. My personally favourite so far being one where a bunch of flowers I bought at the supermarket magically transformed into three purple cats who then attacked me, Master and Margarita anyone? 
I have also discovered one delightful recipe for a drink that can be used as a daytime alternative to my Saunders family solution (equal measures of lemon juice, honey, brandy and hot water in a mug - great for inducing sleep not so great if you need to work). In a pan warm OJ, honey and lemon juice, pour into a mug and drink. 
Hopefully drinking my weight in OJ, combined with enough drugs to start a pharmacy, will put me right, as enforced bedrest is slowly making me more and more like Sheldon when he is sick. As my mother would say 'better in the morning', let's hope so because boredom is not something I take to well.Suggestion for entertainment or tricks for getting better both welcome!

Monday, 22 October 2012

A Foggy Day in London Town

Today, as you may well have heard or gathered, was a foggy day in London Town (and the surrounding area for that matter too!). Flights were grounded, hair styles ruined, and while waiting for my bus to work I almost flagged down a lorry that from a murky distance looked very like the 210.
The fog, apart from shedding a very Dickensian air on London, was the cause of two events today. The first being that Michael Buble's song 'A Foggy Day in London Town' was near perpetually stuck in my head from about 7:15am until about 5 minutes ago when I decided to try and drive it out with My Chemical Romance, Cradle of Filth, and, to my abject shame, One Direction. Sadly even the dulcet tones of Gerrard Way or Harry Styles could not remove Michael Buble from my head and it looks like he is there to stay. Much in all as I do love a bit of Buble some variety would be nice.
The second, that it meant the postponement of my planned walk on Hampstead Heath. Since finishing University I have been near constantly asked 'so what now?', a question that takes some working out. Especially as I have now gotten bored of answerring either sensibly (Translator etc), sarcastically (dole queue), or creatively (Spearmint Rhino).  While anyone who knows me will tell you just how vehemently I hate walking, after a childhood spent in the West Country a walk can be a good way to clear the head and a chance to do some thinking undisturbed. For those of you not familiar with The Heath there are two things you need to know. One. It is utterly beautiful and is the one place in London where you can feeling like you are not in London but in the Country. Two. It is also a hot spot for crime, rape and other illicit activities. 
While perfectly safe during the day, at night it is very different. After several hours of hoping that the fog might burn off, it didn't and said walk was cancelled. This decision was also re-enforced once one of my co-workers pointed out that it probably was not a good idea to venture there during the fog as I may end up getting chased by people of ill repute and my walk could turn into a scene from the Russian horror film Gruz 200. 
So instead I opted for tea, Downton Abbey and PJs. Thinking on The Heath postponed until tomorrow when hopefully the fog will have disappeared and London can return to normal. Now, back to trying to get Buble out of my head and make some kind of logical life plan that does not hinge on me winning the Lotto or finding out I am the secret love child of a millionaire. Suggestions for either very welcome.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Why Study Russian?


I began studying Russian at school when I was thirteen years old and ever since I have constantly be asked the question; 'Why do you study Russian?' Depending on who my audience is depends slightly on what my answer is. 

A typical conversation will go a little something like this;
Conversant: So, what do you do?
Me: I've just finished doing an MA at UCL.
C: Oh, in what?
Me: Russian.
C: OH MY GOD! YOU SPEAK RUSSIAN?! Why did you choose that?
Me: Yes I do, my school had it as a language option. I took it, did it to GCSE, enjoy it, then A-Level, enjoyed it, decided to do it for BA Degree, loved it, so decided to do it for MA.
C: So, like, are you Russian?
Me: No, I'm from the West Country.
C: Oh, so not Russian then?
Me: No.
C: But, like, so why did you do it for Degree?
Me: (usualy reply) because I find the language a challenge, I love the literature, especially Tolstoy, and the cinema, and the culture, and well every thing about it is just interesting to me.
C: You must like Vodka then?
Me: Yes.
C: So you're been there?
Me: Yes, I lived in Moscow etc etc
C: Are you a Communist? You must be if you study Russian?
Me: ha! No! I'm a Conservative.
C: oh, *slightly stunned silence* but you speak Russian? Tell me some Russian!


So after about 10 years of this, or other very similar conversations, I have decided to change my answer. From now on if I am asked why it is that I study Russian I shall simply reply; 'Because I have a massive vodka addiction, I love snow, and Russian pop stars like Sergei Lazarev are really attractive.' In short, alcohol, snow and hot men. I will then direct their attention, should this conversation take place near my iPhone, to this video, although those of a sensative disposition may want to look away now;




Disclaimer: If you are a potential future employer then my answer to why I study Russian will be a much more sensible, educated and professional answer. Also if you are a potential future employer please hire me!

Mitt Romney Style

In a few weeks the US will go to the polls to vote for who will be the next President. Previously I have offered my views Mitt Romney and his bid to be President. It would seem that I am not alone in my feelings towards him as this parody of the Korean track Gangnam Style has appeared; 



If you have had a long day at work and need a laugh or just want to see a Romney look a like doing 'the saddle' then this is a video for you! Be warned the track is very catchy!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Conservative Friends of Russia

Earlier in the summer I attended the launch of Conservative Friends of Russia in the Russian Embassy in London. Yesterday a promotional video for the organisation was released. Look carefully and you can spot me in it.

Conservative Friends of Russia - Official Launch Party from Video Invasion on Vimeo.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Mitt Romney

Every time Mitt Romney opens his mouth I do not know whether I want to laugh or to cry. With the US Presidential Elections coming up at the start of November it would appear that Mitt Romney would be the Democrat's dream. The sheer number of his gaffes and 'witticisms' make George Bush look like Einstein.

Over the course of the campaign he has made some blunders, one of the most notable ones being when he commented on how London was not prepared for hosting the Olympic games. On the eve of the Olympics he said "It's hard to know just how well [the 2012 London Olympics] will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.". Way to go on the international relations front.


There have been several other gaffes where he has tried to identify with the 'common folks' but has instead ended up either enraging them or alienating them. One classic example being when he insinuated that those receiving welfare were just lazy, nothing to do with the high levels of unemployment caused by the recession. No, clearly just laziness. 

It will be interesting to see come November who is elected/re-elected as President of the USA and whether this Mormon version of George W will win the hearts of his fellow Americans. As the saying goes 'the problem with political jokes is they often get elected'. Worrying times. 

For more of Romney's Gaffes check out this website.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Stew

One of the things I am now able to do now that I have absolutely no studying to do is cook. Now when I say cook I do not mean grab a ready meal, pop the film and watch it rotate in the microwave, I mean proper cooking, from scratch with fresh ingredients.
Having the time and the inclination means that I am now free to try all the recipes I spotted on Good Food but was always too busy to make. All this spare time to spend cooking has resulted in the new nicknames of Delia (as in Delia Smith) and Nigella (as in Nigella Lawson), the second I am in no way going to complain about. Personally, I'd love to look as hot as Nigella does when I am 52!
Anyways, as I have previously shared a couple of my favourite recipes I felt it about time to share a new personal favourite. It's cheap, it's quick and it's very very simple.

Today's recipe is Carrot, Lentil and Tomato Stew.
You will need:
Olive oil
4 Carrots
1 Onion (chopped)
8oz Red Lentils (washed)
Garlic (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons mild curry powder 
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
500 ml stock (can also be made with a stock cube)

Method:
Chop the onions and carrots then add to a large pan with olive oil in it. Heat slowly until the vegetables soft then add the garlic. Fry together for a few more minutes then add the spices and herbs. Mix together then add the tomatoes, stock and lentils. Mix together and bring to the boil. Once boiled stir, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils have absorbed a large amount of the liquid. Bring back to the boil then serve.
This dish is best served with a plain naan bread.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Holiday!

Having completed my dissertation and thus my Masters also it is time to take some well earned time off and head off on holiday. Once I return then so will the blog posts, anecdotes and cute pictures of kittens. As a heads up anyone who wishes to contact me will have to wait for my return to UK soil as my phone, email, Facebook, Twitter etc will all be switched off. It'll be just like living back in the 90's except without the Spices Girls, Brit Pop and a Labour Government.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Let Post Post-Grad Life Begin!

After four years of Undergraduate and two years of Post-Grad I am totally finished with University! This week I will be submitting my dissertation then I will have completed my Masters in Russian. Having drunk enough coffee over the last couple of months to resurrect a small horse I can now return to blogging, both here and at Voices, read books for fun, actually have time to see my boyfriend and friends, and hopefully get some sunshine.
Marks will not be out until later in the year but once I submit my work I will be Laura-Rose Saunders BA (Hons) MA (Hons) (UCL). Result.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Kitty Film Festival

Recently it has come to my attention that there is a Kitty Film Festival taking place in America. Described as the 'Cannes of the Cat World' I was intrigued and felt more information was needed. The point of the festival is to award cats, and presumably their owners, for their antics in videos that have been posted on Youtube. Given that this now seems to be a primary use for the Internet and indeed Youtube it is not surprising this has happened.
The festival rules state that anyone can submit a video of their cat or a video of one that they have enjoyed. So, I felt that I should make my own video of our cat Zeppy. His antics are always fairly amusing but his funniest are when he wants feeding. Thus, I present to you my entry for the Kitty Cannes Festival - Feeding Time with Zeppy;
  
Should you wish to enter your cat video into the competition click here for the entrance form.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dissertation

Last week was my last week of term and of the year, it was also the last week that I shall be a student at UCL. After 6 years of studying for my BA (hons) and my MA (hons) I will not be returning in September. However, I am not totally free of University and study quite yet. I still have the mighty dissertation to conquer. At present all that stands between me becoming Laura-Rose Saunders BA (Hons) MA (Hons) is 10,000 words on childhood in Post-Soviet Russian Cinema.
While I have done most of the research, have all the ideas and a plan I still need to do the writing part. Sadly this means that there will be less time for me to devote to my blog. *snif* I can still be found blogging over at Voices where I write my weekly column entitled 'Weekly Round Up and Story of the Week.' I will be posting here sporadically, but normal blogging will not resume until after I have completed my dissertation.
In the mean time here is a video to keep you entertained;

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend - The River Pageant

‘Hardcore Monarchist’ is not a title I would usually give myself, but after spending well over 8 hours in the cold and the wet beside the Thames waiting to see Her Royal Highness I feel this may be a title that now applies. Don’t get me wrong before this weekend I was proud to be British; I know the words to our National Anthem, I support England (however misguidedly) in the football, I happily watch other Royal events such as last year’s Royal Wedding, but I could never say that I had camped out in order to see the Queen.
The day began with a 4am start in order to be all sorted and ready to secure a great spot. Having checked the weather forecast the night before my friends and I knew full well that the British weather was not going to let us down and that layers and supplies would be needed in order to make the wait a little more enjoyable.
We arrived at the Thames a little before 6 am and were some of the first people there. After initially trying to see if we could get a space on Lambeth or Westminster Bridge we resolved that the next best thing was a riverside place opposite the Houses of Parliament. Luckily we also managed to find a spot that still had a free bench near it, something that came in very handy later on in the day once the tiredness began to set in. Being near to Parliament also meant that we had a direct view of Big Ben which worked out as a brilliant way to countdown to the start of the flotilla.
As the day continued more and more people steadily made their way to the Thames to find a space from which to view the River Pageant. Despite the off and on rain and the chilling wind there was a sense of excitement in the air. A feeling that this was no other miserable, grey day in London, but that something important was about to begin.
Time passed steadily and after marvelling at the view had worn off it was time to embark on what turned out to be possibly the longest game of ‘I spy’ I have ever played. My friends and I even managed to get some of the middle aged people from the group next to us joining in. It is also surprising just how many things really do begin with ‘B’ when you are stood by the river. There were also big screen at certain points along the Thames showing a montage of scenes from the Queen’s reign to keep us entertained and remind us of why we were here.
Throughout the day boats could be seen heading west along the Thames to the start point and people covered in Union Jack flags joined the expectant throngs lining the banks. Some of the spectators even managed to get a few hearty renditions of ‘God Save the Queen’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘The Lambeth Walk’ going before Big Ben struck two and it was almost time for the flotilla to set off.
From our spot we had to wait almost another hour before the first boats reached us, but when they did the crowd went wild. The flotilla began with a procession of smaller boats displaying the flags of the Commonwealth being sailed by people from every age group. These were intermixed with larger vessels carrying orchestras and one playing a peel of bells, which had been specially commissioned for the Jubilee. Then the moment came and Her Royal Highness sailed past on the Royal Barge. Every flag in the crowd was waved manically, cameras flashed and a triumphant chorus of ‘God Save the Queen’ rang out. It was the moment we had waited over 8 hours for – the Queen was less than 150 meters away and was waving back at us.
The Pageant continued on with more and more boats lining the Thames, but as the narrow boats began to emerge from under Lambeth Bridge the heavens opened and the rain poured down. At times it rained so hard it was almost impossible to see the rest of the flotilla. It was at this point that I realised that I was totally soaked through and frozen to the core. Upon eventually arriving home it took a rather strong vodka hot chocolate, a very warm blanket and pizza to warm me up.
The weather was the only bad part of the day. The start may have been early and the wait in the rain long, but being able to stand right at the front and see the whole thing was priceless. This weekend has shown that despite the weather no one quite does patriotism like the British. It is estimated that over a million people braved the cold to see the River Pageant and wave at the Queen as she celebrated being on the throne for 60 years, as our anthem so correctly states ‘long to reign over us, God save the Queen.’

Monday, 4 June 2012

Voices Officially Relaunches

Today Voices of the 7 Billion officially relaunches after Wordpress deleted all of our posts. We have a new design and are looking for people to contribute! We have now added some new sections on Art and Culture, Sport and Fashion. Luckily we have been able to recover a few of our previous posts which are in the process of being uploaded to an archive website.If you are interested in contributing to our newly launched site then get in touch! Are aim is to give a platform for people to express their views and have an opportunity to blog. If you would like some guidance with your articles then we are more than willing to help you out. We hope that you enjoy our newly launched site. :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Writers Wanted!

About a week ago my other Blog Voices of the 7 Billion experienced what can only be described as a total technological meltdown, which resulted in every post, page and user account being deleted. Thank you Wordpress. After a mild heart attack and bout of sobbing from Edward and I respectively, we decided to take our metaphorical lemons and make them into metaphorical lemonade. How you may ask? Well, we have decided to use this erm 'opportunity' to start over with the site.
All of our previous contributors have been contacted and many have been able to resubmit their articles so that we can create an 'archive' section to the site. However, Edward and I are now looking for people who want to contribute to our site. You can either choose to write on a weekly, fortnightly or ad hoc basis. No experience in writing or journalism is required as long as you can write to a good standard of English we will take you. We are both also happy to offer feedback and advice for those who want it. The site is non-aligned politically so those of any political persuasion can contribute and we are also looking for people to write about things other than politics.
If you think that you may be interested in writing for us then drop us a line we are on Facebook, Twitter and Email and we will send you more details about the project.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Citation Need?

It turns out that I am a Wikipedia Citation. Well not me exactly, but something that I wrote on a Film Blog about a year ago about 7 Brand New Russian films that I think the public should watch.
Earlier today while I was doing research for my dissertation I went to Wikipedia to read their article on Russian Cinema to see if it may list any films or ideas that I did not know about. Having scanned the article I headed to the external links section and discovered my article has been listed as one that should be read as further reading! To put it mildly, I was more than a little surprised and pleased. This means that anyone who reads this article will technically be advised to read my post.
The next step is to work out how to use this site as a reference in my dissertation :P Nothing quite like a bit of shameless self-promotion....

Saturday, 5 May 2012

And the winner is....

After what can only be described as one of the tenser nights that I have spent in a pub the results of the 2012 elections are in and it is just as I hoped Boris Johnson has won another 4 years as the Mayor of London. In a night that saw technological failures, several recounts and some very nervous looking activists the news came as welcome relief.
This election saw some surprise results in London and elsewhere in the UK. In London it must have come as a bit of a shock to the Lib Dems to see Brian Paddick come in 4th after being beaten by the Green Party. After being defeated by Boris for a second time Ken Livingstone has now officially resigned from Politics. The voter turn out for London was a rather disappointing 38%. However, on the plus the BNP lost their seat on the GLA and their seats in various other councils.
Outside of the M25 the Conservatives lost a large number of councils to Labour reflecting Labour's 11% lead in the polls. The Lib Dems suffered too and it looks like Call me Dave and Calamity Clegg may be in need of a reshuffle and may need to come up with some fresh ideas.
That's my rather brief summary of the results. Now back to the dissertation, can concentrate now that I know London is safe for another 4 years.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Voting is Important

When people ask me why it is that I am interested in politics and vote in elections when this is seen as something nerdy and 'uncool', they are often met with a stare of disbelief and the answer 'do I really need to answer that question?'
As far as I am concern voting in an election is one of the most important things a person can do. We in the UK are lucky enough to be able to have a range of candidates on offer, be able to vote for the party we choose and not risk threats or physical violence on the way to the polling station. Free and open elections are NOT something that should be taken for granted.
Around the world people have fought and even died trying to get the right to vote in a free and open election. Over the last year the news has been filled with images of the various uprisings during The Arab Spring. Not to mention the thousands of Russians who marched through the streets of Moscow in temperatures of - 20 to show their displeasure at potentially having Putin as their President until 2024. And don't forget the people of Burma who had to wait over 20 years to be able to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi to be elected to their parliament. I'm sure these people would totally understand you not wanting to vote because it's not 'cool', not.
One thing that particularly annoys me is women who cannot be bothered to vote. Less than 100 years ago women believed so strong that just because they had a uterus did not mean that they should not get a vote that they were prepared to protest, starve, face imprisonment or even through themselves under horses just to prove their point. I'm sure that Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow suffragettes would be delighted to see that all their sacrifices and hard work are so easily taken for granted.
Apathy is perhaps the most dangerous thing possible. All it takes is an apathetic majority and an active extremist minority to win an election and the UK could become like Germany in 1930 or like the Government shown in 'V for Vendetta'. As the saying goes 'People should not fear their Governments, but Governments should fear their people.'
It is one thing to not really be interested in politics to a level where you obsessively read manifestos or pay to join a part, but it is entirely another to not vote in an election because 'it's not cool' or 'it's wet outside' or 'I can't be bothered'. By not exercising your right to vote you are effectively wasting an opportunity that people the world over would do anything to have. Tomorrow is polling day, please make sure to get down to yours and don't waste something that people have fought and died trying to obtain.

Flapjacks

As often happens when I am studying I get peckish and bored, so in an attempt to stop myself from feasting on chocolate, crisps and other such delights I decided to look through my kitchen cupboard and see what I had the ingredients to cobble together.
After much rummaging I discovered sugar, syrup, butter and a large sack of Scottish porridge oats so flapjacks it was! It had a while since I had last made them so a recipe was needed and the Good Food site greatly oblidged and is one that I would recomend:

Ingredients:
4 oz Sugar, 6 oz butter, 1 desert spoon of syrup and 6 oz of Oats
Oven temperature:
Gas Mark 2 or 150 C
Method:
To start, place the sugar, butter and golden syrup together in a medium saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the porridge oats and a few drops of almond essence.
Now, press the mixture out over the base of the prepared tin, and bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting into oblong bars. Leave until cold before removing the flapjacks from the tin, then store in an airtight container.

The further I get into my dissertation the more random my snacks will probably become, so standby for some more unorthodox recipes from Laura' Kitchen.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Worst Late Western

For those of you who are regular readers or follow me on Twitter you will know that First Great Western, or as I call them Worst Late Western, and I do not always see eye to eye on what classifies as 'service'. Over Easter I had a particularly horrendous journey that beggared belief. I wrote a very long letter of complaint that got me compensation from the company, below is a copy of what I sent to them. It would seem that slightly sarcastic complaint letters do in fact work.

'Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to complain about the service I experienced on X 2012 while travelling with your company.
As a fairly regular user of your company I have become accustom to expecting a fairly poor level of service – I have yet to travel on one of your trains and actually arrive at my destination on time. However, my experiences on X hit an all time low.

I was on the Y train from London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa, a journey which should have lasted around two hours and involve only one train. As I will outline below this was far from the case.
The train departed from London Paddington at Y but between London and Twyford there was a fault with the train causing us to be delayed by around 10 minutes. We were then held at Twyford while an engineer was contacted, eventually we left Twyford but were put under a 50 mph speed limit, causing us to arrive at Reading well behind schedule.

While waiting on the platform at Reading it was announced that any customers who were travelling as far as Didcot Parkway or Swindon should switch to another train that was due to leave before us, but all other customers were to remain on the train. After about 10 minutes the train manager announced that our service was now cancelled and everyone was to leave the train. No information of how to continue my journey from Reading was given, all First Great Western staff mysteriously disappeared and no apology was offered. The only member of staff I found was too busy to answer any of my questions. 

Eventually I managed to find a fellow passenger who had been in this position many times before and was able to check the details of a potential route for me on his iPhone. By the time I managed to find a train heading to Swansea via Swindon the train was so packed that there was standing room only and was more crowded than the London Underground during rush hour. The only reason I was able to get onto the train was because one of the passengers already on the train managed to get people to move along the carriage, otherwise I found have been stranded at Reading. Again, no First Great Western staff were around to help people trying to get onto the train. 

Between Reading and Swindon I was stood in between two carriages crushed in between my fellow passengers, which was dangerous enough, but further still the bellows link had holes in it meaning that rain water was leaking on to passengers and onto the floor making it very slippy. It was announced on this train that at Swindon a train was being held for all the customers who were travelling on through to Cheltenham. However, this turned out to be a two carriage shuttle that was then meant to house all the passengers from the cancelled 10 carriage train. Between Swindon and Cheltenham the only way I was able to board the train was by sitting in the luggage rack.

After the train had left Gloucester, the penultimate stop, a member of First Great Western staff did appear, but only to check the tickets of those remaining. Said member of staff seemed surprised by the frosty reception he received from those still on board and again offered no apology for the delay to the service.
What was meant to be a journey on one train lasting around 2 hours turned into a journey on three different trains and was delayed at every stage. For a country that is due to host the Olympics and actively encourages members of the public to use public transport as supposed to driving I am in disbelief that such a terrible service could happen. So notorious is your company for its lack of service that it has been deemed Worst Late Western among my peers.

The only reason that I continue to use your service is that no alternative is available. I want a full refund on my tickets for this journey and an apology, something that I failed to receive at any point on my journey. I will also be sending copies of this letter to my MP, to the Minister for Transport – Justine Greening and to the Olympics Minster. If this is the level of service that is presently offered in April, what on earth will your service be like in July and August time while the Olympics is actually taking place a time when the United Kingdom will be on show to the rest of the World.

I have enclosed a copy of my tickets for this journey and I anticipate your response and my refund shortly,
Yours sincerely,
Laura-Rose Saunders'

Since posting this letter I have heard back from Worst Late Western and the Ministry of Transport, but nothing from the Olympics Committee or my MP so much for him working for me then.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Better Off with Boris

As May 3rd draws ever closer Londoners are being bombarded with literature about which candidate they should support in the Mayoral Election. Despite there being 7 candidates essentially this is a two horse race between the incumbent Mayor and Conservative Party Candidate Boris Johnson and the former Mayor and Labour Party Candidate Ken Livingstone.

While Boris has a manifesto for the various different areas that effect Londoners the cornerstone of his campaign rests in his 9 point plan for London. Boris’ 9 point plan includes the freezing of the Mayoral Part of Council Tax, the creation of 200,000 new jobs in the next four years, the reduction of Tube delays by 30% by 2015 and the placing of 1,000 more bobbies on the beat. I won’t bore you with the whole plan but to read it in full click here.

Over the last four years London has seen a lot of change but perhaps the most noticiable change to London is the introduction of the Boris Bikes – a scheme that allows Londoners to hop on a bike and cycle around London easily. It came as little surprise that Boris was in support of this scheme as he himself is an avid cycler. Speaking at the launch Boris is quoted as saying; ‘In 1904, 20 per cent of journeys were made by bicycle in London. I want to see a figure like that again.’ With the cost of fuel constantly rising there is a high chance that Boris’ wish will come true and it is great that the provision of a cycling scheme is already established within our capital.

The main contender to Boris in the London 2012 race is previous Mayor Ken Livingstone. The rivalry between these two dates back to the previous election in 2008 and it would seem that the tension between the two candidates is just as strong as before. In a recent radio interview the issue of tax evasion arose, something that Ken has been accused of on several occasions, this issue became so heated that the pair nearly came to blows. After the interview it was established that Boris has paid full income tax on his earnings while Ken has made use of tax avoidance schemes and owes roughly £50, 000 in unpaid taxes. Sadly this is not the only false accusation that has been leveled against Ken to see a full compilation click here.

Since being elected in 2008 Boris has kept 91% of his pre-election promises including lowering the crime rate by 10.8%, upgrading public transport in London and freezing Council Tax. In addition he has saved money by scrapping things like The Londoner, which cost £3.1 million a year. Boris’ record speaks for itself – after four years only 10 of his promises have not be fulfilled. Boris himself has said ‘it is vital Londoners
can trust their mayor to deliver on what they said they will.’ Something that he has proved he can do.

Polling day is but a mere 4 days away but there is still time to make an informed decision about who you should vote for on May 3rd. However, as far as I concerned London truly will be better off waking up on May 4th with Boris Johnson as its Mayor. Thus, for all the aforementioned reasons I will be Backing Boris on May 3rd and I hope that I have convinced you to do the same.

(can also been on my other site Voices of the 7 Billion)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pasty for your thoughts?

Since last week's budget one of the biggest stories to hit the headlines is the fact that hot goods from places like Greggs will have 40p in tax slapped on them. At first it seemed like an attempt to stop people from eating there so as to try to curb the growing obesity problem, personally I am put off simply by the smell that wafts out of the place and price has nothing to do with it, but there we go to each their own.
However, since then it seems to have turned into a media witch hunt among members of the Government as to who eats at Greggs and who doesn't. Footage has 'suddenly' emerged of Awkward Ed, Call me Dave and Gosborne all either admitting to have the odd pasty or 'accidentally' getting caught nipping into a nearby pasty shop to nom on a large traditional.
The thing that leaves me baffled is to why this seems to be such an important issue. Seriously, who actually cares whether or not their MP likes a cheeky steak and bake for their lunch? I personally care more about what my MP is doing to represent me in the House of Commons, how they are spending my tax money and whether they happen to be banging their secretary when they should be working.
Further still surely there are better things that the media should be focusing on. While checking the headlines today I read stories about women who had survived being gang raped, how the British Economy is still basically buggered, how house prices are falling and how the UK is about to run out of petrol. Surely these are things MPs and the Press should be focusing on rather than trying to find out what the PMs favourite pastry dish is. I am often left confused by the world by this one has left me totally mystified. Rant over, back to the Russian films.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Essays and the like

Apologies for the lack of posts on my blog I am currently snowed under with Uni work, an epic essay and my MA dissertation. Random opinionated pieces will come as and when I have time. In the meantime my postings on Voice of the 7 Billion can be found by clicking here and I leave you with a video from a band whose music oddly seems to be very conducive to my work. Turns out listening to My Chemical Romance induces periods of creativity, clearly my mind is even more of a wonderful thing than I first thought. Who knew.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

It's the day of love, chocolates and glittery cards. It's also the day to tell that special someone just how you feel. Even if love is that last thing on your mind you can still have a great day. Happy Valentine's day everyone!


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bloggers

Earlier today I received this email from the team at Bloggers:
"Dear Laura,

Congratulation!

You have been featured on BLOGGERS as one of the Bloggers of the day. Your profile and Blog "Laura-Rose Saunders " has been showcased in Bloggers Home page (http://bloggers.com). In addition to that you are awarded with Featured bloggers badge on your profile.

Thank you again for your brilliant work. Enjoy the latest features and tell your friends to join this wonderful community.

regards

Thank you
The Bloggers Team"

That's right I can now proudly say that I am a featured blogger. Get in! :)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

In Grant We Trust

At UCL there is currently a motion up for vote that asks members of UCLU whether or not they have confidence in Malcolm Grant as Provost. Below is a video outlining why it is basically ridiculous to doubt having faith in Malcolm Grant as Provost. Apart from his stunning moustache the man has helped to raise UCL from the world's 37th best University to 5th. The list of reasons to support him is long as this video explains:


If anyone from UCL is reading this post please go to the Union website and vote 'yes' to the UCLU having confidence in the Provost.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Hymn of the Week

While at Church today I heard a favourite Hymn of mine that I hadn't heard in ages and thought would share it. It's from the Iona Community up in Scotland and is beautiful.


P.S. Apologies for the lack of proper blog posts moving house has somewhat hampered them. Real posts to follow soon.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A Year in Music

Now that 2011 has officially drawn to a close and 2012 has begun it is a chance to reflect on the past year, learn from last year’s errors, reveal in the joys and accomplishments, and generally reminisce about all that happened to you in the space of 365 days.
In my experience music is the best thing to jog memories so I have compiled a list of the songs that help me remember 2011. The list invokes a mixture of happy and sad memories but no year should be absent from either.

January – Taio Cruz – Dynamite

February – Ya Nichya, Ya Chuzhaya (I have no idea who the artist is but it’s a great Russian dance song)

March – Genesis – In Too Deep

April – Arvo Part – Alina/Kanon Pokajanen (I had 3 X 4000 word essays to write in 5ish weeks and it helped me keep focused while studying)

May – Buddy Holly – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (The UCL Summer Ball was 50’s themed this year and I remember listening to this while revising for my exams)

June – Mumford and Sons – The Cave (I went to visit my friend and her family in Ireland and they always remind me of my trips to Ireland)

July – Biffy Clyro - Bubbles

August – Ed Sheeran – The A Team

September – Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (always makes me think of the night my friend and I went out ‘Chavy’ Clubbing and fell over while trying to dance in high heels)

October – One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

November – Snow Patrol – How to Be Dead (I rediscovered this on my Ipod and spent most of the month listening to it)

December – Michael Bublé - Baby Come Home I have no idea what 2012 will bring as I am not psychic, however, I am hoping to be sat here at the start of 2013 compiling a similar list and reflecting on all that happened to me in 2012.