What I love the most about reaching the end of a year is not to start looking forward but to look back. Sometimes I find that to move forward, we need to look at how we got to where we are now. I often forget some of the little moments and sometimes looking back on just how much further I've come with each year leaves me feeling both captivated and inspired to make the 365 days to come just as fulfilling. Many people use these final days to plan how they're going to put the New Year to good use where as I, on the other hand, prefer to delve into both my selection box of chocolate and my head full of memories consisting of the times I've enjoyed.

I started 2015 with the same group of friends that I'm going to end it with, there is always something so special about that. I spent the first few seconds of the year surrounded by the people who always help me to be at my happiest and I look forward to spending the last few seconds of the year in that same delusional state of disbelief and happiness. I always find that moment when a town full of people, intoxicated with both alcohol and good feelings, counting down to midnight is a moment that carries with you for the rest of the year. Those last five seconds feel like the longest five seconds in the world.

This year I've not only spent time with old friends but I've also been lucky enough to meet new ones. These past few months have really been about meeting new people and finding myself in situations that I wouldn't normally feel comfortable in. However, from this, I've found myself coping better at times that would normally send me cascading into feeling shy or uneasy. I had it planted in my head that, for me, college would be an absolute disaster. I needn't have worried because I've found friends that I feel like I've know for a much longer timescale than just three months.

Another great part of the past 12 months is that my "live list" has grown substantially. This was something I started a while back and it is as the name implies, a list of musicians that I've been lucky enough to see in concert. This year I went to Beautiful Days festival with Beth and experienced a mixture of old favourites and new discoveries in the middle of a muddy field. Here was where we first encountered the wonder that is Jack Savoretti and we have since then seen him live in Swansea and also currently have tickets booked to see him for a third time in March. We also, for the laughs, found ourself at the front row of a band called Hoffmaestro where we were pushed around like there was no tomorrow. There music was the type that would cause me to grimace in disgust if I had heard it anywhere else yet I found myself enjoying myself beyond anything I can put into words. This festival also meant I was able to see Hudson Taylor for the second time, this time at the barrier, which was also a lovely experience. As aforementioned, I attended a Jack Savoretti gig in October and just a week after I watched American band R5. Both these shows were on a Sunday and the following day I still attended college on very little sleep but the thoughts of the night before gave me enough energy to keep me going. In June I watched Tom Odell for the third time, this time in the middle of a forest as a part of his forest live shows and September was the month that I was able to experience the spiritual journey that was a Florence + The Machine concert. Finally, June 5th was a date that will stick in my head for a long time as I was able to fulfill the dream of my eleven year old self and see One Direction. Every one of these has filled me with so much gratitude and I like to think that they've helped me realise just how much I have. Each one was a stepping stone in my journey to become a more selfless person and to make me realise just how fortunate I am.

I think that a lovely part of 2015, and the loveliest part of the past 5 years that we've been friends, has been Beth. Despite going from seeing each other 6 times to week to now seeing each other around once a week I've never been more happy to have her as my best pal. Even if at parties she manages to disappear for the whole night, knock over Christmas tree's and agree to adopt unborn babies I know that you'll always have time to facetime me. In fact I've never used facetime with anyone else. Katio & Bettiette lives on foreva  

I've watched the sun set from the beach, spent Halloween in Lucy's annexe, danced until who knows what time at night, taken numerous lovely polaroids and even found myself being chased my a mob of angry ducks. But the best part of every single one of these moments is that I always had my pals with me.

Happy New Year to you all and I'll see you in 2016. x

Exeter in the Wintertime

A range of wooden huts draped in their own formation of fairy lights, tinsel and baubles of all forms seem to have left me rather out of pocket this year. There is no denying the fact that the smell of Christmas that now wavers in the air around Exeter's Cathedral has drawn me in far too many times than I like to admit. 

It's obviously that time of the year again. I'm not sure if I feel constantly sick with the over consumption of multiple chocolate bars or just with pure excitement. Probably both. Despite this, nothing has stopped me from spending break after break in Exeter's annual Christmas Market which is sat happily at the foot of the Cathedral until the 19th of December. 

I do worry that I have perhaps spent more time walking around the various stalls than I have in my own home. Just the other week I tucked my camera away in my bag and after my final lesson at three I met Mollie off her train in Exeter Central. By the time we had reached the market it was still light but the sky was full of a couple of suffocating clouds and it wouldn't be long before darkness would set in. After having a quick browse of what delicacies were on offer, we ventured into Princesshay for a quick shop as well as getting a snap or two of their Christmas lights. The city has literally been lit up in the form of polar bears, snowflakes and smaller lights woven between the branches of the tree's that line the streets. By the time we returned to the market the clouds were a deep grey and as we walked these lights seemed to bounce off the eyes of passersby. Despite the quickly darkening sky and the nasty wind this gave everything a layer of warmth. The market had it's own spark.

The small pathways that wove their way between the market stalls were full of people of all ethnicity's. The air was full of a buzz of different voices, languages and emotions. Because, for better or for worse, it's that time of the year where everyone is brought together isn't it. It's Christmas. Tell somebody that you love them. As 2015 draws to a close appreciate the fact that you have people to spend this time of the year with. Be happy, be humble, and most of all always try to be grateful for what you have. Sometimes it's easy to forget there are people in the world worse off than you and for me, realising this is what this year has been about.

Have a wonderful Christmas. x

Review: Contours in Colour / Alan Cotton

Photo taken by Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery.
Credit: https://www.rammuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/pages/view-the-gallery-contours-in-colour 

Being whisked away from the dreary streets of Exeter to witness an early morning on Venice's canal has never been easier. Whether your travels take you to the Peaks of Everest or the rocks of Hartland Quay, Alan Cotton captured the earth in paint for your viewing at Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) this October. The white walls of Gallery 21 were brought to life with a range of landscapes from all over the world and they were in the city centre for no cost until it became time to face November.

Alan Cotton's method of forming these images with painting knives allows his various paintings to emerge from their frame helping compliment the sharpness of a cliff face or the softness of a reflection on water. Walking in, the sound of waves crashing against a shore gives the impression that you've made a wrong turning and ended up in a beach exhibit. It took me a second or two to pinpoint the source of the sound; a video of Cotton set on loop in the corner of the room. He sits contently on a cliff top illustrating how he likes to capture the coastline in his paintings.

Whether you believe a painting can make you feel something or not, Alan Cotton's exhibition left me with an appreciation for art. The pinks and blues of a slowly setting sun or the black and burgundy combination of a blackberry bush have the clear style of Cotton, yet each one differs in it's own way with colour schemes that adapt from piece to piece. I find it difficult to critisice something that I would not be capable of completing myself. Cotton's work left me with an urge to paint and respect for those who do it well. It feels comforting to appreciate the art of others, in whatever way they've expressed themselves, whether it's through paint or words. Cotton's Contours in Colour allows you to do just that.

Autumn at Eden

In primary school it wasn't often that we embarked on a school trip that wasn't to the Eden Project. Visiting it again after quite some time made me feel like I was seven years old again. I can remember running through the Rainforest Biome with my jumper tied around my waist, a forehead damp with sweat and a gappy grin plastered on my face thanks to a recent visit from the tooth fairy. The red cylinder of spikes that are classed as a plant in the picture below is actually the plant I picked to draw for my final art work piece in year 4. I have absolutely no clue what it is called but I didn't want to be like the other girls in my class sketching out pretty pink petals. The red spiky stick would do me nicely.

Nowadays, the jungle of plants at Eden look exactly how I remembered them. I, on the other hand, am probably a bit taller and the gappy grin is a lot more full thanks to numerous dreaded trips to the lair of the Orthodontist. Here are a collection of photographs taken on my more recent stroll amongst the plants.

Review: R5 @ The O2 Academy, Birmingham

Stood amongst a sea of 11 year old girls in homemade t-shirts at 7pm on a Sunday night made me feel like I had taken a wrong turning. I'd meant to arrive at an R5 gig yet I seemed to have ended up at one of my old Year 6 discos where we'd stick a disco ball to the roof and decorate the hall with tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Although Birmingham's O2 was lacking in the arts and crafts we did have a disco ball to send dots of light across the room which, in addition, decorated the young girl's faces as if the glitter smeared across their foreheads was not quite enough.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn't actually there to rock out to the YMCA. I was there to listen to some proper music (no offence to any fans of the Village People, if any actually exist) in the form of R5. The American 5 piece were kicking off the UK leg of their tour in Birmingham and my friend Mollie and I were not going to miss out. Having released their new album Sometime Last Night previously this year they've spent the last few months touring America and Europe and despite the fact I can only name about 2 people who are aware of their existence they had quite a turnout. Due to most of their time being spent in America it is easy to forget that you're not the only people in the country that listens to their music.

However misleading the young fans may be- R5 isn't just for youngsters. Their music is a blend of both rock and pop and captures energy at is fullest. Their new album has taken a more mature approach to music than the last with a majority of songs written or contributed to by the members. The album is based upon real life stories and focuses on the idea that life is something you should experience at it's fullest. The band, consisting of Riker Lynch, Ross Lynch, Rydel Lynch, Rocky Lynch and Ellington Ratliff, all play their own instruments and contribute vocally. Their voices are complimented by a mixture of rhythm guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.

After 4 hours in the back of a car, we arrived in Birmingham at half past 5 expecting nobody to be queueing at such an early time seen as the doors didn't open for another hour and a half. How naive we were. From the small forts of blankets and pizza boxes strewn across the floor it gave the impression that the clusters of people outside had been waiting for quite some time. By the time we got inside out of the cold we were situated about 10 rows back and the smell of perfume and sweat seemed to waver in the air. These girls had really put the effort in an attempt to bag a date with lead singer Ross Lynch- who, may I add, was almost twice their age.

Support came from Ryland Lynch, brother to four of the bands five members, who showcased his DJing abilities through a range of charts songs. Most people who know me well are aware that the thought of listening to the majority of chart songs makes me shiver and I can barely sit through even the chorus of Maroon 5's Sugar. However, the way he had adapted them had me singing along too. The fact that the range of songs were current meant the crowd could scream the words to their full potential and it became clear that a room of 11 year old girls did have it's perks- they weren't afraid to enjoy themselves and they weren't stupidly tall. Result.

At about half past 8 R5 walked on stage. This small action was reciprocated with screams so loud I had to physically block my ears in fear of having to attend college the following day with failed hearing. Glancing around there were a mixture of eyes full of both tears and admiration, but don't be tricked into thinking these 11 year old fans are innocent. They're far from it. It wasn't until part way through that they unleashed their full potential. Screaming "Take your top off!!!" and "Daddy!!!" not only made me gag a bit but also made me sad. A favourite song of mine, Repeating Days, finishes with a solo piece from Ross that has so much emotion carried through it. It was a moment I waited for in anticipation but squeals and obscene shouts muffled the sound. I can't really complain because we all know I was once 13 years old at a Midnight Beast concert crying with happiness into my own homemade top but I just wish they'd allowed themselves to enjoy the music a bit more.

Despite the crowd, the night was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. The actions of those around us were ultimately seen as a bit of pre-show entertainment and we were really there to listen to the live music. R5 filled the room with sound for about 2 hours. Their 17 song set list consisted of a mix of songs from their new album, some older favourites and a cover of Kings of Leon's Sex On Fire. They opened up with All Night, the first track from their new album, which set the scene for what was to come.

I'm never one to pick a highlight with ease but Repeating Days and Dark Side did stick out to me. Another treat was when Rydel left the safety of her keyboard part way through the evening and took to centre stage to sing Lightning Strikes where she was full of effervescence, a feeling that was shared with the crowd. The night came to a close after a two piece encore of Aint No Way We're Going Home and Smile before the band proceeded to chuck guitar picks, set lists and Riker's sweaty towel into the crowd. If anyone has any information on which of the seven 13 year old girls won the towel please get in touch with me because I would love to know if they stood their shouting at each other and yanking it for long after I left. Mollie and I stood watching (and filming) them for a good five minutes as they screamed abuse at each other in a never ending game of tug of war. Why they wanted a towel covered in sweat is beyond me when they could probably pick up a decent clean one for a couple of pounds in Sainsburys.

As the night drew to a close, Mollie and I stood outside dancing around in the dark waiting to be picked up, and it was clear in my head that R5 really was the best year 6 disco I'd ever attended. What an achievement.