Let’s just say…

The weekend has not been great.

Not that I want to sit and moan-type it all out, more that it is important to acknowledge that things aren’t going the way you planned, or wanted, and that sometimes it is just simply out of your control.

So the last couple of days have been pretty stressful and chaotic, but the week ahead is shaping up to be a busy and eventful time. I have two hospital placements coming up, one of which will be in the A&E department, as well as a learning forum event that -while I may usually sprint away from social events – I will make myself go to. And not just because they threaten to fine you if you don’t turn up, but it will be a valuable experience. The topic should focus on Parkinson’s Disease and as this is an important condition to understand for my future career, why not grab the opportunity with both hands and head to the event.

University projects are getting pretty heavy lately, and the revision is piling up around me (literally, my table is covered in books and notes so high its like a wall). So when I am not attending these events and placements, I should be hard at work studying. Hopefully it will all pay off some day.

 

So, just a brief update, but when I get more work done I will look to do more things and write them out.

 

 

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Return to River Cottage

At the start of September, I returned to one of my favourite places: River Cottage.

This time round, my sister and I were there for the River Cottage 10th Anniversary Bash and Book Launch – Phew! What a long name, but what a fantastic day. This particular event at River Cottage HQ was to celebrate 10 brilliant years of River Cottage, and to launch the latest cook book that brings together all those years of hard work and culinary expertise.

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One of the greatest draws to this event had to have been the attendance of the fabulous man himself, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. After an hour or so of exploring the Cottage, nibbling on tasty treats and nursing an almost palpable excitement, he appeared.

It was fantastic to watch and listen as he introduced each member of the team who had also contributed to the production of the enormous River Cottage A-Z Guide. He spoke about the book, their hard work and continual efforts.

While we waited for our chance to speak to the team directly, we explored the grounds and tasted the treats. Everywhere we went, we were shown such beauty from the West Country.

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Admiring the freshly picked flowers.

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The Cottage cat, snoozing amidst the excitement.

I was ecstatic to see my jam-making idol again, Pam “The Jam” Corbin. And to meet the gentlemanly head chef, Gill Meller, was also a treat. It was a fantastic opportunity to pick up tips, share excitement and celebrate the years of River Cottage.

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Meeting my culinary idol, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

 

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My sister and I nabbing a quick selfie with Gill Meller.

We had so much delicious and freshly cooked foods to eat, of course. As we continued to explore the Cottage grounds, stations were set up in different corners and enticed you in with such heavenly smells. The chefs themselves stood and prepared a feast before your eyes!

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Divine foods.

Staying until the very last moments, we caught the tractor back up and out of River Cottage. With us in the tractor sat John, Pam and Hugh – I was so nervous with excitement I could barely remember how to form a serious sentence. Everyone was so lovely, so welcoming and I was very sad but content to watch the lights of River Cottage fade away.

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Taking with me my signed copies of their books, and renewed enthusiasm for exploring recipes, I knew I would absolutely be returning again next year.

 

xxx

I should start with an apology…

Sorry! It has been a very long time since my last post, and so much has happened in between then and now that I could spend all day writing updates. For now, I will gather together a few of the big things that have been going on and will be happening…

University

I am now entering my fourth and final (eek!) year of the Master of Pharmacy course at UCL. This upcoming year is going to be crammed full of projects, research, learning and preparing myself for the big wide world.

The biggest challenge recently has been to secure a pre-registration position following my degree. As a requirement of qualifying to practice pharmacy, you have to complete the GPhC registration exam following one year of learning and working in either a community, hospital or industrial setting. Pre-reg places in industry are scarce, so many tackle the hospital and community pharmacy application processes. However, as there are so many of us now, it is exceptionally competitive to get that hospital offer! For me, the process went like this:

Written Application – I spent a long time writing, re-writing and worrying about this. The application is your first line in selling your skills and so crucial to get that balance of professionalism and personality showing through. There were a number of questions that focused on experience and meeting guidelines… it can be tricky to make yourself stand out! So to ensure my written application wasn’t the newest sedative medication, I inflicted my writing on anyone near me. Thankfully, the advice and criticism I received paid off as my refined application took me to the next stage…

Stage 1: The Dreaded Calculations – it is a sad day when you find yourself excited about pharmaceutical calculations… I spent many hours in the days leading up to the Stage 1 (don’t ask why the second step was called stage 1) practicing and preparing for an onslaught of clinical and calculation based questions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite expecting the questions on specific details of the logistics of the pre-reg year. But, though it took me by surprise, I managed to figure out answers and finish on time. At this stage, I was feeling pretty nervous. Just that morning I received two rejection e-mails! Without even having an interview! I was terrified and questioning my entire application… Luckily, my calculation enthusiasm must have paid off because I scored high enough to be called to interview for the hospitals in the South East and London…

Stage 2: Interview time – the dreaded interviews. No hiding. No running. No frantic Google searches for the online thesaurus. It was time to face the potential Big Boss. These interviews involved clinical questions, investigating experience and enthusiasm, even a small role play task to carry out! It was quite nerve wracking. But, to combat my nerves, I had on my battle armour…

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Results – waiting to hear from the hospitals…constantly checking e-mails…nervously pacing… It was the big day. And having had no offers so far, I was getting desperate to secure a place. When the e-mail popped up I was almost too nervous to take in the information – an offer! I had thankfully received an offer from both the South East (Darent Valley Hospital) and from London (Imperial College NHS Trust). I chose what was my very top preference – Imperial Hospitals! Yaaaay!

I am so thankful and excited for my upcoming pre-reg year at one of the Imperial College Hospitals. It is such a relief to know where I will be going in one year, and that it was the hospital trust of my dreams.

Before then, I just have to get through all of these fourth year projects!

xxx

A Review of ‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer

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I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

The Shock of the Fall is a breath-taking debut novel that intertwines the threads of grief, guilt and mental health with the powerful voice of Matt Holmes, a nineteen year old boy suffering from schizophrenia. It is no surprise that it won the Costa prize for best first novel! With beautiful clarity Filer brings to life the narrator within the very first sentence.

“I should say that I am not a nice person.”

Every word of the novel is precisely chosen and carefully constructs the inner universe of Mathew’s mind. We are welcomed into his thoughts, his flaws, his understated acts of kindness, and observe the chaos that slowly takes hold of his life. Filer has cleverly positioned every chapter, piece of dialogue, revelation of plot, to masterfully portray an unravelling psyche and the ever-looming sense of guilt-ridden grief. The Shock of the Fall is a work of stunning skill.

My illness knows everything I know.

Filer thrusts upon you a sense of helplessness, anger, resignation – our role as reader is to realise the societal failures with respect to mental health. These failures, the cracks within the healthcare system and attitude of individuals which entrap the characters of this novel, are reflections of the shameful treatment that is begrudgingly offered to so many today.

And yet, despite the harrowing undertones of mental illness, kitted together with grief, Filer manages to coax out a laugh with his humorous language. Matt’s wit in the face of his own illness peels back the layers of tragedy to show perhaps the one constant light within the novel: the strength of humanity’s spirit.

Not making excuses, but I am a schizophrenic

Beautifully haunting and with refreshingly unique characterisation, I am tempted to reread The Shock of the Fall. There are too few novels which discuss the consequences of mental illness and its treatment, and certainly none with such finesse.

SCORE: 9/10
RECOMMEND: Yes!

A Review of ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

I really wish I could give a better review for a novel I should have been able to relate to. Rowell paints a portrait of a socially withdrawn young girl – Cath – who is absorbed in a world of fanfiction, entering the jungle of university with her twin sister, a passion for writing… This could be me! I thought.

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You’re not the ugly one… You’re just the Clark Kent

Disappointingly, Rowell’s portrait of a protagonist is nothing more than a finger-painting, smeared across a train wreck of tearfully boring plot. I may have been more forgiving of the frustratingly poor quality of writing had the author not thrown Cath out as a scholarship student on a Fiction Writing course. Perhaps this was intended to create an intelligent female lead? Instead, it works to reveal her stupidity, immaturity and naivety. For example, in one chapter Cath argues with her Professor about plagiarism after submitting a piece of fanfiction writing for grading. Her pitiful “I just don’t think you understand” might provoke a little sympathy for her embarrassment, and yet such a monumental error would surely not have been made by a supposed genius. To drive in the nail of embarrassment and contradiction a little further, the consecutive chapters following read more like a string of pathetic excuses rather than intelligent arguments for the celebration of fanfiction.

Do you really expect an elderly English professor to be down with gay Simon Snow fanfiction?

The fetishisation of a homosexual relationship by the use of fanfiction as a awkward foreplay is demeaning to LGBTQA individuals. And yet aside from these long scenes mashing together two stories, the romance is pitifully absent.

Rowell’s disjointed, repetitive writing style stalls the movement of the story on every page. Even the chapters are interrupted with snippets of the focal fandom: Simon Snow novels – a cheap reflection of Harry Potter. No conversation between characters is allowed to progress far without Cath’s outbursts of rudeness that are excused as social anxiety or the traits of being “a weirdo”. Overall the topic of mental health is roughly approached and poorly dealt with. Rowell throws in the father’s mental instability like an afterthought halfway through and fails to represent his condition accurately or with empathy.

Dad? Call me.”
“It’s Cath again. Call me.”
“Dad. Call me. Or call Wren. No, call me.

As a light read, Fangirl is a forgettable novel with predictable plotline and irritating, dislikeable characters. The scattering of sarcastic humour reads like a Tumblr dashboard, with just as much youthful angst and directionless written outpouring. Its only saving grace is the inside illustration of characters, these kept me occupied as I struggled to reach the end.

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SCORE: 2/10
RECOMMEND: Reading some fanfiction to find better quality stories.