Monday, 29 December 2014

Many many roads travelled

I haven't posted anything on this blog for a very, very long time... it's been a bizarre, insanely busy term. I don't know where to begin... I spent the first few weeks basically struggling to deal with mental health issues and come to terms with the loss of somebody really close to me. And then everything exploded. I'm part of several political groups at my university and we have been demonstrating against tuition fees in the UK. There was a big demonstration in London on the 19th of November, which 10,000 students came to from around the country. The march split halfway, and some people continued to the planned rally while others basically ran wild in the streets of London, chased by the riot cops who kept trying to trap them in kettles and just kept failing. It was a peaceful protest on our part. But I saw some horrific police brutality to other protesters. Like 16-year-olds thrown against cars and smashed into the ground so the police could arrest them. Like people arrested after being beaten unconscious.

At Warwick we then staged a peaceful demonstration on our own campus. We went into a building, sat down on the ground (about twenty of us maximum) and had a conversation about free education and what it meant to us. Security said we had to leave but didn't do anything else, just stood there keeping an eye on us. We didn't know they'd called the police... so the cops stormed the protest with CS gas, threatening us with tasers, throwing us around the room and of course we panicked, we were terrified. Three people were arrested from Warwick campus, I don't think this has ever happened before. And CS gas? I got hit full in the face with it, it's terrifying, you can't see, your face is burning. It's never been used on a university campus in the UK before. And all we were doing was sitting on the ground. Even now I don't understand, I can't come to terms with everything that happened. I mean I knew what the police were like. But it's different when it's you they're assaulting. It changes everything.

So yeah, political activism is the reason I haven't been updating this blog very much. That and rock climbing, which I've also been doing a lot of. I should probably do my degree at some point...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Back to university

I started my third year at university a week ago. I'm studying English Literature and this year I have classes in Shakespeare, Film, and Literary and Cultural Theory, which is basically politics and philosophy. I'm also writing a dissertation on the Beat Generation writers. My new house is so lovely, I have this small cosy room that I've been able to cover with my books and posters and it's got this view of gardens and rooftops that could be from any century.

I've spent my time reading (Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky, and Go by John Clellon Holmes); sustaining myself basically on cereal, humus and coffee; demonstrating against capitalism; working on my novel; and trying to get a job. I actually did get one, in this horrible nightclub in my town, but I quit after two shifts. I've also had to come to terms with the fact that it's not as easy to conquer the past as I hoped. But I am determined to make this year a good year - it's my last one as an undergraduate and I've got to do some serious planning for the future...

Where are you now in life? Anyone else starting a new term or a new job? :)

Monday, 1 September 2014

The New Forest

I spent most of August in the New Forest in England, which is one of the oldest forests left in the country. Although I mostly live in Brussels or at Warwick University in the midlands I consider the New Forest to be my real home... my favourite place to go there is the little village of Burley. It's so small there there aren't even any public transport links and since I can't afford driving lessons right now I have to wait on my parents to drive me up. ANYWAY I finally made it... I love Burley mainly because it's witch-themed: it has a long history of witchcraft and a famous witch named Sybil Leek lived there in the 1960s, and is remembered for wandering around under the trees with her tame raven on her shoulder. A lot of the shops sell dark, witchy bits and pieces, and they've got names like 'A Coven of Witches' and basically I love it. I spent a happy two hours there browsing these tiny little shops, unfortunately having to leave a lot of the enormous spell books and Pan statues due to my budget (I quit my summer job because...long story...) but coming away with a good supply of white sage incense and candles.

The other place I love in the Forest is the graveyard in my hometown, Lymington. It's so peaceful there, and so beautiful under the trees :) At night it's especially awesome but I never got round to taking a nighttime photo :)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Book review: The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’, published in 2013, is the story of how a thirteen-year-old boy named Theo sees his whole world destroyed in one cataclysmic instant, and spends the rest of his life struggling to draw together the shattered pieces into a coherent whole. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, both in 2014. Theo Decker lives in Manhattan with his beautiful, dynamic and creative mother Audrey, following their abandonment years before by his alcoholic father. One morning they visit an art gallery, where Audrey wants to show Theo one of her favourite paintings, ‘The Goldfinch’ by Carel Fabritius. Theo catches sight of a red-haired girl carrying a music case, accompanied by an older man, and is immediately attracted to her; he is crossing the gallery to try and get a closer look at her when the bomb explodes.

The explosion is the result of a mystery terrorist attack and it destroys the gallery, killing almost everyone inside, including Theo’s mother. As they lie together in the rubble, the red-haired girl’s dying companion bequeaths Theo his ring, and in a state of confusion and concussion Theo also takes the painting ‘The Goldfinch’ with him as he stumbles out of the ruins.

Theo is initially taken in by a wealthy school friend named Andy, where he uses the ring given him by the old man to track down his business partner Hobie, who runs an antique furniture shop. Here he is also introduced to the girl from the gallery, Pippa, whose physical injuries are far more serious than Theo’s and subject her to years of treatment and rehabilitation. He is then shipped out to Las Vegas to live with his father. Depressed, lonely and grieving, left to his own self-destructive devices, he is befriended by Boris, a tough, damaged and lawless Ukrainian boy. Together they survive by shoplifting to feed themselves and pass the time drinking and experimenting with drugs. All this time Theo is still hiding the stolen painting, obsessively wondering what to do with it, terrified of being exposed and arrested, but unable to let it go.

 Eventually Theo realises that his father only tolerates his presence in the hope of paying off his immense gambling debts with the money from Theo’s mother’s trust fund. Shortly after this hope is crushed due to stipulations in her will, he dies in a car accident, and Theo runs away back to New York to avoid being sent to a care home. He returns to Hobie and eventually ends up running the antique shop with him. As Theo grows up he descends into severe drug addiction and, through initially trying to save Hobie’s business, also becomes embroiled in the murky underworld of antique fraud. When he is threatened by the powerful, ruthless Lucius Reeve, who accuses him not only of having stolen The Goldfinch but also, mysteriously, of passing it around Europe through various different art dealers, Theo begins to panic. His old friend Boris then makes his return into his life, now a wealthy - and criminally-connected - businessman, insisting he can save him.

‘The Goldfinch’ is startlingly clever psychologically, never straying into sentimentality despite its almost archetypal basis: the journey of a young orphan boy cast adrift in the world. Theo is angry, selfish, human, relatable, and, although his situation demands our sympathy, it never clouds our judgement of his actions. This novel, painfully honest, often sardonic and always thought-provoking, charts Theo’s growth from lonely, traumatised young boy to polished, suicidal, unstable adult, forever defined by his childhood loss and by the shadow of the stolen painting. It is a dark and strange story of addiction, obsession, betrayal and beauty, a fable of human emotion and impulse set in opposition to the laws, systems and institutions that people themselves have set up. Theo is not interested in the painting because it is worth so many millions. For him, it forms a psychic link to that devastating moment where his old life was destroyed and when his mother was ripped away from him. The plot hinges on this crucial moment: it is frozen in the painting of The Goldfinch, preserved, blighting the present but giving it purpose and beauty. So long as Theo has the painting, binding him to the past, he is anchored to life; it is a neurotic obsession that might prevent him from moving on but is also all that gives him any reason to do so.

This novel deals with economic inequality, mental illness, violence, governmental inadequacy and social meltdown concealed beneath a polite veneer of money and glamour. Above all it deals with love, and with that “history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire”, irrationally, illegally, simply to answer a strange irresistible call beyond the restrictions of law and order. It is one of the most human books I have ever come across.

By Anna Rivers

Monday, 25 August 2014

Of rainy Augusts and spiced chai latte

I am at home in Belgium where I currently live, and it's freezing and raining and our heating is broken. So I'm taking this opportunity for stripy winter stockings, wearing my Doc Martens all around the house, actually starting thinking about next year's dissertation on the Beat Generation poets, burning incense and of course, tea. In this instance, my sister's Whittard's Spiced Chai Latte which we shared curled up in blankets on the sofa. It's probably not even that cold, but I miss autumn :)

Greetings from Brussels!

Hey, I'm Anna, otherwise known as Ani101, Hurricane Library, Ink and Embers and Little Mocha Witchcraft around the cyberspace. I'm 20 and I'm studying Literature and Film. I live between England and Belgium, I love writing, drawing and music, and I am an incredible bookworm. I'm drawn to anything gothic or punk or magical but I define myself as essentially alternative, it's less limiting. Hallowe'en is my favourite time of year, I drink way too much coffee and tea, my mind has its own unique logic but what I say is often completely random. I travel as much as I can afford-I spent July in China and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life-I'll probably post about that soon.

I intend to use this blog as a forum for lifestyle posts, art and photography, reviews of music, books, movies, for writing about my inspirations and what I find amazing, whether it's Lindsey Stirling, somebody's awesome steampunk dress, a new book by Haruki Murakami or a journey I took to a far-off land (hmm, be it Chile or Narnia...) My primary reason for writing, however, is to regain control over my life and see it through new eyes. I recently went through some very damaging experiences and I came out of it with some life decisions: I am not going to let myself be ruled by others, I am going to stand up for what I believe it and I will never again be silenced. Above all I want to express myself, whoever that is.

So welcome to the Hurricane Library and thanks for reading my first post!

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