Life During COVID Archive

By Ciéra Cree – People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19…

By Ciéra Cree

People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19.

The digital archive, which shall be known as ‘Life During Covid’, is being compiled by Dr Ceri Wilson, alongside Dr Pauline Lane, Rebecca Chandler and Dr Julie Teatheredge. This project has been funded by the Anglia Ruskin University Research and Innovation Support Fund and is operating as an extension of StoryLab’s initiative ‘The Frontline’, where stories of frontline workers during the pandemic have additionally been collected. Both of these archives will result in the production of insightful historical compilations that can be looked back on in the years to come.

“We are living in unprecedented times and everyone is trying to overcome their own challenges during this global pandemic. It is a time of reduced social contact, of isolation and concern, but there will also be positive stories that have come out of lockdown too.”

ARU Researchers

The appeal is specifically seeking to hear stories from certain groups of people to remain in line with work paralleling the efforts of ARU’s Positive Ageing Research Institute (PARI) and academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Thus, the stories being sought after are namely concerning those who are shielding and over the age of 65, those who are 18+ and have been identified as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, parents of children identified as vulnerable, and unpaid family carers of people who are living with dementia. 

If you know anyone who falls into these categories that wishes to become involved they can upload their stories, photos, artwork or videos to https://lifeduringcovid.org/. The tales uploaded there will then be published online for public viewing, and will potentially become a part of the formation of a longer audio-visual documentary reflecting on the COVID-19 period. Although the uploads shall be public and also go on to inform future research publications and presentations, none of the participants will be identified by name in any reporting of the findings.

‘We hope [that] this initiative will give vulnerable communities a voice, empowering them to share their own unique perspectives during the outbreak.’

For more information about contributing to the ‘Life During Covid’ archive, or if you would prefer to submit your story via email, please get in touch with Dr Ceri Wilson at ceri.wilson@anglia.ac.uk.

Keep up with the ‘Life During Covid’ Twitter page here.

*Deadline for submissions is July 31st, 2020*

Image: De an Sun on Unsplash

‘Normal People’ (BBC) – Series Overview

By Lily Brown – University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their…

By Lily Brown

University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their parents and it can be a time to meet new people, explore new things and learn a few things along the way.

Normal People, originally a novel by Sally Rooney, and recently adapted into a twelve-part series for BBC Three follows the relationship and lives of Marianne and Connell, a young couple from Sligo. The novel and series chronicles their on/off relationship through sixth form and then university and through happy, traumatic and challenging moments in both of their lives.

For me, this story of young love rang true not only because their relationship was complicated and fraught with misunderstandings as well as romance and passion but because it dealt with some of the more difficult and challenging aspects of university life. For Marianne, university is, initially, a revelation. She has gone from being a strong but socially isolated teenager in sixth form, to be an adored member of a friendship group and girlfriend to an enthusiastic member of the university debate team. She is being recognised for her intelligence and admired for her beauty in ways that she never was at school, and at first, she enjoys the attention and the friendships she has gained. She grows in confidence and blossoms into a person somewhat unrecognisable from her school days. However, her initial relationship ends and she soon finds herself involved with Jamie who resents her friendship with Connell and eventually the relationship ends on particularly bad terms. On her return to university after studying abroad she finds herself without her big group of friends but knowing who her true friends are.  

Connell too, experiences hardships that he never could have dreamt of at school where he was popular with the lads in his year group and admired by the most popular girls in school. He is a star player on the Gaelic football team and attends every social event. However, even at these early stages in the narrative, we are given a glimpse into his insecurities. Even though he clearly likes Marianne, he is paralysed with fear at the thought of admitting to his friends that he wants to be with her, and he allows this to guide his actions towards Marianne.

At university, these feelings of insecurity only worsen and evolve into loneliness and isolation. His depression starts to affect his relationship with his girlfriend, Helen. His friend Niall recommends seeking help and we see Connell starting to work through his feelings around his friend’s death and his own vulnerabilities. The issue of mental health problems faced by university students at every level has been highlighted in the media over the past few years and this representation of Connell recognising and seeking help is important for those experiencing similar problems while at university.

Towards the end of the series we see Connell and Marianne really begin to settle into university life and into the friendships and relationships they have developed over their time there. Through the encouragement and support he receives from Marianne; Connell decides to accept a place on a course at a university in New York. The series shows lots of positive aspects of university life including parties and opportunities to study abroad and it balances with realistic and sympathetic portrayals of the hard work and dedication that goes in to studying and living at university.

Image: The Guardian

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ by Sarah J. Maas (2015) – Book Series Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I first read this series sometime around September 2018 and immediately fell in love with it. I’d bought it for the hype and picked it up…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“To the stars that listen – and dreams that are answered.”

I first read this series sometime around September 2018 and immediately fell in love with it. I’d bought it for the hype and picked it up to read because the covers were pretty (I like to judge books by their covers sometimes), and the titles were intriguing. That being said, I have absolutely no regrets about it. What instantly roped me in was the rich vocabulary used by Maas, evident from the very first paragraph of the first book. It got progressively better as the plot proceeded forward. The world-building was done very efficiently with no major loopholes and the character descriptions were amazing.

It started off as a Beauty and the Beast retelling and bloomed into a vast world of exhilarating adventures. It has the perfect blend of fantasy, action, adventure, comedy, and romance.  As someone who devours fantasy novels and loves to be introduced to new worlds, this series felt like I’d hit the jackpot. It used some existing fairy-tale creatures, but it gave new attributes to them; for example, Faeries can lie, and iron doesn’t have any effect on them whatsoever, but it also introduces a whole lot of new creatures as well. Add that to the various mysteries that need to be unravelled, the need to break ancient curses, and save the world; lo and behold, you’ve got my complete, unadulterated attention, and more!

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I recently reread the entire series to get over a reading slump, and boy did it work! Always trust an S.J.M. series to solve all your problems, I say. Though as much as I enjoyed the series the first-time round, I must say, the joy of reading it all a second time was enormous. Now, if it was due to the fact that I already knew what was going to happen next or that my level of comprehension had increased over the last two years, I don’t know. But it was an awesome feeling to finally note all the subtle foreshadowing hundreds of pages before certain events took place, and just the sheer pleasure of sinking into a familiar world that I already loved, but one that I could now appreciate on a different level.

I will include just a single spoiler. As a masochistic reader who loves to torture herself by actively seeking out spoilers, let me say something to all the readers who ship Feylin: I’ve got a Feylin, and y’all are going to be sorely disappointed in the second book. Because, hello, do you even know the author? It’s your mistake in the first place to assume the first love interest is going to be the same by the endgame. Choosing your OTP from the very first (sometimes even second or third) book of an SJM series is a bad, bad idea for your heart; always remember that.

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As a whole, the series has got diverse representation as well as brave and courageous characters that don’t let the demons of their past dictate their present and future. It also has plenty of strange creatures that end up playing important roles in the plot, and characters that will make you gush over them for all of eternity. Not to forget about the breath-taking visuals and nail-biting experiences either.

It had me roaring with laughter, cackling like a witch, shrieking like a banshee, crying like my world had ended, among others in random moments; to a point, my parents were genuinely concerned about my sanity. Now, I am known to break into a fit of giggles at certain funny moments, but this series roped me into its world so thoroughly, I became no more than a slave at the hands of the book. I’d have added a few more details and thoughts to this section but doing so would mean dropping a lot of spoilers. Rest assured, it’s good.

So basically, what I’ve been trying to convey from the very beginning is that you should stop whatever it is you’re doing and get started on this incredible series which I’m more than positive will completely change your life. By the end, you will be a new person with a good bounty of trauma due to the deaths and the wars, and pining over the characters who will spend the rest of their lives longing for a Rhysand of their own, but I promise it is all worth it.

Extended review, with spoilers, available on Soyeenka’s website.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra

Identity: The ‘Who Am I’ Project (BBC Voices, 2020)

By Ciéra Cree – In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of…

By Ciéra Cree

In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of yourself surrounded by items that link to who you are. This photo would then be posted onto their social media along with a one minute voice over discussing the photo.

As soon as I heard about this project I was keen to get involved. I enjoy participating in projects anyway but there was something particularly intriguing about trying to capture an identity within a single image. It was also interesting to see a project like this taking to Instagram and I really liked how the one minute length would perfectly suit the platform.

Quite a few ideas raced around my head initially before taking any photographs. I wanted to make my photo visually appealing and clever but at the same time I didn’t want to make it seem overly constructed to the point that it would detract from the main point of the task itself. This project isn’t about taking a perfect photo, it’s about taking one that captures your identity, and as humans we are all flawed.

Eventually I decided to take my photo laying down to reflect my “grounded” nature as well as the fact that I often dream. I surrounded myself with a number of items including some of my favourite novels, an anthology of love poetry that I’ve been published in, some philosophy books, a camera, a pair of binoculars, a scented candle, and some handwritten letters.

When shooting photos for this it took a little while to figure out the best way to go about it and the right way to space the items within the frame. At first I placed objects around my entire body but this proved to work less effectively than placing them closer together. In my final version the image is more zoomed in and I decided to add in a thought bubble which says the word ‘dreams’ to more fluently connect to the fact that my eyes are shut as I’m laying there dreaming.

After the photoshoot was over I went home to record the one minute audio accompaniment for the image. I scripted up what I planned to say before taking the photos as writing it prior to the shoot helped me to visualise how I wanted my identity portrayal to look. In a way a minute is a long time in regards to how many words you can script but, when undertaking this project, I quickly realised that I had to be somewhat concise as there’s so much that can be said about ‘identity’. My final dialogue came out as follows:

‘Hi, I’m Ciéra. I’m 20 years old and live in a quiet little village called Beeston. I’m a person with unapologetic passion and an unending trail of ideas. From poetry and photography to singing, songwriting and writing articles, the desire to create within me will never die. I think a lot, especially philosophically, and I feel a lot too. At times these depths are my enemy but as I’ve grown older I have started to learn how to embrace them as my own. I have an affinity for old fashioned things such as handwritten letters and vintage dresses, and an incredible sense of adoration for the sky. I do my best to be a grateful person and appreciate each moment as much as possible, although it isn’t always easy. My heart is soft, I love hugs and giggle way too much, and I dream nearly every night. Who knows, maybe you will appear in one someday.’

I did my best to think about small details within the piece. For example, the blue book next to me called ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ is not only a favourite book of mine, but it also linked well to where my audio accompaniment mentioned that I have ‘an incredible sense of adoration for the sky’

My advice to anyone who is potentially interested in a project like this is to think about what you’re going to do but to simultaneously try not to overthink it. When you ponder your identity what are the first thoughts and ideas that come to mind? What resonates with you?

For more details on the project and to view people’s submissions visit @norfolkthesocial

Images: Ciéra Cree, Aidan Drury and K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

‘Geekerella’ by Ashley Poston (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I picked up this Ashley Poston book with no expectations at all and ended up being pleasantly surprised. First of all, I liked the dog, Franco, and I am…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“We’re all geeks here.”

I picked up this Ashley Poston book with no expectations at all and ended up being pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I liked the dog, Franco, and I am not a dog person. I didn’t like the dog, but we can keep him, yanno? He is tolerable enough to roll around and get treats periodically. Initially, I felt bad for the conditions he was living in, but that concern soon turned into, ‘Buddy’s living the life after all, huh?’ when he gets refuge in the food truck.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

Before I dive into it completely, I need to gush about the actual book itself; not just the plot. The paperback has got some serious weight to it, unlike most of the other paperbacks, and it feels so good to touch. Not to forget, the pages.. oh, the pages! I am absolutely in love with the paper used– so opaque, so smooth, so white, so thick. Even if the plot were boring (which I assure you, it isn’t) I would have loved the book all the same.

I quickly read a couple of chapters after first receiving it, getting to know how a normal day goes in the lives of Elle and Darien respectively. Though I got caught up in the stuff of another fandom so I had to put it down to resume later. But once I woke up the next day (it was almost evening), the neon green bookmark inside of the sleek paperback called out to me and I got started in earnest.

The pages started to turn quickly once I got into the book, though I became so absorbed in the story at one point, I didn’t realise it was time for supper (partly because the table clock wasn’t working). Though I put that down to the classic ‘just one more chapter’ excuse which had me finishing the rest of the book in one sitting thanks to it’s perfect bite-sized chapters. They’re short enough to feel the need to read just one more, but not long enough that you’ll want to take a break at any point in between.

The cover of Geekerella, arranged artistically

Now, let’s talk about the plot. The title not-so-subtly alludes to the fact that this is a Cinderella retelling, and that the main character is a geek. It started off with a fellow fangirl, Elle (short for Danielle) being completely upset over the person who’s been cast as her favourite character, Prince Carmindor from Starfield (haven’t we all felt the same at some point of our lives? Though I’m not in the fandom yet, I’ve heard the Percy Jackson and the Olympians movies were more than disappointing for the fans). There was this line that made me snicker delightedly, when Elle says she slammed on the ‘end’ button so hard she thought she fractured her finger (for context, she’d never talked to Car, aka Darien, over the phone and he’d just said “Hello” after Sage called him from her phone).

I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but knowing me, that’ll be futile. Here goes nothing.

I hate Catherine and Chloe. I didn’t completely despise Cal from the beginning, but I wasn’t all ‘you go, gurl’ about her either.  I started full-on detesting Chloe when she destroyed the Prince Carmindor costume, crown, and ExcelsiCon tickets. From there, I was like, “Oh goodness, you’re dead meat from now on. Why are you still alive?” before I remembered that this wasn’t a fantasy novel where the death of a character is perfectly normal. But let’s not sour our mood by talking about her; let’s talk about Sage. Can we talk about how badass she is? Breaking the rules to fulfil the dream of your friend, helping her alter her costume, making her a crown from scratch? I know I’ve got the order wrong here, but heck if I care! I don’t care how horrendously fast she drives that pumpkin of a van and how green it makes Darien’s face riding it, but that girl’s it, man! Sage is one of the best best-friend characters I’ve ever read, and I’m positive she’ll make an awesome fashion designer someday. Also, I do ship Sage and Cal (who thought Cal would have a decent character arc, hmm?) 

What do I say about Darien? He wasn’t this perfect, flawless Prince Charming but an awkward, dorky, and realistic teenager who I completely adored. It was such a refreshing change. All the while I sort of liked him and thought he was cute and really nerdy (which is a very good thing in my book), but when he defended Elle in front of Chloe at the Cosplay Ball? I loved him from that moment on. He started being brave and taking matters into his own hands – that was amazing, especially when he fired Mark and promoted Gail; both of them deserved their respective fates. And when he decided to drop everything and go after his girl? Hell yeah, Elle had to take him back – I was rooting for him, in the end!

The whole novel went by a breeze – almost like a dream. But it was so much more than that, so much better than that. It showed me a hidden side of an actor’s life, one we rarely get to see. It described just how much a celebrity can differ from their “on-screen” persona and how much more there is to them; not just the characters they portray. It shows you how much stress you can relieve if only you have someone to talk to. It showed me that you don’t always have to be alone; you can let people in, trust them, and show them pieces of yourself which you’ve been hiding away for so long. It reminds me of how much friends matter in life, no matter what narrow-minded and fake people like Catherine think – it’s not the colour of your hair-dye, or your haircut, or your piercings, or the orientation of a person that matters, but the heart of the person; to be a good friend, like Sage. It told me how it’s never too late to stand up for yourself and stop following around ‘popular’ people, like Calliope. Also, it told me that it’s not blood that decides who’s family, but the bond. Clearly, Gail and Lonny were more of a family to Dare than Mark ever was. 

In the blurb, the book is described as “Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, GEEKERELLA is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom,” and I couldn’t agree more. It has captured the perfect feeling of being absorbed in a fantasy world, a fandom so much that it begins to become a huge part of you, who you are, how you are. It has captured the soul of a true fangirl flawlessly, and that’s no small feat. It was most definitely a modern-day fairy tale, not entirely following the same pattern as countless other Cinderella retellings, but with it’s own little twist which I totally appreciated. Additionally, this is one of the few times when my favourite characters aren’t necessarily the main characters (i.e. Sage). I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Elle and wholly dote on Dare, but that girl’s something.

This book is for everyone out there who feels out of place anywhere else except in the presence of like-minded people from your fandom. It is for those people who think nothing ever goes right in their lives, those who are misunderstood and underestimated because of their age, those who feel powerless to rebel against the status quo out of respect and fear, those who feel alone in this wide, wide world with no one who cares for them, and for those whose parents who tell you that you can’t learn anything about the “real world” from a work of fantasy. It’ll have you gushing for its cuteness whilst simultaneously reflecting upon its depth.

“This book is for everyone who loves fictional characters, and for everyone who still carries hope for a better world in the darkest of times.”

So if you’re ever feeling suffocated in life, need a light-hearted read, identify as one of the someones I’ve listed above, or just want a good book recommendation, then, please, go and put a smile on your face and devour this book.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra

ARU Unity Zine Launch

By Ciéra Cree – Shortly after returning home on the 29th of March, I came up with an idea to create a zine. At first, I reached out for submissions on the ARU Together…

By Ciéra Cree

Shortly after returning home on the 29th of March, I came up with an idea to create a zine.

At first, I reached out for submissions on the ARU Together Facebook group without thinking too much about it. The intention was to gauge the interest of students who would like to see their poetry, photographs, and artwork, published in a small, one-time community zine, and then to proceed to gather the content.

A few months later, I launched the #ARUnity hashtag asking students and staff members to share their memorable moments from university this year. And while I thought that these would both prove to be positive initiatives, the idea of incorporating the hashtag into the zine fell into place shortly thereafter.

“This year at ARU, I loved The Ruskin Journal and the Creative Writing Society’s Open Mic Night. It was so lovely to see everyone come together and we all had so much fun! #ARUnity”

Gabs Bennington (2019/20 Treasurer – The Ruskin Journal)

You may have seen the #ARUnity hashtag floating around on the Journal’s social media, or you may have messaged me a moment yourself – many of you did! I’ve included some examples at the end of this post.

The ARU Unity Zine contains a wide assortment of creative pieces from a variety of talented people, as well as all of the hashtag moments from the #ARUnity campaign. From poetry and photography to paintings and more, the zine features little bursts of thought-provoking material that I feel privileged to have chosen for this project.

I have never made a zine before, I am not a graphic designer, and due to the pandemic, I had limited resources. It was tricky at times, and I don’t recommend that you use Google Docs for things like this, but in a way, the difficulties I encountered made doing this feel all the more rewarding to me.

One of my favourite parts about this project, aside from seeing everything come together, was the fact that it wasn’t just students from ARU that got involved. Among its many contributors we have friends, friends-of-friends, people from other universities including Fine Art student Loti Armstrong from London’s Central Saint Martins, and even writers living in other countries such as Anushka Dey from India, and Tiago Ramos from Portugal! I am proud to have done my bit to further encapsulate the theme of unity in this way.

So here it is, the ARU Unity Zine! Thanks to everybody who took part and I hope that those who pick it up will enjoy it too.

Download the zine here.

Images: Ciéra Cree & Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

‘Storm and Silence’ by Robert Thier (2016) – Book Series Review

By Anushka Dey – I know many of you must be scrunching your nose at the mention of the Victorian era; some of you may already be imagining women in hoop skirts…

By Anushka Dey

Have you ever related to a nineteen-year-old girl from the nineteenth century?

I know many of you must be scrunching your nose at the mention of the Victorian era; some of you may already be imagining women in hoop skirts and men in funny trousers waltzing around a grand ballroom. How can anyone from the twenty-first century relate to those upper-class stereotypes of a by-gone age? But l bet you, when you read the ‘Storm and Silence’ series by Robert Thier – or as some readers call him, Sir Rob – you will definitely want to relate to some of them.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

Lillian Linton is a nineteen-year-old free-spirited, fiery, feminist. When, for most members of the ‘fair sex’, the expectation is to look fashionable, get married to a wealthy man, and be a ‘good little wife’, Lilly’s longing for freedom makes her quite a unique exception. While the courage and wit she shows throughout the series is commendable, it’s her rich and colourful vocabulary mixed with ear-burning insults, sass, and sarcasm that makes readers absolutely fall in love with her character.

Amid her quest for equality, Lilly goes to the polling station in the guise of a man, and a chance encounter with a mysterious figure changes her whole life. This ‘mysterious man’ is Mr Rikkard Ambrose, the richest man in the British Empire (emphasis on “the”). After a hasty interaction with Lilly, he finds the very attributes he was looking for in a personal assistant and considers her as a suitable ‘man’ for the job. Soon after parting, when her true identity is revealed, she is arrested; the business mogul is left astounded.

After discovering her true gender, Mr Ambrose initially denies granting her the job, but sharp-witted Lilly plays up to his honour as a gentleman. Mr Ambrose then, being a man of his word, has to employ her, under the conditions that she pretends to be a man when working in his office, to save his reputation. Very tactful of him, isn’t it?

Besides being a devious businessman, Mr Ambrose has a ruthless, intimidating demeanour. A man shrouded in mystery, his very name demands respect and is capable of inflicting fear into others. Clad in his ‘ten-year-old mint condition tailcoat, he stands as an utterly stingy, penny-pinching miser in almost every way possible.

When it comes to women and romance, he, like most other men of that time and class, believes that women are incapable of work and that their place is indoors (in Lilly’s words, he is a ‘chauvinistic son of a bachelor’). His beliefs and continuous threats to his livelihood even makes him attempt to fire ‘Mr Linton’, Lilly’s false persona, several times throughout the series.

Later on in the series, we have the rare pleasure of finding out that the mighty Mr Ambrose’s plans go to waste, but the dangers which he perceives aren’t as imaginary as they once seemed. With the threat of his greatest business rival, Lord Dalgliesh, or more aptly ‘Dog Leash’, Lilly and Ambrose must venture forth into foreign lands. Their only constant companion is Karim, Mr Ambrose’s devoted right-hand man and bodyguard. Each life-threatening expedition helps to grow the relationship between Lilly and Ambrose, gradually evolving it into something deeper. Lillian becomes determined not to leave the side of her employer through these deadly missions for reasons that the author leaves unexamined for the most part.

Through the books, we notice how bit-by-bit, from bickering and bantering, Lilly and Ambrose gradually develop a grudging respect for each other. It’s fun to behold Lilly battling with her unacknowledged attraction towards her granite statue for an employer. Her inner monologue is the most amusing part of this particular sub-plot. Her wanting to ‘drown in his dark ocean eyes’ and then immediately cursing herself for having such thoughts: how she describes Rikkard Ambrose is as ‘a manly man with a lot of mannishness in his manliness’; how she finds moments spent with her ‘Dicky Dum Dums’ somehow more precious and wonderful than the chocolate that she most adores.

However, Lilly isn’t the only one wrestling with her feelings. The mighty Ambrose is observed to be constantly reminding himself that it is a ‘he’, not ‘she’, for avoiding ‘distractions’. It is a journey where you realise that these two people are not polar opposites, but complementary to each other.

Whereas Lilly is a shameless self-expresser, Rikkard is mostly the master of silence. When an impish grin plays on Lilly’s lips, there is a cold emotionless mask on Ambrose’ face. Lilly with her volcanic anger and Ambrose with his icy disdain. We slowly observe how Mr Rikkard Ambrose, a source of curt, cold commands, becomes a source of warmth, comfort, and eventually, love. We see how, from Mr Ambrose’ personal assistant, Lily becomes ‘his little ifrit’.

I wouldn’t be doing the story justice if l were to skip the sweet and sour relationship of ‘Prince Fragrant Yellow Flower in Happy Moonlight’ and ‘Woman Worse Than Ifrit’. Ohh! I was only talking about Karim and Lillian in their respective nicknames that they gave each other. Cute, isn’t it? They hate each other’s guts until dangers around the corner, and the childish and teasing nature of their relationship truly shines in some scenes.

Now, when you have a suffrage group to lead, work full-time for a cold block of stone of a man, and have suitors to dissuade, you definitely need some entertainment in your life, don’t you? Luckily, our heroine has her little sister Ella and Edmund’s gooey twilight trysts to witness. Ella and Edmund’s relationship is quite a stark contrast to the romantic relationship between Rikkard and Lillian. It is saccharine and superfluous, but one thing remains in common: in both of them, love is always blooming, whether it’s put to words or not.

So, how will Lilly survive in a world regulated by the unwritten rule of knowledge is power, is time, is money’? How does Lilly deal with those arctic glares from Ambrose’ ocean-coloured eyes? What excuses will she make to her aunt, her beloved sister Ella, and her dear suffragist friends for her regular absence due to work? How will she avoid a bunch of crazy suitors when her aunt’s prying eyes are always in search of eligible bachelors to marry both Lilly and her five other sisters off to? Is there really a ‘guardian angel’ that is protecting Lilly from these unwanted suitors? Or, better question, is it the work of a divine entity, or a certain someone? Is it merely rivalry for the business that makes Dalgliesh the greatest nemesis of Rikkard Ambrose, or is there a different story? Was Mr Ambrose always a stone-cold man? If not, then what was his past?

For the curious and the inquisitive, l recommend that you read this series. It’s a journey full of humour, thrilling adventures, slow-burning romance, with the rich knowledge of etiquette, vocabulary and mannerisms of the Victorian-era being a bonus.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

Project Restart: The Return of the Premier League

By Ryan Senior – Football is not just a sport, it can be both a passion and an outlet where fans can forget all about their worries and cheer on their favourite team for ninety…

By Ryan Senior

Football is not just a sport, it can be both a passion and an outlet where fans can forget all about their worries and cheer on their favourite team for ninety long minutes. So, when the final whistle went at the King Power Stadium on the 9th March between Leicester City and Aston Villa, who would’ve thought that this would be the last kick off a ball on a football pitch for months.

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted all areas of life, including the beautiful game itself. On March 13th, the English footballing pyramid seasons were halted due to an agreement between the FA, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, and FA Women’s Championship. Furthermore, on the 3rd April, the FA decided the leagues would be postponed indefinitely. 10 weeks later, the government and the FA have been working together to create a procedure, around the current Covid-19 guidelines, on how to run football training sessions in small groups leading to an eventual return to full squad training sessions.

With the first stage precautions put in place, Premiership clubs started to return to training on May 19th. The procedures for this included twice-a-week Covid-19 tests on the players and Club staff, with the first round of testing proceeded on May 17-18th. The players who returned to training were restricted to training in groups of 5 with no contact training capped at 75 minutes per session. And the second stage of precautions was introduced due to a unanimous vote between clubs on May 27th. The introduction of contact training included tackling and aerial duels while still minimizing unnecessary close contact between players

The premier league announced the league will return on the weekend of June 17-18th, with matches being played behind closed doors. The premier league returns with a mouth-watering tie with Arsenal travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face current EPL champions Manchester City, while Aston Villa play host to Dash Wilders Sheffield United. Whereas all of the remaining 92 Premier League fixtures will be broadcasted across 4 broadcasting networks including BT Sport, Sky Sports, BBC, and Amazon UK, with 29 of them broadcast on free-to-air TV.

But what can we expect from the returning games?

The Premier League isn’t the first league to return; there has already been football being played in Germany (Bundesliga) and in South Korea (K-League). Within these respective leagues, there have been different approaches to try to give a sense of normality by clubs. Football teams across Germany have been playing fan noises in the stadium and Borussia Monchengladbach has gone as far as to allow fans to pay to have a cardboard cut-out of themselves placed in the stands.

On the pitch, the quality of football has been good with hardly any players showing a lack of match fitness. Home advantage has been non-existent in the first 37 games of the Bundesliga season, as the away side has won 51% (19 Wins) of their matches compared to the home sides 19% (7 Wins) wins, with the rest of the games being draws 30% (11 Draws). Though the effects of playing behind closed doors have had a greater impact on the home teams and the fans watching at home.

With the upcoming fixtures for the Premier League season, there’s still been criticism from players, staff, and Football clubs regarding the eventual return of the game. Players such as Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and Watford’s Troy Deeney have raised their concerns about returning to the pitch due to the health risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the impact of those risks on their families. Even so, both said players have returned to training this past week. There has been discussion about the possibility of scrapping relegation for this season due to up to 10 clubs have expressed their concerns around this issue.

There will be more on this story as it develops, especially as we get closer to this year’s Premier League season.

Image: Thomas Serer on Unsplash

K-POP x Fandom Society’s Lockdown Activities – Society Showcase

By Jannah Campbell-Williams – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the K-POP and Fandom societies have been doing all that they can to keep their activities running smoothly…

By Jannah Campbell-Williams – K-POP & Fandom Society

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the K-POP and Fandom societies have been doing all that they can to keep their activities running smoothly. In times like these, we feel that it is more important than ever to stay engaged with the outside world, even if it has to be done through a screen due to our current circumstances. We also believe that it is important to give people something to do through an activity schedule – it helps cure the inevitable bouts of lockdown boredom, it keeps your brain active, and it helps you to remember what day it is.

Weekly Kahoot Quizzes

To that end, the society has been hosting our regular Kahoot quizzes online. The K-POP Society Kahoot takes place every Wednesday at 3 PM, with questions based on K-POP (obviously), and the winner receives a £20 Amazon Gift Voucher each week! Alternatively, the Fandom Society Kahoot takes place every Saturday at 5 PM with questions based on a variety of topics such as movies, TV series, books, comics, and even games!

Both events are hosted live on Instagram, though if you can’t make it, don’t worry, both societies have set-up a number of interactive games to play on their respective Instagram stories as well – be it a game of Guess Who, or Drop One, Save One!

Follow @arukpopcam and @fandomsociety_aru on Instagram to get involved! Everyone’s welcome to join in, so we hope to see you there!

Images: Jannah Campbell-Williams & Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Hobbies in Lockdown

By Lily Brown – The lockdown has meant many of us have more time to fill when we would usually be commuting into university and socialising with friends. As well as bingeing Netflix series’…

By Lily Brown

The lockdown has meant many of us have more time to fill when we would usually be commuting into university and socialising with friends. As well as bingeing Netflix series’ and attending hundreds of Zoom quizzes, I’ve taken up some new hobbies and revisited some old ones, to fill some of the time.

Knitting 

I first learnt to knit when I was about 12 years old. My grandmother taught me how to cast on, and how to do a basic knit stitch, and I knitted a scarf for my toy dog. For years I didn’t knit at all, but a couple of years ago I decided to try again. I bought a book with some projects for beginners and watched a couple of YouTube videos to remind me of what I had learnt years before. 

What you will need:

  • Knitting needles
  • Wool
  • Scissors
  • Knitting pattern

There are plenty of free knitting patterns available online, or you can purchase them from sites like Etsy. I’ve recently started knitting squares to make a blanket for one of my friends who is having a baby later in the year, and I tried knitting a hat which actually turned out much bigger than I had intended! In time, I would love to be able to knit my own jumpers for winter, so I think I’m going to keep practicing!

An example of Lily’s knitting

Embroidery

Embroidery is something I have wanted to try for years. My Pinterest feed is filled with pictures of beautiful embroidery projects and ideas for customising your own clothes with flowers, bees, hearts and more. Up until this point, I have never had the time to dedicate to learning embroidery, so I thought lockdown might be the perfect opportunity for me to give it a try. 

What you will need:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fabric 
  • Embroidery needles
  • Embroidery thread
  • Scissors 
  • Pencils or water erasable pen for tracing or drawing your chosen design 

To get started, I ordered an embroidery hoop, some plain fabric, and some embroidery thread from Amazon, and downloaded an easy PDF stencil for beginners with some instructions on how to get started. From there, I practiced some of the easier stitches including the running stitch, back stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch, and french knots. I love that you can make something beautiful and effective just using these basic stitches.

After a couple of practice projects, I embroidered a ‘home sweet home’ design for my mum who was overjoyed to receive such a personal gift. For me, embroidery is a great way to relax and de-stress as once you get the hang of the stitches you can just sit in front of the television and work on your projects. There are loads of great ideas on Pinterest for beginners, and plenty of YouTube videos that introduce you to the basic stitches, and offer some great tips.

An example of Lily’s embroidery

Baking

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Great British Bake Off, but I’ve never been much of a baker myself. My speciality at university used to be a banana cake you could make in the microwave in 8 minutes! 

During this lockdown, I’ve made a few more banana cakes (baked in the oven this time!) adding chocolate and blueberries to mix up the recipe a bit. I used the BBC Good Food ‘Brilliant banana loaf’ recipe but I used melted chocolate as icing instead of icing sugar, water, and banana chips. I also tried the Aldi recipe for ‘Blueberry and banana cake’ and they were both well received. Banana cake or bread is a fantastic way to use up old bananas and reduce food waste. I love having a cup of tea and a piece of banana cake in the afternoon to reward myself for getting some work done in the morning. 

When I was struggling to find flour, I bought a couple of packet mixes for Galaxy cookies and a Betty Crocker mix for a Victoria Sponge cake with ready made buttercream icing. Even if, like me, you aren’t a natural baker, there are still ways to whip up some tasty treats during lockdown. 

What you will need:

  • Recipe
  • Ingredients
  • Mixing bowl
  • Kitchen scales
  • Wooden spoon
  • Baking tin or tray

Couch to 5k

I’ve always wanted to get into running and do more exercise in general. I’ve attempted the Couch to 5k programme a couple of times over the years, but I’ve never been able to reach the end. Being allowed to leave the house for exercise gave me the push I needed to start again and to try and finish the course. I’m currently on week four and still finding it difficult, but I’m looking forward to reaching the 5k mark!

It’s also been nice finding new routes to run and taking the time to admire the countryside and wildlife I hadn’t noticed before. 

What you will need:

  • An appropriate Couch to 5k app
  • Running trainers

While there is no pressure to be productive during lockdown, I’ve found these hobbies have helped me to relax and keep my mind off everything that’s been going on. What have you been up to?

Images: Lily Brown, Konstantin Dyadyun on Unsplash, Theme Photos on Unsplash & Ev on Unsplash

Face-to-Face: Memory & the Impact of Physical Meeting

By Ciéra Cree & Lorenzo Barba – Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself “how many people have I come into some form of contact with over my lifetime?”. It’s fascinating…

By Ciéra Cree & Lorenzo Barba

Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself “how many people have I come into some form of contact with over my lifetime?”. It’s fascinating. We pass by people every day in places such as streets and school hallways, but if we truly tested ourselves, how many of their names and faces could we still pass through our minds?

I decided to conduct an experiment to collect primary data on this idea, whilst Lorenzo tested out the same exercise in order to gather some secondary data.

To test my memory, I gave myself the ambitious target of attempting to name 500 people that I have come into contact with throughout my life so far. These people could be anyone, permitted that I had seen them in-person, that they were alive and that they were not related to me in any way. 500 was an unquestionably large target, but when testing a hypothesis like this, shooting high to test my limits felt like a better approach than to stay within my comfort zone.

My sole resource for this experiment was a simple document to record my list. I was not allowed to use my phone to check my contacts, and I was not allowed to use the internet to assist me in any possible way.

I personally found that the best way for me to begin this task was to split my list into numerous headings. This made it easier to keep track of who I had already named as well as to get my mind to shift into a particular time period. These headings were then split into sub-headings, creating further specificity for what initially was a very broad task. The breakdown of my list went as follows:

  • Primary School
    • Primary School Friends
    • Primary School Teachers
    • Primary School Miscellaneous
  • High School
    • High School Friend Group
    • High School Tutor Group
    • High School Teachers
    • High School English Class
    • High School Miscellaneous
  • Sixth Form
    • Sixth Form Students
    • Sixth Form Teachers
  • University
    • University Pals
    • Indian Society
    • Media Studies Class
    • University Lecturers
    • University Miscellaneous
  • Poetry People
  • Random People

The Results

Primary School

I started with primary school in this experiment because it’s the furthest back that I can remember. I’m unable to remember anyone from pre-school that didn’t, in years to come, join me at primary school. I didn’t find remembering people for this section overly difficult, likely because the primary school that I attended was the one local to where I live, but I did find that there were chances of potential overlap due to many students of that school going on to the same high school that I studied in.

In total, over an hour and a half, 58 of the people that I listed were within one of the primary school subheadings. I found that recalling the names of staff and more prominent village members, such as the church reverend and village magazine editors, was relatively easy, seeing as in primary school there tended to be fewer adult figures to remember.

High School

Jumping into the high school section, I immediately speculated that this would be one of the two main contenders, with university being the other. Upon joining high school at the tender age of 11, I was introduced to many new school subjects which, in turn, resulted in having a much larger assortment of teachers than before. When I started there, my memory would have been better developed as well, possibly explaining how 95 of those that I listed held a connection towards high school. 37 of these 95 people were teachers and members of staff which I believe could be the case because, as a student, these were people that I had to see on a frequent basis and, therefore, I needed to remember their names.

I included ‘High School English Class’ as a separate subheading as I seem to have a more vivid memory of that class’ seating arrangement. This is likely due to the fact that English was my favourite subject.

Sixth Form

At sixth form, in comparison to high school, the number of teachers you have depletes significantly as you study fewer subjects. This had an apparent impact on my results, causing the sixth form sub-headings collectively to only total 38 people. During sixth form, I wasn’t as talkative as I am at university, which I feel will have somewhat contributed to this outcome as well.

University

I may have fewer teachers at university than I did back in high school, but I engage in a lot more extracurricular activities, such as societies. Living on campus, prior to lockdown, provided various opportunities to go out with friends, to attend events, and to meet new people. 76 out of the 84 people that came to mind when making my list were people that I had met from around campus, with the others consisting of my lecturers. I did not find this surprising, and I know that I would be able to recognise many other people who I either do not know by name or that just happened to slip my mind during this study.

Poetry People & Random People

These last two categories were reserved for people that I had met over my gap year while pursuing poetry, and for everyday people that I had come to know such as taxi drivers and hairdressers. Together, the two of these categories totalled 27 people.

Thoughts & Reflections

When I was writing down the names of each person as I remembered them, the way that they connected to my memory seemed to arise with it as well. For instance, when writing down the name of a girl I rarely spoke to in high school Geography class, my mind instantly thought “oh, she was friends with the other girl who I talked to more in class who was on the sports team”. It was interesting to see how my mind automatically made these associations and did its best to instinctively fill in any gaps.

The order in which I seemed to remember the names of these people was something that I also tried to make a note of. This was made easier because I categorised my list, but it was also insightful to see the patterns that my memory was going through in order to translate what I wanted to say onto the document’s page. For example, when listing people that I know from university, my mind was quicker in making connections to other people that those I listed knew mutually. This would be the case due to the fact that I study there currently and have come into contact with those people more recently.

There were definitely people that came into my mind in a more prominent way, and I found that the people who did were the ones that I had more of a feeling attached to. People who had a notable impact on my life, for better or for worse, and people that I cared about a lot or remained in frequent touch with tended to surface before those who remained more in the background. That being said, remembering people that I didn’t talk to often, who shared some classes with me, was not too difficult either as our timetables often coincided.

“I found it surprising how difficult it could be just to simply write the name of someone who’s been attributed to some of my less fond memories in life (writing the name of my high school bully, for instance, slightly took me off guard), but equally writing the name of someone who’s been responsible for many positive memories such as my best friend I met at university made me smile almost uncontrollably. My takeaway from this experiment was that while you’re bound to meet some toxic people throughout your walk of life, you’re also equally bound to come across some truly lovely, inspiring people which to me makes every negative person you encounter that much more worth the pain you will have had to endure.” – Lorenzo Barba (Secondary Data)

Why did I conduct this experiment?

In total, in just under an hour and a half, I had managed to list 302 people that I knew from memory. I wanted to undergo this experiment because, right now, amid COVID-19 and social distancing, we have been discouraged to socialise with people face-to-face, and I thought that taking the time to recount how many people I could remember would create an interesting investigation.

“I didn’t get nearly as high as 302, but I found that upon listing the first few names, I got strong memories and emotional reactions surrounding them. It’s really interesting to wonder how long it’s been since I’ve crossed the minds of some of the people on this list. It’s harrowing but also beautiful how easy and quick it can be to make a permanent impact on someone’s life, be it positive or negative.” – Lorenzo Barba (Secondary Data)

We are fortunate today to have technology that enables us to stay in touch face-to-face regardless of distance. However, my hope after this pandemic is that we will all treasure face-to-face interactions more than we did before. Talking to people and going out was something that we just did; it was a part of our everyday lives, so there wasn’t much of a second thought about it. Now though, the return of our physically present social lives is something that vast numbers of us are longing for.

I would like you to take a moment to think about all of the people that come to mind when you think back through the different stages of your life. The people who sat with you in class who you didn’t really talk to, that old friend you had when you were 6, or the kind postman that always smiled at you as he delivered the post.

We have encountered so many people in our lives, and we will go on to encounter many more. While there may be no way of knowing who remembers us after-the-fact, it is in our capability to do our best to be memorable to those we encounter in positive ways. So, the next time that you meet someone that seems kind but remains in the background of your life, why not ask them out for a coffee? Who knows, that initial face-to-face engagement could lead to greater things.

Image: Joshua Ness on Unsplash

I Hate Quarantine: A Sanity Memoir

By Chelsea Furr – Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and…

By Chelsea Furr

Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and the person that you ask. When I am out with my friends, I am a loud chatterbox, leading the buddy system of hysterical familiars on a pub-crawl because I know that, in the end, I can crawl back into my bed to recuperate.

I have enjoyed being in the office and talking to people in the kitchen, but there are some days where I have things to do and prefer to have my headphones firmly on.

But at this point, I think we can all agree that the wish not to travel into the office every morning has become relishing each shopping trip like a breath of fresh air in the blur of quarantine. 

Here is a little more about me. I come in two states: one clean and tidy until I’m sick or stressed for an exam, and the other is piles of clothes and binge-watching TV until I get the panicked urge to clean and procrastinate. I hate quarantine. I hate that I can’t go to see the people that I love. I hate that the running joke is that I must enjoy this solitude. But I know that I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for everyone else. For everyone’s immune-weak child and grandparent.

So, here is how I am staying sane.

Blast uplifting, soul-pumping music and have a dance session – I call it ‘exercise’ – and if you are doing something like the laundry, treat it like a bonus. Who’s watching? I found that by the end of my dance sessions, I’ve also managed to correct my bad posture brought on from endless hours of social media and series-binging too. So, it’s a ‘double bonus’!

Get sunlight. I know it’s hard indoors, but like a house plant (or wallflower) you need some Vitamin D. Work, read, sit, and video chat by a window. Not only will it put less of a spooky look in your camera lens, but, maybe, you’ll get a tan. This also means getting out of bed on weekends before lunch. I set multiple alarms to make sure that I get up in good time, as begrudged as I am, and it keeps me in some sort of ‘rhythm’.

We are social creatures too. Now, I am not too bad on this front, as it only takes me two weeks on average to respond to a message. But I don’t leave conversations hanging partway through. My advice is to message anyone you can to see how they are doing. Call your Mum; it will kill some hours. Hell, message your ex and clear bad blood. Email a long-forgotten friend. What are they going to do? Turn up on your doorstep? We are social animals and even if your level of socialising is the coffee barrister in the morning or that no-name in the kitchen, message them, because it might brighten up their day too.

Exercise. Good god, yes! I have been exercising in commercial breaks because, while I knew there were too many, it was starting to kill me. I have sucked dry binge-streaming of all enjoyment. Plus, getting the blood pumping after contouring your spine at your ‘home office’, or strolling with your neck kinked downwards, does wonders for your mood. Find a free workout video on the internet or just resort to advice point one and rock out on the couch.

Do anything and everything that you said you would do in your spare time. I tick-off small goals like calling my family or organising video-lunch catch-ups with friends. Take an online class. Learn a new skill. Do more than these four walls allow. I am not saying that there aren’t days that I don’t stay in bed and eat between napping. But on better days, I am chipping away at the stack of books I bought and never read. I have learned to knit and bake banana bread. I have even started developing a green thumb. Though, I could be killing these hearty succulents… I am not quite sure. I also write grocery lists and I write article pieces like this. I hope that you are doing well at this time; take each day as it comes. The current situation is out of our control. But looking after your own head and your own body is within your power. There is no perfect way to manage this time, but doing small things like checking in with your elderly neighbours and wearing a mask in public can help others as the NHS continue the fight. Good luck in staying sane and feel free to comment below with any cool ideas to pass the time. We will get through this.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

‘Demon Slayer’ Season One – Anime Series Review

By Shubham Singh – I was already up-to-date with the manga of this series, but then, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered it was going to receive an anime adaptation…

By Shubham Singh

“No matter how many people you may lose, you have no choice but to go on living – no matter how devastating the blows may be.”

Tanjiro

This dialogue hits you hard in the face, whilst also reaching into your heart.

I was already up-to-date with the manga of this series, but then, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered it was going to receive an anime adaptation!

After watching the first episode, released by Koyoharu Gotouge, I thought it was fantastic! From the animations to the sounds and the canon, it was all just amazing and I couldn’t wait to watch more of the series.

Demon Slayer takes basic Shonen tropes and wraps its own kind of unique aesthetic around them. I like how the main character, Kamado Tanjirou, isn’t fueled by revenge or an incentive to “be the best” at something. His drive is more touching, as he goes through the episodes trying to find a cure to restore the humanity of his sister who has been turned into a demon. The selfless kindness of this persona is admirable, especially in the way that he remains sympathetic and unsettled in the events where he is left with no choice but to do something cruel.

After, for instance, a demon is killed, there is so much more to the action than just ridding the world of evil. Upon death, the demon’s stories are revealed – we learn as a viewer why the person became a demon to begin with, about their rights and wrongs, and we also get to see reflections of their gratitude. Nothing here is mindless, giving depth to the show’s narrative.

I ended up watching this series after a friend recommended it to me. For a long time, the thought of starting it stayed in the back of my mind as I assumed it would be similar to many other Shonen shows I have watched before. Though this definitely wasn’t the case, and many other anime fans seemed to agree with this – for the past ten years consecutively, the anime ‘One Piece’ had remained the most popular of its kind. Selling over 470 million copies to date. However, once ‘Demon Slayer’ appeared on the scene, it’s ten-year reign abruptly ended as it seized the top spot with both hands.

Shubham’s Demon Slayer Fan-art

Demon Slayer carries a ‘Game of Thrones’ sort of vibe, but without giving spoilers, I’ll tell you that no one is safe. It will make you laugh, cry, obsess over your favourite characters (mine are Tomioka Giyu and Akaza!) and it will leave you frequently hanging in suspense that will drive you crazy. If you have read the manga prior to watching the show, you will appreciate the way that Gotouge has made the series as similar to the source material as possible, especially given the short duration of each episode.

So what are you waiting for? Well, I know how I would answer that – I’m waiting for the movie to be released in October 2020!

You can find more of Shubham’s artwork on Instagram.

Zoom: A Lens Into People’s Lives

By Pat Lok – The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm…

By Pat Lok

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm; over the past few months, online communication has become the new normal. From social media to e-mail, there are a number of different platforms to choose from, though one such platform that has seen its user base balloon in recent months is Zoom.

Zoom appears to have become a synonym to the word ‘meeting’ during this lockdown. Zoom is a free online meeting tool – now ubiquitous – that facilitates the public health strategy of social distancing while also allowing people to work from home. It is a remote meeting application that enables people to collaborate and share screens from across the world, and it has become one of the most popular supplements to in-person social interaction since nearly 20% of the world’s population is now on lockdown.

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Zoom’s Market Price – November 2019 to April 2020

Zoom has been utilized to facilitate different facets of social interaction – both formal and informal. Personally, I’ve used Zoom for a meeting with research colleagues from different countries, took part in a jury trial as a research project participant, and attended a virtual pub quiz.

It’s weird how this shift in social interaction has somehow allowed me to know my peers and lecturers a bit better. Zoom lectures now have occasional background noise of family chatter and occasional interruptions from pets and children. One of my friend’s lecturers embraced the advantage of lecturing from home and gave a tutorial while nursing his child on his lap.

Zoom Etiquette

Now that my usual commute has shrunk to a trip from my bed to my desk, my work attire has also been restyled into a formal top and pyjama bottom combination. Though this did lead to an embarrassing episode where I wanted to get up and fetch a book and I accidentally flashed my Simpsons pyjama bottoms to the group call. But after attending a few more Zoom meetings since then, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who has embarrassed myself on camera like this at least once.

The inability to exercise the mute button in Zoom has become the new social faux pas. Toilet flushing, swearing and Apps notification sounds just to name a few. The New Yorker has collated a light-hearted list of tips for teachers who are using Zoom to deliver classes This can also be adopted by people who are working from home to minimise the probability of you embarrassing yourself live on Zoom. These tips include adjusting your laptop to get a better camera angle and shutting your door to prevent any unwanted screen-bombing.

Zoom’s Many Uses

Meetings are only the tip of the iceberg for this versatile application; Zoom is being used for a wide range of different things: “Zoomers” have been running the European Union, hosting virtual graduation ceremonies and events, and, tragically, even executing breakups. Although successful social distancing is perceived by some as a testament to the strength of a relationship, for others, the distance apart has proved not to be so simple.

Unnecessary outings have been discouraged in order to minimise the spread of infection. This is particularly important for potentially infectious people who, if caught going into public spaces without a valid reason, can potentially face a fine. Though we are all encouraged to stay inside, and away from large groups of people, as much as we can. As a result of this, MEP meetings in Brussels have also succumbed to Zoom; “monologues have replaced dialogues”. These meetings are for discussing plans needed to contain the virus, with the adoption of remote voting by MEPs and by getting interpreters to translate meetings into the 24 official languages of the EU in real-time. It does pose a question of whether productive and meaningful conclusions can result from these virtual meetings, however, for now, it’s the best that we can do considering the current circumstance.

While there is no sign of the lockdown being lifted anytime soon, local and international institutions are investigating the possibility of delivering their events online instead. For medical students, graduations have been brought-forward and delivered on Zoom so that they can work as interim junior doctors to assist the NHS workforce amidst the pandemic.

Although the convenience of Zoom is undeniable, it does have its drawbacks. The German government recently issued a restriction upon the use of Zoom on its citizens due to its inadequate encryption. Several other countries, as well as numerous corporations, have out-right banned the use of Zoom too because of its seemingly inadequate security.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the convenience of online meetings with Zoom, I’ve also missed the human touch of face-to-face and in-person social interaction – unbuffered, unfiltered and present. Hopefully, we can return to that life before too long.

Images: Pat Lok & Javier Molina on Unsplash

Cambridge City Council Launch a New Pilot Project to Protect & Grow the City’s Tree Population

By Joshua Dowding, Ciéra Cree & Gabs Bennington – On the 13th March, The Ruskin Journal was invited to the Guildhall, Market Square, to conduct an interview with Dr. Matthew Ling of Cambridge City Council…

By Joshua Dowding, Ciéra Cree & Gabs Bennington

On the 13th March, The Ruskin Journal was invited to the Guildhall, Market Square, to conduct an interview with Dr. Matthew Ling of Cambridge City Council regarding the launch of the Cambridge Canopy Project – a local initiative to protect and grow the city’s existing tree canopy cover. As Project Leader, Dr. Ling had been eager to share some of the details of the project with us, and we have transcribed some of the interview that followed for the convenience of our readers.

The Cambridge Canopy Project

This project is part of a larger ‘umbrella’ initiative called Nature-Smart Cities which includes other institutions such as Imperial College London and Southend-On-Sea Borough Council. The initiative will fund a number of pilot studies to ‘deploy green infrastructure solutions in an effort to help fight climate change’ – the Cambridge Canopy Project will be one such pilot. The initiative operates in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as England, with another pilot project based in Southend-on-Sea, in addition to Cambridge.

The Council estimates that there are more than 300,000 trees, whether they’re on public or private land, throughout Cambridge, which equates to about 17% tree canopy cover by land area – whereas the average cover for cities in the UK sits at around 8%. Despite being ‘quite well-treed already’, the aim of this project is to uplift that coverage to 19% by 2050. To achieve this uplift, the Council told us that a total of 16,000 new trees will need to be planted throughout the city. Of these, 2,000 will be planted on Council-owned land and 1,500 will be given away through existing schemes, which leaves 12,500 trees that the Council want to ‘encourage the public’ to plant on their own private land.

‘There’s a real benefit to having areas of shade to help reduce the heat island effect in cities. For instance, having tree-lined streets with permanently shaded pavement, it could be 20 degrees cooler than it would be if it were not shaded […] That’s without thinking of [the] trees themselves physically and how they reduce air temperature just through transpiration.’ – Dr. Ling

The trees that the Council intend to plant will be more robust than those that would be planted in more rural areas, we were told. Standing at around 2 to 3 metres tall (on average) and measuring at around 6 to 8cm in diameter, Dr. Ling explained that these young trees would need to be able to withstand a life that could see them being used as make-shift bike stands, goalposts, sun shelters, targets for vandalism, and other risks to the tree’s well-being.

However, there will be limitations to where the Council can plant their 2,000 trees. Cambridge has a lot of private land that ‘can’t be touched’ by the Council itself, and even in the ‘public realm’, there have been a significant number of areas labelled as ‘unplantable’ such as near roads, pavements, brooks and rivers. Although some locations have been identified as potential candidates, Dr. Ling explained that ‘this will include some planting in the city’s parks and green open spaces’. But, as clarified, the project will focus on planting in areas that will not require lengthy public consultations or complex decisions.

‘We have [the] funding to do [this]. With purchasing a tree, the manpower to plant it, some materials like tree stakes and [tree] ties, and hydration bags, it’s coming out at around £150 per tree […] but we obviously can’t plant 100,000 [trees] just like that’ – Dr. Ling

After the 2,000 trees have been planted, the focus will then shift on to the maintenance of those trees, helping them grow, and protecting the existing tree canopy cover. However, looking beyond the Nature-Smart Cities initiative, Dr. Ling told us that the Cambridge Canopy Project will have ‘its own ambitions’ going forward; he hopes that the project will later become its ‘own entity’ and evolve beyond the lifetime of the initiative itself. Despite being part of a wider European initiative, Dr. Ling stated that the aim of the project will be to ‘deliver things on the ground that influence, impact, and benefit the city itself’, in-keeping with the remit of the City Council.

 ‘At the moment, this is so on-trend. It feels like the right moment for this project.’ – Dr. Ling

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Expanding Existing Schemes

For twenty-five years, Cambridge City Council has been running a scheme called ‘Free Trees for Babies’ which gives residents having a child the opportunity to apply online and take home a tree to plant in their own gardens. Over the course of that period, ‘thousands’ of trees have been given out to Cambridge residents’, which, coupled with the ongoing planting in the public realm, has helped the Council grow the city’s urban forest at a modest rate over-time.

With an estimated 44,000 private gardens throughout the city, Dr. Ling notes that if the residents of the city could each plant one tree in their gardens, it would result in more than a ‘10% increase in the overall tree population, straight off’. The Journal noted that the Council had gathered this information with the help of an aerial photographic survey of the city.

‘Everyone’s trees are part of the whole process’ – Dr. Ling

With the introduction of the Cambridge Canopy Project, the Council hopes to up the number of trees they can offer through this existing scheme, with an aim to give away as many as ‘500 trees per-year, over a three-year period’ – totalling 1,500 trees. That’s on top of the 2,000 trees that the Council aims to plant themselves throughout the project by 2022.

The Impact of COVID-19

As is the case for everyone presently, Cambridge City Council has had to re-evaluate how it will approach some aspects of the project going forward, since a significant part of the project would have involved a degree of public outreach and awareness-raising. Many of these processes are now on hold for the time being. Nonetheless, interested members of the public can still get involved with the project in a number of different ways: the Council are currently running a survey to ‘gather insights into residents’ perceptions of trees’, the Council are also asking for help to map the locations of trees on privately-owned land, ‘especially Ash trees, and they would encourage all residents to help water their newly planted trees. These activities can be carried out during your daily exercise time out of the house whilst also observing social distancing guidance, of course.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also forced the Council to postpone its i-Tree Eco study which would have involved students from the university helping to survey their local areas. However, as Dr. Ling explained to the Journal, in collaboration with Treeconomics Ltd, Forest Research, and Anglia Ruskin University, the Council will now employ a ‘novel approach’ to ‘engage untrained citizens’ from more than 130 households across the city to conduct the field surveys from the safety of their own homes. The Journal has been told that both university students and staff can still get involved in some aspects of this, and there will also be future opportunities to contribute to the project as well. Victoria Tait of the Global Sustainability Institute is coordinating this effort, so please contact her to express your interest in this work.

‘It’ll be a huge challenge, but it’s where we’re hoping to go.’ – Dr. Ling

Final Thoughts

It was a privilege to be able to interview a member of the City Council regarding this interesting environmental project. We hope that, despite the ongoing pandemic, the project will continue to move forward and see success in the long-term. We would like to thank Dr. Matthew Ling for his time – and his patience! – and we look forward to covering the Cambridge Canopy Project again in the near future.

Images: Devin Kleu on Unsplash