Celebrating 2016! (yes, really)

2016 has been quite a rollercoaster of a year, which I think we can all agree on - that Brexit thing happened (oh yeah, shit), Trump got elected (even shittier), famous artists and actors left us...just to state a few of the obvious hiccups, ahem. But hey! The grass is always greener, right?! It's important to recall as many good memories as possible that have happened throughout the year even if it means really scraping the barrel for the smallest achievements or hip hip hurraying about the big ones.

In January this year, I wrote an 'Anti-Bucket' list on my blog, where I recalled *nearly* everything I considered a positive achievement of 2015. Because, sometimes, just sometimes, it's alright to give yourself a high five once in a while. I'd be lying if I said 2016 was all rainbows and smiles but it's important to not dwell too much on those not-so good moments and reflect, even if it is just to remind myself that I do actually have a few things to celebrate about and be grateful for. So, in order to get 2017 off to a good start, it would only be appropriate to gracefully bid 2016 farewell...

Right, get the Kleenex out, here's my year in a nutshell...

- I managed to achieve what I set out to do in my 2016 resolutions, see them here..

- ...including travelling to new places (anywhere new ticked off the map makes me happy). I visited Chester, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Formby beach (the most exotic place to be in the Merseyside come summer time), Ile de Ré, St. Emilion and explored more of my hometown, Liverpool.

- Prooobably one of the biggest achievements was going to Madrid for two months working as an au pair for two children and living with a Spanish family. I also went solo travelling afterwards for a week and stayed in hostels. I integrated into a family that wasn't my own, communicated in a language that wasn't my own, helped the children get better at English and cared for them. Considering i've never had any childcare experience, I learnt a lot about the responsibilities of looking after two kids and I like to think i'm a bit stronger of a person because of it. Whilst travelling, I made new friends from different parts of the world, visited new places such as Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Barcelona and Valencia and I visited the San Fermin in Pamplona. I ate a lot of tapas too.

- Passed my second year of university successfully...no deadlines missed and continued to improve with my results. I started out with pretty rubbish results in first year and my grades have slowly creeped up which tells me I must be improving. 

- Went to quite a few gigs including Hinds (twice), Whitney, Public Access TV, The Black Lips, Kagoule, The Magic Gang, Hooton Tennis Club (also several times), Aldhous RH, Juliette Lewis & The Licks (At Festevol) and a few others. I love discovering new talent, or seeing bands i've listened to for a while...getting out and going to a gig and getting lost in the music (cheezzy) is one of my fave things to do.

- Turning 21: I had the most amazing day organised by my wonderful family. I had practically all my family in Liverpool with me to celebrate it with delicious food, a personalised cake, lovely gifts and lots of nice catch ups. I got to go out with my family and friends in town for the evening and had an amazing, memorable day. I felt so bloody spoilt and lucky and the day will stick with me foreva.

- Got invited to more events through my blog from Very to Voodou, The Blonde & The Bears, Revolution de Cuba, The Body Shop, Yard & Coop and have met lots of lovely new people because of it. I've tried amazing food, cocktails, received awesome freebies and been really lucky, which is a nice wee pat on the back after writing a blog for 4 years!

- Wrote more travel guides for this blog (including Liverpool, Chester, Berlin, Limoges, Ile de Ré, Madrid - which was shared on Madrid's official tourism Facebook ooh err, and Pamplona) and wrote more content in the whole year than any other year on my blog. I started a new film club series and many other new posts to the blog and I got a new blog layout, logo and domain name. I realised I want to take my blog more seriously with better, different and more interesting content than ever, whilst simultaneously powering through my 3rd and final year of university!

- Got my first proper, paid part-time job. I've been looking since 1st year of university and finally I got employed, there is a god!! I've also been offered my second part-time job for the new year...wait for a bus and they all come at once...

- Moved in to my first ever 'adult' flat with my pal! It's beautiful and in the perfect location with a wee balcony.

- Met lots of new people in 2016. New friends, boys I fancied lol, grew apart from old friends, caught up with old best friends, became friends with some only for a day, spent quality time with my lovely fam and met people that I didn't get on with... but all have shaped the year and taught me things in one way or another. *sob sob*

- Went to the gay pride in Madrid. Went to my sisters graduation in oenotourism from Bordeaux university. Drank beers backstage 'with the band; ;). Met Hinds and took a selfie with them. Learnt how to make my own raspberry mojito and a burrito. Learnt some Spanish. Met Jon Snow and took a selfie with him (the Channel 4 news presenter). Made a vlog of my travels in Spain. Discovered gin cocktails. Tried hot yoga. Represented my course at university open days. Went to the cavern club. Photographed some gigs. Experimented with Tinder, er. Learnt a bit of drumming. Went to a dog parade in Liverpool. Saw a flamenco show. Got a Gopro. Became a vegetarian then ate meat again, hm. Went on a party bus in Valencia. Saw the Sagrada familia and the park guell. Dined out a lot. Went to a Kanye West themed event, ew. Visited galleries and museums and marvelled at Picasso and Salvador Dali's work. Rode the Liverpool ferris wheel. Got a record player. Bought more records. Sat in the park and ate ice cream. Ate pancakes. Saw the justice for 96 ceremony in Liverpool. Revised. Wrote essays. Took photos. Went gay clubbing. Drank cocktails. Went to a water park. Got a stick and poke tattoo. Survived 2016.

And that's my year, pretty much! I'm feeling so ready and inspired to kickass in the new year and make my achievements more impressive than last. I'll post my resolutions on here too so watch this space, and give the anti-bucket list a go yourself. Come at me, 2017!


Top 10 Albums With Sidonie

>> Musician, drummer and student, Sidonie Hand-Halford from The Orielles has put together something a lil special for you lovely folk! Today, Sidonie is talking about her 10 favourite albums that have inspired her musically and that she just can't get enough of...

- The Damned – Damned Damned Damned (1977) -

Although my favourite Damned track (smash it up) doesn’t feature on the band’s debut, I’d still consider this one of my all time favourite records. For me, The Damned epitomise the 70s punk scene in England, yet the tracks still sound great today. The guitar is amphetamine-fast and the solos are outrageous, The Damned instinctively knew how to construct a thrilling punk track and the album is stuffed full of them. Even if it only had 'New Rose' on it, it would be still be a classic album, but there are plenty more thrilling high points in a non-stop assault that makes the record one of the greats.

Fave Tracks:
- Neat, Neat, Neat
- New Rose

- Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000) -

I’m massively inspired by YLT and everything they release is golden, but this album in particular is one of my personal favourites. It’s beautiful, dreamy and weird and the intimate lyrics sit perfectly over the soft percussion and whispery guitars. I love the cover as well, at first glance it seems simple, but it depicts some sort of alien abduction, which is cool, and it anchors the atmospheric music perfectly. A good record to listen to when you’re lying on your bed thinking about boyz hehe.

Fave Tracks:
- You Can Have It All
- Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House

- Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966) -

This is everyone’s favourite album, right? Pet Sounds is possibly the first album that I enjoyed in its entirety and I have very fond memories of driving through Yorkshire on a sunny day with my family, Pet Sounds on the tape deck, trying  (and failing) to nail the harmonies in the back with my sister. This album can make me smile and cry simultaneously, combining themes of frustrated adolescence, anxiety and heartbreak into a perfectly crafted concept album. I also recently watched Love & Mercy, the film about Brian Wilson’s life, which made me love the album ten times more.  

Fave Tracks:
- Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
- I Know There’s An Answer

- Sonny Smith – Sees All, Knows All (2016) -

We listened to this album constantly whilst I was driving us around the UK on our first proper tour; it kept me sane whilst Hen & Ez were sleeping in the back. It’s a monologue comprised of 6 chapters about love, sex, drugs, hallucinations, spaceships and San Francisco street life. It’s cool because I seem to gain a different interpretation on every listen. The music behind the narrative is also really tight!

Fave Tracks:
- Chapter 4: Unbearable Confession
- Chapter 6: Y.C Wong Kung Fu Academy

- Carole King – Tapestry (1971) -

‘It’s Too Late’ was my first introduction to Carole King and I fell in love instantly, such a beautiful song and such a beautiful album that should be in everyone’s collection! The whole record makes me wish that I could play piano, it sounds both elegant and aggressive. The cover is real nice too, cute cats.
Fave Tracks:
- I Feel The Earth Move
- It’s Too Late

- Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984) -

It’s funny how the cover depicts a kind of American Dream-like photo, yet the songs couldn’t be further away, coming from the early 80s when hardcore punk was in it’s inaugural years. It’s also great how there’s not one song on the album longer than about 2:30. Minutemen really knew how to express themselves without having to be super loud or aggressive; instead, they combined syncopated drumming with a slightly fractured blend of jazz & funk.

Fave Tracks:
- Viet Nam
- #1 Hit Song    

- ESG – Come Away With ESG (1983) -

Shout out to Jez Kerr from A Certain Ratio for getting me into these! ESG combine post-punk, disco and funk and are basically a combination of all of my favourite bands, which is why I love them so much. I love the simplicity, yet highly danceable quality of the drums, which sit perfectly with the funky bass lines. The band developed on a sound that was unique to them and therefore went on to influence many hip-hop and dance records.

Fave Tracks:
- Dance
- My Love For You  

- The Pastels – Truckload of Trouble (1993) -

Truckload of Trouble is a compilation album, comprising of previous releases as well as a cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘Speeding Motorcycle’ and is definitely a good introduction to the band if you’ve not listened to them before. The vocals are super dreamy yet moody and they remind me of the awkward teenage angst we all experienced (or maybe just me). The songs all have an almost care-free vibe about them which is really refreshing.  

Fave Tracks:
- Nothing to Be Done
- Thank You For Being You

- Pixies – Doolittle (1989) -

This record is definitely a massive inspiration for me as a musician; the way it plays with dynamics is definitely something we have tried to replicate in our songwriting. The album deals with themes of surrealism and religion as well as film – it references Luis Bunuel’s 1929 short ‘Un Chien Andalou’- making it a melting pot of cultural references and weirdness. If Doolittle was released today it would still be crowned a masterpiece. Even though it’s now twenty-five years young it sounds as contemporary, yet out of time as ever.

Fave Tracks:
- Wave of Mutilation
- Hey

- Steely Dan – Aja (1977) -

This was the first Steely album I listened to and has probably remained my favourite, though boy, do they have a lotta hot tracks!? I love the cynicism of the lyrics as well as the sophisticated jazz-rock instrumentation; AOR at it’s best! The tracks are all so elaborate, it’s something you really have to listen to. I tried to learn a Steely Dan song on guitar but it was dead hard, full of weird chords that hurt my hand...pretty fun to jam to on the tubs though!   

Fave Tracks:
- Black Cow
- Peg

By Sidonie Hand Halford
Follow Sidonie on Instagram @wusttofu and listen to her band The Orielles here!


6 Tech things you should know about

Ahhh, technology! What a confusing yet wonderful thing it can be. I've been tech-obsessed ever since I got a Nintendo DS when I was a teenager and learnt how to create my first profile on Bebo. With technology advancing and changing all the time, and our social media feeds being over saturated with information, it's hard to find the best that technology has to offer. I've narrowed down some of my favourite things on the internet & social media of the moment, so you can discover them too!


The Podcast app has been on my Iphone for years, as it's one that's automatically downloaded by Apple. It was only until this year that I finally started using this part of my phone and i'm so glad I did! As long as they're all pre - downloaded, the app doesn't require Wifi/3G to be used, so you can literally select any one of your downloaded playlists and listen to it wherever you are. So you can make that walk round the park an educational one, pop your phone nearby while you take a bath, make that 5 minutes in the dentist waiting room a little less dull, or pop a podcast on while you cook your dinner - whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say (lol). I've been loving listening to Emma Gannon's Ctrl Alt Delete podcasts, No Such Thing As Fish, Woman's Hour on BBc Radio 4, The Guardian's Science Weekly and so much more - it's the perfect way to fill your spare time with some thought provoking topics and get that brain ticking along. You can pick literally anything from comedy, to learning a new language, interviews or philosophical topics and more - so go onto that unused Podcast app on your phone and learn something new!


A friend introduced me to this fantastic website and it's so much fun and a must for any music lover! Though it's pretty self explanatory once you go onto the site, i'll summarise it anyway! You can basically select any country on the map, and choose an era and the site will pick a song at random from that era in that country. You can also create a 'taxi ride' (playlist) where you can select as many different decades and destinations as you want then you can share it with friends and it will take you on a 'taxi ride' through time in music. It's such good fun and i've discovered some really amazing music through this website.

Into The Fold mag: www.intothefoldmag.com

Former blogger Camilla Ackley quite recently re-launched her blog as an online magazine and it's becoming one of my favourite go to sites to do a bit of reading. You can read about her story in The Guardian here, it's very interesting! ITF features opinion pieces, real-life experiences, style and travel posts and more. I've read some really interesting articles on there and it's inspired me to take my blog in a slightly different direction and get other writers involved with my blog. I love what she's doing and I think other bloggers should take note too!

35 MM - A group for cinephiles: www.vimeo.com/groups/35mmandrisdamburs

Again, a friend introduced me to this group on Vimeo.com during my first year of university and afterwards I ended up spending hours on there, watching video after video, but it's super interesting and informative! They're kind of like visual essays, where creators can share their view on the history of 35mm cinema, quotes of famous directors, documentary, music and animation on film and more. It's perfect for film students if you want to research a little further into a film/director you're studying and helps you see things in films you may have not noticed before!


As previously mentioned in the Girl Guide on my blog about Liverpool Girl Geeks, coding is becoming the new IT topic in the tech world and it's actually pretty exciting! Though there is still so many changes to be made in the world, it's amazing that people (including model Karlie Kloss) are creating coding classes for young girls to get involved with. Basically coding is what makes up the websites we go onto and the apps we use on our smartphones and tablets. Social media and technology are forever changing therefore giving girls the chance to learn how to get involved in a big way is a huge step forward for society. 

Ted Talks: https://www.ted.com/

Similarly to podcasts, i've been a little addicted to watching Ted Talks as of late. TED began appearing randomly on my Facebook feed about 2 years ago and I got hooked. Now I can watch them on their website, app or Youtube Channel and there are so many videos to choose from. TED is devoted in spreading ideas normally through the form of short, powerful talks by inspiring people - philosophers, psychologists, teachers, professors, models, journalists, doctors, scientists...you name it! There's always something thought provoking to listen to and it's a great way to spend your time online.



A Girl's Guide to Liverpool: Girl Geeks

>> Politics student and feminist blogger Billie Walker will be doing a girls guide to Liverpool which aims to provide you with information on the people and events created around the city to support and celebrate women. For today's post, Billie had a chat with the women behind Liverpool Girl Geeks and why we need more women in tech...

Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr have been widely acknowledged as playing pivotal roles in the progression of technology. However these women’s achievements are rarely taught in schools and the Technology sector is still to a large extent seen as a man’s game. Liverpool Girl Geeks aim to change this.

When I met with Chelsea Slater, co-founder of Liverpool Girl Geeks, she explained to me how discouraged young girls are to follow their passions in the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). As only 17% of the UK tech sector is made up of women, it's no wonder these girls do not see a place for them in this department. Not only does the makeup of the tech world deter these girls from their passions, often parents & teachers do too. Chelsea informed me that teachers have put off some girls from choosing courses because the teacher has told them they will be mostly male dominated. With girls being discouraged from their passions as early as when choosing their GCSEs, it is no wonder that this year 100k tech jobs went unfilled when those inspired to enter these career paths are being prevented at such a young age.

Liverpool Girl Geeks is an organisation geared towards fixing this gender imbalance by inspiring and supporting women in the tech industry. One of their main projects is the Girl Geek Academy at FACT: which is an eight week course for 11-16 year old girls. This course teaches girls important tech skills (the last course being based around coding) but is also designed to show them how these skills can be used creatively and builds their confidence. Feeling supported by the group is as important for these girls as the skills themselves, when they are given little or no encouragement from their schools and peers concerning their interests. Chelsea told me they plan to continue these Girl Geek Academies at FACT, with courses on music and fashion tech to further demonstrate to young girls how many creative paths tech skills can lead them into and soon hope to be offering workshops to universities around Liverpool.

Not only do the Liverpool Girl Geeks encourage teenage girls to take career paths in the tech industry, they also want to inspire women of all ages into learning tech skills. As we are living in a world where children can do more with an iPad than the parent, it is understandable that we all need to learn to be tech-literate. The job market of the 21st Century demands we must be masters of our own publicity and demonstrate to any potential employer how tech savvy we are.  

On Thursday 8th December Liverpool Girl Geeks is hosting a workshop: Get Your Head Around Code. As code is the language used to create apps and websites, it is an extremely useful skill to have and this workshop is for all abilities even the extremely technologically challenged (like me). So if you want the chance to learn a valuable skill in a supportive friendly environment you should definitely join me there. Get your tickets here and read all about Liverpool Girl Geeks here!

By Billie Walker
Follow Billie on Instagram: @lady_bill_ and read her blog here
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