Why I’ll always love independent coffee shops

There’s nothing quite like small, independent coffee shops. They all have their own quirks and sense of individuality. And that’s what, in my opinion, makes them so great.

My favourite thing about them is how they are all so unique in their own way. There is nowhere else quite like any particular independent coffee shop. Chains will always serve their purpose but they’re all just the same as each other. They don’t have the same kind of ‘personality’ somewhere that’s independent.

I think it’s great to see how much staff actually care at independent cafes. And by going to one, you’re helping local people instead of big shot CEOs who’ve come to care solely about how much profit they can make. (And why on earth would a company pay their taxes, right?!) But everyone really does seem so much more personable at independent places.

One thing I’ve found with independent coffee shops is that I actually look forward to going back to them. Not just for the coffee, but also for the atmosphere. As someone who loves reading and blogging (well, any kind of writing really), they’re great places to go. I honestly have no idea just how long I’ve spent at coffee shops doing just that, but I absolutely love it.

So having been to my fair share of both chain and independent coffee shops, I know exactly which I prefer. Spending my afternoons in quirky coffee shops has definitely become one of my favourite things ever.

Controversial Topics

‘13 Reasons Why’: did it take the right approach in portraying bullying, rape and suicide?

’13 Reasons Why’ is a series that has become the subject of much discussion and debate. It focuses on various subjects that have affected and hurt so many people in real life. But to what extent did the series take the right approach in portraying those issues?

The series is set from the perspective of a high school student, Clay Jensen, who finds a box of cassette tapes on his porch. When he begins listening to them, he is shocked to discover that he is one of 13 reasons why one of his classmates decided to commit suicide. Recorded by Hannah Baker herself, she outlines why each person made her feel like she had no way out.

But ’13 Reasons Why’ has caused much controversy amongst its viewers. Its vivid portrayal of rape and Hannah Baker’s suicide caused widespread criticism of the series. For example, many people have suggested that showing Hannah actually cutting her wrists could lead to others repeating her actions, should they feel they need to take their own lives.

The series’ two rape scenes, in different episodes, are also vivid. Having watched the series myself, I can confirm that they are extremely difficult to watch – I found myself being unable to look directly at the screen. Many people will be wondering whether or not those scenes should have been as graphic as they were. In response to the criticism, Netflix made reference to the warnings before some of the episodes.

But the series has also been praised for raising more awareness of these issues. Rape, bullying and suicide have all affected so many people in one way or another. ’13 Reasons Why’ showed how they can affect one individual. Rape and bullying can ultimately ruin a person’s life to the point that they no longer want to even live.

’13 Reasons Why’ also shows how suicide can impact on family members. Throughout the series, it is clear how absolutely devastated Hannah’s parents are about her death. When they find Hannah after she took her own life, they are so desperate to save her.

The series also shows the impact of rape on a person. Although the rape scenes are extremely tough to watch, many argue that they highlight just how traumatic it is.

So all things considered, I have formed that opinion that ’13 Reasons Why’ goes far in highlighting the sheer severity of rape, bullying and suicide. So much of the series is incredibly hard hitting, but I do understand the concerns many people share about the series. It’s difficult to know how it might just affect an individual person. So in terms of whether the series took the right approach in its portrayal of some very serious issues, it really is hard to know what to think.


Living in one place or moving around – which is better?

Having lived in different parts of the UK, and seen a diverse range of countries, being in different areas of the world has always appealed to me. There are so many incredible things to see and so many extraordinary people to meet. I’ve always found visiting other places just amazing – you really get to immerse yourself in a different culture. But by staying somewhere for a few days, you don’t necessarily get the full picture of what a place is like. That’s why I think it’s so exciting to move to a new place, even if it is within your home country.

And that’s why I’ve never understood how people can live in the same town their entire lives. Each to their own and all that but seriously? Surely it would get so incredibly dull, wouldn’t it?

When I was growing up in South-East England, I absolutely loved the diversity of the area. At my school, I knew people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Europe and even one boy from Afghanistan. It was fascinating to learn about the cultures and customs of their native countries. But I always knew I wouldn’t have stayed there my whole life – there’s so much more of the world to see.

I now live in a small town in North-East Scotland. It’s a pretty nice area and I’m glad I’ve experienced it. But it really is a very small town. And I feel so claustrophobic living here. It’s fairly cliquey, much less diverse than other areas and not quite as accepting of newcomers. There are so many people living here who have never left. They’ve never lived anywhere else. And I can’t really get my head around that. Wouldn’t you want more to your life than that?

I’m so grateful that I’ll be spending an extended period of time in Belgium. It’s a great step in achieving my ultimate goal of becoming a foreign correspondent. I’ve never lived in a foreign country before and Belgium will be a great place to start! And I plan to move elsewhere when I graduate, surprise surprise! So I’m excited to see where I’ll end up next!


‘Shifting Colours’ by Fiona Sussman 

I first came across ‘Shifting Colours’ when I went to buy something to read for that day, having forgotten to take a book with me. But it was so lucky I ended up choosing it – the story was incredibly gripping. 

Set in apartheid South Africa, it followed the life of a young black girl, Miriam. Her mother, Celia, worked as a maid for the Steiners – a white couple. 

At the beginning of the novel, Celia and Miriam eagerly awaited the Steiners’ return from hospital, with their newborn child. But when they arrived without the baby, they soon realised that the child was stillborn. The reader later finds out that Mrs Steiner previously had two miscarriages. 

But when anti-apartheid protests became more frequent, the Steiners decided to move to England. In doing so, they ask Celia about adopting Miriam and taking her to England with them. Torn between wanting to see her child and giving Miriam the best opportunities possible, Celia eventually made the difficult decision to let her go. But despite the Steiners’ promises to write to Celia and visit with Miriam, all ties were eventually cut between mother and daughter. 

Having become an adult, Miriam’s relationship with her adoptive parents, and especially Mrs Steiner, grew increasingly strained. Miriam had always felt like she was missing something, so she decided to return to South Africa in search of Celia after 25 years. 

For me, this was one of those books that is so difficult to put down. I finished reading it so quickly. 

One thing I liked about the book was its impact. You hear so many statistics about apartheid, but hearing about the experiences of just a few is so much more hard hitting. Although the book is fictional, it gives apartheid a more ‘human’ side. ‘Shifting Colours’ is absolutely something I would read again. 


Accepting yourself for who you are

We all have individual things about us that make us who we are. Things that make us different from everyone else and shape our personalities.

And that’s what makes the world so amazing. It is so diverse. Everyone has their own mannerisms and we all speak and look different. Some people are quiet while some are loud; some black and some white; some are gay, some are straight; some are great academics while others are brilliant musicians. The list goes on. And, for me, that is incredible. It’s been said so often but, really, how dull would this place be if we were all the same?

But realistically, we aren’t all going to be everyone’s cup of tea – not everyone will get on well. Some personalities simply clash while some, for whatever reason, cannot accept those who aren’t the same as them. It may be unfortunate, but that’s life. It is what it is.

So it’s partly for this reason that we need to accept ourselves for who we are. We should all be able to do that. After all, not everyone else will, and we’ve got to start somewhere. That’s not to say we necessarily have to like everything about ourselves – no-one is perfect. But acceptance is key.

As for me, this is something I sometimes find difficult to do. But after giving it some thought, it does become easier. For example, I accept the fact that I often overthink things or sometimes over-react to something. They’re not great things, but they’re simply a part of who I am. But it’s also important to remember the positives as well. I am so passionate and driven and I hope that takes me far in journalism. I’m focussed, which is always a bonus when you really want to achieve something. I also identify as bi. And it’s for this reason that I’m so grateful that the UK is as tolerant as it is.

So there are loads of different things about ourselves that make us unique. Our lists could go on and on. But as long as we remember to all of the small things that shape our identities, that will go a long way.


The rights and acceptance of LGBT people

As a British person, I feel proud of the progress the UK has made in terms of LGBT rights. Now, everyone can marry the person they love, regardless of gender. And many people are so supportive of that. Admittedly, there are still several people who, for whatever reason, still don’t accept gay, bi and trans people for who they really are. And that has to change. But compared to many other places in the world, we are so lucky that we can all be accepted for the people we are here in the UK. 

In some countries, such as Iran and Afghanistan, homosexuality is illegal and LGBT people are killed for just being themselves. And frankly, that is sickening. 

Many other countries, including Morocco, Nigeria and Kuwait, have taken the view that the LGBT community wants to “promote” homosexuality and anything relevant to it is seen as “propaganda”. Clearly this is not the case – all the LGBT community really wants is acceptance. 

But in all parts of the world, some places more than others, the LGBT community continues to face hostility and even violence. Russia is a well-known example of a country in which LGBT people are treated appallingly. In far too many cases, these people have been verbally abused and brutally attacked. 

So while many countries have come far in accepting the LGBT community, full equality is still far from being achieved. It is unacceptable that certain people are targeted, just because of who they are. No one in the world has the right to hurt another human being because of who they love. It is absolutely disgusting. 

With the recent pride marches that have taken place, and so much more, there continues to be more awareness of what the LGBT community faces worldwide. But we all need to continue this until every single gay, lesbian, bi and trans person feels they can openly be who they are without fear of persecution. 


How I deal with my bad days

We’ve all had days we’d like to forget. We’ve made bad decisions or someone has pissed us off or whatever. There might not even be an identifiable reason for it. But whatever brings on a bad day, there are various ways we can cope with it. So these are a few of the things I do to deal with my own bad days.

  • Rationalise the Situation

Putting things into perspective is one of the more effective methods I use. I consider everything that has happened and what will realistically happen in the worst case scenario. Having done that, I think about how I’d go on to deal with it. Things don’t seem to be quite as bad after that. But taking control of your thinking is far better than letting your mind scare you into thinking much worse will happen.

  • Write

Putting all your thoughts on paper is a great way to get separate yourself from your worries. I love writing anyway so it’s brilliant for when I want to de-stress. It’s only psychological but tearing up the piece of paper you used to write about your worries can be a fantastic visual way to deal with everything.

  • Talk out loud

Everyone’s heard this at one point or another. But it really can help. It’s not something I tend to do often but it can be good to actually hear your thoughts out loud. In a couple of my own experiences, talking about what is wrong has helped me to rationalise bad situations.

  • Refer to past experiences

Everything that has happened in my past has worked out before – I always try to remember that. So there’s no reason why, if I handle them correctly, any other problems won’t. It also helps me to consider how I dealt with things in the past and use them to cope with what I have to now. Because they worked once before, right?

  • Walking

One of the only good things about the town in which I live is the beach. It’s a nice place to go for a walk to clear your head. I do this quite a lot and it really does work. It’s so calm (usually!) so it allows my mind to become ‘calmer’. The fresh air is brilliant when I need to mull things over in my head.

So these are the things that have helped me on my worst days. Some of them even go hand in hand. While they won’t always completely solve my problems, they at least go far in helping me to deal with them.