26 March 2015

Coffee and Poetry

It could be said that I have a fondness for coffee shops…

What can I say? Coffee is good. I've recently found working in my flat resorts to unwanted procrastination in the form of naps and Mail Online. I am a 'background noise' worker. The library has disconcerting stillness, whereas the gentle hustle and bustle of a coffee shop is nice. I know a lot of people need complete silence, but it's finding whatever works for you.

However if, like me, you would rather express-o collection, I thought I would do a little round up of the places I have recently ventured to in Exeter, and how well their coffee woke up my study of poetry.

The Glorious Art House

Finally… this has been a long time coming! With its to-die-for pottery and quirky interior, it is Sophie in a shop. At the risk of sounding incredibly lazy, my inaugural trip here was delayed, in part, to the extra distance. Fore street is still unfamiliar territory to me; beyond M&S, Exeter houses a new and scary world! But I ventured, avec google maps, and found the much-hyped hotspot. 

Thoughts? Well, waiting 20 minutes for a green tea isn't going to win them any awards in the fast-food category. It was accompanied with a profuse apology and offer of a complimentary drink after, but it turns out I was content to leave after my first (and very generously sized) pot of tea.

It isn't to say I didn't like it - sitting there with my tea-set I was in my element and did get a lot of reading done! However, I do feel hype left me slightly underwhelmed. I sat upstairs, and didn't feel quite at home. The dark blue walls made it seem darker, while the noise outside was hard to work over without resorting to iPod sounds. 

The teacup, of course, was a big selling point. Part of the Anthropologie range, it is definitely on my wish-list. The book cycle is also a lovely touch; I just wish there had been more books decor around the place! I do think I will venture back, if not simply to try their coffee. Their lunchtime Moroccan tagine also looked pretty good, so maybe a lunch trip is needed too!  For work purposes, however, I'm not sure I would choose it over other places.

Regram-able: 5/5
Bookable: 3/5
Coffee Art: n/a 


If we were basing this on number of trips, Artigiano's does win hands down! I confess to having been there three times in the space of a fortnight, accompanied by laptop and (one hefty) poetry anthology. I argue that my stamp card is happy, so in two stops time I will be sipping on a cup milky, espressoey deliciousness  for free. 

As far as coffee goes, it doesn't get much better than this. As far as work productivity goes? Similarly, I have found my actual word count moves along pretty swimmingly here. The noise level is perfect; not too high (surprisingly), but enough to stop to on-edge feeling, which library silence provokes in me. It's location is also pretty on point. Top tip: stay until around 6pm and, right next door, Boots will have put major discount stickers on their sandwiches… next-day lunch, for 35p? Feeling happy. 

I only have one negative, really, and that is the coffee. Not the taste, which cannot be faulted. More that, unless you bolt it in 5 minutes flat, it goes cold so quickly. When you're paying £2.65 for an 8oz cup, you want to savour it! It also lacks the certain bookish charm of other places in Exeter. It is more trendy, ass opposed to quirky. But the seats are so comfy I don't even care. The fact you can get a table on a saturday afternoon, without relative ease, is another bonus. 

Regram-able: 4/5
Bookable: 4/5
Coffee Art: 5/5

Coffee #1

I remember coming here once in 1st year, for takeaway iced coffees. For some reason, I've never ventured back. My love for Artigiano's and BTP coffee, in terms of taste, leaves me not wanting to take a £2.50 risk of disappointment! That being said, last Monday afternoon I ventured the Road Less Travelled By, behind Princesshay. Perhaps Robert Frost really had become all-consuming…

First thought: God those armchairs look comfy
Second thought: Yay it's cheaper than Artigiano's.
Third thought: are those quotes on the walls?

Yes. Yes they are. It's looking good so far! Then I order my usual cappuccino, only to notice the small size is a definite upgrade from the quite dainty one of Artigiano's. As luck would have it, the far corner housed an Armchair, situated next to a bookshelf, that was still unclaimed… the stars were aligning. Now pray my essay would do the same. 

The deadline was imminent, so I think my accelerating word count was more due to frenzied determination, than anything else. Nonetheless, as with Artigiano's the noise level is perfect, possibly even better as they don't play background music as loudly. Frustratingly, there was no Wifi - trying to read a Sylvia Plath interview, on your phone, isn't ideal. 

The real test though… was the cup insulated? Important life question if there ever was one. In short, yes. I was able to savour my coffee for a good 15 minutes, before the lukewarmness set in and I proceeded to take the (wistful) last couple sips. The coffee was really nice, quite similar to Artigiano's. I'm not sure it quite rivals it, but I would definitely go again.

Overall, Artigiano's might have been challenged. When it comes to revision (during which time, unashamedly, plan to build up numerous loyalty cards), Coffee #1 will get a look in. It reminds me a bit of Devon Coffee, but I always think the latter will feel too cramped for work purposes. In terms of BTP, as much as I love it, the noise level is too high.

Regram-able: 4/5
Bookable: 5/5
Coffee Art: 4/5 

Camper Coffee

Like Mr Frost, Camper will always have a place in my heart. The fact they now do loyalty cards, four months after I originally inquired about them, is a welcome silver lining. This is the only place I go to for coffee on campus. Costa is nice, but I know I would sip it and, all the while, wish I were in another camp. As far as campus outlets go, this is the hidden gem. 

The coffee art is pretty, Queen's Cafe (when you can get a seat) is comfy and the barristas are always friendly… apart from when they close 30 minutes early, because they have "something else to do". You broke a girl's heart that day Camper, and it took me a solid two days to forgive you. 

Regram-able: 3/5
Bookable: 4/5
Coffee Art: 4/5

Two essays, four poets, four thousand words, each of these places helped me along my way. Each time I buy coffee, I do feel guilty for the cost - I am anxious about things like that! But, for me, it as a more worthwhile investment than club Jagerbombs or 3am dominoes. To each their own. When it's good, you can't put a price on poetry or coffee…  


15 March 2015

Mother's Day Message

I am aware that these posts will be engulfing every social media site today, so I was hesitant to make one! However, I conceded for two reasons. One - simply put, this lady in the right photos deserves a million posts and more. Secondly, I want to approach it from a particular angle; possibly the greatest life lesson of the last three years.

My mum loves me. I love my mum, and my mum loves me. Why am I writing this? Surely I could come up with far more original things to say on the woman who has been my rock for so many years! But those four small words - my mum loves me - carry more weight than almost anything else. Allow me to explain.

When you live with a mental illness, so many things in your world become upended. You do not see through a clear lens; it is distorted, and will often shroud truth to keep you entrenched in it. Family relations are an integral part of that. 

Throughout various stages of recovery from an eating disorder, I have battled against my family more than I ever thought the rational, kind and - quite frankly - 'goody-two-shoes' Sophie was ever capable of doing. It is the nature of the illness. 

Anorexia will try to make your mum into the enemy, and this continues into recovery. Her giving me the "biggest potato" was an act of "sabotage", it would hurt me. Of course, looking through logical eyes and what is the reality? A mother trying to nourish her daughter. Anorexia is the true enemy, and your mum is the opposite.

The illness knows this. It will try to plant seeds of distortion in your mind, because your loving mother only wants to see you healthy; she is the biggest threat to the Eating Disorder's existence. The more power she has, the less power the illness has, and vice versa.

Once upon a time, I couldn't see this. However, as I said at the start of this post, it has been the biggest life lesson of the past two years. I feel horrendously guilty for admitting how much I am struggling again; the last thing I want to do is feel I am letting people down. Yet possibly the strongest thing I have done in recent times, is having enough rationality to accept that my thoughts are not rational. Reaching out for support. 

Now, I avoid interference with cooking prep. When my mum places a meal down in front of me, I endeavour to eat it without protest. I know it will not be me protesting. I may inwardly panic if the potatoes are roasted and not boiled, but I will sit with her and make my way through the plate. I know my mum would never hurt me; quite the opposite. 

If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, this is something I cannot stress enough - in nearly all cases, your parents are on your side! They are not the ones hurting your body. They will not try to make you fat. They are not the ones telling you that you are not worthy of something. They are not the enemy. 

Next time you have feelings of anger towards your parents - specifically if it regards food - pause and question if it is truly you thinking this? Take a moment to ask yourself, why you are angry? Also, remember that they have been hurt by this illness too; mental illness might seem introspective, but the repercussions are anything but. You don't want to hurt them either, and this is a really powerful thing to hold onto in moments of doubt. 

My mum, through everything, has never stopped believing in me, never stopped fighting with me, and never given up. A lot of people would have - she truly is my rock. 

I know people who are not fortunate enough to have their mothers with them today, so if you do, savour each moment. They are one in a million. 

9 March 2015

Satire: French Farage & Humble Pie

photo credit: Huffington Post
Having just been elected as one of the Features Editors for Exeposé 15/16, I thought it would be nice to share more current affairs pieces here, including the wonderful world of satire. I am relatively new to it, but I had a lot of fun writing this particular piece on Nigel Farage, which originally published in last week's Exeposé. In contrast to print, the beauty of online is unlimited word counts, so here is the full - and uncensored - version… 

An explosive undercover report, by national paper The Daily Fail, has revealed that UKIP leader Nigel Farage is harbouring a dark secret. Fifty-year-old Mr Farage, who claims to hail from that most quintessential of British counties – Kent -  is in fact French.

A descendent of the Huguenot dynasty, it is claimed that Mr Farage has been living in such fear of his true routes resurfacing, he went as far as to stop using the hair-dye his wife purchased from him, as it was from L’Oreal. He decided that the risk wasn’t worth it.

The news will come as an embarrassing blow to the party that has been on an unprecedented ascendency in recent months. In addition to having UKIP’s first elected MP, and being invited to partake in a TV debate, Farage was last week named in an Express and Echo poll, “Best of British”.

photo credit: Mail Online
Ranking in at number five, Nigel was pitched to the post only by Yorkshire puddings, Paddington Bear, Pies and unborn baby Cambridge.

It is rumoured that Mr Farage contacted the film producers of the new Paddington Bear, asking to replace Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown.

An anonymous source in the UKIP headquarters relayed some of the conversation: “he rang them on Thursday, and I think he used the Express and Echo list as his main line of argument.

He said: ‘Lord Grantham only ranked in at 17! Even the dog scored higher than him. The dying dog’… Nigel has yet to hear back from producers”.

In further attempts to boost his poll position, an unnamed member of the University of Exeter’s Student Guild has disclosed that an anonymous donation to PieMinister - made on Friday - was none other than Mr Farage.

“Nothing says you’re British quite like a pie!” Nigel boomed in his local pub last Wednesday, as he chomped on a Cornish pasty. 

“Have you ever visited PieMinister, Mr Farage?” one of his constituents asked him tentatively.

“Me? No, that would make me look like George and his Byron Burger, wouldn’t it?” Farage snapped. The constituent was not granted a right of reply.

As for his plan to trump baby Cambridge in the poll, Nigel’s secretary was photographed last month with the phone number of Princess Anne’s office scrawled on the front of her diary.

“Oh Nigel’s got his eye on Anne all right”, our first source added. “She is all the things he looks for in a woman: single-minded; English; traditional; English.; well-dressed … did I mention English?

He’d also be a hit with the father-in-law.” We do not doubt that.

It is claimed that Phillip is a huge fan of UKIP’s latest campaign song; a take on a recent Taylor Swift hit, it addresses the immigrant issue. 

A Buckingham Palace guard told us how it is a regular occurrence to hear “All the Lib Dems gonna faint, faint, faint, faint, faint. And Labour gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. But we’ll Shake them off, SHAKE THEM OFF,” at full volume. Apparently the Prince is a rather marvellous baritone.

Nonetheless, the poll is a big silver lining for Farage right now. It has established him as very much a prominent figure in the eyes of the British people.

his photoshop skills are not quite to Stalin's standards yet. 

Ms Sprout, Green Leader, is reported to be beside herself; not only has her Party failed to secure a place in any televised debate, but not one vegetable placed on the Express and Echo list, not even the leader herself. Insiders say she is even considering taking over the paper, and renaming it Express and Eco. 

The incumbent Editor has yet to give us a comment.

Nonetheless, the French issue is a real blow for Farage. When we sent a reporter around the Capital, asking for comments, one member of the public remarked:

“well I don’t know why people are surprised!”

“why is that sir?”

“We knew, didn’t we? That Frenchie hates England! Why else would he want to turn it into a prison?”

We think he may have gotten confused with a certain character from the hit film Johnny English. His closing words would support this:

“Forget Nigel Salvage for PM, I want Rowan Atkinson!” 

It’s a thought, although as far as we are aware Mr (Mili)Bean is already in the running.

When we contacted UKIP for a statement regarding The Daily Fail leak, a party spokesman responded:

“Well it could be worse – he could be Russian”.
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