Society and Your Daily Routine- a Connection? Yes

Society and Your Daily Routine- a Connection? Yes


First faced with this question, my response was a confident “Well of course! Individuals come before society”. But then I considered it further, and doubt, like caffeine and the smell of freshly baked chocolate cookies, quickly found its way to me. Soon enough the question started going round and round my head, and I started going round and round my bedroom, another tea cup of good old caffeine in my hand . It seemed the more I looked for the answer, the more it became further away, like those Nesquik Lip Balms I’ve been hunting down (Okay the food comparisons stop here 😜)


If, when you first read the title of this article, like me you laughed it off, or immidiately shock your head “Of course”- consider one thing: from where does individualism originate?

According to sociologists, so many things that are a part of our daily life are conventions- in other words, they are constructed (and not essential for living). My daily cup of tasty Matcha tea, and listening to music as I slump lazily in my chair sadly fit into this category, although it’s refreshing to know that so do my routine walks and runs😉



Try writing down your morning schedule and consider how many of those things you have to do to survive- no I mean literally- not replying to work emails or not going for a morning jog won’t leave you dead😉

I noticed that so many of the things I had on my list were what sociologists regard as ‘not naturally needed’- i.e. waking early, getting dressed (this one never fails to draw sniggers 😂), showers (that too) … and yet what’s funny is that these things are what make me who I am. Without them, I’m left with things like eating and sleeping- hardly any different to cats, birds and even fish! I’m also left a very unusual looking and smelling human, not really ideal for going around town😉


It’s interesting to consider that because so many of the things we do are conventions, a lot of what we are and what makes us individuals only makes sense when we’re with others. When you start looking at things from this perspective things get really strange, and I mean really. Countless connections you never before realised become visible to you. I always ask myself why it is I do adore reading, and really the most direct and true answer I can give you is because of my love for knowledge. Knowledge is power, enjoyment, and enlightenment, I always answer. Then one day I decide to press further: but where does knowledge come from? Is it not something created by people too? And what of power, being an element of society that, I read, is itself constructed?


I suppose going around asking yourself Oxbridge interview questions on and on isn’t going to really get you anywhere in the short run (unless you’re applying, in whhich case, knock yourself out!) On the other hand, for the majority of people, this next word probably will: agency.

It’s been argued by many sociologists that we tend to associate with people with similar backgrounds, and to a greater extent you might notice that happening in your own life.

E.g. chances are if you’re, say 14, and attend a Girls School you will spend a lot of time with girls a similar age to you, as opposed to, like, people much older than you.

Personally, I’m really interested in the arts, and the many of the clubs I’m part of, events I attend and people I talk to… I’ve been introduced to them because of this passion. I couldn’t give you one name of someone I know studying Mathematics unfortunately😩 Other connections I have stem from my family’s social status and circles, friends of friends, and people I meet at clubs and social events- all similar to my own background.


Now- not long ago I mentioned the word agency, and this is where it comes in: the fact is, although it may be that you may only associate with people with, for instance, a similar interest to you, you can change that because you have free will (agency). If you’re a student reading Medicine at university, or if you have a Medical profession/interest and don’t meet any literature students/ people in the arts, you could always join a literature society, for example, or become a patron of the Royal Academy (or other gallery), enabling you to meet people from different fields. I find members clubs and other societies (like a reading group) are also great ways to meet people from different professions, although the former does mean you will be less likely to meet people from certain social and financial groups.

Nevertheless, the fact is that the choice is there, and really what I’ve noticed is that the more you know about structures in society, the more you can affect them. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little article about society🙂 If you’ve got any questions feel free to drop them below!🙂

Is Globalisation as Bad as People Think?


Globalisation: it’s a word that means so many different things to so many different people. On the one side we have people who tell me, a grave look on their faces, about how globalisation means everything is becoming what they call ‘Americanised’; i.e ‘Mcdonalised’. There’s been a huge surge in the people I know visiting Cuba now.


“We want to get there before we start seeing Coca-Cola and McDonalds everywhere”.

If we’re going to look at globalisation from an objective perspective, without considering whether it’s a good or bad thing, no doubt what you might think of when you hear the term being used is the fact of life that many of the material things we use are outsourced from elsewhere- this could be Italy, China, Germany or any number of countries (or even more than one!). Even many of the foods you eat on a daily basis may come from abroad, and we’re not only talking Cheese and Mochi😉


What globalisation means, in a more positive, less “McDonalds is coming! đŸ˜±đŸ˜­” doom-viewpoint is really that we are connected to nations and people even thousands of miles away. It’s strange when you wonder what person in what country knitted that jumper you’re wearing, but it’s true! It’s because of globalisation that the distance between people and nations seems to have shortened. I’m wearing a cape made in Czech Republic, shoes from Italy and a bag from Paris- all completely different places, and that’s only 3 out of countless different countries your clothes might be from!


Moreover, technology has meant that suddenly the modern world seems so much smaller than it was before. You don’t even need to travel by plane or trains to see family anymore- there they are, on your phone, talking and waving as if right in front of you!

Looking at globalisation in the cultural sense as opposed to the economic sense of course beings on the controversial topic of ‘Americanisation’. Basically this means the spread of Western diets to other nations. While many can probably agree that being able to eat Lucky Charms cereal in Germany and England, along with Jell-o and other sweets has its benefits😉 for others the problem lies in the fact that in many cases traditional diets are being replaced by a commercial diet (in this case referring to high consumption of ‘junk’ or ‘fast’ food), leading to malnutrition and cultural loss.

The rise in Supermarkets has meant convinience for some, but for local farmers, butchers, cheesemongers, bakeries and other businesses, a much harder time. All have told me about the difficulties of competing with supermarkets both because of prices and convinience (having everything in one place). In many cases I’ve even started hearing about people signing petitions to prevent supermarkets opening in their local areas for the sake of small businesses and shops/traders (glocalisation).


In the political sense globalisation means that the thinking of people in different countries is becoming more similar. Traditionally, when people talked about society it was normally concieved of in the ‘nation-state’ perspective- i.e. a way of thinking and the individual as being attributed and belonging to a single nation. With globalisation though, there has been the rise of a world-view, that we are all connected, reading news from papers anywhere in the world and also through communication. Online we can connect more easily with people from all around the world than ever. Only yesterday on Instagram I was thanking a Russian Instagrammer for their kind words on one of my photos- in Russian.

Let me get this out in the open- I can’t read Russian. At all. I can understand what the letters mean, but beyond that, I’m a blank space. There my reply is, though, in Russian! I answered them by clicking the little ‘translate’ button on the bottom of the page, which showed me what they had written about my picture. This isn’t even the first or last interaction I’ll have with someone from a completely different country who does not even share a mutual language with me. Not long ago this would have been unimaginable, but not in today’s globalised world.

On a bigger scale, you might recall the EU- of nations from many parts of the world all coming together. Whether or not you believe that this is the road to a ‘global government’, it’s certainly true that gradually nations have been giving away some of their power to tackle issues together. Only a few weeks ago I was reading about the calls of some political figures to establish a ‘European Army’.

On the other hand, this aspect of globalisation isn’t completely new; if you’ve studied history you might recall this in Empires of the past, like the Habsburg or British Empire, and this has led to some, whether rightly or wrongly, arguing that globalisation is a ‘form of imperialism’ in the cultural sense.


Going back to the ecomomic side of globalisation (and I won’t blame you if you’re wondering how it is I keep irritatingly moving from one aspect to the other), economic globalisation does not have to equate to neoliberalism, but they are often seen as being connected because of the neoliberalist desire to attain greater economic globalisation, i.e free trade deals and less business regulation on a world-wide scale (worth mentioning here is the controversial proposed TTIP deal, which you may well have heard about. If not, I’d urge you to read up on it!).

The issue as to whether globalisation is a good or bad thing is one I don’t think I’d be able to satisfactorily answer in this article though, because there are much more than one single good and bad aspect to it, and it’s difficult to decide- is one point more important than the other?

Environmentalists, I know, will be concerned about how globalisation has increased emissions- how much more can the world handle? With companies spreading and growing on a global scale it’s an issue that grows more and more significant with every passing day.

On the other hand, I can hear my grandmother talking about how wonderful it is that she can reconnect and stay in touch with lost friends from all around the world with a simple Facetime call, and many readers out there might have a similar experience.

What do you think? Is globalisation a good thing? Because for as many people as I know will be devastated at the thought of how the next KFC opening in some country in the world will affect the local culture and local businesses, I know others will be rejoicing that they can finally try fried chicken Western style.

Puddings and Desserts, an Essay- Yes Really.


September is here, and for many of you that means the cold weather is fast approaching. Here in London though it’s like 32 degrees so it’s ironic that I should write that! Somehow though as autumn arrives, and winter soon follows, warm desserts start popping up everywhere. I don’t know if it’s just me, but somehow the cold weather makes me want to eat and eat… and eat.

As this is supposed to be an educational blog though (I really stress supposed, I’m still trying to justify that writing about mountain-themed ice-cream is teaching you something), I don’t think it would be really right to be publishing an article about the allure of desserts and puddings..

So I’ve added a twist! Yes you can have fun while writing essays- this article’s going to be about the relationships between the compounded elements in British and American pudding and dessert compounds.

The title sounds long winded and complicated, but I had to justify writing about desserts to my linguistics professor in some way. It was actually great fun to write, although reading about all these different types of sweets made it really hard to resist cleaning out every bakery in the area.

Strange titles aside, what I’m writing about in simple English concerns the different names of well-known (or not!) British and American desserts; think doughnut, flapjacks.. As they’re compounds (i.e words, but my professor absolutely hated that term!) I’m going to discuss the relationship between them- how are they connected? And are there patterns between the different ways compounds are constructed?

Out of the many books I read (and reread and reread..) about compounds, it was Fabb’s definition that was really savaged by other linguists. Fabb (2001) described compounds as “a word which consists of two or more words”– the word (I’ve done it now too!) that my professor really discouraged us from using- that’s right, word. Indeed Kunter (2011), in a critique of Fabb’s (2001) definition, writes, “he does not make clear which structures he considers to qualify as a word [and] his definition is not very helpful [in] distinguish[ing] compounds from phrases”. Rather, avoiding the often ambiguous term word to define compounds, Haspelmath and Sims’s (2010) more broad definition of a compound as “a complex lexeme that is made up of more than one lexeme stem” might be seen to be more reasonable.

Throughout this article I’ll be referring to a corpus I’d collected of the different American and British dessert compounds. Many of these I knew already, a couple surprised me when I read them cited in different books (we’re talking things like dirt cake and lardy cake). The list is included below:


The first issue I’ll be discussing in this article is whether or not the meaning of the compound will drastically change if the lexemes in the unit are separated. For instance, will Hummingbird Cake mostly retain its original semantics if the lexeme Hummingbird is removed? To a greater extent, yes, because as the name suggests, it is a cake.


On the other hand, a Boston Cream Pie is not a pie, but in fact a cake, so all the units- Boston, Cream and Pie, must be retained for it to be recognised for what it is. Further still are the puddings and desserts in which the individual lexemes have unrelated meanings to the compound. For example, the lexemes Eton and Mess have very separate meanings on their own. Eton is a town in Berkshire, Southern England, whilst a mess is something untidy or “a situation that is full of problems” (Cambridge University Press. 2008. p. 595).

However, whilst the history of the Eton Mess may be connected to its compound name- the dessert originated at Eton College, and, as Clay (2010) writes, the mess in Eton Mess perhaps originates “from [its] untidy appearance or 
 from the earlier meaning of mess as a dish of food, which in turn became the name for a military dining room.” On the other hand, the term Eton Mess gives little suggestion to what the dish actually is- a mixture of strawberries, cream and meringue.

What this means in plain English is that in compounds like Eton Mess, the different units (i.e what you would normally label ‘words’- but beware of this!) don’t have a strong relationship- Eton has a seperate meaning to Mess. It is only when you use them together in one compound that the meaning can be understood- you can’t say ‘Eton’ or ‘Mess’ and immidiately expect people to understand you are talking about the dessert!🙂


Other examples from the list (shown above) include Watergate Salad, which is not a salad but a dessert (!), and Doughnut, Snickerdoodles, Ladies’ Kisses, Spotted Dick and Rocky Road, among others. In these cases, only a knowledge of the origins of these desserts and puddings may give some indication as to the relations between the compound units.

In some cases, however, even the connection of more than one lexeme stem may not be enough for the compound to be recognised as, in this case, a dessert or pudding. A key example of this instance would be the compound Rocky Road. Used in the sentence “I am eating Rocky Road”, the compound is a dessert. However, in the sentence “This is a rocky road”, the meaning becomes very different- in fact- the lexemes are separated and the two units are treated individually.

Riemer (2010) writes about how “Noun compounding
shows many different types of meaning relation between the compounded elements: a tree house is a type of house in a tree, but a lighthouse is a type of ‘house’ which contains a light
 A computer problem is a problem with a computer, and a zebra crossing is a crossing that is striped like a zebra”.

Whilst some of the dessert and pudding compounds satisfy this observation, others do not.


Take a Chocolate Bar, for example. I don’t really need to tell you that it’s chocolate shaped like a rectangular slab (a bar); the same goes for Pancake, which is, to a greater extent, cake mix fried in a pan.

A Cupcake is a cake baked in a ‘cup’ shaped mould, and Frozen Yogurt is exactly what its name suggests- yogurt that is frozen.

On the other hand, the relationships between the lexeme units in other dessert and pudding compounds seems to challenge the assertion of Howard and Amvela (2007) that “in noun compounds consisting of the structure ‘noun + noun’, we may postulate the existence of relational words (e.g. prepositions) in the structure, as follows: ash-tray = tray for ashes; armchair = chair with arms
”. Baked Alaska is a dessert made of ice cream, (browned) meringue and cake- not the state put in the oven. Similarly, a Doughnut is not dough shaped like a nut, and Snickerdoodles do not contain Snickers, nor do they look much like doodles.


While this is true, even in the names of puddings and desserts which appear first to be misleading, there is some connection between the compound and the origin of the dessert/pudding. For example, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary (2016), the term Marshmallow originated from the “Old English mersc-mealwe ‘kind of mallow plant (Althea officinalis) which grows near salt marshes;’ from marsh + mallow. The confection (so called from 1877) originally was made from paste from the roots of this plant”, thus, although the relation between the compounded elements perhaps at first appears to be non-existent, it could be argued that this is a misconception.

Also, as there has been a change in the English language (over many years), and a change in food habits and preparation, the relation between the compound units, and the reason for their combination, has sometimes been lost. For example, whilst the first records of the cheesecake show that it was heated- hence cheesecake, in the modern age the fact that cheesecake can now still be considered cheesecake whether or not it is baked or heated may make the lexeme cake in cheesecake seem irrelevant, even if at the time it was created it was very much an important identifying feature.

When I constructed my list of some of the British and American puddings and desserts, I was really interested in the order of the units in the compound- was there a pattern? Having studied my list, I hypothesised that if both of the compound units were nouns, one would be used an adjective. For example, the unit Ice in Ice Lolly could be seen as differentiating (through its state) this dessert from the hard sweet Lolly. In a similar way, Tapicoa is used to describe the characteristic of the pudding Tapioca Pudding.

Other compounds which met my hypothesis included Strawberry Delight, Hummingbird Cake, Hot-Fudge Sundae, Neapolitan Slices and Pound Cake.


Choux pastry picture by Andrew Samanor ©

On the other hand, it is difficult to test this hypothesis because the origins of several dessert and pudding names is unclear, a key example of this being Snickerdoodles. This type of compound is described by GĂłmez (2009) as belonging to the “exocentric”, category of compounds. These compounds, which include the Spotted Dick pudding and Devil’s Food Cake are “based on some sort of metaphoric meaning” unlike, for example, Hummingbird Cake, which, being a type of cake, has a ‘head’ that it can be reduced to. 

This essay is already too long for a blog post, and I can just hear Hamlet exclaiming “It shall to the barber’s, with your beard”. I think then, that it would probably be right for me to conclude here, also because the relatively small sample of British and American desserts and puddings makes the ability to accurately identify patterns between different groups of dessert and pudding compounds quite limited.

Nonetheless, what I’ve tried to explain in this article is how linguists have tried to classify noun compounds based on certain characteristics that these compounds share with one another. Whether such ‘metaphorically based’ compounds are created for the purposes of transmitting complex messages in shorter phrases, to convey experiences and images with greater richness, or that they have a contextual importance, the regular use of many of these American and British pudding and dessert terms shows just how important the study of the relationships within the constituent parts of these compounds in the English language is in this present day. 

Come Fly With Me… To Chiavenna

Today I’m taking you along with me to Chiavenna, a beautiful Italian valley on the way to St Moritz, and one with easily some of the prettiest alleyways I have ever seen!


First stop was a milk vending machine- I’ve been hooked on these ever since I first tried milk from one in Annecy 😂 We have them a lot in Switzerland, and many other European countries- France, Czech Republic, Italy and even England have them too! So there I was, having bought who knows how many bottles ready to be filled, inserting my money into the machine… when it refused to take it in! 😭 So no milk tea for me 😉😂

I understand most of the readers here didn’t come to hear about my milk adventures in Italy 😉 If you did though, don’t worry, as there is plenty of unique valley cheeses to be found in one of the charming little stone shops that line the colourful streets😉


As soon as I started walking down one stunning alley, I soon found myself in another one- each with its own unique character. Driving down the picturesque route through the mountains only an hour before, never would I have guessed what awaited me in the valley.


Que stone-made stores, some painted with baby colours, each as sweet as the next; step inside one of the food stores and it’s a different experience, dazzled by all the different fruits, truffle products and traditional pastries to be found, including easily one of the strangest things I’ve seen- black salt! 😂 Soon after black salt came black bread, but that’s for another post ;))


The streets eventually open up to a beautiful bridge, a place where as you gaze across at the stream of water passing noislessly below, the breeze plays lightly with your clothes, and the sun shines all the while. In the distance, mountains can be seen, their green and blue colours adding a special touch to the stunning scenery.


I drift off towards the city centre, following the trail of cyclists moving down towards the main square, where flowers decorate the gelato stores that line the roads. 2 hours of star-eyed exploring and maybe 50 shops later, I return to the bridge to watch the sun set. (not an easy return journey though, it was pretty long because of my inability to miss a single store even though I’d already bought from them! They were all just so incredible, with their glittery shoes and enormous cheese and bakery counters alike; finally, extreme measures were taken and I had to be dragged away) 😂🙈

Coming to the bridge though, I could feel my pace slow down as I stood, hands resting lightly on the warm wooden rail, watching the river-view change before my eyes, the last rays of sunlight reaching out to stroke the coloured buildings before they withdrew away. The air was warm, and the sky was blue. I think I lost myself in that extraordinarily dreamy moment; it was one I couldn’t quite believe ever happened.



Come Fly With Me… To Lake Como

Episode 3 of my ‘Come Fly With Me’ series, and today I take you around incredible Lake Como, the place of dreams and all things ice-cream.

There seems to be a special scent in the wind, something magic that I catch in the warm August air as soon as I wake up. From my bed I can see the magnificent pale blue mountains and tranquil lake, clouds hovering around the indigo shadows of the peaks. It is a view that has been etched in my mind since I first visited Como; each year though to me it seems more beautiful, more dazzling, and more serene; it’s like, each time I visit, it’s my first time, and I fall in love with the gorgeous lake all over again.


One of your first stops here should definitely be the nearest Patisserie, where you can enjoy the incredible freshly brewed coffee with some fantastic traditional delicacies- we’re talking Tiramissu and sweet pastries. The coffee has this wonderful aroma, and most people take it standing at the cafĂ© bar. Unfortunately this means it’s all to easy to down one cup of coffee after another, with no end!


If you’re out for something bigger and sweeter, definitely try some of their sweet cake, just out the oven and dusted with icing sugar. Perfect with cheese and a view of the lake from above. I feel my problem here is there are just too many pretty places, I’m overwhelmed by all these amazing sweets so I flit from one to the other and back again 😂 You can smell the sweet cakes being brought out of the ovens from the streets, something that means driving here is really very dangerous.


On the outside, Lake Como is surrounded by pretty little restaurants, each with its own patterned decor. The buildings are made of beige bricks, all unique shades, and it’s easy to assume the same goes for every building in each town. But in reality, exploring deeper through the little pathways, past the restaurants and cafĂ©s that line the outside could take you somewhere very different. Some place away in those roads, the buildings and streets change- beige is replaced by a palate of different colours, a stark contrast to the exterior homes you saw before. But then, little surprises are everywhere, and especially here.


The lake is adorned with beautiful places in beautiful streets, and each has its own character.


But walking deeper through them, wonderful things await. Little café gems hidden away in alleyways, mini knitting stores, and maybe best of all, specialist biscuit and cookie boutiques, where you can literally go mad choosing from unique nougats, soft sweet cookies and even truffle honeys and oils.



One of my favourite parts of Como is the Flying Club, where I’d definitely recommend the trip over Como and the surrounding areas, a scenic route which really is unmissable. If you’d prefer to stay on the ground instead of the sky or the lake, hiking here is a superb experience. Surrounded by the magical blue mountains and greenery around you, it’s really something special.



Enjoy your evening at the Lakeside, where the restaurant lights illuminate the water against the indigo sky. After a night of concerts, the music will still be ringing in your ears as you wander endlessly along the lake.


Don’t forget the ice-cream


Come Fly With Me… To Prague

Episode two of my ‘Come Fly With Me’ series for the summer, and today I show you around the incredibly beautiful capital city of Czech Republic.

In the daytime this place is swarming with colours- people, so many, wandering around, seemingly lost amid the stunning streets, which are perfumed by the sweet sugar-coated pastries they sell on every corner.


The excitement of everyone around me soon proves infectious and though I’ve been here countless times in no time at all I take to skipping around its flower-lined streets, absorbed in the magical atmosphere. It’s as if I’ve arrived for my first time here, and I’m enchanted by everything around me- the strange and delicious coffee blends, stunning hand-sized cream cakes, the church bell towers singing me away, deeper through to the Old Town. The sound of the church bells are for me reminicent of Switzerland, and remind me of my house in Zug where they always ring me to sleep with their rhythm. There’s something very special and significant about this simple detail- I find home away from home.


The day, like the colours around me as I travel around the city, seems to fly by, and evening soon sets on the city. Pink clouds mingle with blue, adding a special touch of something spellbounding to this place.

My favourite haunt of the city is the Astronomical Clock, and I spend the early hours of my evening watching the sun set as piano music floats up to me from the square. It is a breathtaking view.


Night now upon us, with my concert tickets in hand, I embark on my daily routine of travelling to, and watching, the evening’s Concert- something here in Prague is no less than exceptional. I think I’ll have to write a whole article on the different theatres in Prague as each one is beautiful in its own way. Intricately decorated with magnificent details, you are surrounded by beauty as you watch the musicians play music that really takes you away. The interior you can see below is from the Municipal House🙂


With Vivaldi still ringing in my ears, after the latest concert I made my way towards the Old Town, where sleep doesn’t really exist, and the streets are lit up by the glow of restaurants and cafĂ©s open until the morning light. All around me people laugh and celebrate; the waltz really does go on here in Prague.


Another day, another 100 credit card swipes later (😝😂) and almost three hundred floors up, find yourself staring, stary-eyed, out across the city from the Prague Castle. It’s an extraordinary view, and one characterised by the sheer number of orange-roofed homes that decorate the landscape.


And yet there is so much more that you cannot see simply from the top of the Cathedral (at the Castle). The city is brimming with amazing stores, cafĂ©s and unique buildings and attractions. If you are a cheese-lover, RĂĄj SĂœrĆŻ is the place for you. I must have spent well over an hour simply choosing from the different cheeses! Truffle cheese, Chilli Gouda, and cheese from all around the world make a feature here- including my beloved TĂȘte de Moine. You know you have a problem when you start trying to justify eating all that cheese with “It’s rich in Calcium” 😂😂


There are so many more things to go crazy-mode on in Prague other than the cheese though. Foodies can most definitely find home here- Prague is brimming with tea shops, Italian foodshops, gelato cafĂ©s, and all kinds of places where you can buy freshly made pasta, just-caught fish cooked for you, and cake shops galore. This is the kind of place you want to avoid the scales while staying😉

All the carnivorious readers out there should head to The Real Food Society, my go-to place for especially good organic meat- on your way though, don’t forget to snap a picture of the local celebrity- the beautiully strange dancing house.


If there’s one moment from this trip I’ll never forget, it’s the view from the Astromomical Clock over the incredible city. I stood there for a long time looking out to the distance, truly in awe of its beauty. Prague is a living masterpiece, one I know has captured the hearts of many, as it will do for many years to come.



Come Fly With Me… to Roudnice nad Labem

Ever since I first started publishing articles on Break the Enigma, I’ve tried to make them in some way educative. But it’s summer- for the students out there I write my essays for, the last thing you want is to be reading about revision after you just finished exams!

So I figured I would share with you all this summer some travel posts🙂 Whether it teaches you something new about different countries of the world, or inspires you to travel somewhere new, I hope you’ll follow me as I show you around different places🙂

A picturesque plane ride takes me to the incredibly pretty Roudnice nad Labem in the Czech Republic, a country that judging by the amount of times I visit, I’m obsessed with. Each building is a different colour here, and the many hues of the cars only add to the stunning scenery of rainbow magic. Afar in the distance, you can see wonderful blue mountains- with colours like these, cloudy days are just as lively as sunny ones.



Once you start roaming the streets of the town, it becomes ever more apparent to you that you may just have entered Candyland. The architecture of the buildings- one dating back to the 12th century- is intricate and stunning, with styles from the Renaissance, gothic, and Baroque eras all making a feature in the town.


Each building is a different shade- together, the town is rainbow coloured. Even the homes of Notting Hill in London, though admittedly colourful, don’t reach this level of ‘colour mania’.

The roofs of the homes are biscuit shaped and biscuit coloured, and, if you could, look beautiful enough to eat, just like the rest of the town. As if the many coloures given out by the cars, buildings, trees and pavements wasn’t enough, flowers have been set to adorn the many charming cafĂ©s nestled around. Red and yellow, pink and purple.


If you’re visiting the area, definitely be sure not to miss the stunning Castle in the heart of the town- not that you can, really, because like all the other amazing pieces of architecture here the Castle is- you guessed it- colourful. If you thought all castles were made of grey stone- prepare to be very surprised.


Inside, remember to look up- something incredible awaits.


Finish off your tour of the Castle by venturing out to one of its balconies, where you can behold the splendid view of the town’s architecture in all its magnificence.


How to Stay Productive During Summer Holidays

With exams done, for those A-Level students out there, the last thing you want to be thinking of right now is revising. It’s finally summer, and you’ve only just finished your exams.

On the other hand, you might be worried that with the summer, and all the partying/ lazying about/ holidaying to no end/ switching off your brain that comes with it, you’ll forget everything you’d learnt this year, and return to Sixth Form/ arrive at university unprepared. So what I’m going to be doing in this article is showing you the different ways you can keep your brain working while still enjoying your summer😉 Even if you’re not an A-Level student, you might find some of the suggestions I give here on learning things new and old in a fun way useful🙂 Although I finished my A-Levels what feels like a decade ago, I use many of these on a daily basis as I find they help keep me focused and for the added benefit that I can return to university knowing a little more than when I left😉

Tip 1: Watch informative T.V Shows.

If you are one to spend hours watching different T.V shows and/or movies- you can use this to your advantage amd justify any show-binging😉 Try to find television shows which are broadly educational, or that inspire you in some way to educate yourself about a certain interesting topic or discipline. Game of Thrones, for example, might inspire you to read up on Medieval Battles😉 If you are even vaguely interested in history, you might find that watching a show such as Wolf Hall (which documents the rise of Thomas Cromwell through the court of Henry VIII) inspires you to do further research on the Tudors, or at least teaches you something about them… like what it is the Tudors actually ate. Clue: it’s a little more than just sweetmeats😉

Tip 2: Read throughout the summer- whatever you can get your hands on: books, news articles, movie reviews, poetry, stories, etc.

This is one of the most useful tips for me personally; I find that the more I read, the more I improve at it, and the more my knowledge of different fields increases. Create a list of books you’re interested in reading- whether they be classical history, novels, plays, etc. What I’m currently doing is that each month, I give myself a different group of things to read: by this, I mean one month I will read only novels, the next month only plays, the month after, classical history, then poetry, short stories, and so on. This means I don’t get bored, can easily compare the different writing styles within each group, and means I will have read a great variety of different texts by the time I return to university🙂


Tip 3: Watch informative YouTube videos or Television documentaries

Television documentaries are something I really enjoy, because they often inspire me to do further research on certain fields. I personally love the BBC’s Horizon series- it’s really greatly motivated me to read more on science (especially Astrology). I try to watch documentaries on areas I’m not too familiar with, i.e. Mathematics, Science, Technology, because it completes my knowledge, but it’s also wonderful to watch documentaries on the ones I love and know so well- History, Classics, Literature, Economics and Politics. It’s definitely sparked a new interest in me, and doesn’t require much effort, so you can watch them at any part of the day.

Tip 4: Visit historical or significant sites and landmarks.

If you live in London, whatever field you’re interested in, you can find somewhere that might help keep you updated on your favourite field, and where you can enjoy a bit of adventure too. The Stock Exchange, Tower of London, any one of the Royal Palaces, Parliament, and Bank of England are only some of the places you can see, and learn more about. In England, Stonehenge, Canterbury, Leeds Castle and Salisbury are incredible, and this is only naming a few of the many! This is true for so many cities in the world- especially if you’re interested in history, there’s a lot you can learn from visiting different locations.


Tip 5: If you’re going abroad, do some reading on the customs/ history/ facts about the countries you’re travelling to

I find learning about the different customs that exist in the different countries I travel to as much interesting as it is useful, in that it’s definitely a helpful thing to know, and one that you can use time and time again. Learning about the history of the place you’re visiting is also a really rewarding thing- both in helping you increase your knowledge of the world, and also in helping you appreciate the rich stories and beauty of the place you’re visiting🙂


Tip 6: Attend shows/exhibitions/lectures about interesting and informative things.

I like to visit as many museums and art exhibitions as I can. I find it’s not only enjoyable, but keeps me up-to-date on the latest trends, styles, artists and events going on in the world. I love stories so visiting art exhibitions is for me something very special because I love to look for hidden messages and symbols in pieces of art. Lectures are also a great way to learn about hot new topics/subjects, and debates are also a nice way to do this while allowing you to practice public speaking. Many universities hold them open even if you’re not a student there, so it’s definitely worth checking them out.


Tip 7: Blog… or read blogs

Blogging every week, and having to create and read my own essays for them has really helped me remember key details and facts. You don’t even need to create your own blog to do that though- simply follow any one of the many wonderful blogs online on whatever topics you feel will benefit/educate you🙂

How do you keep yourself well-read during the summer? I’d love to hear your ideas below!

The Art of Overcoming Distractions

Is it not annoying when- and here’s a situation you might be familiar with- you have a job to do- whether it be at work, revising, or a task you’ve set yourself… and you can’t do it. Because every time you start, every time you even begin to get focused on it… your phone notifications go off, or you sneak a peek at your Instagram account and that peek turns into… something more than a peek. Or you spot something pretty on your desk, or you find you can’t take your eyes off the view outside your window…

Or anything really. Because the problem with distractions is that it’s so easy to get carried away, and sometimes certain tasks we have to do are so boring or so difficult that it’s only too easy to just get too excited about just about anything that you see. When I’m writing at home, I’ve even taken to leaving all other electronics in the most difficult places- up many flights of steps, in any one of the rooms I really can’t be bothered to have to run up to to retrieve it- really anywhere that might stop me from finding it easily. It’s just that something is always happening online, on chats, on social networks and the blogosphere and it never actually ends. If my phone is within my reach, you can pretty much bet that reach it I will.

Often though you don’t have to go to such crazy lengths to stop yourself from getting distracted. Besides, it’s not even always electronics which distract us from our work. I’ve noticed myself increasing the number of times I take tea each day- going up from once, to now 4 or 5 times- simply because I have to leave my desk- and whatever it is I’m working on on my computer- in order to choose which variety I want each time!

The fact is, even if you absolutely love everything you’re doing (and I really do!) there are going to be parts of it that are less enjoyable, be it having to make difficult decisions, revise for a topic you’re less than thrilled about, write a chapter of a book which requires research of more difficult texts or complete a task that takes extra effort. The good news is that you can overcome many of the barriers that are preventing you from enjoying distracted-free work time. Today I’ll be giving you some of my suggestions as to how🙂


Don’t spread breaks out. I find breaks are a really fantastic thing- great for getting refreshed, reapproaching my work with a new mind, and planning my next move, but the problem with too many of them is that each time I take a break, I lose my focus. So even when I return to my work, chances are it is going to take me some time to regain that focus. If, for example, it takes you 20 minutes to do that, and you take 5 breaks, you’re spending 100 minutes of your day regaining focus.

That precious time could be put to much better uses. What I find is usually useful to do is to give myself a certain task/s to accomplish that day, and to just go through and do my best to complete as much/many of them as possible, taking breaks only when I feel I really need it. It’s meant I spend more time being fully focused on my task than having to regain that focus again and again.


Eating well, keeping hydrated and sleeping well. These are three key things that I find are especially helpful in keeping myself at my most productive state. Something true throughout my life in schools, continuing even through universiity- that I’ve noticed is that students often don’t give themselves enough sleep. I know a countless amount of people who are constantly up until 2-3am doing last minute studies and revision. It’s something they tell me never to do- you’re more likely to perform well in exams or under pressure if you’ve had enough sleep and you’re well and rested🙂 Take that from experience😛

I’ve found that eating good meals and keeping hydrated throughout the day (not on coffee and sugary drinks though! :D) is really helpful in keeping me focused. Many of my friends swear by fresh smoothies, but there are so many other foods that give you great energy which are wonderful too, if that’s not for you. I try to steer away from anything that makes me feel sleepy or drained. Everyone’s different, so I’m not going to be specific, but I personally find good protein, vitamin rich foods and Vitamin D are perfect pick-me-ups🙂



Try making your work fun. So I can imagine this sounds so much easier to do than it really is, so I’ll give some examples: If your work is repetitive, try to vary the tasks you have to do each day. In between working, input tasks which are different to break the routine, and yet relevant to your work. E.g. If I’m writing short stories, I can’t really change the fact that I’m writing, but what I can do is occasionally read and consult advice on writing, read other short stories- anything to differentiate each day from the previous one. It adds meaning to them.

I’ve found that for revision, highlighting, ilustrating your work in grids or brainstorms, watching videos and recording yourself reading out your notes are just some of the many ways you can be creative with the tasks you have to do. Even changing your environment can be helpful- try completing your work in a different area- a cafĂ©, or a library, for example. Changing the way you work may well make it more enjoyable. 



Rewards. In other words, find out what motivates you. This could be what you need to be less likely to get distracted.

It could be…

  • Material items: I know many people who find that promising themselves something tangible encourages them to accomplish things, thus making them less likely to get distracted- depending on your interests, your reward for yourself is different. With this it’s best to think of something you want, can get/buy, but just haven’t yet- in other words, something achievable. I know a coffee lover who buys themself a different variety of coffee each time they are able to complete a week productively, i.e. without getting too distracted, but it does not need to entail buying anything- it could be as simple as treating yourself to homemade cupcakes/ time at the end of the week to decorate cookies at home.
  • People. Family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, celebrities- all of these and more are for many people important figureheads/inspirations/role models that motivate them to get through their task. Especially if you know the person well, they can be a great inspiration to resist the temptation of constantly getting distracted.
  • Other- I find this final point to have been more relevant to me persoanlly throughout my life, especially during exams. Being a competetive person, I don’t enjoy not doing as well as I could have. The feeling you get when you achieve something big- that is the feeling I live for. So I try to remind myself of how rewarding it is to complete all the tasks I set for myself- it is surprisingly effective in keeping me focused🙂


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these suggestions :) What are your top tips and techniques for staying focused? I’d love to ear them! Simply comment below.


The U.S and U.K Governments Compared

Whether you’re living in the U.K, or in the U.S, you may find that, even if you’re not really familiar with the political system of the other nation, have noticed that it definitely differs at least a little from your own. If you’re in the U.S, for example, you may wonder how it is that the Prime minister is regularly seen in Parliament despite the fact that he is a member of the Executive (ruling Party) (In the U.S the President cannot be a member of Congress- or the Supreme Court- because of the Seperation of Powers outlined in the Constitution). Similarly, if you’re only familiar with U.K Politics, you might wonder how and why it is that the states have great power in U.S political issues (it is, in fact, a Federal system). The fact is, that, while the U.S and the U.K share the same language, their seperate political systems are quite different, for although they are both democracies, particularly concerning the different characteristics of their respective constitutions, they are quite distinct.

If you’re interested in finding about how the U.K’s Political system is different to that of the U.S, don’t know much about your own system and want to learn more, or are an A-Level student revising for U.S Politics, you might find this brief little article useful. In it, I discuss some of the major differences between the two systems.

The American Constitution is codified, meaning it’s written down in a single document.

This one:

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It is, of course, not this short! It is under 20 printed pages worth of specific directions detailing the way that the country should be run, originating from 1787. Unlike the U.K’s Constitution, it does not have its origins in a variety of different sources, but exists in one single document, which, if you’re a Politics student, you can find at the back of your Politics Textbook🙂 (Your U.S one ;))

The details- what are the major differences between the Political systems of the U.K and U.S?

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Elizabeth I- How much do you know?

Elizabeth I is a Queen with a legacy of bringing Tudor England into a Golden Age. Often remembered through the titles ‘The Virgin Queen’, and ‘Gloriana’, she is regarded as one of the most exceptional monarchs in England’s history. Born the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (his second wife), she succeeded her elder half-sister Queen Mary I, and ruled for a great 45 years. Today I thought I’d share with you all a little quiz about her reign, mostly centred on her Parliaments, which was a particularly key issue because of the fact that historians disagree over whether it was marked by conflict (and even, as some historians argue, that Parliament was at this time desiring greater freedom which would later culminate in its calls to curb the Royal Prerogative of Charles I in later years- you can find out what this term means in the quiz), or that she controlled them effectively, and perhaps that it was too early for Parliament to be attempting to increase its powers. Hopefully this quiz might even inspire you to read more about this really interesting issue🙂 Even if it doesn’t, you might find some interesting facts you never knew before about the history of England and its monarchy🙂

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(Q). Apart from money, what other benefits were there for Elizabeth I in calling Parliament?

(A). The benefit of hearing the views of members of society (on particular policies), e.g. Burgesses, Lords, Gentry… 

(Q). Why might rising numbers of the Gentry in Parliamnet cause problems?

(A). They were more educated and confident, and thus more likely to express desires for more power and freedom of speech, wishes Elizabeth I did not want to grant.

(Q). What was the Royal Prerogrative?

(A). These were the subjects/topics only the Queen had the (exclusive) right to consider or discuss.

(Q). What topics came under the Royal Prerogative under Elizabeth?

(A). Issues to do with marriage, religion, and the succession.

(Q). What three areas did Elizabeth’s first Parliament successfully deal with?

(A). Taxation, Customs Issues and the new Protestant religious settlement.

(Q). What earned Elizabeth’s first Parliament a rebuke from her?

(A). They urged her to marry. (However this was one of the subjects she refused to discuss in Parliament!)

(Q). Name one thing the Statute of Artifices (1563) agreed by Elzabeth and her 2nd Parliament did.

(A). It removed a National Wage limit.

(Q). In her 3rd Parliament William Strickland was excluded from the Commons. Why? 

(A). He proposed a new Prayer Book. (Religion was another topic which came under Elizabeth’s Royal Prerogative– see Q.4)

(Q). What did Wentworth demand in Elizabeth’s 4th Parliament?

(A). Freedom of Speech- by this he meant the right to speak on matters of the Royal Prerogative.

(Q). Elizabeth invited her 4th and 6th Parliaments to discuss Mary, Queen of Scots. What did her 6th Parliament recommend?

(A). The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

(Q). In Elizabeth’s 6th Parliament Cope was sent to the Tower of London. Why?

(A). He tried to Pass a Puritan Bill.

(Q). What notable Bill was passed in Elizabeth 9th Parliament?

(A). The Poor Law of 1601.

(Q). Give one area where Elizabeth did not experience conflict with her Parliaments over.

(A). Elizabeth I’s Parliaments never denied her funds.


Happy Birthday!

It’s been a year of Breaktheenigma- a year of milk-tea mornings, sat typing away, a year of having the pleasure to read the most kind and wonderful comments sent to my emails and blogs, a year of planning, laughing, learning, writing… and breaking enigmas😉

Today is the 1st Birthday of this Blog- BreaktheEnigma, and I just wanted to use this article to thank all the incredible people who read my blog- yes, I do mean you!

Inspiration and motivation are priceless gifts, in that while they don’t cost anything to give, there is no value to the enormous ways in which they can really change lives. I am grateful to every reader of this blog- every single one of you- because you have inspired me every day. Knowing that there are people out there reading my content, and hopefully enjoying it or finding it useful- knowing that, just gives me immesurable happiness. Thank you so much for being there for me, for supporting me, and motivating me to keep writing. I just wanted to let you know, that it really means the world to me, and I really, truly appreciate it.

It is beyond amazing to see the variety of different countries people reading this blog are reading from- when I first started this blog, I was only writing up my articles in the hope that it might be helpful to anyone who came across them, especially for A-Level students looking for support with their essays. Little did I know that tens of thousands of you would be reading it only a year later! I still cannot get over that fact, and every day when I wake up and remember, there are no words to describe my feeling of gratification. It is something truly special. Thank you.

Today I thought in this article I’d include a poem I wrote to celebrate the first birthday of the blog🙂 It’s on the sister blog of BreaktheEnigma too, which you’re very welcome to check out whenever you like🙂

With many many thanks to you, have a wonderful wonderful day :))



I wondered how many I could possibly eat, for one is too little for such a sweet treat.
So I finally call, “I will have them all” and they all seem to glitter and gleam in my head, each one so brilliant, they’re beautiful gems.
But I realise when I get home, how I love how they’re together; though so lovely to look at, eat them I could never.

Mid-Term elections- How Significant Are They?

Mid-term elections are the elections (held in the U.S) for the whole of the House of Republicans and 1/3 of the Senate that occur midway through the President’s 4-year term in office. 

There are countless times during my levels when I asked myself “What’s so important about this topic I’m learning? Why does it matter?”. I loved Politics, but I also wanted to know that the particular topics I was learning had some significance to U.S Politics as a whole. When I got this question as a homework assignment, I laughted: “That is exactly what I’ve been asking myself“.

If you too have been asking yourself what the importance of midterm elections is, or if you have to do this essay for your A-levels, or both, you’re in luck because today I’ll be answering this question in this article🙂

Mid-Term Elections- are they important?

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(1). The fact that mid-term elections can make the president’s agenda more or less difficult to achieve suggests that they are significant, because the consequence of the Seperation of Powers is that the President has limited power to affect legislation, thus suppport in Congress for the policies he wishes to implement is important to him.

In 2002, Bush increased his majority in both Houses of Congress, allowing him with greater ease to pass great measures following the 9/11 attacks. Contrastingly, in 1994, Clinton lost his House majority to Republicans; thus he was forced to adopt more fiscally conservative bills such as the Line Item Veto Act of 1996.

Midterms may also set the agenda for the next two years and provide party platforms for launching certain campaigns, for example the 6 for ’06 program in 2006 by the Democrats, which was followed by the achievement of a majority in Congress showed support for more liberal policies– this led to the Democrats endorsing healthcare reform in the 2008 presidential elections.

(2). Mid-term elections are also significant in that they are a measure of public opinion on both the performance of the incumbent President and the party in control of Congress. The losses in the House of Representatives for the Democrats in 2010, for example, were a message of discontent of ‘runaway’ government spending, leading to a later more moderate line of spending by President Obama.

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(1). On the other hand, it could be countered that the arguemnt that Mid-terms offer a verdict on the performance of the President is less significant to Presidents in their last term of office.

In addition, Mid-terms are more significant for the House of Representatives than the Senate, because all 435 seats in the House are up for election during the Mid-terms, whereas in the Senate it is only 1/3 of the Seats that are up for any contestation.

Perhaps the most significant limitation of the importance of Mid-terms is their low turnout, which it may be argued reflects the low importance they are seen by people to have. The turnout of Mid-terms is often around 40%– that’s less than half the voting population! The problem with the low turnout is that it decreases the level of democracy, and thus legitimacy, of the Mid-terms.

Another problem with Mid-terms that limits their importance is the power and likelihood of incumbency (staying elected-keeping the position one is elected to). This, especially in the House, makes many elections uncompetetive, arguably limiting the significance of the Mid-terms (perhaps also one of the reasons for low turnout).

On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that in the Senate, the majority party has influence over the U.S Supreme court nominees because although they are chosen by the President, they must be confirmed byt he Senate, and so it could be seen that the results of Mid-terms have the power to affect this. Considering how, in forcing the government to be accountable to the people, the Mid-terms also uphold the Founding Fathers’ principles of limited government and democracy, they are certainly significant, although the extent of their importance is a decision best left up to you.

Sound Patterns in Thomas Hardy’s ‘His Immortality’

Today is a day of firsts for me. It is the first hour of the day that I have not used my phone once (whoop!). But it’s also a day of firsts because of something more, well, noteworthy- this will be the first article we have here on BreaktheEnigma about Phonetics!🙂

Phonetics (the study of speech and language sounds) is very interesting, and definitely something I love. On the other hand, I also love Thomas Hardy‘s beautiful poem His Immortality. Sometimes when you can’t choose between two things though, the solution is to choose both😉 So today I thought I’d centre this article on the combination of the two, by writing about Sound Patterns in His Immortality. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it :)

The significance of sound patterns in poetry can be seen in that the particular type, structure and placing of certain words is sometimes interconnected with the meanings the poet wishes to convey to their reader. The choice of one word, for example, out of a verray of synonyms may well have been done for a reason. So too is rhyming one word with another, because the similarities in the sounds of some such words occasionally is linked with a shared meaning between those words, which may be used to reinforce a certain emotion or theme in the poem. This is something I’ll be discussing here in this article about Hardy’s His Immortality.

As you can see below, the first two lines of Hardy’s poem each contain eight syllables, but Hardy’s made the rest of the stanza more unpredictable:

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Upon reading the first two lines, we might have expected to hear eight syllables in the third line, but unexpectedly we don’t. In the second stanza, whilst the first line is parallel to the first line of the first stanza in terms of a pattern in the number of syllables- they both contain eight- the second line of the second stanza contains ten syllables, whereas the second line of the first stanza contains eight.

The significance of a variation in the number of syllables in different lines is that the poem is complexified- the reader does not know what to expect in the following line. It also makes the patterns in the sounds of certain words more obvious: because we are expecting a divergence, when we hear two or more words that sound similar, or a line that in terms of its syllables mirror another, it is more noticeable. Indeed, you might notice that all of the first lines of every stanza in the poem each contain eight syllables, (as demonstrated below). This similarity in the sequence of speech sounds in these lines connects the lines together, the existence of four lines in each of the stanzas emphasising this pattern of continuity.

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Collins and Mees (2013) write about how “Certain function words are pronounced differently according to whether they are stressed or unstressed”, and, certainly, weak and strong forms of words are another technique used by Hardy for the uses of rhythm, and also, perhaps, to emphasise certain words which hold some significance to the poem’s subject and theme.

Skandera and Burleigh (2011) define the strong form as “that pronounciation variant of a given word which contains a strong vowel, and from which no sounds have been omitted (or elided)”, whilst a weak form is one that “contains a weak vowel, or from which one or more sounds have been omitted, or both”. As the (annotated) first stanza below shows, the most predominant form evident in Hardy’s poem is arguably the ‘weak-strong’ form. Note: ‘w’ represents weak forms, whilst ‘S’ is used to represent those strong forms of words.

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As you scan the full poem, you might wonder why some words are more stressed than others, and are they normally stressed? For example, in the second line of the third stanza (shown below), the form of the word <him> is arguably strong (this means stressed). Thus, according to Greven (1972), it would be pronounced “[him]” rather than “[im]”.

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Considering the prominence that might be given to certain words for the use of emphasising certain themes, subjects or issues, it is arguably suitable that <him> should be seen as a stressed syllable due to the importance of the subject to the poem as a whole.

Indeed, <him> is repeated again the next line, giving further emphasis to the word. In this way, the emphasis or repetition of certain sounds could be seen as emphasising certain words which are vital to the poem’s subject. However, perhaps it is also important to note how the weak/strong forms contribute to the rhythm of the poem. In the case of the second line of the third stanza (shown above) we can see that there is a consistent iambic structure in the line.

Rhyme is also a significant technique at using sound to emphasise certain themes and subjects in the poem.

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In the first stanza, as you can see above, the words <part> and <heart> rhyme because of the recurring arrangement of certain phonemes, in this case, with the repetition of the phoneme [ɑːt], which occurs at the end of both words.

Perhaps it is also significant that the words preceding both <heart> and <art> respectively both begin with the labio-dental fricative [f] and both are  two-syllable words. When looking at the meanings of <heart> and <part>, one sees that they are also connected- the heart is a part of the body. Thus, Hardy could be seen as illustrating the bond that keeps the dead man and those grieving him together- he remains with them in memory.

In the second stanza, although the first and second lines (shown below) have an unequal number of syllables, the first line containing eight syllables whilst the second line containing ten, they both nevertheless have similarities in their sound patterns.

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[As shown above], Hardy is able to rhyme the words <wore> and <upbore> because of a similarity in the endings they both share: the phoneme [ɔː]. You can see this in the second and third lines of the second stanza (shown above). Both <beheld> and <excelled> end in [eld].

It’s interesting that out of the many other synonyms for <see>, Hardy should use the past tense of the word <behold>. It could be that his motives in doing so were for the objective of maintaining rhyme throughout his poetry, although it is also interesting to notice how there is a repetition of the bi-labial plosive [b] in the stanza, which occurs at the end of line two in <upbore> and at the end of line four in <beheld>.

Although Hardy continues his rhyme sequence in the third stanza, until the end of the poem, there is also a repetition of other recurring sounds.

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The alveolar nasal [n] (shown above) is repeated at the end of every last word of every line, yet another effective means by which Hardy connects each line to the other in his poem.

Whilst this is true, rhyme does remain a significant method not only of maintaining the structure, rhythm and theme of His Immortality, but also conveying and reinforcing certain themes and ideas in the poem.

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The words <chill> and <still> and <spark> and <dark> rhyme together, as we’ve seen on previous occasions, because of a recurring pattern in the plosives they contain. However, there is more to Hardy’s rhyme than first seems.

There is a significance in that the first two words Hardy rhymed in his poem- the words <heart> and <part> are similar to the last two words of his poem, <spark> and <dark> in terms of one of the vowels which is prevalent in all these four words.


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The importance of this connection is that it could be seen to symbolise the end of a journey. By connecting the death of the man as described at the beginning of the poem to the death of the persona himself at the end of the poem, it might be argued that the sense of finale is emphasised, conveying a powerful message to the reader.

However, there are other patterns in sounds in the final stanza. In particular, you might notice the repetition of the alveolar fricative [s] in the words <still> and <spark>, a repetition of the labiodental fricative [f] in the words <find> and <feeble>, but also, of more importance, arguably a connection between the words <chill> and <still> that rhyme together, because the words, when put together, reinforce the theme of death that recurs in the poem- of bodies dead and cold.

Indeed, in the second stanza, there is alliteration in the second line, in the words <still> and <soul> with the recurrence of the alveolar fricative [s]. In light of the theme of death that exists in the poem, the significance of Hardy’s use and repetition of the word <still> could be that it is used to represent the human body in its deceased form.

It could be argued that Hardy uses alliteration for the words <still> and <soul> to emphasise the contrast between the body, which is temporal, and the soul, which is immortal. Alliteration is also used in the third line of the second stanza. The words <life> and <less> both share the alveolar lateral approximant [l]. Hardy’s motive for including this sound pattern in his poem could be to encourage the reader to connect the words together- literally, thus, putting <life> and <less> to give the word <lifeless>.

Considering the theme of death in the poem, it could be argued that Hardy is thus shown to use sound patterns to reinforce the overall subject of his poem, thus pointing to a connection between sound patterns and meaning in this work of poetry, a significant interrelatedness.

The Tudors- Q & A

It’s that time of year again- and unfortunately, I don’t mean Christmas😩 For many students out there, it’s revision season. Often when we want to learn something, we memorise it, writing and re-reading it repeatedly. But it’s one thing to repeat something on and on, and quite another knowing that you’ll remember it. You can only do that by testing yourself. So today this article is going to be basically a Q & A for all the History students out there studying The Tudors. We’ll be covering the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I🙂 My History teacher used to do these every week, and though we used to dread them at the time, they really paid off as they helped us remember important details and dates in our exams which we found really useful. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me🙂 Even if you’re not a History student, by the end of this quiz you will know more than a little about Edward and Mary’s reigns!

The Tudors Q & A- Edward VI & Mary I

  • Who was Edward influenced by into turning the country Protestant?

The Duke of Somerset (his uncle and Lord Protector), and later Northumberland (when he took control from Edward Somerset)

  • How long did Somerset rule and what were the dates?

1547-1549- which makes 2 years.

  • What were the names of the two main rebellions during Edward’s reign?

The Western Rebellion and Kett’s Rebellion.

  • Who was Thomas Cranmer?

He was the Archbishop of Canterbury and a key religious figure.

  • Name two of Cranmer’s achievements.
  1. His Prayer Book
  2. His contributions to the First Act of Uniformity
  • What did Somerset do when Henry VIII died?

He kept it a secret for 4 days [and planned to secure leadership of the Regency Council].

  • What did Somerset secure by the end of February 1547?

The position of Lord Protector of England, the support of his fellow Privy Councillors (now the Regency Council), and leadership of the Regency Council (became the undisputed leader of the country).

  • Who was Nicholas Ridley and what is his claim to fame?

He was a Protestant Bishop, and played an important part in the reformation.

  • Who did Mary I decide to marry and why was this a problem?

Phillip II- it was feared, however, that he would drag England into Spain’s wars against France and interfere in the affairs of England.

  • Give two factors that governed Mary’s foreign policy in the years 1553-1558.
  1. – Return to Rome
  2. – Maintaining good relations with Spain/ Phillip of Spain’s wishes.
  • Name two Bishops burnt as heretics by Mary.
  1. Bishop Hooper
  2. Bishop Ridley
  • What was so special about Mary’s rebellion against Lady Jane Grey (the succession crisis)?

It was the only successful rebellion in the period of Tudor England to actually succeed in overthrowing the Government/Crown.

  • In what year, and what was the main reason for, the Wyatt rebellion?

1553- In opposition to the Spanish marriage after Mary I declared her desire to marry Phillip of Spain. Anti-Spanish feelings amongst some members of government, who feared that Spanish influence in court might jeopardise their positions, incited them to rebel against the Crown (albeit unsuccessfully).

How many of these questions did you get right? Have any questions? Feel free to comment below🙂

How Easy is it to Pass Legislation in Congress?

Have you ever watched a Congress or Parliamentary session, in which politicians are going through the seemingly never-ending process of passing a bill, and, exasperated with the slowness of its passing, started furiously shouting at your television: “What is taking them so long?!”? Admittedly, that would be an overreaction, although you might well have wondered it: how difficult is it to pass legislation?

The answer is, a lot more difficult than you first thought.

In the US, it is definitely more difficult to pass legislation than fail. Article I of the Constitution, created by the Founding Fathers, grants all legislative powers to a bicameral Congress: a House of Representatives and a Senate. However, it has been argued that the fact that both houses possess equal power makes the legislative process more difficult. In the 110th Congress, only 3.3% of bills succeeded- out of the 14,042 bills introduced, only 460 became law– a tiny number in comparison!

If this is a question you have to do for an A Level Politics essay– you’re in luck! Today we’ll be looking at why it is that it is often much easier to defeat legislation than pass it.

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As a side note, even when the government is not divided, it’s still difficult to pass legislation! This is because unlike in the U.K, party discipline in the U.S Congress has tended to be weak as members of Congress are not required to toe the party line.

The sheer length of the process, which has to be completed in such a short period of time, with so many obstacles- filibustering, presidential vetoes, equal powers of both houses- makes it particularly difficult to pass legislation. You can picture the passing of a bill like a play at Temple Run- (the really addictive iPhone game), with obstacles at every turn. On the other hand, a difficult legislative process was intended by the Founding Fathers, and perhaps for good reasons too- bills need greater support to pass, making them more democratic and legitimate.

The 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge- The Final

It’s the final day of the 3 Days 3 Quotes challenge, and I can’t believe this day has come because I’ve been having so much fun writing these articles. It’s been a really fantastic 3 days, and I’d like to give a really special thank you again to Irena for nominating me and giving me this wonderful opportunity😀

If you haven’t read my previous articles basically this challenge has 3 rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post three different quotes in three consecutive days

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

The first quote I posted was from the wonderful tale Of Beren and LĂșthien, from The Silmarillion, and you can find it in the link above. Yesterday, I chose an equally beautiful quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. 

Today I’d like to share with you all something a little different. It’s not an excerpt from a novel- it’s a story, and quite a funny one too.

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This story is just so lightheartedly funny, I thought it would be nice to share it with you all🙂 I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading the past 3 articles I’ve written for the Challenge🙂 It’s definitely been a pleasure taking part in it🙂

The final part of the challenge is nominating three bloggers, and, again, like yesterday and the day before that, today I find myself yet again stuck for choice. But my final 3 nominations are these three amazing people: Sarah Longes, James Harrington, and travelfranzi. Of course, you are under no pressure to do the tag, but you are all amazing writers and it would be really interesting to see which quotes you would choose🙂

What quotes do you personally love? What do you think of today’s quote? I’d love to hear what you think- just comment below:)

Happy quoting!

A Quote So Sad, Tragic, and Yet So Beautiful Too

Day two of the 3 Days 3 Quotes challenge, and after what seems like forever choosing a quote, I have finally (FINALLY!) settled on one :D This is such a fun and exciting challenge, I’m just so thrilled to be able to take part in it, so I’d like to give a big thank you again to Irena for nominating me and giving me this wonderful opportunity😀

If you haven’t read my previous article basically this challenge has 3 rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post three different quotes in three consecutive days

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

The first quote I posted was from the wonderful tale Of Beren and LĂșthien, from The Silmarillion, and you can find it in the link above. Today I thought I would choose quite a different quote, from another literary legend- F. Scott Fitzgerald. This quote comes from my favourite novel from Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby.

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The Great Gatsby is so beautiful, yet so tragic. This is one of the countless wonderful quotes in the novel, but it has to be my favourite. The idea of being unable to recover the past, unable to repeat it again, is one that appears and disappears throughout the text. There is something so sad in the last line “But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever” and yet it is so true, and maybe that just makes it more heartbreaking, but perhaps what I love about this quote, and The Great Gatsby in general, is that Fitzgerald can make something so sad sound so beautiful.

The final part of the challenge is nominating three bloggers, and, like yesterday, I’m so stuck for choice because there are so many incredible bloggers out there who I’d love to hear from, but today I nominate these wonderful people: Grady P Brown, The Girl in the Little black Dress and Stuart M. Perkins. Of course, there is no pressure at all to do this tag, but you are all fantastic writers and it would be interesting to see which quotes you would choose🙂

What quotes do you personally love? I’d love to hear what you think- just comment below:)

Happy quoting!

The 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge

I’ve been seeing this tag around lately in the blogging world, and the idea’s so interesting and great I’ve been so curious about it, so I’d like to give a big thank you to Irena for nominating me and giving me this thrilling opportunity🙂 It’s so kind of you to think of me, and I’m so excited for this fun challenge😀 On a side note, Irena writes amazing stories and book reviews, her blog is a pleasure to read and I would definitely recommend it to you all🙂

The Challenge…

3 Days 3 Quotes- the (3!) rules in a nutshell:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Post three different quotes in three consecutive days

3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

It’s so hard to choose three quotes because there are so many wonderful wonderful literatures out there, and I know there are so many more I have yet to discover. I think though, I am going to start with a quote that has stuck with me ever since I first came across it. The author’s writing is so beautiful, I just have to share it with you all. And here it is:

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Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien may recognise this as an excerpt from the delightful tale Of Beren and LĂșthien, from The Silmarillion. The language Tolkien uses in this tale, and in so many places elsewhere, is just so magical. I love the etherealness of the imagery, it’s very beautiful. If you have not read The Silmarillion, I would definitely recommend it to you- it’s a masterpiece, full of really enjoyable tales, and stunning imagery and craft, like in this one.

So, the final part of this challenge is nominating 3 bloggers, and again this is so hard, but today I’ll be nominating these fantastic people: Fernando Ortiz Jr. Victoria Addis, and aphk. Of course, there’s no pressure to do the tag, but you’re all amazing writers and it would be interesting to see which ones you chose🙂

What quotes do you personally love? I’d love to hear what you think- just comment below🙂

Happy quoting!

How You’ve Been Speaking Shakespeare Without Knowing It

While you probably know at least a couple of Shakespeare’s plays- The Tempest, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Leardid you know that Shakespeare actually popularised- and even invented- what is estimated to be thousands of words?

Despite the countless years I’ve spent studying Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, I never actually stopped to consider whether he had, in the process of writing them, created new words and expressions, or popularised ones already spoken but never before recorded- that is, until a couple of weeks ago during the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of his death, when I finally found out this once elusive and really interesting fact.

Today I thought I’d share with you all some of the (way too many to count) words created by Shakespeare. Granted, it might not be the most useful thing to include in your essay, but the next time you hear any of those words being used, you can impress everyone with your intellect by telling them who created them😉

1. Obscene.

You (probably) have heard this word already, because it is still used today. In the form of meaning “Offending against moral principles, repugnant; repulsive, foul, loathsome”, the Oxford English Dictionary lists its origin as dating back to 1597 – Shakespeare’s Richard II, in Act 4, Scene I: That in a Christian climate soules refinde, Should shew so heinous blacke, obsceene a deed”, albeit, the spelling of the word was, evidently, slightly different to its modern use.

2. Inaudible.

While it’s not a common occurence to hear ‘inaudible’ being used in everyday circumstances, and indeed, the OED actually lists ‘Obscene’ as being used more frequently than ‘inaudible’ it’s certainly a word you probably will have heard (or better, used!) at some point in your life (If not, you can always take this moment to hunt down the closest person to you and attempt to use it :)). The word, meaning the opposite of audible (when something is able to be heard) derives from its use in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that ends Well, from the year 1623. Act V Scene III has the words Th’ inaudible, and noiselesse foot of time”. As a side note, it’s interesting that Shakespeare here uses two words that mean similar things- ‘inaudible’ and ‘noiselesse’, and perhaps this repetition is used for the purposes of emphasis. Funnily enough, the other word in this line ‘noiselesse’, was also first recorded as used by Shakespeare, and is next on our list!

3. Noiseless.

This word has a deeper mystery, in that it was first spelt by Shakespeare ‘Noystles’! The word originates from Shakespeare King Lear (1608) – Act XVI: France spreds his banners in our noystles land”. What you may notice is that 15 years after its first use in the form of ‘noystles’, the same word meaning “quiet” or “silent” pops up again in another of his plays- this time in the form of ‘noiselesse’! Perhaps considering the many different ways Shakespeare signed his name, the variation in spelling should not come as too much of a surprise, especially as its semantics did not change.

4. Arch-villain.

According to the OED, ‘Arch-villain’ basically means “Chief villain”. The lexeme ‘arch’ actually does, in adjective form, mean’Chief’, and its first recorded use was in 1574, and later in 1597 by Shakespeare, but it was only until Shakespeare’s  Measure for Measure (to be more specific, Act V Scene I), that ‘arch-villain was used:  Euen so may Angelo..Be an arch-villaine”

5. Laughable.

With this entry, I was hoping to find a word you can all use in normal sentences, for the ‘impressing people with your intellect’ I promised this list would help you achieve. The first recorded use of the word ‘Laughable’ was in 1600: in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice  (Act I, Scene I): Theyle not shew theyr teeth in way of smile Though Nestor sweare the iest be laughable”. 

Finally, here’s one I hope you won’t be using in many conversations (unless you are joking), but an interesting one, especially becuase out of all these entries it’s the one we’ve all probably heard the most, whether in converstaions, on television, movies, at the theatre and in books and poetry: ‘Lonely’. Its first recorded use was in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, in Act IV Scene I: Coriolanus saysI go alone Like to a lonely Dragon, that his Fenne Makes fear’d, and talk’d of more then seene”. 

It’s not only words that Shakespeare invented, but phrases too. There are even articles online about the many phrases Shakespeare invented: BBC America has a really interesting one, which you can find at: Out of all those, my three favourites are probably “Be-all and the end-all”, from Macbeth, “Forever and a day” from As You Like It, and “In my mind’s eye”, from Hamlet. I would definitely recommend you all to check this list out, and if you do, be sure to tell me your favourite! Simply comment below🙂

The many words and phrases invented by Shakespeare are just another one of the countless ways he has changed the English Language and Literature, and yet another show of his immense mastery and genius. It’s the strangest thing, to realise that without knowing it, you could be using any one of the many words and sayings that originate from his beautiful writings.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled- who knows when you’ll discover that that word you use time and time again, the one you don’t really think much about, was actually invented by one of the most incredible playwrights the world has ever seen.


Celebrating over 400 years of Shakespeare

To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, and as a commemoration of the 400 years since his death, last weekend I travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, his beautiful hometown. Shakespeare was a master, his writings, incredible. His work has enlightened, changed the lives, sparked the interests, of millions of people, from all around the world. The immortal beauty of his work can be seen in the love so many of us have for the masterpieces he left behind hundreds of years ago. I don’t think I need to write any more about how much Shakespeare and his beautiful sonnets, plays, and writings, mean to  me, how much I’m fascinated by them, how much I love them; you can see it in the countless articles I’ve written about them, the many more I will do so in future, and my inability to go for a prolonged period of time without writing something Shakespeare.

To celebrate the legacy of this extraordinary genius, in this article I’m going to show you some of the most funny and wonderful things I found on my trip to his beautiful hometown, a journey which really made me reflect on, and appreciate, the magic and magnificence of all his works.


This just says “It’s Summer!”


Beautiful Scenery


The boats here are named after some of the heroines of Shakespeare’s plays and I’m like “yes, yes, yes!”


The Tragedy of Richard the Third.


Shakespeare Art


This from my favourite cheesemongers, Paxton and Whitfield.


That is the question…


Hamlet beautifully retold


Phillip Bisell’s wonderful art, Looking for Will.


I’ve added this to my list of most valued possessions and there are no words.


Dedicated to, and in memory of, William Shakespeare- master, icon, genius.


Find more pictures on my Instagram account at:🙂


Instagram + Poetography

I am going to do something I have not done on this blog before. I’m going to be writing two posts… in one article :O

But don’t worry, they are connected, so this will hopefully not seem like a highly random mash🙂

A couple of days ago, on two separate occasions, two very special friends inspired me. These two phenomenal people, who know who they are, were really the reason I have now created both a Poetography (poetry + photography) blog and an Instagram page for both sites (breaktheenigma). It is just the most beautiful thing when someone inspires you, when you see them doing what they love, and it inspires you to do the same, when they tell you you’re talented, and it inspires you to do something with that talent. Words have a great power, and when people use them, they can really transform lives.

I just wanted to take a moment to say a big “thank you” to all those amazing people out there, be they your friends, family, and even you, reader- I know so many of you are bloggers, artists, photographers, musicians, writers, inspiring others around the world with your creativity. It is people like you who inspire me to do what I love, to try something different.

Poetry and photography mean the world to me. There is something about art that lets you… know yourself. When you work on what you love, you just flow. I don’t really know how to explain it, and I’m not going to waste your time dreaming up strange and abstract ways to describe it, but many of you may know that feeling I’m trying to describe, when you follow your greatest passions and hobbies. It comes naturally, and you are at home within yourself, you don’t need to be anywhere else. To combine poetry and photography is for me, something I love to do. Sometimes when you see a picture, you can imagine the story behind it, the story inside it. These stories are not really something I can write on a revision blog, but the Poetography blog, luckily, is perfect for this🙂 Whenever you have the time, if you need a break from your revision, or if you too love to combine poetry and photography, it would mean so much if you could visit the site, and maybe tell me what you think🙂 Feel free to wander around at

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One of the amazing friends I’ve mentioned in this post was telling me a few days ago about how she finds Instagram is a great way to keep a collection of her photos. Her words really inspired me because that is the very reason I love to take photos- for me photography is not only about the picture, but the emotions that come with it, the memories that come back to you, the story it tells. I created an Instagram account that day🙂 Unfortunately, I have no idea how to use Instagram, hashtags remain a mystery to me, and the Blue Button at the bottom centre of my phone screen scares me. On the other hand, true to my friend’s words, it really is a lovely place to keep a collection of all your photos.

If you are ever in need of some inspiration, or need some laughs, you might find something in my photo collection, and it would mean so much to me if you could check out my page or tell me what you think🙂 You can find me at:🙂

I hope that if you’re someone who does not think their work is ‘good enough’ to be online, or does not have much experience with creating sites, that this post inspires you to try. I have heard from so many people that they do not think much of their work, and so don’t do anything with it. It’s so familiar because it is something I say myself about my own work. Unfortunately, while I am lucky enough to have people to tell me that I’m wrong, other people don’t. So I just want to dedicate this post to those people, to inspire them to do what they love even if their friends, family, colleagues, do not think they can. Even if they themselves do not think they can.

I just want you to know that all work is art. Art is everywhere- it can be anything. It has no particular form, no particular design, and it is no one discipline- it can be anything, and that is what makes it so beautiful, and that is what makes you an artist, whether you think you are artistic or not. Every person has that streak of creativity, and even if you don’t think what you create is special, many other people in the world will. There is no way to measure art or creativity- what one person does not like, another will love.

The Wife of Bath… and Cheese?!

If you ask any of my friends to write down the main words they would use to describe me, the one that will probably keep popping up is- you guessed it- Cheese-Lover. I suppose then that it’s sort of inevitable that I would, sometime in the (near) future, find myself writing about Chaucer
and cheese. It’s an an unusual combination, but the world is full of surprises- like this one! :)

If you, like me, think this is quite a mad idea, you might, like I was, be surprised to hear that there are actually many books about medieval cheese. Funnily enough, I did not even know that medieval cheese was ever a thing until very recently. While I was out at one of the fantastic farmer’s markets in London, though, I came across the strangest thing- cheese called the Wyfe of Bath Cheese (above). At the time, I’d laughed at it’s funny name, eaten it (cheese lover) and walked away, but the idea of Wife of Bath cheese stayed with me- I started to wonder, would the Wife of Bath, had she actually existed, have had access to cheese? Did it even exist at that time? The answer is- yes! To all those cheese lovers out there hoping to time travel to Chaucer’s time someday in the future, but are worried about not having access to cheese, don’t worry- cheese actually existed thousands of years ago! So, time-travel away! :)

What kind of cheeses, you might be wondering, even existed at that time? Would they have been unrecognisable to the cheese we know today? Scott (1986) in Cheesemaking Practice, gives us some ideas, by showing us the long history of some cheeses. Examples of some invented before Chaucer even started The Canterbury Tales include Goronzola (first recorded date: 897), Schabzieger (1000), Roquefort (1070) and Grana (1200). Luckily for all us cheese enthusiasts, they all still exist today! So here’s a perfect reason to try/eat (for research purposes, of course) all those cheeses🙂

So what else has been written about medieval cheese? Below, I’ve included a little excerpt of some amazing books about cheese that I would definitely recommend checking out…


What is probably most funny about this is the fact that I’ve managed to include Anne Boleyn’s name in the same article as Chaucer (see above). Normally, my articles on The Tudors, and the sources I use for them, are separate to the ones about Chaucer, and the Wife of Bath, but I suppose this is just another one of life’s surprises🙂

For something that can often have a very rich and buttery texture and taste, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover that cheese has an equally rich history. Though we might never know the true story about how cheese was invented, perhaps we should look on this little mystery as another one of the many intrigues of cheese. I think it would be good for me to end on what may be the wisest words of The Pardoner (from the Canterbury Tales):

“I will have money, wool, and cheese,

and wheat”

Further Reading:

Check out…

I really enjoyed reading Jim Chevallier’s article on the history of cheese. This is one I would definitely recommend, and you can find it at: Want to learn more about the origin of cheese? Try this.

Virginia Hyde has written a really fun and enjoyable article on medieval cheese that I would also recommend; you can find it at: 

Barbara Wells Sarudy has written a really fantastic article that, if you’ve got the opportunity, you just have to read. Using manuscripts to illustrate the history of cheese, this is an article you cannot miss. Even Walters Art Museum has mentioned it ( Find it at:

A Level Politics: Social Conservatives- Your Questions Answered

If the term Social Conservatives does not ring a bell, the term that Social Conservatives are sometimes otherwise referred to, The Christian/Religious Right might be more familiar to you… or the other way round. If neither of these terms are making much sense to you, they are, basically, a group of people (and also a faction in the U.S Republican Party) who advocate the preservation of what are seen as ‘traditional’ values. They generally have more a more profoundly Conservative political ideology, and are more deeply Conservative in terms of their outlook on Social Policies, seen in their opposition to abortion and stem-cell research, among other issues. Today, I thought I would answer some of the frequently asked questions about Social Conservatives for you all, whether you are a student studying about them for your A Levels, or just want to learn more. This little Q & A should give you some perspective on their aims and values🙂

Important Note: Social Conservatives are a group of people. As with many groups, you cannot say that all members share the same ideologies or values- this depends on many factors. When I write about Social Conservatives, I mean the group generally. It’s good to keep this in mind not only when you read this article, but also when you read and write about other groups.

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If you want to read the full The Atlantic article about Samuel Alito, you can find it at:

Do you have any more questions about Social Conservatives? Ask away! Simply send your question via the comments section, which you’ll find below🙂

A Level English: Mystery and Meaning behind Ophelia’s Flower-Giving

The flower, though seemingly unpretentious, has great significance. It has, for centuries, popped up in literature and art, been seen in paintings, read in poetry, and heard in plays. What makes the humble flower so powerful is the hidden meanings and symbols often attached to it. It is said that historically, Marigolds symbolized grief, and Rosemary symbolises remembrance. It seems there is a whole ‘Secret Language of Flowers’ many of us haven’t even heard of!

Those of you who have read or studied art and literature might be thinking now of the different instances when you have encountered the mention of flowers in the different works you have studied. I know that for all those A-Levels students out there studying Hamlet, this little passage will almost definitely come to mind:

“Ophelia: There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts
There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither’d all when my father died.”

If we adopt the view of the scholars and literature experts who believe that there is a [hidden] meaning attached to the flowers she hands out (whether this be Shakespeare’s devise or her own) the big question here would be “what do those different flowers and herbs symbolise?”

There are two main issues with this question, however. The first of these is the fact that in the Victorian Era, the ‘language and poetry of flowers’ became greatly fashionable. This is not a bad thing at all (who can resist flowers?) but some analysts have argued that because in the Victorian Era the ‘language of flowers’ really reached its peak of popularity, this ‘flower-mania’ might have consequently lead editors to see, for example, the flowers that Ophelia gives out to be much more significant in their meaning and symbolism than the Elizabethan audience would originally have seen them as being. This is a concern voiced by Lever (1952) who “is adamant that there is no symbolic meaning for the Elizabethan audience”. Whilst it is contestable as to whether there would be no symbolic meaning conveyed to the Elizabethan audience whatsoever, certainly, the fact that flower symbolism is often relative encourages us to conduct further research before asserting that ‘this particular flower has this particular meaning’.

Funnily enough, a few days ago, whilst out with a friend, upon seeing a bouquet of tulips, she told me that she disliked them because they made her sad- they were usually used for funerals in her country. I found this really surprising because in other countries, such as Sweden, tulips are usually used at Easter (it has been estimated by Jordbruksverket that 152 million Tulips were bought in 2011 in Sweden) Tulips, it seems, symbolise different things for different people, in different contexts, and at different times, and this is true for other flowers too.

The second issue is the possibility that the original meanings and symbols of flowers in the Elizabethan era might have been lost, because many were based on ‘popular beliefs’ rather than standard norms. Even if this is true, however, because these meanings are now supposedly ‘lost’, there is no way to prove they existed in the first place.

Interestingly, however, some scholars have suggested that a clue to the meanings attached to the flowers Ophelia gives out in Act 4 Scene 5 may be found in a 1584 poem, possibly by William Hunnis, called A Nosegay Always Sweet. Here is an excerpt: (It is a really lovely poem, so if you want to read it in its complete form, find it at the bottom of this article)

Lavender is for lovers true,

Rosemary is for remembrance

Sage is for sustenance,

Fennel is for flatterers,

Violet is for faithfulness

Thyme is to try me,

Roses are to rule me

Gillyflowers are for gentleness,

Carnations are for graciousness,

Marigolds are for marriage,

Pennyroyal is to print your love

Cowslips are for counsel,

Flowers have decorated our past, and they continue to do so in the present, in good times and sad ones. Though they may seem modest and sweet, these pretty plants have enormous mystery, great power, and a colourful history, one we have yet to fully unravel. While their meanings are sometimes surprising, they can also be relative, so the next time you receive a Marigold, don’t immediately think it’s a bad sign (You’ve just read in the poem above that it can also symbolise marriage!). On the other hand, those roses could have a darker message than you think

Have you heard of any other flowers or plants having messages or symbols? Tell me what you think by commenting below!

Further Reading:

Mandy Kirby’s Language of Flowers: a Miscellany for some great reading on the meanings of flowers and the history of those meanings

Jack Goody, in The Culture of Flowers, gives a really interesting discussion of the symbolism of Ophelia’s flowers, you can find it from pg. 180.

From pg. 246 in The Nordic Storyteller: Essays in Honour of Niels Ingwersen, edited by Susan Brantly and Thomas A. DuBois, you can find another really interesting discussion on the significance of Ophelia’s distribution of flowers to Laertes, Claudius, Gertrude, and herself.

Growing and Using Herbs and Spices, by Milo Miloradovich, has some great information on the early history of the use and meanings of certain herbs and spices.

A Nosegay Always Sweet

 A nosegay, lacking flowers fresh,

To you now I do send;

Desiring you to look thereon,

When that you may intend:

For flowers fresh begin to fade,

And Boreas in the field

Even with his hard congealed frost

No better flowers doth yield.


But if that winter could have sprung

A sweeter flower than this,

I would have sent it presently

To you withouten miss:

Accept this then as time doth serve,

Be thankful for the same,

Despise it not, but keep it well,

And mark each flower his name.


Lavender is for lovers true,

Which evermore be fain,

Desiring always for to have

Some pleasure for their pain;

And when that they obtained have

The love that they require,

Then have they all their perfect joy,

And quenched is the fire.


Rosemary is for remembrance

Between us day and night;

Wishing that I might always have

You present in my sight.

And when I cannot have

As I have said before,

Then Cupid with his deadly dart

Doth wound my heart full sore.


Sage is for sustenance,

That should man’s life sustain;

For I do still lie languishing

Continually in pain,

And shall do still until I die,

except thou favour show:

My pain and all my grievous smart

Full well you do it know.


Fennel is for flatterers,

An evil thing it is sure:

But I have always meant truly,

With constant heart most pure;

And will continue in the same

As long as life doth last,

Still hoping for a joyful day

When all our pains be past.


Violet is for faithfulness

Which in me shall abide;

Hoping likewise that from your heart

You will not let it slide;

And will continue in the same

As you have now begun,

And then for ever to abide,

Then you my heart have won.


Thyme is to try me,

As each be tried must,

Letting you know while life doth last

I will not be unjust;

And if I should I would to God

To hell my soul should bear,

And eke also that Beelzebub

With teeth he should me tear.


Roses are to rule me

With reason as you will,

For to be still obedient

Your mind for to fulfil;

And thereto will not disagree

In nothing that you say,

But will content your mind truly

In all things that I may.


Gillyflowers are for gentleness,

Which in me shall remain,

Hoping that no sedition shall

Depart our hearts in twain.

As soon the sun shall lose his course,

The moon against her kind

Shall have no light, if that I do

Once put you from my mind.


Carnations are for graciousness,

Mark that now by the way,

Have no regard to flatterers,

Nor pass not what they say:

For they will come with lying tales

Your ears for to fulfil:

In any case do you consent

Nothing unto their will.


Marigolds are for marriage,

That would our minds suffice,

Lest that suspicion of us twain

By any means should rise:

As for my part, I do not care,

Myself I will still use

That all the women of the world

For you I will refuse.


Pennyroyal is to print your love

So deep within my heart,

That when you look this nosegay on

My pain you may impart;

And when that you have read the same,

Consider well my woe,

Think ye then how to recompense

Even him that loves you so.


Cowslips are for counsel,

For secrets us between,

That none but you and I alone

Should know the thing we mean:

And if you will thus wisely do,

As I think to be best,

Then have you surely won the field

And set my heart at rest.


I pray you keep this nosegay well,

And set by it some store:

And thus farewell! the gods thee guide

Both now and evermore!

Not as the common sort do use,

To set it in your breast,

That when the smell is gone away,

On ground he takes his rest

From: Cruikshank, R & Cruikshank, G. (ed.) (1834) Universal Songster: Or, Museum of Mirth: Forming the Most Complete, Extensive, and Valuable Collection of Ancient and Modern Songs in the English Language, with a Copious and Classified Index, Ed. Volume 1. London: Jones and Company. pp. 182-3.


A Level History: The Reign of Henry VIII- Mapped

The history students out there might know what I mean when I say that sometimes there was just so much happening in such a short space of time! Although this makes for a really action-packed history novel, for those of us who have to memorise all those events, the sheer amount of them can often prove overwhelming. Since we have been discussing the reign of Henry VIII in these History articles, today I thought I would share with you all a timeline of the reign of Henry VIII from the point of the Break with Rome. Hopefully, this will make those revision nights easier, and even if you’re not a History student, or don’t really know much about Henry VIII (apart from the fact that he had 6 wives) by the end of this little guide you will🙂


















What do you think is the most important event in this timeline? Comment below!


Keeping Your Work on a Leash

A few days ago, a friend told me a story that I just had to write a post about, because it’s one I have experienced myself, and heard from others, and I’m hoping writing about it will help you avoid it yourself.

What happened? To put it short, my friend, who is at university, had an important assignment due. She had been writing it for many hours until suddenly, and very accidentally, she spilt some water on her laptop and it went dead. Although she’d saved her work, she had not backed it up, and with the laptop gone, she had lost all the hours of effort she’d put into her essay. When she emailed her professors for an extended deadline, her laptop suddenly started up again, and so she emailed them back and told them that everything was fine. As soon as she did that though, her laptop crashed again! At the end, she missed the deadline, had to write the whole essay again and had marks taken off it for the late submission- exactly what she needed after everything she had gone through.

I really feel my friend’s pain- literally, because the exact same thing happened to me, as it did to so many of us who forgot (or couldn’t be bothered) to back up our work. We might think computers are evil, but although it’s true that they can sometimes be unpredictable and unreliable, blaming the computers is not going to solve anything. Rather, by backing up our work, we can hope to avoid this kind of terrible situation.

computers are evil

Today I’m going to give you my Top 10 suggestions on how to back up your work. Although sometimes you just don’t feel in the mood for continuously pressing the ‘save’ button- the last thing you need whilst you’re writing something important is to have to worry about something so little- it’s really very important. It only takes you a maximum of two minutes, but could save you two hours, or even days, of time and effort, so it is well worth it.


(1). Saving it on Word
You can’t back up your work if you haven’t saved it first! Remember to do this so you have the most updated version of your work.

(2). Saving to email
This could be emailing yourself, emailing your family, friends- just email your work, whether it be as an attachment or if you just paste it- the most important thing is that you have a copy of it online.

(3). Saving it on your phone
If you love your phone, take this opportunity to spend more time with it by using it to take pictures of your work. Otherwise, copy it from your email and paste it in Notes/Memo/One Note- just have a copy of your work on your phone.

(4). Taking a picture
Use your camera to take pictures of your work. If your work brings you success later in life, you can print off the photo and admire/flaunt it.

(5). Save on Blog or website
If you have a blog or website, save your work in ‘Drafts’ or on a page. You can even create a website for your work. That way, you can access it from your phone/computer, or even from search engines.

(6). Record yourself reading it

This might seem strange, but if you like the sound of your own voice, or if find it easier to memorise your work that way, record yourself reading it and save it. You can even share it with your friends and colleagues!

(7). Write it on a cake using an icing pen- just kidding. Screenshot it on your computer and save it.

You can save it as a picture and from there, email it or print it.

(8). Use USB’s and information drives- the more the merrier.    

This will ensure you have more copies of your work in case something happens to one or more of your copies.

(9). Text it to yourself
Like texting? Use it to back up your work! You get the same feeling of excitement of getting a text, with the added bonus of knowing you are making it harder for yourself to lose your work.

(10). Handwrite it
If you like calligraphy, writing things by hand, or if you are trying to back up your work in as many ways as possible, hand writing your work is a great way to keep a record of your work, and also memorise it.

So there you have it- my Top 10 suggestions for how to back up your work.You don’t need a leash to keep hold of your work…

Do you have any stories about losing your work, or ways of backing up your work that you could share with us? I’d love to hear what you think! Comment below🙂


Pictures: Computer: GNOME icon artists and Smiley: East718 (altered to seem ‘evil’ by myself)

A Level Politics: Congressional committees- The Epitome of… decline?

Congressional Committees (which, according to GovTrack, “decide which bills and resolutions move forward to consideration by the House or Senate as a whole”) were traditionally thought to be where the major work of Congress was done. They were respected. They were feared. They were important.

However, in recent years, political writers and analysts have written about the ‘decline’ in importance of the Committees. Today, we look at the two sides of this interesting debate…


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Ultimately, it is difficult to decide how far Committees are still important to the legislative process today. Considering how some people spend their lives researching this, I’m not going to try to answer it in a single blog post. On the other hand, hopefully this little guide has given you an idea of the roles and powers of Committees. Even if you’re not a Politics student, at least the next time you hear ‘Committees’ being mentioned in the news, you can tell everyone “I know all about those…”🙂

The Food of Shakespeare’s Plays

For a couple of days, I have been thinking about Shakespeare… and food. It all started a few days ago when I reread Hamlet’s lines to Horatio: “Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats. Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables”. I was left thinking what meats? And then- what other types of food were on the banquet tables? Unfortunately, Hamlet never disclosed those details, which only made me think about it more. Today, I thought I would take you on a 16th century food journey of the types of meals that might have been eaten in some of the settings of Shakespeare’s plays- Hamlet, Macbeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo & Juliet, Enjoy!


Hamlet- Denmark.

Jane Hughes, in The Adventurous Vegetarian: Around the World in 30 Meals, describes how “Rye Bread forms the base of the classic Danish open sandwich (smorrebrod)- it hasn’t changed much since it was mentioned in the viking sagas. In medieval times it was generally spread with butter or lard, and in the 16th century slices of bread were commonly used instead of plates”. It turns out, they did this because plates were very expensive at the time. However, according to the official website of Denmark (, “The king, Christian the second, abolished the use of bread plates at special occasions around 1520, because he now had enough plates to serve all at parties”. This did not mean, however, that there was any less food on the banquet tables!

Macbeth- Scotland.

According to The Tribe, “The 16th century … saw the renewal of the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland against England. Scottish King James V married not one, but two French noblewomen, more famously Marie de Guise, who became the mother and regent of Mary, Queen of Scots, James V’s heir…Mary de Guise and Mary Queen of Scots —who was raised in France—made French cuisine (and lavish feasts) trĂšs chic in the Scottish court” which means Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Pork Flory with Currants and Raisins and Lemon-Almond Shortbread Rounds. Want to find out more? Visit for the recipes and some great facts about these 16th century Scottish dishes!

Next we’re moving on a little south, to England– the setting of The Merry Wives of Windsor

Did you know that during the 1569 plague it was actually illegal to sell fresh fruit?! Well this really is true, according to the British Library, which also informs us that “Explorations to the New World brought all sorts of exotic and unusual delicacies to the tables of the rich. .. [including] the potato (from Chile), the tomato (from Mexico), and the kidney bean (from Peru)… [but also] maize, Indian corn, chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, pineapples, French beans, red and green peppers, turkeys and tapioca”. Fresh fruit? What fresh fruit?

Romeo and Juliet- Italy

La Bella Vita Cucina tells us that “Although now prepared all over Italy, the delicious gnocchi is a culinary tradition dating all the way back to the 16th century and connected to the festivities of Carnival”. If you have not tried gnocchi before, they are delicious little dumplings, and you definitely should taste them given the chance. I personally love them with melted butter and Rosemary- simple yet irresistible.

But gnocchi was not the only dish Italians could eat in the 16th century. According to Sabine’s Food ( “Compared to the 15th Century, the 16th Century had a greater variety and richness in the preparation of foods: soups, grilled, roast and boiled meats, meat pastries, fish, vegetable (also in oil) and refined salads, almond-based sweets, pine-nuts and candied fruits; cane sugar (then still expensive) began to replace honey”. It is interesting to note how this period really saw a broadening of the types of food you could (provided you were able to afford it) enjoy. Particularly because of explorations (for example those to the New World) new ingredients travelled to, and around, Europe- even, as we’ve seen today, as early as the 16th century.

Some more readings for those interested…

Check out… for more information on medieval cookbooks from around Europe for information on 16th century medieval cuisine from around Europe, including Brat Ruben (a German recipe for fried root vegetables) and Salsa biza per deu Escudelles (Spanish Garlic Pine Nut Sauce). for more information on the history of Scottish food. La Bella Vita Cucina takes us around Italy showing us some of the traditional foods from the country- definitely one to check out especially if you are a foodie or keen traveller. for more information on food in the 1500s.

At you can find this amazing map which shows you the locations of Shakespeare’s plays. This is really very cool, I became so excited when I found it, I think I got a little bit carried away…

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What do you think? Do you know any other foods from any other settings of Shakespeare plays? I’d love to hear what you think- Comment below!

‘Grid-ding’- The ‘Secret’ Technique- Uncovered

I mentioned in my last post how I was “obsessed with grid-ding” all my work during my A-Levels. I found that breaking up my work made it so much easier to memorise everything– not only did my workload look smaller, but it was more organised too. My secret weapons in my exams were my grids. Actually, I think this technique worked a little too well, as because the grids helped me memorise all the important points I had to make in my essays, I would finish my exams early- a little too early. I do remember how once, in a one hour History exam, I finished 30 minutes early, which is not as good as it sounds, as I had to spend the next half an hour staring at my paper, not knowing what more I could write!

Nevertheless, this technique has overwhelmingly good consequences, and today I thought I would share it with you all, because it is an extremely helpful way to memorise all the key points you need to write for your essays. Whether you are revising for a GCSE exam, A-Level exam, or even university tests, this is a fantastic way to remember all the important points you need to write🙂


1. Choose an essay you have already written to use for your plan. If you have written an essay which got, for instance, an ‘A*’, and you have no improvements for it, use the essay as it is. If you have not- don’t worry at all! All you have to do is include the improvements that you need to raise the grade of your essay. For example, if my Politics teacher pointed out an example I had failed to mention in my essay, I would just include it in my plan. This is fine even if you have many improvements for your essay- simply add them all in your plan. The next step teaches you how.



2. Write a Rough Essay plan. Basically, what you do here is, have your essay in front of you, and find a clean sheet of A4 lined paper. On your essay, number the paragraphs. If you are writing a ‘for/against’ kind of essay, label your paragraphs ‘for/against’ based on whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with the main argument. Otherwise, use numbers or titles to indicate the different topics you are covering, or different objectives you are meeting, in each separate paragraph. For example, in my essays, I would sometimes separate my grid based on what points I was making in each paragraph- following the PEE paragraph structure.

If you don’t know what this is, PEE basically stands for ‘Point, Evidence, Explanation’. For example, in an essay asking you “How far did the Pilgrimage of Grace pose a threat to Henry VIII?”, your point on the “yes” side of your essay might be “the rebellion was large and formidable”, your evidence might be, “between 30.000- 40,000 people took part” and in your explanation, you could discuss the significance of this point, whether you think it was the most important point and why, or a critical interpretation. The most important thing here is structure.

Once you’ve numbered/ labelled your paragraphs, get your highlighters out and colour all the important points you make. In History, we had something called “specific detail”, and what this meant was that we were making a point that the examiner would not expect a Student to know. These small details really improve an essay, and it is a good idea to include them in your plan. If you like, colour code your points, like, use one colour for “specific detail” and examples, one colour for main points, one colour for an explanation and another for evaluation. After you’re done, write down your points on your A4 lined paper. Try to do this under headings to make it easier to understand. The more simple your design, the easier it is to remember your points. For some examples, simply flick through some of the photos I’ve attached of my essay plans.

Below: Separating your points is important in structuring your plan.

Below is a picture of an essay plan as it would turn out if you simply decided not to separate your plan by arguments for/against. This might be more helpful for longer essays as you have more room to write more points. Also, it is helpful if the distinction between your points for and against is not quite clear.


3. Now, write your Neat Essay plan. This is simply your old essay plan but on a different paper. I like to write my neat essay plan on yellow lined paper. For me, the yellow sort of symbolises “This is important! Remember it!” and so it helps me memorise what is on the paper. Also, it looks pretty and so I have more fun writing the exact same information twice- something that, although it sounds a little pointless (and unsympathetic to trees), is actually a really important part of remembering your essay plan. By now, you will have written the same essay three times: first, when you wrote the actual essay, second, when you wrote up your rough draft, and third, when you wrote up your neat draft. If paper isn’t for you, use Microsoft word, or any other document- even on your phone! It is just as effective. The main point is that you are re-writing your essay- hopefully improving it if you can on the way.

Below: Yellow paper- the ‘Neat Plan’.


Embarrassingly, as you can see above, at the bottom of the page, “Dudley” is labelled because at the time I was writing this plan, I actually forgot the name of the son of the Duke of Northumberland. Which is why next to “Dudley” I wrote “(find son’s name!)”. It is only after I wrote the plan that I remembered it was Guilford! Moving on…

Below is a picture of one of my plans for a Hamlet essay. What I did was use the Orange Sticky notes for my points about The Revenger’s Tragedy, which is a play we had to compare to Hamlet. I used the Pink Sticky notes for discussing why Shakespeare used certain techniques, or for evaluating. The different colours I used for the Sticky Notes made it easier for me to separate the different points I was making, and the different techniques I was using, in this case, comparison and evaluation.


4. Finally- Remember to file your work! Making these plans takes time, and time is precious, so you have to take care of your work. You might even want to hide your work from prying eyes… just kidding- chances are, you probably have so many things to remember that the last thing you need is to add to that list. Filing is great because you keep all your work in one place and it’s less likely you will lose it. An important point for you: don’t throw away your original essay! Sometimes, it helps to see how you structured your essay and the order of your points.


So there you have it! Your step- by-step guide on how to make your very own perfect essay plans. Provided I did these properly, and read them before my tests, these practically guaranteed me an A* in my exams. Hopefully, they will for you too🙂

A Level Politics: The Consequences of Federalism… Could be Right in Front of You!

Ironically, despite Federalism being so extremely important to the U.S.A, in terms of its effect on politics, society, the economy and even the law there, it never actually appears in the U.S. Constitution! Nevertheless, you cannot really effectively comprehend how politics in the U.S works without having even an inkling of Federalism, because of how vital it is to the workings of the system.

Today we’ll look at the Consequences of Federalism, something that perhaps looks complicated until you summarise it on a grid, and see that it’s not too hard after all. During my A-Levels, I became obsessed with ‘grid-ding’ everything. Somehow, when I drew lines to seperate my work, it looked smaller and easier to digest. Even if you don’t know much about federalism, though, hopefully this little guide will give you that ‘inkling’ you need to get a grasp about it. Although I lived in Texas once, I never actually realised that some of the ‘facts of life’ that I assumed existed everywhere (like the age you can legally start driving) were not the same across every state in the U.S.A- that’s Federalism for you🙂




Brian Wasko ( gives us quite a funny example of the cultural differences that exist in the U.S, writing about how “Living on the East Coast, I have always referred to soft drinks as soda. My friends from the Midwest, however, call it pop. Parts of the deep south refer to all soft drinks as coke. Apparently no one really calls them soft drinks”bte

Does Federalism affect you? I’d love to hear what you think, comment below!

Some websites you might find helpful: For information on the differences in how the various States require citizens to submit their ballot papers for elections. For information on State Laws. For information on Sales Tax Rates in some of the U.S’s big cities.

A Level History: Parliament and the Tudor Crown: A Contest of Wills

Tudor parliaments had a particularly important role in the government and administration in the 16th century. It was, after all, the country’s most vital institution after the King’s Council. There were two chambers in Parliament– the upper chamber, called the House of Lords, and the lower chamber, called the House of Commons (both still exist to this day), the latter of which contained 310 members in the 16th century- 74 Knights of the Shire and 236 Burgesses. Some historians believe that Parliament showed remarkably little opposition when carrying through major changes in religion in the Tudor reigns of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, whilst others disagree. This was one of the most important debates we had to discuss whilst I was doing my A-levels, and yet, it has no ‘right’ answer. When we used to have a class discussion, we could never make up our minds by the end of it, and they went on for such a long time because of that! That does mean, though, that you are free to make up your own mind as to the extent to which Parliament was compliant. Hopefully, this little guide will help you do just that.




What do you think about this issue? Do you have any points to add? I’d love to hear what you think, simply comment below!



*Article link:

A Level English: 7 Literary Terms You Might Not Know

Whilst we might often hear literary terms such as Metaphor, Plot, and Alliteration, how often do you hear Anecdote being mentioned? Quite embarrassingly, when I first heard that term, I thought it was a type of medicine- a far cry from it’s true meaning!

And yet literary terms can be so important in making your work sound more concise, informative and professional. Provided they are not overused, and you actually know what the terms you are using mean, they can be a great addition to any literary essay.

So today we are going to look briefly at some rather peculiar sounding literary techniques- think things like Bathos, Cacophony, and, one you sometimes have to read twice to pronounce- synesthesia.



Examples include: The Millers Tale and the Carpenters Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

2 ( has some fantastic examples of Bathos in Literature and Comedy. My favourite was the one from Monty Python:

 Bridge-keeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.

Sir Lancelot: Ask me the questions, bridge-keeper. I am not afraid.

Bridge-keeper: What
 is your name?

Sir Lancelot: My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.

Bridge-keeper: What
 is your quest?

Sir Lancelot: To seek the Holy Grail.

Bridge-keeper: What
 is your favourite colour?

Sir Lancelot: Blue.

Bridge-keeper: Go on. Off you go.

Sir Lancelot: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.


Ultius ( gives a memorable example of an epithet: “in the name Alexander the Great, the clear implication is that greatness is fundamental to the very essence of what Alexander is”




Examples: If like some other linguists you believe that the climax of Hamlet is when Hamlet stabs Polonius, events in the falling action of the play would thus include the duel between Hamlet and Laertes, which eventually leads to the crowning of Fortinbras and the end of the play.



Example: See Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (


Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,

And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower

The moping owl does to the moon complain

Of such, as wandering near her secret bower,

Molest her ancient solitary reign.


Example: TheWritePractice ( describes how: “Multiple authors have used synesthesia in their writing. Dante used it in his Divine Comedy when he writes about “the region where the sun is silent”. Clearly the sun does not make noise, but the idea of the sun being silent uses the sense of hearing to evoke a sense of despair.”


Do you have any other important yet unusual literary terms to suggest? Comment below!

A Level English: Stepping into the world of Chaucer…

It is one thing to understand the actual text of The Wife of Bath, but quite another to attempt to comprehend what it would have been like living at the time Chaucer was writing it. And yet, learning about the context in which an artist creates their work is such an important part of truly comprehending it.

Because the context of art is so significant, today we are giving you a brief overview of some of the events that took place during Chaucer’s time. Some of these are just for fun, whilst others might have had a vital influence on Chaucer…

Note: these are not in order of significance/ interest.


This was a significant episode in the reign of Richard II, and one that had dire consequences for his enemies, many of whom suffered for turning against their King. Whilst we don’t know to what extent this influenced Chaucer in any way, the poet involved in the next event may well have done…






What event did you fid most interesting? Do you have any more to suggest? We would love to hear your views! Comment below!


Want to read more? Why not try: for information on the reign of Richard II to learn more about the first Cooking Manuscript and other works of the time to read more about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

A Level History: The Tudors: Challenging the Forces of Authority

Between the years 1547-1554, there was a great number of disturbances in Tudor Society, with 1549 singled out as the most notable period of the crisis because it witnessed two rebellions and contributed to the fall of the Lord Protector Somerset. Indeed, in both town and country, social and economic issues seemed to have intensified by the time Edward VI was crowned King of England. Some historians have suggested that religious changes were to blame for a reduction in loyalty to the monarchy, some, the new government, whilst others deny any crisis caused by growing disrespect of the forces of authority on the part of the governed.

Whichever view you side with (if any), certainly, it could be argued that there was a degree of crisis caused by a challenging of authority on at least four notable occasions, particularly in 1549, with the fall of Edward Somerset (overthrown by his fellow Ă©lites) from power and the Kett and Western (Prayer Book) Rebellions; 1553 saw a power struggle among the Ă©lites as to who would succeed Edward VI as monarch (Lady Jane Grey vs. Princess Mary); 1554 saw another conspiracy among Ă©lites, some of whom were opposed to Mary I’s marriage to Phillip of Spain, and finally, 1569 when some of the Catholic Ă©lites in the country rebelled against the rule of Elizabeth I. (If you need more information on the rebellions, simply click here)

Today, we look at some of the reasons that prompted the non-Ă©lites and the Ă©lites (respectively) to challenge the forces of authority. Of course, a key grievance shared by many of the non-Ă©lites and the Ă©lites was the issue of religion, which, with the break from Rome in 1534, became a key issue and source of conflict among the Ă©lites and between the monarch and their subjects. There are other causes for the discontent of these groups, however, and we look at them below…






What do you think was the greatest cause for the challenging of authority during the Tudor period? We’d love to hear what you think! Comment below!




Henry VIII coat of arms, credit: Sodacan; Altering by: Breaktheenigma

A Level Politics: Blue Dogs- A Diminishing Breed of Politician?

Despite the misleading name (and the title of this post, and also, admittedly, the picture we used too), ‘Blue Dogs’ are not coloured puppies (although apparently those do exist). They are a group of Conservatives, who make up the most right-wing faction of the Democratic Party.

Although the Democratic Party became identified with an increased role of the government in society, and liberal social causes such as minority rights, abortion rights and environmentalism from the 1960’s onwards, ‘Blue Dogs’ are generally in favour of reducing taxes and a Conservative approach to social policies.

Salon has written about the “impending extinction of the Blue Dog caucus in the House of Representatives” and The Washington Post has an article called “The Blue Dogs’ pitiful last whimper”. Numerous analysts have pointed to the declining influence of the ‘Blue Dogs’ within the Democrat party, but how influential are the ‘Blue Dogs’ really?

Today we hope to straighten out some of the main arguments for and against this issue in a simple table. Scroll down for details…

Blue Dogs

What do you think? Are the ‘Blue Dogs’ really a diminishing breed? Comment below!



Blue Puppy Picture credit: Elsie esq’s Flickr

The years “..16” in History

With 2016 on the horizon, you may well have found yourself looking back upon the past year, remembering the events you’ve witnessed, people you have seen and met, and things you have done in 2015.

And now we are looking forward, forward to 2016…

But have you ever looked back?

As I wondered what 2016 would bring, somehow I started thinking about what had happened in previous years ending with ’16’- and- no surprise- there is a colourful history of those years. Whether this has anything to do with ‘…16’ being a leap year is hard to judge, but, certainly, those years ending with “16” witnessed action and drama, new beginnings and also unpredictable ends. So if you’ve ever asked yourself anything like “What happened in 116 AD?“, you have come to the right place! Below is a little mind-map documenting some notable events over the past centuries. Although this will not predict the future for you, you will almost definitely learn something new…


5 Easy Steps to a Tudor Christmas

Those of us who have always been intrigued by history often find ourselves saying [wistfully] “if only I had a time machine…”. We wonder how it would have been like living in different periods in the past, maybe because we just love dreaming about random things, but perhaps more so because we get so excited about mysteries, stories, and learning about something new.

Then Christmas time comes and we get excited about Christmas but we’re still excited about history and so we start searching for things like “What the Tudors ate for Christmas” and “Victorian Christmas trees”, jumbling Christmas and History together.

At first, the two words might not seem to be connected, but when you consider how although Christmas was also celebrated in the past, it all makes sense. What follows afterwards is the question “Was Christmas celebrated before 100, 200, even 500 years?” and when you realise the answer is “yes!”, that’s when you become really enlivened and interested, because in different parts of the world, in different centuries, people had their own unique traditions.

Since we have been reading and writing about the Tudors and Shakespeare this year, I thought it would be interesting to show you how the Tudors celebrated Christmas. If you are revising and need justification to have a little bit of fun whilst learning, this is the one for you.

1. Goose at Christmas time

According to C N Trueman:


Today, goose, though less popular than turkey (which, Trueman tells us, was first “being brought to Europe was in 1519”) is actually still being served on Christmas tables. An alternative to the traditional turkey, and one with history too! The Tudors did not stop there, though, Trueman reveals, writing about their Christmas pie:“The contents of this dish consisted of a Turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a pigeon. All of this was put in a pastry case, called a coffin and was served surrounded by jointed hare, small game birds and wild fowl”. I have to admit, right now, I don’t think I could survive this part of Tudor traditions, especially as the Tudors ate a lot more than a Turkey and a pie. How they could manage to eat half of what Trueman just described is beyond me. Wendy Pyatt tells us that “Advent was a time of fasting” and I can definitely see why! Hopefully, the Tudors had other ways to celebrate that don’t require a big pre-Christmas diet…

And they do!

2. Carols.

Although feasting took up a large part of the festivities, thankfully, the Tudors had several ways to celebrate Christmas without having to eat a week’s worth of food in one day. Carol singing, for example, is an easy, Tudor-approved Christmas tradition. As Ben Johnson writes, “Carols flourished throughout Tudor times as a way to celebrate Christmas and to spread the story of the nativity”. He also points out a little-known fact: “The earliest recorded published collection of carols is in 1521, by Wynken de Worde which includes the Boars Head Carol.”

Wendy Pyatt tells us that “Other Christmas carols the Tudors would have been familiar with include The Coventry Carol, While Shepherds Watched, The First Nowell, Angels from the Realms of Glory… In Dulci Jubilo, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

3. Christmas boughs.

Jenni Black, in her lovely blog English Heritage gives us an insight into another way to recreate our very own Tudor Christmas: by creating a Christmas Bough…


The best part of this? You can make your very own Christmas Bough! Jenni teaches you how, in a simple step-by-step guide, which you can find at:

4. Performing plays

Pyatt writes about how “There are records from the early 16th century that both Oxford and Cambridge colleges employed travelling players in their Christmas entertainments. There are also records of a play being performed for Cardinal Wolsey at Grays Inn during Christmas 1526. Coventry mystery plays which the Coventry carol was written for, tell the story of Herod’s murder of the innocents. Mystery plays are still performed in Coventry even today”, which is perfect for all the readers out there who already love watching, writing and/or performing in plays. I think it is the excitement and apprehension that you experience when you are performing in a play, or even watching it, that makes it so special, more so when it is Christmas-themed, which is probably why this is my favorite Tudor Christmas tradition. If you are a Literature student, it’s also a great way to revise in an enjoyable way! The only problem with that is getting carried away watching different versions of plays and ending up using them a little to many times to justify not doing any work until it’s too late! Take that from experience…

5. Mince pies

If you don’t feel up to the challenge of eating a Tudor pie, but still want to enjoy something edible that the tudors would have eaten, mince pies might be the thing for you. The Tudor Tattler informs us that “Minced pies were enjoyed by Tudors from the lowliest peasants to the King and his court… [they] were made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and his apostles… Often times, pies were shaped like a crib (to represent the Christ child) or decorated with a crib or infant child”.


The thirteen ingredients included lamb, veal, brown sugar, raisins, currants, orange, lemon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ground mace, black pepper, dates and individual pie crusts. Don’t worry about memorising this, though!- you can find the recipe at:

So here we are- 5 simple ways to Celebrate Christmas like the Tudors would have done. Actually, what I find interesting is that all of these traditions are very similar to those still practiced today. It just goes to show how much the past still seems to live on here in the present- whether in literature, art, music, or, as seen here, in tradition. If you want to know more about celebrating Christmas like a Tudor, I would recommend watching A Tudor Feast at Christmas. It is a fantastic documentary, and although it’s true that the Tudors would not have been able to watch documentaries, I feel that recreating the Tudor Christmas is not as much about trying to make it perfect, exactly like it would have been in the past, as it is about simply having a little fun (we all need it!) and doing something different.

Politics: What is democracy? The essay question answered

What is democracy?

This big question is one that students all around the world have to face. Unfortunately, as you probably realised when I mentioned the words ‘big question’, it is not one easily answered, not least because of the many definitions that have tried to address it. Perhaps because of its difficulty, it is a question that schools and universities typically ask their Politics students to write about in an essay.

Normally, when I answer essay questions on this blog, I alter them to make them more reader-friendly. However, for those students who are a little stuck on how to structure their essays, posting a full essay would be more useful. So today, this article will offer a full essay answering the question “What is democracy?” for all the students and researchers out there who need it. It uses the categorisation made by Charles Tilly- that there are generally 4 different types of definitions of democracy (Procedural, Constitutional, Substantive and Process-oriented) to answer the question. If you have any further queries about the essay, please feel free to comment or contact us at! Please note: any opinions given in this essay are my own judgements. There is no ‘right’ definition of democracy, and many different definitions, Your opinion matters and I would encourage you all to research to come to a judgement about what you think.

Now to the question…


What is democracy?

For a political system that hundreds of countries around the world claim to have, it is perhaps

not surprising that the concept of “democracy” should have numerous different definitions.

Whilst “democracy” is often understood simply to mean “equality” and “freedom”, it could, and

has, been argued that these descriptions are too vague to be used to effectively classify a regime

on its level of democracy, particularly as there are several different interpretations of what

“equality” and “freedom” constitute. Thus we should now look to more specific definitions of

democracy. Although countless scholars and authors have given their own interpretations of

what democracy is, scholars have generally classed them into four main types of definitions:

“constitutional, substantive, procedural and process-orientated”(Tilly, 2007, p.7). This essay will

use Tilly’s classifications to focus on these four main types of definitions, critiquing the strengths

and weaknesses of each by comparing them to each other.


The first of these definitions that we will discuss is the “constitutional” perspective. Advocates of

this approach concentrative on the “legal procedures” (Tilly, 2002, p.192) of a regime, i.e. its

constitution and laws and how a country may be seen to be democratic based on if the said

regime claims in its constitution to allow democratic procedures, e.g. “representation, rule of law

and limitations of power” (Isakhan and Stockwell, 2012, p.143). Although it has been argued that

this definition of democracy is beneficial in the ease and clarity by which it allows a state to be

identified as “democratic”, it is weakened most significantly by the “large discrepancies between

announced principles and daily practices [which] often make constitutions misleading”(Tilly,

2007, p.7). This can be observed in Indonesia, for example: although its constitution states that it

is “based on the rule of law” (Hafner, Kroissenbrunner and Potz, 2009, p.131), Freedom House

reveals that “the court system remains plagued by corruption and other weaknesses” (Freedom

House, 2015) awarding Indonesia a low 5/16 for Rule of Law.


The second classification that Tilly groups definitions of democracy into is “procedural”

definitions, which focus on “governmental practices” ( Rodriguez et al, 2013, p.135). Shumpeter

famously defined democracy in the procedural approach as allowing “individuals [to] acquire the

power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” (Shumpeter, 1947,

p.269). Similarly to the constitutional approach, procedural definitions draw attention to

important features of democracy (elections). Procedural definitions have been criticised for

“reduc[ing] the meaning of democracy to periodic parliamentary elections” (Abdelrahman, 2004,

p.33) Whilst Constitutional definitions at least require that a regime provide its citizens with the

Rule of Law and restrictions on power in writing, procedural definitions ignore very significant

prerequisites for democracy, particularly the accountability of the government to the governed.

Tilly notes how Jamaica, “despite its documented assaults on democratic freedoms”(Tilly, 2007,

p.8), qualified in 2004 as an electoral democracy according to the procedural definition in

Freedom House evaluations.



We might hope to look to substantive definitions to offer us a less “thin” (Rodriguez et al, 2013,

p.135) definition of democracy, yet scholars have noted that they too suffer from weaknesses.

Substantial definitions do differ from Procedural and Constitutional definitions (the former being

more focused on methods) in the specific qualifications they look at to qualify a state as

“democratic”, emphasising outcomes and asking questions about “human welfare, individual

freedom, security
 and peaceful conflict resolution” (Tilly, 2007, p.7) to determine whether a

regime is democratic or not. However, whilst it is important that democracies promote such

freedoms and rights, simply fulfilling them in the present arguably does not make them secure

from future infringement. MĂžller and Skaanin (2012) ask substantial advocates an important

question: “if democracy is, say, a form of deliberation which realizes the common good, who can

determine with any certainty how democratic a given country is?” Whilst substantive definitions

do, in contrast to constitutional definitions, look for democratic freedoms being promoted in

practice, they are lacking in the difficulty they present of measuring how far one state can be said to

be democratic in comparison to another.


This very drawback of Substantive definitions is what Tilly claims makes process-orientated

definitions so beneficial in comparison. Magara (2014) describes process-oriented definitions as

“highlighting the minimum set of processes at the core of democracy- effective participation,

voting equality, enlightened understanding of each community member, their control of the

agenda and inclusion of the adult population”. Tilly’s process-oriented definition, particularly its

consideration of “state capacity” (Tilly, 2007, p.7) is arguably more greatly encompassing than the

alternative definitions, especially because it acknowledges that state enforcement has a role to play in

how far a state is democratic in practice, unlike constitutional definitions, which focus more on

theory than practice. Moreover, in describing a “minimum set of processes that must be

continuously in motion” (Tilly, 2007, p.9) process-oriented definitions encourage both

accountability in a state and outline the areas in which regimes can improve to enhance

democracy (democratization) but also present understanding on how de-democratization can

occur in a state.


Nonetheless, to conclude, all four main types of definitions of democracy that we have assessed

and compared are correct in their own right. We have seen that there are numerous definitions of

democracy, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The consequences of choosing one

definition over another change depending on the scope of the definition- favouring Constitutional

definitions, for example, may have costs in that a regime that is undemocratic in practice will not

be seen so. In light of the important points each definition raises and in representing different

values and perspectives, however, all are vital in contributing to our understanding of what

democracy really is according to each one of us.



TILLY, C. (2002) Stories, Identities, and Political Change. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers



ISAKHAN, B AND STOCKWELL, S. (2012) The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press


TILLY, C. (2007) Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


HAFNER, A, KROISSENBRUNNER, S AND POTZ, R. (2010) State, Law and Religion in

Pluralistic Societies – Austrian and Indonesian Perspectives. Vienna: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht


Freedom House. (2015) Indonesia [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 6th November



RODRIGUEZ , C ET AL. (2013) Turkey’s Democratization Process. Abingdon and New York:



SCHUMPETER, J. (1947) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. 2nd ed. New York: Harper


ABDELRAHMAN, M. (2004) Civil Society Exposed: The Politics of NGOs in Egypt . London: Tauris

Academic Studies


MAGARA, H. (2014) Economic Crises and Policy Regimes: The Dynamics of Policy Innovation and

Paradigmatic Change. Glos: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.


MØLLER , J AND SKAANING S. (2012) Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective:

Conceptions, Conjunctures, Causes, and Consequences . Oxon: Routledge

A Level English: Imagery- Literature’s Archaeology

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Writing is powerful. So too, are pictures and images. They influence you, and keep influencing you- notice how you see images everywhere now, in adverts, on the internet, even on albums and in shops. But what happens when you combine the two?

Simply, an immensely effective way to convey messages. 

And this is exactly what writers do,and have done, for centuries, using images of objects in their writing to symbolise and convey complex ideas and emotions. Sometimes, the message is obvious, whilst at other times, it is sly and mysterious, hidden from view. The Easter Eggs of literature, they are just waiting to be found.

Even hundreds of years ago, writers were employing the clever technique of imagery, and Chaucer was one of these writers. So today, we look at imagery in the Wife of Bath.

Hint: There is a lot of it.



Chaucer’s work is brimming with disguised messages, many of which have yet to be revealed. It is, I believe, a quality of his work that makes us truly appreciate the beautiful intricacy and richness of what he wrote. Even today, there is much ambiguity in his work that still puzzles linguists and readers alike, but I feel it is this mystery, this abundance, that really makes The Canterbury Tales, and all his other masterpieces so special- magic that lives on forever.

The Student Guide to Referencing

What do you think of when I say the word referencing?

                                                                                                                            “That word just sends chills down my spine”    

                                                                                                             “I love it”

                                                                                                                                    “I’m fine with it”

                                                                                           “I don’t even know what that is

Perhaps unfortunately, I have yet to meet anyone who loves referencing, so I cannot promise you that this guide will make you cherish the process. Rather, hopefully by the time you finish reading this article, you will at least be able to answer the question “What do you think of when I say the word referencing?” with the third answer, the stage where you are comfortable with referencing in your assignments.

For those of you who stared at the screen with a blank face when I mentioned referencing though, don’t worry! We were all there. Many schools do not teach their students about how to reference, and lacking the excitement and action of other activities, it is not really the kind of thing you put on your list of “things I want to learn in my life”, nor is it a great topic for conversations. You may find that you don’t even think about it until the last few hours before your assignment is due (although hopefully you do!).

Certainly, it looks very complicated, and very daunting (but- happy news!- it is not when you understand how it works)

To put it simply, referencing is the process of citing the works you used in your assignment (whether it be quotes or ideas), to give credit to the author/s [of that work] and avoid plagiarism. It is particularly important not only because you often must reference in your essays, but also because authors and artists put a lot of time and effort in their work, and deserve to be given credit for it. Also, it is helpful because you don’t really want to be in that situation where you are staring at your notes, thinking “where on earth did I get that from?”, but, more optimistically, it is useful at times where you have read a great article or book and, having really enjoyed it, want to learn more about the topic they were writing about, in which case you simply turn to the bibliography for the sources that author used in constructing their work.

The best part about referencing is that it is never too late to learn. Actually, it might be pushing it a little if you are trying to learn it now, at 3am, only hours before your essay is due, but hopefully most of you have a little bit of time to learn, practice and- super importantly!- re-read your work. I learned to reference embarrassingly late, and yet, practice has taught me that it becomes much easier. Not quite second nature, but at least something you are confident with.

Whatever referencing system you use is up to your personal preference, but I personally prefer the Harvard system because you do not have to have footnotes, which is wonderful as it means you have less word count! If you want to learn this system, Staffordshire University has a super-simple guide with examples, which you can find at:

So you have a referencing guide in hand, your manual on how to reference…


Because we have some tips on referencing for you which might come in handy for creating a successful bibliography…


Consistency is a big word in referencing. It means choosing one system of referencing and sticking to it. Doing this well will make your essays look and sound more professional and consise. It is actually very difficult to not be consistent, because it takes more time and effort to be altering between different systems of referencing than keeping to one system, so this criteria is easy to fulfil.


Ensure your bibliography is complete. It sounds silly, but you might find that you thought you finished it, despite the fact that you did not, or that you were meant to write in certain books but forgot. On one occasion, when I viewed one of the essays I was to submit online, my bibliography was missing some books due to an error with my laptop. Thankfully, because the error was only on my laptop, when I submitted it online and printed it, the ‘missing’ books were there. An unfinished bibliography is not a good thing- you will not get marks for just effort!


This is something easy to get wrong. You copy out from a book, not making any indication that it was a quote, and then a few months later write what you think is your own notes into your essay and get marked down for plagiarism. I find that the easiest ways to avoid this are to highlight or colour quotes, and/or to create a special folder or section in a notebook that you put all your quotes into, so you have them in one place, making it easier to access them. Don’t forget to write the information about the book and quote (page number, author’s name and book title) so you know where you got it from!


I can’t stress enough how important it is to proof-read your work. You never know when you might have misspelt something or mixed up authors with book titles. It might sound ridiculous now, but if you are the kind of person to stay up late writing, there is a very good chance you might have made some small mistakes. The last thing that you want is to spell out the author’s name incorrectly when the correct way it is written was right in front of you! The “Uggghhh nooooo!!!” feeling you get when you check your work after you submit your essay is one to avoid (take that from experience!)


If you are giving the page numbers you used in your citations, you want to make sure that you get your page numbers and quotes right. This is because a scary but very real thing in life that happens is that the examiners might decide to test out your bibliography, by using your page numbers to find the quotes from the books you are mentioning. Books are often revised in different editions, so it is best to make sure you are citing the right edition!


The bibliography explained:


The word ‘important’ has come up too many times in this guide to count, but referencing really is an essential part of successful essay writing. The good part is that like riding a bike, once you learn it, you don’t forget. Don’t stress yourself with memorising it though- just have a guide to hand- the memorising will come naturally. It might not become second nature, but, with practice, it will at least something you are confident with.

A Level History: Tudor Rebellions and the Hunt for Treason

The Tudor rebellions- you can see them now, in your head, movie-like; raised shouts, being caught up in the insurgency, so that you can taste the defiance, anger and hunger for change that is heavy in the air. Whether you like it or not, you are pushed deeper into the loud chanting, gaining momentum, but going where? It is difficult to gauge whether or not any of the rebels participating in the Tudor rebellions ever pondered where they would end up- in the Tower of London? On a platform, preparing to be hanged? Set free to return home? Or perhaps not make it the whole journey, perhaps be trampled by the stampede, never to see where it might have taken them.

Whatever the answer, many staked their lives in choosing to disobey the law and order set up by the Crown- but why? Today, we hope to look at the causes for the six major Tudor rebellions from 1536-69- the Pilgrimage of Grace, Western, Kett, Northern and Wyatt rebellions and the Succession Crisis.

This was the part of my A-level revision that took the longest. Maybe it is a teenager thing to say, maybe that is a stereotypical judgement, but I am still going to say it, despite how unrealistic it sounds: it must have taken forever to write up all my notes on all of the rebellions (it certainly felt like forever). When I saw how much I had to revise, my eyes seemed to pop out from my head. I was saved by the fact that I had a wonderful teacher, who taught us that it would be easier to revise the notes if we separated the rebellions, dividing the different causes on separate grid-sheets, making the workload seem less.

The only downside to this was that I think I must have taken more time making those grid-sheets than copying out my notes (I got a little too excited about the fact that I could get arty in History). I am going to save you the hassle of both: below, you will find a digital copy of those grid-sheets of the causes of the rebellions. A note beforehand: the assessment I made as to how serious each was is based on my own judgement, e.g. The Northern rebellion, I felt, was low because it did not spread far and its numbers were not many (numbering around 6000 armed men), whereas the Succession Crisis was high because it actually succeeded. However, you should decide yourself how far each was a threat, because as with many things in life, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer (just remember to back up your answer!).

Happy revising!








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A Level English: The Life-Jacket for Your Essay- Wife of Bath Critical Quotes!


When I was doing my A-levels, one of the most time-consuming and exhausting things I had to do was find critical quotes for my essays. I would spend hours reading, and the worst part of it was, many times I did not find any relevant quotes even after hours of research! And yet finding quotes from books and articles is very important, both for comparing and contrasting different interpretations, and also, at other times, for backing up your own view.

Life did not get much better in terms of critical quotations when I moved on to university, either. The same importance was attached to quotations, and the time I had to spend reading to find them actually increased!

But it is hard to find time to read, search and write your essays amidst a busy schedule. So I have a little remedy for all the students out there studying the Wife of Bath, looking for some quotes to make your essays a little juicier. Below, you will find some interesting quotes which might just be the answer you are looking for…


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A Level History: “Best friends, no, enemies, no, best friends”- Spain, Tudor England and Religion

spain and england

Like squabbling siblings, relations between Spain and England in the years 1553-88 were rocky- to say the least. Recording the changes in their relations and observing it as a stock market graph would make a what looks like a stock not to be invested in.

Why so? To say it simply, relations between the two states fluctuated greatly, climaxing in the Spanish Armada invasion in 1588. Today, we hope to look for the possible causes for the changing relations between the two states, judging how far one- if any- played the greatest part in influencing the relationship between Spain and England in the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I.




Whether religion played the greatest role in determining relations between the two states or not, it certainly was responsible considerably for changes in relations. Notice how the deteriorating relations between the two nations coincided with the death of the Catholic Mary I and the ascension of her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth. Nevertheless, it is up to your own personal judgement to decide the extent to which any one reason determined relations- you don’t even need to settle for economic factors, religion or France- you can even argue that it was the actions of the monarchs (Phillip II, Mary I and Elizabeth I) themselves and their differing ways of governing and dealing with the different situations that they faced that was the most responsible for changing relations, or that “determined” is too strong a word, exacerbated being a better description.

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A Level English: Chaucer and the Competition for Power in Marriage


It is probably inevitable that we should come to the topic of human relationships whilst covering Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.

I admit, inevitable is a very strong word to use, but since the Wife of Bath’s Prologue is dominated by the stories of her five marriages, the theme of relationships is not really one we can ignore. And nor would we want to, considering the significance and richness of the theme as presented by Chaucer. The Wife of Bath’s world is what many critics have called a ‘Mundus Inversus’– a world literally turned upside down, where the Wife, contrary to the traditionally submissive roles and characterisations women (who were inferior to men) in the 14th century were expected to possess, is actually the dominant figure in her first few marriages. She does this not once, not twice, but three times. In a row. This may be why she does not seem to distinguish between any of her first three husbands.

If we focus on marriage as the means of exploring the presentment of human relationships in the text, we can find several examples pointing to the presentment of human relationships as competitions of sovereignty- something, until her fourth marriage, the Wife is good at winning…



We do not need a gossip magazine to get a glimpse of the Wife’s relationships- she tells all. With gleeful pride, the Wife boasts of her ability to control her husbands and establish superiority over them. Human relationships in The Wife of Bath, in other words, could be seen as predominantly power struggles. The Wife of Bath is powerful in her first three marriages, seems to lose control in her fourth and fifth marriages, but informs us that [at least for her] there is a happy ending by the end of her fifth marriage (it would be difficult to argue the same for Jankyn) because- you guessed it- she regains power as the dominant partner in her marriage. What is highlighted throughout this is the imbalance of power within relationships, evident in all her marriages. What might be interesting to question yourself is, does Chaucer want, through this, to convey the disadvantages of power imbalances, thus promoting more equal relationships? It is a question unanswered, left ambiguous in the text, yet a positive aspect of the Wife of Bath, for in the blanks left out by Chaucer, we have filled in colourful debates on the text, prolonging the mystery of Chaucer’s work, inviting us to look deeper for new interpretations, gifting us with the ability to be a part of this masterpiece.

Golden figures picture credit: Kate Ter Haar

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A Level History: The Tudor Monarch and the Religion of the State- One Body


“The personal religious beliefs of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I explain the religious changes of the years 1547-66” Do you agree?

I remember how I first felt when I saw this question whilst studying the Tudors: “It is the question of doom”, I despaired, my eyes slowly widening in quickly escalating horror. I read it twice on the paper, word for word, looking for an easy way out. Finding none, I am anguised by a deep pessimism and I wonder how I will survive to see my next birthday. The chances do not look good. This question is a jumble of three reigns. Like putting three scoops of ice-cream on a cone that can only handle one, I am burdened by a deep confusion. 

Yet that was my problem- attempting to tackle all three reigns at once. Separate them, and the question looks a little less vicious.

That is not really a satisfying answer to the question though. Whether you have arrived here because you are keen on learning more about aspects of the Tudor monarchies, or if you are a History student looking for some help on your essays, that little sentence: “Separate them, and the question looks a little less vicious” is not going to do you much good.

But have no fear! This article will give you all the answers you are looking for. By the end of it, you may well find yourself smiling at the simplicity of it all.

“The personal religious beliefs of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I explain the religious changes of the years 1547-66.” Do you agree?

THE “YES” ARGUMENT: The royal authority and ultimate sovereignty of the monarch allowed them to exert their power in constructing religious policy, shaping it to reflect their own religious beliefs.


But, there are disagreements…

THE “NO” SIDE: The role of advisors to the monarch was a particularly significant one in that they could arguably exert a substantial degree of influence on the monarch in considering their [the advisors’] own religious beliefs in shaping religious policy.


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will be familiar with a phrase I normally use: “There is no right or wrong answer to this question”

But, today I am going to surprise you

What one can observe from the changing direction of the Church of England (Mostly Catholic during the reign of Henry VIII, Protestant during Edward VI’s reign, Catholic during Mary I’s reign and Protestant during the reign of Elizabeth I) is that in the event of a monarch with one religious ideology being succeeded by another with a differing religious ideology, the direction of the church swings between Protestant and Catholic. What this chiefly demonstrates is the immense influence of the religious beliefs of the Tudor Kings and Queens in shaping the official religion of the state. It is a conclusion I advocate, yet of course you are entitled  to your judgement so the answer does ultimately, as with any other debate, remain with you.

So what do you think about this issue? I would love to hear your responses to this article! Write away below!

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A Level English: Beauty on Earth- Art

Illustrative art is a beautiful thing. It forms a link between our imagination, and reality, a manifestation of images that otherwise only exist in our thoughts. I find illustrative art particularly fascinating not only because it can bring stories and events in the past, present and future to life, but also because the artist gifts us with their own precious interpretations of ideas, ideologies and even historical figures, illustrating them beautifully. Like other forms of art- literature, photography, music, architecture, theatre and film, the gift of painting and drawing is powerful, captivating, magical. It is a form of speech and expression, and often can make you see things in a different light, challenging your perceptions, perhaps even enlightening you and showering you with new realisations.

Today I thought I might share with you all some of the art inspired by The Canterbury Tales and the Wife of Bath, and images from original manuscripts of the text itself. What I find so special about these paintings is that in reinterpreting The Canterbury Tales,  these artists have helped keep the magic of Chaucer’s work alive-even hundreds of years after it was first written, The Canterbury Tales continues to be brought to life before our eyes. Not only does this encourage us to continue to enjoy Chaucer’s brilliant poetry, but also, through beautiful artworks like these, people who might never have heard of The Wife of Bath or even The Canterbury Tales are introduced to Chaucer’s masterpiece, through masterpieces such as these.

Artist: Ezra Winter, Photography: Carol Highsmith

The stunning painting above is a Canterbury Tales mural by Ezra Winter. The medieval pilgrimage is masterfully illustrated through the radiant and vibrant colours, the richness of which makes it so lifelike. It is at the same time almost otherworldly in the magnificent detail each individual is painted. I find that the juxtaposition of the more pastel-coloured wilderness behind them, and the bright reds and royal blue’s of the clothing worn by some of the pilgrims makes them stand out in a way that the high-key lighting highlights wonderfully.

Painting: Paul Hardy (1903)

Here is another beautiful masterpiece, this one by Paul Hardy. His exquisite illustration of the motion of the pilgrims, the richness of colour here and the deep blue sky seem to transform the journey of the pilgrims from the imaginary animation in our minds to an exceptionally natural illustration of the pilgrimage they were undertaking in The Canterbury Tales. The seemingly summery weather and soft white clouds in the sky are a superb demonstration of the jollity of the pilgrimage, reminding us of the clever comic elements we often find in The Canterbury Tales itself. The lush greenery only adds to the abundance of life in this painting.

From Emily Underdown's

This is an illustration of the Wife of Bath’s Tale- the Knight begging the forgiveness of King Arthur’s wife for his crime (raping a maiden, which was punishable by death). The illustration is glorious in itself, but its messages make it all the more special. The Queen sitting on a chair above a platform, juxtaposed with the knight on his knees, powerfully demonstrates his submission in the Tale, first to the Queen, who he is judged by “at [her] wille”, and then later to his wife the hag:

“Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie,” quod she, “Sin I may chese and governe as me lest?”

“Ye, certes, wyf” quod he, “I holde it best.”

What I also find wonderful about this illustration is the golden colours in it, on the Queen and her ladies. It seems to highlight the magic in the Tale, but also perhaps could be seen as presenting the innocence of the Queen’s ladies as virtuous and heavenly.

Painting: Anne Anderson 1912

Here we have Anne Anderson’s painting of the Wife of Bath herself. There is a sereneness in this painting that is beautiful. We can see the Wife in her youth, free from the greedy man-eating qualities she has sometimes been illustrated as embodying. The way that she seems to be looking backwards, and her horse’s hung head seems to suggest that she has left something behind, however, giving the painting a sad quality too, adding to its complexity. Here she is dressed partly in the red we are familiar with, but her baby pink skirt gives her a feminine touch. She is a peaceful Wife, quietly making her way through otherwise empty surroundings. It is an interesting interpretation of the Wife of Bath, mesmeric in its originality and tranquil charm.

It is not only the paintings and illustrations of the Canterbury Tales that are splendid, however, but the actual manuscripts of the text too;

Canterbury TalesCanterbury TalesCanterbury Tales

The illustrations in The Canterbury Tales are priceless in their exquisite articulacy. In this article alone, I have probably used the word “beautiful” far too many times to count, but it would not be justice if I called these illustrations anything but beautiful in their splendour, the way they add a vivid richness to the manuscripts. As if Chaucer’s words are not ingeniously melodic in themselves, the beauty of the pages marks The Canterbury Tales out as nothing short of a masterpiece. It is a wonderful lesson for me on the power of art- whether it be literature, photography, architecture, music, theatre, film or illustrations and paintings- of reminding me of the beauty that can be found on earth itself. I do not need to go to space to see it- I can find it right here- past, present, and future.

A Level History: The Privy Council- the Centre of Political Power?


You probably know who Henry VIII was, but how much do you know about his Privy Council? The Privy Council are the personal advisors to the Crown, appointed by the King or Queen. Particularly during the Tudor Era, this body was immensely significant- close to the King, they had the means to influence policy and legislation- and the power to do that. But to what extent were they the centre of political power? Here, we lay down the arguments to get a better idea…




The answer to the question of “to what extent you think the Privy Council was the centre of political power” is one for you to judge. Whether you decide ‘to a greater extent’, or ‘to a lesser extent’, guess what? You’re right! This is the kind of question that does not have a particular answer [just make sure you can back up your view]. What we can all hopefully agree on however, is that the Privy Council were important and powerful. They had the King’s ear. If you were at the court of Henry VIII, these are probably the people you hope never to get on the wrong side of…

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 Photo Credit: flickr user Ava Lowery

National Party Conventions are often seen as a television highlight because of the colourful balloons unleashed during them, but are they really useful in any other way? It is a question that has troubled political analysts in recent times. For those who don’t know, or who need a recap, a National Party Convention is the meeting held by the major (and some minor) US political parties, traditionally, to select their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and to create their party platform. It is held every 4 years.

Some analytics have argued that their importance has declined in recent years, citing the fact that television coverage of the Conventions has decreased (ABC, CBS and NBC put out 9 hours of coverage of the Republican Convention in 2012, compared to 46 in 1968), whilst others have countered that they remain significant. Anthony Bennett notes that: “[the conventions] can… be important in identifying the rising stars of the future. In 2004, a little-known state senator from Illinois wowed the Democratic convention with his impressive keynote address. His name was Barack Obama”.

Here, we hope to discuss the main arguments on either side of this debate:




Whether you see National Party Conventions as wholly good or bad is your own personal judgement.What might be useful to note, however, is that whilst the formal functions of the National Party Conventions- selecting presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and creating party platforms- appear to have declined in importance in recent years, its informal functions- healing internal party wounds, and enthusing the party faithful and ordinary voters, have risen in significance, year after year. Whether it is for the balloons (of course) or for the candidates themselves, millions of us continue to tune in to them every 4 years that they are held.

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A Level English: The Alluring Language of Literature



Many of us have felt it- the ability of literature to captivate us, intrigue us, even take us to a whole new universe. Sometimes when I read, the whole world seems to fade, and the story in front of me just lights up, carnival colours and all. For some, it is a fantasy in reality, for others, a safe haven from the stress of life. Yet what we all seem to share is a certain susceptibility to being almost hypnotised by the vivid stories and characters that seem to unfold and materialise when we read.

The Wife of Bath, though written hundreds of years ago, continues to enchant and delight readers (at least it does when you can get past the tricky language in which it is written!). It is the rich language Chaucer writes in- rhythmic and often mysteriously ambiguous- that has kept generations of readers fascinated by it, and it is something I hope to explore today.1

Intriguing for both a medieval and a modern audience is the unique form of the Wife’s Prologue and Tale– her prologue is twice the length of the story that follows. It is the context in which Chaucer was writing that makes this point particularly significant- to a medieval reader, the idea of a woman having a considerable role and strong voice would have been very unusual and thus the tale would have appealed more in its originality. Even today, it appeals to us for the same reason- that in the fourteenth-century, when the voice of women was all but nil, an in-ignorable female character, with more than a little to say, was created. The question why drags us to the bookstore, persuading us to read the text ourselves, in an effort to try to gauge whether she is a negative stereotype of women, or actually a spark for feminism.2

Chaucer’s style of language contributes to the rich, ambiguous figure that is the Wife. His technique of writing in iambic pentameter, such as “O Lord! The peyne I dide hem and the wo, Ful giltelees, by Goddess sweete pine!” is close to natural speech. The Wife’s colloquial language makes it easier for the reader to treat the Wife as a realistic character, in effect increasing the complexity and uniqueness of the character of Alisoun and the appeal of the text as a whole. Moreover, critics have seen the Wife’s use of rhetorical questions as challenging the reader to consider her views, demanding a response from her listeners;  “where commanded he virginitee?”. Depending on how far one assumes Chaucer is actually voicing his opinions through the Wife, these techniques could be seen to increase the entertaining factor of the tale, or, more significantly, to encourage his reader to question their own social or moral attitudes.3

Chaucer’s use of irony and satire is also significant in provoking an intense argument within the reader. Particularly funny (or scary) is the fact that the Wife draws upon the anti-feminist literature of her time: “Deceite, weping, spinning God hath yive/ To wommen kindely, whil that they may live”, ironically listing her defects with approval. Although some critics use this to suggest that Chaucer meant to undermine women by accusing them of faults such as these through the Wife, others have pointed to the ridiculous way in which the controversial Wife, who probably embodies every critisism made of women, as Chaucer’s satirical attack on the hypocritical and often extreme anti-women beliefs and accusations on women in literature.1

Symbolism in literature can often have deeper messages within, and this is true too in the Wife’s Prologue and Tale. The Wife’s forcing of Jankyn to burn his beloved “book of wikked wives”, for example, has been seen by some critics as an allegory to the threat of a wider destruction of male authority by women. Perhaps less controversially, one might also observe the Wife’s justification of marriage by comparing it to “barly-bread”, for, although it is not “pured whete-seed” like virginity, she assures the reader that “yet with barly-bread, Mark telle kan, Oure Lord Jhesu refresshed many a man” (she is referring to the barley bread distributed by Jesus as related to the miracle of the loaves and the fishes in St Mark 6, verse 38, Chapter 8, giving the impression of marriage as a perfectly respectable status to accentuate her argument defending it). Whatever Chaucer’s motives in doing so, his use of allegory certainly appealed to his original audience, who were familiar with allegory in the Bible, such as Christ’s parables (religion was momentously important in Chaucer’s time, which was dominated by the church; his fourteenth century audience would have known the Bible very well).

Poets have, for centuries, used language to reveal deeper meanings and ideas than their subject matters might suggest, immediately making their poetry more appealing in its mystery. We are all invited to bring these ideas to life using our imaginations, and it is this forging of a link between poet and reader, even hundreds of years after that piece of literature was first composed, which continues to allure us, and which gives literature such a magical appeal.

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