Reflections of Summer: My Favourite Posts

suzie81speaks:

I can’t believe that it’s 1st October already, and the summer now seems just a distant memory. I thought I’d share with you some of my summer posts, just in case you missed them the first time…

Originally posted on Suzie81 Speaks:

It’s almost the end of the UK summer and in a few days I will be back at work, ready for the start of a new academic year. The last few weeks have been the quickest I have known for a long time, and while I have spent a large amount of time doing school – based activities I have been able to relax and catch up with friends, films and some much needed sleep.

I have blogged on a daily basis, my posts reflecting my mood and ideas that I have thought of during my adventures. I still have a number of posts to finish off, which I intend to do this weekend, but I thought it would be a nice idea to share with you my favourite and most successful ones of the last six weeks for those who may have had a blogging break and missed them…

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Suzie81 Speaks: The Brand?

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I have always been a fan of the UK Apprentice, and have never missed a season since it began in 2004. One of the most memorable contestants was Stuart Baggs from Season Six, whose catchphrases included ‘Everything I touch turns to sold,’ making his appearances both cringeworthy and compelling to watch. He was arrogant, cocky, rude and completely out of his depth, and he was eventually fired in episode 11. However, whether viewers loved or hated him, Stuart was steadfast in his belief of his own abilities, even going so far as to refer to himself as ‘The Brand.’ He wasn’t simply offering his experience and skillset, he was offering Lord Sugar himself as a complete package.

I was one of those who really disliked him, but over time I secretly (and reluctantly) conceded that I admired his angle. As human beings most of us do the same thing whether it is intentional or not – with our family and friends, in the workplace, in our hobbies and activities – we naturally present what we have to offer in the way that we feel comfortable, either in the form of our true selves or a small representaion of an aspect of our characters. As a blogger (and I now feel a little more secure in calling myself that) I have discovered that the idea of branding is one that is often discussed, and over the last few months I have contemplated the idea of the brand that is ‘Suzie81 Speaks.’

I follow several hundred blogs, and no two of them are the same. I admire them for the content, and some even more for the people that write them and the relationships I have formed with them since starting my own. I follow them because they’re interesting, creative, emotive, witty and inspiring, and when I get the time to really sit down and read their offerings I am always left with a million ideas and admittedly, a little bit of blog envy. They all have their own brand, something that they offer that keeps me coming back for more.

I decided that it would be a good opportunity to trawl through in my blog in it’s entirety in an attempt to figure exactly out what Suzie81 Speaks is about. I started in April 2013 as an online journal – I was experiencing a difficult period in my life and writing about it proved to be rather theraputic – but over the last eighteen months it has evolved into something completely above and beyond any expectations that I initially had. I don’t have a theme or a niche as I like the freedom to be able to discuss whatever I feel in the moment, and as I delved further and further into the history of my posts it was apparent just how eclectic and random the contents of my ramblings are. I was surprised by the memories that were evoked as I read things that I hadn’t thought about in months – small milestones and achievements, loss, anxiety, tough experiences… it was an insightful couple of hours. I took the opportunity to delete lots of posts as I was going along to get my tally to this point at just over 300 (but over time I have written about 800 in total), and then I started to make a list of posts that I enjoyed and was proud of in an effort to categorise them. However, after about twenty different lists formed including everything from blogging to food, travel, teaching, life, grief, experiences, relationships, photography, memories, being a woman, my heritage, friendships, television and music I stopped. They were so different from each other that it was impossible to pidgeon-hole them into just one theme.

Then I realised. The simple fact is that all of these posts may be different in theme and content, but they have one thing in common… me. The brand that I have developed is simply an online version of me, my thoughts, beliefs and how I live my life. It will never be a worldwide brand – there won’t be television advertisements or bumper stickers, international acclaim or awards, badges or pins, but it has been instrumental in boosting my confidence, calming my anxieties and helping me to move on.

Whether Suzie81 Speaks is a brand or not, it was the best decision I ever made.

What about you guys? Do you feel that your blog has a brand? Have you been trying to develop one? What is your niche?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

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Image credit: centraldesigns.co.uk

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It’s a Small World. Sometimes, It’s a Little Too Small

Oh. Dear.

Oh. Dear.

After nearly a decade of working in the British Education System I have recently noticed just how many contacts I have made in my adventures, to the point where it is now a rare occurance when I don’t run into someone when I am out and about in my personal time.

I walked into the staff room a few days ago and was greeted by a visitor – a very attractive woman who was about the same age as me. I knew that I hadn’t met her before, but as I said hello there was something oddly familiar about her face, and I asked her what her name was. When she told me, an image of her smiling face in a photograph flashed before my eyes, and it clicked where I had seen her before. A very handsome friend from university (that I still occasionally play in a string quartet with) was in a relationship with her, and had promoted her picture many times across his Facebook page when she had made it to the finals of an acting competition, with the prize being a part in an Aussie soap. I got very excited at remembering this, and this was the conversation that followed.

Me: Did you have anything to do with Neighbours?

Her: (rather shocked expression) Erm… Yes. How do you know that?

Me: You’re M’s girlfriend! I went to Uni with him and I remember your face from the competition pictures he used to put up.

Her: (awkward expression) I was his girlfriend.

Me: Ah. Ok.

I quickly changed the subject. However, as I was in the middle of this conversation, I suddenly had a further flashback. That wasn’t the only reason why I knew her.

For my 30th birthday, I invited a large group of people to a party that was taking place at an 80’s themed nightclub. While it isn’t most of my friends favourite venue, to their credit they all turned up and threw themselves into drinking, dancing and general debauchery, and I was having a brilliant time. I had been surprised at several points throughout the night by good friends that I hadn’t expected to show, and half way through the night M arrived. I was really pleased to see him, as were lots of my female friends (he really is extremely attractive, I can’t emphasise this enough). One in particular thought he was lovely, and it was obvious that the feelings were mutual.

I don’t remember that much of the later part of the evening, but I do remember that there were lots of photographs taken, most of which appeared on Facebook over the next few days. I received a phone call from my friend, who told me that M had gone back to her house and spent the night. I was quite shocked with him – I knew that he had a long term girlfriend, but my friend had no idea. It was a douchy thing to do on his part…

I panicked a little in case his girlfriend found out and caused trouble for my friend, so I went onto M’s Facebook page, and through that, clicked onto his girlfriend’s page (the woman that was sitting in my staff room the other day) and promptly cyber-stalked her to see if anything revealing had appeared. She didn’t have any privacy settings, and so it was easy to navigate around it.

To make matters worse, I didn’t just click on her page on that day, I must have checked it out on several occasions over the next week. Nothing appeared to have surfaced after a while, and so I stopped, and haven’t thought about it since. Am I a bad person for not saying something? Yes, probably, but the news wouldn’t have been welcomed, she probably wouldn’t have believed me and my friend would have received unnecessary trouble. Her relationship was none of my business, despite the guilt that I always feel in those sorts of situations. I’ve learnt from experience that it is always best to mind your own business where possible.

When I remembered this, I blushed furiously, to the point where one of the other staff commented on the colour of my face. I didn’t say anything about what I remembered and I won’t – I don’t know the circumstances of their break-up, but I’m assuming that she must have eventually found out that, while he is actually a lovely bloke as a friend, he isn’t exactly boyfriend material. Yes, the world is a very small place. Sometimes, it’s a  little too small.

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Nighttime

I haven’t done a photography post in a while, so I thought that it would be a nice idea to share just a few of my nighttime pictures from my various adventures over the last few years…

Paris

Paris

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Bon Jovi Concert

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Birmingham

The Wheel and the Library, Birmingham

The Wheel and the Library, Birmingham

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

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50 Things We Wouldn’t Have Said Ten Years Ago

I saw a thread on Reddit recently that asked users to think of sentences that they wouldn’t have used years ago, and I loved the idea. With the rapid recent development of technology and subsequent social media interactions, it conjured ideas of the twenty-two year old me and the life I was living. My circumstances, and indeed, my priorities have changed beyond all recognition, with just a few things remaining the same. One of these is my best friend, Paul, who I have known since we were nineteen, and over the years we have put the world to rights a million times over. We decided to team up and create our own list of sentences, phrases and questions that we wouldn’t have used in our conversations ten years ago.

1. “I can’t, I have to be up for work early in the morning.”

2. “I’ve just binge watched that entire season on Netflix this week.”

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3. “Have you tried that new cleaner with the added bleach?”

4. “No thanks, I had a drink yesterday.”

5. “Just a Coca-Cola please.”

6. “It works out cheaper if…”

7. “My back hurts…”

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8. “I went to bed a 8.00pm last night.”

9. “Do you know where I can buy cheap curtains?”

10. “I’ve got 100 followers.”

11.”Somebody tweeted me about it.”

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12. “I’ve liked your latest post.”

13. “What style are you doing for Movember this year?”

14. “I saw it on Breaking Bad.”

15. “Did you know that Thor is Captain Kirk’s father? Or even better, did you know that Luke Skywalker’s mother dated Captain Kirk’s father?”

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16. “Do they not teach that at school nowadays?”

17. “Is that the whole meal?”

18. “Fancy going for a run?”

19. “I really want to buy a fez.”

20. “Are you doing karaoke on Friday?”

21. “I can’t, I’ve got a load of data analysis to finish off.”

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22. “I’ve been printing off assessment sheets all day.”

23. “I’ve got the builders coming round tomorrow.”

24. “I feel really hungover, but I didn’t drink last night.”

25. “I think it must have been a full moon yesterday, the kids were really yampy at work.”

26. “Have you seen the meme they’ve done of it?”

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27. “Fish fingers and custard…”

28. “I’ve reblogged it.”

29. “It’s much cheaper to buy it online than at the vets.”

30. “There’s a really nice atmosphere in here.”

31. “Yeah, she shared it on Facebook.”

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32. “What fabric softener do you use?”

33. “I do my own hair.” (Paul used to have really long hair that he was immensely proud of. Unfortunately he has now lost most of it and is balding.)

34. “Do you want to go and see Barry Manilow?”

35. “Where do you want to go for your birthday?” (We have become less and less interested in birthdays over the years).

36. “I need to get some ‘Just For Men’ for my beard.” (No, it isn’t me that has said this…)

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37. “I unfriended them the other day.”

38. “I Instagrammed it.”

39. “Are you going to the reunion?”

40. “She asked me out, but I said no. I can’t be bothered with having a girlfriend right now. I just want to go home and sleep.”

41. “I can’t wait for the next Avengers film.”

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42. “Here’s a selfie I took outside The White House.”

43. “I’ve got my friend’s wedding to go to this weekend.”

44. “I’ve just rented it from iTunes.”

45. “She’s that one from Real Housewives/Kardashians/TOWIE/Made in Chelsea.”

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46. “I need to lose some weight.”

47. “I’ve completed Angry Birds on my phone and I’m waiting for the next update.”

48. “I saw a Vine on it the other day that made me laugh.”

49. “He’s just like Sheldon.”

50. “There isn’t anything I can do but facepalm at that.”

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What about you guys? What sort of things would you not have said ten years ago that regularly enter your conversations now?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog.

 

 

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Blah, Blah, Blah.

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It’s almost the end of September, the leaves are starting to turn, the days are getting shorter, and the air has a much crisper edge when I leave for work in the morning now. I am now half way through the first half term of the academic year, and it has already proven to be a roller coaster of ups and downs. I’ve returned home on some occasions with a tight chest and a head that is swimming with data and deadlines, and on others I’ve had a song in my heart, a smile on my face and a buzz from lessons that have gone brilliantly. It’s an unpredictable, fast-paced profession, and no two days are the same. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with some of the new staff too, in particular my co-tutor and the NQT that I am mentoring this year. While we are of a similar age, I have several years more experience, but I love the fact that I have learnt lots of things from them already, and my NQT is so enthusiastic that he provides an enormous amount of extra-curricular support without even realising. I hope he stays that way and doesn’t become jaded by the profession, as so many are.

Unfortunately, this means that the blog has suffered greatly, and oh, how I’ve missed it! I have had to resist the urge to write, and this has meant that it has built up to the point where I am now concerned that I am blabbering, just because I can. I feel completely out of touch with all my favourite people – I must have read a total of five blog posts in the last few weeks, and I am hugely behind in my posting schedule! While I still have a ton of paperwork to do, I am absolutely intending on at least trying to catch up, so please take the opportunity to include links to your favourite posts below that I should read! I wanted to thank you, as always, for the amazing support I received after creating my last post the other day – it’s always great to know that there are those out there who can relate and offer advice without judgement. I’ve decided that I am going to stop fighting and go with the flow – it’s a fight I am not going to win, and I am only hurting myself…

My Facebook page is also a little neglected, and needs some bloggy love. Simply click the link below and give it a cheeky ‘like’ – it’s a brilliant way to connect and catch up on some of my posts that you may have missed.

http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

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However, it hasn’t all been work, work, work. I had the opportunity to visit the National Pet Show at the NEC in Birmimgham last Saturday, and I was like a kid in an enormous pet store! Within ten minutes of arrival I had held an enormous grey rat, a Pygmy hedgehog, stroked a snake, a miniature horse, a very sleepy barn owl (which was amazing), an eagle owl, a sphinx cat (which felt like stroking raw chicken), a Bengal kitten, lots of dogs and watched a bunch of rabbits complete show jumping exercises. I’m an avid animal lover, and any opportunity to spend some time with them always makes me happy. My own little cats are doing well – Daisy, who is diabetic, is in good health and the vet has stopped holding her medication to ransom, which has made me feel a little relieved. I’ve had to make a few sacrifices to ensure that I can afford the necessary food and insulin she needs to stay happy, but when I see that little sleepy face every evening it reminds me that it’s entirely worth it…

I’m generally feeling a little more content than I have been in a while – my life always seems to have extreme ups and downs, but I’m getting better at being able to see them through and come out on the other side relatively unscathed. I’d like to be able to have a little more consistency, but I’m trying to see every experience as a way of building character and strength.

What about you guys? Tell me something about your recent experiences!

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A Question of Beauty

 

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After a conversation I had with my friend in the pub, started by the fact that he was lusting after one of the barmaids, I started thinking about the idea of beauty.

imageSamantha Brick made herself a household name in the UK a few years ago by claiming that she was victimised for being ‘too beautiful’. Consequently the backlash that she received was immediate and on an enormous scale – some chastised her for being arrogant, others accused her of not being anywhere as beautiful as she felt she was, while some simply assumed it was an April Fools joke. She made the headlines earlier last year again by proclaiming that her eating disorders had allowed her to remain skinny and that her husband would leave her if she put on weight.

I read the article and I must confess that I was among the people who, when they saw a picture of Samantha, responded with ‘really?’, – in my opinion she isn’t a particularly attractive woman (both inside and out after reading the awful things she’s written), but it did get me thinking about the role that beauty plays in our lives.

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As a woman I believe that we are under a lot of pressure to be ‘beautiful,’ despite the fact that nobody really knows what the absolute definition of beautiful is. However, I do feel that beauty is often directly linked to weight, and as women I think we put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. We can blame magazines for projecting the image that skinny is best, and yet we still continue to buy them. We idolise celebrities who are skinny, with the exception of a few, and take great delight in ripping them to shreds if they gain even a few pounds. Kim Kardashian is the perfect example of this: when she was heavily pregnant her increasing body size and shape was the subject of daily ridicule on the Internet. The poor woman must have been feeling awful about herself as it was (although I could argue here about being fame hungry and the perils of achieving it).

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I always wonder who it is we are trying to look beautiful for. I suppose, essentially, we try and make ourselves as attractive as possible for the purpose of receiving attention from potential mates, like many different species do in the animal kingdom. However, I think we as women have an unrealistic view in our minds as to what men want. Ultimately, yes, most people instantly are attracted to looks, but not all men want a skinny girl with big boobs and false eyelashes. The majority of my male friends and The Bloke want a ‘girl next door’ look, and their girlfriends are natural looking women who take care of themselves but don’t look ‘plastic fantastic’ when they leave the house.

I’m not beautiful, but I don’t consider myself to be hideous either. I’ve never been fashionable or interested in following trends, and I prefer to spend my time in jeans and hoodies. At school I wasn’t one of the popular ones – I remember that the person in my year who was considered ‘attractive’ was the opposite of me-short, skinny, brown curly hair that was moussed to within an inch of it’s life – the boys practically jumped on her whenever she walked into the room. When I went to Sixth Form I started to get a little bit of attention from the boys, but nothing of significance.

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It was only when I went to university that I started to become aware of beauty and looks. I lived with a girl who was on a fashion course. She was generally considered to be a beautiful girl – fairly short, very skinny, always wore fashionable clothing etc… And the boys loved her. She couldn’t walk down the street without someone whistling at her or stopping to stare or try to talk to her. I remember one night, as poor students, we went clubbing with £5 between us. We returned home hours later with £20, we were drunk, we’d eaten, we’d been into several clubs and we’d had a taxi home paid for us. All she did was to smile and talk to men, and they fell over themselves trying to offer her free stuff. She was gorgeous, but she knew it, and had developed the art of using her beauty to exploit men into getting her what she wanted. Her beauty afforded her an easier life than some – she bagged several rich boyfriends that paid off her debts and living expenses, and she was often given presents.

I read an article by Sidney Katz, who explored the idea that beautiful people have a better quality of life simply because of their looks. After spending time with AG, I can believe it. It leaves me questioning my own beauty and how it affects my life. For example, I’ve noticed that when I go shopping I will be treated differently depending on the way I’ve presented myself. If I’m wearing a hoodie and jeans, I’m ignored. If I go in ‘suited and booted’ with good hair and make-up on the shop assistants won’t leave me alone. I’m still the same person with the same salary, but it is assumed that I can afford more if I’m smartly dressed.

However, the issue of weight with regards to beauty is always a contentious one.

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Lots of ‘plus sized’ and curvier women naturally get very defensive about the subject of weight because of the stigma that surrounds it. I have often heard it proclaimed that there is ‘no excuse’ for a woman gaining weight, and this isn’t helped by the fact that many high street stores make it difficult to buy clothes in adequate sizes, despite the fact that the average UK size for women is a size 16. I have gained 60lbs in the last few years and cannot shop in the same stores that I used to, simply because they don’t make items of clothing that fit me comfortably, and have been demoralised when I have found a beautiful outfit that would suit my figure perfectly, only to find that the sizes made are two sizes smaller than my own. I have had comments made by people that I know, and have even been asked ‘when the baby is due.’ The truth is, I don’t consider myself to be fat, and have been embarrassed when it has been suggested that I am. The fact that I am embarrassed seems to prove to me that fat is deemed to be a negative thing.

Similarly, my naturally skinny friends have often had to justify themselves for their weight. One in particular once told me that no matter how much she eats she can’t seem to put on weight, and has been upset on more than one occasion by being informed by complete strangers that she needs to ‘eat a cheeseburger.’

Would I be living this life if I was skinnier or more attractive? Would I have a different career? Different friends? At least I can be sure that I have what I have because of me, and not because of how I look. The Bloke has seen me at my absolute worst, and still wants to be with me. And more importantly, while I would like to improve my fitness, I can still look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

When it comes to beauty, I think that it is far more important to value your opinion of yourself than that of others. We’re all unique, and we all deserve to celebrate our lumps, bumps, small boobs, big boobs, big booty’s, skinny legs and flat butts without feeling that we aren’t good enough. I’ll leave you with a quote from the fabulous Marilyn Monroe:

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What do you think? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do women create false expectations for themselves?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

 

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