Saturday, 13 February 2016

Extract & Blog Tour: Elemental


PAGES: 448

FIRST LINE: "That boy, Bruce's Sandy, he was a one for plucking the world from the sea."

"Nearing the end of her life, Maggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet suck from ice floes.
A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.
Moving from the north-east of Scotland, to the Shetland Isles, to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given."

It's been a while since my last post due to being incredibly busy with everything PGCE related, but today I have something a little different and really exciting! I can share with you an extract from a fantastic book that I am currently reading (and enjoying so much). The book is Amanda Curtin's latest release - Elemental. I have to admit, I've not finished reading the book yet but I started reading it a few days ago and I am well and truly invested in this book. It's taken priority over the other three I'm currently reading, too! Elemental is written by Australian author Amanda Curtin and is based in Scotland, the Shetland Isles and Australia. The book is based around a grandmother writing her memoir for her granddaughter to read. Her memoir tells the story of her growing up surrounded by a family of fishermen in a world where a woman's job was to look after the men around you, and the years that follow. I am thoroughly enjoying Elemental and I am sure I will post a full review when I have finished reading the book. Anyway, read the extract below, and enjoy.

I was born in a village as far north-east as you can go on the Scottish mainland, closer to Norway than London. Roanhaven was only two miles from the town of Gadlehead, and I’m told they’re all the one place now. But back then, oh, we were a folk apart, we thought Gadlehead as much a stranger-place as Fraserburgh to the north, Collieston to the south, and all those inland villages where Ma would sell fish from the creel on her back.
Our house was a but-and-ben – a wee two-room cottage, that is – like the others in Tiller Street, squat and polished smooth by the wind. That wind! Ach, a force, it was, a furious spinning of salt and grit and sleet sucked up from icefloes, ashpits, the spume of the ocean. It could scour the hairs off your arms, freeze the mud on your boots. Every year it took a little more of the houses in Tiller Street, wearing them away grain by grain. Not the frames, no, for the pink granite of Gadlehead will survive more generations than ever I’ll know, but the soft matter between that yields to the elements.  
I was the youngest at number 8 Tiller Street. The others – well, there was Da and Ma, Granda Jeemsie, my brothers, Archie, Jamie and Will, and my sister, Kitta. If you had asked Granda, Da or Ma which of them was head of the household, each would have owned the name and looked at you as though it was the feeblest of questions, too plain to need an answer. Although my mother would not have been telling you this in words. No, Ma had Looks for that.  
In the smallest but-and-ben in Tiller Street were Da’s sister Unty Jinna, and her daughter, Liza. And next to us, Sailor Wattie, who had his own boat and a share in ours, the Lily Maud, Ma’s sister Unty Leebie, and their children, Andrew and Elspet. Liza, Elspet and I were about the same age, so it was like having two more sisters. They could never come close to Kitta in my heart, though. No-one could.  
We were sea people. We lived by its moods and rhythms as much as the fish and birds that were part of the order of things. From the time we could stumble along the boatie shore on our own feet, we’d be working – collecting whelks and limpets for bait, pitching stones at gulls pecking at the fish on our mothers’ drying racks. Later, boys were expected to go to sea on the family boat or a neighbour’s, while girls were put to service in the large estates thereabouts, or married young to another fisher family and made useful that way. A fisher canna be in want of a wife – that was the common wisdom and no-one quarrelled with it back then. When we children stood with our bare toes in the icy sand, gazing out to sea, I fancied there was freedom in what Archie, Jamie and Will saw, a ticket to the wide world, beyond the life I would know. To catch a glimpse of my future, I’d to turn in the other direction, to the land. There I would see the labour of the mending sheds, the worn tracks between the peat country and our fireplaces. Tubs of grey, soapy water where woollens were scrubbed on wooden boards. Roadways leading to the farms and estates where my mother and aunties walked to sell fish. For me and Kitta, for Elspet and Liza, the pattern of the years ahead would be plain and safe and all the dreary same.  
It didn’t stop me from yearning, mind. Even my earliest memory ...  
I was a wee bairn when I tottered into the winter sea. Straight in, clothes and all. Folk said later I was blessed to be alive, that my heart didn’t stop, nor my blood turn white. Jockel Buchan, an old fisherman, strode through the shallows to reach me. Waded in, he did, almost to the knees of his great seaboots. I remember this, aye, but I don’t remember feeling frightened, or cold, though how could I not have been? Nor the sound of Kitta and Liza squealing like piglets all the while he was hauling me ashore. Nor Unty Jinna shaking my shoulders and calling me a raickless bairn. These things they told me later. What I remember –aye, even now, I remember – is struggling to be free of the arms holding me safe, twisting round to the water again, searching the sea for another glimpse of the huge white wings that had lifted from the waveslick and flown far away into the sky. The most beautiful thing, lambsie! Ma used to say my pretty birdie was a kittiwake or a solan goose that had strayed too close to the shore, and what a foolish bairnikie who would droon herself for that! But I knew it was something miraculous, and I cried to fly away with it.  
Granda Jeemsie took on a rage about my little rush into the sea. He muttered for weeks and shook his head. He spat on the ground and marked a cross on the sand with the blade of his gullie knife. He gave a sixpence to the widow of Jockel Buchan when the old man and his yawl were taken by a storm that same winter. Jeemsie Neish giving away a sixpence! Now, that was a thing to remark on.
Doesn't it just make you want to read on?! Let me know what you thought of the extract, and make sure to check out the other blogs on the blog tour - there's a giveaway, reviews and Amanda Curtin herself has written a guest post!

Rachael Amy

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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 Instagram Review

2015. What a year! It's been full of exciting changes, travelling, time with family, time with friends and a whole lot of books. I thought it would be fun to write an overview of my year using some of my favourite Instagram posts. Let's go!

We started our 2015 in Paris and I think it really got the year off to a good start. I love this photo because it reminds me of how chilled and peaceful Paris was at 10am on New Year's Day.
After Paris we travelled to Berlin and even though it was too cold to do much, we still managed to have a brilliant time at the Quasimodo club seeing a band (Funk Delicious) play. Such a fun time! If ever you're in Berlin I'd recommend checking to see if they're playing as they're regulars at that jazz club.
I can't think of a better way to spend a cold January afternoon than snuggling your nephew in a country pub in the Yorkshire Dales. *heart eyes*
Bob and I were lucky enough to win a ballot to see Laura Marling in a tiny venue. We were at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge which is one of the best venues I've ever been to. I also had to drive in the worst snow ever to get there! Great memories.

I turned 25! And Bob bought me some cupcakes which was just the sweetest thing ever.
For my birthday, Bob surprised me with a trip to Iceland. It's now my favourite place in the world and I am dying to go back!

I read The Shock of the Fall and thought it was an extremely wonderful and thought provoking book.
I FINALLY finished knitting this intricate lace scarf for Bob's mum after so many months and so many tears.
I loved going for a walk with my sister and my nephew - just look how cute his big eyes are!

Bob and I went to Japan and it was FREAKING AMAZING! I can't even put it in to words.
Mad. Life dream achieved! I want to go back so desperately.

I started May with some new shoes. Somehow I just don't think it tops Japan.
May consists mostly of pictures of food and my face. This meal at Urban Cookhouse in Manchester was so tasty!
May also involved a quick trip on the ferry to Belgium. This is a picture of Hotel The Boatel in Ghent - yes it is a boat!

June also features more photos of auntie and nephew cuddles. They're the best.
Doing a bit of book shopping in my favourite bookshop in Hebden Bridge.
We celebrated this guy's birthday in Prague.
And Vienna. And even Bratislava! Look how amazing our hotel room in Vienna was. It was the 25hours hotel.

I spent some more time with my nephew in July (I hope you're not bored of him yet).
We also visited the Hockney exhibition at Salts Mill. These were created on an iPad!!

I went on my best friend's hen do in York and we had a great time - some of us got a little drunk. It wasn't me though. *cough*
Bob managed to convince me to go to the cricket at Scarborough with him...
...when we arrived we realised we were wearing EXACTLY the same outfit.
We spent my mum's birthday at the races and didn't lose too much money (result).
We took my mum and dad to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and I left crying my eyes out at how amazing it was!

I took this photo on my way to my first day as a trainee teacher. I can't tell you how scared I felt! (Also, hello new glasses).
Bob bought me these amazing flowers to wish me luck - how cute! :)
My best friend got married and I was lucky enough to be one of her bridesmaids. It was such a beautiful wedding!

This time it's uncle and nephew cuddles. :)
Look how brave I am! Lying on a bed of nails!
We went to Edinburgh and obviously paid a visit to the Camera Obscura - SO MUCH FUN!
We also visited Glasgow, walked up the steepest street known to mankind and saw Beach House play.
For Halloween we dressed up as Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone.

In November I chopped all my hair off!

I had a fantastic Christmas with my family and to top it off I passed my first placement at university - what a great year!

Rachael Amy

P.S. You can follow me on Instagram here or @rachaelamyy 

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Primary PGCE: My KS1 Placement Experience

PGCE Primary KS1 Placement Experience
WOW. I can't believe it has been nearly four months since I wrote about my pre-PGCE thoughts and worries. How the time has flown! I'll be honest, I've been almost too busy to sit down and reflect on anything except my lessons/experience during this placement (seriously, my university are BIG on reflective thinking). In fact, I don't even think I have explained what this PGCE involves on this blog. Let me try and be a bit more helpful.

I'm currently taking a one year course to become a primary school teacher. I rambled in a post about my PGCE application experience, so that bit is covered at least. Anyway, during this one year course us trainees spend a month or so at university full time before being shipped off to schools for a placement until Christmas. Mine started in October where I was in school three days a week, and university two days a week. I started my placement in a school in Scunthorpe with 9 other trainees, but after the first three days was transferred to another school due to my mentor/class teacher going on maternity leave (no idea why the university didn't check this before placing me there).

I was then placed at a lovely primary school in Barnsley with three other trainees and had a FANTASTIC time. Everyone on my course had a KS1 placement first, and I was placed in a Y1 class. At SHU, this first placement is partnered so it's very likely you will be placed in a classroom with another student. I was a little sceptical about this as how can you share teaching between three people and still gain enough experience to pass? As the focus was on literacy, phonics and numeracy lessons we ended up splitting the maths lessons so one week one of us taught three days and the other two, and swapped the next week. Luckily, (or not so lucky if you've ever experienced it) our school followed the Read Write Inc. scheme for teaching literacy and phonics and it was taught in very small groups which meant me and the other trainee both got our own group everyday.

I've had to plan every lesson I taught following a medium term plan the school gave me. For Read Write Inc. it was super simple - you're basically following a set plan anyway. I found it quite difficult to plan for numeracy as in Y1 you're teaching the very basics of maths and are introducing a lot of new skills to the children. It felt like we taught number and place value the whole time! We did touch on 2D and 3D shapes and time though, which was a lot of fun.

Lesson observations weren't as scary as I thought they would be. Although, my teacher was poorly when my university tutor came to observe me and I was so stressed that I burst in to tears during my feedback - so embarrassing! I always got very constructive and helpful feedback - filled with lots of positives too. The paperwork side of the placement (three focus children, a portfolio and a planning file) was an absolute faff and pain in the neck but if you keep on top of it it makes it ten times less stressful.

Undoubtedly, the most brilliant part of this placement were the children. They were fantastic and never failed to put a smile on my face. I had a tough week where I actually LOST MY VOICE (an important tool when teaching) and one child actually said he was going to write a get well soon card for my voice. How sweet? He did forget to actually do it, but never mind. I've had so many hugs these past few months and I will genuinely miss hearing them shout "Miss Adams, Miss Adams" across the room at me. How sad is it that as they're my first 'proper' class I've taught I will always remember them, but as they're only 5/6 year olds they'll forget me by the end of the year. Oh well, maybe my next class will be even better.

In summary, this placement was tough. I cried at school three times, been scared of a child being sick around ten times, had one stomach bug, one chest infection, two colds and taught a hell of a lot of lessons. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

Rachael Amy

P.S. I didn't want to go too education-specific in this post as I don't know how many teacher/students read this blog. If you have any questions please email me or leave them below!

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review: Don't Try This At Home

don't try this at home book review 1

PAGES: 176

FIRST LINE: "I cut my boyfriend in half; it was what we both wanted."

"A girl who repeatedly halves her boyfriend; a chip-shop waitress who turns into Elvis; a family of conceptual artists who truly live their art. Every story packs its share of explosive material, often with a side of magic. If Angela Carter is Readman's fairy godmother, does that make Patti Smith her wicked stepsister? Don't say you weren't warned."

I often start my reviews with a bit of a story as to why I bought, or wanted to read, the book I'm about to write about. This one is no different, but it's probably a bit shorter. I was browsing in the amazingly huge bookshop at Salts Mill and found a table full of fiction books with amazing covers like this one. After reading a few of the blurbs I decided this one sounded fantastic, and as it was a book of short stories, it would be something a little different for me to try.

Don't Try This At Home is a collection of short stories that range from the downright surreal to cute little stories about love. My favourite of the short stories was the title story 'Don't Try This At Home' where are woman cut her boyfriend in half to increase his productivity (he split in to two like a worm supposedly does). All the stories were fantastic though, and has really whet my appetite to reading more short stories.
don't try this at home book review


Rachael Amy

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Music: My Top 10 Albums (Currently)

It's a seriously rare occurrence that I will listen to my music without the shuffle option. Bob will testify that I very rarely listen to an album in full and instead choose to shuffle the 'My Top Rated' playlist on iTunes. There are a few albums that I will listen to in full over and over again, which means they are special. I thought I'd list some below - they're too special to keep quiet! I didn't really try to do them in any order, they're all equal but it's just easier to write it as a top 10.
music image
1. Turn Blue - The Black Keys
Listen to: Weight of Love and Gotta Get Away
This is a really special album to me. I first heard it when Bob and I got together, and he played it on his record player for me. Just before this time I had become newly single, I'd had to leave my job, move out of my flat and move back over to Yorkshire to move in with my parents. So much about my life was uncertain and Bob was the only thing I knew I wanted. Listening to this album calmed me down and reminded me that as long as I had Bob, I'd be alright. I still can't listen to it without getting a bit emotional!

2. Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend
Listen to: Unbelievers and Finger Back
This one doesn't have such a good story, except that I had the CD in my car for about a year and half. I listened to it everyday and I'm still not sure if I'm sick of it yet - it's great! Vampire Weekend are one of my favourite bands though, so all their albums are fantastic. In fact, I don't think they've ever written a bad song.

3. Policy - Will Butler
Listen to: Something's Coming and Son of God
This album hasn't been out long enough to stand the test of time, but it's fantastic! As a huge Arcade Fire fan, it's safe to say I was always going to love it - I just wasn't expecting it to be so energetic and fun! I wish there wasn't just 8 tracks though, it's not enough. Son of God just makes me want to shout the words as loud as I can and I love the guitar in Something's Coming.

4. Reflektor - Arcade Fire
Listen to: Joan of Arc and Here Comes The Night Time
I can't have Will Butler on this list and not Arcade Fire! Every Arcade Fire album is amazing but they're getting better with each album they bring out. I struggled to choose just two songs to recommend because they're just all consistently brilliant. Arcade Fire are #1 on my 'bands to see live' list. Come to the UK quick!

5. Complete Surrender - Slow Club
Listen to: Not Mine to Love and The Pieces
I've been recommending this album to everyone who'll listen for about a year now and still NO ONE I know listens to it except me and Bob. Seriously, listen to it! You won't regret it and you actually might like it? Rebecca has some amazing vocals and there's a good mix of upbeat and slower songs.
beatles top 10
6. The Queen is Dead - The Smiths
Listen to: I Know It's Over and Cemetery Gates
I couldn't not put The Smiths on this list! I know they're a bit like marmite, but The Queen is Dead is such a great album! Don't let the fact that David Cameron said it was his favourite put you off - it's really worth a listen!

7. Ocean Rain - Echo & The Bunnymen
Listen to: The Killing Moon (obvs) and Seven Seas
Echo & The Bunnymen are probably a pretty strange band for a 25 year old to have on her list of favourite albums, but here we go! I saw them perform this album in full accompanied by an orchestra and it was phenomenal. I really wish I could re-watch it as it was just mind blowing. The Killing Moon is probably a song that everyone would recognise, but they wouldn't know where it was from.

8. Abbey Road - The Beatles
Listen to: Something and from Mean Mr. Mustard onwards
It was between Rubber Soul and Abbey Road for my favourite Beatles album, but Abbey Road just pipped it to the post as the first half of the album is great songs like Octopus's Garden, Oh! Darling and Maxwell's Silver Hammer, and the second half is minute long songs that link together to create a bit of a medley. But Rubber Soul has Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown) and I'm Looking Through You on it.. tough choice!

9. Born to Die - Lana Del Rey
Listen to: Ride and Blue Jeans
I'm running out of ways to basically say, "this album is really good. listen to it". I don't know enough about music to properly review albums so this post is probably a bit pointless, but you got to number 9 so you must be getting SOMETHING out of reading this. Anyway, Lana Del Rey is so bloody cool and this album makes me want to go somewhere hot and drive around in a convertible.. just me? I'm ok with that!

10. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J
Listen to: Breezeblocks and Fitzpleasure
I know a lot of people who don't like Alt-J, but I think they're so amazing! The first time I heard this album I was blown away - it was like nothing I'd heard before! After all these years it's still one of my favourites and I listen to it quite frequently. Their second album is just as good, but I could only choose one. I have tickets to see them in December and I can't wait! They were amazing last time I saw them.

Rachael Amy

P.S. I'm sorry if this is a bad post, I wrote it when I was really tired and procrastinating!
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