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St George’s Day 2021

By Culture

Patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over all areas of life. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all have their own patron saints. In England, Saint George’s Day is celebrated annually on April 23rd, which is the anniversary of St. George’s death.

The legend of Saint George and the Dragon tells the story of the saint taming and slaying a dragon that guarded the only well in the town of Silene. Residents of the town had to offer a daily human sacrifice to the dragon, for it to allow them to access the well and retrieve water. On the day St. George visited Silene, he killed the dragon and saved a princess who was due to be sacrificed that day. The people of Silene converted to Christianity as a thank you to George.

During his lifetime, St. George rose up the ranks of the Roman army as a soldier and became a personal guard to Emperor Diocletian. However, the Emperor actually tortured St. George in an attempt to force him to deny his Christian faith. While being tortured, George showed great bravery before he was eventually beheaded in Palestine. Following his death, St. Georges head was buried in a church in Rome and Pope Gelasius declared him a saint in 494AD.

If you look at the English flag, the red cross and white background are actually St. George’s Cross, a symbol so connected with English identity that St. George has his own national holiday. Perhaps the most British day of the year, St. George’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate this country and do something quintessentially British.

Why is St George’s Day NOT a bank holiday?

In many other countries, the day celebrating the nation’s patron saint is a bank holiday, for example, St Patrick’s Day is a bank holiday in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In England however, it’s business as usual on St George’s Day, with workplaces and shops remaining open. In the past, St. George’s Day was celebrated across England and was recognised as a national event, however, recognition of the event has faded away in recent centuries.

More recently, there has been some momentum surrounding St. George’s Day, with people calling for the government to declare it a national bank holiday. However, this is yet to materialise.

How do we celebrate St George’s Day?

When St. George’s Day was first celebrated back in the early 15th century, it was thought to hold similar importance to Christmas. Today’s celebrations aren’t as widespread, but a lot of people still like to mark the day. Some traditional St. George’s Day celebrations include Punch and Judy shows, flying the St George’s Cross, traditional Morris dancing and singing the hymn Jerusalem. Churches also tend to hold a special mass for St George’s day.

We’ll be raising a glass on the 23rd to Saint George and our history, because who doesn’t love an excuse to celebrate!

International Haiku Poetry Day 2021

By Advice, Culture

International Haiku Poetry Day 2021 is celebrated annually on April 17th, but what is a haiku?

Haiku poetry underwent a refinery in the 17th century that helped to push its popularity, as well as its association with zen meditation.

This ancient form of poetry however can be dated back to the 1st century in the “Heian Period of Japanese Culture” where it was a social requirement to be fluent in Chinese and Japanese poetry.

It then developed into a lighter form of poetry called “haikai”, which meant “vulgar” or “earthy”, and was powered by its use of satire and puns in the 16th century.

It was not until the 17th century when the famous Matsuo Bashō perfected the art form into a more serious form, or Haiku, and solidified it as a literary genre. Bashō portrayed ordinary people into his work, combining comic playfulness with a spiritual depth. This led to the birth of modern haiku and was solidified with another reform movement to be commonplace today.

From Matsuo Bashō to you! Anyone can write a haiku, and here are some tips to help you.

  • A haiku most commonly follows the “5-7-5” structure: The first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables, the third line is 5 syllables.
  • Think about your topic: Themes of nature, and powerful images are traditionally focused on in a haiku, with a juxtaposition of the two images. Pay attention to small details around you such as birds, leaves, or even the wind and how they will make the reader feel. Add in one, or two senses in your poems such as sound or touch.
  • Read your poem aloud: Hearing the poem flow will help you stick with the “5-7-5” form.
  • Remember your cutting word: A “kierji”, or “cutting word” will create a break which if used in conjunction with punctuation will control the rhythm of the poem.

Haiku’s restrictive rules will push your brain’s problem-solving side encouraging you to be creative in your poetry, so have fun with your writing! 

Stress Awareness Month

By Advice, Culture

What is Stress?

Let’s start by mentioning that stress is not always a bad thing. Without stress humankind would not have survived. Our ancestors used stress to heighten their responses to potential danger!

There are 3 main responses to stress:

Fight: Your bodies natural reaction will be to ‘fight’: You may feel agitated or aggressive! This was useful when we had to fight off predators but can be unnecessary in certain situations. Affecting relationships and reputations.

Flight: Some of us avoid our stress, we remove ourselves from situations instead of tackling our problems and taking risks. In everyday life this instinct can lead to stress escalating – when that stress doesn’t go away and we have to face it. On the other hand, removing yourself from certain situations can be very beneficial, and good for your mental wellbeing.

Freeze: Unknown to most, there is a third natural response to Stress: Freezing! For some people becoming stressed can cause them to get ‘locked’ into their nervous system. This response is most noticeable when we breathe. Holding your breath or shallow breathing are both forms of freezing!
Whilst freezing seems impractical, in rare cases not moving could prevent predators being aware of your presence!

It goes without saying that there is no good/or bad response to stress, each are equally beneficial and detrimental in their own ways.

What Causes Stress?

Some of the most common causes of Stress in the modern world include:

  • Loss of Job
  • Increase in financial obligations
  • Moving home
  • Illnesses or Injuries
  • Mental Health problems
  • Traumatic Events

Stress can be caused by anything that induces fear or uncertainty. How you perceive situations, and your attitude can affect your stress levels: Having unrealistic expectations of yourself, others, or people having unrealistic expectations of you. Or change (in routine, in lifestyle etc) can also have a massive effect on your wellbeing.

How can we combat Stress?

I think its important to not fear stress! Also, to be honest with yourself and others. If you feel overwhelmed, that is ok! We need to stop apologising for having boundaries, and for having a life! You are as equally important as your University work, your job and your financial obligations.

So let’s start prioritising our health!
Get a good night’s sleep, practice deep breathing, stay hydrated, eat well and healthily, get moving, don’t be a slave to technology. And (possibly most importantly) learn that you can say no!
You are the master of your own fate!

You got this!

Spring Equinox 2021

By Culture, Uncategorized

Get out the hoovers and feather dusters, it’s time for cleaning! The Spring Equinox has arrived this year. Spring has sprung itself upon us already!

Falling on Saturday 20th March, spring equinox is when the amount of daylight we get in a day, is equal to the moonlight we get at night (which only happens twice a year.)

Countries and cultures around the world celebrate Spring Equinox with several exciting traditions:

  • Nowruz – celebrated for 3000 years in Central Asia, the Balkans and South Asia, means a new (No) day (Rouz). Celebrated on the Iranian solar calendar which coincides with spring equinox, this celebration is marked with people cleaning their homes, multi-day bonfires, poetry, family remembrance, and traditional costumes.
  • Mexico Sun Day – communities gather to walk up Teotihuacán Pyramid (The Pyramid of the Sun) as it leads them closer to portals of other realms, raising their arms and faces to the sky to soak up the sun’s warmth and energy.
    Why not try spending your day walking somewhere you feel close to the sun and bathe in the warmth (pending British weather) of the sun’s energy.
  • Pagan Ostara Ritual – celebrated at the start of each season, Pagan traditions are a connection to each season. Spring is celebrated by observing the sunrise of the equinox. Greet the new season with a deep breath and focus on your plans for the year.
  • Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake – not quite an equinox tradition but certainly one of the craziest spring traditions. This dangerous event sees competitors throwing themselves down Cooper’s Hill after a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese – the winner gets to keep the cheese, often accompanied with bruises and broken bones. This 200-year-old bumpy way to welcome a new season of Spring attracts plenty of competitors and is well worth a watch.

Symbolised with the season of growth, take some time this spring working on yourself by recognising any darkness we may wish to say goodbye to and welcome new light into our lives, as well as working towards the summer to relax and enjoy your hard work!

St. Patrick’s Day 2021

By Culture

Saint Patrick’s Day is held annually on 17th March and celebrates St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century and at the age of 16 was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but later returned to convert the Irish to Christianity. St. Patrick’s Day remembers the death of St. Patrick and the holiday has grown into a celebration of Irish culture, with green costumes, parades, music, Irish dancing, food, and a whole lot of drinking.

This year, Saint Patrick’s Day will be different due to the pandemic, but traditionally it is marked with families attending church in the morning and then celebrating in crowds, at pubs or street parades, from the afternoon until the early hours. St Patrick’s Day falls during the period of Lent but restrictions on eating and drinking are lifted for one day.

Perhaps because of the 24-hour Lent holiday, drinking alcohol, especially Irish whiskey, cider, or beer, has become a major part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. A popular tradition that is carried out is “drowning (or wetting) the shamrock”. A shamrock is placed into the bottom of a glass, which is filled with whiskey, cider, or beer and is then drunk (or downed) as a toast to Saint Patrick. The shamrock is either to be swallowed with the drink or removed and tossed over the drinker’s shoulder for good luck.

How to Celebrate in Lockdown

  1. Don your best green getup – dress in green to honour Ireland and do an Irish jig around your living room. Even dressing up at home is great for your mental health and makes it feel like a special occasion.
  1. Listen to music – there is no better way to get in the mood than to listen to Irish music and reminisce about all your crazy St. Patrick’s Day celebrations over the years.
  1. Cook a traditional Irish meal – St Patrick’s day is never complete without corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Or if you fancy something more filling then opt for a tasty pie, with a pint of Guinness on the side.
  1. Submerse yourself in Irish culture – if drinking and partying isn’t for you, why not celebrate Irish culture with some more relaxing activities, such as reading an Oscar Wilde poem, or watching the classic Father Ted.
  1. A virtual party – since you can’t go out to party, why not bring the party to you and host or attend a virtual one. Include some of the options above, let your hair down and have some fun!
  1. Indulge in some Irish booze – ensure you are fully stocked up and enjoy an Irish Whiskey, or if you aren’t a Whiskey fan then a Guinness or Murphy’s will do the trick.

Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

International Women’s Day 2021

By Culture

It’s International Women’s Day 2021!

The theme this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – a challenged world is an alert world.
And what exactly are we challenging?

Well for me, I have spent most of my life challenging the patriarchy, now don’t mistake that for meaning I dislike the male of the species (quite the opposite in fact!) What it does mean is that I have (and continue to do so) challenge a system of society (or government) in which men hold all the power, where the eldest male (or the father) is the ‘head’ of the family unit, a society which expects women to be subordinate.

Now for anyone who knows me – subordinate is not it my vocabulary.
From being a young female Cricket player in a school where no female team existed, to working in male dominated industries – and unfortunately, having to work twice as hard as some of my colleagues to be recognised. I have always stood for feminism, and equality.

Be careful of misinterpretation.

As a feminist, I have had to deal with the inevitable eye rolls that come along with using that dreaded ‘F’ word. And I have had to explain on countless occasions that Feminism is not a dirty word. It is, and always has been, equality of the sexes.

I spent many of my years campaigning for Men’s Mental Health, Getting Men to speak up when they are in abusive relationships, and letting men know that its okay not to be okay!

Feminism is representation for all of us. It is breaking archaic detrimental gender roles. It is removing ridiculous societal pressures and objectification that the media, society, and the government have forced upon us.

This International Women’s Day theme is an issue close to my heart. As a female, and as a POC I have always lived my life by one motto which I would like to share with you:

Whilst it is imperative that you are proud of where you come from, your heritage, your traditions and culture; you should NEVER accept the unacceptable.

I think we should always challenge things that make us uncomfortable, that we don’t understand, that we want to change!

Sisters & Brothers.

I hope this International Women’s Day (regardless of your gender) you can take a moment to recognise the fight we have all been through and appreciate those women that are out there smashing it, breaking records, and removing boundaries put in place by outdated, unfair traditions.

I have always faced the same criticism in my life, from colleagues, friends, family members. I have always been told that ‘one person can’t change the world’ and my response has always been the same 2 words: ‘Watch me!’

So, get on your pedestal sisters AND brothers. And shout! Shout for Freedom, Shout for Equality, Shout for your fundamental human rights. And CHANGE THE WORLD!

Carpe Diem – Pressure and Achievement

By Advice, Culture

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is a Latin sentiment, probably an over-used one, which means ‘seize the day’.

You can find the phrase printed on t-shirts, headlining pop-songs, repeated in every motivational speech, so much so, that it seems to have lost its meaning. First written over 2,000 year ago in a Roman’s Poem, Horace, its true intention has been lost in translation.

‘The Spirit of this Centuries-Old Philosophy has been Hijacked’

 

Definition.

The idea of ‘seize’ creates an aggressive tone, compelling us to immediate action, to take something through hard work. This really reflects the aesthetic of the modern-day corporate world, a gratification-obsessed, work-until-you-drop culture. Surely to seize every opportunity and make every day great, sets an impossible standard.

If you dig deeper, in the context of the poem it was first written in, its translation from Latin to English is more suited to ‘plucking the day’. This slight difference can completely change our view on the world. To pluck resonates more with nature, to enjoy a present but fleeting moment. Not to instantly get things done and set the bar of achievement so high, but to take joy in the smallest aspect of your day and carry that with you. You don’t have to make the day great, just resonate with the great moments that it gives.

 

How We Interpret the Metaphor Today.

You probably hear this translation ‘seizing the day’, and immediately think how you have not done enough today.

If we can take away one lesson from the Pandemic, it is that external factors are out of our control, we cannot always fulfill the complete potential of every day.

As a society, we exert too much pressure on ourselves, on our students, our workers, that only 100% is your best, only perfection is seizing the day. Whereas it is important to remember the circumstances we are in – that one day, only 70% might be your best, 50% another day and 90% the next, and that is O.K.

 

Pressure and Achievement.

Sometimes changing your mindset can be done by simply telling the story in a different way. So today, change it and take that pressure off – you don’t have to seize, just pluck. Suddenly it is less aggressive, and the action needed is smaller.

Achievements come in all sizes – celebrate them all.

 

 

LGBTQ+ History Month

By Culture

“What is LGBTQ+?”

Anyone who does not identify as heterosexual (only) have a variety of terms they use to describe themselves: Homosexual, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Pansexual, Asexual…
Anyone who does not identify with their assigned gender (only) also have several terms to describe themselves too: Trans, Transgender, Transman, Transwoman, Man, Woman, Transexual, Genderqueer, Androgynous, Transvestite…

And all these human beings stand together as the LGBTQ+ Community.
LGBTQ+ History month is a time to stand by our friends, family members, colleagues & students and honour, respect and understand the struggle they have faced. To show solidarity in their fight for acceptance, equality, and Freedom.

It is time to understand that regardless of a person’s sexual preferences, how they Gender/Identify, or even how they dress, the LGBTQ+ community are human beings: With thoughts, feelings, talent, and a history full of sorrow, strength, and adversity.

Notable members of the LGBTQ+ Community?

I’d like to start with Alan Turing – and yes, you have heard his name before. Alan Turing was a mathematician and computer Scientist. This man, during the second world war, cracked the German Enigma Code. The Enigma code was a ‘enciphering machine’ used by German Armed Forces to send messages securely. Breaking this Code saved millions of lives. Turing stands shoulder to shoulder in history with Winston Churchill in leading an allied victory over Hitler.
In 1952 Turing was outed as gay, and as it was still a crime in Great Britain, he was chemically castrated. 2 years later Turing took his own life.

April Ashley – In the 1960s April was outed as a trans-woman, she was born a boy in 1935. In 1971 her husband filed for an annulment and the judge ruled that the marriage should be annulled as April was in fact Male. This ruling had long-lasting implications for trans people, as the judge had determined that the legal gender of April, and therefore the legal gender of all trans people, was the gender they were assigned at birth.
30 years of fighting and finally in 2004 the law was finally changed with the Gender Recognition Act. And in 2012 April was awarded an MBE for her services to Transgender Equality. (Also, I really recommending looking April up, not only is she beautiful, she is fashion goals!)

And you should learn about Lady Phyll, co-founder, trustee, and executive director of UK Black Pride. Sister literally turned down an invitation to the Order of the British Empire in protest of the sodomy laws that continue to persecute, torture, and even kill LGBTQ+ people across the world – laws put in place by the British Empire.

There are countless other people who laid down their lives, were persecuted and tortured; and LGBTQ+ History Month pays respect to all of those that fought, and continue to fight, just for basic human rights.

Be the best version of you!

I was incredibly honoured to write the blog this week. And I am proud of all the LGBTQ+ people I know. I will always stand by you in your fight and will always encourage you to #liveyourbestlife and be the best version of yourself that you can be (regardless of societal pressures, social constructs, and small-minded people).

Stand up, be seen, and be FABULOUS!

 

Chinese New Year

By Culture

Friday 12th February marks the end of the Year of the Rat!

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor called a great meeting for all the animals to attend & the zodiac would be decided on the order in which they arrived; during the race the rat asked the oxen for a lift and jumped on his back. At the last moment, the rat jumped off and ran ahead (rude!) – and, to cut a long story short, he was first to arrive.

2021 brings us the year of the Ox, determined and dependable. In Chinese culture the Oxen is held in high regard, they are calm, patient, and reliable – and I really hope that reflects this year.
I’m sure many of you will agree that the shrewd rat has done enough damage, and we need some of the Ox’s confidence, work ethic and grit in the New Year.

According to the Chinese Zodiac I was born in the year of the horse. And the advice I have been given for 2021 is to: “Never forget to forgive yourself and always remember to love yourself!” (– advice I’m sure Ru Paul Charles would be proud of).

I believe this is good advice for everyone this year. Don’t be hard on yourself; circumstances, isolation, changes in routine have affected us all. Be proud of powering through and whilst this year’s celebrations might not be the most grandiose, there are things we can do to stay safe and see in the New Year!

Here is how we will be celebrating and saying a firm goodbye to the year of the Rat.

  1. Catch up with family and friends – although there is no replacement for a hug, we are all adept at Zoom now. Get everyone together for a catch up and make time for the ones you miss!
  2. Brighten up with some colour – buy yourself some fresh flowers, and remember red is the colour of luck and fortune for the new year.
  3. Share the wealth with loved ones – who doesn’t love a gift, and even if you’re strapped for cash, wealth doesn’t always mean money. Make a gift – share your talent and love!
  4. Clear out the clutter and splurge on new threads – just because!
  5. Chow down on festive treats – eat fish for prosperity, dumplings/spring rolls for wealth, fruit for good fortune, noodles for longevity. Go ahead and treat yourself, this year you deserve it!

The year of the Ox brings with it success, prosperity, and wellness. Stay safe, stay positive and get ready to embrace the opportunities to come.

新年快乐

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