Scintillating Summer Nights

Happy August to one and all! Oh how I love the summer… and this year’s summer festivities in particular are shaping up to be rather glorious. Admittedly in the last couple of days there have been a few rainy moments – including the one day where I faced an unexpected cycle ride in a thunderstorm, but on the whole I have had the chance to bask in sunshine reading good books and I even appear to have a tan! It only seems like yesterday that I was bidding farewell to my student days living on the Bodensee, enjoying the last summer parties with my Konstanz friends before returning to Durham to knuckle down and get my degree… what a whirlwind of a year it has been. This year I’ve had the pleasure of graduating, I just received some good news regarding a job, and will be hitting up the South of France later this week! I am ridiculously excited. I haven’t written a decent blog entry in a while because I’ve been concentrating on soaking up the sunshine (wearing my sun screen of course) but I am breaking my silence to share a few of my July/August favourite things!

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Let’s start with beauty products, SHALL WE. I bought a new perfume to celebrate the summer (perhaps a lame excuse to splash some cash, but I think every girl needs a signature summer scent… or three). I chose Elixir des Merveilles by Hermés to be the scent that embodies my summer 2013. The fragrance actually came out in 2006, so it is not technically a new perfume, but it’s fresh to me! I fell in love with the warm orange aromas and the beautiful glittery bottle – it looks like Hermés managed to bottle a sunset – excuse the poetics, but just look at the sunshine glow in the picture above! 😉 I also decided to buy a light coverage Chanel foundation to accompany Mr. Elixir on my summer travels and received some great travel size skincare samples with my purchase. I have a ‘sophisticated summer lipstick’ in the form of Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet 33, La Distinguée – however my brother presented me today with a funny little present in the form of ice-cream flavoured lipbalm, which will probably be a lot more convenient down on the beach! I have included a photo below – growing up the Twister ice lolly was my summer corner shop standard!


So many flavours! I think 'Feast' is my favourite!

So many flavours! 

Entertainment wise, I have quite a bit of summer reading to get through in preparation for my new projects. However I’m also looking forward to reading “Tender is the Night” by Scott F. Fitzgerald (which coincidentally takes place on the French Riviera) and “The Little Book of Chanel” which was a chic and unexpected present from my friend Flo. The most recent film I watched was “Le Camping”, a hilarious French comedy that takes place on a campsite – I definitely recommend watching this film for an insight into French campsite culture!  If you are more of a discerning film critic (i.e. inflatable lobsters and campsite banter are not your scene) and you’re feeling in the mood for a sophisticated summer film classic then I would recommend Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” for stunning panoramas of Monaco and scenes showcasing timeless elegance from Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly

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I’ll leave you with a clip of my favourite fashion campaign from this summer – Dior Addict. I have not tried the product, but I love the fun, flirty video campaign that in my opinion captures the essence of a French seaside summer perfectly – it’s just a shame that I can’t find my heart shaped sunglasses – they would pay a perfect homage to Daphne Groeneveld!

The Graduate

Four years of studying, voyaging and exploring European languages and cultures culminated at the end of June! Tears of happiness were shed when I discovered my degree result (2:1) and I can summarise the final month that I passed in Durham as a bittersweet whirlwind of fun spent with friends. I say bittersweet, because as the saying goes, ‘All good things must come to an end’ and the cumulative sadness at having to leave our Durham student days behind was omnipresent not only during our Congregation ceremony but also throughout the final weeks of japes and escapades. I’m sad to have left, but there are no words really to describe my happiness at having had the chance and honour to have lived in Durham, Clermont Ferrand and Konstanz, thanks to my Degree, and I am so thankful to have met all the friends I have made along the way. Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Dr Seuss – here’s another one of his wise quotes that can bring us all comfort when dealing with rites of passage…

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!” – Dr Seuss

I think I will be smiling for years to come.

As I was conferred a Bachelor of Arts (in Modern Languages French and German), I had to wear a robe with white faux fur trim – there is a different type of hood for each degree  programme. We  were fitted for our robes (no mortar boards in the Durham grad regalia, although I had a professional photo taken with one on!) and assembled in the Great Hall of University College (otherwise known as Durham ‘Castle’, where some lucky students live) to be put in alphabetical order. We walked from the Castle courtyard into the Cathedral in a procession.

It rained. Quite a lot. I know England has a stereotype of being a rainy climate… but it had been quite a sunny June!

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I defy thee, rain! Me with my little Lulu Guinness umbrella standing in front of a traditional red phone box and a letter box on Palace Green.

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Casually pretending to be Hermione Granger… in the Cathedral cloisters. The ceremony took place in the Cathedral.

I have a lot more photos from this month and the last Durham days (including my graduation), so stay posted! For now, it’s time for me to look ahead on to my next pursuit…. whatever that may be!

A glimpse of Hogwarts

Took a little stroll in the early evening, off the beaten track, through the graveyard meadow that overlooks the River Weir… and Durham Cathedral*. Stopped to take this photo of the Cathedral framed by a canopy of leaves. It was a beautiful day, warm, the town teeming with people – a mix of locals ready for the weekend, and students relieved to have finished their exams…
I still have one exam to go, but I am glad to have the extra time to do a bit more revision. It’s hard to frown when the weather is so beautiful, the city so magical and when you realise that southern fried chicken is for tea!

*I got an invite to dinner in the Cathedral recently which was followed by drinks in a Victorian pub. This city has a lot of character, that’s for sure.

Spiders that lurk in the night…

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 Revising grammar (it’s really not the most exciting of pursuits, but needs must) listening to electro-swing and daydreaming, as per usual. I’ve actually run out of diet coke and have moved onto instant coffee… Instant coffee is a bit tragic, isn’t it? But not as tragic as the discovery of this creature in the shower… If you have arachnophobia then please look away now.. if not, then please meet my new acquaintance.

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I feel like Bear Grylls or Indiana Jones* right now, having managed to trap this spider (which was on the CEILING) under a wine glass (so classy) with minimal yelping on my part. I just hope that the spider wasn’t distressed by its upheaval from my wonderful shower spa haven… Can I class him as the first customer of my imaginary spa and teahouse business/speakeasy? I christened him Hector Elizondo, in an attempt to make him seem less terrifying but I’m afraid it hasn’t really worked… Anyway, here is some electro-swing to get our minds off of spiders that lurk in the corners of showers!

*Indiana Lou? Sounds quite cool.

Lou-Lou-Louche

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What’s your vice? My vices are painting my nails (somewhat messily at times), finding comfort in the bubbles of a diet coke and hoarding lotions and potions of all sorts on my make up counter. I guess I could open a spa and teahouse from my room, there’s enough soap and varieties of herbal tea in here to last a lifetime (…or at least a couple of years).

I’m not doing anything wildly exciting at the moment, just preparing for exams. Hence the pictures of nails on my blog instead of wild tales of adventure and discovery. However, it’s still possible to find delight in little things. This morning I went to the library at ridiculous o’clock in the morning (around five am) with a pal, and then we watched the sun rise whilst sat on a gnarled tree in a nearby wood. We didn’t have a camera, but imagine if you will, two students surrounded by bluebells and library books scattered across a carpet of greenery…

We walked back through the Botanic Gardens, stopping en route by a large pond near the Psychology building to look at baby tadpoles wriggling in the shallows. It was such a lovely start to the day…

Iridescence - Glittery Polishes and the Beauty of Vanessa Paradis

The sparkliest of nails. Natural lighting, with a vignette added. This is 2 coats of OPI “What Wizardry is This? with 2 coats of OPI “Which is Witch?” layered on top. Potentially a tad excessive but there you go. I have tried a few other combinations and will post them sometime in the future, when my hands look less ravaged! “What Wizardry is this?” is best on its own, but I felt like spicing it up a little anyhow! “Which Witch” has big chunks of glitter that have a wow factor, with little pieces of bar glitter also visible if you hold your nails up close! I apologise for the quality of the photo, it would be interesting to get a macro shot, but alas my decent DSLR is in Guernsey – the overdue library books had to take precedence in my luggage. Such is life! I have a lot of revision to do, and I’m listening to a lot of French music. I’ve only just managed to get “Bonnie and Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot out of my head.
Currently I am listening to Vanessa Paradis:

I am a big fan of Vanessa Paradis – I think she is extremely elegant and classy. The thought of listening to her today actually occurred to me after having painted my nails…. I think the look of the glitter that I used on my nails is very similar to the look/effect of the lighting used in another of her music videos, “Divinidylle”, in that the glitter is striking (almost blinding) and reflects many colours… just like the spotlight on Vanessa.

Both these songs date from a few years ago! However, Vanessa Paradis’ new album called “Love Stories” will be out on May 13th. I just find her voice sultry and captivating and I wish her every success with her new album.

Magpie Nails

Today, I present to you a photo of the Glitter polishes from the OPI Oz collection. I initially wanted to buy them from Duty free in the airport but there ended up being no time in between my flights. When I had got to Durham, the only scrap of collection left was one bottle of the Liquid Sand polish as the glitters had sold out… My poor little bottle alone as all her pals had deserted her*… so I resorted to ASOS, which gave me a student discount. Thank you ASOS.

When these colours are worn, it looks as if a Unicorn has exploded all over my nails. Not the easiest look to pull off, but glittery nails do make me smile every time they catch the light. My two favourites are “Lights of Emerald City” and “What Wizardry is this?… the latter is is a liquid sand polish and I am impressed with the textured effect. In my opinion, it’s a lot more stylish and wearable than the liquid sand polishes featured in the ‘Mariah Carey’ collection.

Congratulations if you have read this far, I know not everyone likes polish, but I do like to document what I’ve bought from time to time! I didn’t buy any of the OZ ‘Soft Shades’ because none of them overly appealed to me, however the glitters work well over OPI Bubblebath and OPI Don’t Pretzel My Buttons.

*Personifying the bottle reminds me of a story I wrote once with my Dad about a lemonade bottle who was left alone on a skip and longed to be recycled. Green conscious from a young age or too many reruns of “The Brave Little Toaster”? You tell me!

Joyeux Anniversaire Miss Audrey

It’s a cliché student poster of a cultural icon, tacked onto the back of a worn door, covering up unsightly notices. The carpet is navy blue with orange specks, and looks like out of place, like it should belong in a conference room rather than the sanctuary of a 20 something student, the blue clashing with the hues of delicate baby pink, magenta and white dotted throughout the room.

I’m sure that I am one of many girls who have such a poster – often bought down at the union or in a university building, in an attempt to add a touch of elegance to a cold and clinical room. This poster is just one of many artworks, books and trinkets featuring Audrey that I have acquired over the years, zig zagging across Europe from room to room, objects given to me by artistic friends and close family.

Audrey would have been 84 today – here is to the memory of a charitable icon, to a talented polyglot and to the pinnacle of poise. In memory of a woman whose presence on screen still brings comfort and joy to many, years after her passing. Happy Birthday Audrey Hepburn!

Fond memories of my room in Konstanz
Fond memories of my room in Konstanz