Sunday, 28 June 2015

105. My Essay On The Shaking Palsy

Regular readers will know that my mum has suffered from Parkinson's Disease since 2004 when she first got the symptoms and was eventually diagnosed in 2006. When she was diagnosed, we weren't told much about the condition except the fact that it will get worse with age and it's precisely that fact that has been constantly lingering at the back of my mind for the past decade.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, there is a scene where Scarlet Witch rips out Ultron's heart with her bare hands and particularly recently, there is nothing more that I've wanted than for Parkinson's to be objectified so I can do the same as her. It was last week when the manager of my mum's carers came to visit that she said something that hit me hard - "Your mum has all of the memories of being able to do things for herself and she's in the same body but can't do those things anymore" and that literally broke my heart. Not only is the past haunting her but also the future whilst she is suffering in the present. When we're all planning out our lives nobody factors in "gradual decrease in mobility, cognition and general quality of life from 40 onwards" or even earlier as early onset cases of Parkinson's are common and account for 15% of all those affected.

This wretched illness tears you apart gradually and it's the false hope it gives you that is most infuriating. Just when you think the doctors have hit the nail on the head with the right dosage of medication and you've reached homeostasis, it strikes again and takes something else away from you. In some cases, people with Parkinson's go onto develop dementia in the later stages of their life usually when it's taken everything else that defined that person as an individual and gave their life meaning. Not only does Parkinson's progressively lead to a decline in the quality of the patient's life but it makes them anxious and their loved ones of what's next and trust me, it's never predictable or simple.

James Parkinson first described the bane of my life in 1817 and almost 200 years later, we're yet to find a cure. Personally, I think the main reason we're struggling to find a cure is because it presents so differently in each person so gene therapy becoming more feasible is probably the most likely option. 

Unfortunately, I can't destroy Parkinson's with my bare hands and cure everyone from it. Trust me, I would even it was made out of graphene and it meant serving a life sentence in Guantanamo Bay before going onto hell. I really hope that I'm still around when they find the cure because that's probably going to be the first day since I was 9 that I feel genuinely happy again.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

104. June Favourites

Hello everyone, summer is finally here and apparently there is going to be a heatwave next week across the UK coinciding with Wimbledon which at least won't prevent play but it's going to be no fun for everyone fasting! I've been enjoying the sun by sitting in my back garden and looking at and smelling these gorgeous white roses there.

As it's the sixth month, I have six favourites and they're pretty diverse as they have been for the past couple of months.

1) Taylor Swift - Welcome to New York. I finally bought 1989 in June and I've no idea what took me so long, it's an amazing album. Also, as I haven't included a song in my monthly favourites since November, it was long overdue (that was another Taylor Swift song, Blank Space). This is my favourite song on the record as it has such a catchy beat and like with all of her other songs, you can't help but sing along.

2) Spy - Two of my university friends and I intended to watch this early on in June but we ended up watching Avengers: Age of Ultron again. One of my friends and I have now seen Age of Ultron three times, I've seen no other film at the cinema more than once but it actually gets better the more times you watch it. We finally got round to watching Spy and it has two of my favourite people in it - Miranda Hart and Melissa McCarthy. Spy is honestly the funniest film I have seen in years and for me personally, Jason Statham stole the show surprisingly. At so many points in the film, lots of people were laughing out loud in the cinema, it was that good! *SPOILER ALERT* When Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) kills for the first time in the field, it was hilarious because it was an accident and she makes it worse for herself by throwing up on him and then collapsing herself as he lands on a spear. My other favourite scene was when Rick Ford (Jason Statham) describes the million and one ways he has escaped death such as the time when one of his arms completely came off and he fixed it back on with his other arm, it's so ridiculous. Also, there is a well known rapper in the film and he becomes very close to Nancy (Miranda Hart) which is brilliant. What I love about this film is that it shows that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover because nobody would think Susan would make such an amazing spy but she does. I also loved the various identities Susan had to use including Crazy Cat Lady.

Rating: 5/5 

3) Carly Rowena - I stumbled upon Carly's YouTube channel somehow and I am in love with how honest, positive and sweet she is. I've been loving Carly's 3 minute abs workout and her video on how to tone up wobbly thighs (let's be honest girls, most of us have issues with our bums, tums and legs). Carly is a personal trainer so it's like having a personal trainer for free who doesn't yell at you. I've not been going to the gym during Ramadhan for obvious reasons but I've still been able to workout thanks to Carly. She has lots of videos on healthy eating and gym clothes too.

4) Anker Portable Charger - I intend to go on quite a lot of trips with my friends this summer and although smartphones are amazing, their battery life is nothing compared to the old school Nokia 3310 (I'm showing my age now haha). I picked this little beauty up from Amazon because it is super small, cheap and has excellent reviews. You charge this up and when your phone runs out of charge, you plug your phone into this and I get one full charge out of it (my phone is the HTC One Mini). I love that it comes with a little pouch too so it doesn't get damaged or scratched in your bag.

5) Postcards - I was in Waterstones and fell in love with all the postcards they had so I've decided to start collecting postcards from places I visit and also just generally ones that I like the look of in local shops. I think I'm going to have to buy an album for them as my collection grows hopefully. These are the three in my collection so far:

I picked this up from the John Rylands Library on Deansgate in Manchester.

I bought this from a Waterstones in Manchester as it reminds me of Wimbledon.

I went to Chester and picked this up from the Waterstones there.

6) Passing my degree! :D I received my final set of university results this month and I am absolutely overjoyed to tell you all that I will graduating with a 2:1 in Biology. University has by no means been easy but it really is a life changing experience. I've met so many wonderful people and it has increased my confidence a lot. I've learnt so much ranging from thermoregulatory proteins in bacteria to the social hierarchy of hyenas. It's been three years well spent as it has helped me transition from teenager to adult too.

Apologies as I realise that my book review of The Establishment by Owen Jones should have been up on Monday but I have been really busy lately and haven't actually had much time to read. Hopefully, it should be up next week.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Monday, 15 June 2015

103. Summer Book Club Week 1 Review - Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

Hello everyone! Firstly, I'd like to apologise as I did mention in my previous post that I would post this review yesterday. As I post a variety of things on Sundays usually, I thought I would mix it up and have my summer book club post on a Monday (if you have no idea what I mean by my summer book club, then read this).

The book for week 1 was Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, some of you may be familiar with one of his other novels, One Day and its film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway. I love One Day and strongly recommend it as it is one of my favourite books and films despite making me cry a lot. There is also a film adaptation of Starter for Ten as I Googled it yesterday and despite having an impressive cast including Benedict Cumberbatch (aww can't believe he's a dad), James Corden, James McAvoy and even Catherine Tate; from the trailer, it seems to be very loosely based on the book so think I'm going to give it a miss. If any of you have seen it, let me know what you thought!

Starter for Ten follows Brian, an English Literature student from Southend who is studying at what one assumes is a Russell Group institution. I can relate to Brian a fair bit having now completed my undergraduate degree, there are many characters in the book who I feel like I also met at university. Like myself, Brian is an only child and also lives with his mum only after his father passed way. Brian and his father used to watch University Challenge together (for those of you who aren't familiar with the show, it's basically two teams of 4 very intelligent students from various universities in the UK who compete on a televised general knowledge quiz show but the questions are much more difficult than your average quiz show) and his dad was really proud of Brian each time he got a question right so he is keen to make it onto the team once he arrives at university.

Alice Harbinson is a Drama student who has had a very different upbringing to Brian but like him, also sits the examination which determines who will be on the University Challenge team. Brian falls for Alice at first sight at a house party on their very first night at university even before they meet again at the exam. I found Starter for Ten to explore class and romance very well and although the book was published in 2003 and is set in the mid 1980s, there is a very obvious class divide at prestigious higher education institutes even today and I personally believe that not enough is being done to tackle this ugly truth. Another prominent female figure during Brian's time at university is Glaswegian Law student, Rebecca Epstein, who is the exact opposite of Alice. Both Alice and Rebecca stay in the same halls of residence corridor and Alice is unaware of just how much Rebecca despises her (it's pretty obvious all along that Rebecca hates Alice because she fancies Brian who is in love with Alice).

*SPOILER ALERT* University Challenge team captain, Patrick is so pompous and self-righteous and makes some very nasty comments about both Brian and Spencer who is Brian's best friend from home. I'm not one to condone violence but when both Brian and Spencer hit Patrick on separate occasions, I felt no sympathy for him.  Patrick reminds me very much of Percy Weasley and is definitely a character that you love to hate. Right before the ending, Brian makes a huge error and it is so shocking that I had to stop reading and hugged my teddies in shock as I was rooting for him so much and then out of nowhere, he fell at the very last hurdle. I felt so bad for him and if any of you think you have had an embarrassing moment, trust me, it's nothing compared to what happens to Brian (I understand that none of this makes any sense but don't want to ruin the surprise for anyone who wants to read Starter for Ten). Another part of the book that I enjoyed was the very end because Brian ends up with the right person and I'm glad he is brave enough to make a fresh start as many people I know who disliked their course at university, stick it out whilst getting very depressed about it. Also, I love the actual layout of the book with a University Challenge question at the start of each chapter and the actual book being divided into 5 sections like the 5 rounds of each episode of the show.

Starter for Ten did leave me with some questions, ironically. I wish we'd found out more about Rebecca Epstein because I felt that too much of the book was devoted to Alice. Brian's obsession with Alice reminded me of Pat's obsession with Nikki in Silver Linings Playbook but as Pat was mentally ill, he had a valid excuse. Also, there were hints of some fatherly love being displayed by one of Brian's tutors, Professor Morrison and I wish this relationship had been been explored further and it would have made it more realistic for Brian to ask for his tutor's advice too regarding his academic issues at least.

Overall, I would give Starter for Ten 4/5 as although the book centres mostly around a love triangle, there are some other important issues explored mentioned above making it relatable to many young adults despite being set 30 years ago. It is definitely a good coming of age novel and by having University Challenge as a major theme, it makes it unique.

The Establishment by Owen Jones is the book for week 2 of my summer book club so I will see you all next Monday with a review post for it. Also, Ramadhan Mubarak to all my Muslim readers as I probably won't have the chance to post again before Thursday.

Until next time, take care.

Mancunian Sheep x

Saturday, 13 June 2015

102. The Week I Became A Social Butterfly

Hello everyone, I hope you're all well! I've had an extremely busy week but it's been great to catch up with lots of my friends, some of whom I've not seen for months because of university. I don't think I've ever eaten out so much in any other week in my life but you may as well make the most of it with Ramadan around the corner. I tried to be as healthy as I possibly could which isn't too hard when in most restaurants, I'm limited to the vegetarian option due to eating a halal and mostly pescetarian diet.

Monday - My best friend, Sammia and I went to the Trafford Centre and despite living in Manchester, I think I've only been to the Trafford Centre a whopping 5-6 times in my entire life. I find that most of the shops it has that I actually shop at are also in the city centre so there's no need to travel so far. If there is a shop in the Trafford Centre that is not in the city centre then I usually just order online such as John Lewis. Despite spending more than 7 hours at the place, Sammia and I bought nothing but food hahaha, such fun! As I hit the gym hard last weekend, I used Monday as my cheat day and I personally think it's actually quite a good day to have as a cheat day because a bit of cake certainly made Monday easier to get through than usual. We went to Debenhams for breakfast and had coffee with a Millionaires' shortbread. We then walked around John Lewis, Next Home and M&S home sniffing far too many candles which left us with a headache. I've been really lucky with the weather this week as it has been gorgeous, usually when I go out with friends, we end up getting caught in the rain.

For lunch, we went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen as Sammia had not been before and I love their super skinny fries and falafel burger (I could live off falafel and I pretty much did whilst writing my literature review, it's one of my favourite foods ever). We also had the strawberry and elderflower fizz at GBK which was gorgeous and I really wish they sold it as a readily available bottled drink in shops. 

For dessert, we went to Cadwalders which I'd never even heard of before but Sammia recommended. We both devoured the super indulgent hot chocolate muffin melt, it was yummy! After dessert, we spotted a carousel outside and despite being in our early 20s, that was not going to stop us. We were the only ones on the ride and shoppers walking by were looking at us hahaha. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life!

We had a look around some more shops such as HomeSense and Selfridges where I bought some rainbow cake from the Hey Little Cupcake concession as you can't buy slices at their Spinningfields cupcakery. It's actually the first rainbow cake that I've come across which is suitable for vegetarians as usually, the red food colouring contains beetle extract. "Shopping" can be thirsty work so we finished the day with Costa Coolers, Sammia had the mango and passion fruit one whilst I had the strawberry and watermelon one.

Tuesday - I actually had two shifts at work because you know, you've got to work hard and play hard. I don't consider my job to be work as I love being a student ambassador, it's been one of the best things about university as I have met so many people and many of them have become firm friends. On Tuesday night, I met my women in science hero, Dame Sally Davies and I could not believe that I had the opportunity to ask her a question too. You can find out more about Dame Sally's work as the first female Chief Medical Officer for England here.

Wednesday - There are about three restaurants that I can tolerate on the Curry Mile - Gelato, Lahore and after this week, Falafel. Yes, despite loving the actual food, I've never been to the restaurant that shares the same name. I had a lovely afternoon out in the sun with my friend Melissa who used to be my neighbour but recently moved away and two of Melissa's friends who I had never met before properly but were very lovely and welcoming. We had a little Ramadan shop by looking around three Islamic shops and I picked up a couple of books, one which offers practical advice for Muslim women and the other one is Imam Nawawi's 40 Hadiths which are widely considered to be the fundamental sacred sayings of Islam.

Thursday -  I had my haircut for the first time since September 2014 as I haven't had the chance because of being so busy with university. My hair's not been this short since I was 14 but I prefer it like this as it is so much more manageable and feels lighter in summer. If any of you are from Manchester and are looking for a salon, I go to The Razor's Edge in the Royal Exchange. My regular stylist is on maternity leave (I didn't even know she was pregnant until I went in to make an appointment last week hahaha) but the stylist I had this time did an amazing job and was so quick too! After my haircut, I went to Costa and had their green tea, lime and mint cooler which is amazing and my favourite one now! I've had a few mojito mocktails in the past and it's very similar to them! I ended up watching One Day in the afternoon because I was lending the DVD to my friend who I was seeing that evening and wanted to make sure it was working fine but once I stuck it on, I just had to watch the whole film as it is one of my favourites of all time. As I graduate next month, I felt it was a good time to watch it. In the evening, I went out with my friends from university, Alex and Rick and we were meant to watch Spy but instead, we went to Chiquitos and I can't believe I'm saying this but afterwards, we went to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron (I've seen it 3 times now and it keeps on getting better). At Chiquitos, Rick and Alex shared fajitas which were served on a sizzling platter (it felt like we would set the smoke alarm off) and I had the sea bass salad with sweet potato fries which was gorgeous. I love Mexican food!

Friday - I've heard really good things about Moose Coffee in Manchester from several of my friends so one of my friends who hadn't been previously either and I finally went there for brunch yesterday. As I ate so late on Thursday night and it was so hot, I had the granola with yoghurt and berries. Misbah had the Vegi Mighty Moose which is essentially a cooked vegetarian breakfast. I will have to go back when it's cold again to try some of the coffee and cooked food. The portion sizes were huge (even the blueberries were larger than usual) but the food was so delicious! We were stuffed after brunch so went for a walk and sat by Manchester Cathedral which is also on my to-visit list this summer! Moose's yummy granola actually inspired me to make my own last night which I'll be having at sehri for Ramadhan on days when I want something more substantial than my usual smoothie. 

I hope you've all had a great week too and are having a lovely weekend. My first summer book club review post will be up tomorrow so look out for that.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

101. Links Worth Sharing - June 2015

Hello everyone, I hope you're all doing well! After complaining about eReaders in my previous post, I must admit I love reading the newspapers online and have the apps on my phone as well as reading them on the browser, most of the content is online and free too. I often share articles on my personal Facebook and Twitter pages but as a new regular feature for The Life of a Mancunian Sheep, I am considering recommending three things that have caught my eye every week/month amongst the masses of information on the internet. What do you all think of this, is it something you'd be interested in? I'll attempt to share a mixture of interviews, articles and videos like the three below. I'll try to make them as recent as possible but one of the great things about the internet is how easy it is to access archives.

1) Andy Murray on feminism - Now, it's been approximately a year since Andy controversially (not that I personally found it controversial but many others did) appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his coach and it wasn't long before all the sceptics came out and questioned Andy's decision. Despite not reaching the final at the Roland Garros last week, Andy has played his best ever clay season, he reached the Australian Open final in January and I'm sure his outstanding performance will continue through grass court season, the US Open and beyond. Andy has been surrounded by amazing women for most of his life namely his wife and mother who is a fantastic tennis coach so it should come as no surprise that he would hire a female coach. As one of the world's greatest ever and most influential athletes, for Andy to so openly support feminism gives me yet another reason to love him, he has yet again silenced the critics. Bring on Wimbledon 2015 and all the best to Amelie on becoming a mum!

2) Dame Sally Davies on antibiotic resistance - With Ramadan fast approaching, I am both trying to work and play hard as I won't be much use with no food and water in me for about 19 hours every day for a month so last night, I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Dame Sally on antibiotic resistance and I also asked her a question. She is the first female Chief Medical Officer for England and a real inspiration for attracting more women into the STEM subjects. After doing my final year project on antibiotic resistance, watching her TEDx talk countless times and reading her report, it was truly an honour to finally meet her. Dame Sally is a fantastic and highly entertaining speaker and I have chosen to share her TEDx talk as it provides a great overview of the issue.

You may think I am biased but antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest challenges facing us all today. Bacterial infections will affect you regardless of your age, class, gender or ethnicity and without effective antibiotics, immunosuppressive treatments like chemotherapy and transplants will no longer be carried out. Even in the UK, where we are lucky enough to have the NHS, multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea and TB are on the rise. Dame Sally is doing everything she can to make sure that we have an international and effective response to this problem by liaising with the WHO and UN and also our own government. 

You and I also have the power to make a change and should be doing so by not demanding antibiotics from our GP for something which is more likely to be a viral infection, by completing the entire course of antibiotics if prescribed to you and practicing good hygiene particularly when visiting people in hospitals and care homes. There has not been a new class of antibiotics since 1987 and with an increasing population size expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and life expectancy also on the rise, we have to look out for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

3) Finn Harries on climate change - Similar to antibiotic resistance, climate change is another issue facing us today and for the foreseeable future so the more immediate our action, the better. In his article, he sums up the dire situation that unfortunately, our predecessors have left us in. Alexander Fleming warned us of resistance bacteria and for decades now, we have been warned of the damaging effects of fossil fuels on the delicate balance required between nature and nurture for our ecosystem, food productivity and health yet our addiction to both fossil fuels and antibiotics persists.

There is absolutely no point in burying your head in the sand or running away from the problem because climate change is catching up with us and it will most likely have the better of our children and grandchildren and Finn Harries of JacksGap explains exactly how it is doing so and what you can do to change that.

Comment below with a link you think is worth sharing and let me know what you thought of this post as it is different and something I've not previously done on here.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Monday, 8 June 2015

100. My Favourite Places in Manchester

Hello everyone! As much as I would love to dedicate the 100th Mancunian Sheep post to sheep, unfortunately not many of you would appreciate it as much as I. Instead, I shall relate it to my immense hometown glory having lived here for the entirety of my existence. Thank you so much to all of you regardless of whether you have read 1 or all 100 posts, I'm not sure how you've managed to keep up with the ramblings of a madwoman for over 4 years but here's to 100 more posts. Ideally, I would like to bake you all a cake to celebrate but until teleporting becomes a reality, a photo and celebratory post will have to make do.

The best cake at the Manchester Cake and Bake Show 2014.
Here are my three favourite places in Manchester that I highly recommend you visit, if you have not done so already. I could have chosen so many more but I had to be extremely selective to prevent this post being as long as some of my others so without further ado, here are my top 3! 

1) Ziferblat, Edge Street - I have already written a lengthy post singing my praises of this wonderful venue in Manchester's Northern Quarter which is my favourite part of the city. It's such a great concept and was much needed in Manchester. Last week, Ziferblat announced the opening of four meeting rooms so not only can you play hard (you can literally play board games), you can now work hard there too!

2) John Rylands Library, Deansgate - My friend and I spontaneously visited John Rylands Library one afternoon last week and it is the most peaceful and beautiful building that I have ever been lucky enough to set foot in. I'm genuinely considering it as a prospective wedding venue although, that's certainly a few years off yet. I highly doubt wedding ceremonies take place there sadly and I'm too scared to ask as it will crush my dreams! The intricate craftsmanship of both the building and the books upset me when I compared them to the ugly, monotonous glass buildings being erected left, right and centre along with the demise of independent bookshops thanks to eReaders and Amazon. As this is supposed to be a celebratory post, I will stop ranting as on a more positive note, it was the ceiling high bookcases that inspired me to do a summer book club on here. Apologies in advance for the photos not being of the best quality, like I mentioned, the visit was a spontaneous decision so I was without my camera and had to make do with my phone.

This desk is 113 years old, this is what you call a desk, Ikea.

3) Hey Little Cupcake, Spinningfields - I love cake and with the vast number of tearooms and cafes we are blessed with in Manchester, it was very difficult to choose one but I had to choose Hey Little Cupcake as their bakes are so creative. Each month, there is a special cupcake and there are always seasonal cupcake selections at Christmas, Easter and Halloween. The interior is gorgeous, the staff are so lovely and with the ability to order personalised cakes for special occasions, there really is something for everyone. I love the Sorrento Cello cupcake which is a signature one and their rainbow cake is the only one that I've come across which is actually suitable for vegetarians. You can have afternoon tea at HLC and they have cupcake shaped sandwiches, what more could you possibly want?

As ever, thank you for reading. Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Thursday, 4 June 2015

99. Mancunian Sheep's Summer Book Club

Hello everyone! As many of you will know already, I love books and one of the things I'm most excited about now that I've finished university is being able to read for pleasure again. I've bought a lot of books over the past year or so that I've not yet had the chance to read and I aim to do so this summer. As I have reviewed many a book on here already, I thought I might as well do a summer book club where I read a book every week and then review it at the end of the week. If you want to join in and read the books too, I've listed the ten below. The books are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction ranging from politics to classic novels so there really is something for everyone. Feel free to comment on them so we can have an online book discussion. This week's book is Starter for Ten by David Nicholls so look out for the review post on Sunday.

Week 1: Starter for Ten by David Nicholls 

Week 2: The Establishment by Owen Jones

Week 3: Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey Williams

Week 4: Us by David Nicholls

Week 5: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Week 6: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Week 7: One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond

Week 8: What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? by Tony Juniper

Week 9: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Week 10: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

In other news, I have filmed a summer beauty and fashion haul that you can watch here:

Remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you've not done so already!

See you on Sunday with the Starter for Ten review post. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x