I’m going to have to backtrack a little. I got a fair few replies to a picture of Bose’s new Sleepbuds asking my opinion, but I shot them down immensely. However, after sleeping with them in for a good two weeks now I’m converted.

(At least I thinkI’m converted; I did wake up the other night, sleepwalking, and turning them off in the process. I tend only to sleepwalk when really stressed, so either deadlines are really getting to me, or my subconscious doesn’t like the sleepbuds quite as much as I think).

I have pretty bad chronic insomnia. That’s not to say that I never sleep; when managed correctly, it doesn’t get in the way of everyday life. That being said, taking one hour to fall asleep is a treat. Two hours is often average, and in cases of extreme underlying stress I don’t sleep at all. I often get asked what I do in the bleak 8hr period that I’m lying awake in bed, and honestly my thoughts can keep me very busy! I’ve been taught the sleep deprivation methods of getting out of bed after 20mins, if you haven’t fallen asleep, and gradually retraining yourself to see fall asleep within a shorter period, but in all honesty, I’m often too lazy to leap out of bed every 20mins.

I’ve been wearing earplugs to sleep since I started backpacking, as sharing a dorm with 40 strangers is enough of an experience without being woken up by a cacophony of snoring, late night snackers, and those brazen enough to dabble in other late night activities even in a room full of other nomads. Earplugs were all good and well until I went semi-deaf after Shambala, and lost 90% of my hearing in one ear for a month. I was lucky enough not to damage my ear drum permanently, but the combination of the vacuum created by earplugs, and napping in a cold, damp tent did end me up in hospital. I’m now – understandably – a little wary of over-the-counter earplugs.

at shambala, looking a little too blissfully happy considering I spent the next 12 hrs crying in a+e

I was really excited to discover the Bose Sleepbuds – there aren’t many similar products on the market. It is easy to see why. Priced at £229.95, they’re not exactly cheap. The design is pretty flawless, with a 16hr battery life, and sleek, portable charging case. They also fit comfortably in the ear, cause no pain or irritation, and never fall out overnight. They don’t however play music (nor should they perhaps, for then they wouldn’t be sleepbuds), but at the price, it would almost be better to buy a high-end but otherwise normal pair of earbuds and play static noise all night.

Noise cancellation isn’t what you’re paying for here. Instead, you get a choice of 10 different calming, ambience tracks. I personally find the crackling campfire, and moving tides too distracting to sleep, but the ‘warm static’ and ‘altitude’ settings mimic the quiet hum you hear on planes. This then blocks out most surrounding noise (I live in the middle of London and have sirens going past every hour), and the comforting sounds of my flatmates falling into the flat, slightly drunk and armed with take out, at all hours of the night.

All in all, I have no faults with the design; the earbuds are sleek and efficient. They are incredibly expensive, considering they play only the 10 select tracks, but this is after all their intention.

Not just useful for sleeping, I’m also wholly excited to be able to wear them to the library and remain blissfully unaware of quite how much racket I manage to make by eating popcorn in the study spaces.


I used to love going to the circus when I was younger. Not so pro using animals nowadays but this also isn’t anti-circus propaganda. I think I’ve just watched too much American Horror Story… I would ultimately love to do a piece for every act & animal but kept to a select four for now!

  1. tigers

The tigers are tired. They lope around the arena, with sore toes and a resilient bout of mange thinning their furling tails. The circus used to employ a vet, you see, but that part of the budget was first to go. They’re sturdy animals, the director insisted. In reality, they were hardly sturdy, having been flown in from all over the world. An Ostrich in York, shivering against the Autumn breeze. Three elephants in Hertfordshire, braced together against the first snowfall. The streak of tigers , who managed to catch a particularly nasty bout of cat flu from some Somerset moggies, four of which consequently now adorn the Enchantress’ cabin, as a ragged bunch of pelts. Even if the animals can’t take the climate, the director stokes them on, jabbing his fists and flogging any mammal who dare refuse his command. (Three quarters of the once stocked menagerie have now either been immortalised in the form of taxidermy, or lie below ground). The Strongman is by far a cheaper method of dealing with the sickly, and those who don’t do as they are told . Not just physically robust, he’s also the only one not to flinch when they drag out the diseased and ailing and give them a swift bullet through the head. No, but the tigers are tired. They want to lie down, to stretch, and feel the unforgiving sun beating down on their stripes. They know the taste of the whip, if they do falter, pause, even refuse to hurl their weight through one of the flaming hoops. An almost balanced choice of pain, between lurching into the hot flames and the bite of the whip. Not that they weigh much, in this day and age. The tiger who came to tea should be fed on succulent meats; fat steaks and fresh blood. A can of putrid sardines has become the likely dinner. A sorry streak of tigers, absent is the dynamism which once propelled them through the flames. Now, they hesitate and waver. They choose between the lash of the whip, and the lick of the flames, and gamble as to the lesser pain.

(A group of tigers is indeed called a streak of tigers. Gaggle of geese. Streak of tigers. Who knew.)

2. circus master

All eyes on the circus master. He takes centre stage, spotlights amplifying his position. He needs the amplification, really. He’s a small man. Barely reaches five-foot-five, even in the scuffed tap shoes, which bless him with that very necessary extra half inch. Boy does he need it. He used to tower over his performers; maybe not in height, but certainly in stature. Holding that gleaming club in one hand, he had the tigers and the trapeze artists eating out of his palms – quite literally, in the case of the latter. Less so now. Murmurs of dissent run amongst the performers, meows of disapproval from the big-cats. Someone must be responsible for the leaking caravans, for the threadbare costumes, empty seats. Someone must be held responsible for the deserted ticket booths, the empty wage envelopes. They’re starting to starve, the performers. They jostle and leer at the circus master – he still has the largest caravan on site, after all. Needs a lick of paint and new upholstery, but otherwise it’s the most in shape of all the make-do scrap in which the others find shelter. They’re starving, you see. They make joke about eating up the little circus master, a cannibalistic outlet of the rage they feel in their hungry bellies. Well, jokes – they say – but someone has already anonymously carved up one of the emus, roasted it on a spit and left the plumage round the back.

3. animal keeper/costumier

But oh, now, for the animal keeper. Or the costume maker? Oh but of course, the funding to have two such roles ran out almost a decade prior, so the two very different jobs have now been amalgamated into one. A stout little man, he himself flounces around in an old purple brocade that hasn’t been washed since the seventies. He hardly has time to feed the penguins, and make sure the final, left over elephant has something more substantial to eat than hedge trimmings. He’s told his second in command – his chef de partie– of the animal world time and time again that no, the elephant most certainly isn’t going to be eating roasted road kill. In any case, the last sorry carcass he picked up looked awfully like a rat, and aren’t elephants terrified of mice? The last thing he needs is for the sorry looking great hunk of a beast to be throwing any temper tantrums. The circus once had a flurry of pretty pretty girls, who flung themselves up on to the back of the great, lumbering elephant. They sold tickets, with their tight curls and cherry-red lacquered lips. And their costumes, oh to think of the costumeshe once made. Tutus studded with tiny jewels, and tight corsets made of the finest goose down. What he would do to be back amongst his old fabrics, tracing dainty fingers through velvets and silks. His fingers are calloused now. A residual layer of dirt seems to stick below his nails, no matter how hard he scrubs. There’s no money for costumes, and no performers to dress. It’s a good thing he and the elephant get on so well, as he spends far more time caring for the great brute than designing clothes for non-existent acrobats.

4. tarot reader

A smattering of hairballs, as she has a sorry tendency to pull out her own during states of crystal-ball-reading induced psychosis, tired and stained corsets strewn across the floor. Remnants of meals shared with the ill-tempered street cat are growing mould on most available countertops. She’s lived in the same caravan for the past 17 years. It’s not a case of attachment; circus wages hardly afford bespoke wheels and embroidery. If she had it her way, she’d have her customers enter into one of those fancy hand painted affairs, with her name in loping cursive on treated wood. Instead, she must entertain them on the front ‘porch’ (as much as one can be said to have a porch without house). One of the younger construction boys – not much to look at, even given her tendency to let her eyes wander onto the strapping young lads who hoist and heave with the tent poles, and master even the wildest of horses – had a tarpaulin sheet pinned down from the caravan, covering the two seats and table from at least the worst of the elements. It isn’t however wholly waterproof, the odd drip just adds to the ominous atmosphere she tries to create when reading of tall dark strangers and twists in the road ahead. Admittedly, she shouldn’t have let her stained and wrinkled fingers grope their way under the table upon which the crystal rests (the boys almost didn’t notice, too entranced with the orb, and the promises of pretty wives and a poker’s fortune). She might have gained herself a little reputation, here and there. She pretends she can’t hear their catcalls when she goes to dinner. Slinks into the communal tent. Grabs her soup and stale crust, and hunches over one of the empty benches in the corner. She only had her tarots read once; for all a lifetime of pawing out cards and glossing over the future, she doesn’t believe much in knowing what lies ahead before you should. Or, having been told her days would be filled with disappointment, she knows that the cards can cut a little too close to home. 


Good evening! I’m always amazed at how much time seems to fly between blog posts – I‘ve managed to go since August without writing anything which is dreadful but in my defence, I have spent most of this university calendar year with my nose in one book or another, and finding time for extracurricular writing is a challenge, alongside 3+ novels per week for a single module.

Weekend getaways are however seemingly not a challenge, as I spent the last few days in Berlin thanks to post new-year spontaneity and the delights of Ryanair last minute flights. I’m going to warn you now that the 6am Sunday flight back was a big mistake, particularly as Berlin Schoenfeld is severely lacking in adequate 4am drunk snacks and places to sleep.

brandenburg gate

I try to remember to snap pictures of restaurants, landmarks or (much to the displeasure of anyone who accompanies me to dinner) food, to get back into the swing of reviews. Unfortunately, I didn’t do quite so well on taking pictures of landmarks, mainly thanks to the sub-zero weather conditions and numb fingers.

checkpoint Charlie, with ‘checkpoint curry’ avaiable at the nearest takeout

With flights at £50 return, only a few weeks in advance, and an Airbnb around £50 a night for a decent apartment, or slightly more upmarket flatshare, Berlin is certainly one of the more affordable European destinations. Whether it’ll be accessible or not in the future is debatable – the first question I was faced with by any and every German was my thoughts on Brexit (pitifully little, I’m not the one to be asked when it comes to politics). We crammed a lot into 2 days, whereas 3 would probably be a better choice to experience more of what the city has to offer.

Tourist attractions such as the Brandenburg gate, Berlin Victory Column, Reichstag Parliamentary Building, Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial architecture are all within walking distance – albeit more 30 mins. The latter is certainly impassive and eerie, interpretations widely debated but generally suggesting the grey, sobering abstract cubes to suggest the unease of a mass graveyard, and a sense of entrapment.

holocaust memorial

Food wise, the aptly named A Never Ending Love Story offered a basic but appetising brunch of pancakes and avocado toast, boasting neon lights and bubble-gum coloured walls as expected to draw in brunching millennials. Food is overwhelmingly cheaper than in London (surprise surprise), and dinner at Saigon Green boasted cheaper meals and a more vegetarian friendly menu than I found in Vietnam itself. Berlin is increasingly heralded as the most vegan-friendly city in Europe, so meat free options can be found on every corner. Even the infamous post night-out doner kebab shop offers numerous vegan options. On the topic of nightlife – I have absolutely no idea where we ended up out, but it was duly underground somewhere, in some abandoned warehouse building. Entering the elusive Berghain was not attempted on this occasion.

avocado toast, but abroad

After spending a continuous year living out of my backpack and traipsing between hostel dorms, I still haven’t returned to the joys of sharing a room with 40 strangers, so have been using more of Airbnb as of late. We stayed in Humboldthain – a little north of the direct centre. Public transport makes all of the suburbs very accessible, and is easily navigated, although unfortunately not contactless. 

My German is a little rusty round the edges at the moment. I can still understand everything, but sometimes I’ll go to speak and it feels as though someone has packed my mouth full of cotton wool, or my voice being 5 seconds behind my brain. Luckily, the German education system means that students excel at foreign languages, and pretty much everyone can speak English better than our basic equivalent of GCSE French or Spanish. So you can bring your pocket guide and put your best Guten Tag and danke and zwanzig Euro on show, but you’ll often find yourself met with a slightly amused English reply.