16 June 2017

a day in ibiza town.

I knew I had to get away and see some sun sooner or later. My last few holidays have been to places like Iceland, Prague and Copenhagen and well, I live in England and this year has hardly felt like one of the warmest (I still haven't packed my winter coat away). I'm not even one for the summer, I much prefer the winter but I still wanted some sun. Still wanted to step off a plane and feel the heat hit me. When one of my friends from Uni expressed the same wish, it wasn't long before we started looking for breaks away. 

I'm not sure how we came across Ibiza - I have had a little bit of an aversion to Spain for a number of years. It just seemed to be a place loads and loads of British people went to, a lazy option plus every single time I've been to Spain or heard tales of friends who've been to Spain something disastrous has happened. So I'm not sure why we decided to book, but I am really glad we did. 

Picking Ibiza was a little unnerving for me too, as I'm not a huge fan of clubbing and well, it's pretty well know what Ibiza is known for. I haven't been "clubbing" since I lived in Holland and Dutch clubbing is pretty tame compared to English clubbing and I'm sure I didn't enjoy it then and I wouldn't have enjoyed it now. Luckily, we picked a resort in the north of the Island - Portinatx - away from the clubs and the stag dos and the parties and whatever else. It was a good choice - quiet, empty enough beaches, adult only pools to lounge around next to and empty seas to spend the day kayaking around. 

But that was kind of it. With a very late flight back home on our last day, we knew we'd have to find something away from Portinatx to fill our time. So we decided to get the bus into Ibiza town. 

Let me just start by saying that this in itself was not an easy option. The bus from Portinatx to Ibiza town may have only been €2.95, but it ran four times a day at the oddest times. Not even in some of the most rural parts of England would the bus service have been this shit. It meant when you were in Ibiza town, you were pretty much stuck there for the day and you had to make the most of it. And God forbid you forgot where the bus stop back was. 

Because spending three days at an all-inclusive hotel stuffing our faces hadn't quite been enough food, the first thing we did was find ourselves a quiet bar near the port in the city. We grabbed a small selection of tapas, some beer and some shade away from the sun. It was pretty hot at this point, so any shade was extremely welcome! 

We then walked along the port of the city, which brought back a lot of memories of the last time I was in Ibiza, around 10 years ago, and came in on a cruise with my Dad. At sixteen, I think all I wanted to do was go clubbing (what a sea change to now!). We watched the thousands of ferries head off to Formentera, another island off the coast of Ibiza which is a lot smaller and apparently a lot prettier than Ibiza. We didn't have time to head over, if I'm ever back in Ibiza grabbing a ferry will be one of the first things I do. The port area of the city is full of hippy market stalls which are a main stay of Ibiza, and although not really my thing, they are worth a quick look. 

After recharging with a drink, we head off to Dalt Vila (literally high town) which is a Unesco world heritage site - a town hidden inside castle walls, and a complete maze of cobbled streets with secret tunnels (one hidden behind an old Catholic shrine). We entered through a draw bridge and walked into one of the bigger squares of Dalt Vila, Plaza de Vila. You can get amazing views across the island and over to Formentera. We carried on heading up, and down and up again through the maze until we stumbled on a square full of bars and restuatants, including one which instead of chairs had bean bags up the steps of the hill. We stopped again for another drink - I was a typical tourist and had a glass of sangria followed by affogato (at least, I know that's what it's called in Italian, who knows what the Spanish version is!).

Afterwards, we wondered around Calle de la Virgen, where it got a little more touristy, with a few shops and a whole lot of fridge magnets. It's the main gay part of the city, and there are rainbow flags hanging from most buildings. The small alleyway feel of the streets get progressively more packed as the evening goes on, full of people heading off towards the bigger clubs in Ibiza. 

We headed the other way, to a small square - Plaza del Parque - where we treated ourselves to a few cocktails which came with pintxos, small snacks which are generally held together with a toothpick. We watched the world go by and steeled ourselves for the horrendous bus journey back to the airport. 

I'm glad we took time out from our lazy mini-summer holiday to go and explore Ibiza a little more. Seeing Ibiza town in all its glory has changed my view of the island a little more - it's not just for clubbers! 


8 June 2017

vote. pretty please.

Personally, I (embarrassingly) get super excited about going to vote but I know that a lot of other people don't. I once had to bribe one of my Uni housemates into going to vote with the promise that I would go out with her afterwards if she did. She ended up voting for someone because they had the same surname as them but I will still take it as a mini victory. However, that's by the by, all I'm gonna say is that voting is usually more important than a lot of people realise and if anyone is reading this and they haven't voted, then I really reckon you should!


7 June 2017

how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher.

One of the things that stands my job now apart from my last job is the sheer amount of people that come into my office, week in, week out to do work experience, shadowing days and internships. It's a revolving door of young people desperate to get a little taste of what it's like to be a parliamentary researcher. But it's not a very easy job to get at all, for each intern position we advertise for in my office, we have over 100 applications. For a fully paid job, it's rare to have less than 200 applications, I've known it go to over 300 on a few occasions. 

With the election coming up, there will be new MPs and a lot of swapping and changing in Parliament, meaning a lot of jobs up for grabs. So I thought I'd write a little guide on how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher. They're my own thoughts on how it's generally done, but it's not the be all and end all. I don't know everything. For example, I barely did any of these myself and got my job on networking alone. 

Get some experience.

It's not easy to get work experience in parliament, but it's also not impossible. My office offers a one day experience in Westminster - our office is physically too small to have someone for a week. We take pretty much anyone who e-mails and asks for it, as long as they have some connection to the constituency - whether that's by living there or going to school there. We ignore party lines when it comes to work experience, which is something we wouldn't usually do for anything else. Some MPs just won't do work experience placements, and some will only be in the constituency and not in Westminster. It's still worth emailing your MP to ask. 

Do an internship. 

I find this a difficult bit of advice to give because it's something I didn't do and couldn't have afforded to have done either. But it's also hard to avoid it because the average team size in Parliament must be around two for each MP - when they hire someone they want them to be able to come in and start work straight away and doing an internship is a great way for someone to have the Parliamentary experience they need. Some internships are now paid, some only require you for one day a week meaning you can fit it around University, some Universities (like Leeds for example) offer an internship as part of their courses and you can take part in the Speakers interning programme too.


If you can't do an internship, then you should probably get involved in politics in some way. There have been two general elections recently and the EU referendum, even local elections provide a chance for you to get involved. Join your local party, deliver some leaflets and show willing. I asked everyone I interviewed when I was last looking in September about what they got up to in the EU referendum, if it was nothing then they were downgraded pretty quickly. 

Do your research on MPs.

When you work in such small teams, it really is vital that you pick the right MP for you. It's not hard to do research into what they believe. Check their voting record (but don't take it as gospel), read up on their websites and even look for gossip about them on sites like Guido. I work for an MP that is pro-gay marriage, anti-fox hunting and is pro-choice, all things which are really important to me. There are horror stories around about some MPs, and if you see the same MPs looking for staff then you know they'll have a high turnover rate and they might not be worth it. Some MPs will expect you to work long hours, and you'll work closely with them so you might want to be able to make friends with them.

Stay close to W4MP. 

This is the website where most of the jobs in Parliament are advertised. Unlike some other jobs, if you see a job you want to apply for then you should apply for it that same day. Leave it any longer and you risk not having your application even read because it's been hidden below thousands of others. 

Expect to fail at least once. 

Most of my previous interns have found a job in Parliament after doing an internship with our office, but most of them had interviews for jobs they didn't get first. It can be a gruelling and cruel process and often something you have to stick to and just keep going because you will get there eventually. 

Personalise your cover letter/CV.

I know that when people are applying for jobs in Parliament they will have applied for many others, but it's so easy to read when someone is applying using the same cover letter. Each MP's constituency is different - they face different issues and different problems, they have wide-ranging demographics and each MP will have different interests. Your CV/cover letter should reflect that - even if it's just a small sentence or paragraph. 

Know something about your MP and their constituency. 

The first thing I always ask when I'm interviewing anyone is "what are three things you know about this constituency?" and/or "tell me three facts about this MP". It's maddening how many people just can't answer it, or come up with something completely random. I'm never looking for an in-depth knowledge, it's nothing you can't find out on Wikipedia or on the MP's own website.

And once you get there, I highly recommend reading How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher by Robert Dale.


2 June 2017

a few of my favourite political books.

favourite political books

I know it's not a typical blog post but with the general election approaching I thought it would be nice to share a few of my favourite political books, at least some of the ones I've read most recently. The rate that politics moves at the moment, some of these actually feel a little out of date. But then, I think the publishers would have a hard job getting people to write quickly enough. 

Anyway, here are a few to get started. 

Mad Men & Bad Men - Sam Delaney

This is without a doubt one of my favourite books, political or not. Political advertising is something I focused on throughout my degrees and it never really left me and I'll read anything about it that I can get my hands on. The book focuses on four different election campaigns and the impact that an increasing amount of advertising and new techniques had on them, and if you're in any way interested in advertising, digital or influencing then this is particularly interesting. 

Unleashing Demons - Sir Craig Oliver

After the EU referendum there were hundreds of books about the campaign released, but this is one I read and enjoyed the most. I am possibly biased as I worked on the Remain campaign and so recognised many of the meetings that are described, but if you're interested in what happened throughout that time then this is the book for you. The only criticism I have is that sometimes I wanted to scream at Craig Oliver about how blind everyone seemed at what was going on, but it's also true that hindsight is a wonderful thing. 

The Brexit Club - Owen Bennett

While Unleashing Demons might have focused more on the Remain campaign, the Leave campaign is well covered in The Brexit Club. Owen Bennett attended far more EU events than could ever have been considered normal by anyone else's standards and has some pretty odd tales to tell. The only issue is that it's quite light on analysis - if you're after more then it's possible that Tim Shipman's "All Out War" might be a better choice. 

Revolt on the Right - Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin 

At some point it seemed that every time a news show needed analysis on UKIP then either one of the authors would appears to chat about the party and their fortunes or misfortunes. It's great at understanding the rise and fall and rise and fall of UKIP, and even though it's now out of date, it's also the reason I don't quite believe that UKIP are over and done with just yet. 

Comrade Corbyn - Rosa Prince

If, like me, you knew very little about Jeremy Corbyn before he became Labour party leader then this book will give you a good background. Some people have found it biased against him - personally I don't see that but then maybe I'm biased as I'm not his biggest fan either! It does give good analysis on how he managed to win the Labour party leadership contest, but avoids bigger questions on whether that was part of a wider international shift away from "establishment" figures. 

Speaking Out - Ed Balls

I never thought that I'd be adding an Ed Balls book to my list of recent favourites - as an MP I found him vaguely arrogant and abrasive and never warmed to him at all. This book changed my opinion of him somewhat - it was full of honesty and humour. It's also quick and easy to read with bite sized chapters and full of little gossipy tit-bits too. 

Everywoman - Jess Phillips 

I read this very recently and I am still completely unsure whether I absolutely hated it or absolutely loved it. One of the things I really love about Jess Phillips' is that she comes across as a great constituency MP and her love of Birmingham really shines through too - both are things I really admire. There were so many bits of advice that women can take away and apply to their own working lives, especially women working in male dominated industries like politics and I almost want to go back to work to try and put them into practice. The only thing I find really irritating is that I do think there are unnecessary swipes at the Tories where the stories seem to have been jammed in and don't really add anything. 

Let me know if you have any other recommendations!


31 May 2017

how to spend 24 hours in prague.

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Every so often - usually when I get very bored during my lunch break and can't be bothered to fight the crowds to go to Pret in Westminster - I find myself looking for cheap holidays and then if I find one, even if I had no intention of booking, suddenly I'm clicking away and moving money around to just about afford it. It's a bit of a problem when the world is so big and there's so much to see, and an even bigger problem when cheap holidays exist and countries like the Czech Republic are cheap to get to and explore.

So me and a couple of friends made our way to Prague for a super short break to scratch another country off the scratch map and here's a few things we got up to.

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Joined a walking tour

A lot of people think that going on a walking tour is a bit of a cheesy, crappy touristy way of seeing a city but it's something I pretty much always do when I first arrive in a new city. They're a great way to get your bearings in a new place and there were so many departing from the Old Town Square in Prague that we really had our pick of different tours at whatever time we fancied. Our guide was definitely an unusual woman, but she did take us to Prague's "creepiest church" where a dead man's arm is hanging from the wall. You can read the full story here, but I doubt it's something I would have found on my own, as I'm pretty bad at doing my research about a city before I go on one.  The great thing about these tours is that you can get free ones and pay what you think they're worth, meaning you never feel done in. 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Saw the Astronomical Clock

Yes, it was slightly underwhelming but it's also quite incredible that it's the oldest working clock of its type in existence. It's hard to work out, but once you do it's pretty awesome. I do recommend finding yourself nearby on the hour to watch it chime the hour, but you do have to pay attention to make sure you don't miss it - it's quite quick! 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Spent time in Old Town Square

Prague has two main squares: the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, the latter of which meant that I had the Christmas carol stuck in my head for most of the trip. I was not a big fan of Wenceslas Square, which is a bit of a stag do hotspot with pretty crap architecture but Old Town Square was completely the opposite. The architecture was incredible and you could stand on the Square and just soak in the history. Make sure you pay particular attention to the Church of Our Lady before Týn and Old Town Hall - incredible buildings that I couldn't get enough of. 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Visited the Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. It's one of the most preserved Jewish areas in Europe, partly because Hitler wanted to preserve it as a "museum of an extinct race" which is, of course, bloody vile but a big part of the history of the area. Take a look inside in the Spanish Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue (including its Holocaust memorial) and walk through the Old Jewish Cemetery. Don't forget to pay a visit to the statue of one of the area's most famous residents, Franz Kafka, on Dusni Street which depicts a man riding on another man's shoulders and originally appeared in Kafka's "Description of a Struggle". 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague


It's really hard to avoid beer in Prague - it's pretty much the only thing that many bars seem to serve and it's ridiculously cheap. There are quite a few varieties of beer, all among the same light theme which can keep you going for some time. Of course, we tried most of the popular local varieties, like Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar. And at around £1.50 for a pint, it's pretty hard to say no. 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Walked uphill to Prague Castle

We walked into the Malá Strana district and started the uphill walk to Prague Castle. If you're not a big fan of hills, then there's plenty of shops, bars and squares to take a rest on the way up. It's worth it! When you arrive, if you ignore the random Starbucks at the top, you get some of the best views of the city that Prague has to offer. Prague Castle itself is a little underwhelming if you're expecting a traditional castle, it looks more like an old-school town hall, but honestly, the views and the atmosphere are definitely worth it. 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

Walked across the Charles Bridge

It's a ten-minute walk from Old Town Square and another place in Prague to capture those incredible views of the city. The statues along the way are great to stop and look at along the walk across the bridge. It's absolutely full of tourists, so get there early if you want to be able to get across, or do like we did and head across when there was some rain which seemed to put a lot of the other tourists off! Once you've reached the other side, head to the left and visit the John Lennon wall, which was once a wall full of graffiti where young Czech's would complain about the Communist regime and is now more of a mural to "peace and love". 

how to spend 24 hours in prague

how to spend 24 hours in prague

If you ever get bored during one of your lunch breaks and find yourself looking for a quick and cheap city break to get away to, then you can't really go wrong with Prague. If you've got any ideas for any others, then do let me know!


29 May 2017

that was the week that was: drie

This week I'm recovering from...driving lessons. I've found the whole process extremely stressful so far even though I already had a vague idea on how to drive from when I learnt when I was seventeen. Right at this moment I don't know how I'll ever be able to get myself to test standard but I'm just thanking God that I'm learning to drive somewhere quiet and not in London. I've been trying to take some of Rebecca's advice and ignore whether other drivers are getting pissed off with me. 

This week I'm looking forward to...getting out and about and exploring a little. I'm determined to make the most of the next two weeks that I have off work and actually go and see some things that have been on my list for a while. I doubt I'll get the chance to have this much time off work ever again (unless there's another general election this year - hope not) so I really need to do something vague productive with it. 

This week I'm feeling apprehensive about...going to a hen do. It's a good friend of mine from Uni getting married, and we lived together for a year and so I know mostly everything there is to know about her, but I barely know anyone else going and I'm always a bit apprehensive about things that might be considered "enforced fun". I'm sure it will be fun, but I'm just a bit nervous about the whole thing, especially as I haven't been to a hen do before (unless you count my Mums, which I don't think I do).

This week I'm loving...Bodyshop's Drops of Light Brightening Essence Lotion, which was a completely random purchase for me but seems to be working out quite well. I've only just started using it but I'm pretty sure I can already see a little bit of a difference in my complexion. I've been really enjoying re-discovering the Bodyshop lately.

This week I've been grateful for...not having to endure a heat wave in London. One of the great things about being back at home in the 'burbs is that when it's night you can actually open your windows and not have to listen to busy noises and whatever else. My flat in London is on a main road, next to what seems to be the most popular bar in Clapham (if you possibly exclude Infernos...) and a tube station and in the hot weather I just don't stand a chance. I'm absolutely crap with the heat anyway. 

This week I'm listening to...The Great British Breakfast playlist on Spotify. The whole thing reminds me of being at Uni, and is also the kind of music my Dad listens to when he's washing up which is a great nostalgic memory for me. 

What are you up to this week?

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