GeekStar5: 5 years on, 5 roles later, 1 love affair

Five years ago I thought I was going to become a pop-sensation.

Okay, not quite, but I was firmly set on the idea of producing my own music and had just set up a youtube channel and was beginning to cover songs, record and gig. It was great, I truly loved it. And now, sitting here five years later listening to that first track I ever recorded and stuck up online, I can honestly say that I’m actually rather proud of it. I don’t think I come across as a silly kid which is nice, for a change.

My engagement with music over the past five years has seen a full transformation. From that kid on the stage I’ve since been the reviewer at the back, the groupie post-show wanting to stay the whole night, the event manager, and the band booker. It’s been hugely varied, at times extremely stressful but what I can say for absolute certain is that my love affair with the industry – and the personalities who occupy it – is just as real now as it was five years ago. I may no longer hanker to be the ‘star of the show’ but I still dream of my involvement in some small way.

So what is it that I still find appealing about the musical world?

I think it’s the variation and the excitement; although a slightly less savoury answer, but one that is equally true nonetheless, would be the celebrity factor. As a kid it became quickly apparent that I had some ‘fame complex’ much akin to the one that Russell Brand described when he spoke at the Cambridge Union last year. In fact, he’s the only person to describe something scarily similar to how I felt. Combined with a fear of death – and when I say fear, I mean tear-inducing – it made for a difficult growing up. The realisation, for those who have a fame complex, that they may never reach what is not just a goal but a desperate need, is horrific. I’m sure now that part of my intense fear of death was coupled with this: I would constantly worry about not being remembered and having never achieved anything of note.

Thankfully today I am not quite so much this fame-focused youth. I like to think that I have put most of those demons to bed. Admittedly, though, there are parts of this that will never go away and I am intensely aware that my love affair with music is propelled by the last vestiges of it. I’m not so sure that this is a bad thing really, however. I mean, consider the number of people who go into professions on the basis that they want to get rich quick and retire at 30; consider the number of people who stupidly, and I mean stupidly, abuse their bodies in order to look just like Kim Kardashian or any other celebrity figure for that matter. On that basis, the fame complex that pushes me to get involved with music/events/the media/journalism is not so much of a bad thing at all.

In fact, I rather like it. It’s a part of me.

So five years on from GeekStar5 (our wonderful little youtube name), I’ve had five roles in music but the one love affair still remains. And long may it reign.

And I’m back

For those who will remember I wrote at the end of last term about how disconnected I felt to my degree and pretty much everything that I was involved with. Today, I can happily report that I am out of the woods. Finally I feel back to ‘normal’, what ever this ‘normal’ really is anyway.

Whilst the Christmas break gave me some welcome breathing space, coming back to Cambridge and all that it has to throw at you hasn’t been trouble free. I spent the last week feeling rather uneasy, was eating for the sake of having something to do rather than because of desire, and fighting what was a rather bizarre urge to leave. But, after talking to the rents on that so often forgotten phone, and organising a quick trip home this coming weekend I feel much more content. My work is becoming far more engaging now that I have switched to modules on US foreign policy and the Middle East – I study Politics for those who haven’t quite worked out yet what my newfangled degree HSPS actually stands for – and working at the Union is most definitely the best decision I have made so far. I’ve even applied for an internship or two which has been a huge struggle, considering the way in which my career ambitions flit between being extremely vague to oh-so-set-on-that-which-has-no-internship, journalism.

I know this isn’t a particularly long or inspiring post, or really anything at all. It’s just me checking back in, letting you all know that I am fully intending to kick-start writing this blog again – yes that does indeed mean that you will be seeing more of me on your dashboards, apologies in advance.

The BBC News presenter just said ‘hundreds of glitters’ rather than ‘hundreds of gritters’. It made me particularly happy, perhaps more than it should. So i’ll take that as a hint to get back to my reading on the French Revolution and say ‘adios’. Until next time folks, heads up, we can do this.

Oh yeah, I love fish in my tea

So after trotting home last week from London – I say trotting, it was more of a slump back as I got ill on the last day with the usual end of term cold/cough/deathlike feeling. It had managed to stay away for a week longer than previously, so you know, hats off to the immune system to lasting just that little bit longer. Anyhow, after trotting home with my bag full of goodies I was really looking forward to providing my mum with some ‘beauty tea’ which I had picked up on Friday lunch. I had thought ‘oh fab, some crazy sounding tea…mum likes things like that, I’ll give it to her’.

Now living in a house full of vegetarians, with everyone else not having dairy products either, makes us rather savvy when it comes to checking packets. I pride myself on the fact that I know the contents of the vast majority of random ingredients to watch out for. Now, despite this customary wariness to new food stuffs, I have never felt the need to check the packaging on tea. Because, well, it’s tea. Which is a leaf. Which is picked, traditionally, by hand and dried. Normally I do not have alarm bells ringing telling me that I need to be concerned about the animal products that may be contained within tea, but maybe, just maybe, this is naïvety which will become shattered as I turn old and grey.

Anyhow, I’ve managed to avoid drinking dead animals thus far and I don’t feel the need to change my habits now, so when I was given a box of ‘beauty tea: red tea with collagen protein, apple favour and honey flavour’ I didn’t think to check whether it was veggie, because, well it’s tea. So back home, with box in hand, I announced I had a gift for mother fresh from the office, which claimed to be beautiful. Or make you beautiful, I can’t remember which.

Taking the packet out of my bag, mum asked what sort of tea they used. I could only reply that it was red, so I turned to the back to find the ingredients, which as noted before I have never felt the need to do before. On noting that you needed to dissolve the content of the package in 100ml of hot or cold water, I decided that this wasn’t the tea that I was necessarily hoping for. This wasn’t going to be normal tea. So we decided to investigate further and in doing so discover that this tea contained Hydrolysed (fish)Collagen Protein…. FISH, FISH IN TEA. NO THAT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG. Also, whilst the makers of beauty tea felt the need to put in bold font that it was GLUTEN FREE, they didn’t feel the need to put in bold font CONTAINS FISH.

So there I was just a kettles boil away from downing fishy tea, without the makers of the product making it clear that it contained this random, strange additive. Call me old fashioned, but I think it is equally important, if not more so – to be completely frank – to make it clear that a product contains fish not just that it is gluten free.

Oh great, anyone who likes to avoid gluten will be happy but all those who don’t consume meat or fish products will be left with a sour taste knowing that they clearly aren’t considered equally by the beauty tea company.

So Merry Christmas beauty tea, you nearly took away my life long abstinence from fish products but never fear I noticed before it was too late. And now, rather than writing about how marvellous your product was, I am writing a rant about how you failed to package and label your product correctly. Oh, ’tis the season to be jolly.

The offending item
The offending item

Hello, this is Asia Lambert from The Times

For anyone who is even remotely interested in journalism, I swear this is a real gold dust phrase, or at least when I get to say it it makes me feel special…like a 5 year old at Christmas. Slightly cringe, I know, but still, it’s true.

The reason I bring this up is because I spent some of my day ringing up stores getting to use these 8 wonderful words and in doing so I realised how much the Union has helped me. I used to be so afraid of the phone. I would actively avoid making calls if they weren’t to anyone other than my parents, and the only friend I could muster the courage to hold a conversation with was Jenny, my best friend of the past 8 years or so. Fast forward, I now spend part of my week working at the Cambridge Union ringing up publishers and agents and begging them to give me contact details and email addresses…pretty handy seeing as that was essentially what I had to do today, except it sounded slightly more authoritative and everyone likes publicity so they were much more compliant.

Today, on a slightly worrying note, marks my penultimate day at The Times this year. I don’t mean to sound up-my-self but I worked here last summer so I feel like I can pretend that this is going to be a tradition that continues on indefinitely. Whether or not this becomes a reality I will have to leave to the hands of the journalistic Gods, but for now I’ll run with it.

In addition to finding my voice today (unfortunately for the rest of the world I don’t mean this literally) I have learnt the true meaning of Christmas in the office. FREE GIFTS. So many winged their way to the desks today from companies wishing to best please the journalists who have pushed forward their brands onto the pages. Sitting on the fashion desk meant I saw personalised beanie hats from Whistles, shirts, scalves, books, sweets and, of course, a never ending supply of fancy chocolates. I was super lucky in being offered a load of tasters and feel like I’ve probably consumed my weight in macaroons, chocolate, nut and marzipan creations. They’ve all been amazing, and all provided simply as a company thank you for some kind words in print. I didn’t realise that it was such a strong practice, but looking over the office and counting the sheer volume of packages, bags and boxes under and next to desks, empty wrappers and cartons, I can safely say that the journalist wins at this time of year.

So, with a heavy heart (and stomach) I finish my Thursday, sign off and look forward to one last evening in London before returning to the normalcy of life in Norfolk.

I want to be a superfood scoffing powerhouse

I swear that this is what the London life makes you want to do.

The morning tube trek, sat – or let’s be honest, more often stood – next to suit-clad men and women, immaculately groomed; the lunch break search, staring at salad boxes and smoothies; the office chatter from surrounding desks of new-fad diets and the latest holiday destinations and culinary explorations… Suddenly my undergrad work, high-street bought office attire, free Waitrose coffee and homemade lasagne look uninteresting, amateur and, if I’m being completely honest out of place.

It seems that in this city of shiny metal, high rise buildings and 24 hour living, you must forever be moving with the tide of fashion, power-driven and hungry for the top. It’s almost paradoxical: in aiming to be individual and perfectionist you become part of the machine, one of the many, and the normal – I mean, bog-standard normal – becomes the stand-out, odd one out.

I wish I could say that I have avoided falling into the trap but I am not immune. I want to wear the snazzy clothing, be able to dine on superfood and smoothly integrate with office chitchat. Instead I’m left looking at my Eat Natural bar (my choice was dark chocolate, popcorn and peanut filled despite it being my vague attempt at healthy eating) with slight frustration.

I looked up flats in Hoxton today because I heard someone in the office talking about how that was where she lived. I’ve got no idea about what is affordable in London but there were some places that didn’t look as if they’d kill you for around £300 a week. I cried a little inside considering how this is double what I currently pay in Cambridge, except at least there I have the luxury of only paying for 30 out of 52 weeks a year and a government loan to foot the bill until eventually, if and when the day ever comes, I earn over the £21k threshold and start paying it all back…plus interest. Yet I know that this is probably a rarity and in reality I would have to spend far far much more when I move to the capital in a few years time.

Funny that. ‘When I move’. God, I really have set my future in stone, at least in my mind anyway, regardless of whether I’m ever able to turn these dreams into reality.

But back to the grindstone…for the while at least I’ll stick to what I know, i.e. cheap eating and dressing and an avoidance of gossip magazines and fad-dieting, and hope that hard work might just get me to where I want to go in life.

My sleepless Cambridge nights turned good

I used to spend my Wednesday nights not sleeping but instead sub-editing The Cambridge Student newspaper. People used to think I was absolutely bonkers staying up all night and taking just an hour or two long nap before my first lecture of the day at 10am. Yet now I am putting all that I learned to good use, reading over copy of the weekend pull-out for The Times and spotting any errors that may be there. If I had known that this would have been the case, I’d probably have gone more often, or tried to keep doing it even with rowing outings at 6am the next day.

It’s a great lesson to take away from your time at uni, no matter where it may be…every opportunity you have to engage in something outside of your degree should be taken with both hands. You never know where and when it might come in handy.

My view at lunch. Pretty cool, right?

Aside from my reminiscing about how I’ve managed to get lucky in transferring past exploits into future career helpers, today’s been pretty cool as I got to try some fancy-pancy chocolates that had been sent in as a sample. They usually cost about £150 a box, apparently. I’m sorry, that’s just mental, like stupidly over-expensive – I really don’t care how good your chocolates are I’m never going to understand why someone would, or should, pay so much for the privilege of eating them. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a damn good chocolate…but I’d probably be just as happy scoffing through a terry’s chocolate orange alone in a corner than being out of pocket with a tiny box of about 10 pieces.

I'm next door to The Shard....THE SHARD!
I’m next door to The Shard….THE SHARD!

So if this is the life of those who write features and more specialist articles then I definitely want in. I’d be quite happy to receive numerous packages a week to sift through and sample the best of what an industry has to offer; who wouldn’t? I may not have experience writing about how things taste, whether make-up covers smoothly, or judging the speed of some new gadget trickery, but if I can stay up all night reading over script looking for that one error that makes a page look sloppy then I can certainly try. And you know what, if I can have the view that I have right now whilst doing it then I’ll snatch your hand off at the opportunity.

Well hello there, London

Although I’m facing a computer screen I am well aware of the fact that behind me sits The Shard and the rest of the London skyline. I am such a massive fan of the capital that I’m not sure I can put into words just quite how excited this makes me. London has been my dream for as long as I can remember, so whenever I have the opportunity to go there I accept before those little typing dots you get on Facebook have disappeared. If you don’t know what I mean by that, then basically, I’m very very quick to say yes.

This week I’m working at The Times which has the most amazing office on the 11th floor of The News Building which is next door to The Shard. You really don’t get much better than that. I was lucky enough to work there a few summers ago when they were based near Tower Bridge so it’s a strange mixture of familiarity and the unknown.

Journalism has quickly become my chosen field, or at least it seems that this is the direction that my future seems to be headed. I honestly feel like I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet some lovely people in the field who have been happy to help and show me the ropes. Coming back this summer feels like a strange coming-of-age: for the first time I’m working in the Capital on my own two feet without someone alongside me who I’ve met previously. It feels pretty great actually, I’m not worrying about whether people think I’m there because of who I know rather than my own ‘talents’; lets be honest, whilst it’s great having someone to support you, all anyone really wants is to receive their own recognition.

So here I am, typing away at a keyboard that seems strangely clunky in comparison to the rest of the surroundings, in an office block full of journalists whom I admire and aspire to be. I’ve had my take-out noodle soup for lunch and I feel suitably in-tune with the smart-casual vibe they have going on here. I don’t think I look too much like I’ve just stepped out of school – for a change – and it’s fair to say I’m keeping up to speed. Looks like I’ve got a busy, but nonetheless enjoyable, week ahead. I really can’t wait.

Getting the balance right

So I have failed completely to get the work life balance right this term at Cambridge. It’s the first time that I’ve ever really sat back and realised that I haven’t been focused on what is the most important thing – when you cut away all the other bits and bobs that Cambridge has to offer – i.e. the Degree.

Over Michaelmas term I have become a true pro at taking on and trying out new experiences, all in the name of procrastination. Before ‘coming up’ in September to start trialling with the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, I had made the firm decision that I would only trial on top of my degree work for Michaelmas, as training takes up so much time that you need to spend the rest focusing on your lectures and supervision work.

I failed on this within the first week of October when I signed up to the Cambridge Union Society’s Vacation Committee which invites speakers for the following term (Lent 2015). I ended up having such a jolly time with them all that I decided I could handle sending invites for Debates and Speakers in term-time whilst trialling no problem. Clearly I had forgotten that I was no superwoman, I did not have an unnaturally good ability to juggle tasks, and that yes, I was indeed kidding myself if I was to even think momentarily about not watching a gazilion episodes of masterchef every week as standard.

Before I knew it, however, I was promoted. Becoming Deputy Speakers Officer put an extra nail in my degree’s coffin as it meant I now needed to commit more time every week and actually do the important stuff, liaising with agents. And then I became even more distracted…The Union’s Bicentenary Ball Committee – the Union turns 200 next year and is having a big birthday party, essentially – needed a Music Officer, and considering my love of music journalism, the idea of choosing acts for the bash sounded amazing. So I applied…and was accepted…whoops.

Sensible plan out of the window within Week 1.

Since then I’ve failed to recover. Switching to Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club from the Women’s should have put my rowing commitment hours down, but I think if anything it increased them. I stopped enjoying the attachments I had to sport and even the Union, because they were no longer things I was just doing for fun, they each had commitments which needed my full attention, which I simply could not give because I was juggling too much all at once. On top of it all, I was no longer connecting with my degree work; no longer was I finding reading Politics at Cambridge University something which excited me. Instead, it was like another burden, another thing which was preventing me from committing myself to everything which I was involved in.

Fundamentally then, what I have learnt from this term is how to not get the balance right. I completely overkilled it. Last week I made the decision to leave the trialling process with CULRC as something had to give and in truth I feel so much better about it now I have dropped the sport. My waistline may disagree, as I now have no weight restrictions and can just bumble along as merry little me through christmas. So much good food, so little time to eat it all – if you know my family, then you know how true this is.

But on to pastures new, turn over a new leaf, all those ridiculous phrases that you get sick of no end when it comes to the new year…they’re all starting a month early for me. Now is my fresh start, with the rowing behind me I can move on to concentrate on spending the Christmas break catching up on the reading that escaped me, pinging off applications for summer work that I had tried to pretend never even existed, and spending time with my family who I have severely neglected over the past 3 months.

Learn the lesson from me kids: Cambridge is not a walk in the park. You do need to concentrate otherwise you will fall behind. Whilst it has so many good things on offer that you can dive straight in to – and I fully recommend that you do – you need to be sensible, and work out what fits well together, what can you realistically fit into a week without feeling like your brain is going to burst from restricting sleep to the bare minimum hours. I can only hope that I can get it right moving forward, and I tell you what, the day my mum doesn’t think I look exhausted when I see her during term time will be an absolute triumph.

Thoughts on 1st Year

I have been recently asked to write an article about life at University and how I’ve changed, so I thought I would share with you my first draft. So often when it comes to writing pieces like these they develop really naturally and you end up following a different thought-path than you might have imagined. Currently I am really happy with the direction this has taken, although I will have to wait until I hear back to see if it does fit the bill. That being said, I am sharing it with you all now so you can see my ‘true’ voice on the subject before it is taken to with a knife.

Cambridge: A place where dreams are made and broken in equal measure. Whilst this sounds bleak, I think it surmises the attraction of the place. A year after arriving I feel I am no closer to achieving one of the famous mantra – first, blue or husband – but does that concern me? Not really, no.

Instead, I have become a pro at scavenging free food at events; learnt to tolerate wine where necessary; memorise college entry points which avoid the plodge, and let the entire world see how appalling my dancing is by ‘advertising’ the college corridors on YouTube. My average weekly Sainsbury’s shop comes in at £10 and after all that saving I managed to blow it on May Week trotting through 3 May Balls, 1 June Event, 1 Boat Club dinner and 4 Garden Parties.

I did successfully pass first year, I might add, before you think it’s all fun and games.

I almost have to pinch myself when I realise how quickly the past 12 months have gone by, yet at the same time I feel like I have been here for many-a-year. Cambridge seems to operate in it’s own time-bubble. You’re never quite sure how long you have been here, the days merge together and the hours that once belonged to the night are now your own.

As a fresher I didn’t quite believe what I was about to embark upon until I had finally reached the college door and was handed my camcard, complete with a picture taken a year previously when filling out my SAQ – much to my horror. I still haven’t worked out why exactly, but I had kept thinking to myself that I would never actually make it, as if my acceptance letter had been a mistake.

A common misconception about Cambridge students: we do not all arrive as sure-of-ourselves-know-it-alls. If anything, the majority arrive still carrying thoughts of self-doubt. But as I sit here now looking back over the year, they have finally dispelled. Cambridge provides you with that much needed inner confidence. As a woman, Newnham supports this even further.

Newnham is my haven. I can come home and relax, tucked away from the crowds that throng King’s Parade, who are seemingly on a suicide-mission throwing themselves into my bikes path.

My evenings are often spent sitting in the buttery and nattering to friends long after opening hours. I even challenged myself to work there in exam term after the lights dimmed at 11pm, simply because I liked how comfy the round leather chairs are.

Clearly some of my childhood simplicity still remains; long may it continue.

United? Maybe. Democratic? Certainly.

This morning the results of the Scottish referendum were announced: the Better Together campaign, or no camp, won with 55% share of the vote. Whilst the roughly 1.6 million voters who chose to opt for independence will be disappointed with the outcome, what cannot be disputed is that it has been a success for the democratic process.

Overall turnout sits at 85% – the highest we have ever experience in a western referendum, or really any election ever to be perfectly honest. You cannot deny the strength of the Scottish people’s voice in this election no matter what side of the vote you sit on.

However, whilst I am very happy that the Scottish people have in the majority decided to stay in the United Kingdom, I cannot help but feel left with a sense of longing for these dizzying participation heights to continue. Next May the General Election will be held across the UK and I hope that we witness similarly high levels of turnout in order to best achieve a truly representative parliament – as far as the FPTP system allows, of course.

Yet, my hopes will surely never be realised. Sadly, I highly doubt that we will have such high participation rates – although the presence of UKIP at the general election this year will be likely to drive more new voters out in force I am sure. Further still, even if the unprecedented were to happen and we did reach upwards of 80% turnout I don’t believe that the election system would cope with the numbers. The count would be delayed; people would be turned away at the polling booths; there would be outrage and the number of spoilt ballot papers from those who have not received a proper education on how the voting process works would probably also be high.

So my positivity this morning is slightly tainted. I am happy knowing the United Kingdom remains whole yet slightly bruised from the whole affair, I am optimistic about the potential for the future of voting; but I am sceptical about whether this will ever be truly realised.