Top 5 Places I Want to Travel To

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I’ve done my fair share of travelling in my time, but there are plenty of places I have my eye on for future wunderlust adventures. Here I’ll list my top five places I want to travel to before… well, before I die, hopefully!

These places are in no particular order.

1

Amsterdam

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(c) teleport.org

I want to visit the ‘Dam (or more commonly known as Amster-dayyum) for a number of reasons. One of the biggest draws for me is the Van Gogh museum, as he is one of my favourite artists, couple this with staying in the Van Gogh hostel next door and you’ve pretty much ticked every box. I would also love to visit the Anne Frank Haus (it’s kind of blasphemy not to when travelling the ‘Dam), and, of course, it’s one of the settings for one of my favourite books The Fault in Our Stars.

2

Agloe, New York

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(c) John Green

Another pin on the map (see what I did there…) from man himself, John Green. I have technically driven past Agloe when I traveled around New York state a few years ago, but I would love to go back and spend some time there, get a photograph with the famous sign and relive the experience of Paper Towns.

2

Franklin, Tennessee

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(c) pulte.com

Yet another place in America that I didn’t get the opportunity to visit. Franklin is a small town south of Nashville, home to one of my favourite all-time bands Paramore. They grew up here, went to school here, created their first album here, and their roots are still very much planted in this lovely little town. I would love to go and soak in the atmosphere that made Paramore the band they are today.

4

Disneyland California

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(c) paylessairportshuttle.com

Quite a specific location, don’t you think? Well there is method in my madness. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris, once, when I was ten years old, and two years ago I went to Disneyland Florida, specifically to MGM studios, and had an amazing time. My next Disney-themed trip, I hope, will be to the California resort, just to complete the golden trio. Also, Disneyland California is host to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, one of my favourite Disney princesses!

5

Hahei, New Zealand

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(c) amazonawes.com

Again, this pick is literary themed. I would love to visit Hahei, specifically Cathedral Cove, where a lot of the exteriors for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie were shot. Every time I watch this movie, I am completely breath taken by the landscape and would love to visit myself, and step into a real (almost) Narnia.

These are my top five picks (so far!) let me know if you think I’ve missed any vital photo ops down in the comments.

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Top 20 Albums I Love (1-10)

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I started developing my own music taste around the age of twelve years old. This also coincided with the exposure of Busted, who were my first music-based obsession, closely followed by McFly, their prodigies. I am now aged twenty four and my music taste has changed a lot since then, (well, not THAT much. I still love Busted and McFly), and I wanted to compile my top 20 albums that I love.

These albums are in no particular order

Pioneer by The Maine

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I love the story of this album just as much as I love the album itself. In the wake of their success of ‘the difficult second album‘ Black and White, The Maine still felt dissatisfied by their experience of working with a major label, and made their third album, Pioneer, in secret. When they eventually revealed the album to their record company, they decided to part ways and were released from their contract. Ever since, The Maine have been doing it for themselves, and have gone from strength to strength under their self-management/label 8123, and have toured around the world with another two albums.

Songs to Love: Time, Some Days, Don’t Give Up on Us, When I’m At Home, Jenny, Like We Did, Listening to Rock and Roll.

American Candy by The Maine

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This album is the latest to be dropped from The Maine and shows their growth as musicians, not only from Pioneer, but also from their first album Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, which was released back in 2008. What I love about The Maine is that every album contains and different sound, a different perspective, shows maturity and tells a story, so it was so difficult to only pick two for this list. Whilst this album goes back to their earlier pop-rock roots, The Maine have established themselves as staples in the alternative rock genre.

Songs to Love: Same Suit Different Tie, My Hair, English Girls, 24 Floors, Diet Soda Society, Am I Pretty?

The Final Riot! by Paramore

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I am a listener who loves live albums, and The Final Riot! by Paramore is one I have listened to on repeat. This album perfectly sums up their first two records, and shows just how incredible the band sound in a live venue. The crowd goes wild, the band goes wild, and even though Hayley Williams rocks the show like it’s her own, this record proves that Paramore IS A BAND.

Songs to Love: That’s What You Get, Here We Go Again, crushcrushcrush, When It Rains, My Heart, Decoy, Pressure, Emergency, Misery Business.

Brand New Eyes by Paramore

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The last album before the in-famous depature of the Farro brothers and showed just how fraught things became between them. Although the band insisted things were better, the cracks were clear with this album that detailed the intense feelings of judgement that the members were placing on each other. One thing I particularly love about this album is that it captures so candidly the no man’s land between growing up, and the frustration at the world as one matures.

Songs to Love: Playing God, Brick by Boring Brick, Turn it Off, Looking Up, Where the Lines Overlap, Misguided Ghosts, Decode.

Paramore by Paramore

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I know what you’re probably thinking. Three Paramore albums in one list?! But I couldn’t do a top twenty album list and NOT include this beauty. A lot of Paramore fans, including myself, worried about what the sound of Paramore would be like PF, (post-Farro), as a lot of the melodies were written by Hayley and Josh. Their chemistry, their love, which unfortunately came to an end ,(and probably was partly to blame for the Farro’s depature), was what fueled the spark of Paramore, or so we thought. The truth was, we didn’t have to worry. Paramore came back live and kicking without the Farro brothers and gave us the gift that was their self-titled album. Mixing pop/rock/funk was something I never thought I would see on a mainstream album, and I don’t think I ever will again.

Songs to Love: Daydreaming, Ain’t It Fun, Last Hope, Still into You, Anklebiters, Proof, Hate to See Your Heart Break.

Big Skies by Nick Santino

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Another prodigy from 8123, Nick Santino released his solo album Big Skies after being a part A Rocket to the Moon before they split. This album captures the ache of unrequited love and plays it out on this up-tempo, slightly western-infused acoustic-come-rock album that gives Nick Santino his unique sound.

Songs to Love: Bad Taste, I Can’t Say I Miss You, Long Way Home, Mood Ring Eyes.

Young Pilgrim by Charlie Simpson

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Like many, I found Charlie Simpson through his success in Busted, and although I was devastated when his departure split up my love affair with the band, I’m (in a round about way) very glad he did. See, if Charlie had never quit Busted, then he may never have had a solo career, and made this fantastic album, that showed everyone what Charlie was really made of. This acoustic-based album with beautiful poetic lyrics is one of my all time favourites.

Songs to Love: Down Down, Parachutes, All At Once, Thorns, Hold On, Sundown, Riverbanks.

Long Road Home by Charlie Simpson

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Charlie’s not-so-difficult second album is just as good as his first. It shows a slightly more mature and refined sound but has just as many hits on it as it’s predecessor. Charlie’s voice is unmistakable, whether you’re a Busted fan, a Fightstar fan or just a fan of old Charlie boy himself, it’s this album that allows him to make his mark as a solo artist.

Songs to Love: Long Road Home, Comets, Emily, Haunted, Blood, Still Young.

The Dance by Fleetwood Mac

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As I said before, I love live albums, and I consider this to be one of Fleetwood Mac’s hidden gems. Recorded in 1997, The Dance showcases the band behind the mask, behind the headlines and the stories, the real people who made music just because they loved it. They play all the hits, they talk the talk and walk the walk. This album is one that delivers time and time again.

Songs to Love: The Chain, Dreams, Everywhere, Rhiannon, I’m So Afraid, Temporary One, Big Love, Landslide, Say You Love Me, Silver Springs, You Make Loving Fun, Go Your Own Way, Tusk, Don’t Stop.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

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It would be sacralidge to do a ‘favourite albums’ list and not include one of the most well know, well loved albums of all time. This record is certified Diamond (yes, I didn’t know it was a thing either), and has sold over twenty eight million copies to date. Impressive, even more so, as this was the album the masked the lies, the drugs and the breakups that Fleetwood Mac is renowned for. I’ll let it’s legacy speak for itself.

Songs to Love: Dreams, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way, Songbird, Silver Springs, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, I Don’t Wanna Know.

Stay tuned to part two of my list of favourite albums coming soon!

Franklin (Part 3)

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Haley and I became inseparable. If we weren’t in class together, we were catching up at lunch, usually in the music room, and we always sat next to each other on the bus home. We started writing songs together, playing music and goofing off. Sometimes Jared would join us on bass, but it wasn’t until senior year, when we were playing open mic nights around Nashville that we realised we had a good thing going.

Haley practically lived with us, especially over the summer months. It was becoming tradition on the last day of school to walk home together instead of take the bus. Mom and Dad would be waiting for us and we’d have a barbecue that evening. It was always sunny on the last day.

Tim would make a fire and we’d sit around, cook sausages, toast marshmallows and eat s’mores, and talk about how much fun we were going to have over the summer. For Haley and I, that usually meant writing more music.

Afterwards, we would all set up camp in the basement, watch movies until the early hours of the morning and eat chocolate, just because there was no school the next day. Tim would fall asleep eventually, but Haley and I would always stay awake to watch the sunrise from the roof of the garage.

We sat there quietly, the red tones of Haley’s hair illuminated in the sun’s glow. She caught me staring and smiled.

“We’re not going to be able to do this next year,” she said.

“We will, it’ll just be…”

“Different,” she finished and forced a weak smile.

“We’ll be thinking about our future, and making the most of the time we have left.”

She sighed. “Mom is really against us going to college together.”

“Whatever,” I shrugged. “That’s our decision.”

“I just feel like I’m not ready, you know?”

“I know.” She looked out at the rising sun again, and I wrapped my arm around her tightly. “I bet you wouldn’t mind getting away from your mom and John though?” I said.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

“It’s not fair that he treats you the way that he does. I know you don’t think so, but believe me he treats you like shit.”

“He doesn’t hit me,” she replied.

“It’s not about that.” I kept quiet because I didn’t want to argue with her. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. “I just hate him hurting you,” I muttered, picking at the holes in my jeans.

Haley laid her head on my shoulder, and I rested mine on top of hers. Haley was right, leaving wasn’t easy no matter what we had to face. Leaving meant change, just when everything was starting to make sense for us.

We stayed like that for a while. We would be thankful for another year in Franklin, pushing the thoughts of the last “last day” from our minds.

~

Present Day

Mom closed the lounge door. I felt suffocated, smuggled blind, kicking and screaming into a situation that I had been trying to avoid. I hated confrontation, especially now. Haley and I had argued so much recently that I was sick of it. Haley paced the room, and I could see the rage in her eyes.

“You didn’t say anything, you just left.”

“I couldn’t do it, I thought you of all people would understand that,” I cried.

“I do, Taylor, but I thought something had happened to you.”

“I buried my father, that’s what happened.”

“I know this has been really tough for you, but if you had just… left a note… or -?”

“I just had to take some time out,” I insisted. My eyes were burning into hers, but not the way they usually did. “Things were getting… too hard.”

“I know that.”

“So why don’t you get off my back?” I could feel the heat rising from me.

“I’m not on your back.”

“Well, it feels just like that.”

“I know we’re not the same kids anymore, Taylor, but don’t treat me like a stranger.”

“I’m not.”

“I came down here because my boyf… my friend, my best friend, isn’t okay and that’s what friends do. What happened to night time walks around campus, or studying together after class or just playing music, like we used to.”

“We’re not those people anymore, Hales.”

Tears started welling in her eyes. “You haven’t called me that in a long time.”

“Jesus – I can’t do this -,”

“Why can’t you write music in front of me anymore, Taylor?” She asked. I couldn’t give her an answer no matter how hard I tried. “Is it because the songs are about me? The songs that we used to write together about our identity and friendship, about Franklin and us – do you remember that?” I avoided her gaze. “Are those songs we used to write now about me? Why did you push me away?”

“I don’t write music in front of you anymore because I can’t bear to – because everything has changed since then, Haley.” I took a breath, trying to work out everything that was going on in my mind.

“Taylor -,”

“I didn’t mean to push you away.”

“I think ‘cut me out’ is a more appropriate phrase.”

I thought I hated her for that.

“It’s because I care about what you think of me,” I cried. “I care if I fail in front of you. For so long I’ve spent my time looking after you, and I cannot accept the fact that I need looking after too.”

Haley closed her eyes, and let a small tear fall onto her cheek. “I know that.” Her voice was dry, and she sniffed loudly. “I’m here for you.”

“I’m not okay…” I resigned myself to it. I couldn’t pretend anymore. “I needed to come home and be with my Mom. I can’t settle at college knowing she’s here on her own.”

“She has Tim.”

“I know, but Tim has his own family to think about.” I saw in Haley’s eyes that she knew how I felt. “I thought I could go back to college but I don’t think I can,” I said.

She nodded. “If you think the best thing to do is come home then…”

“I know,” I reassured her. “I never thought we’d be having this conversation either.”

“It just scares me that I have to do this without you,” she whispered, and stepped forward to wrap her arms around my waist. I rested my chin on the top of her head, inhaling her scent all over again. I felt a stab of guilt, but I couldn’t decide what was right. “Where are we now?” She asked, looking up at me.

“I’m always going to love you, Hales. That’s all I’ve got.” She nodded, and I kissed her forehead, then looking down at her. “I’ll take you home?”

Haley looked up at me again with her big eyes blinking back tears. A ghost of a smile crept onto her face.

“Alright,” she said.

Franklin (Part 2)

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Haley and I first met in freshman year at Franklin High School. I was moving up with the rest of my grade, so I knew a lot of my classmates already, but Haley didn’t. She moved around the hallways like a fish out of water.

“So, what’s her story?” Jared asked me, as we walked past her down the corridor.

“Who?”

“The new girl.”

“How should I know?” I shrugged.

Jared gave me a look. “She looks kind of cool, though.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I like her style,” I agreed, thinking about how girls always dyed their hair peroxide blonde and wore tight jeans all the time. Haley didn’t seem to follow that trend. “I overheard her saying to Miss Williamson that she moved down from Indianapolis when her Mom got remarried.”

“See,” Jared grinned, and shoved me playfully. “I knew you’d hear something.”

“Are you coming to check out the music room?” I deflected, feeling the tips of my ears go hot. “I hear they’ve got six string basses.”

“Nah, I need to go ask Vanessa to Winter Formal. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Alright, later,” I said, ducking into the music room and picking up one the guitars on a stand. I sat down on a nearby chair and gave it a strum. When I looked up, Haley was standing in the doorway wearing an oversized Phil Collins t-shirt and her trademark frizzy hair. We were a mess of acne, bad haircuts and thick eyeliner back then, but I still thought she was cute.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I smiled, strumming a few chords again. I really hoped she hadn’t overheard mine and Jared’s conversation.

“You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” I stuttered.

She shuffled through the doorway and sat down on a chair opposite me.

“I’m Haley.”

“Taylor.”

“That’s a nice name.”

I had never heard my name be described as nice before. I shrugged. “It’s alright.”

“You’re really good,” she said again, looking down at the guitar I was playing.

My words stuck in my throat. “Thanks. Can you play?”

“Not really. I sing and write songs but they usually suck.”

I shrugged again. “I’m sure they’re alright.”

She smirked at me, but I wasn’t sure why, and I could feel my ears going hot again.

I cleared my throat. “So… the Alaskas are playing in Nashville on Saturday,” I said. “Do you know them?”

“Are they from Alaska?”

“No,” I laughed. “They’re Swedish.”

“They sound cool though.”

“Well they have this album coming out; it’s called We’re Not Actually from Alaska.” Haley snorted. “I know,” I laughed with her. “But they’re really good… and I was thinking of going…”

“Is this a really long winded way of asking me out?” She asked.

“No. I mean – yes. I mean.” I could feel myself sweating. “Do you wanna go? I mean, with me – to see the show. If you want to…”

Haley looked at me, her eyes big and blue, and her goofy smile showing the gap between her front teeth. She had a nice accent, and suddenly I found myself smiling.

“Alright.”

Taylor – Taylor!” I shook the thoughts from my mind. Back in the coffee shop, Tim was waving his hand in front of my face with a sympathetic smile.

~

The next day, I was still thinking about Haley and me, as I lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling, admiring the poster for The Alaskas I bought at their concert. I suppose it was mine and Haley’s first date. I don’t remember if The Alaskas were any good or not, but I’ve had the poster ever since.

Mom knocked on my bedroom door. “Are you alright, honey?” She asked, pushing it open.

I sat up, leaning on my elbows. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Mum stood in the doorway clutching our home phone. “We had a strange voicemail from Haley this morning. Maybe you should give her a call?”

“Okay. Yeah – maybe,” I nodded.

Mom smiled and closed the door again. I looked towards my phone on my bedside table, which hadn’t vibrated since earlier that morning. Thirteen missed calls. I knew Haley would want an explanation from me but she must have guessed where I was.

I thought about her finding my empty room, all the clothes gone from the wardrobe, my truck gone from the parking lot. I hadn’t left a note but there were still books on my shelf, which I thought made it clear I would return at some point. I just didn’t know when. There was so much I had to do, get over what happened to my Dad, finish college… put things right with Haley… continue with my life. It all seemed so impossible.

I got up off my bed and headed downstairs for some milk. As I got to the stairs, I overheard my Mom on phone in the hall. I sat down at the top of the staircase and listened in, resting my forehead on the banister, like I used to do when Mom and Dad would argue.

“… I just feel like he gets mad at me every time I try and make sure he’s alright.” Mom said into the phone. “Of course, he isn’t alright, his father is…” She sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to help him, Tim. I know he’s gone back to college since but that doesn’t change anything. I’m glad he’s home, at least I can keep and eye on him here… I’ll talk to him, I will… what? Come on… Tim, tell me… they broke up?”

My Mom started to cry. A wave of crashing disappointment washed over me. Everything flashed into the forefront of my mind. Haley and I. Running, laughing, drinking, crying, shouting. They had been talking about me. My Mom was crying and they were talking about me and me and Haley had broken up and my Mom was crying.

“He just doesn’t need this right now,” she choked out as the doorbell rang. “I’m sorry, honey. I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Mom put the receiver back on its holder and opened the door. “Oh my God,” she said, as Haley stepped in out of the rain.

“I’m sorry,” Haley said, and then looked up at me. “But I didn’t know what else to do.”

Franklin (Part 1)

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Franklin was originally a short story I wrote in my second year of university, and was my first assignment to achieve a First class mark. It’s a piece I am immensely proud of, and wanted to share it here in a serialised form for my readers to enjoy.

Franklin

by Clare Holman-Hobbs

My Mom always used to say “if you ever feel afraid, all you have do is come home.” I thought about her words long and hard as I stifled a yawn, the sun rising over the dusty hills of my hometown. Franklin wasn’t far now that I was seeing signs for Nashville. My cell phone vibrated on the passenger seat next to me but I ignored it, and kept my eyes on the road.

The UNC campus had been dark when I left, probably around midnight. I would be lying if I said I had made the decision to come home rationally, but I couldn’t sit in the four walls of my dorm room any longer. As I headed out towards my car with my heavy duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I glanced up at Haley’s window. I knew she’d worry about me, about where I’d gone when she knocked for me in the morning for breakfast like usual. I considered going back for that reason alone, but I didn’t want another argument.

I shook the thought from my mind, realising I had almost passed the turning. People were stirring on the streets of Franklin as I turned down Main Street, commuters passing by on their way into the city and shops owners unlocking their doors. I drove further into the suburbs, passing house after house until I got to mine. It hadn’t changed a bit since I left; only this time, the driveway was empty. I pulled in, taking the space where my father’s car used to be and shut off the engine. I sighed, looking at the worn out wood of the porch, the swing swaying slightly in the breeze.

I got out of my truck, slamming the door behind me and checking my watch. After composing myself, I rang the doorbell, reminding myself to breathe. After about a minute, the front door creaked open, and my mother emerged from around the dark oak that separated us. Her face was pale.

“Taylor. I heard your truck. I thought it was you,” she said quietly. “What are you doing here?”

In the shadow of the cold, empty house that I had fled from months ago, I asked myself the same question.

~

After I got back, my brother Tim and I met at the coffee shop in town. I had spent a lot of time in the basement; trying to make my fingers move coherently enough to play a decent song on my guitar, but it all came out in fragments of an un-tuned mess. Tim took one look at me and knew I needed a break, practically marching me out of the front door and into his car. In the café, he sat across from me, shaking the sugar packet between his thumb and forefinger.

“I couldn’t believe it when Mom called,” he said, breaking off the top of the packet and pouring the sugar into his coffee.

“I know,” I agreed, forcing a weak smile and picking up a packet of sugar from the bowl on the table.

“Little bro – back in town,” Tim muttered, sipping from the steaming mug.

I poured the sugar into the coffee and stirred it, taking a sip; beautiful and bitter, just how I liked it. I sighed and tried to relax.

Tim noticed my posture. “You didn’t bring Haley back with you?”

“Not this time.”

“How come?”

I inhaled deeply, trying to begin. Tim raised his eyebrows at me.

“We’re not together anymore; she doesn’t know I’m here.”

Tim’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.”

“Taylor and Haley. Like Lennon and McCartney. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“I know,” I sighed. “I can barely believe it myself.”

“What happened, man?”

“Well, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac anymore.”

Over his shoulder, I saw a girl with deep chestnut curls. My breath caught, heart hammered against my chest, eyes transfixed on her as she turned her head. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.

I looked back to Tim and opened my mouth, but I couldn’t find the words, or the strength to begin to tell him of our downfall, of how everything had changed, and how I had lost the best thing to ever have happened to me. I had lost Haley. I may as well have lost a limb too.