Monday, 4 June 2018

Raggy's Travels: China's First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors

Horse keeper & Cavalry horse dating from the Qin Dynasty,
discovered at the First Emperor's Mausoleum Site

China's First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors is an exhibition currently on at the World Museum in Liverpool (9th Feb - 28th Oct 2018). It is a joint exhibit developed and designed by National Museums Liverpool, and the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and Shaanxi History Museum, People's Republic of China.  

China's First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors Exhibit

On show are a number of artefacts (some of which have never been on show in the UK) telling the story of China's First Emperor, alongside Chinese cultural history and belief systems. The exhibit includes some of the genuine terracotta warriors discovered in 1974, at what archaeologist have since discovered is part of the biggest burial site on earth (58 square kilometres).

Burial site of the First Emperor

The exhibit is fascinating. Previously, I was aware that the terracotta warriors were a significant discovery, Chinese, and life size, however, I knew little else. Having been to the exhibit I have learnt a lot about the First Emperor, the significance of horses in China, Chinese burial practice and ancestor worship, Philosophy, animal symbolism, the extent and importance of the discovery of the terracotta warriors and surrounding complex, and much much more. I would certainly recommend this exhibit to anyone interested in history and/or culture.

The four most popular animal symbols in ancient China;
the black turtle, red bird, green dragon, and white tiger

Stone armour from the First Emperor's Mausoleum Site - too heavy to have been
worn by a real human, but likely part of a pit representing an armoury

Making a terracotta warrior - contemporary model

Due to its popularity you likely will have to book tickets for a timed entrance (people are staggered in every 30mins). Despite there being timed slots for entry, there is no set time to exit and thus you can go round at your own pace.

When I visited the exhibit it was busy, however there was not too much queuing or waiting around. The only part that there was a short line was when going past the 7 terracotta warriors about half way round, however this moved quite quickly.

7 of the 8,000 life-size warriors & horses discovered at Emperor
Qin Shi Huang's burial site. Originally brightly painted and buried
in battle formation

Top 5 things I learnt:
  • Life is seen as similar after death as when alive, thus the Chinese our buried with what they might need.
  • The 1st Emperor's burial site took 40yrs to construct beginning in 246BC and not finishing until after his death
  • The burial site was designed like a city with mausoleum in the centre surrounded by palaces, living quarters, offices, ritual buildings, stables & defensive walls
  • The emperor's childless concubines, thousands of officials and craftsman make up a large amount of human remains found across the burial site.
  • The 1st Emperor's life size terracotta warriors are not the only terracotta warriors to have been discovered. Smaller ones (30cm high) have have been found close to the burial site of Han Gaozu - founder of the Han Dynasty

Smaller terracotta warriors discovered in 1965 near the burial site
of Han Gaozu - Founder of the Han Dynasty

Terracotta animals also discovered


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Music is powerful and good

Today marked the 1 year anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, which occurred at the end of Ariana Grande's concert on the 22nd May 2017. The bomb killed 22 people and injured many more. It shocked the city, the nation, and the world. Not only was it murder on a large scale, it was also at the end of a concert predominantly attended by children and young people.

I remember waking up to the news on the 23rd May 2017 and almost not believe what I saw. Two years earlier I had been to The Piano Guys concert in Birmingham at a smaller venue down the road from the Birmingham Arena where Ariana was playing at the same time. I remember distinctively loads of young people and children happily going about before and after her performance. I could not get that image of those happy excited young people out of my mind. I knew that similar young people would have been at the Manchester Arena that dreadful night, with the same excitement and joy that would later become terror, fear, and sadness.

At the time I worked for the company that owned the Manchester Evening News, so there was no getting away from the terrible truth that was the fact that someone had detonated a suicide bomb outside a concert predominately attended by young people. It should have been a happy night for all those many fans, many getting their first taste of adult freedom attending a concert for the first time on their own, and all with futures ahead of them.

I will admit, last year I knew little about Ariana, and it wasn't until recently in the past few months, on moving and finding comfort in watching Victorious, that I discovered her and her amazing talent. I recently purchased her album, Dangerous Woman, which I play a lot in the car to and from work. Ariana has an amazing voice. I was interested to find out more about her and on looking her up I discovered that she is the same age as me. That fact made me stop for a moment. I could not image being in her shoes. I felt for her after the Manchester attack and I didn't blame her for going home after the event, anyone would want to be with family at that point, and then to come back 2 weeks later and preform, showing the world that we will not be scared away or back down. She is remarkable and especially at only 24.

What happened that night will never be forgotten. Those people will not be lost in vain. We will not let those who hate win. Music is a very powerful art form. We can tell stories, share lives, and change the world with it.

The Manchester bombing was the result of the worst of humanity, but humanity is capable of incredible kindness and compassion, and it is also capable of changing the world for the better.

Today I listened to Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman album on the way home, as to me this was the best way to remember those that we have lost and to think of those who are still coming to terms with what happened. This is the music that those who died loved, enough to go to a concert to see a singer they loved, we can't let someone take that music from us.

Music is powerful and good.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Raggy Reviews: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

IMDb: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society 
Realise Date: 20.04.2018 (UK)
Length: 2hr 4mins
Genre: Drama, History, romance
Rating: 12A

Based on the book by the same name, 'The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society' is a story loosely based on the historic fact that Guernsey, a British island south of mainland Britian in the English channel, was occupied by the Germans in World War 2. The story follows an author from London who is contacted by a member of the society, which formed to hide a illegal gathering under the occupation. Based after the war has ended the film tells the story of the society, life on Guernsey under the occupation, and post war Britian.

At 2hrs 4mins the film is rather long but it does not feel as if it is drags at any point. It tells the story beautiful and is perfectly paced. The scenery, locations, soundtrack and costumers all add to the films authentic feel. The film has an amazing cast including, Lily James (Cinderella, Downton Abbey) who plays writer Juliet Ashton, Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Orphan Black),  Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, Chasing Liberty), Katherine Parkinson (Humans, The Kennedys, IT Crowd), among many other talent and well known actors.

This was a film that I had not heard of until my mum mentioned she would like to see it. I knew nothing about the history of Guernsey. I wasn't sure if it would be my type of film as it sounded a bit strange, but I enjoyed it and am glad that I went to see it. It is a beautiful story of love, war, heartache and recovery, with both sad and happy moments.

Raggy's Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Raggy's Mixtape: Take On The World

Music is a powerful art form. It can move you to tears, even move you to jive. It holds meaning to the writer, composer, and listeners. Films are made by the soundtrack, musicals are completed. Music starts and ends things, from weddings to funerals, it tells the story. It changes culture and society. It brings people together and causes debate. Music is powerful and true. It means things and moves you.

This mixtape is a mix of songs suitable for a big change in your life, the start of something, and encouragement to take on the world. Life isn't easy and it can be scary, but though music you soon realise you are not alone in your feelings. This is a wee playlist suitable for a pick me up, to start your day, or for that big new adventure in your life.

Verge (feat. Aloe Blacc) by Owl City
A brilliant graduation song

Fight Song / Amazing Grace by The Piano Guys
No lyrics but a great fight song to help you keep battling through. Music video set in my lovely Scotland, home of the brave.

Ready for Anything by Landon Austin
The battle doesn't have to be a lonely one.

Something Wild (feat. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness) by Lindsey Stirling
Beautiful song, with Lindsey's brilliant violin. Used in Disney's Pete's Dragon, this is a song highlighting life's adventures, facing your fears and finding home. 
'If you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the skies into the ocean, that's when something wild calls you home'

Okay by The Piano Guys
I love this song. One of The Piano Guys few with lyrics and an original song. A great track to sing along to. 
'It's gonna be okay'

Floodgates by Colbie Caillat
Unfortunately there is no music video to this brilliant song. A very 'dance around the living room' type of song but with an important message that crying isn't a bad thing.
'Every tear can put out a fire, so let them fall'

On Your Side by SafetySuit
Unfortunately another without an official music video, but a great upbeat song. There may be times that aren't great, but you are not alone, you have fighters in your corner and support to help you through.
'I am on your side, beginning to the end you know'

Try (Side Effects Cast Version) by Luke Antariksa & Keli Price
Love isn't easy, life isn't easy, but you can't give up on finding your happiness.
'Just because it burns doesn't mean your going to die, you've got to get up and try and try and try'

Save the World / Don't You Worry Child (Bonus Track) by Pentatonix
This always takes me back to uni, but a great song and great mash up from the the brilliant a cappella group, Pentatonix. One to dance to.

Can't Hold Us by Pentatonix
Another brilliant a cappella cover from Pentatonix. Great song to start your day and a dance and sing to.
'We'll put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us'

Go take on the world. You can do it.

Monday, 19 February 2018

No one will give you anything in this life. You must earn it.

I wrote the below back in early January, which seems a life time ago now. I recently started a new job and moved many miles away from home, not as far as some might move in other countries, but further than I have ever gone.

Tonight I'm feeling a little home sick but I'm sure it will pass. As the card from my mum says 'Without the rain there would never be Rainbows'. I may be feeling sad and lonely tonight but as with rain it will pass, the sun will shine, and something wonderful will appear.


'No one will give you anything in this life. You must earn it.' This is what Castle has just said in the episode I have paused to write this. 'You are a fighter.' That is what we all need to be in life. Nothing is handed to anyone on a plate and a life could shatter and fall apart at any point.

I recently had a conversation with my boyfriend about how we perceive that some peoples lives are so easy and that they just seem to get 'The Life' and on with life. They never seem to falter or make mistakes, but this is not true, no ones life is easy and perfect. Even the richest person in the world will have issues of some sort. Even that friend or family member you think is perfect has struggled at some point.

The conversation arose out of, well lots of things but partly Christmas cards. Around Christmas some people send family news letters in their Christmas cards explaining all about their 'perfect family', 'perfect children', their doctors, lawyers, living in London. Yet here I am, actually doing quite well, although I am not in London, I am not a Doctor or Lawyer, and I do not want to be. Now, do not think that my parents are pushing me to be something because they are not, but there is a societal pressure that I should get a 'good job' (which for some reason means I would need to move to London), marry at some point, and have children.

I do not know what I want in life but I am still young. I think I might want to marry at some point and maybe have children, but that is a long way off in my mind. Right now I just want to start in the career that I am passionate about, and hopeful some day move in with the person I love, and live out a happy life with adventure, surrounded by those I love and care for.

Anyway I am a little off topic. What we discussed that night was that life is not easy. I have had a fortunate life but I still have had to work hard to get to where I am, and I have had to not give in. My boyfriend is aware of the struggles I have faced, the countless jobs I have applied for and rejections I have received. This is the issue though, when we compare ourselves to others we only see their success, we do not see what they have gone through their set backs, difficulties, and rejections. We just see the 'perfect' life, yet we do not tend to share our struggles. Think of the family news letter like social media, we only share happy polished stuff, after all it is Christmas, but we also do this all year. Why? Maybe shame, fear, or just that if it is not a happy topic we may just want to move on, forget and be happy.

Carrie Hope Fletcher spoke about something similar in a recent YouTube video (Getting Rejected). Carrie is a West End actor who has been in War of Worlds, Les Misérables, and The Adams Family. She is very talented and yes her family are too; her brother is Tom Fletcher (McFly, author) and sister in law, Giovanna Fletcher (author). Yet this does not mean she gets everything because of who she is. Carrie has worked hard to get to her position, and as mentioned in her recent video she still gets turned down. She does not get ever part she auditions for. Yes sometimes this may be because they want someone with red hair, but this happens outside of the theatre industry too. Sometimes employers reject people because they do not believe them to be a right fit for the team or the business, not because you do not have the skills.

Life is not easy. It will never be, but it is the greatest adventure you will ever have. If you work hard, keep going, I do believe that hard work pays off. Think about professional musicians, dancers and writers, it is the hours of work that they put in that make them great. I watched a interview recently with Candice Neistat. She was saying about how she just keeps going because she has to, she takes tasks day by day, she just makes things work, but through hard work.

No one will give you anything in this life. You must earn it. You must be a fighter. But do not feel ashamed or scared to tell people about your journey or to ask for help. Others may be able to help. Remember, most of all, not to compare yourself to others (easier said then done, but true). You can only be yourself and you will only be happy being as such.

Work hard, keep learning, keep adapting, and be kind. You will get to where you want to be. You will see your rainbow.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Raggy Reviews: Things I'm Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni

Title: Things I'm Seeing Without You
Author: Peter Bognanni
UK Release Date: 4th February 2018
Ages: 14+
*Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of the book by the UK publisher. All opinions are my own.

Raggy's Rating: 5/5

Things I'm Seeing Without You is a love story with a twist. It is about a teenage girl grieving for her long distance boyfriend who commits suicide. They had been communicating by text and social media for months after only having met once in real life. It is a beautiful, emotional story about grief. Truthfully portrayed. I found it hard to put down, and in parts it brought tears to my eyes. 

What would you do if you suddenly received a Facebook message from your dead boyfriend? Things I'm Seeing Without You is a Young Adult novel by Peter Bognanni. It tackles issues of young death, suicide, long distance relationships, and how to handle grief in the age of the internet, where your online self can out live you.

The book also covers topics of sex, drugs, and drinking and therefore may not be suitable for younger readers. The publishers are marketing the book at ages 14+.

I really enjoyed this book. It is one that you could read at any time of the year, but with Valentine's Day coming up it might be an interesting one to add to your TBR as it is a slightly different take on a love story.

Overall I give this book 5/5.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Raggy's Travels: Scottish Road Trip Day 3

In August 2017 my sister and I went on another Scottish road trip. Scotland is a beautiful place with so much to explore, although Summer time is a busy period. We had wanted to visit Skye but that was a no go last summer, it was very busy and places booked up fast. Instead we decided to visit Dumfries and Galloway.

Dumfries and Galloway is just over the border to the west of Scotland. It has many farms, and therefore many a cow crossing the road, but it is beautiful, with few tourists, and has wonderful places to see and lovely coastal views.

Cows crossing

Recap our journey so far:



Starting where I left off in Raggy's Travels: Scottish Road Trip Day 2, we had a lovely night at the Portpatrick Hotel. We had booked to stay two nights at the hotel which allowed us to explore more of the local area, and to return to some sites that we had run out of time to see the previous day. 


Part of Glenluce Abbey through the trees

Glenluce Abbey
£5 (Adult ticket)
Open: 1st April - 30th September 9:30am-5:30pm
1st October - 31st October 10am - 4pm
Closed: November 1st - 31st March

Abbey hallway

We started our day at Glenluce Abbey, which was another of the three abbeys founded by the Cistercian Monks. It was a beautiful abbey. The site in which it sits is rather large and in a beautiful countryside setting. The abbey stands mostly in ruin, however there is a chapter house that visitors can enter. There is also a wee book closet that is still evident today.

Courtyard outside Chapter House

Interestingly the abbey was not abandoned during the Reformation as the 15 monks who resided at the site decided to convert to the reformed religion. Unfortunately, not much else is known about the abbey as no register of it survives today, however when the abbey came into state care in 1933 artefacts where found when the rubble was shifted. These artefacts are now on display at the wee visitor centre and shop next to the site.


Little remains of Barsalloch Fort

Barsalloch Fort
Open all year

Seaview from Barsalloch Fort with Thistles

Back on the road we decided to head back in the direction we had been the night before - along the lovely coastal road of the A747. Along this road are a couple of free Historic Scotland sites. They are small, and if you are driving along you might blink and miss them. One of these locations is Barsalloch Fort, which is just off the main road. There is a wee parking area at the base of the steep steps up. There is not a lot to see, including no ruins, though the site is surrounded by a large defensive ditch. Little is known about those that lived there, but the site is thought to have housed a few round houses. The climb is certainly worth it for the sea view.

Defensive ditch at Barsalloch Fort


View out of St. Ninians Chapel window

St. Ninian's Chapel
Open all year

Our destination at the end of the beautiful coastal road was St. Ninian's Chapel in the Isle of Whithorn (which is not actually an island). It is believed that the chapel was built around 1300 replacing an earlier chapel. The small chapel is to this day part of a pilgrimage route. In the past it would have been used as a place to give thanks and to rest as the first point of call on arriving safely by sea. Close by the chapel is a pile of rocks carried by people to this location, with prays, wishes, and names on.

St Ninian's rock pile

St Ninian's Chapel is right by the sea. We were lucky with the weather, in fact some people where even swimming in the little sea inlet nearby. It is a beautiful location and the wee village of the Isle of Whithorn has a wee shop and pub, with rooms to stay the night. We stopped at the pub, sitting outside to have a Cream o' Galloway Ice cream, which was very nice.

Cream o' Galloway ice cream


View looking out of St Ninian's Cave

St Ninian's Cave
Open all year

After our ice cream break, we got back on the road and headed to another of the pilgrimage stopping points, that of St Ninian's Cave, which is said to be a location that St Ninian used for personal prayer.

Crosses and pebbles left in the cave by pilgrims and other visitors

The cave is on the beach and today is filled with crosses from modern pilgrims. The cave is apparently smaller today then it once would have been due to rock falls.To get to the cave the nearest parking is 1 mile away. The walk to the beach is through at first a farm, then very quickly after crossing the road, a wood, which eventually opens up out onto the stoney beach. It is a stunning location (it has been my screensaver for awhile now) and is certainly worth the walk.

Walk to the beach

Excavations in the 1950s discovered sets of remains which were undateable. These excavations and older excavations in the 1890s also found medieval carved stones, which are now on display in the Whithorn Priory and Museum.


Chapel Finian
Open all year

Back up the A747 we stopped off at the other wee historic site just off the road, that of Chapel Finian. It is a very small site with some visible ruins. It was a chapel believed to have been built around the 10th and 11th century. Its location was picked as pilgrims would have landed on the nearby beaches. This chapel was named after the 6th Century Irish Saint Finnian.


Kirkmadrine Stones
Open all year

Our next adventure for the day was to head to the very tip of Scotland, the Mull of Galloway. On our way however we decided to stop of at a wee Historic Scotland site, Kirkmadrine Stones. Parking at the end of a pathway, we wondered down through the old green trees popping out at an abandoned church and grave yard. In the old church entrance, glassed off, are the Kirkmadrine Stones and information boards explaining their history. They date back 1500 years.

Kirkmadrine Stones behind glass

We did not stay too long here as it started to rain but the site also offers good countryside views.


Mull of Galloway

Back on the road we headed to the end of the world, the Mull of Galloway, Scotland's must southerly point, from where you can see the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. There is not very much at the Mull of Galloway, just a visitor centre, lighthouse, sea birds, and cows (caution they may wander out into the road).

Mind the cows

The Mull of Galloway has lovely views and seabirds a plenty to watch. A sign even states where they go in the winter and how far away that is (Senegal, 2800 miles). As it is a wild place any dogs must be kept on a lease and humans are asked to stick to the marked paths. The site is leased and managed by the RSPB Scotland as a nature reserve. It has been in their hands since 1975. The Mull of Galloway has also been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Sign and lighthouse

On 8th June 1944 a Bristol Beaufighter crashed killing French Pilot, Claudius Echallier and Flight Engineer, Royston Edwin. In the bad weather, which this southernly tip of Scotland can receive, visibility was poor. They crashed into the border wall, store buildings, and then went over the high cliffs into the sea.

Mull of Galloway horn

The Mull of Galloway lighthouse was built in 1830 by Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather, Robert Stevenson. In todays money it would have cost £9 million to build. The lighthouse has a horn which you can walk down to see. The horn is no longer active however as Scotland no longer uses horns, the last one was switched off in 2005.

Before the lighthouse was automated in 1988 it would also have been a home, with the families growing their own vegetables, keeping farm animals, and the keeper keeping watch at night to ensure the light flashed correctly. Today the lighthouse is monitored 24 hours a day from a remote centre and visited by local people who carry out regular checks and cleaning, with an annual check by the Northern Lighthouse Board technicians. The light switches itself on and off by a wee light sensor noticing the difference between night and day.


Following our adventures at the Mull of Galloway we headed back to the Portpatrick Hotel where we were booked to stay another night. We had supper in the hotel bar area, which wasn't expensive. I had scampi and chips. We then went on a wee walk along the coastal path outside the hotel before retiring to our room.

View of Portpatrick from evening stroll along coastal path


Next: Raggy's Travels: Scottish Road Trip Day 4