on the topic of making overly specific playlists;

I’ll get right out and say it: I have an addiction to making playlists on Spotify. What was that, you say? Say it louder for the rest of the class? I have an addiction to making playlists on Spotify.

I’m not exaggerating. I’ve made at least 40 unique ones. I’m not sure if I can successfully put the reasons into words, but there’s something inherently exciting about curating the perfect playlist that sums up exactly the right feeling. Some of them are created with extremely specific moods in mind, but you don’t have to be in that situation to enjoy them.

One of my recent favourites, ‘hyde park’, is created to capture the feeling of a summertime picnic that I’ve had with friends at the park of the same name. But of course, I don’t have to be at that park, or having a picnic to enjoy it. It’s an all-seasons playlist.

A wander along Hyde Park’s Serpentine river

After making that, I realised that I might as well continue with the extremely geographically specific playlists. And so there’s ‘piccadilly circus’, which is based off the blinding lights and general touristy chaos of the billboards in central London. London is one of the most visited cities in the world, and I like to think that this playlist exemplifies the heart of the tourist world with a diverse selection of music from all genres and eras. But much like the tourist hotspot that it’s based off, it doesn’t stray too far from the more popular sounds. There’s still some classic London associated acts included, like the Pet Shop Boys and Yazoo. But London has a lot of less obvious things to offer, and so does this playlist.

Sometimes they aren’t as deep as that. Sometimes I’m just in the mood to listen to some chilled out music by awesome female musicians, so I’ll put on the playlist that serves that very purpose. It’s got everything from Françoise Hardy to Solange, who are both awesome performers in their respective eras and genres.

I’ve got a playlist that showcases my favourite indie and alternative music that’s come from New Zealand over the years. There’s some really amazing local indie acts out there, but they were always forgotten by most other playlist. As good as they are, Crowded House grace literally every single playlist of New Zealander performers, and it’s a nice change to include some lesser known artists in the show!

Wellington’s Cuba Street, arguably the creative heart of the country.

And who can forget the throwback playlists, which are arguably one of the most fun type to make. Hey, I’m only human. I’m not ashamed to admit that I definitely have a few of these. I’ve got a playlist full of turn of the century party hits, most of which were probably played at my primary school discos. And who can forget my emo phase? Fall Out Boy and You Me At Six definitely deserve their own playlist. I don’t always add a playlist image, but if I come across a behind the scenes photo from the iconic ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ music video, then its just asking to be made the cover image for that particular playlist.

I think I’ve always been obsessed with listening to music, and I can still fondly remember excitedly burning CDs off Windows Media Player, and insisting that my dad play them in the car when he dropped me off at primary school. Since I starting using Spotify a year ago, a whole new world of music has been opened up, and I’m loving it.

Music taste is such a fantastic, subjective thing, because even two people who both solely listen to the Top 40 radio will still have a slightly different taste in music. Or in my case, I listen to a lot of what my parents listen to, but not everyone does that. A lot of my friends listen to metal music too, but I’m not that bothered about these genres. But I could just as easily be. I’ve always been fascinated by finding out what other people listen to, and you can see why, when it provides such an insight into one’s unique personality.

Record stores in Camden, North London

One of the great things about the internet is that I can be inspired by the music collections of others, and then go on to create my own curated selections of music. Is that an adequate excuse to spend literally hours picking the perfect songs for a playlist? I like to think so.

I also have a joke playlist dedicated to only music about public transportation.

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welsh cakes & ianto jones // a spontaneous day trip to cardiff

Last autumn, my friend and I decided that we would take a spontaneous day trip to Wales. True to our word, we were off the next morning. To this day, we still can’t quite believe that we had the nerve to do it. Spur-of-the-moment trips like this are a relatively common trope in young adult novels, but to be the instigator of one in real life was something else.

The tale begins at approximately 7pm on a Thursday evening, when my friend and I were innocuously chatting over Whatsapp. But when we noticed that we both had the next day off from work, we began to see an opportunity. We began searching the internet for offbeat ways to occupy our day in London; whether it be a pop-up art installation, or a cafe with a quirky interior.

But we weren’t sure if these places were enough. The places we were looking at were the kind of things that took a few hours at most to see, but this time we had the entire day. We had plenty of time to be a bit more adventurous, and we began to cast our sights outside of central London. Quick as a flash, the original plans to go to a cute cafe morphed into something far more intrepid.

The golden hour hits Cardiff Castle

I can’t remember who suggested it first, but eventually one of us brought up, shock horror, leaving the boundaries of the M25, the ring road that encircles London. Passing this milestone felt significant; our Friday plans were now officially a Day Out™. This new development didn’t slow us down down one jot, and we embraced the new opportunities by devouring every Top Ten London Day Trips list that we could lay our hands on.

One of the perks of being in London is how easy it is to escape London, with a wealth of easily accessible day trips that don’t require a car. Cambridge and Oxford came up many times, but we had both been to these cities already. Saint Albans, Canterbury and Rochester were other potential options. But it wasn’t until my friend suggested Wales as a joke that we had an option that truly sang to us.

The idea instantly caught. Although, even though it would be hilarious if we actually went to another country for a day trip, I knew it was totally unrealistic. It would be far too expensive… or would it? Because I am not the kind of person to leave things like that hanging, I decided to actually look at prices. And you know what? It wasn’t actually that much. It would only cost us about £27 or so for a round coach trip, which wasn’t even much more than the tickets to more nearby cities. And hey, go big or go home, right?

Thankfully, my friend is also of a similar disposition to me, and it didn’t take long for us to actually decide to go. We weren’t going to let this rare shared day off go to waste! Besides, I think we almost as excited about the idea of doing a day trip to another country than we were about the day trip itself.

And so, less than 12 hours after we first began planning, we found ourselves at London Victoria coach station, blearily clutching hot drinks from Pret aManger and ready to board a bus to Wales.

There are many accessible day-trips around London, many of which only being an hour or so away on the train. (Un)fortunately for us, Cardiff is not one of these cities. The coach from Victoria Coach Station departed at 7am and arrived no less than four and a half hours later, just in time for lunchtime. But in the end, the timing worked out quite well. By the time we were due for our bus home at 6pm, we were sufficiently exhausted enough to not care about ignoring any places of interest that we might have missed.

Cardiff has always been one of these cities I had been meaning to go to one day. Accessible enough to be vaguely realistic, but far enough out of the way that it was always dismissed to the back of the line. On many accounts, it was reported to be a lovely little city. For me personally, there was also an attraction in that the city played a big part in Doctor Who and Torchwood, both beloved shows of my high school self. Plus, I’m a sucker for a new experience, and what better place to experience that than the Welsh capital?

Welsh Cakes – my friend insisted a trip to Wales was not complete without these. 10 for £2.90? Don’t mind if we do!

My friend, being Welsh, had of course been several times before. She was my tour guide! Not that we had a proper plan, really. We just wandered around, stumbling across food markets and strange Harry Potter knick knacks in stores. There’s some gorgeous shopping arcades dotted across the city, and we took great delight in admiring every inch of them!

We found the Ianto Jones shrine, which was a huge throwback to my Torchwood days. It was a little strange seeing a full blown memorial for a fictional character, but hey, what’s a fandom if it doesn’t make you feel things?

Despite Ianto Jones not actually being a real person, I still couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness when I saw how neglected some of the posters were, with years of being left to the elements stripping the colours and curling the corners. Torchwood has been off the air for years now, and there aren’t a lot of new memorials going up these days. At one point, all of these people thought Torchwood important enough to make a pilgrimage to Cardiff, but now Torchwood is no longer a part of their lives, and these people have moved on. I feel old.

We spent quite a lot of time around the harbour front, which alternated between gale-force winds and cool and clear sunshine. At one point we were forced to retreat inside the nearest pub to escape the rain and wind, which was threatening to blind us with its wrath. The pub in question was an ever-dependable Wetherspoons, but it did offer us a lovely view over the harbour! Half an hour later, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. Ah, the joys of British weather.

On a whim, we decided to pop into the interactive science centre, which was actually a lot of fun. We spent a good few hours channelling our inner children and messing around with the exhibits pretending to be airbenders.

After living in London for nearly two years, I had almost forgotten that people are capable of talking to strangers unprompted. Despite having the technical definition of a city, Cardiff really did give off some small town vibes. Everyone was smiling, and I even found my usually shy self chatting to a few people. A young mother with her toddler at the station even offered a ride back to the station if we didn’t want to walk it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you necessarily want every conversation that comes your way. One memorable moment was in a souvenir shop, where we were treated to a conversation with the shopkeeper that rapidly the devolved into a woe-is-me rant about how his wife left him for his boss. But really, even an awkward encounter like that was just something to giggle over later.

One thing I was most excited to see was the bilingual signs, with many places displaying both English and Welsh languages. I myself am a firm advocate of New Zealand doing the same with Māori and English, so I was delighted to see a country, similar to NZ in so many ways, still representing its indigenous language today.

Usually the excitement of booking a trip becomes dulled down after the weeks or months of anticipation, but in the case of this particular trip to Wales, I found that there was no time for this to happen. Because we had so little time to mentally prepare ourselves to go, I actually found myself more excited to go here than I had been for a trip in a long time.

It’s become a fond memory now, and I can still barely believe that I’ve managed to find friends who is equally enthusiastic about spontaneous explorations. Here’s to many more such adventures!