Review: Fateful Choices by Ian Kershaw

***THIS IS MORE OF AN ‘I LOVE THIS BOOK BECAUSE IAN KERSHAW IS MY FAVE HISTORIAN AND THIS IS MY FAVE PERIOD OF HISTORY’ POST RATHER THAN A REVIEW SO IS PRETTY BIASED***

The Second World War is a conflict that has shaped all of our lives and will go on to shape lives for generations to come. Looking at ten key interconnected military-political decisions that determined the course and outcome of the war – all of them taken in a period of about eighteen months – could have had the effect of romanticising the war, as much TV history has done. Instead, Kershaw focuses on strategic choices faced by the various actors, and the way these were affected by the tides of war, showing the reader that very little about the war was inevitable, and rather open-ended.

The book is split into ten chapters:

1. Britain’s agreeing to fight on after the defeat of France.

2. Germany’s deciding to wage war on the Soviet Union.

3. Japan’s appropriating the colonies of countries at war with, or already defeated by, Germany, and allying itself with Germany and Italy.

4. Italy’s deciding to invade Greece.

5. America’s providing aid to England.

6. The Soviet Union’s ignoring all signs that Germany was about to invade it.

7. America’s intensifying its assistance to Britain by an “undeclared war” on Germany.

8. Japan’s attacking the U.S.

9. Germany’s declaring war against the U.S.

10. Germany’s putting into operation the Final Solution.

No one could possibly have predicted any of these. One of Kershaw’s greatest triumphs is getting inside each of these decisions and showing how natural and right they came to seem to those who took them; history is not always pre-ordained, it just seems that way.

The Second World War was one of rapid movement, in which sweeping change transformed the strategic situation virtually overnight. For instance, the German advance across the Low Countries in the first half of 1940. The Wehrmacht had swiftly disposed of Poland as the Polish cavalry charged against German tanks. So, the shocking ease with which the Germans overwhelmed the Danes, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch and French, and significantly demolished the BEF, proved just how superior the Nazi forces were; achieving more in a couple of weeks than the Kaiser managed from 1914-1918. Noone was prepared for the German raz de marée and its complete destabilisation of the old strategic balance.

If there’s one thing that Kershaw can do, it’s expose the contingency in the making of history.

People You’ll Live With In Halls

The one you’ll never see

You’ll spot them of the first day of Freshers holding a kettle in the hallway, looking like a deer caught in headlights. They will remain ‘Kettle Boy’ for the next two weeks, when they finally emerge from their bedroom. You’ll never see them in the communal spaces unless it’s 4am, and you’ll wonder whether they’re dead or alive for most of the year.

The ‘we need to talk about…’ lad

He’s in the end room, and all you can hear is the incessant clicking of his various varieties of Rubix Cubes. He smells, but you can’t tell him because he’ll probably come into your room while you’re sleeping and pelt you with his Rubix Cubes, wearing nothing but his dressing gown.

The one who’s never been on a night out before

She’s from a small town in the middle of nowhere with overbearing parents. She’s minted. She’s socially inept. All it takes is a sniff of tequila at predrinks and she’s laying on the kitchen floor telling you all how much she loves you and uni.

The Oxbridge reject

You’ll know all about their application process and their interviews and how they ended up ‘having to settle’ for your university on results day when they didn’t get their grades.

The rich kid

You’re on Tesco value vodka and they’re drinking Moet. You’re living on frozen food from Iceland and they’re getting food deliveries from Waitrose. You get the picture.

The fun one

They’re from up North, their banter is off the charts and their room is party central. Don’t expect to sleep any time soon if you’re in the same block of flats as them. They get on with everyone and you can’t help but join in with whatever it is they’re doing.

The last minute one

They’re fantastic at procrastinating. They’ll spend weeks watching eight seasons of House on Netflix, then suddenly they realise they have 6 hours to write an essay worth 50 per cent of their module. It’s fine though, because they’re fuelled by coffee.

The liability 

The only time they’ve drank prior to university is at a family wedding once, where they had a glass of champagne. They refuse to drink during Freshers because they ‘don’t like the taste of alcohol’. Before you know it, they’re locked in the bathroom for two hours and once you’ve managed to get the door open, all you’ll see is them sprawled naked on the floor in a pool of their own bodily fluids with their private parts in their hand.

The one you actually like

You’ll click as soon as you meet. You’re soul mates, because as Carrie Bradshaw says ‘maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people to have fun with’. Your bants will be off the charts, bouncing off one another’s personalities. If there’s a friend you make at university that you’ll want in your life forever, it’s them.

 

Living with PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects a woman’s ovaries and how they work as its name suggests. No single cause of PCOS has yet been confirmed but the general consensus is that it’s due to elevated male hormones in women as a consequence of numerous environmental and genetic factors, including obesity. PCOS is a very personal syndrome, that intimately affects 1 in 10 women.

PCOS is something that I have personally struggled with, so I’m going to share some of the things that I feel people should know:

  • IT IS MORE THAN JUST MY OVARIES!

PCOS impacts my ovaries- yes- hence the name. But PCOS is so much more than that, impacting on every area of my body and life.

I gain weight faster than you can open a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, I have body hair where it’s not wanted (what’s with the ‘tache, Mother Nature?), I have periods when I least expect/want them, I have awful mood swings (just ask anyone who knows me) and I have struggled with depression since I was 13. Sometimes getting out of bed to make a cup of coffee and get Netflix on is a huge achievement.

If you know someone with PCOS, just be kind.

  • Fertility is tricky.

Now, fertility. This is a sensitive issue. While it is not impossible for me to fall pregnant, it is going to take so much longer than the average woman and will be a source of great emotional and financial strain. My older cousin suffers with PCOS and had to pay for ludicrously priced fertility treatments that almost destroyed her marriage after it failed four times. (***SPOILER ALERT***: they now have a healthy eight year old girl).

While children aren’t part of my life plan, that’s right now. That’s the present. But I found out at 16 that I will most likely never be able to have my own children and that was really difficult for me to hear. The one thing that those of you with PCOS should remember is this:

You did not choose to have PCOS. It is not your fault. It does not make you any less of a woman. It just means that your journey will be a little bumpier than everyone else’s.

If you know someone with PCOS, be sensitive.

  • I am overweight but trust me it is not for lack of trying.

Here’s a joke for you:

Q: What’s the difference between standing on the scales when you’re carrying Christmas weight and standing on the scales after being on a diet and exercise regime?

A: PROBABLY NOTHING BECAUSE YOU HAVE PCOS!

You would probably look at me and think I’m lazy and that all I do is sit around and eat junk food. You would be wrong. While I don’t eat as healthy as I could or exercise as much as I should, I try. I have always tried. I care about the way that I look (us Merseyside birds have to – you can’t let them brows go to shit). Just because I am bigger than you does not mean that I don’t care and don’t try.

I can look at a chicken nugget and gain 5 pounds, then it’ll take me weeks to get that back off.

If you know someone with PCOS, cut them some slack.

  • Inconvenience.

DO I EVEN HAVE TO TELL YOU THE TERRORS OF THINKING ITS SAFE TO NOT WEAR PADS AFTER NOT HAVING A PERIOD FOR 7 MONTHS AND THEN SUDDENLY COMING ON YOUR PERIOD WHILE YOU’RE IN THE QUEUE IN THE PRIMARK IN LIVERPOOL ONE? DIDN’T THINK SO. LET’S MOVE ON.

  • Sometimes you have to forgive me.

There are times when I will be super irrational and hormonal, but sometimes I just don’t have control over my moods. If you know me, you’ll know the sarcastic tone and the deadpan look. But you know that I’m sorry.

If you know someone with PCOS, be understanding.

  • Don’t give up hope.

It can be hard, but never forget that PCOS does not define you. You are not ‘unwomanly’. It is not your fault. Just stay resilient and be the strong independent woman that you are.

To round this off, here is a photo of me in Stratford-upon-Avon with the unwomanly woman herself, Lady Macbeth (or a statue of her, at least).

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Eighties Films

Yes, folks. That’s right. I’m doing this. Sit back and enjoy as I divulge to you the greatest films you will ever see. ‘The greatest films ever, Chloe? Bit of a bold statement, isn’t it?’ I hear you ask. No, no it is not.

***Little disclaimer***: They’re in no particular order because they’re all fantastic (although I do have a few faves).

1. Grease 2

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There isn’t really much of a plot. All I can say is that there’s a lot of singing about sex. Just do it. You’ll hate it so much you’ll love it. Also, Didi Conn (Frenchie) makes an appearance, so you have to watch it out of love for her anyway.

 

 

 

 

2. Dirty Dancing

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Call me biased all you want but who doesn’t want to see a shirtless Patrick Swayze in a lake? 

For those of you who have spent your entire lives under a rock, Dirty Dancing is a story about a babied teen – whose nickname is Baby coincidentally – and Johnny (a dance instructor) falling in love. Looking back now, it’s pretty weird that Baby is meant to be 16 and Johnny is meant to be in his thirties. But when you watch it you don’t even consider the weird nature of that. Grey and Swayze are fantastic. Not to mention the amazing soundtrack. I won’t say anymore.

 

 

3. Risky Business

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Tom Cruise’s parents go on holiday, he has a free house and things escalate. That is all that I’ll say. You have to watch it. Oh, and don’t forget this scene.

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Breakfast Club

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Where do I even start? A film about every stereotype in a high school coming together, emulating in one of the best dance scenes in a film you just don’t expect a dance scene. It’s just heartwarming. It’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry. One of my all time favourites.

 

 

 

 

5. Can’t Buy Me Love

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YOUNG PATRICK DEMPSEY. His name is Ronald and he’s the biggest nerd going. A popular girl goes out with him, betting with her mates that she can make him cool. They fall in love.  Another film trying to show that you don’t have to be restricted by your stereotype. And who can forget this scene… THE LAWNMOWER SCENE.

 

 

 

 

6. Die Hard

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Bruce Willis in his prime. John McClane is my favourite police officer of all time. He’s so badass. YIPEE KI YAY. Also, this may sound weird, but all of the Die Hard films always get me in the mood for Christmas.

 

 

 

 

7. Stand By Me

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Four boys go on a hike to find a dead body. Despite being an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, it’s heartwarming rather than gruesome. It’s about the transition from boy to man – or innocence to wisdom – and captures the vulnerability of masculinity and relationships. Another one of my favourites.

 

 

 

 

8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

You’ll watch this film, and the first time will probably dream of having a day out like this. You can’t help but love Ferris’ charm and feel for Cameron’s pure anxieties.

Just. Watch. It. Even if it’s just for this scene.

 

 

 

 

9. Pretty in Pink

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Another one of John Hughes’ brilliant and heartwarming coming of age films that tries its best to reject stereotypes. I love John Hughes. And I love Duckie.

 

 

 

 

10. Say Anything

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I know that the name of this film is Say Anything, but I am not going to say anything about this film (I’m funny, right?) except that I never thought it was possible to fancy John Cusack… then I watched this film and fell in love with him. You think it’s over, but it’s not. It’s just not. In fact, Lloyd Dobbler set expectations too high for men. It’s his fault. Everyone blame Lloyd.

 

 

11. St Elmo’s Fire

Now, thist-elmos-fire-movie-poster-1985-1020191845s. This is my favourite film. It just breaks my heart every time, while making me laugh and cry. It makes you think and it makes you feel. It takes you on a journey into adulthood while emphasising the importance of maintaining relationships and retaining a part of your adolescence. If Rob Lowe and Demi Moore’s scene at the end of the film doesn’t make you feel things, are you human?

 

 

12. Top Gun

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Tom Cruise. Val Kilmer. Need I say more?

Maverick and Goose are sent to Top Gun school for aviators where Maverick and Iceman become rivals. Does that make sense to you? WATCH IT. Oh, and don’t get too attached to any characters…

 

 

These are just some of my favourites from the eighties – I don’t want to bore you because I could go on all day. Here’s a list of some more:

  • Scarface. Say hello to Al Pacino’s little friend (no that is not a euphemism) .
  • Cocktail. Yes, more Tom Cruise.
  • Sixteen Candles. Because you can never have enough Molly Ringwald.
  • Footloose. Because Kevin Bacon gets angry and dances in a warehouse.
  • Mannequin.  Just because Kim Cattrall is a goddess.
  • The Goonies. GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE.
  • The Lost Boys. Kiefer Sutherland and Cory Feldman in one film. It’s a dream.
  • Dead Poet’s Society. Oh Captain, my Captain. Robin Williams at his finest.
  • Some Kind of Wonderful. The right people get together for once.

Uni Exam Tips

So, I sat my first university exams this week. If you’re wondering why I’m doing them in September rather than back in June when everyone else did them, just ask the fire door that trapped and broke my hand. (Yes, ouch). Anyway, I thought I could share some words of wisdom with those of you who have your first university exams ahead of you:

  1. Give yourself enough time to study! I’ve been working over summer so haven’t really had enough time, but those of you who’ll be at uni can focus. While cramming can sometimes be useful for assignments, I definitely don’t recommend  cramming for these – try your best to not leave revision until the last minute! 
  2. Organise your study space. Make sure that wherever you’re studying is as clear as possible. Get rid of any distractions you may have and make sure you’re comfortable. Remember, good lighting isn’t just for selfies. 
  3. Look at past papers. Yes, this can be dull but there’s no better way to prepare yourself for what your exam will be like. Familiarise yourself with the layout of the exam paper and how your professors word the questions. Also, you may be able to spot trends and guess which topics may come up. 
  4. Stay hydrated! While my poison of choice is anything caffeinated, you may choose to drink gallons of water. 
  5. Talk through what you’re reading about. Whether it’s to a friend, relative or to yourself, talking out loud can be very helpful. 
  6. Get to it when your brain is most active. For some, this is the morning. For some, this is the  evening. People will drone on about how the morning is best to revise blah blah but everyone is different. Do what works for you!
  7. Spice up your notes. Highlighters, coloured post it notes, coloured gel pens – anything that might make your notes look a bit funky might make all the difference when it comes to remembering something in an exam. 
  8. Reward yourself. You’ll hear people talking about exercising and eating healthily during exams. No!! Give yourself that bit of extra motivation. Put a piece of cake in front of you.  Put a packet of biscuits in front of you. It’ll encourage you to revise so that you can fulfil your daily sugar quota. 
  9. Leave time to walk to your exam. Rather than cramming right up until you go into the exam hall, it’s best to stop revising about half an hour before your exam and start walking towards the hall. It gives you time to reflect on what you’ve been revising. 
  10. Get in there, try your best and kick ass. 

Home Away From Home

It’s that time of year again when students are packing up to either start their new adventure at university, or continue their perilous journey of student life. I thought I could share a few things that I’ve found handy in my first year in making my university room a home away from home:

  1. Photos and photo frames. You might be super excited to leave home and start your new adventure away from home, but the truth it that you will miss your loved ones for the ten weeks you’re away. Photos not only act as decor, but also make your room feel homely and give you nice little reminders about who’s waiting for you back home.
  2. Posters/keepsakes. It’s always nice to have things you like on your pin board. It makes your room less depressing and will help to cheer you up at times. I had a lot of Clinton photos (both Bill and Hills), and also a poster that reads “if britney survived 2007, you can survive today”. Sometimes it’s the little things that make living away from home that bit easier. 
  3. Fairy lights. Whether they’re draped over a mirror, your bed, your shelves or pinned on your pin board, they will make your room extra cosy. 
  4. Speakers. While you don’t want to have them too loud to avoid your flatmates hating you, these can be great for flat parties, pre-drinks and little get togethers. 
  5. Stationary. Now you don’t want to splurge lots of money on expensive stationary – get your pads, ring binders, pens etc from shops like poundland or home and bargain to keep your stationary budget minimal. Things like list making pads, however, are special and you should treat yourself to one from paper chase or a store like that. If you’re like me, you’ll love making lists and putting a big fat cross through something on that list to make you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Also, they’re pretty. 
  6. Blankets. Blankets are SO important. Maybe I’m biased because I’m just permanently cold and want to be cosy 24/7, but having blankets is so handy. I have a cute Tatty Teddy blanket on hand at all times (even when I go to the library) – yes, I’m sad. So what?) 
  7. Cushions. Fluffy cushions are also VERY important, simply because they’re cosy and look nice. They might also help take your mind off how many people have had sex on your bed while you use it only to sleep and watch Netflix.