Thursday, 25 August 2016

More hopeful awkwardness.

I'm really worried this is going to become a series of sorts...'Gracie's the Singleton's Totally Ridiculous Misadventures'. 
Yes, I met another guy. Much like that time on the train, the Brighton-bound retro denim jacket disaster, I was given all the signals and I went for it. The results were unexpected.


I must say here, for probably the thousandth time, that I do not think that much of myself. Not in regards to romantic interest, anyway. Does that make sense? Like, if a human shows an interest in me it will take me FOREVER to a) notice it, and b) believe it. I went on so many coffee dates and random wanders/drives with my guy friends at college and then was bought drinks by male pals at uni, before I realised what was happening. What was their aim. Not aim, hint? They were hinting. And because I may be quick on the uptake but I suck at self-esteem sometimes, I would insist all my slightly wiser and more alert friends were wrong; they didn't fancy me, they couldn't, no way, they're just being friendly. 

So bearing this in mind, please understand just how blatant and shamelessly obvious this dude's flirting was. Okay? Even *I* picked up on it. I was 100% sure of it. Got that? I wasn't imagining anything. I promise. 

Bartender - let's call him Daniel, because I'll always protect identities on this blog, even when they don't necessarily deserve it - was chilled in his speech and thoughtful in posture. He was tall, longish hair beneath a branded snap back cap. Shouldn't have been my type, but there was something in his aura. Wiry frame, broad chest, not skinny but not enormously toned either. Relaxed smile but intense eyes. He complimented me once or twice, deliberately, coolly, before sauntering off to serve others. 

'Grace? An elegant name for a beautiful girl.' 

He made me approximately 6 cocktails over the course of the evening. I would catch him looking my way and when I caught him, he didn't waver. I liked the easy confidence. He was also surprised, though, it seemed, by me. Numerous times. He was happily taken aback when I referenced a TV show he loved; he did that eyebrow-raise lip-purse when I asked for mint in my drink instead of basil; every now and again this smile would creep in and I genuinely believed it was just for me, just because. 
I got tipsy and therefore brave. The perfect level of tipsy, I feel. I was rocking my jungle red lipstick and grinning with my tongue between my teeth, which I haven't done for ages. I wrote my number down on my bar receipt - my number and my full name, should he wish to find me online. I never do that. I never give out my number. I take other numbers, as it's safer - or I would, once upon a time, but these days I'm not getting any nor do I want any. 

He smiled and took the scrap of paper. He unfolded it, smirked, raised an eyebrow and pocketed it, thanking me. I got whispers of butterflies and wanted to dance. 

I'm making this sound romantic. It wasn't. It was just a sizzle. A flirtation. A rare thing for me at the moment, you understand. I forget how immensely awesome flirting makes me feel - especially these days, when my body is especially starved for attention and my gaze is never settling for long. 

He left the bar, and went home without saying goodbye, as I was watching the authors at the event reading aloud and stunning the crowd. I was buzzing. Books, friends, the perfect cocktail, and a nice warm dose of flirtation. Would it lead anywhere? I didn't know, and wasn't sure I cared. I felt good about myself. That's all that mattered. 

Then I got the text. As the event wound down and everyone gathered their things. I got the text, and I showed everyone, wordlessly. I couldn't quite believe it. I didn't know whether to laugh or seethe. Now, 24 hours on, I can safely say I've done both a fair bit. I've also felt ashamed, of myself and my behaviour...but then I've reminded myself, and had good friends remind me too, that I did nothing wrong. 
And he's just a bit of a prick, it seems. 


There. That should tell you all. 
The text was a shit sandwich. Niceness, bomb drop, niceness. Sickening niceness in amongst the stinkiest nonsense. I am sad, yes I am, because I try and be brave now and again and I just get knocked back. No, worse, I get strung along and then knocked back. I'm made to feel silly, like it was all in my head - when I know, based on my fairly minimal experience in this kind of thing, that it was real and it did happen. There was something. 
All I can really say after this is...shame. 
A shame, and that poor girlfriend. 
This won't stop me being bold and boosting myself up in the future, but it may knock me for a while now...

Bartender, maybe we'll meet again. Probably not. But if we do, I'll be sure to tell you off in person. xoxo

Sunday, 21 August 2016

#Alevelresults.

5 years ago (almost to the day, cheers Timehop) I received my A Level results. I've lied about what I got for years, and right now I can't believe I did. I understand why, I was ashamed at the time, but then here, in 2016, at 23, I really don't care. I own it. 

I got 3 Cs. CCC.
Sociology C (only just off a B, my best grade, which is odd because I only took that subject to fill timetable space), English Lit C (and I had to retake my AS exam to get that), Drama C (B on the hideous 2.5 hour exam, C on coursework. I was stunned). 
I was devastated when I received these grades, these bold typed capital letters printed on thick paper, because it meant I wouldn't be going to uni



I'd received a conditional offer from the University of Winchester a few months before, and I'd visited not long after applying. It was the only uni open day I attended that gave me THAT FEEL. The feeling I needed, the buzz. I was at home there. I walked down the main street of West Downs Student Village and I knew, I knew I had to be there. I couldn't not be.
Winchester required BBC from me, which was very generous of them, according to all my super-academic and generally genius friends. I, however, found that daunting. I was great at essays, at coursework, at Drama performances, at contributing in classes – but exams? No. I couldn't do exams. I'd choke and crumble and cry. The enormous clock would stare at me as I sat at that teeny wobbly desk in the local church where we took our exams; the papers in front of me would slip and shriek under my hands, knowing I was useless and would cover them in mindless rambles and messy thoughts. I maintain that that's why I did as poorly as I did. Well, I thought I did poorly, when in fact 3 Cs is decent and I shouldn't have been upset. I should have been proud of myself. 


Anyway, I am actually a little grateful that I had a minor breakdown on Results Day. Yes, I did. I broke right down. I cried and cried, while my clever friends cheered and hugged, having got everything they needed – I felt them slipping away from me, no, pulled, I felt them racing away, fleeing, to their new homes and new lives
I wailed down the phone to the university while frantically refreshing the infernally frozen UCAS web page in the college computer suite. 
'I'm sorry, I dropped grades, I failed, is my place gone? I didn't meet the offer!'
Then the kind fella on the phone in Winchester said the magic words, after I finally got my panicked words out: 'Oh, don't worry. We're still having you! Yeah, don't worry. Just a formality. We always wanted you. Welcome to Winchester! See you in September.' 
Y'know why I'm happy I broke down like that? Because it made me see. I realised just how badly I wanted it. I wanted to go to university. I'd been doubting it for some time before Results Day, considering apprenticeships and low-level work-up jobs...but when it came down to it, uni was something I desperately wanted. I wanted – needed – that phase of my life to happen.

Having said that, remember my darling younger readers: it's not everything. That was just my experience, that was what I wanted to do with my life at that point. 
Your results are not you. They don't define you. They don't have a say in what you do with your life. Just remember a) the Clearing process, if you desperately want that uni life, b) retakes, apprenticeships, jobs, travelling OPTIONS ALL OF THE OPTIONS, and c) there's no rush. There's no rush to get anywhere, to do anything; just do you, be you. You can't go wrong. 

 

- Oh, quick shout-out to the future Creative Writing students at the University of Winchester – in October 2016, for just one day (at present), you will be taught about professional writing, specifically blogging, by ME. I cannot wait to meet you all and rock out in some seminars with you. I'll bring the snacks. Whoever brings me a coffee gets an instant First*.


*I have no power to give Firsts or grades of any description. I will just love you a lot. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Another customer.

'Excuse me, dear?'
'Hi there! Sorry, I was reading...perks of the job, you know! Can I help?' 

I had finished two books at this point. I'd done all my jobs for the day, and it was only me in this quiet little shop. I ate my sandwiches behind the desk, springing up whenever a customer walked in, shoving the sandwich bag under the till. At this moment, however, I was truly absorbed. I was learning about grief – it's a thing with feathers. Then the woman had appeared. I didn't notice her coming in. She just...happened. 


'Quite alright. I snuck up on you! Yes, I was wondering if you had any pets books?'
'Oh, like How To guides, that kind of thing?'
'No, just books about pets. See, I don't have a pet these days, I'm too old for one really, but I like reading about them!'
'You're not too old, surely! You know the RSPCA does a special weekly adoption deal? We tried to get my Grandad on it. My sister is also a volunteer with Blue Cross, she cuddles cats two hours a week, you could probably...'
'Oh no, if I adopted an animal I'd have to keep it!'
'True, I think that's what they aim for actually!'

This woman was thin, bent over slightly; grey hair, wide but tired eyes. She had the nicest white lace top on, and as she stood talking to me she was keeping carefully within herself. She shone quietly.

'So did your grandad do that adoption thing? How old is he?'
'He wouldn't, though we tried to convince him to. He's 79!'
'Oh, 79, really?'

I couldn't tell how old this woman could be – but that's not saying much, I have very poor judgement with ages. I can't say how old a small child might be, I'll always say 'under 10'. I can't tell who's my age and who's older. I get embarrassed when I assume someone is older than me and they're actually younger. It's a minefield. I hate guessing ages, too. That's the worst challenge you can pose in a conversation. That, and asking about a person's faith. Or sexuality.

'Yep, you wouldn't know it though. He's a spritely fella!'
'Well I'm 86, dear.'

Her eyes crinkle, condense and come apart as she smiles. She's shaking her head, as if she's ashamed of her age. Nobody should ever be ashamed of their age. We can't control it. We have to own it.

'So I'm 86, you see, and I recently lost a cat.'
'Oh, no! I would go mad if I lost my cat. He's my best friend, he really is. I'm so sorry.'
'Yes well, I lost him and I'd lost my husband, and my father...it happens, at my age.'

I'm lost for words. Then she says it.

'At my age, at 86, I really can't love anything any more.'

What can I possibly say to that? I fall down holes as I process the statement. Love is essential. Love is not the meaning of life, no, but it's important. It's something we should all have – within us and around us. I love love. So hearing this...said so casually, like she's reached the final stage of grief and she's putting her heart away in a little jewellery box in her bedroom, on her husband's side of the bed...

'So that's why I buy pet books. So I can read about pets. But I can't have one.' 

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Magic Number.

Does your magic number matter?

We've all had those chats with friends, usually over drinks obvs, when a game of 'Never Have I Ever' gets pointed and slurry...yeah, it's that chat about our number. Y'know. That number. No, not your mobile number. Not your age. Your, ermm, 'magic number'. Get me now?
Yes, the magic number. Your number of sexual partners. Yeah. 

This is a fun topic of conversation – provided it is a conversation between friends you trust and not with nosy strangers trying to chat you up on the dance floor, and that there is enough of a mutual (spoken or unspoken) understanding between you that no matter what your friend's magic number is, big or small, you will NOT judge them for it. That information will not taint your opinion of them; it will not alter your perception or ignite any unpleasantness.

When I was at uni, I had a lot of friends in halls or shared houses who would compile lists that all house mates could contribute to as and when, e.g. the list in the kitchen of each house mate or visitor's allergies/food preferences, or the times they each took the bins out...and then of course, there were the 'funny' lists, too. The most common was always the Chunder Chart...and the Shag Chart.
Some of my friends were absolutely diligent in their updating of the Shag Chart. One guy I knew even raced out of his bedroom wrapped in a duvet, with a slight semi, to add a notch to his section of the chart. He then got a round of high-fives and returned to his room for round 2. The main rule of the Shag Chart was simple: each individual you shag in your flat/house, not each shag. For instance, if you bring someone home from a night out once, then that's one tally mark. If you have a long-term partner who visits every weekend and spends the greater proportion of that weekend in your bed then they get one mark too, and no more. Them's the rules, kids. It was very strict, and fair. 

Now, that was in 2011. If anything I feel that sexuality is ten times more open and just acceptable than it was back then...y'know? Back then having a Shag Chart was 'casual classic bantz' but also a bit of a thrill as we students had been so tame – and maybe repressed – until then in our family homes and quiet towns. Most of us could count the amount of times we'd got laid on one hand. Freshers Fortnight turned all of that around.
Five years on, in 2016, sex is more of a talked about concept and, in some cases, issue. People feel they can be more open and give detail of certain encounters or experiences among friends – or online for the world to hear and read about! *waves to fellow sex-positive bloggers & vloggers*

I personally have always felt that the Magic Number concept is fraught with terror when it really needn't be.
As a woman I am frequently made to feel like a hideous nympho freak for having and enjoying sex. Let alone having and enjoying sex with more than one other human in my entire life. Then on the flip side, men are considered 'weird' or worse if they only bonk the one person and not a never-ending stream of conquests. 

This hideous double-standard always makes me think of a school friend's Bebo 'skin' back in 2003, all pink and glittery and sarcastic: a girl kisses 2 guyz, she a hoe – a guy bangs 2 gurlz, he's a ledge?? 


That's how things feel if you're straight, anyway – LGBTQ friends, please enlighten me, is this an issue in your communities? 

I am on the verge of starting up an Adam Hills-style 'don't be a dick' rant, I know, but I really cannot say it enough: your Magic Number, big or small or middling or non-existent, does not matter. If you enjoyed each encounter, or perhaps didn't but learned something from it, or (I'm so sorry if this is the case) you feel you need to scratch a digit or two off due to nastiness, then fine. To each their own. Do you. Never be ashamed or embarrassed. Never let someone make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. I don't know, it can all get so silly and so OTT; please be good to yourself, that's all. 
How do YOU feel about this? Have you ever been made to feel 'slutty', or 'frigid' because of your Magic Number? Do you even know what the number is or do you not count? ANY OPINIONS WELCOME, I am such a hoe for opinions...thank you, friends! 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Recent Reads: My Holiday in July.

I really enjoyed my gal Emma Oulton's Bustle post about reading 8 books in 8 days on holiday – so much so that it somewhat inspired this post! Another Recent Reads, this time all books featured being read on my 5 day holiday to the gorgeous island of Majorca! 

Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online, by Emma Gannon.

The perfect start to my holiday. I took this out and opened it for the very first time when we were on the plane, having resisted reading any the night before, and by the time we landed I was over halfway through. It was speaking to me on every level. Full review to come, with next level gushing and some cringe-tastic anecdotes, don't y'all worry!
I kept saying, to my dad and grandad, that my friend wrote the book. I referred to it as 'my friend Emma's book'. Because that's how Emma, the girl lost in the city who is doing pretty darn well if that's still the case, feels to me. Like an old school friend, who inspires me every Sunday via email and most days via tweet and blog.


If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo.

I rarely get attached to, no I mean invested in, stories written in an alien place to me. Ermm, I promise I'm not a Brexit supporter (eww) or one of those ignorant mindless xenophobes (what even, tho, guys) but I can't help it, I just feel more comfortable and content reading a contemporary story set in the UK. American tales can get me going, but they have to be properly cracking to do so, it seems. I'm working on it...
Moving on from my shameful literary small-mindedness, I LOVED THIS BOOK. Holy shit, it was powerful as can be and gorgeous, just dripping with feeling and beauty. Just, read it guys. ASAP. It opened my eyes and warmed (and hurt) my heart.


What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne.

This inspired a recent post – a post it took me ages to work up the nerve to actually...post. I know, rare for me, right? I tend to go in all guns blazing and eccentricities out in the open!
I thoroughly enjoyed the third in the Spinster Club trilogy. I love that it's a 3-parter that isn't like, a strict traditional 3-parter. You can pick up any of these books and read, it doesn't really totally properly matter the order. But obvs it's best to obey the publication dates appropriately.
I knew I'd love this. I knew it. Holly said at an event recently that she was worried about writing this instalment in the girls' story, because she knew Lottie would be the biggest ask – and maybe the biggest pain in the arse?! – but whoa, she slayed. It was worth the wait. I always knew Lottie was my fave. 
Holly Bourne is winning at social media recently. From her mad trend on Twitter #IAmAFeminist to her epic YouTube collabs - I particularly loved her video with my excellent friend Stevie. Oh, and the one with Hannah Witton. Also the one with gorgeous Amber. ALL OF THE VIDEOS. 
This book officially came out on Monday 1st August. What a lovely day that was. A book was released, and I turned 23. An excellent collision of events. I am more than happy to share my day with Lottie's expulsion into bookshops. 

*the cover in my pic is a PROOF that I was lucky enough to receive. See here for the actual gorgeous proper cover!*


Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman.

I have no clue why this took me so long to read. I started it when it was released, months ago, and yet I had to put it aside for a while and pick it back up on holiday. I'll say this was because I needed to treat it with care and allow it maximum time and concentration for the perfect story to sink in and affect me – oh wait, that's 100% true. I just didn't realise it when I left it less-than-half-finished a few months back. When I finally picked it up again, I stormed through 300 pages in 2 days. 

I bloody love Alice Oseman. She is everything I wanna be. A published author, a happy graduate who hilariously documented most of her worst uni experiences on Twitter, and Lauren James' best friend. I recently attended a talk the two of them hosted at YALC (YALC, OMG YALC) and they blew my mind repeatedly. 

Back to the book. I am usually a bit irritated by the use of social media in contemporary novels. It rubs me up the wrong way, for some reason. It's mostly because I hate reading the word 'Facebook' in a book. It's like a First World modern day phobia. However, Alice aced it. Smashed it. This book was everything. The social media was crucial and perfect, her take on it all was spot on and brilliant. Like, yeah. 


So, those were the books I read by the pool at the luxurious hotel in Majorca. When I wasn't drinking gin on the balcony and playing cards with my Dad & Grandad, I was reading. It was a magical holiday. Again, please? I'd happily re-read each of these if need be! 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Taking up residence in the Idiot Nation.

I recently purchased the album American Idiot by Green Day. As in, I went into HMV and bought the actual physical CD in its plastic case, with security wrapping around it and a track list on the back. I did that. I took it home and ripped off the packaging and put it in my laptop's disc drive. Now all of that, that series of events, that is retro in the extreme, no? Well, it seemed fitting. I couldn't just click and download this particular album. I had to have it in my modest 'miscellaneous CDs' box on the shelf by my bed – although now I'm driving again it'll have to go in the car! – and I had to take my time bringing it home and putting it onto my iPod. I had to make it a ceremonial moment. Because, my friends, what I'm getting at here in this seemingly endless paragraph of nonsense is...this album is important to me. 


The reason I bought my own copy of American Idiot, finally, was because I had booked in to see the epic stage show at the Arts Theatre in London. 

But I'll get to that in a minute. First, let's go back in time and hear why Gracie loves the old school Green Day so freakin' much.

This album followed me around as a teenager. And has done some more as an adult. Although I never owned it myself, all of my friends seemed to. And every 'emo kid', 'scene kid' at my school, hell, even the chavs loved it. It was played in classrooms on Sony Eriksson phones before the teacher came in, and when we were heading home to chat to each other some more on MSN Messenger. My best friend would often nudge me in Maths classes and sing quietly, calling me an Australian Idiot, and we'd giggle. The only song I could ever play on electric guitar, it seemed, was Wake Me Up When September EndsSome family friends had a cracking mini music festival in their back garden for a few years in a row, and one of the acts sang a mash-up of Green Day and Oasis. 
At 16, my first boyfriend and I would find that Boulevard of Broken Dreams would inexplicably always come on the iPod speakers beside his bed as we laid there, cramped and cuddling, after a solid 10 minutes of sexy time.
When I had just turned 19 I went to my first (and last) music festival, Reading 2012. I camped with my not-boyfriend (not-but-kinda-was) and other lovely friends; we got Early Bird tickets and were there Wednesday to Sunday. It was a weird and slightly hideous experience generally, but a highlight was when Green Day took to the 'secret stage' or whatever it was as a surprise act. We were knocking back beers at 10am Friday when suddenly we heard the unmistakable guitar strum ring out across the campsite. We tore off immediately because we all needed to see Billy Joe in the flesh and let our inner teen selves rock out. 
The glee club at my uni (no, I was not part of that, as if) sang Whatshername at their end of year showcase, and I fancied the guy who led it. 
Second year of uni, still 19, I had a disastrously anti-climatic one-nighter with a guy who'd stopped in on his way home from seeing the original production in London. When I stupidly asked 'So it's a jukebox musical? Is it like a Mamma Mia thing? Like, a band, in a musical?' he replied: 'yeah sure, take Mamma Mia, kick it in the balls, and you're almost there with this show.' 

Aha, this brings me to the show. A few friends of mine have seen it, including my gal Clare. I've heard nothing but rave reviews. I was always interested, I always peered at the posters outside the Arts Theatre when walking past into Orbital Comics. Nothing spurred me into buying a ticket, that is until...Newton. Ah, that lovely fella. I saw him live recently for the second time and he'd just announced he was taking over the role of Johnny on the tour – alas, none of the tour dates worked for me and every show was a couple million miles away from me, it wasn't meant to be. But then they announced they'd return to London and BOOM, I was there. 


Shout-out to my dedicated and excellent theatre buddy Jim @YAYeahYeah, he is a wizard when it comes to theatre trips and tickets. I don't know how he did it, but we got Row D seats for £20 each. Pretty darn sweet. 
So the first time I saw this show, Newton wasn't performing due to illness. I had the weirdest feeling as we entered the theatre, almost as if I knew - even though I didn't know for sure...it was a nasty premonition, really. Sure enough, there were posters up saying the role of Johnny would be played by Lawrence Libor that night. I felt a little deflated (and actually decided right there and then that I simply had to return and see Newton someday) but carried on into the theatre. I am so happy I did. Lawrence was a treat - for the eyes and the ears! He looked young and sensitive, yet tormented by the dark forces. His acting was supreme, and the voice was exceptional. He did the trick for me - I didn't even mind getting the late train home that night, because I was high on his performance. Same with his supporting cast, of course, the gang of fellas the show centres around and of course the gorgeous gals who tempt and try them throughout, all magical. 


This meant I was fully prepared to see the show again, two weeks later, thanks to LOVETheatre's 15-hour £15 flash sale (Row F on a Saturday night for £15 each? Pretty effing sweet, no? I tell you, that one deal is worth the endless offer emails I now receive from the LOVETheatre guys). I saw the lovely Newton, tossing his perfect little shot of dreads about, literally climbing the walls and lending his unique vibes to the now old-school songs. I knew it would be odd at first, seeing him being someone else - someone who stuck their middle fingers up a lot and never showered and took drugs - but I properly loved it and believed the performance. 
The three key lads were my favourites. Them, and St Jimmy - he was a delightfully wicked (and totally sexy) metaphor of a character. Tunny, the war hero, played by Alexis Gerred, was immensely unreal. His voice exploded from him, and it was magical. Also the whole way through I was wondering why I felt I knew Will, played by Steve Rushton, so then I looked him up and realised he is a mega star who happened to play in yet another band I loved as a teen. What a cowinkydink. 


I am so excited to have a ticket to see this epic show a third time in September, again thanks to my marvellous friend Jim who abused the 15-hour £15 sale as well to get me the perfect birthday present. 

Highlights (are insanely hard to pick because the entire show was a highlight. It was an endless stream of excitement, like whoa): The song and arrangement of Give Me Novacaine, the fighting and the, ermm, not-fighting, were perfection. The badass women in the show, throwing the men about when they needed a wake up call. The throwing of stuff, which happened a lot. 
And yes, NF in his little black boxers was a highlight too. I guess. Yeah. 

My absolute favourite thing about seeing this show? That there were moments, there were certain songs, when you could hear the artist belting them out onstage and we, the audience, were singing along oh-so quietly. During Boulevard of Broken Dreams for instance, and Wake Me Up When September Ends, all around me I was hearing the loveliest, lightest yet most intense whispering of the words. Because we were swept away and in our element. So I must thank the gorgeous cast for that. 
See you in September, idiots!


(All photos belong to americanidiotthemusical.co.uk, except the top one which is mine!)

Friday, 5 August 2016

Flying high and dry.

I'm in the midst of...wait, no, I'm not in the midst of anything. That's the point I'm making. Well, I believe what's affecting me at the moment is called 'a dry spell'. Now that's always sounded a bit sad and gross to me, but oh well. For lack of a better expression, I am in a dry spell. Spelling dry. 



This is not a disaster for me, oh no - I don't know if any of you saw this somewhat controversial but mega important blog post, but if you did then you know I can handle myself. As it were. But still, it would be rather lovely to have someone else helping me out. *ahem* 

I recently read Laura Jane Williams' 'Becoming' and it astounded me in its brilliance, its rawness...but then I astounded myself with my ability to relate to it. Even though I haven't ever spent time in an Italian convent, or flown to New York to confess my love for a man, or taken a vow of celibacy...but I may as well have, right now. However I am not that religious or committed to anything. 
I'm getting to my point guys, bear with...

This dry spell is actually somewhat self-inflicted

Let me explain. I have been taking care of myself recently. And no, that isn't only in reference to my manic wanking. It's also a general thing. For the past 8 months, it has been all about me. Doing me (again, I don't mean just the she-bopping). It was only last year, amidst another medical nightmare, and after a bit of counselling, that I realised just how little I thought of myself. More importantly, how I didn't prioritise myself. I came second to everyone else in my life - even, in some cases, the people who bullied me. At times especially the people who bullied me. 
They say illnesses give you perspective; that when they rip the roof off your safe place and shove you headfirst into the shit, they are actually doing the tiniest bit of good because they shine a light on what matters - and what really doesn't. For me, the light shone on...me. 


Since this startling realisation, I have deliberately gone out of my way to make myself happy, first. If anyone else gets a few good vibes in the process, so much the better. 

In my relentless pursuit of fun and me-time, I have done the following things...
-- Seen mad amounts of theatre, despite the cost. With friends, and alone. A highlight was when I saw a matinee of Wicked in London, just me. It was literally magical.
-- Written (most of) a book. It's currently being tweaked and polished within an inch of its life, and then who knows? I may just send it to someone and make it a real, legit thing. 
-- Blogged so so much more. Which I know y'all love, right? 
-- Got a new job. I finally acknowledged - no, admitted - that I wasn't happy in my former workplace. I needed to do something that suited me better and made me endlessly happy. Thus, I became a bookseller
-- I've made my own Netflix account and included my family in it, giving them all accounts and linking it up (painstakingly) on the family home TV. 
-- I've started looking into more tattoos, more artists. Emailing and booking. Things I really want. Things that make my body more my own space. Body positivity has been a big thing I've been working on in recent months, and it feels pretty sweet. 
-- I read some bloody excellent books

There are so many more things I've done, and the majority of them can be found in my previous post. The one I wrote on my birthday, because clearly I have a next level blogging addiction. But I knew that already. 

So, my dry spell has actually been quite pleasant and rewarding. Would you believe it? 

If it helps you to get your head around this, readers, yes I do miss sex. I really do. I've almost forgotten what it feels like. But I haven't had time for it! I haven't prioritised it. Maybe sometime in the near future I will, again, like I used to. Maybe. But for now? I'm doing me. In every respect. 

*winks* 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Happy Birthday Me, Nobody Likes You When You're 23.

Thing that happened when I was 22. 

I recovered from my second lot of brain surgery. My family and I had our first Christmas without Grandma. I spent New Year's Eve in London, in a sparkly silver dress, with my uni friends, drinking vodka and orange juice. My little sis turned 18, and I treated her to a big surprise day out. I got another tattoo. I went to Berlin for the second time. The family, we four, went to Disneyland Paris. I started writing for The Olive Fox. I visited London approximately 104 times, and 70 of those times I stayed overnight. I stuck the middle finger up at the girl who bullied my sis at school. I actually got along with and firmly befriended a friend's perfect son - despite me being ridiculously bad with kids. 
I saw 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', 'Matilda: The Musical' (2nd time), 'Beyond The Fence', 'Wicked' (3rd time), 'American Idiot', Kenneth Brannagh's 'Romeo & Juliet'. Also 'Avenue Q', Vincent & Flavia's last hurrah dance show, and several other plays at the lovely Eastbourne Theatres. 
I saw my 3 all-time favourite artists - Newton Faulkner, Joshua Radin, and Dallas Green - live. I started back at work in the cafe. I got a dream job, I became a bookseller at my local Waterstones. 
I attended dozens upon dozens of incredible book events; launches, drinks, signings, panels. I met authors I idolised, and a lot of them became friends of mine. I realised the magical phenomenon that is book mail. My blog surpassed 200,000 views. 
The weekend leading up to my 23rd birthday, I attended YALC for the very first time and realised it is everything I want and everything I someday hope to be. 
I took a moth in my bare hands and put it out a window - I did this on the evening of July 31st, and I swear it may be my biggest achievement of being 22. 



It's been a heck of a year. I still have a way to go before I'm 25, thankfully, which as I've said before in a post is supposedly the year you have to get your shit together (?!). I'm not the best at remembering what happens at what age, my concept of time is terrible (and I realised this yet again when writing this post, whoa), but hopefully the year of 23 will be a good one. One I remember clearly. 

Things that will definitely be happening when I am 23. 

- I'll guest lecture at my alma mater, the University of Winchester, on a module entitled Professional Writing. 
- My reconstruction surgery. Possibly. 
- I'll be driving again. After 2 years of having my licence held by the DVLA. (I called them on my 23rd birthday, today, and got this news. Best present ever? Maybe.)

Things that I hope will be happening when I am 23. 

I'll stop biting my nails. I'll go to Australia and see my family as part of that graduation solo trip I planned so many years ago and never got to do. 
I'll see the Harry Potter & The Cursed Child play. 
I'll get an agent. And maybe a publishing deal situation. 
I will keep loving myself, my body and my mind. 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hands grab. Switch...flick?

This was my moment, back in 2013.

'Hiya!'

What? Hiya, hello? Who? Huh...?

'Oh yeah! Slut shorts, love it!' 


Are they talking to – or rather, yelling at – at me!? Surely not. I'm scared to look. Suddenly I can't turn around. Are they gone yet?

'Mate, green light! Go! Turn it up...'

I was taking a photo of the latest joke scrawled on the blackboard in a local cafe window. It was one a customer had sent in via Twitter, and it was hilarious. A nosy pepper gets jalapeño business! Ingenious. So imagine my surprise when I hear those green man bleeps sounding at the end of the road, then car engines slow down and pull up, and then...shouts.

It's 27 degrees. This is a pretty built up area of the tiny city. I'm wearing denim shorts. I debated it for 11 minutes this morning before I left my house, I even consulted my least horrid house mate and even she nodded her reluctant approval. Going bare-legged was a big deal, and I was braving it. I couldn't not.
Slut shorts?! What did that mean? I vaguely recall some of my friends at Reading Festival shouting it at crowds of young girls as they passed through our camping section – but that was at 4am when we were quite deaf from the music that night and had been drinking out of a bucket for the past hour or so. Nobody was responsible for what they said. Although that's what I'd said when I told that guy I loved him on one of those nights...and didn't hear it back.

I finally turn and see a red Corsa with the windows rolled right down and boys – not men, boys, my age so technically men but no, yucky immature boys – leering out the windows at me. Me. Of all people. I search the street without daring to turn my head too much, looking for their real target. It can't be me. The boys in the snap back caps and mirrored sunglasses are addressing someone, anyone, else.
I ignored it.
The lights changed.
They were gone.
I heard their laughter drive away. 


Later that same day, I'm on the train. I'm hot, sweating into my seat. My new necklace, the silver (coloured) Deathly Hallows symbol on a chain, is starting to smell and leave marks where it sits on my skin. I shift it around to avoid spots emerging where it normally falls.
'Aww mate, she has a Harry Potter necklace. I think I love her, I do.'
'Ha, you love a geeky girl, mate.'
'Do not. She's hot, too.'
'No tits, though.'
'We just can't see 'em.'
It's happening. It's happening again. Thank goodness Bournemouth is close.
I was visiting my best friend in his lovely seaside home, staying with him and his family for a night. The perfect place to spend this sunny day, this summer's eve. I stood up as I saw the tall, pretty, brick walls of the station approaching. I hadn't found the source of the voices, yet. But when I settled into the queue for the doors, which began not far from the middle of the carriage as it was so so busy; when I reached out and stabilised myself against a free seat to my left, I felt something coming from behind me. On my bare shoulders. A wet breath, and...a hand. On me. On my...there. On my shorts. Against the denim. Feeling me. On my arse. My actual arse.
Slut shorts.
Of course I cried, then. Of course I turned ever so slightly in a pathetic attempt to dislodge the hand, the touch. My face was burning on the air conditioned train. I went to hold up a hand of my own and say something. Something, anything. Nothing. It didn't happen. I just cried. When I dared lock eyes with him, he was grinning. It was sickening.

I got off the train and immediately saw a female attendant on the platform. Female. She'd get it. She'd see. A male might not. Awful thought, but...I can't take the chance. Can't give a man a chance. Women get it more, and so they get you.
'I got touched.'
'Honey, who?'
'Him—' I point, she squeezes my shoulder and sets off in impatient pursuit. I walk out the other way, I don't see if she catches him or says anything. I like to think she did.
But he might not have listened, if she did. He might have shrugged it off. He might have grabbed some other girl right away. Who knows. Who.
Same with the cat callers. Those boys. They got away, they don't see their wrongs. They carry on. They shouldn't. But they do. When will it stop?

This was my moment. I wrote an angry Facebook status and from then on I swore I'd always speak up and not let shit fly. 

***



Hey, Holly, this was when I decided not to flick a switch. I wish I'd had Lottie, back then. I'm so happy we all have her now. 
People, find & buy & read What's A Girl Gotta Do? - it's important. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

'The Otherlife' blog tour!

I am so honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for this new and excellent book. 'The Otherlife', by Julia Gray, was officially released into the world by Andersen on the 7th July. 

The YA book is a perfect blend of contemporary and classics - classics, as in mythology and monsters and all things fantastical! 

'
When troubled, quiet Ben begins at the ruthlessly competitive Cottesmore House, school to the richest, most privileged boys, he is befriended by Hobie: the wealthy class bully, product of monstrous indulgence and intense parental ambition. 
Hobie is drawn to Ben because he can see the Otherlife: a violent, mythic place where gods and monsters roam. Ben has unnerving visions of Thor and Odin, and of the giant beasts that will destroy them, as well as Loki, god of mischief. Hobie is desperate to be a part of it.
Years later, Ben discovers his beloved tutor Jason is dead. And he can’t help wondering if Hobie – wild, restless, dangerous Hobie, had something to do with it…' 

I am so excited to include in this post a piece from the awesome author. Read on for some perfect writing tips...






Four Things I Learned While Writing The Otherlife...

It’s okay not to get dressed all day if the word-count is rising like a well-executed soufflé. Going swimming is weirdly helpful when you’re stuck in a plot-snag. Coffee is crucial fuel, but breakfast is better. These are things I discovered while I was working on The Otherlife. Here are four key ‘lessons’ - I’m still working on bearing them in mind consistently. And although they seem so obvious when written down, it took time to figure out each one…

1. Be positive
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing,’ wrote Stephen King in his part-memoir, part-manual ‘On Writing’. I agree, but would add that fear is also at the root of doing no writing at all. I have a real tendency to undersell myself, to tell myself that there’s no point in continuing with things, because they probably won’t amount to much. It’s a kind of insurance: if I don’t allow myself to hope too much, I can avoid unnecessary disappointment.  (The Eeyore school of thought, if you will.) However, I have finally realised that without a starburst of starry-eyed optimism, it is pretty much impossible to sit in a chair for long enough to write an entire book, let alone a tortuous set of redrafts. One of the most surprising lessons I’ve learnt, therefore, is how to be a more positive thinker. Less like Eeyore. More like Pooh. Or Tigger.


2. Be patient
There’s the writing (and the replotting and the rewriting and the reformatting), and then there’s the waiting. Waiting for a phonecall, which is never a phonecall, because book people send emails, and if they want to call you then they email first to arrange a convenient time to call you. Pouncing on your phone anyway, whenever it rings. Waiting for an email to slide noiselessly into your inbox, all pristine and full of unopened promise, only to realise that it’s another despatch note from Amazon or an Ocado voucher for 19p. Waiting for news, because when your book has finally wobbled its way into the world, dodgy commas fixed and plot-holes plastered over, time takes on a kind of other-planetary quality. A week could be a year, or that’s how it feels. I think I spent from January to August of 2014 in the bath watching Desperate Housewives, because this compulsive pursuit made me feel as though time were being measured somehow. It was a great TV series, but I am sure there are more useful things I could have done. Note to self: next time, I will wait better. Time-wasting is pointless. Patience is good.

3. Be organised
Discovering the Scrivener software was a revelation. Available for both Mac and PC, it aims to replicate a kind of ‘writing shed’ in which you might store all your research and files and folders and hand-drawn maps and so forth. The software is very user-friendly, especially if you make time for the interactive tutorial. It’s adaptable to any kind of writing and files can be exported with ease. For me, Scrivener changed the way I think about a work-in-progress - instead of a linear, unwieldy Word document, a book becomes a living organism, constantly changing but infinitely more manageable in its complexities. Also: Kindles make excellent editing devices, especially on long bus journeys. On my beloved Kindle Fire HD I would annotate and highlight - yellow for omissions, orange for mistakes, blue for parts I needed to fact-check or come back to later. 

4. Be brave
For many reasons, The Otherlife is a book I thought I couldn’t write. Firstly: it was too dark. Secondly: I couldn’t occupy the head-space of a character (Hobie) so different to me. Thirdly: it was too complicated. It involved things I knew not enough about, like Old Norse, and required two timelines, with all the research that implied, and two voices. But despite these misgivings, I kept going. I had regular submissions for my Writing for Young Adults module at Birkbeck to complete, and the knowledge that a deadline awaited served as helpful bait. More than this, though, was a strange and subversive realisation that I wanted to keep going because I thought that I couldn’t, not in spite of this. The literary equivalent of skydiving, perhaps. Sometimes it’s essential to take risks. And maybe there’s no such thing as ‘too dark’… 

***

Another super cool thing to check out when reading this book is the Norse God Personality Quiz! Which god are you? Find out here! I'm rather chuffed with my result...


That's my stop done on this blog tour! Here is the exciting schedule for the rest of it...