Friday, 2 December 2011


So it's been far too long since I wrote anything on here, even if I have been writing in other places. (Promise!)
Here's something I re-discovered today, and subsequently re-wrote which no longer has a specific home to go to, so I thought I would set it free to let it graze upon the pastures of your minds.

As clichéd as it may be; we were all young once. Your first year at University can be a massive learning curve, and for me, the new influx of freshers just reminds me of how lucky I am to not be one anymore! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored being a fresher, and all the challenges, new friends, and questionably legal mixtures of alcohol it threw at me, but having been at a university for that much longer you naturally become more comfortable in your surroundings, and can concentrate on other things besides staking your claim and asserting your independence.

Think back to your first year at University (assuming you’re not currently in it) and think of all the incredible, but also incredibly ridiculous things you encountered. (Maybe keep that thing to yourself)Who am I to try and deny these shiny, new undergraduates all these incredible experiences? It stands to reason that almost all of us, at one point in our university lives, have been that one person in a group of friends who has slightly overestimated the amount of alcohol our perhaps questionably nourished, and sleep-deprived bodies can handle, and subsequently behaved in a manner not entirely in-keeping with the standards to which we hold ourselves in our day-to-day lives: it happens. If it had never happened to me, there would be significantly fewer embarrassing memories for me to suppress, and my closest friends would be unable to relish in reciting the story of my drunken offer of First Aid to a poor, unsuspecting boy, just minding his own business sat on the pavement. (Don’t ask) It is this exploration of limits, and extremes of behaviour that ultimately help shape the person you become for not only the rest of your time at university, but also the person you will someday be out in the big, bad real world.
Finding friends who I know will be there for me at my most sober, and most “wobbly”, has in itself, also brought me the very same people who will support me through both those extremes emotionally, and has helped me find people who will undoubtedly be part of my life for the rest of my days, even if not necessarily physically.
For me, personally, as I’ve aged through university (I would use the word mature, but the two are most definitely mutually exclusive) and I think for others too, priorities have changed. I’ve never been a massive fan of going out to clubs, although it invariably has its place, but as someone nearing the end of their degree it has become more socially acceptable to stay in, drink wine, play board games, drink gin, and find that 4am is the perfect time to end a pseudo-philosophical discussion about music with the unanswerable cry of “Yeah, well, your mum likes Wagner.” (The dead, German one)
So, fellow non-first years; we should not pine, or judge, but instead continue to make our own fun and leave freshers to their own discoveries with perhaps the odd steadying hand should you encounter any particularly intoxicated ones. Someone said to me recently that as an older student I cut a Yoda-like figure in amongst the haze of ’11 leavers’ hoodies, and that’s the kind of distinguished, refined notion I think we should all strive to adhere to.

So until the next time, which I promise will be as soon as I've got my 8,000 word deadline out of the way, I bid you adieu. :)

Friday, 26 August 2011

The right to write.

So a month or so ago I entered a writing competition, and considering I decided to do so about an hour before the deadline, I'm pretty pleased with what came out. As this is the case, I thought I'd share it with you. :)

Sticks and stones won’t break my bones, but words and actions haunt me.
We are born with this wonderful fleshy armour that is designed to protect us from disease and damage, but the holes in our head which let in the light and sound are the only chinks our enemies need.
We are often told that the brain is like a sponge, and that long-since taught facts and figures can be found second shelf to the left, next to Aunty Glenda’s birthday, but no-one talks about the dark, dimly-lit corner where the bad memories lurk, with the long held on to grudges, and the jibes from “heated discussions.”
Some people’s dark corners are bigger than the average. Some people have entire dark sections, just down those stairs that no-one really likes the look of, and the local children terrify each other with myths and stories of what lies at the bottom. In the basement of our thoughts, insults and jibes cling to the walls like damp; taking on a viscous, tar-like feeling, coating every one of our thoughts and actions and tinging everyday life with their damning effects.
Words are magical and wonderful, but when put in the wrong hands they can maim and destroy. Some people grow out of being bullied, but think of those children that don’t. Those children that dwell in the basement of life, sunlight never feeling quite as warm as it does to others, because they aren’t worthy of the simplest pleasures, or at least have been told it often enough that they believe it.
“Don’t leave children to fester in basements” seems like an obvious imperative, but figuratively, every child, every person, deserves the right to believe in themselves enough to climb those stairs and breathe in the sweet, fresh air of their own identity, so if you encounter someone in need, take the time to shine a light in their direction, and maybe even offer a hand to start them on their uphill struggle, and know that by the time they reach the surface you will have quite possibly saved their life.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Learning Curves

As a student, stereotype states that I am pre-disposed to lie-ins, laziness and lethargic living.

Now, I will freely admit that I can sleep as well as the next narcoleptic when it suits me, but I seem to have built up this group of friends who regularly greet the world well before 9am, entirely through choice. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not entirely averse to an early start, sometimes even when they’re not compulsory, but it strikes me that I’ve never liked worms anyway, especially early in the morning, and I’ve got this far without it causing me too much harm, so why should I change now?

On the other hand, maybe that extra hour or two could make all the difference. Maybe if I sprang out of bed at 6am every day, I could learn another language, or finish that pesky novel a few years earlier. Perhaps those hours between sunrise and civilisation could be the key to solving the world’s problems! In reality though, the only chance of me actually being capable of springing out of bed at hell o’clock, or 666am, would be if you actually set my bed on fire. Even then I’d probably turn over to give myself another 5 minutes, just to make sure I was scorched right through. I am one of those slaves to their body, who, when they don’t get exactly the right amount of sleep that the mother ship requires, becomes what is affectionately known as “a grump” but upon closer inspection, can be more accurately described as  a she-beast from the 7th circle of Satan’s fiery headquarters.

The same mutation also occurs when my blood sugars get low, which makes being me pretty much a full-time occupation. I don’t know the scientific reason for why sleep and glucose seem to fuel the reasonable part of my brain, but I do know that when there has been a drought of either, your only options are to either throw food at me through the bars, or just push me over and run.

The past few years have been a massive learning curve in terms of understanding myself and my actions. From going to university, and being plucked from my 2-parent, no-sibling bungalow and thrust into a flat of 6 strangers (who thankfully turned out to be lovely) in a building of 11 other similar flats, to then being turfed out in to the real world and an actual house on a proper street, with bills and cleaning rotas, and queues for the bathroom, and then circumstance prompting the decision to plant roots in a 2-bedroom flat with the boyfriend, it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve become a bit of a mongrel, in the sense that living with all these different people, you pick up habits and quirks, both bad and good, and your norm is nudged and tweaked until it is almost unrecognisable compared to when you first started out. For example, there are those that start their days with the lark (or the cockerel, I’m not here to judge) and have pretty much solved the political crises of small countries via email by the time you’ve located the orange juice. Then there are those that, away from the parental constraints of social convention, pretty much become nocturnal, and do all that stuff that nocturnal people do in the ungodly hours. From the flatmate who watered down his orange juice, to the housemate who ate dry pasta, all via the veritable soul mate who has taught me that people with little legs just need to take bigger strides when they walk, it really is all part of life’s rich tapestry. (That last one was born from necessity; else I’d have walked almost everywhere alone and talking to myself for the past few years)

Moving away from your parents and family opens you up to a world of possibilities and the realisation that there are different ways of doing things. For instance, upon moving back home for this Summer I realised that I now pair socks differently to how I used to, which is, fairly understandably, how my parents still do it. Despite not entirely feeling, or even looking like the same person who flew the nest a few years ago, it still holds true that if you were to chip away at the newly-acquired outlooks, borrowed linguistic foibles and the amalgamation of accents that now coats my words, I am still me, just with more experience, and my new challenge is fitting back in to past situations without ripping the seams.

My good friend, no, scrap that, my wonderful, marvellous, talented friend (gemmalouise) who I even have the pleasure of knowing in actual real-life reality, recently posted a piece about parents which got me to thinking about all of this and is why my initial post idea has morphed in to this rather lengthy missive.  Now, I have to be careful what I say here, because my parents are actually readers of this blog (Hi Mum, hi Dad) but hopefully my next post won’t be about the trials and tribulations of being homeless!

It’s amazing how your relationship with your parents changes, or at least mine has. There was that time in my teens when it felt like a day couldn’t go by without some sort of argument or heated exchange and looking back, I probably wasn’t as innocent-a-party as the teenage me would have protested. I often get this overwhelming urge to apologise when I think back, but I’ve heard countless times that most, if not all children go through this horrible stage, and most make it out relatively unscathed, with only some laughable wardrobe choices and an ill-advised “forbidden” tattoo or piercing or two to show for it.

What I’ve come to realise, is that as I’ve been growing up, my parents have been growing right there with me. It’s got to that stage in my life where I’ve finally realised that my parents are human, perhaps even only human. I mean that in the most appreciative, respectful, gracious way possible, because I know how incredibly lucky I am to be their daughter, but the fact is that as I have started to grow into my own identity, I have also come to realise that they are their own people behind the labels Mum and Dad. Sometimes, this dual discovery has been fractious, but I also feel it has strengthened our relationship. Parents used to be this homogenous entity that you tolerated and placated in order to try and avoid altercations which, when it was the two of them against one, were, like, just so massively unfair. Even being able to tell my parents about this blog, and let them in on this part of my life, which is getting bigger and bigger by the syllable, has helped enormously with communication and honesty on both sides.

I know that some people don’t have the ideal relationship with their parents for a myriad of reasons, and there have been plenty of times when my parents and I have barely seen eye to navel, but in some situations, where you see parent and child stereotypes seemingly reversed, it can be frustrating and disheartening even from the point of view of an outsider. It is in these cases that it’s important to remember that the parent-child relationship is a complex one, and while I can think of a fair few wrong ways of going about establishing one, I certainly can’t think of any definitive right ones. So, in the future, when having babies finds itself near the top of the “To-Do” list, that will be another steep learning curve, and yet another moment of self-discovery, and is one which we’re probably all already sub-consciously preparing for.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Poetry in Emotion.

So in October I go back to studying after what has pretty much been a year out, for this reason and that. For the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely excited about the possibility of starting again, and I'm more determined to keep my head up than I have been in a long time.

This year, I don't want to become "the new me" I want to become the revised edition, the 2nd or 3rd generation model that people clamour for, because some of the major issues have been ironed out, and the manufacturers have learned from their mistakes, not just stubbornly made the same ones, or given up completely. Giving up on myself is no longer an option, because all the wonderful people in my life deserve more than that, they don't deserve to be leant on this heavily any longer.

I need to put the past year or so behind me, properly, for good, and deal with the repercussions and curve balls it has thrown me calmly, and quietly, because the song and dance I've been making, is not one that the world wants to hear. I CAN do this, because I say I can, and from now on my word is good. My word is no longer entirely self-deprecating and inwardly vicious, or terrified of judgement and failure, because my word now stands for the things I have come to know, like how valuable true friends are, even if I thought I was aware of this before, and that it's ok to slide off the rails, as long as you can right yourself again, with help if needs be, before being eclipsed in the tunnel.

I know this sudden burst of optimism will fade and flicker, but I would like to think that I'm climbing back out of the valley and heading for flatter pastures, with some trite but resonatory clichés to fill gaps in the path ahead, and stoke fires to hold off those cold, dark nights.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Show Must Go On

By the end of this week, I will have played in 4 concerts, and the majority of my peers couldn’t care less. (That’s right, couldn't, but that grievance is for another time) 

It kills me that because of the violin on my shoulder and the Beethoven symphony on the stand in front of me, lots of people won’t come out and support us, because classical music has this reputation for being boring and stuffy. I wish I knew how to show these people the utter ecstasies and heartbreaks that symphonies can conjure, how the right piece of music can touch your very soul, bring you to tears and leave you gasping for breath with 3 more movements yet to experience. I genuinely pity those who have never sat amongst an orchestra, never felt the utter emotion of being enveloped in the sound of the ensemble, every player as one, as everything slots in to place in that moment, and every other care in the world has quietly slipped away, leaving what can only be described as this ball of emotion simultaneously in the pit of your stomach, and rising in your throat, as the tangible sense of unity hangs in the air.

The high of a good performance is incomparable, and it’s not even bad for your health. Well, except for the odd muscle strain and the mental strain of some rehearsals that really feel like they might never end, but as with all “mornings after the night before” you naively concur that you will never let it happen again and pull your ostrich costume, complete with protective headgear, out of the wardrobe on your way to the nearest sand dune, because music just means that much to you.

 Musicians are a special breed, it’s true, but music is one of the simplest pleasures on Earth, because all that is required is that you just sit back, engage your ears, and listen. Classical music is not hard work unless you consciously make it that way, by closing your mind to it. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate music, you really don’t, because sure, you can delight in the technicalities of a piece of music, but you can also immerse yourself in notes that sound wonderful when played together, and marvel at the percussion section going hammer and tongs at the bass drum with a look of glee so pure that its memory will continue to make you smile for weeks.  

I have met friends for life through music, which makes it really hard to try and get friends to come out and support concerts, because they’re pretty much all queuing up there with me, ready to go on stage, so we need other people to come and watch us play, because even though playing to an empty room is still playing, it’s massively disheartening. Think Olympic athletes having trained for years to reach their peak, only to have to struggle to hear themselves over the deafening silence, and hurdle tumble weed on their way round an entirely empty stadium on race day.

So I urge you to support local ensembles, go out and share in their joy and passion, and reap the rewards of their weeks and weeks of hard work.

Classical music isn’t cool, but it shouldn’t have to be. 

Classical music has nothing to prove, nor does it need to jump up and down screaming for attention; it should just be luxuriated in regularly, and without regret, because it deserves it, and so do you, and because it really, truly is good for the soul.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

One of Those Days

“One of those days” is just one of those phrases. 

Who was it that decided that those days were bad days, or difficult days? It would be nice, just once, to be able to cry out that it’s been one of those days, with a smile and a sense of elation, and have people instantly understand where you’re coming from, and how wonderful your day has been. The way I see it, this might suggest that those bleak days are few and far between, so as to merit this distinctive turn of phrase, but in reality, I fear it’s a  by-product of human nature’s proclivity for negativity. Society dictates that we are supposed to be happy; it is pretty much expected of us, but then there is always the desire to keep up with the Joneses, and that niggling feeling that the grass might just be greener on the other side.
It has been well established that a little bit of competitive negativity is allowed, nay encouraged; industries thrive on peddling self-improvement and wonder products to propel you to the front of whatever herd you choose to run with, but when someone is seriously down, medically even, they are singled out and picked off for being “weak.” I refuse to use the word depression lightly, because in its most serious manifestations it is lethal, and at the very least, it derails entire lives. For sufferers of depression, of which I am one, “one of those days” can indeed be a positive day, just one day of let-up, in what can feel like existing on the seabed of an ocean of darkness. 

My issues don’t define me, and I’m sure I will go in to more detail at some point in the life of this blog, probably more than once, because at times it can be all consuming, but when you can come up for air, if you can change even one negative attitude towards sufferers, or educate one person about how to notice the warning signs, or even take the steps to protect their own mental health, then you might just feel like it’s worth treading water one day at a time. 

In England and Wales, MIND is a fantastic organisation, and their current campaign of befriending “The Elephant in the Room” is wonderful, and something that should be receiving more media coverage than it is. So yes, today was “one of those days” for me, in the traditional sense, but thankfully it was just one of those days, and they are becoming fewer and farther between, and with an elephant on your side, there are few battles you can lose.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Power of Prose

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I was first introduced to this beautiful poem at the age of 10. 
Just the other day I was reminded of its ethereal beauty and both genuinely delighted and more than a little surprised, to find that I can still recite it word for word. I hated school, but thankfully no amount of bullying could stop me learning, or deter me from my thirst for knowledge. Sadly, genuinely inspirational teachers are few and far between, (don't get me started) but I was lucky enough to encounter one, even if it was under less-than-wonderful circumstances, who thrust this poem, and many others, under my nose, and then taught me to inhale.
From Frost's snowy woods, to WH Davies' daffodils, with Conan Doyle's eagle circling overhead, each week my imagination was expanding without me even realising. Little did I know that these words were padding quietly across the soft expanse of my childhood consciousness, silently imprinting their images in the corner labelled "For Future Use." 
People have always said that children have minds like sponges, and for me, it is these poems and their lasting effect on me that has cemented this. If, or when, I have children of my own, I will do my utmost to fill their fledgling years with the beauty, and inspiration of the written word, in the same way mine were. I will read at them until I am hoarse, read with them until my fingers are stiff and blackened with ink, and listen to them conjure words until my ears no longer hear. When my life was being made a misery at the tender age of 10, it was the weekly poems that helped me escape, even transcend, the cruelty of the world I found myself in, along with the books of poetry handed down to me by my Mum, which seemed to hold together at the spine through faith and faith alone. I truly believe that I put my faith in those pages, and those pages in me, which is testament to the fact that we have both survived to this day. 
I can pinpoint literary works that have actually shaped and influenced my life. Anyone who knows me away from this keyboard will know that I am positively cuckoo for cats, and I very definitely have T.S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to thank for it. The fact that the musical "Cats" stems from this collection of wonderful characters is also very definitely entrenched in my love of music, but that's a different tale for a different time. 
I am a passionate believer in the written word, and as much as reading saved me back then, so writing rescues me now. My parents taught me to read, and spell, inside out and back to front: literally. Words were fun in my house. I was taught that words are meant to break down barriers, not build them; words are not to be feared, or used to exclude or intimidate. I think this is why I have such an affinity with words: I turned to words when my peers turned against me, because words themselves at least, don't judge. 
The beauty of words, of literature and of prose, is that they never stop giving. With age, words read differently, and life will throw stuff at you that will change both you, and how you read. 
The love affair I have with words is mutual, everlasting, and ever-forgiving, and nothing else will ever come close.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A disclaimer, of sorts.

It strikes me that the internet is both monstrous and wonderful in equal measure. Every day I have this unlimited access to a veritable wealth of news articles, videos, academic journals, and even some pictures of cats captioned with bad grammar, that make me smile and question, but most importantly: think. Ok, so maybe a video of kittens on a Roomba (look it up, it's just about the cutest thing ever) isn't going to inspire me to get on and finish my first novel, and I'm almost certain that my love of stumbleupon is the only thing preventing me from perfecting that cure for cancer, but I believe that everything has its place.
I'm not going to pretend that my answers outnumber my questions, or that anything I have to say can change lives, but I would like to think that here in my comfy nook somewhere between the FTSE, and Rebecca Black, I might just say something worth hearing every now and again. No promises though.