Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 34: What's The Point Of Twitter?

When I was first given this topic on day -2 of this writing challenge I will admit to briefly considering the true, but admittedly rather generic platitudes I could envisage throwing its way: 'Twitter is about community, and togetherness.' etc, etc.

Today, those inverted commas crumbled.

Today I was privileged enough to be in the room at Channel 4 as a group of incredible young people entered in to an impassioned dialogue with MPs and senior Channel 4 staff about what would change #IfWeRanThings.

Privileged enough to not only be in the room, but to be on Twitter capturing, pushing and furthering the conversation happening both among attendees and those outside the room: a frenzied stream of opinion, observation, sheer expectant energy and a whole load of selfies. People not in the room, at their day jobs, at school, somewhere across the country, the other side of the proverbial closed door, engaging with, informing and even just witnessing the conversation, in all its nuanced, fast-paced and damn important glory.

Pretty cool, right?

Today, in that room, the point was made that social media is power, and that young people are so incredibly powerful. Twitter, social media, is a tool for mobilising, uniting, sharing, a tool for seeking, and connecting, and amassing a movement on a global scale in a way that generations before us simply couldn't, in ways they simply didn't have access to. The instant connection, the spread of a message, the force of conviction and the promotion to power in every which sense, right from the traditional to the newly-conventional: we are the most powerful generation there has ever been.

Twitter is part of my job, but it's more than that: there are up to 5 accounts linked to my phone at any one time including my own personal one and I make no secret of the fact that community management and the power of social media for good is something that can often be relied upon to get me out of bed of a morning. (I have a life, honest)

A tweet is an expression of a moment.

I have witnessed first-hand the power of being called out to directly, albeit as a branded identity, in a moment of solitary anguish, and conversely being essentially CC'ed in on celebrations of youth, and of life, and know the vital power of being able to engage with each of those moments, across the whole spectrum, and ensuring that in those moments, those young people feel heard.

Twitter is not a broadcast channel, and to treat it as such belittles both it and its users. All 288 million of us.

Twitter is designed for dialogue, be you brand, band, or bank, and every time you start that conversation there are 288 million people listening, 288 million potential connections.

That may sound daunting, but to me, that says 288 million possibilities.

Yes, Twitter may seem without a point at times, but, when what you see on the platform is entirely curated by you, to that I would counter that you're just not following the right people, and with 288 million possibilities, you really are spoiled for choice. And if you're not following me, @abigailchantal, then quite frankly, on your own head be it.

After all, Twitter is power.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 33: Elephants

Eyes lock

A moment's pause, a hitch of breath.
A thud down through the pit of your stomach

Suddenly aware of your tongue, your lips, the moisture in your mouth, the tension of muscles as you slowly swallow for no reason.

A sigh.

Of contentment, of relief: a burden lifting.
No distraction, no gimmicks, just, being.

That gradual, familiar warmth of just, knowing.
See yourself in their reflection, recognise your best mirrored back through increasingly familiar eyes,
Quiet, giddy excitement punctuating the unspoken

The elephant in the room.

Inspired by this from Nick Helm.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 32: Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

Hi :)

Alright, so, nice one Abi, a smiley face potentially not the best first impression, but I'm nervous OK: a life sentence is a pretty big deal, and I was just trying to be polite.

I have so many questions, least of all who you are, where you are, and how we might come to meet, but I guess at this point you may not be able to answer any or all of those either, so like me, they can wait.

I wasn't sure how I was going to organise these thoughts, (yeah, that'll be a recurring theme, and not just in my writing) but there's one thing I think bears addressing straight off here: expectation.

For all I know, future husband, you do not exist. (Is a rhetorical letter a thing?) For all I know, marriage, monogamy and the standard, socially accepted template existence is not in my future and that's OK. A little daunting perhaps, but OK.

This idea that we are all mere halves of a whole, killing time before we cobble together our existence with the boy next door or Dave from accounts seems pretty, well, limiting. I suggested further up this letter that I'm waiting for you to appear, future husband, but that's not strictly true, and as questionable as my track record is with men, I would like to think you're the kind of person who would more than encourage the whole not-waiting thing.

For a while though, I was. For a while I was a person who couldn't quite see her worth as a whole entity, a person dragging her heels and telling herself that things would be better, things would be OK and that life would be so much more, when you, or a pretender to your throne came along.

I'll admit that the idea that having a partner (and thus being deemed worthy of love by someone) was a crucial box to be ticked, held me back for a while, but it occurs to me that while the prospect of sharing a life and of building memories and traditions with someone sounds pretty fucking great, if nothing has come before that, if you've both sat around and told yourself no to the world and all its opportunities and experiences, then, future husband, what the hell is there going to be to talk about?

It occurs to me that in all this the other unhelpful thing is this judgement from others based on the idea that your worth is decided by anyone other than yourself. When people question your lack of a relationship, compare you to peers who've fast-tracked to wedded bliss and family, tell you 'your time will come.'

Well thanks, well-meaning bystander, but what if it doesn't? Let's say I'm staring down the barrel of 60-odd years of no one-person to come home to, no big day, no honeymoon, no fairytale "I do." Am I a lost cause because of it? A wasted life? Of course not. Someone not in a relationship, or a marriage, or any kind of partnership is fulfilled, enriched, passionate, and content, just as the family with 2.4 children, maybe even more so, but there's clearly something about society's restrictive narrative that prompts us to pity, to console, to go out of our way to view the situation negatively.

There may well be negative feelings associated with not being in a relationship, but no more so than the ones that can come with long-term partners and family life.

To live is human, not to live either alone, or in tandem. There is no qualifier.

I've got better at not caring though. I could tell you future husband that I simply don't care what other people think now, but that would be a lie, and well, that's not the best thing to base a marriage on, now, is it?
Learning to trust your own judgement, listen to your own reasoning, isn't something that came naturally me, and it still doesn't. Every day I make a choice, and a conscious effort to uphold it, and as with everything, the repeated action in time becomes habit. Maybe by the time we meet I will care even less.

Dear future husband, I hope you are a reader. Not least because a love of books and the written word is a sure sign of a beautiful, intriguing, attractive mind, but also because as your future wife, it's my duty to let you in on a little secret.

As your future wife, there will be times we disagree, times we shout and fight, and times when I inadvertently tail off mid-sentence, or brush away a question.
This is not a test; a hand of cards dealt around a dimly-lit table with the stakes set high at A Happy Ending. Nor is it a game to play, to taunt you or rile you, but instead a part of me that I am simply declaring, right here, right now, cards on the table, long before we have even met.

You see, as a writer, not everything in my head makes it out through my mouth. Often, writing acts as a voice for the thoughts, feelings and questions that, perhaps ironically, I cannot always find the words for, at least not out loud. Often, my subconscious plays out here too, things I am perhaps unaware of or hadn't really realised, or even considered about myself, scattered across seemingly unrelated subjects, like the occasional glowing ember among the ashes of a dying fire.

So dear, future husband I hope you are a reader, because my writing can tell you more about me than I ever could, for better or for worse, and while there won't be a test, my writing is very much a part of me, and the secrets you may inadvertently unearth could well be some of the secrets to our happiness.
That may sound selfish, and indulgent, but future husband, hopefully you don't misunderstand me. Perhaps you, too, are a writer, and I can glean that same kind of unspoken understanding from you, but if not, know that however it is you choose to express things, I'll be listening.

Future husband, apologies that this is a bit of a long one, I mean, especially if you're not a reader, (Be honest, did you even make it this far? And yes, I realise that this is a redundant question if not) but in the words of the girl in Mean Girls who doesn't even go here, I just have a lot of feelings. If you're not appreciative of that reference, wait, who am I kidding, we wouldn't be married if you weren't at least vaguely appreciative of that reference, forget I even said anything.

So I'll sign this off now. Don't feel obliged to respond, but hey, it might be nice...

Until we meet, have fun, and here's to our future adventures, wherever, whenever, and if ever they may be.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Day 31: Fate and Fairytale

It's funny when you look back on the choices and circumstances that have led you to a certain point or place and consider the exact chain of events that have resulted in your now day-to-day.
I read a quotation recently that proffered the idea that "There's nowhere you should be other than where you are right now."
That to me suggests that acceptance is optimal and while that is of course true up to a point, the right amount of restlessness and seeking of a particular kind of enlightenment is both healthy and productive.
The interesting sequences of events for me are those that seem to stray in to the realm of oddly fortuitous serendipity. Those almost inexplicable choices that mysteriously align and seem to lead you down a certain path or towards a certain outcome and eventually cause you to stop and consider the possibility that some kind of 'higher power' or perhaps reasoning might have played a part in where you find yourself.
That feeling of "imagine if I hadn't" that seems to accompany the overwhelming sense that things are almost exactly as they should be, thanks to a series of (un)fortunate events and some sort of cosmic alignment.
I think there's a certain comfort in the idea that every now and again we can take a back seat of sorts and revel in the idea that 'no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should' (Desiderata <3) but while we may well only be a passenger of sorts, it is still up to us to be present and to react in our own best interests and ultimately help fashion our own endings, fate or no fate, fairytale or otherwise.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Day 30: Man buns

The man bun.

A seemingly simple thing. A sweep of hair, a grasp of hands, a twist of the wrist: done.
The archetypal feminine re-purposed to serve the strongest of jawlines, cheekbones and shoulders.

There's just something about them.
I mean, they're almost too majestic for words.

I would love to espouse upon their particular beauty, straddling that ever-decreasing rigid distinction between masculine and feminine: an effortlessly suave and glorious beacon of the ideologically-advanced.

Well, in theory at least.

I would love to espouse, really I would, but I feel that in many respects the man bun speaks for itself, and when it does such a good job it seems only fair to just, well, let it.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Day 29: Sabotage & Sleep

This is getting boring now.
It's what 3, 4 days in a row where I've found myself this close to the deadline, this much in need of sleep, this desperate for words, just any words.
This isn't creativity, this is sabotage.
Live to work, work to live, there's a fine line between passion and pressure and I'm yet to walk it.
So with 3 minutes to go I've managed to write a tweet about not being able to write, but not actually written anything else in this big, blank box.
I'm wired and distracted and in no way unhappy, just somehow not quite right.
Think I need to stop. (Wait a minute, fill my cup put some liquor in it)
But seriously, I think I need to get out of my head for a bit and back to what it was that I was trying to figure out when I started this whole thing: my creativity and capacity for expression.
I can keep cobbling together these half-efforts which, curiously, feel like they take far more effort than any more substantial 'real' posts, but maybe that's it, maybe I'm stalling for time with these rambling excuses for posts and putting off the kind of writing that may actually stand up to scrutiny.
Or maybe I'm just knackered.
I'll sleep on it and let you know.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Day 28: and counting

So I've just got in from coming inexplicably and hilariously 4th in a St Patrick's Day-themed pub quiz, in honour of my housemate's birthday.
(The quiz was St Patrick's Day themed in honour of St Patrick and his day though, just to be clear)
This is a really bad habit that I've gotten myself in to, finding myself at the last half hour of every day scrabbling around for words and trying to extract some kind of profundity from them.
As much as I can keep telling myself I'm writing, and achieving, and fulfilling my obligation to myself, and that that's ok, at some point soon I won't, and I feel like I'm testing myself to my very limits of what's possible within the specifications of this challenge, with no real or clear indication as to why, or what it is I'm learning from it.
I'm getting really good at cobbling together half-formed, not-fully-executed pieces that serve a fraction of the purpose for which I set myself this challenge, but outside that?
I'll tell myself I'm too busy, but in reality, I'm too something else. What exactly, I'm not sure, but I feel like I'm acting out against myself in some sort of strange internal power play. I mean, I'm writing, but not to any kind of standard, really, because I don't really appear to be letting myself.
So that's me, again.
Teenagers are supposed to go through phases like this, but at 28 days surely my writing should be better: I should know better?
Apparently not, but still, I will keep writing, keep enforcing to myself the fact that it's not simply a case of driving myself to the edge and giving up, but of edging my way back and allowing myself to create and achieve what it was I started out to do: write for 40 days straight.
28 and counting.

Day 27: Learning to be unremarkable

So I've done that thing whereby I've come home intending to go to bed early and fend off anymore illness and promptly fallen asleep without having written anything, only to wake up at 20 to 12 bereft of words, the owner of one considerably befuddled head.
It's now 23:48 and I'm not sure what I can squeeze out of these last 12 minutes that will be in any way worthwhile reading.
I feel this is a recurring theme of this challenge, but I think learning to be unremarkable is just as important-a-step. If I were to only write when consumed by an overly dramatic wash of inspiration, I would be, well, right back where I was before this challenge started: a writer who doesn't write.
We all live our lives with constant expectation of high achievement, whatever that may mean to you, but in reality it's all those mid-points, those not-quites, those near-misses that, statistically speaking inform who we are and what we become.
So, dear reader, this is yet another day of me being unremarkable. I've not failed, but I've not excelled, and by the law of averages, the more days there are like today, the more days there will be of that writerly Nirvana of white-hot inspiration and the right bloody words.
Today is another case of not enough words, in something not even resembling the right order, but there's always tomorrow, and the day after that, and that's fine, because I'm playing the long game.
But first, sleep.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Day 26: Mums


A mother is a funny thing.
We have all had one at one point or another.
Some more than one, some still none to speak of.
Like Mother like Daughter, Mum's the word, and Mother knows best.
I love my Mum, and for her sins my Mum loves me, but this isn't always the case, not for everyone.
It's a huge and unique and significant relationship that sometimes just isn't, just doesn't, just can't, or just won't.
And that's ok too.
See Mums are wonderful things, but sometimes the absence of one breeds even more wonderful things. As daughters, as sons, as children, we build upwards from the roots of our Mums, but when that rooting is unearthed or dislodged in the storm we can still flourish, still blossom and bear fruit, either because or in spite of all that has gone before us.
I know how lucky I am to know my Mother, to have her in my life, and to still be able to retreat home for that most restorative of things, a proper cwtch from Mum, at any time.
I count my blessings that I have a Mum from whom I have learned, and continue to learn, so much about the kind of woman I want to be, and the kind of person I choose to be every day, and a Mum whose strength and dignity in the face of adversity is more inspiring to me than I can ever hope to express, and than she may ever fully know.
So yes, a mother is a funny thing, but today of all days I recognise how privileged and grateful I am to have mine, and the love I have for her is mirrored in the bittersweet joy, reflection and just plain sadness that today yields for so many, because a mother's love is enough to share, and I just simply wasn't raised to be selfish.

Day 25: Still nothing

Again I've gone almost a whole day and not typed anything in this big, blank box in the back end of blogger.
Oh I've written today, yes, I wrote on the train on the way home, but by its very nature the result is a somewhat rambling stream of consciousness, so I'll spare you that.
I realise that in defaulting to these short, consolatory posts at the very last minute of each day I am actually enabling my own insecurities, and masterminding my own staying-small.
There are some incredible topics in my list, feminism, for one, past lives, humour, etc, but by scrabbling together these afterthoughts of the day fewer than 30 minutes before the deadline I can only be selling myself short, surely?
Big, meaty topics such as feminism, such as "What's the point of Twitter?" should excite me, and as things I am so passionate about in day-to-day life they do, but as topics to write about, they are in fact quite terrifying. These more serious subjects, for want of a better word, paralyse me, for fear of writing the "wrong" thing.
For the same reason that I never used to write on the front page of a notebook, messing up is one thing, but in plain view of the internet, of your friends and harshest critics alike, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Perhaps I am subconsciously avoiding my first massively negative response and maybe even keeping myself small in the process. This idea that my time-constrained brain keeps circling, that as more anxious humans we keep ourselves small, is something I've begun to recognise a lot in different aspects of my life and I've realised it plays out literally, figuratively, and both physically and mentally, to different degrees.
But that is no way to live.
So, in the spirit of growth, let's try the alternative and start saying what needs to be said, writing that which, as a writer, cannot go unwritten.

Well, maybe tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted. X

Friday, 13 March 2015

Day 24: That Friday feeling

So it keeps happening that I find myself in the pub on a Friday night not having written anything as the clock approaches Midnight.
Again I remind myself that this challenge was never designed to impede on other experiences but rather enhance them, but at the same time I am beyond glad that this sense of duty and of not breaking this pattern is now instilled in me, and also that I have the kind of people around me who will understand as I turn my attention to my phone for 5 - 10 minutes as I fulfill said creative obligation.
For all my moaning, this forcing myself to write is proving to be the making of me, and I honestly hope that when these 40-or-so days are up that I can continue on this somewhat infectious wave of momentum because honestly, it's really damn fulfilling.
And now, back to the pub.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Day 23: "Some people are heroes. And some people jot down notes."

And some people, sir, do both.

It was tempting today to simply offer a quotation from the master, Terry Pratchett, as a mark of respect, but even without the impossible nature of narrowing it down to a single string of words, I can't help but feel that would be less a tribute, more a disservice to his remarkable talent and capacity for conjuring, and furthermore a slight against his immeasurable inspiration.
I've always loved Terry Pratchett's writing and it must be said that as a judgement of character, a liking for his work in others has served me well thus far.
The sarcasm, the gentle cynicism, the humour, the reality. That unfathomable ability to paint with mere words such vivid and all-encompassing pictures, scenes, thoughts and feelings that it becomes hard to imagine you are anywhere else other than in fact inside his head. Instead, this entire world is being etched on the inside of yours, like gazing up in to a vast, vivid planetarium of light and colour and the kinds of characters no actual human being could ever hope to do justice to, writing in this fantasy world, this reality of his conjuring, so marvellous, so vividly depicted, and so grounded in observations of society as a whole that often it becomes hard to imagine that those 4 elephants and that giant turtle aren't in existence somewhere in the great beyond. That place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Just yesterday I read this piece from Tim Minchin about the talent of others and those incredible, glorious sentences and phrases that as a writer elicit that most frustrating of desires, to have got there first. If I'm honest, that is what Terry Pratchett's work is to me. All of it. Even now I re-read sentences of his and while delighting in the beauty and sheer sorcery of his words, still mourn the fact that that particular alchemy of language will never be mine. That ability to so accurately and poetically depict thoughts, feelings, situations so as to elicit actual unconscious nods in a reader, those knowing smiles, smirks of confirmation, that laugh of recognition. Such is, was, his talent for spearing the human condition, capturing the fallible, imperfect beings that we all are so perfectly and so knowingly: that is what I aspire to.
The master himself wrote that "Dark sarcasm should be taught in schools," and all I can do is agree. Terry Pratchett's legacy offers up that particular blend of honesty, cynicism and charm that prepares you most adequately for the world as it really is: baffling, mystical, and when you're really lucky, as glorious as it is ridiculous.

RIP sir, and thank you.

"I knew the two of you would get on like a house on fire. Screams, flames, people running for safety."

"Rincewind could scream* for mercy in nineteen different languages, and just scream in another forty-four. (*This is important. Inexperienced travelers might think that "Argh!" is universal, but in Betrobi it means 'highly enjoyable' and in Howondaland it means, variously, 'Your wife is a big hippo,' and 'Hello, thinks Mr.Purple Cat.' One particular tribe has a fearsome reputation for cruelty merely because prisoners appear, to them, to be shouting 'Quick! Extra boiling oil!')"

"Vimes' glare ran from face to face, causing most of the squad to do an immediate impression of the Floorboard and Ceiling Inspectors Synchronised Observation Team."

"The camel looked along its nose at Teppic. It's expression made it clear that of all of the riders in all of the world it would least like to ride it, he was right at the top of the list. However, camels look like that at everyone. Camels have a very democratic approach to the human race. They hate every member of it, without making any distinctions for rank or creed."

"It didn't look like the kind of snow that whispers down gently in the pit of the night and in the morning turns the landscape into a glittering wonderland of uncommon and ethereal beauty. It looked like the kind of snow that intends to make the world as bloody cold as possible."

"It was quite impossible to describe.

Here is what it looked like.

It looked like a piano sounds shortly after being dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and it felt Paisley. It smelled like the total eclipse of the moon."

"Oh, them as makes the endings, don't get them."

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Day 22: The Octopus of Pain

Today I had to make the decision to gather my things, switch off my computer and leave work early.
I was attempting that age-old trick of simply powering through and pretending that there wasn't in fact intense pressure building up somewhere behind my cheekbones, and that it wasn't pushing inwards, upwards and emanating outwards, with increasing intensity, like some kind of octopus of pain.
No sir, no octopus here.
Needless to say, I was fooling no-one, and by the time my vision started wavering, it had become abundantly clear both to me and to the colleagues who, like Weeping Angels in reverse, seemed to be edging further and further away from me with every lethargic blink and sniff, that I should just. go. home.
There's still something tellingly child-like in any response to that situation, having to decide to take that time off, being trusted to know yourself and do the right thing. When we're young, figures of authority ascertain how ill we are, decide to keep us off school, or send us home, and at some point we stop asking, or they just stop telling, and the onus is on us. It's a very vulnerable state to find yourself in when your own body seems to conspire against you, so the regression to childhood and the desire to be taken care of seems a fairly human response. (She says hopefully, wrapped up in bed, shivering pathetically, and snapchatting sickness selfies in search of sympathy like a true millennial) Also, to be fair, far from conspiring against you, your body is actively trying to fight whatever nastiness is on the attack inside you and in actual fact would be massively helped if you just stopped and took heed of what it was making you feel and stopped trying to be a hero. Just another knee-jerk childish reaction from a fallible human, I suppose.
So yes, I'm ill, and staring at a screen isn't exactly helping matters, so in anticipation of the wave of absent parental worry and sympathy coming my way from my two biggest fans I will retire to a more horizontal position to continue my own elaborate game of pass the parcel, where the prize is a slightly sickly 25 year old and the layers keep being gathered up and torn off at seemingly split-second intervals depending on body temperature.
Oh I do know how to have fun.
Just me, and this octopus of pain.

Day 21: Ever wanted to just switch off your brain?

Set yourself a challenge to write every day for 40 days, there's nothing quite like it.

A day without a writing direction, without any kind of useful inspiration, and just starting to type 8 minutes before a new day.

Make that 7.

And now 4.

I need to write something, anything, but my brain is having none of it.
In 3 minutes I will press publish on whatever sits on the screen in front of me, the cursor blinking expectantly, impatiently, the overwhelming sensation of "Is that it?"
Today, it is.

1 minute to go and I still have nothing to say, nothing to make of an entire day, except the increasing heaviness of my eyelids and the feeling of any kind of creativity quietly seeping out in to the atmosphere around me, starving these very fingertips of any kind of inspiration whatsoever.


Monday, 9 March 2015

Day 20: Socks

Socks are funny things.
I know people who point-blank refuse to wear matching socks, and one person who will colour co-ordinate his entire outfit right down to them.
Since leaving University I now pair my socks differently to how I used to when living at home, to the way that my parents taught me.
I also now find myself in possession of socks that were not originally mine. Curious remnants of visiting guests, of fleeting friendships, and entire relationships.
Like Dobby the house-elf I've taken these tokens of past lives on to a whole new kind of freedom. I've literally walked away in these memories.
During a break-up or parting of ways you re-distribute larger items, but socks? When they turn up at the bottom of a washing basket 6 months down the line there's precious little point in returning them. Especially the ones with holes in. But what then? Socks are so mundane, so routine an item, that it feels strange to simply dispose of them, but what of this odd little physical reminder of your past that resurfaces every once in a while, or perhaps more regularly, depending on the size of your sock collection?
It's at this point I begin to consider the myriad places I may have left socks in my 25 years, these small, insignificant parts of me scattered across the globe, a dot-to-dot of forgetfulness and momentary distraction.
Of all the legacies to leave on this Earth, socks may be a fairly pointless one, but in its own charmingly universal way, at least it's a start.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Day 19: My Favourite Person

I don't have one.
Or at least, not yet.

The title of favourite person is one not easily-earned, but then nor should it be.

I want my favourite person to be the person I can't wait to spend time with, to shower praise and good things upon, but not be afraid to call them out when they're in the wrong. And vice versa.
A favourite person should be someone you trust, someone who lifts you up but keeps you level, and forces you to consider your own input and impact on the world.
My favourite person needs to be that person that ultimately I want to impress, and make proud, knowing that their opinion is one of very few that really, truly matters.
I want my favourite person to be someone who has my best interests at heart, and who appreciates that I am fallibly human. And vice versa.
I want my favourite person to be a friend, and everything that implies.

In fact, I'm striving to be my own favourite person.

We see many of these qualities in clusters or isolation in the people around us, but in the end, all of these things have to start with us.
It's clichéd, it's cheesy, you may well have stopped reading as your eyes rolled involuntarily upwards across the page, but it's also the truth. There will be times in all our lives when we feel like we might just be the only thing we have, and at those points, we simply have to be enough.
It may not be forever, but life is made just that bit easier knowing you are not in fact alone, and that someone you trust is looking out for you even if it feels in that moment like no-one else is.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Day 18: Breakfast

It's 3:33pm and I am yet to have breakfast.
I can count the number of times I have eaten breakfast in the last month on one hand. Comfortably.
I "get" breakfast and its ever-en-vogue sister brunch, but it simply doesn't factor in my alimentary arsenal.
It being the 'most important meal of the day, perhaps I am missing something, (or just enjoy being contrary) but I never wake up hungry.
If I were, or ever am, hungry at whichever single figure triggers my alarm, I would eat, but as someone who is perennially late anyway, I'm not sure where I would find the time.
Food, drink and mealtimes can form a massive part of a culture. In Spain, for example, the late evening meals preceded by the cornerstone of Spanish life that is tapas and drinks with friends, sees the proper ceremony and habitual, unspoken importance afforded to that beautiful combination of good friends, good food, good booze. Rent is cheap in Madrid, and with good reason: I can't imagine anyone spends any time at home. Instead, they are drawn together as the light fades, in simple celebration of the day, and seemingly of life itself, the warmth of the day diffused somehow more slowly among the huddles of laughter and familiarity, spilling out on to squares and street corners with the overwhelming feeling of there being nowhere else in the world that any one, or anyone, need be.
I get the distinct feeling that in Madrid, no-one does anything alone. From couples, to huge groups of friends crammed noisily around cafe tables, or scattered companionably across any spare space on the ground, Madrid is for lovers, both romantic and platonic.
Perhaps my distrust of breakfast nods to an affinity with Madrileños and their culture of later-in-the-day. There is a sense here that time spent with friends and for yourself is the most important of all, and that anything else has its place, and its function, but that's it. Instead of a feeling of frantically wringing every last minute from the precious hours between work, it feels very much more a case of life, punctuated by work, and not the other way around.
I might just stick around. At least for breakfast.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Day 17: What I would like to spend my next 25 years doing

More of what I love, more of what makes me happy.
More of the things I know and love, and more of the things that I don't. Yet.
More sitting in parks in warm, sunny places with a notebook, pen and the assembled untold stories of the people passing by.
More laughing.
More late nights, more long afternoons, more adventures.
More handwriting letters.
More work that doesn't feel like work.
More letting go.
More time spent with friends.
More trusting my own instinct, and well, more writing.

Bring it on.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Day 16: Accents

Accents are a distinguishing thing.

Patchwork and nuanced they hint at a back story, mottled and daubed with flecks of countries, conversations and circumstances we have known. It's through this inflection and intonation that we map the journeys of others, the rivers of speech patterns carving their way through both home soil and foreign lands.

Exposed to a new city for the first time accents become the gatekeeper to both existence and experience, at once possessing the unique ability to both alienate and ingratiate at any given moment. Schrödinger's acceptance.

Just today, in the space of 7-or-so short hours in Madrid I have found myself in conversation with an Italian-born Madrileño of 7 months who, upon learning we were Welsh and not English, happily regaled us with the story of his time spent in Burryport where none of the locals could understand his decidedly international accent, and quite frankly neither could he theirs. He commented at this point that in contrast he could very clearly understand us, and that we "spoke English very well."

It sounds obvious, but I think it takes a level of foreign language learning to become sympathetic to the plight of the foreign ear battling with the native tongue. You become unconsciously aware of that split-second between words, making sure to allow just enough time for translation and meaning to collide somewhere in the depths of the synapses. Instinctively you learn to look for and recognise that split-second flicker of approval and comprehension that flashes across the eyes and down to the corners of the mouth with a slight nod of the head, signalling for you to carry on the sentence. You become aware of your vocabulary, not so as to dumb down, but simply ensuring that you don't inadvertently default to the kind of linguistic riddles that we have such a bad habit of, like, falling in to.

There is always the argument for speaking as much of a native language as possible when travelling, but it can be a minefield.
Accent, intonation, speed, vocabulary, and even simply your own panicked brain can seem to conspire to leave you standing at the front of a queue of people, open-mouthed and silently floundering as you fail to process fast enough the simple question of whether or not you would like a bag.

Yeah, thanks for that.

Accents can conjure a whole host of emotions. When, far from home, your ear happens upon a familiar lilt, that easiest of conversations, the simplest of interactions, that mere acknowledgement can make all those miles feel that much shorter. Conversely, it can have you sidling down the nearest side street, denying any kind of connection to that most obnoxiously "other."

Accents are to speech as dynamics and articulation are to melody and music: the colour, intensity, and, well, je ne sais quoi that brings the bare bones of language to life.

After all, it's not what you say, it's how you say it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Day 15: Glasses vs. Contact Lenses

I have never worn contact lenses.
I've never really had a desire to.
Some people want to be rid of glasses, of contacts, so completely that they take lasers to their eyes in an effort to permanently negate the need for them.
I on the other hand like wearing glasses. I like the way I look wearing them (let alone the fact that I can actually see what I look like when I wear them)
In the same way that I like make-up, I like being able to fashion a face that I want to present to the world, and my glasses play a part in that.
When I was first prescribed glasses I jumped at the chance. The same happened with braces back in my early teens. In both cases I was not in dire need of their functions, but still I eagerly accepted the offer.
A chance to alter my appearance in a non-invasive way, a chance to change something about myself and to impose some kind of autonomy.
I make no secret of the fact that body image is something I have struggled with massively over the past decade, and well before that too. I get frustrated and at times bored of some of those thought patterns that even now have a tendency to creep back in, so much so that as a compromise I opt to try and change something about myself that is at least somewhat removed from that familiar ache of feeling entirely ill at ease within your own skin. Hair colour, hair cut, piercing, new make-up: small steps to alter the narrative, to nudge the familiar sequence off course. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but we can all attest to the fact that even now it's fun to play dress-up: an escape from all sorts, not just the dark, heavy stuff.
I have left it too late to blog again and as midnight approaches along with the prospect of a 4:30am wake-up call, it's high time I slipped my glasses off the bridge of my nose and allowed my eyes to rest as they seem so intent upon doing. Simple. Chalk that one up as another win for glasses.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Day 14: An empty mind

These are simply words to fill a page, words to fulfill an obligation.
I am the very definition of spent, and it is sheer determination alone guiding my finger touches across this keyboard.
When I set myself this challenge I'd not really comprehended the task I was undertaking. 40 days is a surprisingly long time, and I'm not even halfway there yet.
I am enjoying the routine of writing every day, the inevitable bout of creativity that I can hang the day upon, but on days like today when I'm already mentally 12 sheep down, it is harnessing more brainpower than it should.
There is no point to this post, no meandering narrative or pithy conclusion.
I've hit a temporary wall: not a lack of motivation, but a lack of headspace.
While my brain has emptied of the requisite words to wax lyrical on a given topic, it is only because they have been crowded out by duty and expectation.
The kind of tired that sits either side of the bridge of your nose, bisecting thought, reason and function.
The longer I stare at this screen the less I am convinced that the holes in my head will act as any kind of outlet so instead I will give in to their weight and endeavour to empty my mind to sleep.
Until tomorrow

Monday, 2 March 2015

Day 13: The History of the Pub

An experiment.

How I came to be sitting in this pub; a literal history of the people in this pub.

Literally. In an effort to in-absolutely-no-way pass off some of my writing burden I asked the 6 people assembled to write a line on the topic of how they came to be sitting where they are.
In the pub.

1. Once dragged around pubs as a child. Simultaneously "encouraged" to maintain my violin. I appreciate these influences for they have combined so that I can be sitting in this pub with my desk partner and fellow orchestra-ers.

2. Over the hills, further away, around the black ice at the edge of the world, down the bottle and up the barrel.

3. A time honoured tradition of wandering from rehearsal to public house. Tradition became habit and I'm here every week. It's not the impy though.

4. Cheers!

5. Je ne sais pas... J ai suivi la lumiere...

6. Red wine fanatic, what can I say?

It's an interesting thing to think about, how you've come to be sitting somewhere.
It's also interesting to see how people choose to respond to a brief when they have a phone shoved in front of them at the pub and are asked to write a sentence.
I have come to be sitting in this pub due to a series of fortunate events, with a few less-than-fortunate ones along the way.
Life has conspired to make me think about fate and circumstance a lot recently. How the little details of life collide seemingly at random knocking certain things off kilter and surreptitiously sliding others to the forefront of our consciousness.
That one aspect of your life where you can pinpoint the exact decision, one way or the other, that brought you to a certain place, or put you on a certain path. That one person you seem to always see on that one bus you only catch from time to time.
Is it the universe telling us something? Is it fate, or destiny, or some other force of nature compelling us towards certain people, places or things?
Or is it the human condition: the desire for more, the desire to see more, the desire for more from the everyday than we feel we have been assigned.
There's something wonderful in the idea that we're not just clusters of sinew and cells scattering at random across the vast expanse of the universe.
I like serendipity, and circumstance, and the idea that maybe, just maybe, certain things are simply meant to be.
Perhaps sometimes we engineer our own circumstance and find ourselves where we need to be entirely off our own backs, but once in a while it's quite nice to believe in a certain kind of magic.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Day 12: Sleep

We spend a third of our lives sleeping.

We sleep in, with, and around.

Encouraged by those around us we sleep on it, sleep it off and often lose it altogether.

Sleep is the facilitator of dreams.

The measured, calm overseer indulging the boisterous puppy of dreams.

The facilitator, yes, but in its own right the thing our bodies crave the most at the end of a long day, the thing most notable by its absence and when it evades us.

Physically we cannot fight it. 

The gentle figure who really does know best, calmly, quietly nudging with slow-blinking eyes, nodding heads and increasingly heavy limbs in a measured crescendo towards all-out slumber.

The full stop, new sentence at the end of a day to forget; the semi-colon of excitement and anticipation cascading from one day to the next.

Sleep is the one great leveller: it is its only cure. 

Great men and women; warmongers and thieves. 

Sometimes we should let sleeping dogs lie.

And on that note, to sleep.

Perchance to dream.