Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Tale of Three Christmases.


2011.
'I'd say "see you in the New Year, have a good Christmas", but... I know people saying that has been annoying you lately.' He winks, and I giggle, noting the little reference to the fact that he reads my blog. Something stirs in my chest when I think about that lovely little fact; he reads what I write. It seems so silly, especially when he's just a good friend with whom I watch 'How I Met Your Mother' and eat cinnamon toast on weeknights. But still, he knows how to make me smile. 
Why do I always wonder how I should end our little interactions, though? A hug seems appropriate. Maybe a kiss on the cheek - he's a good friend, after all. I hope he's not expecting a proper kiss; that's stupid, why would he be expecting that? I smile and hug him, careful to tilt my head away from his just enough to convey my pointless message. He's wearing a tight black shirt, as per usual. I might miss him, come to think of it. I might not. 
I carefully pull away from him, and unlatch the door (there's no use in it being open while I'm away). 
'See you later!'
On my way home, I get a text saying 'What's the game Ted and Marshall play in the car when they see a dog??'
'Zitchdog!'

2012.
I'm sitting in my friends' living room, sad and sore and wishing I were somewhere else. The smell of roasted potatoes and thick gravy pours in through the doorway; everyone's running back and forth from the kitchen, paying no attention to the TV and positively buzzing with their own little stories and holiday cheer. Assignments are handed in, placement is over, and for them, life doesn't get better. I'm left alone all of a sudden, and I want out. I open the front door quietly and gently, and execute my first flawless Irish goodbye. Then I'm running, down the Lane, faster than I thought possible. Trying not to think about this time last week, the shouting and the ice; trying not to think about the hospital up the road; trying not to think about the huge white room; trying not to think about how deeply unsatisfied I was last night; all I can think about is home. I call my friend with a car, begging for a lift, while running. I get to my house and throw everything I can into a bag, forgetting all that's important, but what else is new? I text the Unsatisfying One, and say 'I'm on my way home!'
'Wow, that was a fast decision!' He doesn't care. Of course not.
Within the hour, I'm on a train. And I'm headed home. 

2013.
£9.60 for a bottle of de Gras, well, it's rude not to, right? Christmas drink is sorted.
'Are you a member? No, would you like to be? Another time, that sounds like a plan. Gift card? Is it a Christmas present? Do you want me to start it on Christmas Day for you? Cool, done. Let me just get you an envelope for that... Coffee? Yes of course! Americano, latte, cappucino, mocha? Is that with an extra shot? - I recommend the extra shot, as it can be quite weak without... Lovely. If you'd like to wait at the end of the bar, I'll bring it over to you!'
Psssshhhhhttttt, whirrrrrrr, spppllllggggg, choopchoopp. Shot shot, foam, chocolate, sugar and spoon. Done. Time for a sit down.
Enter tall gentleman. 'Hey, my dad!'

A few days before, we walked up to the front door and said our goodbyes. A taxi pulls up, and the driver is wearing a Santa hat. He's not for us - he's for London. Whoever or wherever she is.
He pulls me in, squeezes my side, and gives a sweet bristly kiss. We won't see each other for over a week, which suddenly seems like a long time. He's coming to visit, though. He wants to meet my family, hang around in my house, see my town and learn where I come from. Come for a pint at my local, bump fists with my sister, sit down in front of the TV with me in a place where he's never been, to make me happy and to know me better. Which is inexplicably amazing. It's the best Christmas present.
'Merry Christmas, baby.' 
'See you soon, honey.'
I love his eyes. Back to Battle I go.


Friday, 20 December 2013

The Block and the breaking of.


Writer's block.
People will say it's simply a psychological anomaly, common in creative types who have worked themselves too hard for too long. Or more cynical so-called professionals will insist it's simply an author's way of begging for an advance, some more money to swallow up and spend on ornamental typewriters and vases of flowers to 'inspire' themselves again. 

Personally? I find Writers' Block to be something chemical within; dormant until a dark day comes when the creative mind has been bled dry and needs a rest. So it lapses, lazily, into a comatose state and leaves behind toxic fumes and lingering sadness for its host to rely on and live off for as long as they can - until they, too, are exhausted and physically fighting off the fumes as they are engulfed and find themselves longing for the very same sad coma. 
I've not had the dreaded Block since I was eight years old, and couldn't finish my short novel I'd been writing because I couldn't think of any plausible way that a cockroach and a grasshopper could fall in love. 
Tonsillitis, depression and late nights have been my life as of late - desperately trying to keep up with what needs to be done, and if needs be pushing away the things that matter most to me. 
The other day I was sat in the fascinating and Fringe-esque venue that is The Railway inn; the downstairs room reeks of beer, whiskey, steel strings of countless young musicians and smoke that has poured in through the windows out of the mouths of misunderstood students. Now we, arguably the misunderstood, gather in the bar area surrounded by our coats and bags, props and costumes, nervous and exhilarated and waiting for that rush that only a one-off onstage performance can give. Exciting. Tense. Amazing. All around me there's chatter and giggles, nerves and urgency all bubbling and jangled together. I so badly want to be a part of it. 
However, my sore throat and my sad mind won't allow it. Weeks of strenuous rehearsals, pointless arguments, passive aggressive comments and packets of painkillers have all blurred beyond recognition and are preventing me from enjoying... Anything. I sit in the corner, staring longingly at the bar and the bottles of Scotch beyond, feeling exempt and unworthy. Drained and useless. Sore and world-weary. I'm dreading my onstage scream, and my laptop that awaits me at home. The empty Word documents and the long-neglected blogger page. Today is yet another day I must struggle through, listening to the words hitting the window pane in my head, buzzing and begging to get out, before staggering to bed and sleeping them all away.

My boyfriend (I can now say these words without an anxious intake of breath beforehand - yay me!) gave me my Christmas presents today; three presents, one theme. 'In case of Writers' Block'. I feel angry and devastated that in the whole time he's been with me, he's barely read a word I've written. It's my fault, and it needs to change. 
He bestowed these beautiful treasures unto me: books I'd been poring over in Waterstones, ones I wanted but couldn't justify buying for myself; 'Wreck This Journal', 'This Is Not A Book', and '642 Things to Write About'. Also, a bottle of Jack Daniels (I happened to have bought him one too, because we're beautifully in sync as only a couple can be/raging alcoholics who need whiskey to function in social situations) and two full-size bars of chocolate. 
I love dating a writer. Songwriting is his thing, and strangely enough his scribbling and tuning has filtered into my locked-up brain and woken me up a little. The presents, and a rather excellent film we watched tonight, were the greasy breakfast and pot of filthy coffee I needed right after waking up, to keep me going through the day.

'Saving Mr Banks' is a splendid, magical masterpiece. Laden with shameless symbolism, packed with cheese, and deliciously exploitative of the Mary Poppins generation - it's perfect. A stubborn author, a whimsical figurehead and his little clique of tapping secretaries and fancy-footed songwriters, plus a philosophical and friendly driver who loves the Californian sunshine and tries to win over the typically tight British woman... And one heartfelt wish to preserve a beautiful childhood character, battling with a drive to bring her to life on the big screen. Two passions colliding. Piano keys tinkling. Chim-chimminys aplenty. 
The little girl within me - the one who sat every weekend on her grandparents' reclining sofa with a plate of peanut butter sandwiches watching 'Mary Poppins' on VHS - she was transfixed, seeing her beloved Disney nanny again and discovering the story behind her. 
The twenty year-old young woman, the outer me, she wept three times throughout the film and whispered along to every musical number as it was brought to life before her in Walt Disney's rehearsal room in 1961. She chatted her boyfriend's ears off about it all the way home. She got in and immediately sat herself down on the sofa with a glass of water, frantically typing her every thought out on her Blogger app. 
Suddenly, she was writing again. 



And in all honesty - I really, really want an ornamental typewriter. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Friend of the bride.


Those schoolgirl promises we made to one another - you know the ones, the sitting cross-legged on Mrs Newstead's prickly carpet playing Pat-A-Cake and swearing on our unborn baby brother and sister that we'd never ever even so much as flick our ponytails in the direction of a boy because boys, ughhh! - well, I'm holding up my side of the deal, for the most part. Everyone else seems to have forgotten.

One of my oldest and closest friends just recently got engaged to her fella of 2+ years; she's a wee bit younger than me and they're both planning a long engagement so they can save up, get a house and have a big wedding etc. which is crazy-sensible for a pair of just-turned twenty year-olds.
I'm a bit miffed with the whole situation; NO, not because of what you're thinking, y'know about me being a jealous single spinster only aged twenty, NO. I am miffed simply because it's going to be several years before I get to dance and get embarrassingly and inexcusably drunk in a godawful strapless dress at my old friend's wedding. I'll have to make a note so I remember to get twenty-odd tequila shots in at the open bar, then make an awkward speech in the middle of the couple's first dance. Yes, I will be THAT wedding guest. It's my sacred duty as an old friend. It's also very important that I attend the wedding without a date, meaning I can flirt with all the groomsmen (who happen to be the boys who bullied me in high school) and my mother can not only be my drinking buddy but also give me a piggyback home after I pass out covered in wedding cake and rose wine, mumbling incoherently about that charming boy who once took a shine to me on school photo day when my hair was all glossy and pinned perfectly, and how I thought I would marry him someday...

The engagement party was a couple of months ago now. I went home especially, armed with a pretty dress, multiple sticks of lipstick and freshly-dyed lilac hair. I donned my heels (this being the third time I'd worn them since the painful gunpoint purchase back in 2011), and tried my best to forget that not only would I be wildly unpopular at this party, as the guest list consisted mainly of the high school Perfect Popular Princess girls, but also would be subjected to the delightful questioning of the adult party population; "so, how's uni? Where are you studying again? A degree in what, exactly? And any future plans? Do you have a boyfriend, then?" Joy of joys.
All this being said... I had a fantastic time. I really did! A local band played (some familiar faces from high school, again), their song selection was spot on AND they covered Mumford perfectly, what more can you ask of a band? My family all danced to 'Mr Brightside' and 'Little Bird', my parents pretending to know the words and my little sister pretending to be drunk. There were a couple of tearful speeches from family and the honourees; the cake was extraordinary; everyone was wasted by 11pm. I, for one, was at that familiar level of wasted where I was happily spilling my drinks down myself as I gesticulated wildly in accompaniment with my loose-lipped chatter - I also thought nobody could see the Jack Daniels and rose mixing and mingling on my fresh cream dress. I also thought nobody would notice my subtle student skills 'minesweeping' unattended drinks from the tables. Alas.
I was home by 11:30pm, tucked up in my childhood bed, spinning through space and overcome with love and unapologetic optimism. I can't remember the last time a party left me feeling this way*. It was a perfect night, really.



*More often than not, I favour a bust-up and a dramatic exit from a party/pub crawl at 1am, after which I sob on my housemate's shoulder and swear 'never again'. Maybe the key is going to bed at 11:30pm...

In all seriousness... I am delighted for my girl, Daisy. She's found something special. She's found happiness that some of us cannot begin to imagine, love that will last a lifetime and stability that we can only dream of - all at twenty. If the only way is up, she's heading for the moon.

22.

Hi, my name's Gracie.

I always find Irish coffee helps my studies, the little things enrage and satisfy me, I'm working on a Shakespeare group performance involving lingerie and orgasm noises, I'm starting to enjoy red wine, Fleetwood Mac soothe my soul, I'm constantly confused by at least two people, cuddles on the sofa are all I need at the end of a long day, my workmates just 'get' me, I have a date tomorrow, I live at the Terrace Bar, I'm bored of my hair colour, I want NEED to see McBusted live, Remembrance Day means a lot to me, I haven't been home in a while, I'm applying for Masters courses, I've been smiling a lot more lately, and it's all because of you.

I do one of these posts every month (ish).



'Hey'; A truly terrible love story.

'hey'

Suddenly it all comes back. The speeding down the dual carriageway on a Tuesday morning, parking across the road rather than in the student car park, running to the reception area just for that fifteen-minute window between his lesson and mine, when we'd bump into each other and have conversations - conversations about nothing, endless 'what even is Sociology' and fake laughter, trying not to stare at his crooked and weirdly beautiful smile or nipple bar poking through his polo shirt. Sitting on the grass helplessly watching from a distance as he threw an arm around his petite pretty girlfriend's shoulders; 'oh, I so wish he would just dump her stupid skinny arse...' The drunk mess at that birthday party, sitting on his lap, just the one kiss; the tea leaves telling me he was lying, he wasn't what I wanted, things would go sour if I continued down this road. The disappointing night(s), clutching on to his bulky shoulders, breathing deep the smell of beer and Hollister Mens', thinking 'I swear, this is what I wanted...' The drunk phone calls at 3am that happened for months, him rambling down the phone about how much he missed me, how he wants to have 'that night' again; putting him on speaker so my friends could laugh along with me. He was the start of a bad pattern, a vicious circle of self-loathing and disappointment. I remember waiting in the corridor for him to finish lessons, driving him home feeling his hand on my bare leg, queuing for an hour outside Kings nightclub in the rain just to see him for two songs on the dancefloor, watching him kiss someone else a few feet away from me without even caring that he'd just lost his ride home, hiding from one another in Spoons before having that awful conversation when he said sorry and I said his haircut looked 'dumb'.
Waking up in the morning in his bed, and seeing him sat right on the edge with a phone against his ear, quietly muttering "yeah, see you later. Love you too."
Having to see his girlfriend, a girlfriend I didn't even know existed, every day in lessons and every night out in town. Him calling me while I'm out with my friends, my best girl picking up the phone and threatening to do unspeakable things to his balls should he ever contact me again.
Two years later. Why on earth would I even dare to respond? No good can come of this.

"Hey."

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mrs Clark.

Tonight I'm pouring glass after glass of delicious sauvignon blanc, making boxes upon boxes of perfect popcorn and steaming up my forehead making average lattes and wannabe cappuccinos. I'm up-selling like crazy, getting overexcited at new faces and suggesting endless extras until I'm met with utter spent bewilderment. Today, I'm cherishing every minute of my short 'n' sweet shift. After a double-shift day yesterday, every hour is flying by tonight. My favourites are all in, and nothing's slowing the flow.

Enter my lady; with perfectly pressed hair and dressed in the softest scarlet coat that instantly makes me think of sleigh bells. I take her in, assessing slowly, appreciating her kindly face and her bejeweled fingers.
'Are you a member with us, at all? Would you like to be one, perhaps?'

'Oh, I would actually - do I fill out something here?'
In a flash I pass her a form; she's filling it out with fancy lettering, all caps with Greek E's. I ask if there's anyone she'd like to share her membership with, another name to add to the form, someone to share the perks with - 'a partner, perhaps?'
Her head down, eyes focused, pen scribbling away; 'Well my husband's dying of cancer, so I don't expect he'll be coming to the cinema very much longer...'
I freeze. She's so flippant, so un-frazzled. I raise a hand to my mouth. 'I'm so, so sorry, madam...'
'Oh no, it's quite fine... My cousin! She'd love to share this with me! I shall put her name...'

And a few minutes later she's gone, leaving behind her fancy penmanship and rosy air. She can't have been more than fifty. Mrs Clark, husband dying. Miss Clark. How awful. Maybe she has children. They'd be grown by now. Grandchildren? Possibly. Oh, my.
Why do bad things have to happen? Why must someone like Mrs Clark be faced with this in what should be her golden, happier years? The peaceful winter of her life is now peppered with rain clouds, and St Jude is bearing down.
I wonder how long she's known, how long she's been living with this black poisonous sucking creature in her life, killing the man she loves and destroying their lives together in one fell swoop. It must have been a while by now, since she's so casual and mentioning it to young barmaids she's just met. Is casual the word? No. There was something behind her eyes. Strength. Resilience. Fight. She won't be alone, not ever. She has enough to keep her going. Now, she's making the most of what she has.
Mrs Clark will be fine.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

ECP (update).

I'm combining fictional narrative writing, with... Wait for it... Blogging. Like, setting up a blog and teaming it with the novel. Half-prose, half-blog. Just imagine my excitement. Multiply that by a thousand.
You're still nowhere near.

Friday, 18 October 2013

My Pogo/life as 'the dumb one'.

ditzy
ˈdɪtsi/
adjective
N. AMER.informal
1.
silly or scatterbrained.
"don't tell me my ditzy secretary didn't send you an invitation!"


A while ago, my housemates and I all sat around and talked about our 'pogos'. 'Pogo' here being a clever concept coined by my beloved Winston Bishop, and yet another thing in my life that is brought in from a TV programme. The characters in 'New Girl' all have these irritating physical or personality traits that their friends discuss behind their back; Schmidt has ridiculously long toenails, Jess is a know-it-all, Nick needs to be mothered every now and again... The kind of things only very close friends or flatmates would know about one another.
The obvious pogos were mentioned, e.g. someone enforces the cleaning rota, someone has trouble sugar-coating things, someone is difficult about doing washing up... Obvious, and harmless. I tentatively asked what mine was, hoping it would be something small and easily fixable, such as my noisy typing or playing music before I fall asleep. Alas, mine was something I cannot change, and somehow was what I did not expect, and yet most feared: I'm ditzy. 

Within my group of friends - well, within the many groups I have been in, or on the very edge of, throughout my life - I've always been in serious danger of being labelled 'the dumb one'. Everyone else gets to be the hero or the leading lady, or the sarky and hilarious best-friend characters at the very least.
Then there's me. Karen Smith from Mean Girls, asking people why they're white, feeling her own breasts and sticking diamante gems in a backwards K shape across her chest before a night out. Even when I was brunette, I was the blonde. 

I really don't understand why; I'm intelligent, coherent, and perceptive to the point of freakishness. I get well above average grades, I read hefty classic novels, I have a fantastic concept of time, I'm positively brimming with common sense (although I am somewhat selective about when I use it)... My memory is outstanding. I can form articulate arguments on the spot. My quick wit and improvisational skills have saved my hide plenty of times. I know things long before I'm told them.
So why am I made to feel this way? By my best friends, too? 

At last year's annual Fly Hard awards, I was given the prestigious honour of 'Hottest Player'. Which, don't get me wrong, is lovely, but... I would have preferred something more substantial, such as 'Most Improved Female' or 'Most Enthusiastic Player', rather than just an award that said 'well done, you look good while playing.' It somehow reinforced my 'just a pretty face' complex. And I don't even think I'm that pretty. So how does that work?

I'll admit, I do have a few unfortunate moments now and again. I often walk into door frames because I misjudge my distance or their width, I remember to grab something from my bedroom as everyone's walking out the front door, I trail off mid-sentence because something distracts me...
Also, I may make some pretty stupid decisions now and again, but that doesn't make me a stupid person. A one night stand with the boy who broke my heart, making grilled cheese sandwiches at 11:30pm, smoking while having a chest infection, wearing a clean white bedsheet as a dress on a night out - these are just some of my greatest hits. However, stupid though they may be, there is always a valid reason - whether it be fantastic easy orgasms, delicious late-night calories, an excuse to use my classy cigarette holder, participating enthusiastically in an 'anything but clothes' themed pre-drinks... Hey, the heart wants what it wants. I shouldn't be classed as 'dumb', because I follow my heart.

Last week, my drama group all took the Myers Briggs personality quizzes. We answered four questions to gauge what category we all fell into. I found most questions fairly easy - are you introverted or extroverted? Do you judge, or perceive? Do you experience, or learn? - except one. The question was "do you make decisions based on a long thought process, or just how you feel?" The significance just about smacked me in the face. Because I will always think everything through as best I can, evaluate as much as possible, be practical and scientific - but I will always make my final decision based on how I feel, and how it will affect others. Heart beats head every time. Maybe that's what makes me 'the dumb one'. Maybe not.
Whatever the reason, I want to shake this label. I can deal with being 'the shit one' in a drama group, I can make do with being stuck as a second team Ultimate player, I'll settle for being the fourth prettiest housemate. But I'd rather not be the ditzy one any more. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ultimate excitement.


I have an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Brighton this weekend. Brighton, a city just a 45-minute drive (or 25, if you drive like I do) away from my hometown. As I'm not going home for a while yet, I thought I'd ask my family if they wanted to come along and see me in Brighton... Y'know, just so we can catch up and it's not too far for them to drive...

Okay, so the real reason is that I want my parents to stand there and watch me compete, with some of my favourite people, at a sport I absolutely adore. I want them to see me running and throwing and playing some awesome D, and be proud that their daughter who once got them to write notes to her teachers so she could get out of PE lessons is actually actively pursuing a sport, playing on a team for the first time ever and totally loving every shouting, sweaty moment. I want nothing more than my sister to cheer for me, my mum to be impressed when I stall someone out, my dad to work out the logistics of the game as he watches. Ever since my grandparents expressed interest in coming along, I've been determined to make them smile - maybe even laugh, which is something God only knows they need these days - when they see me running up the pitch in my bright purple shorts. I want my sister to meet the entire women's team, I want my mum to tell me how much she hates the team captain, I want my dad to ask who's who - or even guess, based on the stories I've told them all... I want my family to see me doing something I love, and I want to play to the best of my ability so I can make them proud.
Bring it, Brighton.

Renegade.


How is it only eight? It could be eleven,
The night time brings with it the words.
a Drunken fool and that same Smooth talker,
separated by miles, stretched into hours.

Cupcake and coffee, code words in my little city,
Flat whites and sugary rewards.
Scrambled and toasted, pot and kettle,
New names and years long forgotten.

Who would have thought, who could have known,
waking up hearing 'lovely' all this time.
Spark up the Clipper, bring it to life,
happy yet cautious once again.

Here I am, making all these plans,
when will I ever learn?
A way with words, a kind heart to match,
it's never worked wonders before.

Uttering the worst words, venom on my lips,
hoping he can't see beneath them.
Rehearsing my anger, suppressing my hurt,
and maybe a glimmer of what's more.

Friday, 4 October 2013

I, like, like this.

I turn to my sister and very subtly indicate my phone. "He liked my photo," I whisper, hardly able to contain my joy. She nods, smiles, acknowledges the importance and gravity of the liking. She gets it. Then, from the next room, I hear my mother shout: "it doesn't mean anything, honey!"


As dumb and immature as it sounds, likes mean something to me. I'm well aware that a like only takes a matter of seconds and even the faintest most half-hearted click can become one; it could mean absolutely nothing to them, but it means the world to me. I know people who will deliberately 'like' a certain other person's every post, photo and check-in, simply because they want their name to appear on their home screen and therefore in their mind. Shameless, really, but we all do it every now and again. There is one person whose statuses I never 'like', purely because of an age-old grudge based on him once saying I was an obsessive liker... There's a person whose posts I am cautious about liking, in case he gets the wrong idea. There's another person who I throw a big 'like' at every now and again to remind her that I'm always here for her.
I also notice the people who habitually 'like' my posts, the ones who only occasionally do, and those who definitely don't. It's always the usual suspects, the people I can count on to smile when they see some kind of update from me.
I see the guys who are forever liking this one girl's photos - usually of her getting ready for a night out, dressed to fuck kill, making them stare and absolutely knowing it. In the end, I hid her completely from my homepage. I won't encourage her with my likes. 

I was once told "I don't like a lot of your posts, because I don't want to seem too keen." To which I so wanted to respond: "But they make me smile. Don't you want to make me smile?"

I can always tell when likes are just a cheap ploy, a casual invitation, a nod and a wink.
And I notice when the likes go away. Whether it's loss of interest, change of heart, lack of follow-through - it happens, and I see it. It's a shame, posting something on Facey B, Tumblr or even Insti (especially Insti) and not seeing your favourite liker appear in the corner of the screen. Not getting an email to let you know they favourited your tweet.
I like to think that I'm exempt from the liking politics; that I will always 'like' something, regardless of who posted it. But that's a lie. I have been known to keep scrolling, to physically stop myself, purely because of a silly old grudge. A 'dislike', maybe. Once or twice, I've even not wished someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook because I didn't feel they deserved it.

To reiterate the unfortunate truth, likes mean something to me. They make me smile, they make me sing while washing up, they make me run upstairs and tell my housemates. So bear this in mind when you're hovering, wondering whether to click. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

21.

Hi, my name's Gracie. I am paying too many bills, I've booked to see four gigs in the coming few months, I want to do a Masters, I get restless rather a lot, one of my oldest friends just got engaged, I cannot wait for Autumn/Winter, Supernatural makes me happy but also emotionally destroys me, a good veggie burger is the way to my heart, I can't make up my mind, I'm surprisingly good at Articulate!, my new house is damn near perfect, I am forever missing someone, spooning doesn't always lead to forking, everything is changing once again, and I'm nowhere near prepared.

I do one of these posts every month (when I remember).


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Rainbow & Jack.


I was due to work 2pm-9:30pm. At 5:30pm, my manager said I could have a long break, and as we were quiet, I could come back at 8pm and do my last hour and a half. I'd have been upset at losing out on money, but I really needed some dinner and I'd just been offered the coveted Bank Holiday shift, a white-whale-Holy-Grail in the hospitality work world. So I caught a bus home, had some simply gorgeous leftovers for dinner, did the washing up and watched an episode and a half of Gilmore Girls. I went back to work, happy to be walking and burning calories at least, and was let go again just after 9pm.

I was in two minds; go home, get some sleep ahead of tomorrow's early shift, have a cuppa, snuggle up in bed - or hang out in town for a while, maybe get a drink and read some of my book while sitting comfortably on a bar stool. I mentioned my dilemma to my manager, and she said 'Well, I'm all for early nights, but you could always stay out and see - something amazing might happen!' This is the same manager who asked about my love life just a month or so ago, so I always feel like she's trying to push me into new things and put myself out there. Like my own life coach Terrence, me being stubborn and single Paris Geller (minus the recently deceased sixtysomething professor boyfriend). I have to admit, she inspired me.

Yes, I went 'out'. Well, to the bar across the road, where I ordered a Jack & Coke and sat for an hour or so reading 'Attachments' by Rainbow Rowell - first in my own little booth, then up at the bar, because I was somewhat taken in by the very cute bartender. Ahh, my weak spot - a clean-cut fella in a pretty shirt who can mix me a drink and happily chat about nothing for a good hour or more. These fellas are second only to tattooed musicians who love a girl who can drink her weight in whiskey and not even so much as stumble. I had a lovely time alternating between reading about Lincoln, Beth & Jennifer and learning more about this total sweetheart drying the glasses. As cliched as it was, he asked about my book. He and I discussed university, birthdays, city life - and both laughed when he said 'oh, I just got the pun in the title of your book!'

Whether it was the positively perfect book or the excitement of a potential new crush, I had the loveliest evening and walked home with a terribly obnoxious grin on my face - and a hint of blush in my cheeks.
Thank you, Rainbow and Jacky D, for such a wonderful spontaneous evening.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

My (as yet untitled) ECP; (plea).


So as y'all know, or are about to know, I am writing my Extended Creative Project this year, for 20% of my final grade for my Undergraduate degree. So I can have that coveted BA (Hons) next to my name when I sign off important letters or apply for a job. No big deal.
I need a 2:1 at least in order to get onto the Masters course I so desperately want a place on. Also, I need an immense portfolio of work to submit by a deadline for said course. No pressure really.
I should make sure my writing is exciting, insightful and just interesting enough that writers will want to work with me, that companies will want to employ me and so that someday I can say with absolute confidence that I am perfectly happy with my career and my life, and I'm glad I took that leap into the unknown two years ago and decided to study what I love, rather than what might guarantee me a job immediately upon graduation. No problem.

ANYWAY, anxiety attack averted. Always avoid alliteration.

Basically, for my ECP, I need some help from some brave and damn lovely individuals.
My piece is about *drum roll*... The moment I became 'Me'.
It'll be a mixture of memoir, storytelling, character profiles, fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, script... Anything goes! (She says, having not met with her tutor yet)

So, what I would love more than anything, is for y'all to send me things. It can be anything; an anecdote, a word, a full-on essay, a photo, ANYTHING. Anything I can use as stimulus to write from. Anything you think is a defining moment in your life, or anyone's. A theory, a memory, a story, whatever. I wanna hear it!
If you'd prefer to be anonymous, that's totally cool - either request to be anonymous, OR message me anonymously on Tumblr, that always works. 

Comment on this blog post, OR...
Email: G.Latter.11@unimail.winchester.ac.uk
Tumblr: gracieactually (gracieactually/ask)
Tweet: @GracieActually
You will all be credited if I use your anecdotes, of course. Also, I'll bake you cookies. Well, my aspiring baker sister will, probably. I'll write you the accompanying Thank You note.

My gosh. Can you tell I'm panicking about this year already?
Wish me luck!
Thank you all. :)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling... Twenty...

"I'm not turning twenty. It's actually the eighteenth anniversary of my second birthday!"
I'm excitedly babbling away to my family about how gosh-darned determined I am to push my teenage years just that one step further; I don't want to turn twenty, can I please be twenteen instead?


This year marks the beginning of a new era in my life - my twenties, and also the age when I start wanting to stop... Aging. I'd be happy to stay nineteen forever. Actually, twenty-one is my limit, because at least that way I'll feel old but a few tequila slammers and plastic yard glasses in Vegas will make me forget that fact PDQ.
Alas, it appears, no matter how much wishing or bargaining or shameless pleading one does, the whole 'getting older' thing is inevitable. And after a year of a countdown to the day so horrifying it is often likened to that of Doomsday, a day that has always been a highlight and in fact a dear friend to me up until this moment in time, my birthday, the time is finally upon us. Tomorrow, August 1st 2013, dear little Gracie hits the big 2-0.
What's really interesting, though, is as much as I've been dreading this day, now it's come around (or will do in approximately 22.5 hours) I'm very calm. Zen in my oldness. Accepting of my age, and of the expected maturity that comes with it (well, kind of; I can still run around the house in my Supergirl pyjamas making whhoooOOOSSSsssshhhhHHH noises from time to time, right?). I'm ready for my twenties. Or at least, twenty singular.

A lot of friends have turned twenty before me, and so far the reports have all been something along the lines of "it's really not that bad", "it doesn't feel much different tbh", "dude, my twenty-first is gonna be CRAY"...
As one of the youngest in my year, an August baby no less, my birthday always seems to take the longest to come around. Even now, when academic years don't really matter, it still seems further away than Christmas from New Year's. Everyone turned sixteen and could legally *drive a tractor* before me; everyone was driving their mum's car before I could even start learning; I was always hearing scandalous Messy Monday gossip on Tuesday morning when hardly anyone turned up for 9am Sociology because they were all eighteen and had more important things to do with their time (such as: be hungover every day). Turning nineteen was like some giant weight being lifted. It was like the universe telling me "there, honey. Now you're alright." It was suddenly cool and enviable to be the youngest one in a group; now everyone was bitching about their upcoming birthdays, and expressing their insane jealousy at my youth - which, to be fair, was only a few months younger than them, but hey, I enjoyed it. I basked in the happy glowing feeling of being in no hurry to get any older. Finally. The playing field was equal.
Or was it? Because it seemed that suddenly everyone was in their twenties, and I was still a dumb irresponsible teenager who didn't know anything about life. I figured twenty was the age when you started to actually look down on those younger than you; when you lost your patience and tolerance and began referring to everyone who was young as "like, twelve"; when you had no time to explain anything to "kids". Maybe age will always matter. Maybe the playing field will never be equal. Maybe at 6:01pm tomorrow, I'll be hit with the Harsh Reality Stick/Mean Adult Branch, and I'll be just like every other adult. Who's to say?
Obviously I'll endeavour to remain the same idiot teenager forever. Just this week I dyed my hair lilac, and got really drunk, and today I'm getting a couple new piercings, as a final stupid act of teenagery. Well, making up the word 'teenagery' may actually be a stupid act in itself, but...

It's silly to get caught up in a battle with age. Because we'll lose. It's inevitable, it's unavoidable, and it's ever so slightly wonderful. We have no idea what the future will hold. At twenty, I'll be completing my final year of university. I'll be deciding what to do with myself when I leave this city, if I leave it at all. I'll be choosing a career - that is, a next step in the career that I chose when I was six. Exciting times lie ahead. Do your worst, twenty.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Lilac support.

Putting my biscuits down on the counter, smiling up at Bald Fella then looking across at Winky McDarling Man; the latter winks, shoots me a 'hello darling!' and carries on counting his cash. Baldy gives me a once over, smiles to himself.
'That's an interesting colour,' says he.
I remember that as of yesterday, my hair is bright lilac. 'Why thank you!' all smiles, 'I got an impulse, so I kinda had to do it, y'know?'
'I got ya. Arts student, by any chance?'
'How did you know?!' wink.

Some years ago, I was sitting in the study happily Googling university courses while on the phone to one of my oldest friends. Dull brown hair in a high ponytail, block fringe as always, minimal makeup and jeans. Just jeans, always. The UCAS time was upon me and I was looking into my options - the panic and frustration hadn't settled in just yet. I hadn't even settled on a course. I knew I wanted to do something creative and combined, that was pretty much it.


'So I asked my parents about this course at UEA, y'know because Matt Smith went there...' my friend gabbles away in my ear, 'it's Drama, but combined with Creative Writing. How cool is that?! It's perfect for us! But... My dad says it's too wishy-washy, and that I should do English instead...'
I search UEA (because imagine going to the same university as Matt Smith!) and find that yes, this seems to be a real and legitimate course. How odd. I told myself I gave up my dreams of becoming a writer ages ago, when I decided to focus on something more realistic - you know, like acting.
Seeing that there was a course combining my two true loves, however, like actually seeing it there in the special UCAS font surrounded by the obnoxious red... It could be everything I ever wanted.

I dreaded asking my parents. I'm not sure why, maybe because my friend on the phone who had a mother who spent all her time baking and a father who actively believed in the existence of Sasquatch, wasn't allowed to do a super-creative and arguably less-than-reputable degree. My parents, for the most part, have both feet firmly on the ground, and want the best for me. My grandparents want a granddaughter with a career they can tell their friends about and not get embarrassed - like teaching, for example, and frankly I can think of nothing worse. I'd already accepted the fact that I'd probably end up doing a degree in English, followed by a Masters or some kind of teaching qualification, at a nice campus uni not too far from home.
So when my Dad was looking through the UCAS website and whatever higher education material was available to him (namely the stacks and stacks of prospectuses on the coffee table), and he called out 'hey Grace, I think I've found a good course for you!' just imagine my delighted shock when he shows me a page in a prospectus saying Drama & Creative Writing, BA (Hons). I'd worried for nothing; my parents knew this was what I wanted and they weren't about to stop me from going for it. I'm one of the lucky few students/teenagers/people with a supportive family; a lot of friends I've made on my course have siblings pursuing careers in Medicine and Law, and they've told me how inferior they are made to feel by their parents and family friends. The dreaded words 'I want to be a writer/actor/dancer/artist' are met with patronizing looks and harsh so-called 'realities', and as a result, some never follow their dreams. 

I'm sitting here, with my lilac hair that my mum loves and the nose stud that she recommended I get, writing a piece of work for my degree that my parents let me pick and love hearing about all the time, preparing for my sister's impending visit and looking at a 'You've Moved House!' card from my grandparents on the fridge. Just appreciating how fortunate and supported I am in all that I do.
I'm a very happy Arts student.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The inexplicable/inevitable; 'Take Care'.


February, approaching midnight. A typical club smoking terrace. A chill in the air, but the warmth of the dance floor spilling out into the night as we stand facing each other, both up against a brick wall, just mere fickle space between us.

'I really like you,' says he, for the fifth time within the minute. The alcohol is apparent both in his stature and in serious verbal liberalism. His eyes are getting closer, then further away, as he sways back and forth ever so slightly.

'But, how do you like me?' Says a clever heroine. 'I've had plenty of others like me for one night, for a string of days, for a few weeks tops... What time period are you referring to?' Surprisingly coherent and cynical, despite ingesting more than half a bottle of Jack Daniels. She's skeptical and serious, because after such a consistent series of disappointments and heartbreaks, why wouldn't she be? 'I don't want to waste my time. Not any more. C'mon, tell me. '

He pushes away from the wall, bracing himself against the brick just above her head, staring unblinkingly but drunkenly into her eyes; brown challenging blue.
'Years.'

Flailing slightly, feeling her resolve melt away, she demands one last reassurance; 'but, I'm at uni...'
He replies, immediately: 'we can work around that.' Did he rehearse this, or is he just naturally word-perfect and mood-sensitive? She's trying not to think how many he's reassured before. She wants to believe.


***

April, the small hours. A kitchen, his, the kettle's boiling and the anticipation is intolerable. She regrets the early kiss, knowing she gave it up too early, and now she can't go back and ask questions. Silly girl. When will you learn?
Leaning against the counter, remembering the first kiss, right here. He's smiling again just inches away from her face; the face right now, a picture of conflict. She has so much to say; she needs to 'use those words', to 'do all that talking they haven't been doing' (quote: two great friends). He seems to be waiting for it, even. Why is this so hard?
Because she's scared she won't get the answer she wants. She doesn't want this wonderful feeling to go away. She wants to stay in this happy little fantasy forever - or as he once said 'years'.
'I need to know that I'm not wasting my time.' She finally says it; feeling the earth slip out beneath her feet as the words hang in the air. He looks confused, bemused, amused, which is it? 
Amused. 'You're not wasting your time.' And, relax. 'If you thought I was seeing someone else, kissing someone else, or sleeping with someone else - you don't realise how much I like you... And also, how damn busy I am!' The smile is back. The hated, beautifully reassuring smile. Is that smile trustworthy?


***

July, bedtime. The messages, the talks, the mentions, all gone. Inexplicable, inevitable. Hurtful. Our foolish hopeful heroine is waiting to hear it, those words she didn't want to hear but at the same time can't not. If only he were the one saying them; instead, she finds out from a friend, because for some unknown reason he can't take a moment for her any more. Apparently it's due to... Excuses. It seems a conversation has been had between the two would-be's, but only one of them had it and knew the outcome. Guess who.

'Don't worry,' says the kind friend. 'He had me fooled, too.'

Now she's skipping the songs, ignoring the signs, avoiding the places, and refusing the drinks. She's set a new alarm, she's walking a different way, and she's partial to Grant's for now. Scowling at every smug cappuccino, driving through town to avoid the beautiful judgmental sea, sick of the smell of cigarettes and wishing she'd never broken that first resolution.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

My (as yet untitled) ECP; (I).

I'm doing an ECP (Extended Creative Project) in Creative Writing, in my final year of university. It's going to be a collection of personal memoirs, musings, observations and stories I've collected from others, all on the subject of body confidence, or lack thereof. I'm hoping to write it in the style of a series of blog posts/magazine feature pieces; there will be accompanying photos (thanks to my wonderful confident friends) and hopefully, maybe, some of it will change people's minds. That's all I could ask for.
Feedback would be wicked awesome, y'all.
Here's a draft of one section...


Physical education.
Unbutton blouse, pull polo shirt over head, slip button-up off the shoulders, pull polo down; nobody will see. Deep breath, and go. Done. Then, tights down under skirt, have shorts ready by feet, bend carefully, slip shorts over ankles and jump, very subtly now... Check shorts are around waist firmly. Unzip skirt, pull down comfortably, all the while making sure shorts are secure. Sit down gently on cold metal bench, keep quiet because one loud metallic CLANG and you’re anybody’s; all eyes will be on you, and that’s the last thing we want, right? Pull on socks, lace up trainers, five double-checks that the shapeless flesh-coloured bra isn’t peeking through the super-thick white cotton, and you’re good to go. Walk out the door with your head down, likewise through the corridor and out onto the field. Self-consciously pat your head, flatten your hair, you knew an obnoxious high ponytail was far too outrageous, you silly girl. Cross your arms across your chest as you run down the field, we wouldn't want any unnecessary jiggling to draw attention. The stretch marks on your legs can’t be helped any more than the pimples on your face, but hey, you’re only fourteen, it’s normal right? Although, if it’s so normal, why don’t any of the other girls seem to have these problems?

Marissa is a picture of grace, pale and sleek, effortlessly sprinting to the groundskeeper’s shed, drawing all the male gaze as she goes. Her hair shimmers like dark ocean waves at midnight, falling down her back and then being picked up by the breeze. She has a tiny waist and perfectly round breasts; you can see through her shirt. She has a little lingering fat on her upper thighs, the same lumpy bumps that I have, so that's okay I suppose. Nobody would ever notice it, though. She'd never get pushed and poked in the changing room.

Eleanor’s PE polo shirt is faded and tinged blue from being washed poorly. I wonder if she’s noticed. ‘It's a clear indicator of her home life’, says the TA under her breath to the other teachers. Her shorts are too short; her rugby player-legs are on full display. She's proud, and it’s kind of awesome. In the changing rooms, she whipped off her blouse and was showing everyone who’d turn and look this little blue-purple mark on her belly, right above the button; ‘It's a love bite,’ she announces proudly, ‘from my boyfriend – you won’t know him, he goes to the boys' grammar school...’ She’s also wearing a bright white bra with little red strawberries all over it. She’s had an impressive chest since Year Five. Good on her, I guess. She's not ashamed, ever.

Hallie has terrible ugly stretch marks all down the backs of her legs, like someone painted directly onto her skin with a twig and some purple paint. She has freckles that connect in the sun and leave her with big brown blotches on her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. She gets heartburn, anxiety and panic attacks when doing Track. She likes the shot-put, though. Her arms are thick and strong. She hates it. If only she knew how many of us hate our weedy frames and our skinny wrists.


This is all true, it all happened to me, way back when. The people are also real, however I thought it best to change their names - so all 'characters' are named after the TV/film/book characters I thought they best resembled. It's a work in progress, and it's really fun (and at times, impossible) to write.

A good book (I): Hello Rainbow.

I have a Waterstones addiction. Whenever I have a spare ten/fifteen minutes, I'll dive straight into the nearest shop, and browse for what seems like days looking for treasure in the Aladdin's cave. I'll often abuse the 'buy one get one half price' offer, hunt down the random £4 off beauties, fill up my 'I love books' stamp card, and pick up books by authors I've never heard of, but whose covers and plots call out to me.

This is how I came to discover Rainbow Rowell. I'm currently reading 'Eleanor & Park', and I have 'Attachments' ready and waiting on my worryingly unstable bookshelf in my bedroom. I'm so moved by a good book, more than I'd care to admit, and just yesterday I had to stop myself just sitting and crying on a busy train.
Because I'd read this line.


Because just a couple of months ago, someone told me they missed me. Because when they did, this was exactly what went through my mind. Because this is what a good book should do to you. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Nostalgia's not what it used to be/Then and Now.

Nostalgia is my guilty pleasure; it's what I wrap myself in when the world seems mean, something I escape to in times of trouble, an alternate reality of what has once been. I love looking at people, be it peers in lectures, colleagues at work, friends in my house, and thinking about how I came to know them; how we first met, how long it was that we crossed paths before that first interaction, how different things were then, and how strange to think it hasn't always been like now.

 

I once despised this one girl in my Drama class at uni. She drove me mad; she seemed perfectly sweet, perfect student, knew more about the world than I did, and the boy I liked took quite a shine to her, as did a few other friends of mine. I could do the most accurate impression of her, the distinctive accent and the mannerisms. I once wrote "WHORE" on her back in marker pen*.
And now? She's my housemate, and best friend. We've shared all sorts of stories and secrets with one another, she knows my best qualities and my worst, my happiest moments and my weaknesses (which are mostly ill-advised arseholes, and unhealthy eating). She takes me to one side and has words when she can see I'm not doing myself any favours. Her advice, from clothing to love to zombie face paint, is always appreciated more than she'll know. I now adore her so much, that if I could go back in time and stop myself drunkenly writing nasty words on her bare skin, I would (sorry, honey).

*this wasn't just randomly one day when I was sat behind her in a lecture; a group of us were scribbling on her in preparation for a crazy rave party at the SU. 

I crossed paths with my ex most days at school, long before we got together. I was told to "look after" a new girl in my tutor group, who became my closest friend (my tutor was patting herself on the back for years). I couldn't stand my know-it-all Head Girl, then upon starting college I realised what a down-to-earth, sweet and well-meaning person she was; if a little obsessed with Disney and being a princess. I fell instantly in love with a boy at college, we dated, we fell out, he dated other girls, we argued, we stopped speaking, and now we're living an hour away from each other but are still inseparable. The girl I made friends with recently when working on a play turned right around and stabbed me in the back. Since leaving school, I've hooked up with the most popular boy in our year. I've had encounters with the most popular girls, too, at clubs in town - and had them all come up to me in turn and say, astonished: "your hair looks lovely! Have you lost weight?!" or something to that effect. Two girls who once bullied me told me they read my blog.

See what I mean? I just love this stuff. One of my recent posts consisted of a series of photos from my past, and the stories behind them. I spent ages writing it, rediscovering things and loving the friendly familiar feelings that came over me. I was laughing, amazed, at the photos of that night out in Fresher Year; in such disbelief that once I didn't know, or didn't like, the people I consider best friends now. Seeing photos from primary school and thinking of how many classmates I still know now; how many I see on a daily basis, or when I pop home for a weekend, and whether or not we say "hi" to each other in the street.
Photos are underrated as a medium, I think. They are literally moments and memories captured forever. Now, before I get all wistful and wishy-washy, I did have another thing to add.
Looking through photos is one thing, but showing them to someone else is just as wonderful, if not more so. Pointing at the faces and saying "she's at Lincoln now, studying Drama," or "he moved to New Zealand, keeps in touch though", "that was the best night ever"... It allows you to feel the nicest part of nostalgia, sharing it with someone else.


"Can you spot me? I bet you can't. Hint: I'm naturally blonde. You'll never guess... Oh, that guy in the back, he got really hot in high school. And the girl two along from me, she bullied me through Years Five and Six. I fell madly in love with him - guess what he ended up doing with his life? Okay, guess which one here has full sleeves of tattoos now? She's at Birmingham Uni, I'm so jealous, it's amazing there... He danced with me at the Year Four disco, in between his dirty deals selling Freddos and Kit Kats to other kids. I have no idea what happened to her..."

Saturday, 6 July 2013

100,000.

556 posts about my life; the losses, the gains, the loves, the best days and the worst. Five hundred and fifty six jumbled mixtures of feelings, all somehow put into words and crammed into posts.
100,000 views. One hundred thousand times when a person clicked the link, refreshed the page, and read some of my life. 100,000. My new favourite number. 100,000. The hugs I wish I could give. 100,000. The amount of thank you's I owe.

Monday, 1 July 2013

When Did I Get So Old?: Gracie's second year of university.

This time last year, I was packing up my life into boxes and saying farewell to Hampshire; Sussex-bound for the summer, looking forward to four months of friends, family and freedom. This year, however, I'm staying. I've moved out of my (hideous, falling-apart, lovely, filthy) student house, and as of 16th June I am in my gorgeous new pad for the summer, and come September I'll be starting yet another new chapter in my life: the Final Year of Uni.




To say this year has gone quickly would be like saying "Hey, Monica likes things clean"; "Elphaba was misunderstood"; "students enjoy the occasional drink"; "the sky is kinda blue". If possible, my second year has gone even quicker than my first. I do miss being a Fresher, every second year student does, but I feel like this year is when I came into my own and really discovered who I was.

I joined Fly Hard. Despite desperately wanting to join my university Ultimate team for pretty much the entirety of my first year, I put it off and told myself I shouldn't, all because of one person. That was dumb, to say the least. Not only did said person leave the team, but they also were not, shall we say, especially popular with the team members in the first place. So after wasting that year hoping and stopping myself, I finally went along to a casual throwaround, then a training session, then another training session, and the rest is awesomeness. I got to know the coolest people, and I got to play the coolest sport. Next year I'm living with three fellow Frisbee enthusiasts (the Womens' Captain, Vice Womens' Captain, and Chairman, no less) so I'm only going to get better. I attended the Fly Hard Awards (or Fly Hardies 2013), and I am thrilled that I somehow won this year's coveted 'Hottest Player' award, but next year I would kind of like to get an award with more substance - like 'Most Improved Female', or 'Most Enthusiastic Player', maybe. That's one of my many goals for the next year.
Fly Hard has been there for me always. I've always had that outlet, that therapeutic bi-weekly thing that made all the worst days bearable. It's helped immensely with my confidence issues (in myself and in my body), and taught me much more than how to throw a good hammer. I don't think I realised that it means just as much to all of us, until I saw the Captain (and the other third years) crying while giving speeches at the awards ceremony. The other night, one of our teammates posted in the Facebook group that he was having 'personal trouble' and needed friends/to get drunk; what few were left of us, those currently staying in Winch, all rallied together and stayed up with him until 3am playing Arrogance and downing drinks. That's the kind of people the Fly Hardians are.



One other thing has become a big part of my life this year: coffee. I've never appreciated the true wonders a single steaming cup can do, until I started having Tuesday & Thursday 9am lectures this year. Coffee is a powerful substance made of deliciousness, strength, hope and love. I'd make a point of taking a sip before answering a question in a seminar, of going to grab one to go with my classmates while on a break or downing a large latte before an important presentation; it's comforting. It's also a social thing. I've had numerous cups of coffee with those closest to me this year. Many happy hours have been spent in Starbucks (despite my mother's outrage at this; our family are Nero all the way) gossiping and philosophizing over a mocha or two. My friends and I have also started a fabulous new tradition of ordering in Starbucks under aliases of John Green characters - I am Alaska, Clare is Hazel Grace, Rikki is Augustus, Vee is Margo. All the credit for this ingenious idea goes to Clare, aka Hazel Grace, who is not only a visionary writer with serious Nerdfighter tendencies and a love of coffee, but also someone I will be missing like crazy all summer (because she's off being amazing at camp in America, or something. Not jealous at all. Shut up).
I've developed a relationship with the lovely fellas who work at the SU Terrace Bar; now whenever they see me coming they smile knowingly and say "Hey Gracie, skinny vanilla?" My coursemates, the too-cool Drama boys with their big ideas, the in-crowd Creative Writers who are enviably 'clicky', the glamourous Drama girls who I was always certain were too cool to hang out with me - are now really good friends of mine, partly due to our coffee dates together between lectures. See? Coffee is good for your social life.

I have read some amazing things this year. Yes, books such as 'How To Be A Woman' (Caitlin Moran is my spirit animal), every possible Gothic novel ever (in what began as a studious obligation, but soon became a full-on obsession), Angela Carter ("oh, this kinky bitch again!" I sighed as I snuggled down with her collection of Fairy Tales before bedtime), 'The Time Traveller's Wife' (and other such love stories perfect for holiday reading and designed to break your heart), and let's not forget 'The Fault In Our Stars', 'Paper Towns', 'Looking For Alaska', 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson', 'An Abundance of Katherines' (John Green, why do you delight in making me cry?), books that have changed my outlook on the world - and actually, come to think of it, my life.



However, I have also had the honour and privilege of reading some serious up-and-coming literature from the minds of those around me. Doing a joint Honours with Creative Writing, I get to hang out with the future critically acclaimed authors of the world, and be among the first to read the first pieces of their legacy. I was blushing in the Learning Cafe reading Clare's erotic Textual Intervention piece, I wow'd my way through Jack's insightful reviews, I frantically scrolled through the Creative Writers' Facebook page for more. Only this year did I have the courage to post a file on there for criticism and notes; my TI2 Creative Piece, which I worked insanely hard on and, thank goodness, got that beautiful First that I craved so badly...
I've also had the chance to get to know other bloggers/tweeters who find comfort in writing and at the same time feel the most immense passion for the pastime, so much so that someday they hope to be paid to do it - in other words, more people like me. People like Eleanor, the best friend I've never met, who writes beautifully and is a twin spirit to me. Most of my friends blog - my two perfectly heart-on-sleeve housemates Vee and Abby, the lovely Helen who will always be one of my favourite people and biggest inspirations, and darling Vick, who's pursuing her dreams and taking over London town. This year has been a big year for my blogging world, to say the least.

I've met Frank Warren, the man who started one of the biggest and most life-changing phenomenons for not just an eleven year-old me but millions of others just like me and not like me at all - PostSecret. My flustered exchanges with John & Hank Green will go down in history as one of the most embarrassing and utterly predictably fangirl-esque moments ever - all I could manage was "John! John...! I want to write stuff!" and "Hi Hank, wow this is surreal... Hi." Not one but two very special, if brief, half-hugs and handshakes with Joshua Radin have potentially made everything in my life okay again. Tweets from Carrie Hope Fletcher made me squeal like a little girl meeting Cinderella at Disneyland.
Of course, meeting some of my idols, inspirations and in some cases long-term crushes (Joshua, say no more) has been magnificent and magical, but this year I've also met some equally if not more important people whose existence makes every day that little bit better; people who push me when need be, build me up, catch me when I fall and gather up the pieces when I just can't find a way. Going into third year, I am finally totally and completely happy with my living situation - 'situation' here meaning 'a beautiful room and the best housemates'. VIP posts will soon be reinstated on my little blog, and these three will be getting essays. Plus, friends from last year staying with me despite how many times I've given them reason not to, and those I've gotten to know even better over the past ten months or so. The phrase "I wish we'd hung out more in the first year!" is thrown around far too much, often between shots or during drunken trips to the toilet together, but it's true. Every coffee date in Starbucks, every downing of a drink, every face-painting session, every afternoon spent T'ing D... These are the things I'll remember, always. 



There were more tears this year, more personal dramas, more conflicts and more horrible sinking-feeling moments. There were also more unforgettable nights, more laughs, more successes, more spirit, and more friends. The rain came down hard, iced over on the pavement, I slipped and fell, someone helped me up, and the sun came out. The arguments made me realise what's important, and what's worth fighting for. The crying made me see who I cared about, and who cares about me - enough to sit with me on the side of the road and stroke my shoulder until I smile again. And, you know what? None of it mattered in the end. There was more than enough good to outweigh the bad. Now, with my 2:1 for the second and best year so far at uni, I'm looking ahead to my final chapter here in this beautiful city with these incredible people, and I know it can only get better.




© Almost Amazing Grace.. Design by Fearne.