Sunday, 28 February 2016

To Do by 25.

The marvellous madcap Madeleine Vaughan, my fellow Winchester alumnus, has taken the plunge and written something personal recently! And it's excellent! Very moving. So much so, in fact, that I was immediately inspired by her specific topic of choice: Things To Do Before I'm 25. I thought I'd do my own little list...


I am currently 22 years of age – I was a late summer-born kiddo in the school days, which actually sucked quite a bit but as I've grown older and wiser (okay yes, just since I turned 18) I've realised that it's actually quite nice to be the young'un sometimes. Less adult responsibilities...or perhaps they just take a little longer to catch up with you. I'd always joke at school that my peers born in September '92 would die first, while I, a proud August '93er, would live at least an extra 11 months.
Obviously this is ridiculous, and I really shouldn't have been saying anything so wickedly morbid at such a young age, but I just really really hated being the youngest, alright?

I love being 22. I grew out of being 21 very very quickly; after about three months I suddenly hated being that classic 'party age', y'know? But 22 works for me. I like the fact that it's still 'early twenties'. I even like the look of the number when I type it or write it down.
I'll be sad to turn 23, partly because it isn't as pretty a number, but mostly because it means I am one step closer to...25.

25 is the age you (allegedly) have to step things up a gear – it's the age when you supposedly have it all figured out, or at least that's what I always thought, growing up. It's taken me years to realise that, well, really you never have to have it all figured out...and certainly not by the actually very tender age of 25. 

So my goals to be achieved by that ripe old age are fairly straightforward, open-ended and, well, happy. No deadlines, it would just be awesome to have these things down by the time I'm 25. No pressure, future me.

  1.   Be making a living from what I want to do.
    Simple as, really. I want to be able to support myself and my way of life from an income that is solely down to my passion. My writing.
    Wow, for some reason I feel greedy just typing that...? But it's true. That's what I want.

  2.   Be settled.
    No no no, I don't mean settled down with a hubby and kiddies, eww no. My good friend and I discussed the likelihood of that happening when we're this side of 30, and we both agreed we're nowhere near ready yet and won't be for a good decade or so.
    No, I mean be living in a place I like, with people I like or alone, even, and have a routine down and plans for the future.
    I've left it as open as that. It may mean finding a perfect one bed flat in the big smoke with an easy commute to the office – or it may mean a nice spot to stay between flights around the southern hemisphere. Who knows?

  3.   Have health in check.
    Be a healthy weight and size, don't look in the mirror every morning and sigh dramatically, feel comfortable and happy in clothes shops (and their badly lit changing rooms), and be in a position where I can have that cheeky slice of cake or extra biscuit with coffee...
    Oh and also, don't have any more scary hospital dramas happening, yeah? Yeah, that would be nice. Hear that, brain? When I turn 25, I want you to have your shit together.

  4.   Have stamps on the passport.
    Metaphorical stamps, maybe, but I want to travel ASAP. Hopefully by 25 I will have done my epic solo Australia trip, up the East Coast exploring and also visiting family and friends...also, Europe. I know it's not exactly thinking big, but I want to inter-rail sometime soon. I've seen a lot of Europe in my lifetime, but not while jumping from city to city on various trains over the course of a few weeks!
    I plan on visiting Berlin as much as possible, too. Mostly because I have the bestest friends there – and also because I just fell madly in love with that city when I first visited last year.
    Plus Asia. I have way too many friends who have done various Asia expeditions and I want that...it's a whole area of the world I know next to nothing about, and that must change!
    Wow, there are so many more places I want to go, but these are the ones I want to have been to and properly seen by 25.

  5.   Be me.
    I want to be unapologetically, truly, myself. Whatever that may mean. I'll work it out. 
(Me, being adorable once upon a time)

Friday, 26 February 2016

Gracie & Stitch.

You all know by now that my love for charity shops has reached new levels in the past few months. I am frequently visiting the ones near me to comb through their clothes rails and ransack their bookshelves. I'm constantly being surprised, too - gorgeous glossy recent YA releases, nearly-new Topshop dresses, maybe even a snazzy ceramic photo frame. I have posted my charity shop book hauls too many times on social media, but I just get so excited when a paperback I've been meaning to buy is on offer for just 50p! 
These places are sacred spaces full of treasures, especially for a penniless graduate. 
Anyway, this is a story of my latest charity shop steal. (Not literal steal...I paid, I promise) 
It was this guy. One of my truest, eternal and alien loves. Stitch. 


On my way through Leytonstone the other day (en route to All You Read Is Love, now one of my favourite London cafes!) I almost walked straight past this lovely charity shop, 
Haven House...luckily, my heart stopped me in my tracks. 
Because I saw him. This huge blue bundle of happiness. Experiment 626! 
This perfect pristine plush fella sat in the window smiling out at the street. I was shocked at how delighted, mischievous and, well, clean he looked, given that he was marooned in a charity shop in East London. I rushed up to the window and peered at him, wondering if I could see a price. The tag on his ear said £12. He would be about three times that in a Disney store, surely. But still, £12...I don't have £12. I can't justify it. I can't. I mustn't. 
For some reason I still wanted to go into the shop. I considered popping in on my way back from my coffee fix (and I'm glad I didn't because that would have been over 5 hours later...) but ended up just walking straight in right then. 

When I went up to the counter to purchase a cute top I'd found (another pristine find, only £3 and the brand was Etam, remember them?!) I couldn't stop myself looking longingly towards the front window. 
'Oh, I'm so so tempted by that Stitch you have in the window. He's gorgeous!'
The super-chic woman behind the counter cocked her head. 'Where's he? Take me to him!' 
So I did. 
She picked him up and looked for a price...I held my breath...she wasn't seeing the £12 tag, for some reason...
'Yeah, how much would he go for then?' I babbled breathlessly. 
She shrugged. 'Three quid, maybe?'
A squeal brewed in my throat, but I shushed it. 'YES THREE QUID YES PLEASE' I almost shouted in her face, making sure I sealed this deal before she found that tag. She did see it just after I exclaimed this, and still shrugged and handed him to me. In that moment she became my favourite human, like ever. I clutched him and almost full-on snuggled into him all the way back to the till, and I happily presented my card to pay £6, SIX WHOLE BRITISH POUNDS, for a delightful snazzy shirt and my darling Stitch. 
I keep telling myself I mustn't feel guilty. The charity shop will have been given him, remember, and they've made money, however little it was! Plus nobody else could ever give him as loving a home as I will. You might say I'll be his Lilo...


So I lugged him around London in a huge plastic bag for the rest of the day. I stored him on the baggage shelf on my train home, and placed him lovingly on my bedside table that night - after introducing him to my other, smaller, Stitch of course. Plus Baloo and Sully, who also sit beside my bed. 

Yes, I know I sound like a nut case writing this, but...Stitch is important to me.
I could say that's because he's a lone wolf, the only one of his kind, with no family to speak of. Oh, that is besides a mad inventor who created him for the sole purpose to wreck and destroy everything he ever touched. And yet he found himself a home, a family and a new, nicer purpose by the end of the film. I could say it's because he never gives up hope - he conquers his demons, he demonstrates that monsters can change themselves despite everything. 
Yes, it is partly that.
But it's also because he's effing cute, and I love the film, and I have the opening titles song (He Mele No Lilo, Kamehameha Schools Choir) on my phone to cheer me up on the worse mornings, and his voice is perfection (I can do a spot on impression, just fyi) and...my little Stitch toy, the one I bullied the parents into buying me at Disneyland LA many years ago, has been there for me in tricky times.
He was present in my bedroom(s) for my whole three years away from home, at uni. Then of course, he was a safe fixture on the ward in the neurological hospital when I had my first and second lots of surgery. He'd be by my side in bed the nights before the operations, and keep me company all day when I was waiting waiting waiting for visiting hours to roll around. I even brought him up to the flat I stayed in during radiotherapy once or twice, despite how silly that made me feel at times. 
Yeah. Stitch is important to me. End of. 
And I am so excited to have given this new guy a home. 


Ohana, y'all.


Haven House, Leytonstone: havenhouse.org.uk/leytonstone-charity-shop
Haven House (general site): havenhouse.org.uk 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

All You Read Is Love ( ........love is all you read).

In the past year I have got much more familiar and comfortable on the central line. That red strip is stomping ground to many friends - and some seriously groovy places. 

I do enjoy a brief flirtation with Bethnal Green - some charity shop steals and a perfect vegan lunch. An old friend lives in Woodford, and they do excellent chips over that way. I avoid Stratford whenever possible - too many shoppers, too much stress, no thank you. Shepherd's Bush will hold a special place in my heart, after seeing several of my favourite artists play in the Empire there. Notting Hill is next level posh, and their streets are so damn Instagrammable. For some reason I utterly adore Liverpool St Station, it's so lovely and buzzing. And of course Ealing, up the other end, will always have the best coffee. 

I've never been to Leyton, or Leytonstone, though. This was new territory, when I found my way there the other day. It was an adventure! 


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Creating characters / writing humans.

I'm a writer. Yes, I am. More specifically, I am a hardcore unstoppable blogger, a freelance writer and a YA fiction author. 
Okay, yes, the latter is in the pipeline – she says as if she actually has any leads on anything.....shhh. 


I am forever creating characters. That's where a story begins, for me. I find someone, anyone – they could be my protagonist, a close friend of the antagonist, a parent, heck they might even be an innocent quiet bystander who plays no role in the story but fits perfectly with the tone I want...whatever, the characters always seem to happen first. Their plot comes in not long after. After I've spent a nice long time drawing them up in my mind, picking their go-to outfits, their favourite flavours of this and that, their pet peeves...then the plot starts to come. Eventually.
Also I find characters can misbehave when I'm writing. I'll have a set plan for a scene or an interaction (sometimes, not always. Okay, hardly ever) but as soon as I sit down to write, they'll run free and do their own thing – they'll say things I never had in mind, do things (sometimes with one another?!) that I hadn't necessarily envisaged, and ultimately reject any planning I had put in place originally. It's infuriating, and...fascinating.
I actually often get a new sub-plot or a good character development idea when that happens, so really I can't thank my nutty characters enough.
*I almost gave a personal shout-out to one character of mine here, then I realised that would be well and truly crossing the line into 'completely insane'. But seriously. M, I owe you.*

If I attend a book event at which I can ask an author I admire a burning question, you can be fairly sure it'll be about characters; how important they are to this author, where they get the ideas for characters from, where [specific character] came from and why they did what they did, etc. etc. I find their responses brilliant – all so different! Some start with characters, much like I do. Some need to have a plot firmly in place first, then they'll build a group of humans to slot into it and carry it all out. Some authors have even told me they weren't 100% sure on which character would do what until they were writing the last third of their book!? What madness. I cannot imagine that. 



Alwyn Hamilton, a rather fantastical friend who wrote Rebel of the Sands, told us yesterday at the Faber Children's blogger event that she started with an idea - a girl who could sharp-shoot - in a world that is wild west mixed in with Arabian nights type magic...she began writing within the world, with an idea of a character. Then from that, the characters grew and the story took shape. Such an interesting approach! (and it totally worked, Rebel is perfection)




Lauren James, another gorgeous friend and writer crush of mine, has posted something great on her Tumblr before - in amongst the amazing gifsets and anonymous answers, obvs - a reblog from the-right-writing, questions about your each of your characters. The things you should know about them. Questions include: what are they afraid of? what seemingly insignificant memories stuck with them? how do they feel about sex? what would they make a scene in public about? 

The characters in The Next Together, Lauren's magnificent debut, were all wonderful. Each little detail was a delight. Plus it can't have been easy to have several variations of the same characters scattered through time - and that was so well done it was a little mind-blowing...! 

Well, I still struggle with one or two of these questions, not gonna lie...but I've added a few of my own: What's their favourite film? What's their relationship like with their siblings? Would they ever have kids? If they could have one super-power, what would it be? 

Anyway, I find when creating a character I will always draw a little something from...me. I know, I know, big-headed af, right? I can't help it! I feel I have to identify with a character in some way – be it teeny or huge. Maybe the human I've made is a lifelong vegetarian, or fancies Dean Winchester, or has been to Australia, or used to be a heck of an Ultimate Frisbee player...maybe they just really, really hate peas! Who knows? There has to be something.

However, last night I was on a train home from London (specifically #DrinkYA, whoop whoop!) and I was unexpectedly taken in by the strangers surrounding me. Not in a creepy way, I promise. I wasn't peering at anyone – not obviously, anyway. I just enjoy sometimes getting a brief glimpse at people, gathering a little info on them just from their appearance – or maybe more personal stuff if/when they have a VERY loud phone conversation on a busy train and earn themselves a few dirty stares.
The commuters always interest me. I am the daughter of one, after all. I enjoy watching the suited-up fellas going about their days – super tense or completely asleep first thing in the morning, then dangerously wired or just dead tired en route home in the eve. I could not commute. I don't identify with the commuters. Nope. Not at all.
So why did I find a character in one of them...?! It's a mystery. Yet here he is.


***

Telegraph paper. Crime novel, dark leather bookmark cut in the shape of a lion sticking out of it. These are the things that land on the table when this new person appears beside me at the next stop after I got on. He sits, and I automatically glance to my right. I need to be aware of his face, for some reason...he has a hairy nose. And thick glasses. Silver hair. He's slurping from a takeaway Starbucks cup. When he puts it down, I see it says JAMES in lazy scrawling marker. Of course, he will have got that at Waterloo East right before he got on the train. The 'decaf' box on the side has a cross through it.
For the next few stops, he's chuckling openly at his paper. He grabs a blue pen and circles The Lion King West End ad. Then he finishes reading that very quickly, folds it up and puts it on the empty table across the aisle. He promptly seizes the crime novel, and I can tell he's immediately absorbed. So much so that he doesn't notice the crowds on the train thinning out, more seats coming free, including the seat across from me...yet he's staying beside me. I thought it was a commuter code to move the second another seat comes free, if you're next to someone. No? Okay then.
I reckon he'll get off at Tunbridge Wells. I bet you. He has that vibe. Oh wait, no...he's still on as we go through there. He eventually gets off at Etchingham. How funny. I would not have called that. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

I've never been to Delaware.

So there goes my life...passing by with every exit sign.

Ten years ago, Grace was twelve and walking to school every day from one end of the small town to the other, with hideous thick Clarks clogs on her huge feet and her white iPod classic in hand. She would play a certain song when she...needed it. Not necessarily when she was sad, or when she was happy. Just when it felt right. Same when her mum gave her and her friends a lift to school – her friends might want to listen to the Pussycat Dolls one day, and usually that was fine, but sometimes Grace wanted something with a little more substance...and loveliness.


The song was sent to her via MSN messenger, from a friend, because it was allegedly a song the mop-head skater dude she fancied at the time quite liked. That crush eventually faded – the heart-shaped etchings on the wood of the desk in the English classroom were rubbed away beyond recognition – but the love for the song stayed true. 

It kept her company on train journeys to college. She'd play the album in the car when driving herself home from a friend's house late at night. At uni, listening to it was a relaxing reward when an assignment was finished – and a comforter when she missed home a little too much.
One time, the family were driving along through Surfers Paradise, Australia, late evening possibly after a dinner at a surf club. Grace plugged in and selected the song. As the lights out the car windows blurred and shone, the wide road looming ahead, she looked up at the sky and saw a fairground erected between some buildings, a huge wheel spinning, people crammed in the seats. She felt like she was floating on contentment. True pure happiness. In that moment.

Sometimes I wonder how I will stay strong.
No sleep tonight...I'll keep on driving these dark highway lines.

Then two years ago, in February 2014, Grace finally fulfilled her dream of seeing this man sing live. He was magical. Every song was perfection; Dallas Green just might be one of the few artists who actually sounds better live. Well, not better, just a whole other level of amazing.
However, the song was not played. When leaving the venue, Grace looks up set lists online to see if he just didn't fancy playing it that one night...to discover that, in fact, he never plays that song any more. Or that other one, about the scissors. They're too popular, perhaps. That's the online consensus. How interesting – and heartbreaking. But probably for the best. Grace could not be held responsible for her reaction if she ever got to see it played just a few feet away from her.

She walks the night – How many hearts will die tonight?

He plays it. In Brighton. On February 18th, 2016. The lead up was, well, misleading. He says 'it's about travelling' so she assumes it'll be 'Comin' Home', or maybe even 'Sam Malone'...it's Delaware. 'Hello, I'm in Delaware'. The song.
Somehow Grace's gut knows this is coming. Despite being well and truly adjusted to and okay with the fact that 'he never plays that one, never ever'. She stares at him as he begins playing – slow, deep chords. Once again, misleading. In a gorgeous way. Damn you, Dallas.
As soon as the first line escapes his lips, set as they are in the lovely face – the throat is his vessel for that unreal, beautiful voice, the mouth is its gateway to the world – Grace shuts her eyes, holds a hand up to her mouth and gasps into it. Tears immediately blur her vision and soon explode in the tiniest hottest bursts, trickling down her cheeks elegantly and silently, not unlike in a movie, maybe. For a moment she worries people will see, and almost looks around her, but then realises she mustn't look away from Dallas. Her eyes must stay fixed on his face for every moment of this. Her mind sprawls out happily, feeling everything around her dissolve into the darkness of the dance floor. This moment is for me, she thinks. It was a long time coming, and it's all mine.
It doesn't even occur to her to take out her phone to snap a photo, or film even just a few favourite lines as they're belted out so powerfully – and yet gently – onstage. A few others around are, and have been a fair bit already, but to film right now would be so wrong. You can't capture this feeling, this gorgeousness, in a 15-second iPhone video. This can never be recreated.
Thank you, Dallas. That was the most wonderful surprise.


I will see you again, I will see you again, a long time from now. 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Life in plastic? It's fantastic!!


I guess if I'm honest...for the past two years or so I've always been jealous. Deeply envious. Of others. Women - and men! - when they walk past me in the street, faces perfectly symmetrical and intact. Untouched, more or less. The faces they were born with! 
I'd kill for that, sometimes. To have my former face. The one that hadn't been cut into. 
Then I always catch myself being this hideous vain and ungrateful creature. I remember that if it weren't for all that cutting and fixing, I'd be in a far worse place. Who knows, maybe I wouldn't be here at all...
I'm just grateful to be alive. Who cares how I look? I mean, really? And why would I, any more?

I'm having plastic surgery.
Me. This awkward young woman, the small town-born barista and wannabe writer, the Sussex-Aussie hybrid (accent has been branded 'Poshstralian')...the girl who has never broken a bone but has had two brain operations in the space of a year...really? Me?!

I laughed on the drive home, saying to mama 'Well that's another thing I can tick off the list!' Because that is exactly how I feel. Another significant life event that I did not necessarily ask for crossed off my non-Bucket List. It's up there with brain surgery, radiotherapy, climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, getting drunk at 10am in a field with strangers, plus a couple of heartbreaks here and there. 


I got to see my surgeon (AKA my hero, you may know of him from many many previous posts...!) the other day in his outpatients clinic, first thing in the morning. He had a good look at and then feel of my face, and I heard the dreaded tut/exhale combo as he did so. I won't lie, I was immediately terrified. 
Then he said 'you're going to get very pissed off with me...' which made me burst into hysterical laughter...because, really? If there is anyone in my life who has a free pass in that area - anyone I could actually physically never be mildly upset, let alone angry, with - it's him. He can do no wrong. He's removed a freaking hideous, stubborn and misbehaving tumour, not once but twice. He's referred me to the best possible hospital for radiotherapy. Seriously, I am in constant awe of him. 
I'm almost shouting 'never! I could never be pissed off with you!' and he assures me that I will be, if life continues as is. Because my face is going to get worse, and it needs to be fixed sometime soon. 

Because, you see, my face is not quite right. It hasn't been for a very long time, actually. 
As you'd expect, two lots of intense brain surgery takes a toll on one's appearance. Especially if this person's scalp must be sliced into, the jaw muscle must be cut through and some face bones shifted slightly to allow access to the left temporal lobe...I'm actually sometimes shocked I don't look like a freakish monster, at times. Same with my hair - I've only ever lost a razor-thin strip of hair each time I've been operated on, and the radiotherapy really only took a chunk of hair behind my ear, beneath the top layer of hair...if that makes sense? My hair has gotten thinner since treatment, too, but that's hardly an issue, I've always had thick unruly Hermione hair. People used to see me wandering around town when I was 11/12 and say I looked just like Emma Watson in the Philosopher's Stone film. I even signed an autograph once. Then promptly got my infamous 'dirty lesbo' (quote: school bullies) haircut. 


Anyway, back to my face. It's uneven. 
My first op left me with a chubbier face - which was probably entirely my fault, as I spent my recovery time reclining on the sofa eating whole packs of biscuits and watching films. But then after my second op I found myself inflated on one side with CSF (more on that HERE) and then when that was aspirated and retreated back into my skull...it left a dent. 

There's also a slight sticky-outy bit on that side of my face (my left, your right), which I can always tactfully conceal with hair. 
What's silly is that I thought I was safe, I thought nobody had noticed. People were always saying 'oh, I didn't even see that!' when I alerted them to the wobbly water balloon made of skin containing brain fluid that was crudely wedged on my face for a few months...which I am fairly sure was bullshit 99% of the time. Very sweet, well-meaning bullshit. 
Nowadays, though, I genuinely believe that people can't see my dent. I was wrong. A friend brought it up when asking me all the usual brain surgery questions...and I had to hold back tears. It was just the way it was phrased: 'well, the surgery has significantly altered your appearance'...ouchy ouch. I was a fool to think nobody saw. Oh, well.

I've adjusted to being slightly uneven in the face. I thought I had to, and so I did. I felt it was the least I could do! I also feel I'm past my hot-stuff years anyway, I peaked at uni when I had £70 highlights in my hair, I'd lost weight due to stress and I had several of the leads in the uni's musical in my bed at one time or another...I have accepted that! 

Now, though...I'm hearing that I have the chance to change that. To 'get pretty' again, almost. That changes things. Knowing I have an option, a possible reconstruction, for free...
I'm taking the consultation, at least. 

Yes, it's another operation. Yes, it's another lot of post-op drama and long hard recovery. However, it cannot be any worse than what's happened to me already, surely. And it'll be worth it, just like the previous ops were. 
Also, it's not for a while! Which is nice. The referral has happened, and now we wait for a letter and that first consultation. The first meeting with another specialist in this other hospital. It's exciting, almost...but I'm glad it's not happening yet. I still get my time off in 2016. 

So, yeah. That's the latest brain update. It's a very unusual turn of events, and I'm really enjoying telling my friends the news, this time. Actually being able to share some quite amusing news is rather different for me, and fun. Just seeing their faces when I say 'plastic surgery'...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Valentine, and longest relationship to date.

Dear my loving, long-term, serious sweetheart and ultimate partner in crime, you dashing straight-talking moustached gent,
What can I say? We’ve been in this relationship for almost four years now. What a marvellous, if turbulent, time it has been.
I’ll never forget that fateful night we first met; when I locked eyes on you from the other side of the bar, took in your dark exterior and wondered just how delicious you could be. Oh, I couldn’t help letting my gaze linger on your long neck, just imagining putting my hands on it, holding on tight…maybe never letting go, if you gave me a good time.
I couldn’t not have you. Oh sure, I’d heard from a few girls – and guys, too – around and about that you were especially wild, as dangerous as you were delicious…but I didn’t care. If anything your badass rep, and long list of lovers, intrigued and excited me.
So, right there and then, I took the plunge and I tasted you. 
I swear since that night, I have never looked back. I’ve never wanted to. You’re the only one for me, now. I’m in it for the long haul, honey. You just fit into my life so perfectly, whether I’m out partying with the girls dressed to the nines or snuggling up indoors watching a film in my pyjamas. You even get along with my family. My Dad and Granddad in particular adore you, just as much as I do. Could you be anymore perfect?
I guess what I’m saying is: never leave me.
Never make me forget where I am, where I’m going…and never make me wake up in pain. I trust you, baby. I know you never would hurt me on purpose. Maybe if I used and abused you a little, took things too far, or betrayed you with that slick cheeky Russian…oh no, I know better than to do that. I’ve learned from past experiences. You’ve always taken me back, too.
I am your Valentine, and you are mine. We’ll be together forever, I just know it.
Yours always, my darling Jacky D…
Gracie xoxo

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

(500) days, but only (3) times......

(500) Days of Summer, 2009. I have always loved this film. Why, though?
The truth is I'm not sure why. It's just always resonated with me, meant something big to me, and what that is I'm not quite 100% on, but maybe it'll hit me one day when I'm watching it and mid-weep...



It's my favourite film. Well, actually my all-time favourite film is The Princess Bride, obviously, but this is right behind it. The weird thing about that fact is, however, that I have watched The Princess Bride a couple million times over the years – for ages it was the 1999 recording off ITV on an ancient VHS, then more recently my special edition DVD. I know it word for word, I could quote it in my sleep and bore everyone around me to death with my trivia knowledge and opinions on each scene and character (e.g. Fezzick is an unsung hero/that sword fight was a work of art/Westley secretly fancied Buttercup IRL)...and yet I say the same about this film, that it's my fave, and I've only seen it three times.

Once on a quiet afternoon when I was alone in my third year student house – I'd just moved in, my house mates all out with their families and significant others, and I was just killing time before the party that evening. I had unpacked my 500 Days sunshine-photo poster, and put the DVD on my shelf among the colour-coordinated books...and I'm not sure why, I felt the need to actually sit and watch the film, for the third time ever.
My house mates all got home late that afternoon and found me sobbing on the sofa.

Another time I was at home, pre-uni I believe, texting my friend a live commentary on the film because it was on Channel 4 and by some freakish cowinkydink we were both watching it in separate counties.
I was texting things like: 'this expectations/reality scene is yanking at my heart strings and smacking me with truth', 'whoa see how cold she was? How did he not see this?! He must have been so madly in love...'

My friend worked hard at a live commentary too, of course. His best was: 'yeh Zooey is so hot tho.' 



The first time I saw this fantastical film was...on a first date. 
I know, awkward as fuck, right? If you've seen the film you'll know, it is not a first date film. It's the story of how you fancy someone, someone who doesn't believe in love, then you get together casually 'no labels' etc., then they rip your heart out slowly and mercilessly, then it's darkness darkness darkness, then somewhere down the road you meet and it still hurts but you are able to wish each other well...then you learn to take chances and believe in fate. So I suppose the ending is slightly happy. And the general aesthetics of the film are cute as heck – it's so indie and quirky it actually hurts my eyes. Unspeakably charming. But yeah, not very ideal for a first date. Serves us right, in a way, for not taking heed when we heard the tag line: 

This is not a love story...this is a story about love. 

Maybe that's why the date ended on a 'let's be friends' note. Fortunately to this day, we are friends...and reflect fondly on the date. 

Anyway, let's get on to my main thoughts on this film.

  • Summer, my beloved Zooey Deschanel, is a wee bit of a wicked bitch. She is not worthy of Tom, in all his Joseph Gordon-Levitt geeky gorgeousness. She strings him along, insists they're not 'in a relationship' when really anyone could see they are...ugh. And then, when she shouts 'wait, Tom, you're still my best friend!' as he's storming out after the break-up, that's just brutal. 

  • Tom is the most lovely, handsome, romantic...fool. He attaches all his fantasies to this one poor girl because she happens to have the perfect face-to-fringe ratio, wears super cute dresses to work and laughs in a cute way.
    The moral of this film is uttered by his teenage sister Rachel, in such a casual manner that you almost miss it...

'Just because a girl likes the same bizarro crap as you, that doesn't make her your soul mate.' 

TOM, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SISTER, I MEAN GEEZZZZ.
She grows up to be Chloe Grace Moretz...she's perfect.


  • Yes, the soundtrack is bloody beautiful. Delightfully alternative. I'll listen to Black Lips' Bad Kids while wandering around the centre of town people-watching, or Regina Spektor's Us while kicking stones on the beach. Zooey's rendition of Sugar Town is sweet as can be. You Make My Dreams by Hall and Oates is my weekend alarm song. 

  • People have different reactions to movies. Like in one of the cinema scenes, when Tom was happy seeing a couple getting together, Summer was heartbroken. I have a lot of friends who loathe this film, and a few who love it. I'm always curious to know why, either way.  

  • Blackboard walls are ingenious and beautiful. I would aspire to have one in my future penthouse Soho pad, but then I doubt I could do one justice...my pathetic little doodles would never look all that, not on such a big canvas. I just hope someone I know gets a blackboard wall someday, okay? So I can write something pretty on it and pretend I'm an architect planning out my life. 


  • For some reason, seeing the two of them sat on that bench really hits me hard. I have no clue why. Okay, maybe I have some clue why...just the image is so perfect, and yet totally and completely imperfect. 

  • The Expectations / Reality scene is painfully brilliant. Sometimes it's just painful. I try my hardest not to apply that whole cinematic filter to my life when I go to a party, meet family friends for lunch or see an old pal for coffee. 


  • I believe in the whole kismet nonsense. Summer met a very important person in her life because she was sitting in a deli on her lunch break reading Dorian Gray...and he asked her about it. 
    'So, what if I'd gone to the movies? What if I had gone somewhere else for lunch? What if I'd gotten there 10 minutes later? It was - it was meant to be.'

There are more thoughts, of course. I could bore you with so many more...maybe another time.
I have a lot of feelings about this film. Maybe too many, considering I've only seen it properly three times. Well, tonight I'll be watching it again. Because I feel it's time. One of the times. 


Saturday, 6 February 2016

TBR-R: To Be Re-Read, someday!

Everyone re-reads, right? Well, everyone I know seems to. My fabulously bookish online community is full of passionate readers, most of whom will take the time to re-read now and again. 
What I'd like to know is, guys...how do you find the time??? I'm forever receiving gorgeous book mail and stacking countless new novels in piles on my desk, adding them to my now endless TBR list...having said that, there are a very select few books already lining my shelves that I'd happily cast the TBR newbies aside in favour of.
And here they are!



The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

I read this book on holiday in Spain, when I had a killer chest infection and a lot of time on my hands. It was honestly the most perfect accompaniment to the bright sunshine and calm warm breezes that swept through the villa...I became obsessed with the story, and actually yearned for something that magical to happen to me someday.
I want to be Clare and have a mad turbulent ridiculous relationship with my own Henry!
I'd love to re-read this beauty because I'd like to see if it still gives me the happy flutters, and the long aching sighs that it did when I first devoured it. I was madly infatuated with my uni FWB at the time (and thus I was very susceptible to romance and general heart-string yanking) and now I'm slightly more cynical and experienced in the field of relationships. Will my heart still melt and my mind race?


How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran.

Well, obviously.
I've written about this fantabulous magical important supremely rad book before...several times. I've written about how it's one of the 5Books That Changed My Life somehow. I've written about the time I wasreading it while sunbathing topless and threw it at the sexist bald bloke who climbed a ladder to peer over the villa wall at me and then made an unfriendly comment...
This book came into my life far too late, and helped me realise that I was – and always have been – a feminist. I can never thank Cat (I call her Cat now, as we're future pals, I just know it) enough for that.


The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.

This actually represents the entirety of the Harry Potter series. I am a Potterhead. One very popular phenomenon in the world of re-reading is the great grand Harry Potter Re-Read – which kicks off around Christmas, naturally. I really would love to do that someday!
I'd generally love to experience the HP thing again. To see if it affects me and sets my imagination ablaze the same way it did when I was seven or eight years old, or early tween years.
Or maybe I wish I could read it with fresh eyes...see if I fall madly in love all over again.
I know I know, I'm such a Ravenclaw.



Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.

I believe when I first read this, I was travelling back and forth from uni to home to uni to home, and this read would keep me company and give me warm fuzzies on the exhausting train journeys in and out of London, lugging my overnight bag and the three additional totes...
I actually referenced Attachments last night in the marvellous #ukyachat because Beth and Jennifer struck me as the perfect example of a darn good literary friendship. I thought that the layout of the novel, email email personal email, would drive me mad...but I became utterly absorbed in the girls' emailing their stories, pet peeves and office dramas to one another, while Lincoln the shy IT guy is accidentally privy to all this vital info and thus falls for one girl...! It's the most perfect – if messy and awkward – story of love and friendship.
I'd love to read this again someday, maybe when I'm working at a big time newspaper in an office constantly emailing my bestie and lusting after the mysterious Office Hottie. Yep, that's the dream!


One Day by David Nicholls.

My all-time favourite piece of fiction. I've blogged about it several times, so I won't bore y'all again with my fat load of love for this novel...instead I'll link to previous posts, obvs.
I'd love to read it again, and see if I weep as hard again.
If you ever get a chance to read this book, guys, do it. Don't just sit and watch the film. I did that a year or so after reading the book, and that was when I first considered re-reading the original text. Because the film was so shockingly awful, and I needed a cleanse and a reminder of how perfect the story really was...that Anne Hathaway's appalling accent and the general shitty ambience of the film shouldn't put me (or anyone else) off.


One by Sarah Crossan.

This book was perfection. Gorgeous unique style – poetry and prose muddled together like a yummy yet intense and sharp minty cocktail. Yeah, similes.
I was fortunate enough to grab a proof of this fantastical novel, and I read it on my last day of radiotherapy, actually. It lifted me up but also crushed me, hard.
The story is a toughie – a pair of twins, joined at the hip...literally. Navigating life in their own unusual way; starting school, making friends, dealing with health scares. It's fascinating, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
I'd happily re-read this, because it's such an easy...yet hard...read...y'know? I can sit down and read it within a matter of hours while sipping coffee, yes it's easy in that sense, but my goodness it's intense and makes me feel EVERYTHING all at once. Yes.



So, those are my TBR-Rs. To Be Re-Reads. It's not a time-pressured TBR situation, though, which is nice. It's just an eternal thing. I can pick one of these perfect books up again someday, any day, and see how it reads the second time around. Or third time. Or tenth...

Does anyone agree with me? Are you a re-reader-type human? What would be in your TBR-R list?
© Almost Amazing Grace.. Design by Fearne.