Sunday, 4 December 2016

This Is Where I'm At | December

A note from my iPhone, 17th November:

I am good, I am grounded 
I think I'm getting it now. That home is him and sometimes here and it'll always be there. And the woman from the Caribbean talked about the power we each have to give other a lifeline and my god. It's true. 

There's a November predictability. The leaves will fall. We'll see frost. There's not enough of the year left and yet, it can't end quick enough. Someone ends up hooked up to a toxic mixture of drugs, again. 

I wrote the above note on the train home from seeing a moving museum performance called 'London Stories: Made By Migrants'. In a small group, you go into six rooms and hear stories from six people about how they ended up in London. It was unbelievably emotional, and I felt like a flaky little thing that blew in, by comparison, but it helped me feel able to take ownership of some small corner of this city. I am here. 

Okay, okay, let's talk about the two nights when Bry supported twenty one pilots at the Alexandra Palace. (We could also talk about the day in between where we flew to Ireland for a wedding and danced like two people who didn't have to fly back the next morning.) I got to share in an experience that is completely and utterly what people call a once in a lifetime experience. I got to see twenty one pilots perform - and what they do feels like the exact definition of perform. Knowing come Tuesday morning, I'd be back at work, and wouldn't breathe a word of how unbelievable and transformative my weekend was, was secretly kind of thrilling. Hannah Montana! 

I did better at making time to see friends in November. I went to see Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and really enjoyed it. I got to see Bry's entire family during another Dublin weekend. I also saw Catfish and The Bottlemen play live for the first time and half of U2 were in the same room. I realised that if every weekend involved a flight back to a certain emerald isle - Christmas shopping with my mum, playing catch with Lucy the dog - then life would be much sweeter. I ended the month with a Christmas party at Pan Macmillan and admittedly, felt a little festive for the first time.

I am so glad to see you, December. You know I hate counting days but we established that as the crux of our relationship a long time ago. 19 days until I can get on a plane, push through frostbitten clouds and touchdown at the place I call home. 

Gilmore Girls came back. My all-time favourite TV show. I have too many thoughts on that to bore you with. I've been listening to Bry's debut album, because it came out in November and it was the most exciting thing that has ever happened. The Missing wrapped up and it was some of the finest British TV of the year. I've been reading whatever turns up on my doorstep, which is fun and varied and I will make a video about it soon. 

Yours, hanging in there,

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

This Is Where I'm At | November

someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull

I don't really know where October went.

What did I read? Barely anything. Where did I go? There and back again. What did I learn? I'm still processing it.

I'm adjusting. I'm still adjusting to this place, adjusting to my job, adjusting to impending darkness. Y'know - winter.

I had never been awake when the clocks go back before. But this year was the year, making a late night drive through rusty Sussex roads and about to skip the news bulletin when the nocturnal newsreader said it's one o'clock. Although the moving around of daylight bothers me more than I care to admit, I do like the idea of realising the whole clock concept isn't really working for you as a nation in summer, so you just change it. Simple.

Anyway, there I am, absolutely blaring eighties power ballads and reflecting on a beautiful play that I'd seen earlier in the evening (Beacons by Tabitha Mortiboy starring my friend Sam) when I notice these shapes at the side of the road. It was foggy so I was driving really slowly with foglights on, no other cars around, and I realise these groups of shapes are rabbits. Rabbits! If you shine a bright light at a rabbit, they stand there and stare at the light instead of running away. Little taxidermy statues. When I was growing up, I refused curtains and liked to stargaze from my pillow. My bedroom looked out on to a vast field, bordered by another smaller field, which eventually gave way to a windy back road. Sometimes, some ghost car with its headlights turned off would make a midnight trundle along that road and then a sadistic passenger would shine an unbelievably powerful torch out the window and 'lamp' the rabbits in the field before shooting them.

That's a morbid memory, but my bedroom would light up every time. Fight or flight, fight or flight, fight or flight.

Here are some things I've been proud of myself for over the past few days:
- Making myself lunch to bring to work every day, even when I'm tired and making dinner is a chore in itself. Healthy, filling lunches full of colour and packed in a bright blue tub.
- Choosing water over caffeine.
- Being honest with myself and with a couple of understanding friends that my mental health isn't perfect this week.

And admitting that here is also a good thing, I think. I'm not used to being unable to drive to see my parents on the weekends when Bry is away on long trips. I'm not used to being away from my house for 12 hours a day. I'm feeling it. But I'm hanging in there. I'm standing in the headlights but I know it will pass and I will cross the road.

October: Bridget Jones' Baby is a hoot. The Missing is the only TV I'll stay up late for. Strictly Come Dancing is a beautiful British joy. Lady Gaga's new album is worth a listen. My favourite human on tour with one of my favourite bands is unbelievable and I'm full of love.

Yours, cold,

Sunday, 2 October 2016

This Is Where I'm At | October

A saved note on my iPhone from earlier this week:

Weird how stepping on the wrong train and immediately stepping off just as the doors are closing is such an 'oh god i'm so embarrassed those 20 people who i'll never see again witnessed that' moment, because this city is like an entire beach and we're all faceless little grains of sand. Worse, I dropped my grey beanie and as soon as I realised, paused and looked over my shoulder in case someone would run up to me waving it in their hand and saving the day. Of course not. Worse, still, I know this self-doubt, this tiredness, this I Can Only Ever Really Relax And Function If I'm Working From Home thing will be erased by a coffee. How unoriginal!!! 

Alright, September.

Last month delivered. After a summer of change and doubt and w-a-i-t-i-n-g, I got offered two jobs in one day, finalised some cool 'content' for YouTube and my husband got a support tour he'd be dreaming of. It's funny, though, because when the thing you were waiting for actually happens, it's not the end. Nothing is final (I hope) and there always has to be some sort of forward motion.

I love forward motion, in a very literal sense. I find I'm less stressed when I'm walking or folding clothes or even going through the step-by-step process of applying makeup. On a related note, last month I decided to quit drinking caffeine on weekdays and burned through two days of withdrawal headaches to get to a point where I'm generally less anxious and more consistent with my mood/tiredness throughout the day.

Anyway, back to work. I had to readjust my life around my job. You know, I vividly remember writing an essay for my then-English teacher, now good friend, in Year 9. It was a short piece about aspirations and the future. I wrote about feeling like I had two distinct sides within me. One, a horse riding instructor with a small farm in the countryside where my ancestors have always lived. A few rescue ponies, my family nearby. The other, a savvy city girl who wore high heels to her office job and drank choco mocha frothy lattes* and was kind of unstoppable.
*Direct quote from the essay.

How different the reality is of being that girl in a blazer - hole in the sleeve which I superglued together on my second day - who takes three trains and two naps to get to a job where I wear a lanyard and attend team meetings and wake up at 6 and get home at 7. Do I sound negative? Am I being too negative? Questions I've asked myself a lot as my body and mind got used to spending so much time away from home and my husband and visiting friends this month

So here are a few mantras (can you have more than one mantra?) I'm adopting.
- Savour the little things. Making it to the station in time to catch the 17:54 instead of the 18:04. A nice interaction with a colleague. A dog on the tube.
- The first week is not prophetic. Everybody feels overwhelmed and under-qualified when they start a job, I guess. Take each day as it comes, ask questions and make detailed notes.
- Don't berate yourself for becoming someone who looks forward to the weekend and holidays. It doesn't mean you hate your job. It doesn't mean the artist within you is dead and buried. Plan some lovely things to do on your free time and find some sort of balance between looking forward and counting your life away.
- Feeling like a functioning adult seems to stem more from preparing my own lunch at home and less from knowing an Excel formula. Huh.

I am so ecstatic for how busy Bry is, and for his upcoming London show and his new single and his support tour with twenty one pilots, one of my favourite bands since I saw them last summer and cried in the rain. He is not the only person pursuing a career in entertainment in my life, and I've been celebrating the successes of other people I'm lucky enough to know.

I read The Graces by Laure Eve which I will review and upload to my channel this week. I've been watching Jane The Virgin again, as well as a record-breaking number of reality TV shows: Great British Bake Off, Hunted and Strictly Come Dancing. I saw Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children last night and really enjoyed it! I also watched a wonderful Ted Talk about conquering anxiety that I'd highly recommend.

I guess that's about it. I kicked off October by going to a cat rescue centre on my own and getting some laundry done. I like October, it feels like there's still enough time to get stuff done and the darkness hasn't been around for long enough to feel like it's never going away.

Yours, nearing my bedtime,


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

This Is Where I'm At | September

Does it bother anyone else that someone else has your name?

Hello, September.

I've been putting off writing this and I don't know why. It's not as if my days have been hectic, lately. September has crept in and it gets darker here earlier than it would in Northern Ireland and it's bothering me more than I'd like to admit.

I was born in August. A couple of days late - I don't know whether that means I'm more of a Leo, really, or I'm so much of a Virgo I held on to make sure of it. I like when life comes with readily-prescribed labels. I am a Virgo. That's why I spend so much time inside my head. My birthstone is Peridot, the tears of a volcanic goddess. My name means shining, white, pure.

In early August I had to write countless cover letters and tailored CVs. This involves labelling myself, scraping at the surface of all my work experience and giving it meaning. Needless to say, this was an exhausting and often disheartening experience. On the day of my birthday, it was wonderful to escape to Belgium and spend a few days in Bruges with my family-in-law. We went on a private tour of essential World War 1 sites in the area, and I tried to find more of that pre-packaged life meaning. I know that some people go through life not particularly bothered about their parents' backgrounds, nevermind trawling through family trees, but I am not one of those people. I am fascinated by how many of the women in my family came from Donegal, and I feel that rugged coastline ebb and flow through my veins. I am endlessly curious about my paternal great-grandfather who served in a war then returned home, started a family and didn't talk about it ever again. My great-grandfather did not spend any time in Belgium, as far as I know, but I got a sense of how small a world war can be: look at this 8km circle of land that thousands of men suffered in for three years. Why? Why indeed.

I've fast forwarded over Summer In The City. I felt comfortable there this year, partly because I brought along a friend who doesn't make videos and that felt refreshing, and also because living in this country means I didn't feel pressured to talk to everyone I know and individually hug them goodbye because who knows when I'll see them again. It's still a weird weekend, though. Last year, I got some horrible news in late August that I spent the SITC weekend anticipating. I was working at a tedious call centre on either side of the weekend. I don't talk about it often, but the contrast between working in a crappy job and panicking about money every waking second to spending hours taking selfies and signing things can verge very close to unbearable. And that's nobody's fault, it's just the nature of YouTube, and how it feels to have a channel of a smallish mediumish size.

It was nice to be social in August, though I have had fleeting moments of homesickness. A highlight was a secret gig my other half played in central London,  he managed to create such a buzz of energy in such a short space of time and I will never not be impressed.

Thankfully, I managed to tear through a number of books last month, and my momentum is continuing into this week. I made a video about some of the books here. At the cinema, I saw Jason Bourne and Lights Out. We got through House of Cards on Netflix, which was engrossing and a nice reward for spending hours trawling through job listings. Also, Stranger Things! Duh. It felt so good and almost adolescent to just get so much pleasure out of brilliant storytelling.

SHALL WE END ON SOME GOOD NEWS? September 1st brought me employment. I have a full time job and I hope I love it and I hope I buy a little succulent plant to take care of at my desk and I hope my coffee problem doesn't worsen. I'll keep you posted.

Yours, in possession of a graduate job and still holding out for a good fortune and a wife,

Monday, 1 August 2016

This Is Where I'm At | August

I feel like I've swallowed a cloudy sky

August. A month I share with the Leos. I want you to know, dear reader, that today you were an item on my To Do list. Yes, for the first time ever, you were pencilled in as a necessity for the first of the month. No more laziness, no more excuses, no more tardiness. We'll see. 

I jumped on the hype train for bullet journalling. I've been planning it out for the past week, but it only really kicked off today with the opening of a new month. I hope it'll make me more organised, more motivated, more focused. Or, at the very least, make my transition into a thirty three year old soccer mom who has a craft room easier to comprehend. (I've been watching Orphan Black.) 
July passed. In a blur of record temperatures and CV edits and television. Turning a house into a home is a funny thing, because once it was accomplished, it then became the last place I wanted to spend my days. You create a wonderful living space and then you beg someone to allow you to spend forty hours in their office with a computer.

Last month I learned that Lucerne is beautiful. I reintroduced my parents to Brighton. I turned, as always, to fiction. Peaky Blinders was consumed in its entirety. I adore Cillian Murphy, and though I don't usually enjoy shows with as much violence as this one, I always enjoy finding myself rooting for a terrible, corrupt person and pretending he's a hero. I also packed in a few Orphan Black episodes, but I'm determined to make more time for it this month because I think it has a lot to teach me as a storyteller. I closed the month - and kicked off this one - with Harry Potter back in my hands. 

And it has really messed with my head, though maybe it's just cabin fever at this point. I didn't consider myself someone who feels a particular 'ownership' over a character, even nostalgic childhood ones. But when an author spends a decade giving you the building blocks to a character, and a few film directors slap on the exterior and give that character a voice, and then you - adult you - takes a step back and looks at the whole picture, and it's not what you imagined... HELP. I jest. I don't have anything to compare the HP phenomenon to. It's a constant in our lives. Childhood, adolescence, adult. And I believe in endings, I really do. But with Harry Potter, it feels like no ending is ever definite. To some, that is the greatest gift. To me, confusion and anxiety. Though, to the book selling industry, a huge wonderful mid-year surge. So I'll get over it. 

I went back to Murakami this month, I hope to talk about him in a book video very soon. 
August! I put all my faith in your hands. Let's see what we can manage. Let's spend a birthday in Belgium. Let's put our best foot forward. 

Yours, on-time,

Thursday, 7 July 2016

This Is Where I'm At | July

All good dreamers pass this way someday

I think I've always been very good at giving off the impression I work very hard. Sure, I may be partial to what we now call 'Impostor Syndrome', but this confession is still mostly valid. I succeeded academically because I have a good memory for information and a decent affinity for words and numbers. I felt so much guilt as a teenager, given study leave around this time of year and spending the vast majority of it making coffee and listening to Abbey Road on repeat. I started working at my first job aged thirteen, and despite losing every Saturday lie-in my teenage self might've known, it was more fun than work for the most part. I have drifted through the past few years of my life doing enough but rarely exhausting myself to go above or beyond.

In June, I worked hard. For two weeks I worked two jobs and walked through the doors of a hospital ward as soon as visiting hour began. I completed the necessary paperwork and phone calls one has to do when moving house. I got to know exhaustion though had the luxury of knowing it was (probably) only temporary.

I look back of the global events that happened in June and they're knotted up with memories of morphine buttons and being put on hold and reluctant overtime. My dad had little contact with TV, radio or newspapers whilst in hospital, and I found myself in the constant position of stony-faced newsreader. A singer called Christina Grimmie was murdered last night. Fifty people were shot in a nightclub in Orlando. Jo Cox was murdered in broad daylight. These horrific instances hit me deeply, despite feeling like I was too tired to properly listen and properly care.

I'm grateful, June. I'm grateful for my health and my dependability. I'm grateful for the likeminded people who teach me how to process terrible news through a laptop screen. I'm grateful for the friend who will carry a couch down the stairs and the neighbour who will jumpstart our car in the rain. I'm grateful that I could move so easily.

Right now, I'm in a new place. I find myself very aware of my accent and that I need to repeat certain vowels when I'm on the phone. I don't have a job, yet, though trying to find one reminds me that despite feeling like I have never really worked hard - June excluded - I have achieved a lot. I like my CV. I like my accent. I like this house.

July, forgive my tardiness.

Yours, redirected,

Thursday, 2 June 2016

This Is Where I'm At | June

Wish I had a little Mother Nature in me 

I can't admit to many of the job-based conversations I overhear during the week being particularly memorable, but recently, two of my colleagues were talking and one said, "what's the point of slugs!?" and the other replied, "what's the point of us?"

Okay so May is feeling a little existential, but so much of life is just waiting around. Sometimes it's long and drawn out and feeling like the hands of the clock don't move. Other times it is frantic, it is waiting in such a frenzy that your heart rate becomes unbearable and it's too hot and all you want is resolution, in any form.

May was a month of work. I started a new job at the beginning of the month, only days after my last shift at one of the previous retail stints I was doing. My new job involves short night shifts. Whilst one of the necessities of working such a job is constant perspective: this could be worse, I'm lucky to have a job, think of the money... waking up at 3.30am is rather hellish. And it all feels so dreamlike, completely removed from normality until I get to my workplace and there are other people having conversations and buying sandwiches as if 6am is a perfectly reasonable lunch hour, and suddenly the strangeness of it all when placed in a normalised environment is not strange at all.
I'm tired.

We acquired a house to move to in England, which keeps my brain preoccupied with list making and daydreaming and mild panic. I have applied for a few jobs, being slow and selective for now, but I'm sure I'll gather speed if I could just sit down for an evening.
I'm grateful for the heatwave that lifted May and carried us all along in a pleasant haze. Tonight I'm eating comfort food, savouring the lack of bedtime and getting set for the hurdles that June will bring. I never thought I'd be one for positive affirmations, but lately all that happens inside my head is you can do it you can do it you can do it. 

It's been a very male-dominated music month for me *crowd boos* but I've grown really fond of Jake Bugg's Love, Hope and Misery. I've revisited Keaton Henson's 'Dear' countless times over the past couple of weeks. His music is intrinsic to me. And my new summer jams are Coldplay's Up&Up (imagine me screaming this in my car at 4am on an empty carriageway) and Tom Odell's Magnetized.
As for reading, I highly recommend Claire Hennessy's 'Nothing Tastes As Good' and Eileen Cook's 'With Malice' - both great explorations of teenage girlhood.

Yours, full,

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

This Is Where I'm At | May

Where do you go when you go quiet?

This was a brief period in mid-April where I felt like I knew what I was doing and I had a goal to work towards. Needless to say, it didn't last long.

April began with a first shift in a new job, only two weeks after another first shift in another new job, and I'm just getting some final paperwork completed before starting another job in May. I didn't have time to be (too) overwhelmed by the new job because the following day I jumped on a plane to Manchester to join the Bry tour for a few days.

The tour spanned a whole month, but I only managed a few days in England and then all the Irish shows. The in-between was a sick week involving a contagious illness and Netflix that I'd rather not repeat. I can't imagine what this month would have looked like/felt like had it not been for those stolen days and evenings of music and laughter and silliness. I will admit (in this quiet, unseen place) to have been moved to tears on more than one occasion during my stints. Yes, hiding at the merch table using t-shirts to dry my eyes. The horror. In all seriousness, I am so proud of Bry for pulling off an incredible run of shows, and on the drive back from our last show in Limerick, I found myself unable to put into words how much being around the people pictured above felt like home.

I had somewhat of an epiphany on the flight back to Belfast after the London show, and it provided me with some clarity and a goal to work towards: a reason to put in the hours at these crappy jobs because now they had a purpose. Unfortunately, I received some bad news just before the Dublin show, and suddenly end goals and endings and pretty much everything did nothing but incite dread. I apologise for being vague. It's just if these blog posts are for me - a chronicle of memories for my future self- then it's not worth writing down the kind of life turns that I'm not going to forget. 

I ended the month sat at the river I sat at the night before my A-Level results landed at my old school. The one I sat at on summer evenings with four-legged companions right through every year of my childhood. I held a hand and I inhaled and mustered up the energy to come back to the city. Back to the in-between. Back to the retail anxiety. Back to planning the beyond. 

April, you were an ache stippled with loveliness. You were customers and you were gig-goers, you were sunshine and hail, and I think one day I'll look back and see you as a bridge. I once met a boy and took him to the river I'd sat at for so many years and he said have you never thought of crossing it?

This month's movies were The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and Eye in the Sky. I liked all three, but the latter was the stand-out - partially because knowing it was Alan Rickman's final performance meant I didn't take my eyes off the screen, but mainly because it was just wonderfully paced and really pulled on ideas of morality. I ploughed through half of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend but ran out of steam... I'll get back to it. I switched to CJ Flood's Nightwanderers which is released in June and finished it in a few days. It's a nice story, but it didn't fully pull me in. I watched the entirety of Jane The Virgin during my sick week, and really loved it. It was playful and quirky-ridiculous but exactly what I needed and I am very excited for Season 2. 

Yours, resigned,

Saturday, 2 April 2016

This Is Where I'm At | April

And I have loved you like a fool.

I don't remember which quotation on foolery I went with this time last year, but this year I nod to one of my favourite 2013 films, Begin Again. It means a lot to me, for layers of different reasons, but this week I've just been craving what Keira Knightley's Gretta has for the most part of the movie: a city, a goal, a scruffy chic wardrobe and an outpouring of creativity.

I'm always relieved when March is over and I have weathered another winter. My dad's birthday is in late March, this year falling on Easter Sunday, and I saw both my parents a few days beforehand for a lovely day spent roaming around two local museums. Those shared moments mean so much to me, and it's weird to be the driver; the person who researches the activity and then spends a lot of the time there ensuring my parents are having a good time. Role reversals! But they always pay for lunch.

My travels in March took me to Ukraine, its capital Kiev a source of fascination for myself and Bry since watching Winter on Fire on Netflix a few months ago. We spent International Women's Day there and it's celebrated by seemingly everyone, the tradition being that men buy the women in their lives flowers, so it felt like a Valentine's deja vu.

I'd been applying for jobs so devoutly in February, and was becoming a bit frantic by the time I got back from Ukraine, but thankfully I was able to pick up one 'immediate start' kind of job and then another retail job later in the month - I actually did my first shift today. Neither of them are forever jobs, but I feel lucky to be given a shot and to spruce up my (really quite pitiful) CV. With all of these changes, it was a weird and anxious kind of month, with my brain functioning as irrationally as it always does. Onward.

Finally, with the release of the first single from Bry's debut album happening tomorrow, he has been getting lots of radio play, which is very exciting to most people but mainly my mother. I'm off to England tomorrow to join the tour for a few days. Hope to see you there.

If you missed it, this video with my friend Irma went down really well. I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane and it nearly made me throw up out of sheer tension, but I loved it. I've been listening to The 1975's album, like every other boring white girl in the world, but today's soundtrack is Carole King's Tapestry album... if you want to expand on the sheer joy the Gilmore Girls' theme brings, it's probably a good place to start.

Yours, taxed,

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Fortnightly Links | Edition 1

I love Harry Potter, friends. I love its magnitude, its effects on literature and charity and pop culture. But it surprises some people to find out that everything succeeding the release of the final film installment has gone right over my head. I get frustrated by new additions to the story or changes or cover-ups. I want the story to be left alone. I am a firm believer in the 'The End'. I could elaborate on this but instead I want to link you to a piece of criticism by Dr. Adrienne Keene, in response to JK Rowling's History of Magic in North America series that's being published on Pottermore. This response is composed and informed and well worth a read.

Check out the trailer for The Witch, a film I saw on a whim last night. It's rated 15 and it's a psychological horror, so consider that before watching the above video. The film, directed by Robert Eggers, screened at Sundance earlier this year, and was released in the UK this weekend. It's the story of a Puritan family in 17th century New England, who are forced to leave their plantation and set up a farm in the middle of bloody nowhere. What follows is an incredible performance from a young newcomer, Anya Taylor-Joy, as tragedies begin happening and the family's faith is tested as suspicion of daughter Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) being a witch is voiced. It's void of jump-scares and melodrama, but instead relies on insidious moments and an excellent soundtrack. My knowledge of witches comes from Macbeth, The Crucible and er... Sabrina, but true followers of witch trials' place in Christian history will love this.

I've been working my way through Variety's Actors On Actors series since last month when I discovered them pre-Oscars. It's a series of interviews where actors who have appeared in some of this year's Academy Awards buzz films interview each other. Because of this, it's very white, but there's some really interesting insight if you have the time to watch them in full. I've linked the Bryan Cranston/Jason Segel one, even thought theirs are among the few films I haven't seen [Trumbo and The End of the Tour]. I'm just so fond of Bryan Cranston and he comes across as not only hilarious, but a very sincere listener/asker.

Finally, some quick links! Little Green Cars' Easier Day is the Saturday soundtrack in our house. I adore Clémence Poésy, she did a speedy interview in i-D and it's worth clicking on for the accompanying photo alone. I have my eye on Miranda July's new short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, mainly because it's just the right shade of yellow.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

This Is Where I'm At | March

An empty space to fill in

February is the shortest month and I can't say I'm not glad.

Last month I saw Istanbul, Barcelona and Andorra. Last year I was pretty good at writing little round-ups of the places I visited and taking a few decent photos, but I can't seem to get back into the swing of that. Especially on whistle-stop trips; it doesn't feel like I can do the places justice. I also find myself frustrated at the 'trendy' style of travel blogging that seems to prevail: posts that only tell you where to eat and shop and share photos taken in some of the biggest chains in the world.

I feel like February was full of words. Generic words on my curriculum vitae edited and re-edited, truths stretched so far they're almost transparent. I've applied for so many jobs. I've been writing fiction, I've been writing poetry* and I've been treating that as my job and making myself perform that job, even if it's not at an Employee of the Month standard.

I'm not February's biggest fan, generally, but I love Bry's birthday. I like the types of gifts people buy him. I like how he's slowly warming to the day, given that for the first few months I knew him, he wouldn't even tell me when his birthday was. He also loathes star signs, but he is such an Aquarius, trust me.

Perhaps I've written before about receiving sad news and that diminishing my ability to write about all the little banal things that I would ordinarily ramble about. This past week has felt a lot like that. When something terrible happens in my hometown, I feel very far away and everything I'm doing here seems a bit meaningless when someone else has had their world torn apart. In the film 50/50, a character called Mitch tells Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Adam, that "no one likes going to the hospital. That’s not why people go." I hope you - anonymous you - never have to face hospitals or funerals or those other unpleasant places. But if you do, I hope that you can remember Mitch's words and just go.

The final day of February was an EXCELLENT one, so excellent that I'm not allowed to tell you anything about it. It was one of those days I'm so grateful to have experienced, because creative, talented people doing their thing is always such a joy to witness. I hope that novelty never wears off.

In early February I watched The True Cost on Netflix. It's a documentary about the impact the fashion industry is having on the world. It takes you on the journey a cheap t-shirt from a high street store has been on to reach your hands at that price. It's frustrating and sad and important. I hope to make more sustainable choices in the future.
I read Jeff Zentner's debut YA novel, The Serpent King and reviewed it here along with Lindsay Eagar's Hour of the Bees.
Aside from that, I'm still listening to Adele and still in love with her.

* Whether you can call it poetry or not is debatable, but I just put a collection of writing up for download here.

Yours, feeling the buzz of having encouraging female friends,

Saturday, 6 February 2016

This Is Where I'm At | February

In a veil of great surprises / In a veil of great disguises 

Hello, February.

In my usual habit of personifying everything, I feel like February is a bit of a troublemaker. It knows how much effort it takes kids at school to learn to spell its name. 

Sitting down to reflect on January has surprised me by how much I actually did last month, and I'm left pondering why it feels like I did very little. Anyone I've spoken to over the past few days has had the same thank God response to seeing January end. It feels very much like we've weathered a storm in more ways than one. I know every month is a month of loss for someone, somewhere. But when we mourn as a collective, it feels particularly overwhelming at the beginning of a new year. Grief pairs itself with gale-force winds and tries to huff, and puff, and blow your house down. I suppose, to be hopelessly selfish for a second, the loss of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and dear Terry Wogan reminds me that when you share a part of yourself with the world, be it music, film or radio, those things outlive you. People can hold on to those things. This, I imagine, is little consolidation for families who lose the person beyond those artistic fragments. But for me, it's a huge comfort. 

We managed to rack up not one but two instances of couples bowling in January, and I feel like 2016 is going to be my year as an amateur-flukey-one strike in a blue moon-semi-pro bowler. 

Our first trip of the month brought us to Rome, Vatican City, Tunisia and Malta. I felt suitably Olsen Twin in Rome and became a bit smitten with minuscule Malta and its cheerful residents. Later, we clocked Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, which ranked much higher on the stress scale. I hope you've been enjoying the travel videos. I think I was a little too affected by a recent airbus ad that said 'you are where you go'. I, generally, don't choose where we go on these trips. And when I ask myself where I want to go, to try and figure out who exactly I might be, I can't come up with an answer. 

I applied for a couple of jobs as soon as the Christmas buzz was over, and interviewed for one in the last week of January. I hoped to conclude this post with news of kicking off February with newly-found employment. Alas, I am still waiting on a call.  

I really want to make an effort to spend a little more time finishing these posts off with some music/film/book recommendations over the next 11 months. 
First up, it's Julia Nunes' Make Out. The music video for my favourite song on her album was released in early January and I really dig it. It's super inclusive and she has a girl band and a crop top and her trademark ukulele. Heart eyes.
It's been a slow reading month for me, but I let myself take my time to digest a 600 page Murakami novel to kick off the year. Some of you might know as me as someone who dog-ears pages that I find particularly resonate with me, and I pretty much folded every other page in this beautiful book. I mentioned already that January has been a month of loss... I really felt myself somewhere within that loss, within those pages, within my mind. You can buy The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle here.
Finally, this month's movie round-up is Room, The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight. Buzz buzz Oscar buzz. I'm drawn to the chronicling of recent history that the latter two brought, and there was something pleasantly morose about leaving the January rain outside for a couple of hours to wallow in the emotions of the former two. 

Yours, hotel-enclosed,


Sunday, 3 January 2016

This Is Where I'm At | January

All bitter and clean, locking eyes, holding hands 

I've started and restarted this post many times now, because it feels like the beginning to the beginning of a year musing is very important. Alas, this is what you're getting instead.

I think December was quite slow, perhaps because the last December in my mind was one that passed in a blink of buying bouquets and decorations and waterproof mascara. When I say it doesn't feel like I've been married for a year, I am not just churning out a banality; it really does not feel like twelve months have passed. My wedding day was one of the best, most fun days of my life. 2015 wasn't too bad, either.

I'm going to film my annual recap of the year, and give a full rundown of everything I did. Until then, all that's left to do is ponder a little and maybe learn something.

So. Much. Travelling. This blog has been an excellent way of documenting those travels month-by-month, and it's a little scary that I had to revisit it as not to forget a country before filming that video. Travelling is part of our 'jobs'. It's important for our YouTube channel, it's important for us to go and see as much as the world as possible before our lifestyle changes and that's no longer an option. It's stressful and frantic (the longest we spent in one country in 2015 can't have been more than 4 days) but it's also exciting and educational and remains in my mind, for now, the best way to spend my money.

In this video, I talk about feeling like you've missed the boat in your early twenties. If you haven't found a passion or a talent, it can feel too late to find one and become good enough at that thing to rival those who are already good at it. Finishing university was a big factor in how frequently I think about this kind of thing. I learned so much: not just about authors and genres and history, but about how to learn, how to read, how to analyse, and what bigger conversation my (still totally imaginary) future novel will enter into. I felt so at ease within a classroom, a lecture hall, a coffee shop, for three whole years. Then I spent six months in different surroundings with different people, with no particular goal. 2015 had multiple endings and beginnings, not just the bookend ones.

I hope to look back on 2015 in the coming months as a year of building blocks. A degree. A wonderful internship. Countless 'behind the scenes' things that I don't share online; things relating to my relationship, the Open University Fiction Writing course, the job applications, the late night DMC with friend conversations...
I hope to build on all of these things and take them somewhere. Maybe that's a healthier approach to the new year rather than starting lots of things afresh.

I've kicked off January with my favourite people in the world. On the 30th of December, I went to see my brother's band play and he and I joked and sang our way through 'The Fairytale of New York' as our parents looked on. I rang in the New Year with my best friends, and we cracked open confetti cannons and screamed at the sea. Before January had been around for long enough for me to begin writing the date correctly, I did something bold and fun and got a little tattoo. There's a video here. One of my biggest pet peeves is being put in a box; to have people assume that I am easy to work out, that I'll always behave a certain way. I hope to surprise myself more than I surprise other people in the next twelve months.

Yours, thoughtful,