Saturday, 20 November 2010

High expectations and grated fingers

There's an Angela Carter novel called Wise Children and all the way through her main characters say that they should "hope for the best and expect the worst." I am very good at hoping for the best, however I am also the kind f person that always expects the best also, much to my detriment. From grades to hairstyles, if things aren't the best that they can be it bothers me more than I care to admit.

So, last night I held my first ever grown-up dinner party. My grandma had sent me some money in the post in order to buy ingredients to cook my housemates and a few friends a nice meal. So I decided to host a fully-fledged, fifties-style, candlelit dinner party.

I started cooking at 11am and just kept going with the cooking, cleaning, and finishing touches until the guests arrived at 7. There were seven of us. I'd prepared carrot and coriander soup, followed by garlic chicken and roasted vegetables, then chocolate mousse served in teacups. I'd deliberately chosen food that would require very little attention once my guests had arrived so that I could do most of the cooking beforehand and enjoy the company of my friends in a relaxed environment.

I posted on a website I've recently discovered for Jane Austen addicts in order to glean some wisdom from those older and wiser than myself. The response was fantastic, really reassuring and encouraging. They all said, though, not to panic. That was the utmost piece of advice. I thought it a strange one. I'm a good cook, I love having my friends round, and I was very much looking forward to putting on a nice dress. Panic seemed like the last emotion that would be fluttering around me.

I had visions of a soiree that was the cross between a banquet at Pemberley and a home-cooked meal by a housewife wearing pearls in the 50's. (Think that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory cooks for Dean). With immense struggle and numerous complaints from (actually, very understanding) housemates we moved our dining table from the kitchen to the lounge, squeezed every chair in the house around it, held another cutlery amnesty, borrowed wine glasses from here there and everywhere, lit candles and fretted about not having a centrepiece. I put on perhaps my favourite dress (although it fitted much better last time I wore it!), and donned my finest hostess smile to await my guests.

I insisted on taking their coats and pouring their wine. I wouldn't let the men in the kitchen. And I played soothing, dinner party music. I was excited. I had fantasies of a handsome man sweeping me off my feet when I stepped into the kitchen, holding me close and telling me what a fantastic wife I would be one day. If only I had one of those frilly aprons you tie around your waist.

So, the starter went OK, except for my blender isn't that good, so it still had a few lumps of carrots in. I put the main course in just before my guests arrived so that it would be cooking while we sipped our soup ever so delicately and talked of peonies and Picasso. However, by the time we'd finished the starter the food was as far from cooked as the conversation was from Picasso. And I'd forgotten the garnish.

I think the oven can't cope with that amount of food in it, because it was cooking so slowly. To cut a long story short, the vegetables had to be cooked for two hours and we couldn't tell what was a potato and what was a lemon by the end of it. The chicken was more or less cremated, I'm pretty sure, and peas were flying everywhere. And my guests had started on the After Eights due to hunger shakes. They all made yummy noises, though, and were very appreciative. And seeing as I don't have a dog, I'm pretty sure they ate it all.

Now, after a near breakdown in the kitchen previous to this, I was starting to feel a lot calmer now that the main course was over. Nothing could go wrong with my dessert because I'd prepared it hours ago and it didn't require any other cooking. In fact, it didn't require any cooking at all, because it turns out that mousse is just chocolate whipped up with raw eggs, essentially. A very complicated chocolate whipped up with raw eggs, though. Anyway, I'd tasted some previously to make sure it was OK, and I new for a fact that it was delicious.

All that remained to do was to grate some chocolate to sprinkle delicately over it for that extra touch. Tip: always avoid extra touches. I was happily grating some chocolate, with considerable force, when -bam- in goes part of my finger. Well, not part of my finger. But I did grate it, and it did hurt quite a lot, and there was a considerable amount of blood. I'm not good with blood, so of course I overreacted, and presumed I was dying and made quite a fuss.

With some help from my friends the mousse got on the table, by which time everybody was playing poker for After Eights, and we finished off the dinner part of the evening. It was now pretty late.

After this, things got better. We started playing Articulate and I think I actually smiled.

Lessons I have learned from this:
1. Keep it simple. If you are good at cooking chilli con carne, just cook chilli con carne.
2. Don't try to live above your station. If you're a student, act like one.
3. Hope for the best. Expect the worst.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


"he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken." Isaiah 25:8, The Bible

I was reading this verse this morning, and a few things about it struck me, and I started making notes, and it kind of elongated and became this, and I wanted to share it with you all. In this verse we can see that not only is death gone, it is completely engulfed by God, who is the personification of all things good. Not only will we not cry any more, but God himself will wipe away the tears.

I remember, when I was till with my ex-boyfriend, I was really upset one time and he wiped the tears from my face with his hand. It was a really touching, intimate gesture, and it made me feel so much better, because he was getting involved with my pain, he was sympathising in the closest possible way. It was like a promise that he would make it all better.

Of course, he couldn't possibly make it all better, but God can. And he does. How much more of a blessing is it if the Lord of all creation gets involved in our pain this way? If our Creator God intimately cares for all of our personal sufferings? He cares for our pain, it hurts him too, to see us this way, but a hundred times more than a boyfriend, for he loves us a hundred times more, and perfectly.

Not only will he wipe away our tears, but he will remove our disgrace with them: we no longer have to be ashamed of anything at all. The fact that he wipes away our tears suggests more than involvement, though, it implies taking those tears onto his own hands: this is the key. It is sin in the world, our sin--all the things we do against God (from telling a so-called 'white lie' to theft, to murder) that causes pain, corruption, suffering in the world. Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned, the world has been corrupted, it isn't as it should be.

But God intervened. He came to earth himself, as Jesus, but man and God, and lived a perfect life: the only one to live without sin. Then when he willingly died on the cross a beautiful transaction took place; one that is too wonderful for me to comprehend. Jesus took all of our sins (past, present and future sins) and laid them on himself, and in return gave us his record, his spotless life.

So now, if we accept that Jesus has done this for us, when we die God is glad to look upon us and see not our lies, our impurity, our selfishness, which is going against God, and so is punishable by death, but instead he sees Jesus' sinlessness and welcomes us into his arms for eternal life and joy in heaven. This is how he can finally wipe away our tears. This is how he removes the disgrace of his people.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I have a reading week starting Monday (tomorrow), so on Friday I came home to my 'home home'... i.e. to stay with my parents for a few days. I think I've mentioned before the 'home' confusion of being at uni... what is home? I generally refer to Norwich (uni) as 'home' and Hastings (where my family mostly are) as 'home home'. I have come to the realisation that, despite all this home confusion, or maybe because of it, I feel that Norwich is actually home.

They say that home is where the heart is... maybe that's true. In that case, is my heart in Norwich? Surely my heart is with my parents, the town I grew up in, where I went to school, where I walk my dog? And yet, I yearn for Norwich when I'm not there much more than I yearn for Hastings. Is it because, though I love people in Hastings, there are more people that I love in Norwich? Surely the extent to which I love them comes into consideration? I love my parents gazillions.

When I went to Turkey I was homesick for Hastings... but maybe it was just for my parents? When I've been away, and my parents pick me up from the train station I always feel warm fondness for the streets we drive through to get to our house. But when I've been there for a few days I quickly become disillusioned by all the seagulls and drunk teenagers and closing down shops. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Why are there so many clichés to do with hearts and homes? It must be a massive subject, and one which everybody can relate to, in order for all of these to come about. What if our heart is spread out over numerous places? Can we have multiple homes? How to people with separated parents feel about this? What about travellers? Ex-patriots?

But what if one has an undivided heart? You must have noticed the title of my blog, and probably my tattoo. It's from Psalm 86 in the Bible (look it up, in its proper context it's so much more beautiful and meaningful) and I got it to remind me to love God, who saved me, with all of my heart, and not to let other things distract me from this. So, that said, my heart is undivided, and it belongs in heaven, yes? I once heard (or read) a speaker (or writer) say that we should be homesick for heaven... so that's what I want to be: I know that my ultimate destination, and where I belong, is heaven, and so I should be yearning for that above all else. As the apostle Paul would say, "I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

That said, here are a list of my favourite things about being at home:

1) my parents
2) my dog
3) my massive, amazingly comfortable bed
4) having food cooked for me
5) living in a house free of mould
6) being able to put my pyjamas on at 5:30pm without being judged
7) not having to think so much my brain hurts
8) having more than 4 and a half tv channels
9) not having to put a 'K' on all my food so I remember it's mine
10) most nerdily of all, my seven, alphabetised bookshelves

Friday, 29 October 2010

Northanger Abbey Life

Okay, so, I haven't blogged for a million years, but here is one, at last, if only a very brief one (I feel that this will be brief, although, perhaps once I get going it will, in fact, be rather long!)

I never thought my third year would involve quite this much work! I think I'm doing double the work of last year, and I'm only doing 2 modules a term, rather than 3. Crazy! I'm enjoying them so much though; we're reading some fantastic books. Maria Edgeworth's 'Belinda' is awesome, and we're reading some fantastic Gothic fiction, also, including the books that Catherine Morland reads in Northanger Abbey.

I have realised that I am most definitely a Catherine myself (and no, that's not actually my proper name, before you ask). She just wanders around this abbey and imposes drama and romance upon it. I like to think that I'm not quite as bad as she is... but I'm not sure. I fall for people way too easily. While we're on the subject of confessions, here's something I discovered yesterday: I realise that when I exit an Internet page, I scroll to the top of the page before I click the X. Isn't that strange? Maybe.

So, Taylor Swift's new album is out! I bought it at the very first opportunity, of course. It's called Speak Now, and it's amazing. I have a new favourite song in the world, 'Sparks Fly'. I played it to my friend on the bus yesterday and he complained that it's too happy. But it's not, really. My fave lyrics are "I could wait patiently, but I really wish you would drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain; kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain." I guess I can identify with that... she knows it's sensible to wait, to be patient, but she really wishes someone would just take a risk on her and sweep her off her feet. Sigh.

However, that said, I am very aware that God is by far the number one thing in my life; or he certainly should be. We had our Christian Union weekend away last weekend, which involved lots of teaching, loads of Scrabble, and not very much sleep! In fact, one night I abandoned watching Beauty and the Beast (possibly my favourite film ever... certainly my favourite Disney film) after the first song, because I needed sleep that badly! Anyway, I was really challenged that we can easily make an idol of something when we take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing. I've been reading a fantastic book, too, called 'When I don't desire God' by John Piper, who writes amazing Christian books. If you don't know Jesus, seriously, get to know him. Sounds cliché, yes, but with him the rest of the world just fades into insignificance. I want to fall even more desperately in love with him.

So, what else has been occurring? I've been out to dinner a few times with various groups of friends. Been for cocktails too, and dressed up all pretty. We had our CU cocktail party, which is always great fun, mostly for the fact that you get to get dressed up--one of my favourite things :)
Tomorrow night I'm running a 'Light Party' at my church with some of my friends, for all of the kids, kind of an alternative to Halloween, celebrating all the light things in the world rather than the darkness. I'm excited about that; we have to dress up in our brightest, sparkliest clothes... sounds like a fabulous opportunity for glittery nail varnish! :D

In summary: loads of busy-ness, lots of fun, tons of food, plenty of cocktails, and God's grace in ABUNDANCE!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I really like tea, and as an attempt to procrastinate work for a considerable amount of time, I've decided that I shall dedicate a blog to tea. Sophie, one of my housemates, is sitting next to me editing her novel. I'm sitting on the same sofa, with my new novel (all six pages of it...) open on my laptop and failing to write. And failing to work on my assignment that's due in at the end of next week. And failing to do any reading. Although, that said, the books that are most urgent for me to read haven't arrived yet because I tried to buy them on Amazon with a debit card that had expired... so mega fail, really.

I'm just thinking through my typing fingers, really, which I guess is what I always do when I blog, but I did decide that this should be about tea, because it's so often overlooked. I don't think anybody reads this blog anyway, so it probably doesn't matter... however, I did send the link of it to my Mum today when we were talking on Skype. She put it in her favourites, and I felt special that I was my Mum's favourite... as I'm an only child, this probably isn't much of a revelation.

OK, some things about tea:

According to Wikipedia, tea originated in China in around the 10th century BC. So, hooray for China! I commend you greatly.

Tea, apparently, contains more caffeine than coffee, although I know that this is quite a controversial statement. I've also heard that although it does contain more caffeine, it doesn't get absorbed into our bloodstream, although I would beg to differ, because I know how hard I find it to get to sleep if I drink tea after 9pm... but maybe I'm ultra sensitive.

My favourite type of tea I think is traditional English tea, as I am a traditional English lady. However, I guess it's not English, but, in fact, Chinese... even Yorkshire tea? Surely that's from Yorkshire? I'll look into it... to the Internet! OK, says that their tea comes from Assam, in Africa, and from Sri Lanka... so it's not Yorkshire tea at all, but is actually Sri Lankan tea... how do they get away with THAT one? Nonetheless, that is the best kind of tea.

That said, when I am in my fruitier, or more exotic moods, I like to branch out somewhat. I'm quite a fan of Roobois and vanilla Roobois especially, after reading the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series of books, by Alexander McCall Smith. (If you haven't read them, check them out, they're really lovely, light reads). I'm also quite a fan of chai and vanilla chai. I'm sensing a theme her... perhaps there should be a vanilla Yorkshire tea, and then I would feel very happy. Maybe I should contact them about this. Maybe I could get them to sponsor my blog?

When I'm revising for exams or am stressing about anything else, I'm also a humongous fan of camomile tea. I discovered this during the first year of my A-levels, and it's amazing how calm it does make you. That said... a normal cup of tea makes me feel very much calmer in any situation. I'm very British in that if anybody is distressed, my immediate reaction is to offer them a cup of tea. Also as soon as anybody steps into my house I offer them a cup of tea.

I love spontaneous cups of tea. When you bump into a friend when you don't expect to and have a cup of tea together, or when somebody happens to pop by and tea drinking occurs. I believe that wonderful things can happen through tea drinking. Secrets are told more easily and problems are solved or discussed much more smoothly when a cup of tea is involved. Tea brings people together.

Tea paraphernalia is beautiful, too. I just Googled 'teacup' to prove this point, and I found this, which I absolutely love: (it's not anything to do with me, I just think it's pretty.) I really want to own a beautiful, matching tea set, but I'll wait until I move out of student accommodation, I think.

One of my favourite feelings in the world is when you've had a long day and you finally get to sit on the sofa and you can cup a warm cup of tea in your hands and breathe slowly. Sigh... that, I'm pretty sure, is a snapshot of heaven here on earth.

Sophie, aforementioned housemate, just called through to me, "Why are there sausages on the table?" and I thought I would share it with you, kind reader of my blog, so that you might have a glimpse of what life in my house is like. That more or less sums it up. On a similar note, I was Skyping my Mum today, which I believe I already mentioned. She went through to the kitchen and I heard her exclaim, "oo! I found parsnips in the oven!" Yes, my mother had, in fact, discovered some peeled, chopped, cooked parsnips in her oven.

So, now that I have ad-libbed for far too long about how wonderful tea is, I think I shall go and make a cup. And maybe cook the sausages that are on the table. Thank you for bearing with me, if you did. And if you didn't, well, then you won't be reading this

Thursday, 30 September 2010


I just managed to write 1,000 words of my new novel in the last half hour, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished. Of course, immersing yourself in a world that doesn't exist tends to have adverse effects on one's relationship with reality... and mine's always been dodgy anyway. What I'm getting at, I suppose, is that I'm feeling smooshy and daydreamy.

I've discovered that Yurima goes very well with this novel... or at least with the first chapter of it, anyway. And listening to his music has always made me inclined to daydream anyway. I'm now watching the video for Taylor Swift's new song, Mine, I'm adding the link just because I like it so much. It's not my favourite song of hers, or my favourite of her music videos, but it kind of goes with my mood, somehow. I'm a geek, I know. Is it possible to be a princess and a geek at the same time? I hope so.

I'm trying to chill a little before Bright Sparks this evening. This is the 5-11s group at my church that I help out with. It's so much fun, but exhausting! This is the first one since the summer holidays, so I'm excited to see what God has been doing in these kids' lives since Holiday Club... and if they can still remember the memory verse... I can! I think... "Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ!" Philippians 3:8. Yes, I can remember it, then. And it's holding me in good stead too. What a great verse to constantly remind myself of! Whenever I get stressed out or sad or lonely or... dare I say it... obsessing over my hair, I have to remind myself that NOTHING is as wonderful as knowing Jesus! Hooray! :) Hmm... this is more of a diary than a blog.

Er... steering back into the realms of blog-ness... so, started lectures again. I'm really enjoying everything so far, and love getting back into studying. I think I'd been away from it too long: over the summer, I was re-reading some of the Twilight books, and in my head I was planning essays on them! How super-geeky! One of my seminar leaders was going on about Twilight, actually, and saying how we shouldn't completely dismiss Stephenie Meyer as rubbish because, although her writing is pretty atrocious, she has somehow managed to single handedly create a Gothic revival in literature, and spawn a whole new breed of vampires... albeit, sparkly ones.

I do like sparkly things, though. I might use some sparkly nail varnish... that would be nice. So... daydreamy mood is running out as I'm thinking about how hungry I am. So I guess this is a short blog, and a pretty stupid one, I'm not sure it really has a point. But does something need to have a point?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Noisy Blog

I'm eating my breakfast, and my housemates are either at work, sleeping or travelling, so I thought it was high time I wrote a new blog to keep me entertained, whilst trying not to get porridge on my laptop. (Porridge with chocolate spread mixed in, if you're wondering, I usually add raisins too, but I forgot this morning... I don't know why.)

I thought I would make a list of my favourite sounds. I don't know why that, either. It might be useful for my writing one day, but otherwise it's just quite nice to dwell on things that I like. So hooray :)

1. The ping of the microwave, because it means that food is ready

2. The noise my dog makes when he's chasing something in his dream, it makes me laugh

3. The sound of my fingers tapping quickly at my keyboard; it means that I'm either doing some really good writing, doing a great essay or, most likely, writing something completely unimportant but totally exciting on Facebook.

4. The sound of someone knocking on the door when you don't expect it; it either means the postman has a parcel for one of us (hopefully food or films) or you have a surprise visitor. I love this.

5. The sound of rain on the roof of the conservatory at my parents' house. It's just amazing. Especially if I'm snuggled up on the sofa in there with a blanket and a book.

6. The sound of slamming shut a really good book. I just like it.

7. My alarm when it goes off on a day when something really exciting is happening.

8. The noise it makes when you push the lid onto the box of a board game too quickly.

9. The slap of flip flops on the pavement in summer.

10. The noise it makes when you pull a suction pad off of tile... I think that has to be the best noise ever. I'm 21 and I still haven't gotten over how fantastic it is.

Also, note to self: If you run out of milk, go to the shop and buy some more. Porridge made with water is not very nice.

Monday, 6 September 2010


So, suddenly, after what felt like (and for my Mum actually was) months of preparation, my birthday party is over. I had an amazing evening (well, weekend, actually!) and I feel totally overwhelmed by the love people have shown me. I suppose I will tackle this somewhat chronologically for fear of a snowball of information and emotion.

Beccy was the first to arrive at my house, in true party-loving fashion, more than 24 hours before the party started! I'm going to miss that fabulous lady, as she has now officially moved out of number thirty-seven, and Norwich altogether. We had a catch up, ate too many fajitas, and went to the cinema. We saw Scott Pilgrim vs the World. If you haven't seen it, then do! It was amazingly weird... or maybe weirdly amazing... or maybe both. I can't stop quoting, "I said lesbians, didn't I..." and "You were bi-curious? Well I'm bi-furious!" these are the only two same-sex-attraction references in the film, I don't know why these are the things I remembered most!

Saturday during the day was a whirl of organza and cupcake icing. I want to say a massive thanks to Matthew, who was amazing at decorating everything in sight! Then came the time to go to the hairdressers' and they curled, and sprayed my hair until I looked like a princess, but felt like a cheese grater. Somehow I managed it that most of my friends would arrive at the station during the period I was being primped, so friends and family did relays to train station to pick them all up, while I sat still and painted my nails and such!

After loads of jacket potatoes and chilli and even more makeup, we managed to get to the party venue without TOO many fights for mirrors. And from there the night went in a flash--a sparkly, disco-ball flash. Tons of balloons, millions of cupcakes, a great band and sooo many friends and family made it a truly amazing evening.

I wore some astounding shoes from Kurt Geiger, which are the nicest shoes I've ever worn. Of course, they are one of the most painful pairs also, and combined with the loads of dancing we did, I was in a considerable amount of agony by the time we got into the house, but I didn't give in. I danced with old friends, new friends, and friends that will always be my friends. Those I know so well I think they're a part of me, and those who I'm just starting to get to know.

Sadly, no knight in shining armour on a white horse came to sweep me off my feet, but I felt like a princess in every other way, and every single lady there looked like one too! I reiterate my astonishment at the effort everybody put into everything, from the food and decorations, to dressing up the part--if any of you do read this, then thank you!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Preparations and Transitions

At present I am in the midst of preparations for my birthday party, which is on Saturday... in two days' time. I think I'm in the calm before the storm... although hopefully it will be a fun storm! It's my 21st birthday on the 13th, but I'm having my party on the 4th so that it's not crazy immediately before we all go back to uni.

OK, this is a really boring blog. I felt the need to do so though, perhaps as a way to purge, or maybe just to kill some time.

I've been tidying out my room in order to make room for as many camp beds as possible and I came across a few things that I found interesting, and wasted some time with. First of all I came across the novel that I wrote between the ages of 12-14. I do feel proud of it, because it is a full-length young adult novel, printed out and arranged nicely in a folder, complete with title page and illustrations of characters. It's called 'Forbidden', about a 17-year-old girl vampire, who falls in love with a human boy, despite their love being forbidden. I finished writing this in 2004, so I hold Stephanie Meyer a little in contempt for 'stealing' my idea.

However, I decided to read it, thinking it would be an enjoyable few hours of reminiscing. I couldn't get past the fourth page. This is the phrase that I found so painful that I had to stop reading, "I look into your eyes and I feel like time is frozen and I can let this moment last forever; only it won't last forever, can't lost forever, nothing can last forever, except my undying love for you!" What makes this worse is that the grammar is almost as painful as the cringeworthy sentiment. And yet, it does show how much my writing has improved in the last six years.

I also came across my leavers' book, from when I left sixth form at the age of 18. I went to that school for five years, and most of the comments are people saying 'I didn't really know you,' or words to that effect. Sometimes these were from people I thought I knew quite well. Some of the people didn't actually seem to know who I was. It's all very Mean Girls. Some of the nicest things in there were written by my English teachers, which I think says a lot! One of them even gave me her home phone number! They all seemed to know that I was soon to have a book published, though, and everyone wrote how successful I would be as a writer... so we'll see!

My first boyfriend, Charlie, wrote in it that in ten years he would want my autograph, as I'd be rich and famous... I recently learned that he's actually in the process of filming a, well, a film, like an actual cinema film, and that he has another lined up soon. So, actually, I think he could well be very famous very soon... maybe I can exchange autographs with him? I bet I know which would be worth more money! Maybe I could sell the story of our first kiss to some trashy magazine, though, and pay the rent that I can't pay with a writer's living.

It's strange reading through that book and hearing everyone's wishes for a good time at uni. They all told me to "have fun at uni!" and I disregarded that, pretty sure that it would be three years of grinning and bearing it. I was soooo in love (phrase of the era) with my boyfriend of 2 years, Matt, and I couldn't bear to leave him. I almost didn't go, in fact. Those fears kind of come through when I think about my reactions to everyone's good wishes. How odd, when I compare that to how I feel now.

I'm just about to step into my third, and final, year at uni. And I can't bare to leave! Matt and I broke up before I even went to uni, we didn't even last it through the summer. At the time it felt like the worst thing in the world, and now I see that it was probably the best. I've made so many amazing friends at uni, more than I could possibly have even hoped for, and I know that when I come to leave, none of them will write "I didn't really know you".

So it's been a week of transitions really, trying to transition into thinking of myself as a 21-year-old, i.e. someone who is DEFINITELY an adult (even if a somewhat reluctant one), of trying to get my head around what on earth I'm going to do when I finish uni, how I've changed and (hopefully) improved as a writer, and remembering the strange transition from school to university.

For old time's sake, I'm adding a photo of my leavers' ball from sixth form, just over two years ago.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Jesus

When I scanned through the last post, my eyes focused on the line "play games, sing songs and do crafts," which made me think of Mary Poppins. I guess I've been a lot like Mary Poppins this week, in fact, with my humungous handbag filled with: a plastic sword that blows bubbles, a pink wig, and a cardboard parrot template, to name just a few. The week went so quickly, and I've learned so so much, and I think the kids have too!

It's really struck me (once again) that God always exceeds expectations (which makes me think of the grades that the Harry Potter characters get in their OWLs--geek alert!). But not only does he exceed expectations, but he exceeds them in ways that you wouldn't expect. I guess I'd assumed that God would exceed our expectations by bringing loads of kids along, but in fact (though the numbers were good), he exceeded them in the response that we got from the kids to our teaching, and to our bad jokes!

And God ALWAYS exceeds my expectations in terms of how well he provides for us; even down to the tiniest of details he's there. Whenever you're most flagging (cue semaphore jokes), that's when God refuels you with a load of fresh energy, and whenever you're feeling the most tired and brain-dead, that's when you'll have a really good conversation with a child about Jesus. I guess God does it to remind you that you're not working on your own strength, but on him. I suppose we're all inclined to forget this a lot, but it is when we feel that we can do things on our own that we stop doing them well.

This is not disheartening, in fact it is a great freedom. If we had to rely on our own strength we would be fallible, we would falter, and we would fail (I love alliteration!). But because we know that we cannot do a single thing on our own, we rely more fully on God. I certainly don't rely on God as much as I should or would like to, but it's a start. God has infinite resources of strength, which is freely available for us to tap into when we set aside our self-sufficiency.

I'm reminded, perhaps for the millionth time, of some teaching we had at our new leaders' training weekend, nearly 18 months ago when I first started a year on the committee for the Christian Union at my uni. We had a bunch of talks on 2 Corinthians, and one was particularly inspiring to all of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." The treasure referred to is knowledge of Jesus and salvation, which is the greatest thing we could have (see Philippians 3:8, and my previous blog post!), and it is in clay jars (us). Clay jars are fragile and show cracks, but because of this the light of God inside them shines all the more brightly because we can see that the glory is from the treasure, and not from the jars.

Aside from all this, I genuinely had a great week. The awful punchlines and cheesy songs will haunt me for some time, yes, but the friendships that grew and the huge amount that I learned (and hopefully that the kids learned) will last much longer. Although if I hear another fish-based joke, I think I might cry!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Can a tragedy nearly happen?

I'm pretty tired and that seems like a very morbid title, but this really isn't a morbid theme that I want to expand on , just a thoughtful one; if, indeed, it is a theme at all. This may be entirely incoherent. So I'm going to mark this as for my eyes only until tomorrow when I can re-read it.

Today was the first day of Holiday Club at my church at uni (as opposed to the church that I go to when I'm at home--that is, my parents' home). This is a morning activity club that we put on for kids in the area to come and play games, sing songs, do crafts, and most importantly, where they can learn about Jesus. I've been concentrating so much on what God's going to do with these kids that I forgot to think about what God is going to do with me. After any kind of mission I'm always amazed at how much I've learned, when I'd been thinking only of what I can teach others... which really is a very unhumble attitude. (Unhumble is not a word, but bare with me, I'm pretty exhaused, even though it's 10:45pm, not the early hours, even though this is my preferred bedtime--at the age of 20).

So, vague musings that I thought of today, probably unconnected with the Holiday Club, but maybe somewhat useful anyway.

1) Age REALLY isn't important, or anything to worry about at all. I was remembering at how freaked out I was at the prospect of turning 18 a few years ago, as I thought it meant I had to grow up. When, actually, nothing changed. Then I was really freaking out about turning 20 as I wouldn't be a teenager any more and would probably have to grow up and be boring, when actually this has been the most fun year of my life. And as my 21st birthday is only a few weeks away, I realised that turning 21 doesn't bother me, and I thought it probably should do, according to the pattern I've set myself. (I won't even go into what turning 13, 14 or 16 was like! I'll save that angst for another day!)
In a world where 5-year-olds get leukaemia, and 84-year-olds teach me to waltz age doesn't really matter at all.

2) A fair few tragedies have almost happened in my family recently, but life kind of continues anyway. And the tragedies haven't actually occurred like we all (and sometimes only I) assumed they would. Life isn't a film, we aren't oscar-winning actors, and sometimes stuff just doesn't happen. And sometimes it does and we react to it in a totally un-cool way. And sometimes nothing happens and we still react to it in an un-cool way. And the reason we get angry with those we love the most is because we know they love us back. (This is pretty much a direct quote from a film that I just watched with my housemates.) This is cheesy and awful, and kind of on the same awful track as those films that I love and they hate, but maybe that's OK.

3) There's more. There's so much more, and I guess there always will be. I don't think this is even a thing I've learned, but just an observation. I could say more here, but I need my beauty sleep. And I can't wait to see what God is going to teach ME tomorrow!

Just to close, this is our memory verse for the week. The kids have ASTOUNDED me by memorising it already, and I want to put it here (if I can remember it! It'll be shameful if I have to turn to my Bible to look it up!). It is so challenging to me as a 20-year-old, and I expect will be challenging to me as a 25-year-old, 40-year-old, 60-year-old, 80-year-old, and will reach its full glory when I do!

"Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ."

(I had to look it up--my memory isn't what it used to be!)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Turkey Blog

Sun, sea, sand... and slimy men.

So, my friend and I went to Turkey for a week, a resort called Bodrum. It was quite an experience; we went mainly for the beach, and to soak up a bit of the culture, but everything was so Anglicised. There were countless 'British pubs' and karaoke bars, and even a restaurant that proudly proclaimed that it served gravy pies! We did have a great time, lazing on the beach and sipping cocktails and such, but we were hassled constantly by people trying to sell us stuff, and men getting too friendly. Don't get me wrong, they never laid a hand on us, but they seemed determined to become our best friends, and continually talked of 'finding the one' I think we can loosely translate 'the one' as 'an English Visa'.

Here is a piece that I wrote whilst there, on the beach. I was suffering with homesickness quite badly, so it's not the most upbeat prose in the world, but I quite like it... it kind of sums up the contrasting juxtapositions that we were immersed in. I also feel that I should mention that a man offered me fifty camels for my friend Beccy.

Anyway, here goes:

On holiday, one dreams of romance, supposedly. But nothing could be further than that here. Perpetually single, I’m surrounded by unhappy couples and screaming children. And yet there are those couples too wrapped up in each other, sometimes quite literally. A waif of a woman reclines in her sunbed with the leg of her man wrapped around her like a serpent. He keeps readjusting her, as though scratching a part of himself. And then their son, perhaps fifteen, stands up, into my view, from the sunbed behind them, and they shift in my perception.

Bodies become a thing you’re much more aware of: writing or reading over your own stomach, the damp cling of a bikini you wish you’d purchased a size larger. There is a man without a belly button, and I wonder how he was born. My own winks at me, a constant reminder of where I came from, the very fleshiness of it all. The sag or squeeze of a pair of swimming trunks reveal too much of a man’s shape. And I marvel, too, at the many men with hips, as if androgyny is creeping upon us, one saggy male bottom or man breast at a time.

Then there are the children: the little girls with straight, up and down bodies. They’re quite tall, and seem to me like a plank of wood. I wonder how all of their organs can even fit in there, and if they can be truly alive. I guess they’re playing a waiting game, or their mothers are, while they play blissfully unaware in the place where the sea meets the shore, until one day a pair of breasts will spring up and surprise them.

Ladies struggle down the beach in neck-to-ankle bathing suits, baggy, with their heads covered, so as not to offend or arouse. But doesn’t this offend them? It seems, to me, to draw more attention to the issue—but perhaps this is because I’m not used to it. Yet they plunge into the waves gleefully with their children with water guns, and the sea, pulled by the moon, brings out their abundant curves of its own accord as their thin fabric is plastered to them.

This strikes me as such a contrast to the young men, who accost you from outside of bars. ‘Won’t you shake my hand?’ they ask you, after shouting ‘hey girls!’ and calling you like cattle. I wish they could understand the sensibilities of a handshake. They lure us for our money, and yet in some, the younger, the ones who are newly rearing their heads through twenty, there is a glint of something else, a more base greed, as they comment on the whiteness of our skin.

Homesickness sticks like a lump of apple pie somewhere between my bottom ribs and my heart. It’s higher than anxiety, which lingers around my belly button and creeps saltily up my throat. And yet it is not so high as heartache or depression. Though there is something delicious in heartache, a universality, knowing that it strikes all, like the burning sun. It is unavoidable, unlike these other pangs, which may or may not affect an individual. They are wolves, which hunt out the weak and rip at their organs.

Monday, 21 June 2010


So this failing to blog seems to be a recurring theme. I have a friend who sadly moved to America when we were eight, but we see each other every year, usually, and e-mail frequently; every time we send an e-mail it starts with, 'Sorry it's taken me soooo long to write!' and it seems that blogging might be much the same. Except that nobody is eagerly anticipating my ramblings. Although, suddenly today a lot of people I don't know have added me as friends, and I'm not sure why... can anyone shed some light on this?

One of my housemates always says that when she has a bunch of stuff she wants to fast-forward through she wants a montage, like they do in films when the director wants to cover a period of time quickly. This is what this blog is going to be: a montage of my last week at uni and my first week back at home.

The last week in Norwich was a blur of parties, visits and goodbyes. Monday we had a party in our house to celebrate one housemate's birthday, and to say goodbye to another housemate who, devastatingly, is moving to another uni in September. We made cocktails and danced around the kitchen, then went to Optic, where I'm a little ashamed to say I'd never been to before, whilst spending a considerable amount of time in my first year at Mercy... cringe. It was great dancing with all the single ladies (and the boys), but sadly we had to leave relatively early due to crippling high heels a couple of us were wearing... again, I'd like to remind the reader that I AM five foot two!

Tuesday was a day of pancakes, I believe, and not getting dressed until the late afternoon. We had the youth from church come round in the evening for pizza, and they were asking us questions about what it's like to be Christians at the age of twenty. They had some preconceptions that only old and boring people are Christians, but we soon put them straight. I was hoping they'd catch a glimpse of my tattoo to blow all of their expectations out of the water, but sadly I don't think they noticed it. Then it was LCR time; Wild West theme, so me and all the single ladies changed to all the single cowgirls! Good fun, but appalling music... except they did play that Hoe Down Throw Down song from the Hannah Montana movie, which I secretly (well, not that secretly) LOVE!

Wednesday saw the film Letters to Juliet, which I had been dying to see since I first saw the trailer a few months ago... but sadly it wasn't very good. Well, it was OK. I enjoyed it, but it was VERY predictable (not that that's necessarily a bad thing, I quite like that I know where a film is going, it makes me feel safe.) and the last line ruined the whole thing. She says to the guy, 'Can you move?' and he says 'Nothing but my lips,' and proceeds to kiss her. Ultimately cringeworthy even for the biggest bad-film-lover in the world--me.

Thursday and Friday was mostly catching up on sleep missed the rest of the week, and PACKING... oh my goodness, so much packing. I had to pack everything that I would possibly need for the whole summer into boxes that would fit into my parents' car. My mum was coming to spend the weekend with me, on Friday, before driving me home again on Sunday. She said she had a surprise for me... the surprise was that she brought my grandma with her! So the three of us had a bit of a touristy weekend around Norwich, going to the cathedral and such.

Which, of course, brings me to my time at home. The term 'home' becomes very confusing, because is my home the house that I live in at uni with all my friends, where I spend the majority of the year? Or is it where my parents live, where I lived until I went to uni, and where I go every holiday? I think home at uni is home, and home with my parents is home home.... So, this brings me to my time at home home. This blog has not been much of a montage so far, but I shall make it one now.

The first week at home home has been mostly unpacking, reading, watching telly and doing crafty things. (by which I mean making things... i.e. craft... not doing things that are crafty, like coming up with cunning plans. Sadly I have no need to formulate plans). I finally got caught up on Glee and Gossip Girl, so now have to wait until the next season of both of those comes onto TV. I also indulged myself by starting to watch The Vampire Diaries too... I was literally obsessed with those books when I was thirteen, and was reluctant to watch the TV series because I was sure it couldn't live up to my gothic teen-age (a look I've thankfully long outgrown!). However, it is actually quite good, and I'm enjoying it far too much. It's like Twilight, but better because the girl in it (I forget her name, now) actually reacts to things in a normal way, unlike Bella who just lets her love for Edward blind of everything else, especially common sense. However, I say this a little reluctantly, as I know that if I were in love with Edward Cullen I would literally throw my common sense away and dance in its wake.

I've been reading Dracula, because I'm ashamed to say that I have never read it; I feel a little hypocritical because of this. I've also started reading Jamaica Inn by Daphne De Maurier because a friend of mine told me it would be helpful for the novel that I'm working on now. Talking of which, my novel is coming along well--I've written 14 pages on my laptop now; so that's not too bad I think. I was in town a couple of days ago making some notes for it, and a few youth and a man who was possibly drunk, possibly high, possibly mad (possibly all three), said to me disparagingly, 'what are you doing? Writing a book?' 'Yes.' I replied. 'What's it about?' 'This town, actually, but set in the 1800s.' 'Oh. Can I be in it?' The guy that said this had a mohawk.

Monday, 7 June 2010

English Summertime

So my plan of blogging about the week every Sunday afternoon definitely failed... by 24 hours. But here I am nevertheless. If anybody was biting their nails in anticipation of this, then I'm sorry. And I recommend Barry M base coat and nail hardener.
I've been in a perpetual bad mood, it seems, all week, so I apologise to my housemates and, for that matter, anybody that I've come across.

This has been my first week of 'yes to everything' (our catchphrase for post-exam fun), although it's been more like 'yes to some things, but other things I just can't be bothered to do'. However, stuff has occurred; mostly sunbathing because we have had some scorching weather (hooray!), watching bad films, reading trashy novels, shopping and the like. Oh, and barbecues... there have been so many barbecues this week!

Tuesday was the CU (Christian Union) BBQ... in the rain, sadly, where I nearly believed that Jesus had a twin brother called Nesus...

Wednesday was Apprentice night, with chinese takeaway because we hadn't got our act together in time to actually do some shopping and make some amazing food. I'm getting a little obsessed with this Apprentice series now, it took me longer than usual because it's not the real thing, only Jr. Apprentice, but nevertheless, I am now hooked. I want Tim to win, I think he's secretly great. He's so cool, and has a great smile... and I have to remind myself that he's only seventeen... I don't want to get a reputation! (cough)
After The Apprentice we went into the city to watch a midnight viewing of Sex and the City 2... it was really good, actually. I've never watched the series, but I saw the first film last week, and I really enjoyed it. Oh my gosh, the fashion! It made me feel like I'm a bad person because I don't own those clothes. Actually, it's the shoes that I'm really covetous of... but move on, envy isn't attractive on me (or anyone). I really loved the way they contrasted what it is to be a woman in America with what it is in a Muslim country... although perhaps it was bordering on racist at times. Good female solidarity, good sense of overcoming adverse situations, amazing fashion, overall a pretty good film. Will most probably purchase the DVD. One of the girls moving in with us next year has the entire set of SATC, so I'll watch those come September. My friends tell me I'm just like Charlotte, but I like to see myself as a Carrie, the whole writer thing etc... but I'll have to watch it and see!

Thursday I had a goodbye breakfast with some amazing people, as the third years are sadly graduating and leaving us. Genuinely heartbreaking, but amazing toast. On campus in the afternoon there was loads of free fun stuff, with inflatable assault courses, climbing wall etc, and amazing sunshine. Of course, we just got a jug of sex on the beach and lounged in the square watching all the action, which was quite exhausting enough, thank you very much. Then we went to a party (and, of course, BBQ) at some friends' house. Loads of our friends played some live music too, which was awesome, including two who have just released a charity album, check them out here their songs are so funny!

Friday included more sunbathing, and our friend who is going to Thailand for four months came to cook us dinner. He made amazing white chocolate truffle cake, and couscous salad, and it was genuinely one of the best meals I've had for ages. Mega kudos to him. And we had a game of Risk; we played global conquest, expecting it to take until the small hours... when in fact he wiped all four of us out in an hour and a half. Just because he'd conquered Europe early... we shouldn't have underestimated it. Rooky mistake. I'm secretly a massive board game geek. Actually, not that secretly.

Saturday was walking in the park by myself, and generally being grumpy.

Sunday, after church, I had a picnic with some friends who are going back to New York at the end of the week, so that was a little emotional. There was a thunderstorm too, talk about pathetic fallacy. It was great though, I love thunderstorms. I made some awesome cupcakes too, with my new silicone cupcake moulds, heart shaped ones that I bought in Lakelands, I seriously recommend them, as they don't go all wibbly.

Tonight we're having a party, but you'll have to wait until my blog on Sunday to hear about that! I bet you're counting down the hours already.

This week I haven't done as much reading as I would have liked, the same as every week, really. I read some trashy novella called The List, by Aneva Stout, which was fairly rubbish, except that it was actually quite interesting, narratively, written entirely in the second person, and as a list. It reminded me of a short story I wrote last year... I might post it up here if I can find it. It was called 'How to Fall in Love', and was inspired by the story 'How to Become an Expatriot'... I can't remember who wrote that though, someone American. My memory stick died, though, so I've lost all my writing. However, I think this story is in a notebook I have at my parents' house.... I'll try and find it once I'm at home (at the end of this week! I can't believe it's almost summer already!).

I'm also reading One Hit Wonder by Lisa Jewell, which I assumed would be equally trashy, but it's actually well written, and I'm really enjoying it. Might check out her other book too, for a bit of holiday reading. Still reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, too, which I love, although makes me feel pretty unworthy, as a woman. And I'm scared about getting old by it, too. I'm turning 21 in September, and then I'd like to stop ageing please. I also started a Christian book called Where is God in a Messed up World? by Roger Carswell, which is all about suffering etc. so that's really helpful.

I've managed to do quite a lot of writing. I started a novel, set in my home town, and I finished the first chapter on that this week, and I've done the first page of the next chapter too, now, so that's great. I've got one of those gold-dust friends who has offered to proof-read it for me, also, hooray! Incidentally, it's his birthday today, so happy birthday! He won't read this, but maybe he'll feel blessed from the cyberspace good wishes going his way nonetheless. I'm also writing a Christian book, which I felt really called to write a week or two ago, and I've done the first chapter of that too, so quite a productive week on the writing front. Full steam ahead!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Flying toothbrush, murders, a free bike, loads of tea, exams, noodles and a ball

So this week has been a very long week; it started with me dropping my toothbrush out of the window, and ended with a ball--I think Austen would be proud of me!

Sunday the weather was gorgeous, so after church (and after somehow dropping my toothbrush out of the bathroom window so that it sailed downstairs, past the kitchen window -- to the surprise of my housemates -- and landed in the garden), we had a spot of picnicking, and instigated a new game of Human Cluedo, resulting in the deaths of two out of three guys present (in the cafe with a hat, and in the park with a fork). After eating enough cake for three kids' birthday parties, we returned to church for the evening service, and I was given a bicycle by a lady who didn't want it any more. She insisted she didn't want me to buy her anything to say thank you, so I'm being sneaky and made her a bracelet to take to her this evening.

The rest of the week was a blur of procrastination and a small amount of studying for my Austen and the Brontes exam, which was on Friday, with a brief interlude of curry and Apprentice night, with lots of friends and lots more tea. It seems to me that exams are disproportionate to the amount of work and stress that goes into them: weeks of studying, days of anxiety and hair falling out, all for two hours in an angular room and answering two questions--out of the twenty possible ones you studied for. It doesn't seem fair to me, and I'm sure neither Austen nor any of the Brontes would be pleased to know what their novels have become subject to. However, I have now finished my second year at uni, and I don't have any exams next year (my final year), so sucks to be you, everyone else!

Wagamama with housemate occurred, with loads of noodles, green tea, and chilli cheesecake (if you haven't sampled it... do! now.) We accidentally went shopping and spent too much money. Purchased some Benefit mascara under strict instructions from aforementioned housemate... I'm quite impressed thus far, I have to say. Even if it did cost a week's rent (no, not quite!).

Which, of course, brings me to last night's ball. I went with that housemate and our friend from accross the park, who kindly drove us, and, for that matter, invited us, as it was HER church's ball, not ours. Nevertheless, we looked beautiful, and even arrived on time. I was slightly concerned that her car might turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but it was fine... and both shoes remained firmly on my feet. All five inches of them... I was still only just the same height as everyone else though. Luckily being five foot two doesn't stop you dancing all night.

There was an awkward moment when the band played a slow song and "take the hand of that special person" occured, when my friends and I (all the single ladies) were sitting down at a table. It felt like being a 12-year-old bystander at the school disco once more, when the parting of the Red Sea divides the couples and the singles. And yet, it didn't actually bother me. That must have been the first time ever (apart from my smug, being-in-a-couple days). 'Being content in my singleness' is something I struggle with a lot, but I think I might have cracked it at last. Hooray! I finished reading a book called Mirror Mirror by Graham Beynon, this week, which has been really helpful about things like this, reminding me that my identity is rooted in Christ, and not anything superficial--look it up on Amazon... I can't seem to put the link in this (anyone know why?). Also Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes has proved invaluable to me recently.

This week I've been reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin, after watching the film The Jane Austen Book Club,thinking I should give science fiction a go (I've been experimenting with genre... trying to figure out who I am as a writer/reader), but I didn't take to it, really, and couldn't quite finish it. I found the names too much of a barrier, and my brain switches off as soon as anything scientific comes a long... the clue was in the title really, I should have known. I've also been reading Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and thus far I'm loving it. I especially love "there is nothing so real as words", I really relate to that--words are so powerful (as I argued in my last Shakespeare essay).

But it's not just about rhetoric; words are so powerful in conjuring emotion too. I laugh, cry and fall in love far more freely in books than I do in real life (well... I do all of those things often in real life too). We all love Lizzy Bennet and hate Mr Collins, and those are genuine emotions that are being kindled... yet Austen never pretends to us that her characters are real. Look at Northanger Abbey, she keeps stepping into the plot herself, as the author, and telling us why she has Catherine do certain things... yet we treat them as true life, almost, nonetheless.

Saturday, 29 May 2010


So I guess this is a practice post, to see where this ends up, what I'm actually supposed to do with it and relieve me of the pressure of writing something of note. Remember that sense of panic when you started a new exercise book in school, knowing that the first page had to be perfect?

I want to start blogging for a number of reasons, which means, essentially, that I don't actually know why I want to start blogging. I love writing; other than Jesus and my family and friends, writing is the most important thing in my life (so... I guess it's quite far down on the list!), and this is a form of writing that I haven't experimented with yet, so here goes! I also thought it would be a great way to keep my friends updated on what I'm up to over the summer, as we'll sadly be scattered across the country once more once uni finishes for the term. Also, if I do actually end up pursuing this, then I know my parents will be thrilled to be able to read what I've been up to in more than one-sentence updates on Facebook or snatched phone calls.

I don't know really want I want to blog about (can one use 'blog' as a verb? I like to think so-- 'text' is always used as a verb), I'm not sure what they are used as... they're more detailed than status updates, but less personal than diaries--so, something in between the two? Perhaps. I guess nobody will really read this, anyway.

Maybe 'My Literary Life' would be a good title for my blog (if a title is something that I need to give it), so it can be my reflections on life, books I've read and, more frequently, me treating my life as if it were some kind of book. Hopefully I won't start referring to my friends as "characters" though... although some of them are!

I really must do some research into how to properly use grammar within brackets.