Puddle Jumping: A Tutorial for Grown-Ups

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It’s raining today.

Grab your wellies. It’s time for some puddle jumping.

There are few things in life that provide such unadulterated joy like jumping in puddles. It’s the smell, the sound, the feel of the rain falling around you, briefly turning your world into a wonderland – if you’re willing to brave the weather and discover it.

There are small puddles and there are big puddles. There are small lakes with isolated islands at their centre, upon which only the bravest of Puddle Jumpers may proudly stand. There are the suddenly deep ones that are the only true test of a good pair of wellies. There are those with hidden sink holes that briefly suck your rubber-coated foot into a muddy vacuum. A grassy verge, transformed into a marsh: the ultimate onomatopoeic surface. And there’s the shallow, slow moving channel that was once a footpath – a syncopated splash with every footfall.

There’s nothing quite like hearing your 23 year old sister shout excitedly “Those ones look good and squelchy!” Or having her out hold her hand to you and you both know instinctively what to do: hold hands, run and jump…

Laugh at the puddle water now dripping down your wellies into your socks. From this point on, no puddle will scare you, no mud slide offend you. Kick up some leaves, play pooh sticks, shout as loud as you can because there is no one around to hear you. And laugh as much as possible.

I’ve been a bit stressed recently, but an hour in the rain can do wonders. No matter your age or your preoccupation, jumping in muddy water is guaranteed to make you smile. It’s cheaper than a therapy session and far less likely to induce a hangover than a trip to the pub.

So if you’re in need of some stress relief, here’s my advice:

Hold hands.

Run.

And Jump.

hold hands 3

The F Word & The F Word

“I’m sorry, which one?”

It is a strange thing that modern vernacular now has two possible answers to this question: Feminism or Fuck.

“The F word” is a phrase born of censorship. Keep the nasty words out of the earshot of innocent minds and out of polite conversation. The notion of contracting a word to its first initial and a series of asterisks as a means of hiding it’s meaning, is itself a ridiculous notion. We all know what it means. Children know what it means. That cannot be avoided. The word is still there, you’re fooling no one with your asterisks.

But censorship is its own debate. What is relevant here is that another word is apparently now worthy of being censored to the same level as “Fuck”. And that word is “Feminism”.

How has that happened? How has Feminism become a nasty word to be half-hidden and whispered in conversation for fear of reproach? Feminism is being treated like a dirty word and that is unacceptable. I know that I have personally felt like I need to mumble it under my breath with a tone of apology, to ward off anyone who might roll their eyes and lean back in their chairs wishing they hadn’t started the conversation. People are afraid of arousing debate. And, really, why is that? Why are people scared of talking about important issues, as though it is going to ruin their evening? “I just wanted to have a quiet drink in the pub. I wasn’t looking for an intellectual debate at this time of night!”

Political debate does not equal argument. Sharing opposing ideas can be a passionate experience, yes. But passion, when exhibited by generally reasonable persons, should not lead to negative results. Especially, a word like Feminism – a word that means equality for everyone, everywhere. There is too much misunderstood about this word, but in the words of Caitlin Moran, Feminism is: “Not all the penises being burned in a Penis Bonfire. Just women being equal to men.” And everyone else in between.

So don’t be afraid of this F word. Don’t mumble it under your breath, but say it proudly, with the appropriate decibel level. Of course if you want to go shouting it from the rooftops, then be my guest. You won’t be arrested for public indecency or disturbing the peace, because Feminism is NOT a dirty word. Feminism is a fucking beautiful word.

 

(Quote from Caitlin Moran found here: http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/advice/a9641/things-men-dont-know-about-women-caitlin-moran/)

Inspired at Midnight

Aside

Burst of creativity at midnight! Writing writing writing. Ow my hand. Must get thoughts down on paper. Keep writing writing writing.

Anyone else make wavy hand gestures when they’re trying to think of the right word? Like a composer and my words are the musicians…

…but somewhere in the midst of the string section, a violin is a fraction out of tune. A word not quite right. But you’re in the middle…

…of a movement. Can’t stop the orchestra. Can’t stop the flow of ideas attempting to rush from the box of skyblue ideas boucing around…

…inside, too filled with energy to stay consecutive, the words all too excited, trying to get to the front of the line that’s heading…

…down the nerve endings of your arm towards a second fluid blue box at the end of your hand, from which a river is flowing, streaming…

…cascading from line to line on the paper.

Then it stops.

Impolitic 4: News Vs Twitter

 

A discovery: politics is everywhere. Not ground-breaking as discoveries go, I grant you. But I suppose what I’ve really discovered, is that I must have been squandering huge amounts of energy avoiding politics before now. Across every radio and TV channel, the bonging of Big Ben was the signal to channel hop. So as soon as I decided to take an interest in politics, the veil was lifted and news appeared to spout from every screen and speaker within earshot.

The chiming of Big Ben is in many ways a sound comparable to the sounds and rhythms of every news bulletin. The perfect middle-class monotone of the newscaster. The well-rehearsed words of a speech. It’s emphasis practised and predictable.

One could hardly describe the average news segment as charismatic. But of course the general flatness in delivery, archetypal of the newscaster, is intentional. Their job is to remain impartial. Objectivity over subjectivity. The complete removal of emotive responsibility. It is the unwritten contract held between public and newscaster. Let the stories speak for themselves so that the audience may draw their own conclusions. Yet, despite this intentional removal of personality, we are still obliged to sit through the casual adlibbing of co-anchors, usually with little success at achieving nonchalance.

Twitter Vs. News

This impersonal approach hardly makes one enthused about watching the news either. No wonder the viewings are going down. You know what young people are like. Give us bright colours, made up words and sound effects. That’ll get the young’uns involved! Patronisation of my own age bracket aside, Twitter is the news channel for the younger generations.

TV is attempting to assimilate with the new media, displaying Twitter feeds alongside live coverage. The effect is somewhat confusing, and many viewers agree.

“Dave from Tumbleridge says, ‘Why is the Chancellor sharing half the screen with the thoughts of @iLivThruTwitter and #tags about his unkempt nose hair? It is distracting and inane.’ Thank you for your thoughts Dave…”

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Impolitic

I have a confession to make: I am 21 years old and I have never voted in a general election. Or any election for that matter. I know: throw me in the stocks and pelt me with rotten vegetables. I’m one of them. That’s what many of you will be thinking. That is unless you are, like me, one of millions who have failed to cast a vote in recent years.

Why haven’t I voted? A myriad of reasons (none of which is ever good enough to excuse my continual lethargy), principle of which is this: I do not understand politics. Voting blindly based on who my parents or friends vote for is not something I see as an option. If I’m going to vote, I will do so based on what I believe in.

I can snigger half-heartedly at satirical TV panel shows, because I know that’s what we’re supposed to do. I’ve been trained to laugh at politicians from an early age. I snigger because the basics have been made plain to me: Tories are selfish, upper class twits, Labour don’t know how to look after money and the Lib Dems tried to please everyone and failed. These are the major parties as I have been given to understand them by the likes of Ian Hislop and Frankie Boyle. As for the other parties, hardly any registered on the radar until recently. The Green Party and UKIP, previously stuck in the political paddling pool, are now dipping their toes into the Olympic pool and everyone is uproar about the implications. All this I express with the utmost disassociation: these are not my opinions. This is merely what I have gleaned from my own extremely narrow experience of politics. So I can snigger at a comedian’s jibe because I know that politicians are to be laughed at. That’s what I have been taught and what the majority of popular culture perpetuates.

I have never taken the trouble to understand it and that is my own fault.

But I have made a decision: I am going to change that.

Step one:

Register to Vote

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (So should all of you, Follow That Link!)

In the lead up to the 2015 UK General Election, I am going to educate myself in the mysterious and confusing ways of politics. I no longer want to be in the condemned section of the pie chart labelled “Non-voters” that seems only to grown. I no longer want to be counted in one of the worst groups of offenders: Young People. My age bracket needs a kick and I’m starting with myself.

The Perfect Pen

As a writer, I have certain conditions in which I like to work. According to my new writing guru, Verlyn Klinkenborg, creating conditions for your own creative process will only become barriers in the long run.

“Anything you think you need in order to write –
Or be “inspired” to write or “get in the mood” to write –
Becomes a prohibition when it’s lacking.
Learn to write anywhere, at any time, in any conditions,
With anything, starting from nowhere.
All you really need is your head, the one indispensable requirement.” (80)

As much as I see the reason in VK’s “short sentences”, I am struggling to follow through on this. There is a specific pen I like to write with. I recently lost that pen and bought a replacement today. Thankfully, it is stocked in most highstreet stationers. What’s so special about this particular pen? Well, for starters, it is the perfect shade of blue. I find page upon page of black biro a depressing spectacle. Blue offers a far more pleasing aesthetic, but it is not too bright of a blue as to be overstimulating… As I’m writing I’m starting to see how picky this sounds. But I shall continue anyway. In addition, this pen has remarkably little resistance on the page. My hand can glide along each line and a beautiful river of letters transfers effortlessly onto the crisp white paper.

page 1

And it’s not just the pen. I don’t like starting a new notepad. I like being able to flick through previous pages, read the occasional paragraph and think, “Man, I write some good stuff.” Those previous pages are a comforting, midnight-blue blanket of prose. Those paragraphs give me the confidence to turn to the dreaded empty page and begin. As a result, there is an old notepad I refuse to throw away because some fantastic essays began in those pages.

And beyond the raw materials, the environment has to be right too. Firstly, excellent light. Not yellowy, low-energy lamps, whose rays fail to chase away the darkening sky as you toil into the night.  Of course, a desk and comfortable chair are a must. And then there’s the noise factor. Everybody likes to work differently. Some people want absolute silence. Others blast heavy metal through their headphones. I need the right amount of ambient noise. Not silence, not heavy metal, but somewhere in between. I want friendly chatter, but not raucous laughter. A reassuring, indistinct melee of noise. I want to hear that buzz of life that reminds me there is existence beyond the realms of the word counter. The ground floor of UEA library was my perfect work zone. Having visited some local libraries recently, I can now say I miss university more than ever.

I am currently battling with drama school applications and that means Personal Statements. Yes, that dreaded task has rolled around again. There is already a post dedicated to my hatred of this task – the whole concept in fact – so I shan’t rant any further. What I will say is this: I have just acquired a visitor’s pass to Reading University library and a brand new pad of paper. I now sit with an old notepad, a new notepad, borrowed wifi and my favourite blue pen. Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

And so, with a hint of panache and some abbreviation, I can now say…

P.S. You Are My Bitch.

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En Route to The Big Apple: This is your Captain Speaking…

It was all going swimmingly: luggage within weight limit, ESTA approved, breezed through security without a hitch, arrived at the departure gate, queued, boarded, and then…

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. I’m sorry to announce that we are being held at the gate by air traffic control due to weather conditions. There is a storm in our departure path and we may be held up to 90 minutes. That’s an hour and a half. We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and co-operation.”

A couple of observations: firstly, how all customer announcements include a final comment where-in one’s “patience and co-operation” are a forgone conclusion; secondly, the need to clarify that 90 minutes equals an hour and a half, and that while the mention of the former incurs a low grumble from a small portion of the passengers, the latter is the one that carries the rest into realisation.

About 15 minutes later:

“Blah blah this is your captain blah blah. Just to update you, err… so… we still haven’t heard anything else back from control, so, err… we know as much as you do, so, err… Sorry folks, we’ll keep you posted.”

This is as close to verbatim as I can manage and I assure you I am not exaggerating on the number of “so err’s” that were heard over the tannoy. Hardly a reassuring sound, particularly when coupled with a Southern drawl that really drags out the vowels. So, 90 minutes to waste. What to do… My mp3 – yes, I still use an mp3 – has crapped out on me and the Kindle is without sufficient reading material. Technology has failed me, back to the basics: pen and paper. Time to write a blog!

This is my first solo journey outside of the UK. Well, I say solo, but I’m staying with my uncle in New York. Well, I say uncle, but he’s really an oversized man-child with a bank account. Anyway, essentially my first solo trip and the first time I’ve had to actually organize myself and there is really a lot of administration involved in this holiday business. Firstly, book the flights, scour discount websites, debate seating options etc. Then acquire an ESTA so I can legally enter the country. Then there’s travel insurance, gadget insurance, travel-gadget insurance. Flight itinerary, e-receipt, passport, insurance policy – I need a lever-arch just for my travel documents!

And packing is a palaver too. Only 100ml bottles and only 850ml in total. No aerosols, exotic fruits or fireworks – bit excessive really. Make sure all your electrical devices are charged so they can check they aren’t bomb timers or porn hubs. And what counts as a sharp object these days? Will the plug on my laptop charger upset the x-ray scanners? My notebook has a metal ring binder that could potentially be fashioned into a weapon. Security restrictions suddenly make me paranoid about every item with the slightest hint of mental in my luggage and on my person. It turns out that, of course, I was worrying for no reason and came through security unscathed and unfondled. This may have something to do with being white, female, English and distinctly middle class. But then perhaps I’m being cynical.

Beyond security, however, lies a magical land. A glittering sign greets me as I enter departures: World Duty Free. The fluorescents sparkle just a little brighter here and the air is filled with the scent of discount eau de toilette. From my experience, there are two items you will find in abundance in any duty free zone: perfume and Toblerone. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because the mark-up on these items is the most ridiculous. After all, how much can it really cost to produce aromatic water and prism shaped chocolate? International and tax-free, I am nowhere and everywhere, just on the cusp of adventure. (I may be romanticising the situation slightly.)

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Mind Splurge – A definition

(Warning: This post contains juxtapositional comedy. And boobies.)

Splurge (OED): An ostentatious display or effort. Also in phr. to cut a splurge , to make an ostentatious display.

I do this in literary form. Boom. Done.

… well not quite done. It’s also delightfully onomatopoeic. And I would like to think I offset any “ostentatious” wordiness with my commitment to immaturity. Poo, fart, bottom, boobies, willies, giggidy, oink, moo, pants… *spin around till you fall over*.

Making it up as I go along (aka Splurge No. 2)

These blogs are not going to be thought out. They will be spontaneous ramblings, or – to use a pretentious literary term – extempore creations. Thank you university! That sort of language is also to be expected, but I hope it won’t put off too many of you. I will not be spending extensive amounts of time planning these entries, but making it up as I go along. Again, if you want to be pretensious about it, then my writing style will reflect my lifestyle. I am making it up as I go along. I’m still getting out of the habit of writing academic essays, so it is slightly artsy notions such as those just expressed that may pop up unexpectedly and blogging is a creative outlet for those tendencies.

These blogs will take the form of mind splurges. And this is splurge No. 2. Splurge. I like that word…

My mind splurges also tend to end abruptly.

Ps. If anyone would like to splurge back, I welcome comments, responses etc.

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How do I do this?

Pandora's Envelope

Ok, so, I have decided to write a blog.

I have never written a blog.

That is unless you count some delightfully over-formatted myspace entries when I was 11, back when the most exciting thing you could do with online text was to go from austere Times New Roman to the playful Comic Sans that fills one with a sense of childish middle class rebellion. There was no demand to say something interesting or funny or intelligent or even legible back then. There was only the delightfully innocent notion of telling people about yourself.

And myspace was only the beginning. Since then, autobiographical media produces a daily onslaught of statuses, tweets, videos, pictures, blogs. As everyone pours the minutiae of their lives onto the LCD screens in front of them, we are creating our own online world. With clouds floating above and birds tweeting in every tree, it’s something of an edenic image wouldn’t you say?

The purpose of this blog is, for me, to some extent, to hold back the tide of real life just a little bit longer.

By the end of July of this year, I will no longer be a student. I will have completed my English Literature degree at university and will have to enter Real Life. Something of a daunting prospect for me, since it has always been my goal to never grow up. It is my hope that writing as I go will help to abait my trepidation as Real Life glimmers at the edge of the horizon.

So, here goes… Geronimo.