Be Nice It's Tuesday


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2016 Reading Challenge: August

Books: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany

*Spoiler Free, #keepthesecrets*

Why I read it: I have long been a huge Harry Potter fan. Which I know I’m far from alone in, but I was very excited about this new Harry Potter story. I was (and still am) desperate to see the play on stage, but it could be years before I get to see it, so I bought the script straight away; I couldn’t bear knowing there was a Harry Potter book out and not reading it.

Basic plot: I feel like anything I could say here would be considered a spoiler by some people, so I’ll avoid specifics, but if, like I did, you don’t want to know ANYTHING, stop reading now. The story follows many of the original characters, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, as adults dealing with a new threat to the wizarding world, and Albus (Harry and Ginny’s middle child) and Scorpius (Draco’s son) trying to right wrongs which they feel have been done. The relationship between Harry and Albus plays a big part in the story, but there are many elements to it.

Who it’s aimed at: Anyone who is a Harry Potter fan really, so that’s a big audience. If you don’t know the books you will probably be confused, it does rely on previous knowledge. I also felt that some parts of the story were more aimed towards older viewers/readers, more the original Harry Potter audience, but really I think the Harry Potter franchise has a universal appeal.

Would I recommend it?: The story was not at all what I expected, and there were things about it that I really liked, but the more I think about the actual plot, the more I’m kind of disappointed in it. I could probably write a fully post about my thoughts on different aspects of it, but I will save that for another time. I still really want to see the plays; I think they must work really well. But I’m sure I would recommend it as a brilliant addition to the Harry Potter story as a whole. That said, I did enjoy reading it and it was exciting just reading a Harry Potter book for the first time, it’s been so many years since we’ve been able to do that.

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2016 Reading Challenge: July

Books: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Why I read it: I loved this series when I was younger, and I’m really excited about the Netflix version which is coming soon, so I reclaimed my set of the books from my mum’s school library (she’s retiring, so it was my last change to ask for them back) so I could read them again in anticipation.

Basic plot: The series follows the lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents die in a fire. For the first half of the series they are moved from guardian to guardian while the sinister Count Olaf is following them trying to steal their fortune. They eventually take things into their own hands, after the adults in their lives continuously let them down, and begin to discover a secret organisation which seems to be tied in with their and their friends’ lives. The books are written under a pseudonym, as though they are real events, and Lemony Snicket is frequently addressing the reader to tell them not to read any further because it’s too sad, or going on tangents about his own life, which is linked to some of the characters and mysteries in the books.

Who it’s aimed at: They’re aimed at children, I’d say about 8+, and no specific gender, but I think they would also be enjoyed by teenagers, and I think a lot of adults would quite enjoy reading them along with their children.

Would I recommend it?: Yes, absolutely. I’d forgotten, or didn’t notice in the past, just how good they are. They’re so well written, in an unusual and rather funny style, and I really like piecing together all the hints and clues and secrets. They are also slightly frustrating at times, particularly the ending when not all the questions are answered, but I loved reading them again nonetheless.


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My Summer So Far

Hello!

Recently I’ve been struggling to actually get out the ideas I have into fully formed blog posts, so I apologise for the lack of content. But I quite like writing chatty posts, just about little things I want to say that don’t need a full post, so I’m probably going to be doing a few of them.

In my last post I mentioned some of the things I’ve been doing since I got back home from uni. I went to my older sisters’ graduations in St. Andrews and Edinburgh at the end of June. They were two lovely days with the family, and I’m very proud of them both. And I enjoyed the excuse to dress up posh. One of my sisters is home now, but the other is still in Scotland for a few more weeks.

It’s very nice having nothing to do, but I am aware that I don’t want to just laze around for 3 months, so I’ve been sorting out some things to do.

I took advantage of an offer at a local gym for 4 weeks membership for £20, so I’ve been going there a couple of times a week. I don’t push myself too hard, I’m not trying to transform my body shape in 4 weeks, but I know my fitness levels aren’t great, so I’m hoping this will help a bit. I have noticed it’s getting a bit easier. It is tiring though, especially as the walk between my house and the gym is 2.5 miles each way. I’m not generally much of an exerciser, but I’ve been enjoying going more than I expected, especially when I remember to take my iPod.

I was inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee to get back on my sewing machine, which I hadn’t really done much of since A-Level art. So far I’ve made a scrunchie and I’m half way through a dress. I’ve also been asked to make a scrunchie for a friend, and my mum want a table cloth and chair cushions for our garden, and a new sewing machine cover as our original one is very ripped. I’ve also been making more jewellery which I will be selling.

The other main thing I’ve started is volunteering at my local Oxfam book shop. I couldn’t really get a summer job as I have holidays booked, and didn’t particularly need to money or want the pressure. But I did want to be doing something which will hopefully help people and improve my CV, and volunteering is much more flexible than having a paid job. I’ve only done two shifts so far, but I’m enjoying it. I have to exercise great self restraint though, being surrounded by so many relatively cheap books, but my bookshelves are overflowing already!

I’ve been seeing my friends, mainly at the pub, but one has been joining me at the gym a bit. I also had lunch with a few friends, including one who, in the time since I last saw her, has got married, got pregnant, and separated from her husband. I wanted to have a catch up anyway, but after hearing about this thought she might be wanting support from old friends. She seems to be doing well, and I did enjoy seeing her scan pictures and all the baby talk.

The rest of my time I’ve been reading, gardening, putting off the revision I should be doing, despairing at British politics, and doing nonograms, which are fun Japanese logic puzzles (link to a website where you can do them).

The other day I bought myself a daisy plant, because daisies are one of my favourite flowers and I really wanted one.

Finally, my bedroom floor is currently rather sparkly. Last night I was feeling a bit sad, and my sister had asked me to make her some flowers out of sparkly paper and glitter, so I decided it might cheer me up to sprinkle my room with glitter. It did.

Hope you’re all doing well, until next time xx

 


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I need sincerity

I apologise in advance if I’m not very coherent in this. I need to get this off my chest, but I’m not sure I have quite the words to express how I’m feeling (especially in my slightly inebriated state).

I’m now back home from university, I’ve had the fun of relaxing back in my old room, the not-so-fun task of unpacking and being expected to help out a lot more again around the house. I’ve been to Scotland twice for my sisters’ graduations, and I’ve had the realising that I can’t spend the next few months just sitting around not doing much, so I joined a gym (only for 4 weeks, I haven’t changed completely) and am applying to volunteer in charity shops (more on that soon). And, of course, I’ve been trying to get back in touch with all my old friends from college and high school.

Last summer I was distraught at leaving my amazing old friends. We’d been through so much together, and I was so close to some of them, and I just thought I would miss them so much. I thought I’d never be able to make a proper connection with new friends who knew nothing about me, and in some ways I didn’t want to make new ‘best friends’, because it might mean the old ones weren’t as important. And yet, against all odds (or maybe inevitably), I have met some incredible people at uni, people I fit with so well that I now can’t believe I’ve only known them for less than a year. And I’ve been reminded of what I should have learnt three years ago, that there’s no limit to friendships. People come and go, that’s just how it happens, but each friendship or whatever kind of relationship is different and unique, and one doesn’t have to replace or negate another.

I loved my old friends, and I still do, but I always had some problems with them over the years. A few months ago I intended to write a post, but I don’t think I got round to it. I might still write it, but it was about realising with some of my new friends what I’ve been missing with my old friends; a sort of honest interest in me and what I have to say. And since getting home I’ve really noticed a lack of real emotion in a lot of my interactions with friends. I have one friend who kept promising that he would visit me at uni ‘every weekend’. I would say ‘you’re obviously not going to come every weekend, but please will you come at least once?’ to which he would reply ‘no, I’ll be there every weekend’. He didn’t come all year. He did visit a few other friends at uni (he had a year out). This annoyed me, but what annoys me most is that he can’t own up to the fact that he broke his promise; every time I mention it he says ‘mate, I was there every weekend, you were just never in’ (he doesn’t even know where my flat was). Another friend is renowned for lying about most things. She’s busy all summer, and she keeps saying she misses us and wants to be here. But the two times I’ve tried to visit her this year she’s had a reason why it won’t work, both of which I’ve later discovered were lies.

And then I have several friends who are very sarcastic people, who will never admit to things like actually liking their friends, or openly being kind and respectful. Most of the time I can put up with this. I laugh at the jokes, tease them back, ignore the insults, remind myself that they do care about me, that there have been so many times when I’ve really needed them and they’ve come through for me (and try to forget the times when they haven’t).

But sometimes it just gets too much. If people tell you enough times that they don’t actually like you, that what you have to say is boring, or turning down your ideas of things to do, and then combine that with feeling low about something else, or a time of low self esteem, or just it always being when you’ve drank a bit too much, you can start to believe what they’re saying. Basically, what I need is some of these friends to just tell me they’ve missed me, or that it’s nice to see me again. I need honest conversations where my friends can tell me what’s going on in their lives or their feelings without them having to be drunk and instantly pretend it didn’t happen – for instance one friend to tell me that his parents are splitting up, so I don’t feel awkward about knowing from somewhere else, or another to explain why he’s so insecure so I can help him. I want to do fun things with them other than going to the pub. I enjoy the laughing, joking banter, but I need people I can rely on, who are sincere with whom I can confidently talk about the things that matter to me. And as pathetic as this sounds, I just want certain of my friends to say to me ‘you are my friend. I value our friendship and I care about you.’

Please tell me in the comments if you’ve been through similar struggles. Please don’t tell me if you think I’m being too needy and pathetic because I’m not sure I can handle it today.


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My Life in Quotes #10

October 2015:
We made quite a mess babe, it’s probably better off this way,
And I confess babe, in my dreams you’re touching my face,
and asking me if I want to try again, with you.
And I almost do.

Missing you, is all that needs to be said

And I feel just like I’m living someone else’s life,
It’s like I just stepped outside, when everything was going right.

These streets have too many names for me…I’ll get used to this eventually I know

I’m on the road, the road to home

November 2015:
Here’s to my new friends, a toast to the weekend,
It’s time to begin again, so here’s to my new friends

And what’s one more day? This distance remains hard for me.

Though I am far away, and I am all alone,
There are parts of me, that still are holding on,
To moments long since passed, secrets I recall,
And friends I used to have, who I don’t know any more

And when I dream, I’m not in [Memphis], I’m on my way, home on that train.
And I don’t feel so lost and distant, Lord the miles, how they cut me deep.

I miss you, more than I let on, I kiss you, far too long,
I’ll let go, as soon as you do, see I know, we’re not through

December 2015:
Thank you, and goodnight, I’ve got a new mountain to climb…
I’m no longer scared, I’m just so glad you were there.

It’ll all be alright, I’ll be home tonight, I’m coming back home

We’ll meet our friends, drinking in the [Swan], I don’t know where time’s gone

And I’d tell you that I miss you but I’m sure it doesn’t matter at all

I have felt no better feeling, than the glow the home fire brings

I am not the way, I’d hoped to be

As always these are quotes owned by copyright holders, not my own words, I have merely chosen them to convey a message. If you want to read the posts in this series in order, start here. Click here for the next instalment (once it is published).


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2016 Reading Challenge: June

Book: Always With Love by Giovanna Fletcher

Why I read it: I enjoy watching Giovanna’s YouTube videos, so always hear so much about her books that I want to read them, and I have enjoyed her previous books.

Basic plot: This is the sequel to Giovanna Fletcher’s first novel, Billy and Me. It picks up a few months after the end of Billy and Me, following the main character, Sophie, meeting Billy’s family for the first time, dealing with a long distance relationship, and her mum’s upcoming wedding.

Who it’s aimed at: This is another fairly typical chick-lit style novel aimed at adult women.

Would I recommend it?: If you have enjoyed other books by this author then I’m sure you will love this one. I feel about this the same way as I have felt about all of Giovanna Fletcher’s books; I’m never quite sure about her writing style, and I can’t put my finger on why. However, the story lines are so enjoyable that I don’t notice that too much. If you want a nice, fairly easy read, that makes you feel all emotional and happy and romantic, then this is a perfect book for you (but I would read Billy and Me first).


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Everyday Homophobia

Before I start with this, there are two things I need to make clear from the beginning. First, throughout this post I use the word ‘homophobia’, I’m using this to mean against any of the LGBT+ community because I don’t know a better word to use, please tell me if there is one. Number two, I really hope this doesn’t come across as me generalising or implying that all people of any specific orientation do the same things. I hate it when people write things like that, so it’s definitely not what I’m trying to do here.

Last week, with the Orlando massacre, the western world saw what homophobia can lead to, even in today’s comparatively liberal world. I’m not going to write much about this, because my words are so inadequate to express the horror of this attack, or my anger that so many people, in a country which is so discriminatory against LQBT+ people, refuse to accept that this came out of problems in their own society and laws.

I am very lucky in that I have never really had a conversation with someone who is expressing actual homophobic views. To the best of my knowledge, all of my friends and family are fine with all sexualities, and believe in equal rights. But there is a big gap between not being homophobic, and actually understanding different orientations, and I’ll admit that it’s a gap I’m still in the process of crossing. And with the best will in the world, if you don’t have much exposure to non-straight people, and you don’t read and watch things and educate yourself, you often end up saying things that make you sound at best ignorant and at worst rude and offensive. Recently I’ve kept noticing examples of this, so that’s what I want to write about today.

Firstly there’s my own personal experience. I have only come out as asexual to five people so far. When I told a friend who is a lesbian she didn’t make a big deal of it, she just said how she always likes it when people discover a name/label and realise that it fits them perfectly. She hasn’t said much about it since then, but there was one time when I was talking about guys from high school, and she said something about me being romantically attracted to them. It’s a small thing, but I can’t explain how good it felt that she specified romantic, but did it so casually. I was surprised at the effect it had, how even now, remembering it makes me feel so validated, and makes me realise how uncomfortable I am comparatively when people try to get me talking about sexual attraction. Which brings me on to our mutual friend, who is straight, who also didn’t react much when I came out to her. But I’m not sure she really took it in. Things she says imply she doesn’t really understand it, for instance when we saw some topless men, who were in good physical form, and she said to me and the lesbian friend (that’s not how I generally refer to people, I just don’t like using names) ‘even you guys enjoyed that’. I keep quiet because it’s easier, but I want to say ‘neither of us are sexually attracted to men! It’s fine that you are, but you have to understand that we aren’t.’

Two of the other people I’ve talked to about being asexual are not straight. One of them said ‘thank you for telling me’ and politely asked for a bit of clarification (I’d just said I came under the ‘A’ heading), then we had a nice conversation about, well, most of the stuff I’m writing about in this post. The other was when she was talking about the university LGBT+ society, and I asked whether there were many Ace people there because I was thinking of getting involved. She got very excited, added me to the Ace Facebook group for the society, and said I could go along with her next year.

So that just leaves the most recent person I’ve come out to, my best/oldest friend. I love her to pieces and she’s always supportive, and wants to be very forward thinking and liberal. But she also can sometimes be a bit clueless, and I’d guessed that this would be one of those times. But I wanted to tell her, so had been waiting for the right moment, so when she asked me whether I thought I would have sex before marriage, I decided that was the right moment. I explained it to her a bit, but her main response was just ‘yeah, but you’ll change your mind when you’re older’. I would like to put out a very clear message to anyone reading this, NEVER tell someone that their identity is ‘just a phase’. There are three main things wrong with doing this. 1. It often takes courage to share these things with someone, and is completely crushing to have someone you care about dismiss something so important. 2. Sometimes people’s orientation or the label they choose to use can change over time, but that doesn’t make it untrue at the time. 3. The only person who can understand someone’s identity is that person. However well you know them, you are in no position to tell them what they do or don’t feel.

On a less personal level, there’s the fact that a lot of people still just expect everyone to be straight and cis. They know that not everyone is, but to them these are distant concepts of people on the internet or the news, they’re not real life people that you’re friends with. This leads to conversations I’ve had such as:
‘She’s visiting her girlfriend.’ ‘Oh. Did you mean to say her girlfriend?’ Yes, that’s why I said it.
‘Do any of them have boyfriends?’ ‘*girl’s name* has a girlfriend.’ ‘Oh right, so she’s a lesbian.’ Well, she could be bi, but either way all you need to know is that she has a girlfriend.
‘One of my friends, who’s trans, was having difficulty with which bathroom to use’ ‘What, you actually have a friend who’s trans? I don’t think I know anyone who is.’ (I have actually said something similar about a gay person, but I was a lot younger at the time, and now know better).
‘This will really shock you though, her affair was with a woman!’ So she’s bisexual, whatever, I’m more shocked that she’s left her husband.
‘Her and her girlfriend -‘ ‘Ooh, you’re friends with lesbians now?’ ‘Well, some of my friends are, what’s wrong with that?’ ‘Nothing, I just don’t really know anyone who isn’t straight.’ I’m not straight. I could list other people you know who aren’t straight. It’s more likely that no one’s telling you because they know you’d act so surprised.
I do get that if you haven’t knowingly met anyone who isn’t straight, you don’t really think about people’s sexuality and might start to assume that everyone’s straight. But as long as people make a big deal about it, it’s going to keep being a big deal. If you hear about someone’s sexuality it doesn’t need commenting on, just accept it like you would any other detail which is part of the conversation. When it’s made into a big deal, it just makes it harder for people to talk about identities, which they should be able to talk about openly.

Finally, the thing I’ve noticed most is the way many straight people talk about all things LGBT+. In my usual group of friends at home, everyone is presenting as straight and cis (I don’t know whether others, like me, just haven’t felt comfortable coming out to the group, or if they actually are all straight), and I don’t think there’s a single one of them who would ever think or say anything homophobic. But there are things they say which I just don’t think are ok. It’s things like getting the acronym wrong – either accidently putting L G B and T in the wrong order every time, or talking about the ‘new letters they keep adding on’, or saying a random string of letters because you can’t be bothered to learn what they all are. And then people think that that, or comments about gender (I’ve heard it with gender more than sexuality) are funny jokes. Similarly  my friend who refers to asexuals as ‘Asexy’, and, when I told him that I stood for intersex, replied ‘I’m into sex’. I mean, I’m all for word play, but that was all he had to say. And then another friend chimed in to say that he didn’t get why there needs to be so many labels, that it would be better if people just did what they want without worrying about what to call themselves. Now this is actually something which I thought for a while, and I still don’t think that everyone needs to decide exactly what labels they fit into and rigidly stick to them for their whole life. But when you are ‘normal’ and fit into the majority, it’s easy to glide through life, conversations and relationships without ever examining your own – and therefore others’ – identity. I spent months with something in the background not feeling right, wondering what was wrong with me, why I was different, before I discovered what asexuality actually was. And it was in that moment that I realised how important labels are. They tell you that you’re not alone, you’re not alone. They give meaning to your feelings which didn’t seem to fit in with wider society. They allow you to discuss and describe your feelings, and people who will understand what you’re talking about.

It’s understandable that people are always going to know more about the group that they fit into than others. And it sort of makes sense that once you’ve realised how neglected your own sexuality can be, you might be more sensitive to how you treat other orientations. But something being understandable doesn’t make it acceptable. I know that I am part of the problem, when I hear people saying these things but feel too uncomfortable to point it out to them. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be my job or responsibility as a member of the LGBT+ community to educate people who don’t want to find things out for themselves.

Whatever your orientations, if you have honestly never done any of these things, then that is fantastic and I apologise if this has at times sounded accusing. If you have done or said things like this, that’s fine, I just hope you can recognise why these things contribute to homophobia in society. Try and think next time you’re discussing it with your friends, and try reading, watching videos, or talking to people who have more experience with these issues. And if anyone you know has said these things, feel free to passive-aggressively send them this post. Please let me know in the comments if you have experienced any of these things, or if you completely disagree with what I’m saying.