24

24

This week saw the 25th anniversary of my birth and the 1st anniversary of moving to London and starting my dream job. Because I’m super crap and haven’t written in forever, you’re now going to get a summary post of all the things I’ve wanted to write about while being 24 and living in London, but.. well.. haven’t.

24 has been the longest year of my life. Which is entirely a blessing when life since about age 13 has gone distressingly fast. Here’s what happened…

 

I went to Qatar in the Middle East.  I’ve never been anywhere too exciting in my life (aside from a week in New York which was just the best) so venturing to Qatar was super satisfying as one of the most random places on earth I could possible go.  I went to visit my friend Katy who edits an English magazine out there called FACT.  I spent a week just exploring and eating and breathing the super sweet air of this Aladdin country. It was fascinating to see it from Katy’s expat point of view rather than just as a tourist because it made me realise I really could live anywhere and feel comfortable anywhere if I wanted.  Which is a relief for the future!

 

I got back involved with Girlguiding.  From aged 7, I was a Brownie, and then a Young Leader helping at said Brownies unit until I went to uni.  I think after that I was literally brainwashed of the whole thing because it was only around October 2012 amid a desperate search to find something London based to replace the work I was doing with Girls Out Loud, did I see some press coverage of Girlguiding, and have the brainwave of ‘Oh yeah, I used to utterly love doing that?!’ No clue how I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

So now I’m helping at a guide unit (ages 10-13 so more of a challenge then Brownies, but a good challenge), helping now and then at Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Guide & Scout unit, I’m the Marketing & Communications Adviser for London North West County and have been trained as a 4 peer educator (to give sessions on the standard bullying / health etc but also skills like self-confidence, communcation). It feels good to be doing it in London for a while, because I feel closer to where the bigger policies and plans are happening, and that seems a good place to be right now as the organisation is changing a lot and trying to freshen up its image away from all the tradition.  I do miss nature walks though and just generally being able to take the girls outside…

Ooo and also I’m taking my Queen’s Guide Award! I have to complete it before I’m 26 (argh!) but most of it was stuff I was doing already.  It’s the highest award you can get in Guiding and includes things like service to guiding, improving a skill, research into an issue affecting the community, and taking your Guiding holiday license to be able to take the girls on holidays and camps.

 

The job is great.  I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.  I’ve realised that one of the reasons it’s hard for our generation to share stories on the workplace that could mutually help us all, is because we’re so used to sharing online as much as face to face.. and I just can’t publish most of what I would want to say about my work.. not because its bad, but just because it’s sensitive and wouldn’t be appropriate. Which pisses me off. So do ask me about it in person. But I’ve learnt a lot about the media industry, about negotiating or at least being clear about what you want, about work being a two way street where both employer and employee have to give and take, and that you have to be smart and play to your circumstances. Anyone who thinks they will be handed things on a plate once and because they ‘deserve ‘ it, is unfortunately not someone likely to get far, and not someone I would chose to employ anyway. (Generalising, obvs, but it’s an important thing to at least be aware of).

 

Keeping up the singing. I was really lucky to have found a singing teacher in London before I even moved (through people at Preston Opera). We really started having regular lessons in the past few months and focusing on my Grade 8. God I love it.  My teacher has suggested I learn quite a few options for the Grade, and then do a little recital of them all (which naturally terrifies me, but a good challenge!).  I’ve also been involved with an office choir we have at work where we rehearse every Wednesday evening. It’s been a great way to keep singing and we have a really great teacher while the music is a bit more poppy and laid back which is fun. Oh and also I’m going on a music camp at the end of June?! No idea what to expect but apparently we just spend a whole weekend learning a big piece of opera.. why not?!

 

Women of the World Festival.  I went to my first of these festivals just for a day in 2012, but this year I went the whole hog of 3 days and it was just a dream from beginning to end.  I couldn’t have spent a happier weekend.. just learning and having my mind blown by amazing women, and just feeling all this potential in the world.  And I took my live tweeting skills to a whole new level 😉 They videoed a lot more of it this year so you can still see lots even if you weren’t there. A woman at the end of the weekend made a comment like ‘I feel we come to WOW each year, say we’re going to keep it going and change things and then nothing ever happens’.. and I so disagree, because if any of the people in that room leave feeling the way I do, they’re going to spend the next year making changes in their own little patches and collectively things will get better.

 

I graduated from my MA! Crikey this feels ages ago now. But I managed the craziness of doing a masters project for 3 months while working. I was so proud of the final result. My magazine is a work in progress but it is everything I wanted it to be. And however stressful it was for that year, it was very much worth it.. I learnt so much and I know it’s propelled me more in my career.

 

I’m slowly getting back into running.  I still haven’t quite found my rhythm. I desperately want to run lots but can’t quite work out if I prefer it alone or with someone, morning or evening, whether I need extra exercise to compliment it.  But I’m just going to keep trying until something clicks 😉

 

Counting down to London.  I spent a long, long time waiting to get to London. I think I had a 24 month countdown at one point.  To be fair, things got better at home and I forgot about that countdown for a while, but for whatever reason, I have always wanted to be here.  Be it childhood visits, or too many movies, I never wanted to miss out on this cosmopolitan glittery magic.  And it is wonderful .  I’m so lucky to live so central. I cannot believe that now for the rest of my life I will always get to say I lived in Fitzrovia for a year (or more!). I prefer it to Paris, but I think that’s more the luck of a great job and just being more used to a culture I love.  I’m not going to live here forever. Who knows if I will even work here forever. I miss the countryside desperately and all the time, but right now my pulls country / city are still 50/50.  We’ll see. But I know how much I wanted this, and I’m so so grateful I got it.

 

Who knows what 25 will bring. I’m moving in with a boy so that’s a biggie. My career could go anywhere and good God I miss writing. I’m also just desperate to keep learning and discovering. But more generally, I feel like the last few years have been the super hard work, then 24 was the setting up, and now at 25, I’d really like time to just, well ENJOY it all for a bit. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting back and just taking it all in.. but I know how content it makes me, so I’m really going to try :)

‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’

 

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A Day Out In Lancaster

As the gateway to the Lakes, the tiny City of Lancaster has almost too much to cram into a single day out… here are my recommendations for the perfect day there:

 

J Atkinson's & Co Coffee

Start your morning with a J Atkinson’s & Co coffee. They supply most of the independant cafes in the city but you can also get one directly from them, from their shop on China Street or their Music Room cafe.

 

The Assembly Rooms

Next make your way to the wonderfully quirky Assembly Rooms… browse an eclectic range of accessories, clothing and other eccentric wonders from a host of independent retailers.

 

Lancaster Castle

Wander up into the oldest part of Lancaster to see Lancaster Castle. Now a prison, you can still take tours of parts of the castle and enjoy the visitor centre.

 

Explore around the back of the castle to find The Priory church.

 

View over Lancaster from The Priory

Carry on round between The Priory and the castle, to get my favourite view over Lancaster (above).

 

The Merchant's

For lunch try the Merchant’s, just two minutes walk from the castle. Built into old wine cellars, you won’t get a more authentically medieval atmosphere.

 

Yummy Cupcake Company

For pudding, treat yourself to one of the many original cupcakes from the Yummy Cupcake Company, one of the first cupcake companies to be established in Britain before the whole country went mad for them.

 

Williamson Park and the Ashton Memorial

Watching over Lancaster is the grand Ashton Memorial, built in 1909 by Lord Ashton in memory of his late wife, Jessy. Hit this place at sunset (between 3.30 and 4.30 in winter) for extraordinary views across Morecambe Bay. The memorial is hidden in the grounds of Williamson Park, a magical place to explore if you have the time.

 

Lancaster Antiques Centre

5 minutes down the road from Willamson Park is Lancaster Antiques Centre, open 10am to 5pm every day. Part museum, part treasure trove, this warehouse is genious for original Christmas gifts that you would pay a fortune for on eBay (I picked up some very vintage looking Charlie Brown books for my dad).

 

Lancaster Brewery Visitor Centre

Just next to the antiques centre is the new Lancaster Brewery Visitor Centre – a good place to grab an afternoon coffee if you are in need, and also worth a tour of where they brew their famous ales.

 

Sultan's of Lancaster Indian Restaurant

For your evening meal, try Sultan’s of Lancaster – excellent Indian food in the truly magnificent surroundings of a converted church.

 

The Dukes Playhouse

For the perfect evening, finish off at The Dukes Playhouse for one of their many exceptional plays or independent and foreign films.

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Paris revisited.

Paris was almost two and a half years ago. It changed, well, everything. There was no life altering moment, but it opened my eyes. I was forced to sit up and see the world far more clearly than I ever had; the wide world, and my own world. I have always tried to make the most of every second, but that year was a biggie.

This December, for the first time since 2009, I am going back to Paris.

For some reason that has made me write again. I have wanted to write, so much, but the past two years have been something of a throwing everything in the air, seeing where they land, then starting to make sense of it all. It has been exciting, enlightening and empowering and I think (touch every piece of wood in sight, though if fate has other designs so be it) I’m more sure of where I am now.

I guess I’m looking forward to being in Paris as the person I always wanted to be in Paris. This is the girl I’d always dreamed of being. The only unfortunate irony is that I had to spend a year there as a lost and lonely little girl, and to grow because of that, to ever become this person I wanted to be. I accept that it had to be that way, but I am grateful that I have now moved on and finally get to see Paris with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

Only worry is that this time, I might have trouble leaving…!

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Currently Reading: The Brave by Nicholas Evans

 

Why: I’m a little bit in love with Nicholas Evans’ writing.  It started when I was 13 and I found a copy of The Horse Whisperer, Evans’ first and most famous novel, in my Oma’s house just after she had passed away.  I don’t remember being so young when I found it, but I must have been because I remember wanting to read something she had read, to have some connection I guess.

He’s one of the few, and certainly the only modern, authors (aside from J K Rowling who I count as on a completely different level :p) of whom I’ve read all their novels.

It might be the way he captures human emotions in such a subtle and honest but forgiving way (through which he has taught me an awful lot).  His politics probably help too.  But mostly it’s the way he, for a few hours a day, makes you move to the seemingly most incredible place in the world, Montana.  I’ve not yet properly found out why an Englishman has such an obsession with this northern state of the US, but if it is anything like he describes, I can probably guess.

The Brave is his fifth novel.  I was on it the second it came out in paperback…

What I think: The Brave is possibly my favourite of his novels.  It didn’t have the same level of ‘I’m in the middle of all this incredible imposing nature’ as his first three novels, which I missed a little, but the plot was impeccable.  Told as a mashup of two stories centred on the same boy / man, one set in 1959 and one set in 2007, you could never tire of one storyline because the book would keep switching to the other.  The horrors of stuffy English boarding schools, family secrets, hollywood starlets, cowboys and Indians, the Iraq war, courtroom drama, death row,  Montana skylines (see it was still in there), and the most heart-wrenching bond between a mother and her son… I still can’t quite believe how much he managed to fit into this book without once (okay, maybe once) slipping into melodrama.

I got nervous with his last book, The Divide, because it felt like he was trying to tackle deeper emotions but ended up doing so at the expense of the twisting plots and heart stopping description that he writes so well.  I didn’t want that to be a slippery slope.  But now in The Brave, he seems to have nailed the balance of all he is great at.  I’ve never re-read any of his novels but I’m almost certain I will re-read this one.  I also think, despite the infuriating mess (just saying!) that Robert Redford made of The Horse Whisperer, that The Brave would make an exceptional film if, as always, it was done right.  I’ve also just realised (and now really hope is true) that Nicholas Evans may echo my sentiments towards Mr Redford and that a certain character in this new book may be based on that very same ‘hollywood cowboy’.

Worth reading: If the lives and rights of soldiers in the middle east interest you, if you’re fascinated by the ‘glamour’ of old hollywood, if you’ve always been a boy man obsessed with cowboys and Indians, if you have ever wondered how far you would go for someone you love, and as always if you love the mountains :)

Disclaimer: These are my opinions.  This is not a review. I’ve always felt uncomfortable about reviews in general and will probably discuss that here sometime soon and hopefully get people’s opinions too.

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London Adventure Part 1!

On May 28th I took my lovely little car allll the way down to Surrey, to start an internship in London the next day. I was staying with my aunty in Surrey and would be commuting into London every morning. It was lovely to see my aunt, since she and her 2 children and 4 grandchildren had all moved down there from the North!
The internship was for a month, at a social media marketing agency. The marketing didn’t interest me so much as the way social media is starting to be used in businesses. And I think I managed to learn a lot in that respect! It was also great just to experience working in an office for the first time properly ever, and to work in the centre of London.
London is magical, it really is, I think I was able to appreciate it far more than Paris since it was my country; I belonged to all its cultural quirks and its politics and it’s people. It had all the buzz of a city but all the Englishness that I crave too.
It was so fab being at my aunt’s, and living out in the countryside in Surrey. I’d learnt from Paris that I’m just not good in cities for long periods of time. I LOVE them I really do, but getting out into the freedom of the country every evening was heaven. I have 4 little (what would you call them?) cousins once removed (my cousins’ babies), between 18 months and 6 who have been so much fun to spend time with!
I managed spending some days at the weekend exploring Surrey, though bizarrely I never even had time to explore London much. That was one of the biggest shocks; that working 9.30 til 6 with an hour commute each way left me exhausted every evening with about an hour’s free time before bed! Which is either an argument for making sure you do a job you love, as it will take over your life, or for working from home, or for something like that, I don’t know!
I DID get to go and see WICKED! At the Apollo Theatre which was beyond incredible. On the one hand I just missed musicals beyond belief, on the other, it was for certain one of the best musicals I’ve heard or seen. Totally old school, and really written for an orchestra. The West End is definitely the top reason I’d want to live in London :p
On the final Wednesday I got a call from a publishing house I had applied to for work experience with offering me two weeks! So that weekend I had to go home and finish up and essay for uni and then came BACK to London for another two weeks!