21: My Year in Review

I started writing a post called ’22 Things I’ve Learned in 22 Years’ to publish in time for my birthday next Monday (the 30th May, send me all ur presents, etc.) but even I was getting bored of it before I got to 22. I made it to my 18th point before I deleted it all, because seriously? Who is going to be reading 22 of my rambles? They weren’t even *that* insightful. So I’ve got a better post for you. 10 Cool Things I Did When I Was 21 – my year in review, if you like.

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1. My Job with Totepool
Okay, funny place to start but I’m trying to be chronological here. I worked Royal Ascot mid-June and then Glorious Goodwood in July. It was a stressful job, sure, and you’d always finish a festival not quite sure your toes were still attached to your feet, but it was really fun and I’ve got some pretty cool stories from working there. Talking to the entertainment editor of the Telegraph in the 100-acre garden of the CEO of Ascot Racecourse’s lodge at his pre-races lunch? Being tipped £60 by a Swedish prince, and another £20 from an American businessman after choosing him the winning horse in a 28-horse race? Being six feet away from the Queen’s carraige and receiving a royal wave in my first day on the job? It was, all in all, a really cool experience.

2. Finishing my degree
With a 2:1 no less! I was so, so pleased. All the boozing and celebrating is a bit of a blur now but it was so much fun. Highlights include a roadtrip to Henley blasting The Weeknd, having a wine mom night with cheese, crackers and pizza and a house party full of party people, a huge sound system and other disco treats.

3. Graduating
My graduation was a great day. It was the perfect end to my uni experience – the last event my family attended as a 4-piece, the sun was shining, I wasn’t bloated so felt fab in my dress and I got to spend the day with my Philosophy department, who really made uni what it was for me.

4. Got a new job!
Not the graduate job I was expecting to walk into straight out of uni, but after two months of unemployment at home I decided to just cut my losses and take what I could find. On September 7th I began working as a barista in my local coffee shop that ISN’T a Costa or a Starbucks (hint, hint). It was p daunting after being a checkout girl for 4 years, but I’ve met some great people through work and it’s been quite rewarding getting stuck into something a bit different.

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5. Went to New York
Yes, my 21st birthday present! Anna and I went to the Big Apple for 5 days, from the 17th-22nd September 2015. It was the best trip I’ve EVER been on and we did so many unforgettable things. We stayed on Times Square and it really is like being on another planet. It’s my favourite city in the world.

6. Attended Hachette’s ‘Insight Into Publishing’ Day
On the 4th November, 2015 I was invited to spend the day at Hachette’s publishing house on the Embankment in London, where I found out about every aspect of the publishing industry, received a lovely tote bag full of books and info and attended a wine reception on their rooftop bar (I KNOW, how swish). From the 6am train I had to catch this end to the meal deal I ate on my connection home from Birmingham, it was a real adventure and I’m still honoured to have been given the opportunity.

7. Planned my Dad’s funeral
Glossing over the horrible time of it we had in his final 6 months, the 5th January 2016 – Dad’s cremation, thanksgiving of life service and wake – was actually a really lovely day for me. We packed out the church my Mum and Dad got married in with friends, family and colleagues, all together to celebrate the life of the best man ever. We listened to his favourite music and shared all our memories of him and it was a day full of love and support. (Plus, heading out to his old watering hole and getting smashed as a family afterwards was a nice way to end proceedings!)

8. Travelled to Berlin
I visited my oldest friend Victoria in January who is teaching in Berlin for her year abroad with uni. Such a spontaneous little visit but I had the best time and absolutely wish I’d gone over sooner! Berlin is such a great place. I fell in love with its character.

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9. Saw The Book Of Mormon in the West End
The Book of Mormon is a musical I’d been desperate to attend since its release, but always kind of wrote off because getting a seat in one of the shows requires selling your firstborn child and not eating for a month. Seriously, we met a bloke in New York in the queue for our Broadway tickets who told us he’d snagged two tickets for the Broadway production for $500. There’s nothing bargainous about that! So I was over the moon when my Mum decided to treat me and her to a day out in London and she agreed to see the musical with me after we found some cheap-ish seats (if you can call £78 each cheap-ish). It’s HILARIOUS and definitely the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Go if you can!

10. To Tenerife!
A spontaneous holiday abroad, you say? Booked 5 days before you leave? Such a fab decision. We were only there for a few days and had a super relaxed, topping-up-the-tans-and-burns getaway – as well as visiting the world-famous waterpark Siam Park.

So, even though I’d chalk this year up as being the lowest of the lows in terms of my mental health and overall wellbeing, I can’t deny that I’ve done some really brilliant things and had a lot of great opportunities. It’s been a year of growing up, entering the ‘real world’ (so to speak) and just generally coping, which I’m proud of myself for doing and continuing to do.

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Until next time,

Emma x

My Day, in Encounters

I.

Today, I served a man who had left his own shop unattended to nip over to us and pick up his daily take-away coffee. As I busied myself making his drink as efficiently as possible, I noticed he kept turning to look out the window at his shop. He frustratedly told me to ‘hurry up, hurry up, there are customers in my shop!’. He told me this a couple of times, raising his voice as he went on, and eventually threw his money across the bar *at* me barely sticking around for me to grab him his change. Essentially, I got a telling off from a customer because he left his own shop unattended.

II.

Later on in my shift, I was the only person working the bar and had a reasonably-sized queue of about 3 customers. A few minutes beforehand I’d popped a customer’s panini on the grill to toast and set a timer. When the timer eventually went off, I was midway through steaming the milk for another customer’s cappuccino, but I stopped what I was doing to quickly plate up the sandwich to stop it from burning. (I was going to take it out to the customer who’d ordered it as soon as I’d taken for the cappuccino I was making). However, about 30 seconds later, in front of this queue of people, the owner of the panini walks up AND ONTO the bar, taking her panini and saying ‘I suppose I’ll come and get this, shall I?’ while looking me right in the eye. I was the only person on the bar and my hands were full. Apparently my bar is a free-for-all for customers to come and go as they please.

III.

At about 3.30pm today, I was walking to the post office to send off a parcel for my brother. On my way home I walked past my old secondary school, more specifically past a group of six kids who I’d say were about 13 or 14 years old. I was sending a Facebook message as I walked. As they approached, one of the lads kept saying ‘hello!’ ‘helllooo’ ‘OI’ at me, amd he waved his hands about three inches away from my face as we passed each other. I just looked at him questioningly.  As soon as he was behind me, he called ‘no need to be so fucking rude! Rude. Ruuuude.’ His friends then shouted, ‘sorry about him!’ and they all laughed in the way bratty teenagers do to be somehow more annoying than they already are.

Presented without context. How was your Monday?

Until next time,

Emma x

Let’s Catch Up: Tenerife

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So yeah, *that* happened! My friend Abbie and I booked a holiday to Tenerife 5 days before we went. I’ve never done anything so spontaneous – and I’m so glad we did!

We arrived in Tenerife on a Monday night (after a cheeky bit of prosecco on the plane) and left Friday afternoon in the last week of April. So three whole days. On the Wednesday we went to Siam Park, allegedly the world’s number 1 waterpark (according to TripAdvisor), but the Tuesday and Thursday were spent topping up tans/burns and drinking Tequila Sunrises by the pool.

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The lady next to me on the flight out had the *cutest* baby in the world who didn’t cry for the whole flight. She also insisted we have this photo taken. When drinking at 34,000ft…

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This is the resort we stayed in. It’s the Santa Barbara Golf & Ocean Club, in San Miguel. The lobby was a bit like a palace with a big, sweeping staircase and chandeliers, and our room was like a proper apartment – it had a hallway! For a last minute deal working out at £40 each for the studio, we were seriously impressed. Plus the TV picked up BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, which meant we could be proper #BritsAbroad for the week. The resort itself is a bit remote, and getting to the Americas would’ve taken us a lengthy taxi ride which is something we didn’t really factor into our budgeting. We didn’t get to do much exploring of Tenerife because of that, which is a bit of a shame, but we were only after a bit of a breather away somewhere hot anyway so it suited us fine.

Siam Park was such a fun day out. I can see why it’s been ranked #1 in the world on TripAdvisor. Walking up to the top of each ride we were treated to beautiful views of Tenerife, as well as walking amongst so many pretty flowers and plants to get there. The rides themselves were great too. My favourite was called the Vulcano – a ride with a huge drop into a dark, inclosed ‘toilet’ (you know the types of water ride I mean when I say that?) fitted with blue and white LED lights. So cool!

(As well as the rides, we spent ages in the mahoosive wave machine doing handstands and riding the waves because we’re children.)

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About two hours into our first day I became the sunburn queen. This was a tiny part of the damage post-Siam Park. It hurt a loooot more than I’m letting on. Aftersun everywha.

I’m gonna pitch you a scenario now. You’ve just spent the whole day having loads of fun at this crazy waterpark. What do you do with your evening? A few glasses of wine over dinner and a walk along the beach? Venture into the Americas and dance the night away?

…do any of your scenarios end with an MJ tribute act, three big glasses of Sangria and a bit of a secret sick at 3am? No?

…mine neither…ha ha ha…

To round off the lovely holiday we did the typical ‘white girl on Instagram’ thing of taking incredibly candid, impromptu photos that we definitely didn’t spend all week arranging in our heads. Where did you get THAT idea from?

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Until next time,

Emma x

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell Review

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What is it? The answer to every fanfic-writing, slash-shipping Tumblr user’s desires, that’s what this is. ‘Fangirl’ is a coming-of-age novel following twins Cath and Wren as they move away to college. Wren is keen to throw herself into university life – parties, boys, drinking, the lot – while Cath would rather stay in her room updating her renowned fanfiction Carry On, Simon, thank you very much. It’s a story about love: the love between siblings; first gooey, mushy love; but overall, a love of fanfiction.

Why did I pick it up? Throughout my whole teenage life, I was Cath. (I read my first fanfiction at the tender age of 14 in which I had to literally take breaks to giggle because it was so smutty). Not only that, I was feeling a little bit low on Monday afternoon and fancied treating myself to something fun and easy-going to read – next thing I know I’m walking out of WH Smith’s £7.99 lighter with this in my hands.

What was good about it? I got out of Fangirl exactly what I expected. It was such an easy, fun read that I finished it in two days (bit of a rarity for me – I’m such a slow reader!). The lineup of characters are endearing and believable – I saw bits of myself in both Cath and Wren when I look back at my own university experience, and I totally fell for Levi’s charm.

I can’t praise Rainbow Rowell enough for capturing and documenting the quite unique lifestyle of a millenial in the ‘Tumblr generation’ – as far as I’m aware there’s no YA novel out currently that confronts the fanfiction phenomena so directly and turns all the negative stigma surrounding an adolescence on the Internet on its head. Cath isn’t embarrassed or ashamed of her passions, which was a breath of fresh air – all my teenage experience of fandom was kept under wraps to 99% of the outside world for fear of being ridiculed.

What wasn’t so good about it? The lengthy excerpts of Cath’s fanfic Carry On, Simon. I get that they were essential in moving Cath’s character development forward, but personally I’ve never been able to read fanfiction of a pairing that I’m not already invested in, so to have snippets of Simon and Baz’s story featured so heavily in Fangirl turned into a bit of a chore for me to get through. I even found myself skipping through some of the longer parts. I was much more focused on Cath’s journey than her fictional characters’, as she was the protagonist we were getting to know!

(Plus, reading your fanfic to a potential boyfriend? Cringe. Cringe cringe cringe. I imagined myself doing the same and the secondhand embarrassment was off the charts.)

Overall Rating: 4/5. A lighthearted, easygoing, relatable must-read if you’ve ever so much as dabbled in fandom.

Until next time,

Emma x

Let’s Catch Up: Dorset

Seeing as I’ve been terrible at filling you in on the adventures I’ve been going on (and giving as excuses for my lack of online presence), I’m beginning a new mini-series called Let’s Catch Up. Any post you see with ‘Let’s Catch Up’ in the title – well, from now on assume that any ‘Let’s Catch Up’ post will be about something I did weeks beforehand.

I’m shit, I know. But anyway, I digress.

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Following the passing of my lovely Dad at the end of last year, my Mum decided it would be a nice idea to go on a family holiday to ‘get away’ from the confines of our house and hometown. It made sense – Dad is everywhere in the furniture and his belongings, and we’re surrounded by supportive friends and family who are always happy to help. It’s lovely, but I wouldn’t say the idea of a holiday wasn’t a good one.

So. Now we could travel – Eurostar? Ferry? A plane? For the first time (in my lifetime, at least) we could enjoy a family holiday somewhere hot, if we wanted to. The world was our oyster.

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…we ended up in Dorset, specifically in pursuit of the famous monkey sanctuary Monkey World. Mum and Dad had spent a lot of nights on the sofa watching telly together in his last few years, as it’s something they could enjoy together, and Monkey Life (a docu-series following the lives of the apes and their carers at Monkey World) was one of their favourites.

A lovely sentiment, actually. We had a really nice relaxing weekend.

First things first, our accomodation for the weekend. We stayed in a great B&B called Fingle Bridge, in the village of Wool – its owners Liz and Colin were so thoughtful and chatty, cooked an amazing Full English every morning and their house is beautiful! Our room was stocked with everything we could’ve possibly needed and the beds were so comfy. So that was nice.

After a hectic drive down on Friday night – my personal highlight of which include the sat nav taking us through the stupidly windy streets in the centre of Bath, which we later discovered were completely unnecessary as we came home via the motorway – we decided to visit Monkey World on the Saturday, and venture into Lulworth on the Sunday before driving home.

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This cheeky chimp is Rodders – the star of the show! He loved showing us his blanket and red bucket.

So, Saturday. Monkey World is such a delight. There are so many different species of ape – most of which I had never heard of before – all with their own unique names and personalities. We only attended the Chimpanzee talk of all the talks on, but you could tell that the staff really do love their jobs and care about the monkeys. There’s also a lemur enclosure on sight which pleased me GREATLY (love a lemur, I do) and we got to hear them laughing at each other! They laughed. Every time I mimic this laugh to my Mum she cracks up.

I learned a lot too. Did you know the ape most likely to rule the world is the Orangutan, according to a keeper we got chatting to, because they’ve got Sherlock-like observation skills? One managed to pick a lock with a piece of metal which he kept hidden in his cheek away from his keepers! Houdini, move over.*

Saturday night was a bog standard affair of eating Indian takeaway and watching Britain’s Got Talent in the B&B. Standard, really.

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The castle was full of memorabilia, despite having been engulfed in a fire early last century. This was the servent’s kitchen, down in the basement – I love noseying around this sort of thing.

On Sunday morning we headed first to Lulworth Castle, where we explored the grounds and got up to the roof to see the beautiful Dorset countryside. So many rolling fields and blue skies for miles! A short walk from the castle we found a church in which we lit a candle for Dad, which was nice too.

Just before leaving Dorset we managed to squeeze in lunch and a wander round Lulworth Cove, where we walked up the cliffs and could see the island of Portland from the top. My enthusiastic ‘like Portland Bill!’s were not met with nearly enough excitement. We bought some clotted cream fudge and salted caramel, as is customary from any British seaside holiday, and were on our way.

All in all, a ‘first’ ticked off our list that wasn’t so traumatic. I’ve got more little trips and events to update you on – I’ve been a bit of a busy bee – so I hope you’ve enjoyed the first of many!

Until next time,

Emma x

For Dad, on his birthday

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Today, the 9th May 2016, marks 53 years since my dad Mark was born in Manchester. Sadly, he’s not here to celebrate. He passed away on the 11th of December last year – 6 months to the day after being diagnosed with oral cancer (of the tongue, tonsils, pallet and throat) and given 6 months to live. He was always a perfectionist and I’m sure he’d have loved to know he got his prognosis spot on.

Dad was a very unique kind of guy. He had an incredibly eclectic music taste – he’s left behind a hefty collection of vinyl and CDs of artists I’ve never heard of. He was also into Formula 1, American sports, Stock Car racing and Doctor Who (he was briefly into Japanese and Korean horror films too but we’ll just call that a phase).

He was also very humble in his achievements and in general – he was never one to draw attention to himself or cry about his own illness (all 19 years of it) and would always lend an ear or a hand to whoever needed it, for however long. I probably wouldn’t have Maths and Science GCSEs today had it not been for years of his patience as we ploughed through my homework! He would also accept and embrace any new challenges, whether that be in redundancy, family related or his own health. I’m a very optimistic person and I’d like to think I learned that from him.

I miss him every day. On Wednesday it’ll have been five months since he died and while it’s getting easier to deal with as time goes on it’s never going to stop hurting. I miss our secret handshake and I miss him calling me ‘little Ems’. I miss his quirky Facebook statuses and his reassuring texts of good luck whenever I’m trying something new. I miss the way he used to torment the cat – she’s softened in old age and that’s not how things were supposed to go.

There’s even a cancer-shaped emptiness at home that I’d become so used that I shouldn’t miss, but they became Dad so I do. I miss the whirr of his feeding tube that pumped calories into his stomach (he sometimes syringed cups of tea down there too because he missed it so much, which I still think is genius). I miss the copious boxes and tubs of drugs that covered every surface in our house – I wish I was joking about that, but they were literally everywhere. I miss him always being around the house, whether that be watching The Big Bang Theory on the settee or hunched over his PC scouring eBay for records.

He’s at peace now, exactly where he wanted to be – he told us so enough times – but I just miss him. I miss him being here.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I’m thinking of you always.

Ems x

 

Room by Emma Donoghue | Review

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What is it? The blurb on this book is simple and intriguing. It reads, ‘Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.’, and to keep things spoiler free (trust me, you’ll love this read a hell of a lot more if you go into it spoiler free) I’ll leave it at that. It’s a bestselling novel with a fascinating premise.

Why did I pick it up? Okay, everyone’s talking about Room at the moment, which may have something to do with the fact it’s been recently made into a film starring the wonderful Brie Larson. It was also recommended to me by my friend Vicky, who I generally trust with book recommendations (alongside everything else!) For both of these reasons, when I saw this copy reduced to £3 in The Works I picked it up straight away.

What was good about it? So many things. I absolutely loved this book for its creepiness, quirkiness and how compelling it was. I took it to Tenerife – what a nice, lighthearted holiday read, right? – and was totally engrossed right up until I finished it on the plane home. The standout feature of this novel, which I think Donoghue has captured and portrayed perfectly, is Jack’s use of language and the way in which the cogs in his brain turn as he learns. He’s an intelligent, questioning, logical five year old, and following him as he finds his grasp on figurative speech is fascinating. Really. Those of you who’ve read Room will know exactly what I mean.

What wasn’t so good about it? I can’t really fault Room. Jack and Ma are endearing as leads, the story is edge-of-your-seat stuff, I even felt myself getting attached to the supporting characters (Steppa in particular. Loved him.) The one thing that did take me a little by surprise was the focus on breastfeeding, but that’s because squeamish is my middle name. It’s a great plot device in driving home the dire, awful nature of Jack and Ma’s living conditions.

But still. Ick.

Overall Rating: 5/5. Go read this book. Move it to the top of your ‘to read’ pile (don’t tell me you don’t have one.)

Until next time,

Emma x