Back in January, my Mum’s cousin and her family asked me if I would be up for joining them on a holiday to Florida in August, and naturally I said ‘yes please!’
My Mum’s side of the family and I are very similar and we’ve always got on really well, so I knew instantly that we’d have a blast. Unlike them I’d never been to America before (nor outside of Europe) so while I was excited, I was also a little bit apprehensive about travelling somewhere so far away and new. Recent news stories about Orlando hadn’t exactly filled me with confidence and frequent reminders to ‘stay away from alligators’ became almost enough convince me that I’d most certainly be eaten by one for breakfast.
But of course we had a fantastic couple of weeks and made so many amazing memories – here’s just a few highlights from our stateside trip. :)
Spoiler: food plays a big part in this blog post.
1. The villa
We stayed in a gorgeous six-bedroom villa Kissimmee, a city in central Florida and just south of Orlando, and our resort looked like a genuine housing estate with hundreds of almost-identical villas all lined up, row after row. We had a gorgeously warm pool and hot tub – one idyllic evening was spent outside in our swimming cozzies, drinking gin and sharing our funniest and most embarrassing stories. My second-cousin (Vicki) and I shared a princess room, which was really cosy and undoubtedly perfect for any girl that’s spent their childhood worshipping Disney heroines.
2. CiCi’s Pizza
CiCi’s was one of our first ports of call after a long and exhausting flight, and the food was absolutely gorgeous (but very filling). The place served up an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet and appeared to churn out more food than the whole of Italy in one night. CiCi’s Pizza also had us questioning just how much grub we could shovel into our mouths before feeling as though we needed to be rolled out of the building. I didn’t get any photos unfortunately as I was too busy stuffing my face.
This week is #BodyHonestly Week at The Pool, and over the past few days female writers have been discussing the topic of body confidence and the idea that being thin means we’ll be happy. Much like the ethic of Dove’s ‘Love The Skin You’re In’ and Boots’ ‘Let’s Feel Good’, #BodyHonestly is all about us learning to love and accept our flaws – from those weird freckles and moles on our skin, to the rolls of fat on our tummies.
What I’ve loved about #BodyHonestly is that it makes point of the fact that it’s actually quite hard to suddenly start loving your imperfections, after years of staring at them in your reflection and wishing they didn’t exist. Daisy Buchanan’s ‘I don’t love my body everyday’ piece tells us that even when we try, on our bad days achieving this can seem practically impossible.
I’m not really sure of when it started, or how old I was – my guess is that it’s been about 18 years that my Uncle George and I have been regularly sending letters to each other by post. I know the details of his home address as well as my own, having written it line-by-line on the front of envelopes for as long as I can remember. Letters and postcards of all shapes and sizes – some of mine less exciting, but George’s always packed with fascinating stories and funny quips that would make me smile and picture him chuckling as if he were speaking to me face-to-face.
George is my Grandma’s uncle – he’s 93, he lives in East London, and he’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known. He’s sharp, witty, and charismatic, with a large circle of friends and family members that cherish both his kindness and generosity. In fact, the vast turn-out at his 90th birthday a few years ago was enough to tell anyone that George is a man who is greatly loved by so many.
I doubt I’d ever write letters if it weren’t for George, but it’s for him that I love writing. Even when I feel like I don’t have much to say and whatever I’ve chosen to babble about is a bit boring, he’s always been on the other end, his eyes on my words, reading intently.
I love my parents, but I won’t deny that living under their roof can be a challenge. Even as I type this, I can barely think straight because my Dad has been banging and crashing around with the hoover outside my bedroom door for the past fifteen minutes. A regularity in most households – you might argue – but I still contend that no human other than my Dad is capable of making this much racket. With or without a hoover.
I moved back to my childhood home almost two and a half years ago after graduating from University, and I was happy to come back to my family, my school friends and my own cosy bed – I’d missed them. I’d consider myself quite lucky that I get on with my parents and my brothers as well as I do, so I wasn’t especially anxious or sad about living with them again – in fact I was quite looking forward to it.
But like many young adults who had, for three years, cherished the independence and freedom of student life, coming home to be told that eating breakfast cereal at 3 o’clock in the afternoon is not acceptable was, to put it lightly, a bit of a shock to the system. A standard post-night-out hangover once treated with the remedy of a pyjama day, Disney movies, and pizza, was now being supplemented with pre-9am why-aren’t-you-out-of-bed-yet wake-up calls, household chores, and tutting. Not to mention the classic, ‘It was you that got yourself into that state, so you can expect no sympathy from me.’
Two things universally understood about working in the world of journalism are:
- You’ve got to have thick skin.
- You shouldn’t worry about what other people think of you.
I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was nine years old – when a friend of my Dad’s arranged for me to attend the premiere of Disney’s Lilo and Stitch in Leicester Square on behalf of Blue Peter Magazine. Afterwards I was asked to write a small feature on it, and to this day it’s still my favourite anecdote to tell people when they ask why I’ve chosen the career path that I’m on. Before then I’d always wanted to be an author of fiction, but writing my first magazine piece felt unique and exciting, and I just knew that this was to be my new vocation.
My writing sat on the back-burner for quite some time after that, but I still submitted online pieces here and there for websites that would take them (all for free, of course). When I reached sixth form, our Head of Year decided to launch a student magazine with some of the pupils – I was too nervous to go to the first meeting, but a week later I managed to pull myself together and join their writing team. We produced one or two editions before leaving school for University – where I somehow mustered the courage to start writing for the Student Union’s newspaper. By year three, I had taken on the scary role of Co-Editor in Chief.