Why I fell in love with writing letters

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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.

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On still living with Mum and Dad

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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.’

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On being brave and caring less

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Two things universally understood about working in the world of journalism are:

  1. You’ve got to have thick skin.
  2. 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.

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Life advice to my fourteen-year-old self

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  • Stop plucking your eyebrows so much. You need those. Trust me on this one.
  • Speak up in lessons. Be braver! It doesn’t matter if you get the answer wrong.
  • Worry less about what people think of you. Other people’s thoughts aren’t going to stop you from passing your exams, or getting a good job, or doing all the cool things you want to do.
  • That boy who said you need to invest in a pair of hair straighteners because your hair is so frizzy is probably right, but he’s also a fucking idiot.
  • Those girls that, on paper, seem prettier and skinner and smarter than you – you’re just as good as them. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • Keep writing. Write as much as you can, even if you think what you’re writing is shit and doesn’t make any sense. Get your ideas down and work on making them better.
  • Listen to your mother. She’s pretty much always on the money.

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Getting out the house / 100th blog post

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Hip hip hooray, you are currently reading my 100th blog post! Yay!! If you’ve been here since the beginning, well done and thank you for being so loyal and tolerant. If you’ve just joined us – hey there – I’m afraid you have a lot of work to do.

To commemorate this exciting occasion I thought I’d write a little about my weekend, since it was pretty fun and I got out and about quite a bit. My boyfriend Michael foolishly asked me on Saturday morning what I’d like to do that day, and because I’m a cruel and horrible person I suggested we go for a walk in the countryside. My idea of bliss, Michael’s idea of hell – being the indoorsy type he would be much happier curled up in his pyjamas watching a movie or shooting things on a computer. I on the other hand didn’t want a sunny day to go to waste, and given that Reigate Hill was basically right on our doorstep (sort of), I dragged him out of the house kicking and screaming to inhale some fresh air and marvel at the beautiful Surrey countryside.

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