Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2 

A Preface:

Unfortunately, I’m out with a friend today, and because I had to travel back to Wales yesterday, I didn’t have time to write anything shiny and new. However, I’ve been meaning to post this little article here for a while now.

The following short piece was the first thing that I have ever had published (bar an interview about being emo that I did for Sugar magazine…yup). The article was published in 2015 in Oh Comely magazine, Issue no.24, p.119. The original title was ‘lost: pint-sized indiana jones’. Those of you who have been following this blog for a long time may remember my excitementOh Comely is a great independent magazine, full of thoughtful articles and beautiful images. You can find out more about it here. They stock Oh Comely in W.H. Smith and Waitrose in the UK, or you can by copies from their website. I highly recommend it if you fancy something that goes beyond celeb gossip and TV news.

The Story:

When I was five, I got lost in the wood. It was at a holiday camp; my mother was helping with crafts, my brother was playing football. I was bored, and the thick line of trees that edged the campsite called to me. As an excellent smooth talker, I made short work of convincing two others to join my expedition team.

“We’ll stick to the path,” I told them, “It won’t take long.”

The path was a dirt trail, sign-posted with a series of animal pictures. Eventually, the track disappeared, and we had to rely on the pictures to navigate. That’s when it happened. We couldn’t find the purple octopus and so were lost for good.

My team began to sob, but I was ecstatic. This was exactly what I had hoped for. In my head I was Indiana Jones, trekking through the undergrowth, holding back vines (stinging nettles) for a couple of second-rate explorers who couldn’t find the back of their own hand if it slapped them in the face. I remember the valley of brambles we passed through, the river we hopped across. I feel the surge of triumph that swelled in my chest as we emerged from the bushes unscathed.

The truth, my mum tells me, is that my expedition group was lost for twenty minutes in a patch of fenced woodland less that half a mile square. Still, when I’m nervous, I summon that memory and use it to find my sense of adventure once more.

An Epilogue:

So recently I’ve been thinking about this story again, and I’d like to make a couple of points.

Firstly, the “two others” who were with me were both older than me by a couple of years, yet somehow I not only convinced them to come with me, but got them lost, and then un-lost in the space of twenty minutes. Me, the five-year-old.

Secondly, the purple octopus part of this story is a very distinct memory. However, it makes no sense. The previous day we had, as a group, followed this trail of images and they were all woodland related animals. This means that either I hallucinated the purple octopus when we did our first walk, or I deliberately made it up because I was bored and wanted to get us lost so I could adventure.

I mean, basically, this could be a story about me lying to make myself look like a hero. Which makes me Gilderoy Lockhart.

I mean, to be honest, I’m fine with that. Dude’s fabulous.

 

gilderoy lockhart cosplay

Age 19: Cosplaying school age Gilderoy Lockhart outside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (now known as Principality Stadium).

 

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

A quick preface:

Over the past week I’ve been jotting down blog ideas in a SNote on my phone. And uh, when I was flicking through them this morning I realised that 1) there are a lot of stories from my childhood…where I am idiot (kid+idiot=kidiot) and 2) many of these involve bushes, or hedgerows, which I’d like to say is a result of me growing up in Wales, but not all of them take place at home.

Oh, also, there is some mild injury related grossness in this one, so you have been warned.

Anyway:

I thought I would start with a tale from the summer of 2004. I was 11, set to start secondary school in September. But the summer had just begun, and I was excited to get out and play with friends.

Now, to set the scene a little bit, my parents house in Wales is part of a relatively modern housing estate built on a hill. It’s not a ridiculously big hill, but it is steep. Yet for some reason, my friends and I decided it was great fun to ride up, down and all around it on bikes and scooters. I was a particular fan of riding from the very top of the hill on my bike. I’d even give myself a run up before throwing myself down it. Momentum is a wonderful thing.

8e038377e3e03cfa2515b75efd20c0daHowever, on this particular day in 2004, I was on my micro-scooter (#90sKid). It was a tiny silver thing with blue wheels, an adjustable handle bar and a little metal thing on the back wheel that functioned as a break. My friends suggested we play “bike-scooter-tag” i.e. chase each other around trying to smack each other on small vehicles. Unfortunately, I was the only one on a scooter. I may as well have just thrown it to one side and run. But that wasn’t the game here.

I was “it” within minutes and remained “it” until one of the lads took pity on me and let me get him. At that point, I decided on a new plan. I would hide. And this is where things start to go horribly wrong.

There were parts of the estate I didn’t go very often, but just a few weeks earlier, someone – I think the parent of a friend in a different housing estate – had walked me home up a very narrow, sloped path tucked down the side of some houses. There was a nice tall fence on one side, and a thick hedge on the other.

A brilliant place to hide! I thought. They’ll never think to look there!

After a few minutes, I located the entrance, and started to scoot down the path. I knew that there were steps at the bottom, followed by a metal barrier, and fairly busy road, so I readied my foot to brake.

I grew a little concerned when I started to go faster. The path was steeper than I remembered, but I wasn’t too worried. I still had a way to go. Then the steps came into view, and I pressed down on my brake.

I slowed for a second, but the scooter didn’t stop. And then it started getting faster again. Too fast.

So there I was, with two options:

  1. Keep going, fly off the steps at the bottom, crash into the barrier and potentially flip and end up in the road.
  2. Throw myself off the scooter…and into the hedge.

I, of course, threw myself into the hedge.

My head ploughed into the foliage, my scooter fell to the floor and slid away. I took a couple of deep breaths, spat a few bits of tree out of my mouth and did an internal assessment of the damage.

I felt alright. I was a bit sore, but there was no real pain…except for my left leg. That kind of hurt.

When I opened my eyes, I discovered that it wasn’t just a hedge I was in. My lower body, had smacked into a chain link fence. There was no blood that I could see and I didn’t appear to be caught on anything, so I slowly pulled myself out and stepped away.

With great difficulty, I rolled up my trouser leg up (I have always been a fan of the skinnier jean), and I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit alarmed to find what looked like a second knee on my leg. Midway down my shin was a large round swelling, with a tiny scratch at its centre. I immediately assumed that I’d broken my leg, but was confused by the fact it could bear weight.

Fortunately, I had a mobile phone. It was a Sony, pre-Ericsson buy out and even pre-sony-cmd-j6-3SonyEricsson. It had a stubby little aerial and a black and white display, like a calculator. It also had a game on it where monkeys threw bananas at each other. Mum had convinced me it was better than a Gameboy, and right there and then, I was inclined to agree.

I phoned her, and explained what had happened. The rescue party (my mum and Alun) arrived quickly. They balanced me on the scooter and wheeled me to the car, then drove to the hospital.

After many hours, the swelling went down and the A and E doctor informed us that my leg wasn’t actually broken. We were all very confused about this…and I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t get to have a cast. But I could enjoy my summer, that was the important thing.

Cut to a couple of weeks later:

I was on holiday at a camp in Yorkshire. I woke up in the middle of the night because my leg was hot, really hot. I grabbed my torch from under my pillow, unzipped the sleeping bag a little, and dug myself in a bit. I didn’t want to wake anyone up, so wanted to block as much light as possible with my bedding.

I turned the light on and blinked. A lot. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. When they did, however, I discovered that my leg was VERY red and hot to touch. I sat there, having a prodding it for a bit. Then, as 11-year-olds do, I shrugged, turned off the light and thought, Eh, I’ll tell Mum in the morning.

The next morning, I walked over to Mum’s tent across the field. Not long after I found myself in Doncaster hospital where I was told the tiny scratch on my leg, that had been overlooked by the previous doctors, had resulted in an infection. It was simple enough to resolve (you know, if you overlook the fact I’m allergic to penicillin) and cleared up fairly quickly.

But, Emma, why are you telling us this? What’s the moral of this story?

~Thinks~

Oh, oh! The moral of this story is that sometimes, when you almost kill yourself by mistake, but instead throw yourself in a hedgerow, it means you don’t have to do the cross country run (to sort you into groups for PE) when you start secondary school, because your leg still hurts from the infection. That’s the moral. Yup.

Stay safe kidiots.

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The field school made everyone run round…while I watched 😉

 

 

Growing up Starbucks

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Growing up Starbucks

Over the years, my obsession with Starbucks has been met with raised eyebrows, scoffs and looks of disgust. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been berated for not supporting “local” business (including the 50 store strong chain, Coffee #1), despite the fact that Starbucks is a franchise, and therefore the stores you see are usually owned and run by local people who pay a sum to use the Starbucks branding.Photo-0466

However, the fact is my love of Starbucks has never been political.

As a child, I never really went in coffee shops. My mother can’t stand the smell of coffee, so she avoided them like the plague. So, my relationship with Starbucks – and journey through caffeine addiction – didn’t start until I was 13/14.

My best friend at the time was a sarcastic boy with Tony and Guy hair, limited addition converse and a penchant for caramel macchiatos. He would drag me into the dark gloom of a Starbucks, and I would drag him swiftly out again, intimidated by the noise, smell and complicated menu. I still remember the first time he gave me a sip from his mermaid embossed cup; we were standing in the Virgin Megastore in Cardiff (RIP), and I had to struggle not to spit the sickly sweet coffee all over the CD’s.

It was, by no means, love at first sight. I really didn’t get the appeal, but on one occasion I succumbed to peer pressure. I was desperate for a drink, so asked my friend what he would a_cup_of_history_by_emortrecommend. Something with no coffee. I ended up ordering a Strawberry Cream Frappuccino. It wasn’t great – it tasted like jam and regret –  but we were in there so often that I began experimenting with my order, until I stumbled across the Iced Mocha. My gateway drug, an summer love. The chocolate disguised the coffee just enough that I grew accustomed to the bitterness, and  it wasn’t long until I graduated to unflavoured lattes.

Friendships shifted, and I took to spending almost every Saturday in my local StarbucksDSC00070 (also RIP), tucked up the stairs on a bar stool by the window. There were only two seats, so I could be completely alone and write. First came 20,000 words of a vampire novel, about the teenage vampire with a pulse, that got swiftly abandoned when Twilight became popular. Then came Idiots, the first novel I ever got anywhere near to completing. It involved a fictional retelling of the lives of myself and my two closest friends – tall, lanky heroes who got me through hard times – living and working in a coffee shop in London. I still have my eye on an old fire station, hoping one day it’ll go up for sale and I can convert it into my dream store.

I got older, went to 6th form college, and my social circle expanded. Starbucks became the place I brought people at the end of days spent in town, but only good friends made it up to that balcony seat at the back. It was odd how private I was over a very public space, but it became an in joke. They were my seats, and I would sit with friends and glare at any strangers who dared to take them.

Then the day came for me to head off to university in Birmingham, leaving behind my 11255209_10152987978808897_4982465154794542299_nold home on the high street. My first major concern was establishing which of Birmingham’s vast array would be my Starbucks. You laugh, but I was literally 100 miles away from creature comforts. So the research and dedication I put into this was 100% necessary and I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that.

Fortunately, a couple of friends had provided me with Starbucks gift cards to go away with. Unfortunately, the Starbucks on university campus did not take these cards. Not to mention it was ridiculously busy all of the time, which quickly ruled it out as my new place. However, I lived close to the city centre in first year, so I had options. I took a walk, and found four possibilities on my first try; two in the Bullring, one on New Street and one just off Victoria Square.

I won’t tell you which I chose, but it was a fairly easy decision. After all, my criteria were: height, bar stools, and a view.

My current Starbucks has seen me develop as a writer and build The End of Atlas into what is almost a complete manuscript. It’s also the first Starbucks in which the baristas have learnt my name…and my order. Which was weird, so I dyed my hair just to confuse them. That didn’t work. I have a problem. And I have a gold membership on the app now, which I consider to be all the more impressive since I quit caffeine in 2012.

21034348_10155084615918897_4212018558492282820_nOh. I can also literally find a Starbucks anywhere, from Brighton to Barcelona. I’m a human radar. It’s impressive.

So I guess, what I’m trying to say is, my relationship with Starbucks isn’t political; it’s historical. It’s where I spent a decent portion of my time forming as a writer and a human. Want to take me somewhere else? That’s fine. But if I’m alone, I will always choose to hunker down in a shop with a two tail mermaid in the window.

 

Please note: All of the images in this article are mine. Some of them were taken on a Samsung SGH-D500 from 2005 (hence the quality). Oh, and yes, I made the tiny Starbucks logo on miniature lollipop sticks. It was a graphic design project at AS level. Don’t judge.

 

 

 

 

 

The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

I am genuinely surprised by how well this is going. Even last night, when my face was on fire after an unpleasant trip to the dentist, I managed to crack out 500 words. I’ve discovered that 500 words really isn’t much for me, and I’ve actually overshot it a few times. I can usually crack it out in and hour or an hour and a half, and that’s when I’m mucking about on thinkbabynames.com, and researching penalties for Class A drugs. So what are the Pros and Cons I’ve found at the end of Week 1?

Pros

1. Making consistent progress – At the begining of this week, my novel was 11,000 words. It had taken me almost a year to write 5000 words. Rimjhim is now over 15000 words and counting. It feels so good to be making progress again.

2. Getting enthusiastic – By stopping in the middle of a scene, I cause myself to keep thinking about what comes next. I learn new things about my characters, and find myself acting out bits and pieces in my head, as I used to. I was so worried this story had gone stale, feeling that spark of enthusiasm again was a big relief.

3. Get’s you thinking – In order to knock out 500 words, you need to have some idea of where you’d like to go when you sit down to write. For me this is particularly difficult because I’m working on four time frames congruently, switching back and forth between time frames. While I was thinking out what I was going to write next, I realised that each of these time frames needs to tell it’s own story that lead to the same resolution. This solved so many pacing problems, you wouldn’t believe.

4. Dat regular writing pattern though – Writing frequently, will tell you a boat load about how you work best. And this is exactly what I needed. I’ve learnt that I work best with the deadline of  sleep looming over me. But my friend, who is joining me on this epic journey fits her 500 words in whenever, and wherever she can.

Cons

1. It’s time consuming – Of course it was always going to be, but I forgot to factor in editing time. I am one of those writers that likes to pick things apart as I’m going along, so while writing doesn’t take that long, I have already deleted 400 words.

2. Self-awareness overload – Earlier this week, I became hyper aware of how much dialogue I write, to the point where I was actually adding in unnecessary description. It took a long look through The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton (my favourite Sherlock Holmes story) to remind myself that when you have two characters with good chemistry, all you have to do is set up the scene, and then roll with it.

All in all, it’s been an interesting first week, and I’m impressed with my stamina. Writing everyday has caused some issues, but it’s reignited my love for Rimjhim. I’ve become one of those over-eager parents, desperate to see how my baby’s going to work out. Fingers crossed, I’ll be this happy next week.

Ciao,

Mort.

#Dear Me

Dear Me
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Dear Me (Age 13),

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CALM DOWN. I know, I know, every day you wake up angry and you don’t know why. You lash out at those you love because you can’t stop feeling this way. Well, Dear Mehere’s the thing; you’re bored. You are actually bored out of your skull. Stop watching TV, put down the trashy chick lit, and get a head start on your reading. I highly recommend anything from the turn of the 20th Century; Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson. Throw yourself into it and go crazy. Don’t be afraid to approach people and talk about it. BE ENTHUSIASTIC.

Also, stop drinking caffeine. It probably isn’t helping. Oh, and deep breathing is your friend.

There are a few choices you are going to make over the next few years, and I’m going to say it now; you’re doing the right thing. I Dear Memarvel at your ability to go with your gut. Going to sixth form college was the best thing you could have done. Your attendance rate will sky rocket from 63% to almost 100%, because it turns out when you’re not being told off for wearing the wrong colour hair tie, or trousers made out of the wrong fabric, you actually enjoy educational environments.

I know that leaving secondary school, causes a rift in certain friendships, but they weren’t worth it. You may not realise it now, Dear Mebut the one who introduced himself by gyrating in your face, turns out to be a far better friend. Even when he’s gone, you miss him a great deal. Besides that, you will make solid friendships wherever you go. Join Tumblr as soon as you can, go to ALL the Cosplay Cymru meets and NERD THE HELL OUT.

Give people time. You may not be what they expect, but once they realise you’re serious they will grow to respect that. Stick to your guns, and don’t hide who you are, even if you’re not entirely sure who that is yet. You’ll learn more about yourself by answering otherDear Me people’s questions on your sexuality, beliefs, gender etc, than you could ever learn by sitting inside your head all day.

Your skin will clear up. The redness will fade by university. Having to take a pregnancy test every time you need to refill your prescription is hilarious, particularly that tense moment where you know you’ve never had intercourse, but you’re still worried it’ll be positive.

University will be exactly what you hoped it would be, but it will also be entirely different from what you’d imagined. You will learn Dear Meto argue with students studying PhD Physics, about Physics, and you will win. You will often be wrong, but you will still win, because the central skill of an Arts degree is being able to pull connections out of nowhere. Also, you will find a sport that you actually care about!

Finally, graduating will seem like the weirdest thing, and you will spend a great deal of time faffing about, trying to figure out what to do. The answer is, go with that gut. There is only one thing that you’ve ever wanted to do, and you will find a way to do it.

dear me

Best,

Em.

P.S. While creating the main graphic for this, I realised how much we photobomb. Keep doing that.

P.P.S. For those of you wondering #DearMe is a feature currently running on Youtube, in which you write a letter to your younger self. I’m not a big vlogger, so I thought I’d get involved this way.