Every year for the last five years my family and I have been on a weekly or fortnightly holiday to the south of France and last week, it was that time of year again.

Holidays are quite glamourised, with the golden sand and sparkling seas being photographed or filmed and posted all over social media. Although I love that side of holidays. There’s the stressful side that people are less happy to talk about.

Packing is where it begins, well okay booking and paying is techically where it begins, but for the stress levels as the reality of the holiday begins to set in, packing is where it begins. I’m going to stop saying where it begins now.

Packing is a very important part of the holiday experience, but it’s also one where the question “have we got everything?” is batted around like a tennis ball during Wimbledon or a cricket ball during the Ashes (pick your favourite topical summer sport).

The airport is a very stressful experience. Firstly you have to get there 3 hours early just to find somewhere to park and to check in. Then there’s the security which is terrifying, not only do the people who work there give you the evils constantly and, the majority, look like they’re boxers (the sportsman not the dog), but every single year, when I go through the security scanner it beeps at me which results in me getting frisked, that isn’t how I want to start a holiday, and is quite frankly, disturbing. Then when you’ve made it through security you reach duty free and the departure lounge. Duty free is something I’ve never understood. WHY ARE PEOPLE BUYING TINS OF SHORTBREAD WITH A PICTURE OF THE QUEEN ON BEFORE FLYING ABROAD!? And why are people buying crates of wine!? Or HOT TUBS?! HOT TUBS.

Once you actually arrive in your destination, in my case, France, there are now more things that are stress-making. First of which is baggage reclaim. With the constant worry that your cases won’t have made it to your destination and would have ended up in Timbuktu or the Arctic circle, or if they did make it, were stolen by someone else.

France means French, and although I studied French in both primary and secondary school, and really enjoyed it, the French I learnt is basically useless when in actual France. Yes, I can sing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” and yes I can say the basic “quel est le date de ton anniversaire?” and “je voudrais un pain au chocolat s’il vous plais”, but getting the confidence to say them outloud is something I struggle with. Even in English I have to rehearse “can I have lasagne please?” 25 times in my head before ordering in a restaurant at home. So doing it in France isn’t easy for me. Even with what I do know, I have no idea what the response means. It’s all pretty hopeless.

France also means hot weather. With the weather last week being between 30 and 40 degrees, my family and I expressed our true Britishness with “let’s find a shady spot” and “have you put your suncream on?” being said throughout. I’ve never experienced 40 degree heat and, my word, it was far too hot. Thank the lord for trees and air conditioning.


Friendships on Rough Seas

I’m not going to be able to do a blog post next week because I’m on holiday and will be WiFi-less but to make up for it this is going to be a really long post, so settle down, with a cup of tea and a snack of choice prepared.

It’s around 2002, and I’m in primary school. I’m carefree, happy and look slightly like a mushroom but this is where this little reflective story thing begins…

Here I am looking thrilled at the idea of school, with my mushroomy hair looking fresh
Here I am looking thrilled at the idea of school, with my mushroomy hair looking fab and the carpet looking vile

I generally loved primary school, years 1, 2, 3, and 4 were great and I had a great best friend, Harriet. We went everywhere together, we were nicknamed “the terrible twins” by the playground staff (why I don’t know). Years 5 and 6 came and I began to realise that people weren’t really noticing me, they were always asking after Harriet. I didn’t mind though, I just felt lucky to have a friend. Harriet wanted to do a duet from Aladdin for the school talent show and she asked me to do it with her. But I was too scared of performing and the fundamental flaw was that I couldn’t and still can’t sing. I said no and Harriet chose someone else. Nicole. Days went past and I soon became the third wheel and was so insecure and convinced they were talking about me I got a lovely girl called Anna to spy on them to see whether they were. Looking back on this I realise this was ridiculous and achieved nothing.

This is me and my "twin" at my 6th birthday. As you can see I am ignoring the camera because a cake is present
This is me and my “twin” at my 6th birthday party. As you can see I am ignoring the camera because a cake is present (get it, present, birthdays, time, oh I’m too funny)

The time to leave primary school and start secondary school was now and I was really nervous. My primary school is 8 times smaller than my secondary school and being around that many people worried me immensely. I wasn’t just worried about the people, I was a little worried about the education and learning aspect of it too. Looking back I don’t know why I was so worried, I love learning and overall really enjoyed the subjects I did. I also managed to make friends quite quickly. Although that didn’t really last…

The first girl I met was Aimee. We were really close for the first few months of year 7. But then she met a girl called Emily and moved on from me… I then met Victoria and we became really close friends. She already had a friendship group from her primary school, and I was allowed to join. After joining however, I realised I wasn’t always noticed. If I wasn’t in they wouldn’t realise but I thought it was better than nothing.
Finally I had a group.

Victoria was the only one of the group in my classes but there was a problem… she was never really in class. Not because she skived, we were in the uncool group we never skived (100% attendence certificate award winners, of course). She was always off school ill, I named it “Victoriaitis”. This meant however, that I was always on my own in lessons. My classmates gave me weird looks and as usual, I just looked away in fear. I used to wish and pray for someone new to join the class and then, in year 9 my prayers were answered.

Laura walked into my history lesson and I smiled at her. She didn’t smile back but I wasn’t deterred. I was determined not to be alone. Eventually me and Laura grew closer and closer and became best friends. Finally I had someone to rely on!

As GCSEs grew closer Victoria changed. She became really competitive with grades and exams, making me feel stupid and refusing to help if I needed it, I got enough pressure at home, and now I was getting it in school too. She also began to bully me. She would take the piss out of me but in a way that was nasty and not jokey, she’d laugh at me, she even spread the rumour that I was gay which meant in the changing rooms for PE I got a lot of homophobic abuse…

Picture 58
Ahh school trip memories, with Laura in the background. I don’t know where we were going in this or why my hair looks so dip-dyed seeing as I’ve never dyed my hair, but let’s go with it
This is my group of school friends. Victoria is the one in the middle doing the weird bend. You get 10 points for finding me
This is my group of school friends. Victoria is the one in the middle doing the weird bend. You get 10 points for finding me

GCSEs flew by and it was time to go to college. I was really excited for college, partly for the courses and partly because almost half of my school group, including Laura, was going to the same college as me, albeit a different part, as I was in the sixth form and they weren’t.

I made new friends in college really quickly, surprisingly quickly in fact, in Geography I met Lauren, in English Language I met Kenna and in Psychology I met Pearl. I liked them all as individuals and as individuals they all liked me, but the weirdest part was they were all friends. In the same group. It was just like it had been when I was in school.

However, I decided to spend lunchtimes with Laura, Jasmine and Beth from my secondary school, just so I could try and cling on to the friendship we had, but that meant hanging around with their new friends from their college course and neglecting my new friends. I didn’t like Lauras new friends and they didn’t really like me, but I was still there for her as I always had been.
Until one day when I texted her to ask her where to meet her for lunch, she didn’t reply. And that started a chain of events…
I’d spend entire lunchtimes walking round looking for them meaning I didn’t get to eat at all and, if I did find them, they wouldn’t talk to me. So at the start of second year I made the decision to stop having lunch with them and start having lunch with my new friends. It was great, I was actually being acknowledged for once. I became really close to them and finally felt like I had a group of friends that would be there for life.

These are some of my college friends and I at my birthday picnic, yes picnic, we're cool
These are some of my college friends and I at my birthday picnic, yes picnic, we’re cool

Me and Laura drifted further and further apart and now she calls Simone her best friend. She’d walk past me on the bus and not even realise it was me and that hurt, to be honest it still does, thinking about all the times I’ve helped her, cheered her up when she was battling depression and listened to her boy problems. But looking back now, I’ve noticed her personality changed during college, we didn’t have that much in common at all. But luckily my new friends and I did. I began to come out of my shell a lot more, talking about my favourites instead of hiding them, telling them my problems instead of hiding them and telling them about my feelings instead of hiding them. It felt great to stop hiding myself for once.

Then second year ended and it was time to leave. I was terrified about uni and, as you’ll know from previous posts like  First Day of Uni Blues I had good reason to be. I wasn’t just terrified about what I was going to, but I was terrified about what I was leaving behind. Would those friends remember me? Or would I be replaced again? Luckily I’m still close to most of them and to this day when we meet it’s exactly the same as it used to be, and I am so happy with that.

You might be thinking “what about your friends at uni?”, well, I’ve still not settled in and I don’t feel 100% comfortable yet, I’m sure I will at some point but for now, I do still feel quite alone. Or you may be thinking “why is this post so bloody long stop talking I have a life”, which is fair enough.

But during these times, especially from year 11 right up till now, I struggled with telling my parents about these problematic friends. But I’ve had one thing helping me, well several things. My internet friends. And yes I know I’ve done blog posts on internet friends before including why my internet friends matter but I’m going to talk about it again here because internet friends are something I am truly glad I have.
They’ve helped me deal with the feelings of being alone and anxious and sad, they’ve given me a place to talk about what and who I love and how I feel. They’ve made me happy and even though I don’t see them very often, if at all (yet), I still knew they were always on the other end of my phone or laptop. I’ve been given the nicknames Gem by the girls who love Radio 1 and Wheel by the girls who love Michael McIntyre and finally, I feel like being a wheel is a great thing.

The girls who call me Wheel
The girls who call me Wheel

*I’ve not met the girls who call me Gem yet
so just pretend that picture’s here*

My advice for anyone who’s going through what I have is just remember, everything happens for a reason. The arseholes who upset you, have made you a better and stronger person, and for that reason, they don’t even deserve to know you anyway.

“If we’re only ever looking back we will drive ourselves insane, as the friendship goes resentment grows we will walk our different ways. But those are the days that bind us together, forever and those little things define us forever, forever”
Bastille: Bad Blood 

Am I Normal?

Firstly, hello and welcome to July, hasn’t it come by quickly?! And secondly for this post I have drawn inspiration from a radio show done by the wonderful Russell Howard and Jon Richardson. They did a feature on their BBC 6 Music show around 8 years ago called “Am I Normal” where they told each other, and got listeners, to talk about the quirky habits that they feel compelled to do. As I’m re-listening to these in the future, and can’t exactly get involved with the discussions and hilarity, I thought I would do a post about my quirky habits. If you have any habits, like the volume on the tv has to be in multiples of 4 or that you have to touch your ear when you see a magpie, then leave them in the comments or just say them outloud to yourself, no matter where you are or who you’re with, say your habits.

Doors and Windows
If I’m the last one out the house, I have to double check all the windows are shut and the doors are locked. Because I can’t be held responsible for break-ins.

If the plugs aren’t in use, I switch them off. If they’re not switched off, in my mind, the electricity is escaping.

If there’s writing on something, like placemats or crisp packets, the writing has to be the correct way, so it’s readable. It’s intended to be read, therefore it should be angled so it could be read.

Car Journeys
These were more weird things I did as a child, although I sometimes still catch myself doing them, especially the second one.
Horses- when I was sat in the car, I used to look out the window and pretend that instead of being in the car, I was riding a horse alongside the car.
Cables- when I’m sat in the car, I like to watch the overhead cables that are on the side of the road. When the car is going fast and you’re just staring at the cables it feels almost hypnotic. As if you’re about to take off or travel through space and time.

When I’m taking the teabag out of the tea, I have to make the teabag the same shape as the teaspoon before I throw it away.

Water at night
My final one is that I always have to have water with me at night, ideally in a plastic beaker or bottle (in case I knock it over so it won’t smash, I’m a paranoid clumsy person), just in case there’s a fire in my bedroom…