Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sweet Sixteen To-Do List

Yep, I’m 16 now! My birthday was on Friday, meaning that I am now spoilt for choice of crazy things to do. So, here’s my verdict on the list:

.Open a 16-19 bank account- Yes, I know I could have had one before, but my parents were basically useless about it. But I think it’s more than about time I kept my money somewhere other than a bag in my bedroom. I’m quite attracted to Barclays- for starters, they have an account specifically for 16-19s, and the bank has a good pro-diversity record. My parents are with Lloyds TSB though, and their under-19s account looked reasonably good. I’ll look around a bit, I think, before coming to a decision.

. Get married- Ha. I’ve never even had a proper boyfriend. (When you’re nine and you never see each other outside school, it doesn’t count.) But I definitely want to get married, one day. Probably in a registry office.

. Drive a moped/invalid carriage- Nah, not really fussed. and what’s an invalid carriage, anyway? Sounds a bit ominous.

. Have sex- I wish! See ‘Get married’. And it should be someone you’re genuinely in love with.

. Drink wine/beer with a meal if accompanied by an adult: I doubt I’ll ever make use of this. I’ve never had a single sip of wine that I didn’t regard as disgusting. I liked the buck’s fizz at my cousin’s wedding, but that’s about it.

.Get an NI number- Done that. Or rather, I was sent one, over a month ago. Still haven’t memorised it.

. Join a trade union- No point, I don’t have a proper job.

. Work full-time if you have left school- I haven’t. And you have to be in education until you’re 18 now, so I think that’s no longer accurate.

. Get the national min. wage for 16-17s- see ‘trade union’.

. Join the army- Not going to happen. If I ever got involved in a war, I’d be helping the affected civilians. Besides, I don’t fancy the discipline.

.Change name by deed poll- Unilkely.

. Leave home- Not just yet- I have no reason to.

. “in certain circumstances you must pay for prescriptions, dental treatment and eye tests”- Whoopee.

. Choose a GP- But how do you know you’re choosing a good one?

. Consent to medical treatment- Great. So if I die, I can’t blame my parents?

. Buy premium bonds: Um, what are those?

. Register as a blood donor: Definitely. I’ve already got my organ donor card. (If you’re thinking about registering, please do! Donors are much needed, especially ethnic minority ones.)

. Pilot a glider- Sounds fun, but I’ve had no training. My friend might want to, though- she’s in the Air Cadets and wants to be an RAF pilot.

. Buy a lottery ticket- No thanks. Interesting statistic: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=8US3Snx5L3c Go to about 11:40. A depressing comment on humanity indeed.

. Apply for a passport- No particular need to do that right now.

So, wordpressers, who else has turned 16? Which of your rights are you planning on exercising? Let me know in the comments. Consolations on my lonely state much appreciated. Ciao!

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JK Rowling Being Awesome (again)

British writer JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, poses during the launch of new online website Pottermore in London June 23, 2011. The seven Harry Potter novels will be available in ebook form in October, author J.K. Rowling said on Thursday at the launch of a new interactive online website Pottermore (www.pottermore.com) that will allow readers to navigate through the boy wizard stories. Rowling gave her clearest indication yet that she would not write an eighth Harry Potter story to follow the final instalment published in 2007 by Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett  (BRITAIN - Tags: MEDIA SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT)

Just a quick detour to share two fabulous deeds JK Rowling has done on Twitter. First, after Serena Williams took this year’s Wimbledon title, this happened:

https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/619886370081869824/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Russia's Vera Zvonareva in their women's singles tennis match at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 1, 2012.    REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRITAIN  - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT TENNIS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

More recently, on August 19th, Rowling had some inspiring words of advice for a fangirl, who said that because of her gender, people weren’t taking her literary ambitions seriously:

http://www.today.com/popculture/j-k-rowling-tweets-inspiring-advice-young-female-writer-egypt-t39731

I’d be really grateful, if anyone could tell me how to copy the conversations as they appeared on Twitter, with pictures and everything, the way they did it on today.com. WordPress seems to have an allergy to the good old copy-and-paste approach.

Happy blogging!

Waiting For GCSE Results

No-one really told me it was going to be this horrible.

In three days time, I have to go down to my school, and get my GCSE results. What I do next will be decided by small capital letters on a sheet of paper.

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Is that a bit melodramatic? Everyone in my family seems to think so, and I try to tell myself the same things they do: it will be fine, a bad day for me is an A or B, so a really good day for a lot of other teens, remember how bad I felt after the chemistry exam last year? (I came home in absolute floods of tears, convinced that I’d failed. I got an A*. And I don’t even particularly like science.) I’m also predicted As and A*s, and I got a B in Spanish in one year, doing the coursework in weekly after-school sessions. I shouldn’t have that much to worry about- should I?

But the stronger part of me is convinced that something went wrong. That I made a stupid mistake- like writing in blue pen instead of black- in one of the exams that seemed to go well at the time. And then there was English Language. I got an A on the first mock with no prior knowledge, then an A* on the second, and full/ nearly full marks on every practise question in class. We’d done so much preparation in class, I didn’t revise outside it, using the time for my other subjects. And then- was it lack of sleep the night before? Eating too much for breakfast? Not enough revision?- I went into the gym, and in my eyes at least, it all fell apart. I won’t go into details. I answered every question… maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed…

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The worst part is not knowing. I tell myself that it will be alright, that I did well, but I don’t know that for sure! Prove it, my inner critic seems to be saying. Prove that you didn’t fail. And I can’t.

But why should it be this way? I get that a lot of jobs require using your knowledge under pressure. But is it really necessary for someone’s level of success to be defined, based on whether they wrote inside the box? More ridiculous still, whether or not they wrote in black ink or black ballpoint pen?

However, complaining about the system can’t change the fact that I have to meet its requirements. If I don’t get a B in my A-level subjects, a C in English and Maths… I imagine the shame I would feel in having to re-sit English, how totally unbearable the humiliation would be.

I’m sorry to be so depressing. But if there’s anyone out there going through this same agonising wait, now you have proof- as I found when I read this article- that you are not alone.

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Hard as it is, I’m going to try and remember the words from this visualisation: you are strong, intelligent and kind, and no single event defines you, especially not an exam. Whatever some exam board says, those words are true. And, inner critic? You keep asking me to prove that I did well.

Prove- and I want concrete proof, not however I felt during the exams- that I didn’t. So there.

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My Visit to Dubrovnik: Gorgeous, but Too Bloody Hot!

For most of the holiday in Croatia, we have been staying in the safety of the resort, enjoying the air conditioning in our apartment, swimming in the pool and- once- in the beautiful Mediterranean. How’ve re, my parents had apparently decided that we had to get out and about a bit, so at 11 we took a boat to Dubrovnik.

Ok, I’m being unfair. I wanted to see it too. But seriously, did we have to go at the start of the hottest time of day? Really?

It is beautiful, though. The whole place is pedestrianised, so for once I did ‘t have to think about howI really don’t like cars. It’s obvious why the producers of Game of Thrones favoured it- I suspect it was the imposing, castle-like stone wall looking on to the sea. (I don’t watch Game of Thrones, so I can’t be sure.) I’m not mad about it, but the houses are lovely- all sorts of muted shades of grey, white and brownish yellow, with pretty tiled roofs, all a deep, rich red. Quite a few times, we walked down side streets lined with flowers in pots and lush, woody green clusters of leaves growing on the walls. People do that thing of hanging their washing out of the windows, sometimes across the gaps between buildings- there’s something so pleasant about that practise, although I don’t know what. There are a couple of churches- I don’t know if they’re all Catholic there, but the one we stopped in was. It was nice- very peaceful. The whole place looks like it’s from hundreds of years ago, although someone scrubbed it up in between.

Update: I just found out, at dinner, that Dubrovnik was heavily shelled near the end of the Cold War, when Communism was breaking up everywhere (Croatia was part of Yugoslavia at the time). Pretty good repair work!

I didn’t buy a candle, but I offered up a quick prayer for the ‘boat people’ of the Mediterranean- for immigrants everywhere, in fact, whatever their reasons for moving. There was a collage of children’s photos, another of young-ish adults, and for a second I thought that they were dead or missing! Then Mum said that they it was probably celebrating their first communion. Phew! But I hope they grow up kind and compassionate, not hiding behind a Bible to judge and hurt others. It’s easy to believe that a child will, looking at their smile, but we were all kids once.

Back to a happier note, we had lunch (I felt ok eating fish, since it’s most likely local) then wondered round the shops a bit. I am now the proud owner of a lovely big sunhat, a cute handheld mirror, (temporarily) some postcards, and a really quite fantastic bag that I’m hoping to use at 6th form. It’s got a psychedelic spiral pattern all over it, but on the front  there is a gorgeous multicoloured owl. I’m so glad I bought it- I’ve never seen one like it in Britain. (I can’t upload photos at the moment, but once I’ve published this post I’ll add them back at home.) I didn’t buy an gorgeously shaped and decorated candle, but I admired them extensively.)

But oh my god, the HEAT. My top was drenched in sweat by the time we got back, and I frequently felt pretty damn groggy, as well as getting a lousy stabbing headache. Thank god for the old-fashioned water fountains that we splashed our fac and limbs with, and for a delicious chocolate ice cream- and. I shouldn’t forget the divinely air-conditioned bus we travelled back in, either.

Anyway, I definitely recommend a visit to Dubrovnik- it’s an exquisitely pretty city. But if you want to truly appreciate its beauty, I suggest leaving it a few months, until the weather’s cooler.

Tomorrow, we’re embarking on a day-long boat trip to a few surrounding Islands. Daniel’s really excited, because it looks quite a lot like a pirate ship! Should be great!

Untul next time- Zbogom! (No, that’s not a mixed-up superhero shout. It means ‘goodbye’ in Croatian.

Should a Small Child Have a Pet Fruit?

My four-year old brother, Daniel, now has a new toy: a moderate-sized green apple.

They were in a bowl on the reception desk at a hotel in Gatwick Airport. At first he was incredibly pleased with it, in the way that only small children can be, showing it off and even rolling it on the floor a bit. The next morning, he proudly showed it to the (very nice) woman at the check-in place. A few hours ago, in our totally gorgeous ‘residence’ in Croatia, he got Mum to play hide-and-seek with it and, apparently spontaneously, christened it Harry.

Yes, I find this extremely cute and funny, but I’m worried for him too. If it was a stone or a stick (both of which he collects frequently at home) it would be fine, but Harry, being organic matter, will eventually start to go mouldy. And then what are we going to do with it? He, like practically every kid, gets attached to toys (I’ve still got a whole pile of them I can’t bear to cast aside). I’m not fussed about the apple, you understand- but I love Daniel, I hate him being sad and I don’t know how he’d react to Harry effectively dying.

That’s another thing- how do you explain death to a little kid? When do they start actually asking about it? I know he knows words like ‘died’ and ‘kill’, and he’s watched films like The Incredibles, Tangled and Frozen, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t fully understand the finality of it when the character falls off a massive tower and doesn’t move again, or their boat is swallowed by a wave while sad music plays. When Mum chucked a dead bee out of the door a long-ish while ago, he believed it had just flown away.

How do you help young children cope with loss, whether it’s a toy left at the park or the death of a family pet, or even another person? And how long does it take for us to fully understand what it means to die? Advice appreciated.