Saturday, 28 February 2015

Getting to Know Me - My favourites

So this is my last article in the Getting to Know Me blog series. Sniff sniff.

I have absolutely loved writing these blogposts, and according to the bits of feedback I've received from you guys, you have clearly enjoyed getting to know me a little bit as well.

Next month is going to see a brand new feature being added on to my blog so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for that.

But for now, read on to discover all about My favourite...

Colour - this changes depending on what mood I am in. But I love teal at the moment. Such a flattering colour to wear and it just looks lovely.

Smell - I love the smell of bonfires and roasts cooking. But my ultimate favourite odour is the way the world smells after it has been raining. It just smells so fresh and clean, like everything bad has been washed away. I love it so much.

Season - Has to be summer. It's my birthday. The sun is out, we have more free time and everyone is generally happier. Plus I love going to the beach which is obviously the best when it's warm.

Youtuber - This is a tough one but I think this has to be Jon Cozart who runs the Youtube account Paint. If you haven't seen his videos, go and check them out now. He is crazily talented at singing and songwriting and editing and everything. They're great.

Month - I think it is June. The days are getting longer, it is far sunnier than it ever has been and you have the excitement of summer holidays and festivals to look forward to. Nothing can beat that anticipation.

Thing to do with my free time- I have an endless list, including writing creatively, going to the theatre, reading, going for long rambling walks, sitting in coffee shops, visiting family or friends. But I think my ultimate is - exploring a new place. Nothing can beat that feeling of excitement as you curiously amble round a new town (whether that's abroad or in your own country) taking in a brand new culture and breathing in some new air.

Number - 27. It was my house number when I was at boarding school.

Alcoholic Beverage -  any cocktail will do. But stuff with Malibu is normally my favourite. It just tastes of summer.

Food - roast dinners, chicken Caesar salads, brie, chocolate brownies, sweet potato fries and pizza are all in the running. But cheesecake is my ultimate favourite food. Slug and Lettuce does an amazing Amaretto cheesecake which is incredible. Best dessert anywhere.

City - Florence, Italy. It's such a wonderful city, I loved it. There are great shops, great places to eat, lots to see and do.  

Item of clothing - I live in dresses, and I own this beautiful black one with lace cut outs which I adore.

Animal - giraffes. I feel affiliation with them due to us both being so tall.

Country - There's no place like home  (England) and out of loyalty I have to say that. But I also love Italy. It is truly beautiful, the food is amazing and the culture is wonderful.

Theatre Show - I go to the West End a lot and the best two musicals I have seen there are Hairspray and the Lion King.

Singer - Amy McDonald. I love her voice, it's very unusual and her songs always tell such a story.

Items to Spend Money On - books and stationery without a doubt. My personal library is growing weekly, and it doesn't help there's a great second hand bookshop not far from where I live. And the rest of my money I spend on notebooks. I have hundreds, all quietly waiting to be filled with my literary ramblings.

Clothes Shop - this changes regularly but I love love love Miss Selfridge and River Island at the moment. Some lovely dresses in there.

Book - The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Nifenegger and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Also Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. If you haven't read those three, you must.

Film - This is so so difficult but I think I have to say An Education, starring Carey Mulligan. Great film about growing up and learning about life. Has some really funny moments.

Blogpost I have written - To choose just one seems disloyal so at the end of last year I wrote  a blogpost showcasing The Top 10 Articles I have written so make sure you check out some of those out because they are quite entertaining. And so far this year I absolutely loved writing The A-Z of Charlotte and Theatre Etiquette so check them out too =]

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Getting to know me - the work/life balance

How many people out there truly enjoy their job? As in - not 'I don't mind it' but actively 'I love it and wouldn't do anything else.' My bet is very few of you. Which is a shame, considering how much of their lives people will spend at work. I am not very good at maths - but it is A LOT.

I personally do like my job a lot. But I don't love it. I know it's not what I am going to do for the rest of my life and I want to change it. Therefore, I am absolutely refusing to let it take over my life.

And anyone who doesn't think that their job is taking over their life, is kidding themselves. All your daylight hours are spent doing that job, leaving you only enough time to travel to or from it, eat and sleep. And sometimes you might even check emails and do additional bits of work at home. Very few people are able to actually leave their work in the work place. Which is all well and good for most people but I personally believe that if I am going to obsess about something throughout my every waking hour, it has to be a very special something indeed.

And that's why my job hunting is going terribly. I am far far too fussy and instead I am flitting around from one part time job to the next.

In the meantime I do what I love most in the world. And that's write. I write A LOT. That is what I allow to take over my life. I write blogposts (obviously); articles for various websites, poetry, short stories and my novel (which is ticking along nicely).

On top of that I also make sure that I actually do have a bit of free time to myself. I am in my early twenties and this is the one time in my life where I am unimpeded by a full time, stressful job, kids, husbands or anything else and I can do what I want. Which mostly, is to explore the world, to see what's out there, and meet loads of brand new people. So as part of that aim, I have three resolutions that I made at the beginning of the year.

1. Attend one blogging event per month
2. Travel to one new country per year
3. Explore one new place in England every month
And so far I have managed to keep to them (although I do still need to book my excursion abroad wherever that may be).

For this month, I attended my blogging event and explored my new place both on the same day - last Sunday.

In the morning I went over to Kensington Palace. I had always wanted to visit this particular royal home as I am a tiny bit obsessed with Kate Middleton and Prince William. And I love Queen Victoria who grew up there as well.

I feel like this palace is a lot less grand than some of the other stately homes that I have been to see. It is all very understated with minimal carvings, and not as many paintings as some, although there are plenty. It seemed far more like a home than any of the others I have been too, which was lovely to see.

When I visited there were two exhibitions on. The first one I wandered around was to do with fashion and I loved seeing a sample of the dresses that the Queen used to wear during various events in the 1950s. I sometimes forget that she was once a young and beautiful monarch who was as much of a  fashion icon as Kate Middleton is now. The dresses are gorgeous and I love 1950s fashions. They also displayed some of Princess Diana's dresses from the 80s but I didn't like these quite as much.

The second exhibition was about Queen Victoria's life which was so interesting. You got to wander through the very room where she first met all her councillors the day after she was declared queen. You got to stand in the spot where she first met Prince Albert and you got to see the famous dolls which were only companions during her lonely childhood. Some of her pictures that she drew were on display and a few of her dresses as well. Gosh she was tiny. So petite. I must have been a foot taller than her at least. Even Albert was shorter than me by a few inches, if his clothes are anything to go by.

In the afternoon, I headed over to Covent Garden for a Blogger's Meetup. I was invited by the lovely @jasxcharlotte (go find her on twitter and read her blog) who got together a load of bloggers from in and around London just simply to meet up, as the name might suggest.

We sat together in Henry's Café Bar (I think it might have become one of my favourite bars, it was so homely and actually reasonably priced) drinking cocktails and chatting all things blogging. It is always so lovely to get out from behind the computer screen and interact with others properly. We encouraged each other, debated Wordpress vs Blogger, shared stories about other meet ups and events and generally just chatted about our lives. They were such a great group of girls, I was so glad to meet them and hopefully I will see them all at other events, very soon.

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Getting to know me - 50 shades of Fun

In celebration of 50 shades of Grey which was finally released last week, I thought I would create my own 50 shades of Charlotte. I think that has far more of a ring to it to be honest.

10 things I love...

1. Strolls along beaches
2. Sunsets
3. Reading novels in coffee shops
4. Exploring new places
5. Catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while
6. Theatre
7. Kissing
8. Watching a movie in bed
9. Beginning a new book
10. Laughing until you can't breathe

10 things I hate...

11. Disloyalty and two-facedness
12. People not texting back
13. Early mornings
14. Over the top public displays of affection
15. Baked beans
16. Crowded trains or tubes
17. People who think they're better than others
18. Internet that takes ages to load
19. People who comment on my height or weight
20. Going to the dentist

10 places I believe you have to visit in your lifetime...

21. London, UK
22. Malta
23. Paris, France
24. Great Missenden
25. The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
26. Topshop, Oxford Street
27. Verona, Italy
28. Prague, Czech Republic
29. Christ's Hospital School, Horsham
30. Segovia, Spain

10 experiences you have to have...

31. Visiting the theatre in the West End
32. Attending an event where you don't know anyone
33. Going to the theatre or cinema or a coffee shop alone
34. Organising an interrailing trip
35. Walking along a beach at sunset and watching it disappear over the horizon
36. Head out for the day without your mobile
37. Fall in love
38. Attend university
39. Give a public speech
40. Live with housemates

10 life lessons...

41. Always wear nice underwear
42. Explore the whole world - or at least the bits you want to see
43. Don't compare yourself to other people
44. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't give up...make sure you do it
45. Don't save anything for a 'special occasion.' Every day is special
46. Remember that no one is in charge of your happiness but you. And you choose to feel that way
47. If you don't ask, you don't get
48. Nobody knows what is in your head except you. If you have something to say, say it.
49. Every time you have a 'disaster' think 'In 5 years time, will this matter.'
50. Being normal is boring.

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Getting to know me - The 36 questions which lead to love

This weekend has been all about lurveeeee. Whoopeee. And I for one am pretty glad that it is over. I think Valentine's Day is a ridiculous, commercialised load of rubbish which is purely there to make you guiltily spend all your money on overpriced gifts. But this is a rant that I have had before and not one I necessarily need to have again.

So instead I thought I would talk about a little article that was published in the New York Times a few weeks ago.

It was called The 36 Questions Which Lead to Love.

Now you wouldn't suspect that such a title would cause such discussion and controversy. But you would be so wrong. The basic idea of it, is that there is no such thing as love.

Instead it says that all love is, is a mutual intimacy between two people (who, admittedly, do also feel some physical attraction to each other). And that's where the 36 questions come in. These questions, force the two people, who ideally should be on a first or second date, to find out extremely personal things about the other. And when you have acquired all these answers, you would find yourself to be in love with the person because of the intimate nature of the questions.

I am not entirely sure this works, and I have not personally tried it although I have discussed the idea at length with various people. But supposedly it is proven and I can understand why. The questions delve a hell of a lot deeper into someone's life than you would normally dare to go and forces you to be open and honest with them.

You can check out all the questions here but in the spirit Getting to Know Me and the fact it was so recently Valentine's Day, I have picked a few questions to answer for you.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My automatic answer here would be the Queen - I love her and am absolutely fascinated about the royal family. But there are all sorts of rules surrounding eating with her (such as not being allowed to scoop your peas, you have to stop eating when she does etc etc). Plus I am the worst eater in the world so I would just embarrass myself. Therefore I think I would go for Kate Middleton so I could get the inside scoop on life as a royal and what goes on behind closed doors. And ask her what the transition was like from a relative nobody to one of the most stylish, adored famous women in the world.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
I think the answer you should say here, would be your mind. And obviously if you say body you are insipid and shallow who cares more about their looks than anything else. However, I would say my body and I am neither insipid nor shallow. My reason for this, and I have thought about it deeply, is that it does not say that your mind would necessarily decay in your final 60 years whereas your body will DEFINITELY decay. Plus I wouldn't want to have my mind in the same place that it was when I was 30. I would want to learn things, progress and adapt to the situations I am in. To remain static for 60 years without learning anything is just a waste. So I would keep my body given the choice.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
The fact I achieved a 2:1 in my degree. Without a doubt. There is not a lot I am proud of in my life, I am just not the type of person who allows herself to ever be pleased with how I am or what little victories I achieve. But my degree was a hell of a lot of hard work that cost me thousands of pounds and four years of my time. My graduation, surrounded by my friends and family, was one of the best days of my life, where we all celebrated something which had been years coming. I am proud that I made it and of the result I achieved.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
The opportunities I have had. Lots of these have been coincidences but many have been given to me by my parents - particularly them paying for me to go to an amazing school and to study several instruments for years, They are amazing and have always put me first, so I can go out into the world and be the best that I can be.

If you could change anything in the way you were raised, what would it be?
I think my parents did a pretty good job. I am adequately intelligent, passionate about the many things which interest me, ambitious, have enough social skills to get by and have enough manners to allow most people to get along with me...all things which were taught by my parents.

There are two and a half things which I wish they had introduced to me when I was younger which may initially seem fairly basic after the fact that they brought my up so well, but I think you will understand my reasoning.

Firstly I wish they had taken me abroad when I was younger. I have never been on holiday with my parents. Which people find strange, but it was due to circumstance more than anything. I just think it's a bit of a shame as they are so knowledgeable about history etc that it would have been interesting to travel with having your own personal tour guide. But I don't mind too much. It has placed in me an unrelenting thirst to explore the world which may not have been there, had travelling been a common feature of my childhood. And who can remember the holidays they took when they were 5 anyway?

Secondly I wish we had had pocket money. I don't know why we never did really. If we ever needed anything whether that was toiletries, clothes, sweets, or a birthday present for a friend, our parents simply gave us the money. And while it didn't particularly matter (we definitely weren't spoilt or anything) I think we would have benefitted from that early basic practice in budgeting. Something I still haven't really got to grips with, aged 22.

Finally I really wish we had a pet. My Mum is afraid of dogs, while my Dad hates cats and they always said that their 'three little animals were more than enough' (ie. Us, thanks parents). But it would have been amazing to have some pets of some kind. Plus I think it's really important for lessons in responsibility, commitment and the like. Again, that's something I really struggle with now.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
The only thing I would want to know is the age that I am when I die. Not the exact time, not any details about how, when or why - just a year so I can achieve everything that I want to and don't run out of time without even realising it.

How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Very. I am extremely close to my siblings and fairly close with my parents. I tell them a lot, they gave me an amazing childhood. and still remain close to me now. All of them help me out whenever I need it (and I need it often because I am a pain in the ass). I would be lost without them.

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
There are actually two things which I couldn't choose between. One is a book of poems that I have written (and am still writing). The notebook is beautiful and I only write poetry when I am very emotional, either negatively or positively so it is the very best and worst of me. I haven't recorded these anywhere else (I probably should) so I would be heartbroken to lose them.

The other would be a card which my sister made me for my 21st birthday. It's A2 sized and is 3 pages of baby pics, childhood pics, modern pics, friends old and new, family...everything. I love it.

Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
My little sister without a doubt. She's 6 years younger than me so technically she should definitely die after me, or it would be so wrong. Plus I have always had this mother-hen urge to protect her from everything. So having her not be around anymore would absolutely break me.

What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
Quite simply anything that would cause other people pain. If people are hurt it is no longer funny and you are just being cruel.

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Getting to know me - The A-Z of Charlotte

Perusing twitter the other day, as I seem to spend my life doing, I spotted this great little blogging tag over on and thought it was such fun. Plus it fits in perfectly with my Getting to Know me Blogging series so I thought I would give it a go so you can find out a little more about the things which make me tick. Hope you enjoy.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this particular substance. Occasionally I drink a touch too much and do THE MOST RIDICULOUS THINGS. But doesn't everyone? And I just love a good cocktail or two.  

Books are my life. I own a ridiculous amount; I am always reading; I am writing one... life would be a little bit darker without them. They are just such good escapism, where I can forget my own problems and throw myself into a brand new world for a bit.

Coffee shops
Coffee shops are just the best. I adore the smell and the atmosphere. It's one of my favourite things to do, simply going to sit in them and people watch or read or write or catch up with friends. I love coffee but I have become so snobby about it - I never ever make it myself any more. It's a very expensive habit to get into.

I barely wear anything else. And I own around 65 at last count. I am sure that's gone up though, I buy a new one at an average rate of one a shopping trip.

Another of my favourite things to do. I am a bit of a restless wanderer and I am forever looking for new experiences and new places to visit. There is so much in this world to see, it would be a waste if you stayed in the same place for your whole life.
Family and friends
They are everything to me. I have no idea where I would be without them.

I was first forced to wear these aged 4 and they've been my constant companion ever since. Various friends and opticians keep on trying to persuade me to get contacts instead but I would just feel weird if I stopped wearing them. I quite like them really, they are kind of part of my face now and I think I would look strange without them.
I am very tall. For a girl anyway. Which I am a bit self conscious about but ultimately it's a good thing. And it's the absolute best when I go to gigs. My view is always good, wherever I might be standing.

Inter-railing in Italy
My favourite holiday that I have ever been on was when I went inter-railing around Italy, the summer before last (which you can read about here That country is just so beautiful, the food is amazing and it was a hilarious trip with a pair of sisters who are two of my closest friends. Everything about it was incredible.

Jon and Jo and Jack
My three best friends: Two guys one girl, two I met at uni, one at school. They're all nuts, they all keep me sane.

I love children and I am pretty great with them. I have a great many little cousins, all of whom I adore. I worked with them, when I was a sales consultant in a baby shop and back when I trained as a primary school teacher. And now I am a piano teacher so I am still working with them. I come from a large family myself (I have two brothers and two sisters) so I think I want four of my own one day. Might leave that for about 10 years though.  

This is definitely my favourite place in the UK. I love our capital. Living just outside it, I am there on an almost weekly basis. There is so much to do, lots of my friends live there and there are some bits that are absolutely stunning. I am trying to save up so I can live there at some point in the next century.

This has always been such a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. I got a distinction in grade 8 clarinet when I was 17 and am grade 8 standard in piano and singing although I never took the exams. And I am now a piano teacher. It is so satisfying to think that I am starting these kids off on a massive journey that will hopefully last their whole lives, like it has with me.

New Girl
I adore this programme. It's the only thing I will religiously watch every week. And Zooey Deschanel is just a goddess.
I love the sea. My parents live by the sea and I basically grew up on the beach. When I am angry or sad, I tend to walk along the beach and it immediately calms me down. Works every time. Now that I am living in Reading, one of the most land-locked towns in the UK, I do actually find myself getting withdrawal symptoms. So whenever I go back to visit my parents, a walk along the beach is the first thing I do.
I have the ultra-clichéd phobia of spiders. For a while I thought I might just be scared of them. But a couple of years ago, I was in my room, knowing that there was one somewhere on the landing and I couldn't physically leave my bedroom. I couldn't do it. I think that allows me to diagnose myself as having a phobia.

I am addicted to personality quizzes. And I spend my life on Buzz Feed, reading them as part of my procrastination. So if you ever want to know what Mean Girls character I am (Karen) or what Disney princess I would be (Belle) or what Harry Potter character I would marry (Draco - I am not sure what that says about me) I could tell you.

As in the place 'Reading', not 'reading'. It's where I live, where I went to uni and where I essentially became an adult. I like it here.

My boarding school, Christ's Hospital is where I grew up. It is one of the best, worst, most stressful, most hilarious periods of my life. It was so much more than a school, it was my home and a little piece of me will remain there forever. It made me who I am today.

Anyone who reads my blog or my Twitter will know I don't just love the theatre, I LOVE the theatre. I am totally addicted to it and go all the time. Much to the horror of my crying bank balance. But, similarly to reading books, I just love the escapism. I have seen about 25 shows in the West End (which you can view here and there aren't many that I don't like. The talent and the range of stories and songs, is all so amazing.

I am obsessed with the US and have always always wanted to visit.It seems like the UK but bigger and better. I need to go.

Valentine's Day 
My least favourite day of the year. My friends laugh at me and call me (jokingly I hope) bitter, but I just think it's ridiculous that you are forced to show your love to your partners on a specific day. Simply so they can sell you crap. You should show love every day, and if you are going to buy gifts and stuff, then you have your own special day to do it - your anniversary or whatever. There is no real reason to have this extra day of love in the middle of February, it's purely for commercial purposes - and that's what I hate about it. Rant over.

It is my life. It's the first thing I do in the morning, it's the last day at night. And almost every hour in between. I blog consistently, I write for about 5 websites, I am writing a novel, I write wonder I don't do anything else. The sooner I start getting paid for it, the better.

I have kissed a lot of it now time to find my prince (bleurgh I can't believe I just wrote that, but seriously, what do you do for x - stupid letter).
I only discovered my love for sushi a short while ago. But I am addicted. I think the idea that you can start eating straight away and don't have to wait for the food to be brought out, is inspired and probably why I like it so much. It's become a bit of a habit with me and my old housemate, that whenever we meet for a catch up, we go for sushi. So yummy, but I always end up spending so much and becoming uncomfortably full. My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach.

I hate them. A weird thing to hate I know but somehow I always break them and then end up being not able to wear a dress or worse, getting stuck in a dress. More and more, I tend to buy elasticated dresses and ones with buttons these days.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Getting to Know me - My arrival at boarding school

Let us start at the very beginning (for it's a very good place to start). Cast your mind back, if you will to September 2003. Little Charlotte arrived, fresh faced and very over-excited at the prospect of actually attending a boarding school like she had wanted to for so many years.

And then noticed her first grave error. Everyone else was carting multiple pieces of luggage upstairs, while I only had my one reasonably large but still singular suitcase. The older girls who were helping us newbies settle in, registered surprise but at the moment were too polite to say anything. They were not so polite when all the parents had gone home and instead asked me bluntly where all my clothes were. My parents and I had embraced the list a little too whole-heartedly. So had taken it literally when they said you only needed a few changes of clothes. There was no way I had brought enough civies (own clothes) with me, as we had assumed that you would be in uniform the majority of the time. How wrong we were. As soon as I headed home on my first leave weekend, I fixed this mistake, bringing the majority of my wardrobe back with me as all the other girls did. But for those first three weeks it was a little embarrassing, and I took to pretending I was on Civvie-Ban (a punishment for untidy uniform) to save myself from being 'uncool.'

That afternoon was when I met Jo, my best friend of 11 years, for the first time as well. It's scary to think I have known her half my life and she literally knows every single thing about me. More than my parents even. But during that initial meeting, I thought she was such a baby. She was sitting in our massive common room, known as the Day Room, absolutely bawling her eyes out about the fact she was missing her parents. For goodness sake, they'd only just left.

Lots of my memories are accompanied with this crazy girl. We got into quite a lot of mischief together particularly when we started sharing a 'cubie' in the second term. We constantly got into trouble for talking and not being in bed on time. And once for doing yoga on our beds after lights out - don't even ask. We scrapped, argued and we fought, sometimes physically. Once she pushed me so hard that I fell into a fire extinguisher and knocked it off the wall (Matron was not pleased). And once we had a literal punch up through a curtain.

Now would probably be a good time to describe what our rooms looked like when we were at school. Because they weren't normal rooms and didn't have proper walls. The best way to imagine them is like a row of large toilet cubicles - each 'cubie' was separated with a  metal partition which didn't quite reach the ceiling (like you find in a toilet cubicle) and the entrance was covered with a curtain. And that curtain was as infallible as a door. If the curtain was shut, you were NOT ALLOWED IN ON PAIN OF DEATH.

Even though this all sounds a bit weird, it was awesome for us. The fact it was all open, meant that we could (and did) chat from our beds after lights out causing the older girls and teachers to constantly threaten us with various punishments. We would play games like trying to get from one end of the dorm to the other without touch the floor, by jumping on beds, clambering up on to the wardrobes, along the top of partitions and any other way besides. All a little bit dangerous now I think about it, but so fun when you are 11 and 12 years old. Another game we would often play was to sit on the wardrobe and stare down at the person in the adjoining cubicle to see how long it would take until they noticed you. Again - hilarious to 12 year old girls.

In our first couple of weeks we were subjected to two initiations into our boarding house (which was the best house on the Avenue, called Coleridge A, after Samuel Taylor Coleridge who attended the school). The first was a dorm raid. Now for us, this was essentially a midnight pillow fight. The older girls came screeching upstairs and hit us awake, chucked a few water balloons at us and we whacked back with all our might. Every single house has them but they differ hugely in intensity depending on the cruelty of the older pupils. If you were in a boys' house, they would often put football boots in the pillow cases, causing actual injury. And even in the other girls' houses, I heard stories of the older girls stealing duvets, putting them in the bath and turning the taps on (it would take weeks for that to dry out properly). As well as slightly more sinister pranks like putting hair removal cream in shampoo bottles. So we got off reasonably lightly.

Our other initiation was called The Innocence Test. This involved the older girls asking the new 'squits' as we were known, a series of questions to do with sex - from 'pull' to 'teabagging' and everything inbetween. Obviously, being 11, we didn't know the answers to many of them so they enlightened us. And that was effectively our birds-and-the-bees talk. Saved my mother the embarrassment anyway.

So there's my brief little insight into a few memories of boarding school. Obviously as I grew, the freedoms and privileges did as well. So I will update you in another blogpost at another time, all about Charlotte the Teenager's experiences of boarding school. To be continued...

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Getting to know me - Mythbusting boarding schools

In my previous post I was forever mentioning the fact that I went to boarding school and gave a weeny taster of what life was like there. SO I thought I would expand on this today for my next article in the 'Getting to know me' blog series.

Now, I really wanted to go into my own specific boarding school experiences. But when I started to write this, I realised there were loads of myths surrounding the idea of boarding school itself. I began to dispel this in an article I wrote almost two years ago on boarding schools in general (which you can read here And this is a continuation of that. Then later today, I will conclude this article with a few of the memories I have that made boarding school so special for me, therefore giving you an insight into this unique childhood.

So let us bust some myths.

Myth 1: boarding schools are cruel.
This is just not the case. I was not sent there by my evil parents who wanted to get rid of me. Nor was it a punishment. And I definitely was not forced to stay by either the school or my parents. I wanted to attend. In fact, I was desperate to go. We first went to an open day when I was about 7 or 8 and I remember crying when I got home because I wanted to go there so badly.

So off I went aged 11, which is very young, I get that. But if I hadn't enjoyed it, of course my parents would have allowed me to come back. I hate that complete strangers judge my parents for something that would have been a HUGE personal wrench for them. I can only imagine the kind of strength that it took to part with their little 11 year old for weeks at a time. But they put me and my education first, allowing me to have all kinds of opportunities that I wouldn't have been able to have, had I stayed with them. And for that they should be praised.

Myth 2: I am posh and rich
This annoys me a lot. Everyone assumes because I went to a boarding school (which is in the private sector) I must be very wealthy and therefore very posh, surrounded by other similarly posh brats. And this just isn't the case.

The particular boarding school I went to, Christ's Hospital was a charity boarding school, which meant families were means tested to find out how many fees they could afford to pay (a similar process as applying for a student loan/grant). Many families paid nothing at all. Therefore, I was surrounded by all sorts of children from all different backgrounds. There were some who were rich, who wore designer clothes and went home to beautiful mansions in the countryside. But there were many others who grew up on council estates in London. And everyone was just normal. We were not any 'posher' than your average state school.

Myth 3: It is just like Harry Potter/St Clare's/Malory Towers
I am sorry to break it to you...Harry Potter isn't real. It's a story. Made up and completely plucked out of JK Rowling's imagination. So no, it was not like fricking Harry Potter. We did not have roaring fires, or four poster beds. We did have bed times and rules. And we didn't learn magic.

Ditto with the Enid Blyton series. Besides, even if that was a realistic version of boarding schools - you do realise that was written in the 1950s, don't you? You'd think that everything would have moved on a bit by now.

Myth 4: It damages relationships with parents
I am often asked this question and it always surprises me, but I guess it stems from the idea that they have 'sent me away.' Which they haven't as I have already addressed.

We were able to contact our parents frequently and we took full advantage of it. They often came up to take us out for tea in the neighbouring town of Horsham, and to watch us in matches and concerts. And they were very much involved in my education, supporting me every step of the way. In fact, I think my separation from my parents has strengthened our bond. I have moved out now, but I ring them almost daily to update them continuously with my life. A habit I got into when I was at boarding school.

Myth 5: It causes children to be anti social with the opposite sex
I can maybe understand this if I went to a single sex school. But mine was co-educational...why on earth would I be any more awkward around boys than you are? No, we did not have a three inch rule (again, we are not in the 1950s) and yes we may not have been allowed upstairs into their bedrooms but still, we were allowed to hang out with them. While we had a very structured day, (thank goodness or we would have been bored and that led to homesickness); we were still given breaktimes and lunchtimes and after-tea times where we could hang out with our friends. And as we progressed through the boarding school, we were given a little more freedom. There was more than enough time to chill with your friends, whichever gender they may be.

(photos courtesy of Christ's Hospital and Matt Coster)

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Getting to know me - My first...

I am really excited to announce that this month I am going to be taking part in my FIRST EVER blog series -

It occurred to me that, while I have been writing on here frequently for the past two years and you know a lot about random things going on in my life, you don't really know all that much about me as a person. And I would like to fix that =] Therefore I am going to write a series of articles - not sure how many yet - allowing myself to be a little more personal. And through them you can get to know the blogger behind the blog.

Let the fun begin.

So to celebrate the fact it's the FIRST of February and it's my FIRST article in my FIRST blog series, I am going to talk about 'My Firsts' today....

My first memory
Many so-called 'childhood memories' don't really exist. They are either planted there by your parents, or you see a photograph and kind of make them up. But my earliest memory is 100% mine.

I was about 2 and a half, maybe three and at the time, my parents were building a house. The house they now live in and have done for almost 20 years. Normally I would be left at my grandmother's or with my older brother while they oversaw things at the site but at this particular time, I was there. There is a picture of me (right), sat on the foundations of the fireplace with my big bro. But what really sticks out for me about this day, was the intense fear I had of the digger. I was absolutely terrified of it. I remember thinking that it would fail to see me, and would swallow me up. So even at that young age, I was aware of my small size and own insignificance.

I told this story to my Dad recently and he laughed at me. He'd had no idea so it's not like these thoughts actually came from him. And it's really stuck with me all these years. Not something I need to worry about now of course. I am a total giant.

My first story
I have loved writing stories ever since I can remember. Recently I read through some of my old year 6 school books and every week we were required to write a one page story using our spellings. Needless to say mine were 4, 5, sometimes 6 pages long. And every week my teacher would write comments like 'Excellent writing but make sure it is only one page. Poor poor Mr Lott...after embarking on teacher training myself, I now understand just how annoying this would have been.

But I wrote my first ever story when I was a lot younger than that. Aged about 3 in fact. It was called Sammy Squirrel's Breakfast. At the time, I had watched a TV programme about drawing animals and squirrels had featured quite heavily because they were apparently 'particularly simple to draw.' I hadn't found them to be so though. But anyway, I drew a load of pictures and dictated a story to my Dad who typed it up on the computer and ta-da I had my first ever book - printed on to special paper, which was a little thicker than paper but not as thick as cardboard. May it be the first of many (here's hoping).

My first friend
She was called Kalina. A German girl in my class at nursery school and we remained friends until about year 2 or 3 when she decided she was too cool for me. Facebook allowed us to get back into contact with each other over a decade later and I realised that she was in fact at UCL studying medicine with a friend that I had made at a music course when I was 15. Small world.

I haven't kept in touch with any of my primary school friends though, because I left them all to go to a boarding school at the age of 11, instead of attending the local comprehensive with them. My oldest friend therefore, is Jo who I met on my very first day (I thought she was being a right baby as she was crying her eyes out). It's scary that we have now been friends for just over half our lives.

My first job
Going to a boarding school had its downsides. And one of these was I didn't experience the working world until I was 18. I'd had plenty of volunteering jobs, assisting in schools, giving tours of my school, helping out at after school clubs, running choirs and teaching kids musical instruments...but I didn't get a paid job until the summer after I had left school.

This was at my local shop down the bottom of my parents' road, called One Stop. It used to be a reasonably large chain but then was taken over by Tesco and now they have mostly all been turned into Tesco Expresses, so they are a bit of a dying breed. To be honest, I have no idea how I even got that job. I wasn't till trained, had no experience whatsoever and was so poorly in the interview that I barely said 10 words. The boss talked more than I did but he gave me a chance. They trained me up on tills, PayPoint and Lottery and, even though I was only expecting to spend the summer there, I ended up working there for 3 years whenever I was back in Sussex for the holidays. It was reasonably fun, but as any supermarket job is, could be deathly dull at some points, while super stressful at others. I loved loved loved all my colleagues though, we always had such a giggle.

My first crush
This was on a neighbour of mine aged 7. Well, I was 7, he was 8 - always loved an older man. Over the road from us, lived two boys, one was 3 years older than me, (which might as well have been 30, I thought he was ancient) and then David was one year older than me. I was always trying to impress him but it obviously didn't work because he ended up pushing me in a bramble bush. Which really hurt. And that was my first warning that all men are dicks.

My first time away from home
When I was kid, I didn't go on many sleepovers. We all lived really close, so my Mum thought there was no point. And I wasn't too traumatised as I ended up going on a 7 year sleepover when I started at boarding school, aged 11.

This meant that the first time I was away from home wasn't until I was 7. It was on a weekend camping trip with my year 4 class and I absolutely loved it. I loved the independence and just hanging out with my friends, while doing all sorts of fun activities. I didn't want to come home. Funnily enough, I have never been so enthusiastic about camping since and never went again. I am far too fond of normal things like you know, hot showers, and a bed which you don't have to share with ants...

My first film I saw in the cinema
I think this was The Rugrats Movie whenever that came out. Am not very sure though.

My first published article
I started writing various articles for my local paper when I was around 14 or 15. And the very first one was this (right). So cringe - it's always horrible reading back your old writing. It seems so immature.

When I was a kid, I wrote all kinds of articles for my own newspapers which I invented. I made loads of them including the Phoenix House News (about me, my siblings and parents); and Col A News (about me and the 7 other girls on my year in my boarding house). I still have them all somewhere...I was such a cool child.

My first boyfriend
His name was Daniel. We were 11. We held hands. We hugged. We even kissed once. But after the Christmas holidays, I got bored of him and told him I would prefer to be just friends. I don't think he was too fussed.

Oddly enough, I have never actually been able to commit to a proper relationship since. My problem is I go through all those stages I wrote above, before I have even entered the relationship. Oops. Must try and fix that one.

My first time abroad
We were not the most affluent family when I was growing up so I did not embark on amazing holidays to Corfu. My first time I travelled abroad was on a school trip in Third Form (year 8) to Poitiers, where we visited the theme park and the town to improve our French speaking. I loved it.

People are always surprised that I didn't go abroad much with my parents but it didn't really bother me. And it has placed a never-ending hunger in me to explore the whole world, which I am doing one country at a time. How many travel experiences can you actually remember from your first 10 years anyway?

My first mobile phone
Again this was a lot later than your average kid is given a mobile as I didn't have my first brick of a nokia until I was 14. But bear in mind that, 8 years ago, the world was not as mobile-crazy as it is now and I went to a boarding school, so I didn't need to contact my friends regularly. I was surrounded by them all the time.

I had that phone for 2 years, then had a slidey Samsung for 2 years. Then finally I actually managed to enter the 21st century with my first Iphone, Ivy aged 19. She was stolen at New Year's 2014 so was replaced by Ida for 8 months until she was upgraded to Isaac the Iphone 5s (left) back in November. And he is my constant companion, helping me with absolutely everything. Even this blogpost. It depresses me, just how much I rely on him.

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