Thursday, 28 February 2013

Toffee and Key.

Mr Strong & Little Miss Giggles, Naughty, Sunshine; My family.

Let's say you had a tough night. You worked until 2am and had to deal with drunk people; their slurs, their spilled drinks and their sick. Your drunk friends all jumped on you on the dancefloor, taking the piss as you mopped up a spillage. That one guy wouldn't listen when you said "step away from the bar, please". Sports teams were chanting, sports teams were shouting, sports teams were yelling. People were pushing their luck. Radio calls came in from all directions. Member of staff to the First Aid room. Member of staff to the exit. Member of clean up to the dancefloor. Member of clean up to the level 1 toilets. Member of clean up to the main bar. By 1:30am, that last straggler waiting for a taxi was your worst enemy. All you could think of was your bed. You finally climbed in, knowing full well that your alarm was going to go off in 5 short dark hours; full day of lectures tomorrow.

"Large latte with skimmed milk please, m'dear."
Nothing compares to that first sip. The smell, the taste, the warmth; it's pick-me-up perfection in a mug. All the mutterings in your head quieten, the darkness lifts and the tiredness is banished. Bless baristas everywhere.

When did I start liking, and more importantly depending on, the sweet student life force that is coffee? I remember when I was younger (and by that I mean up until about a year ago) I loved the smell but loathed the taste; "too strong, ughhh!" I'd wail whenever my mum offered me a sip of hers.
   I found coffee was just too much, and tea was simply too boring. Now I'm on two cups a day (since I don't trust myself to make my own, usually from a coffee shop in town or more often the Student Union as it's convenient and packs a yummy punch) of the former, and I have a newfound love and fascination with the latter. I currently have Twinings English Breakfast and Clipper Pure Green in my kitchen cupboard, and two boxes of delicious Yogi Tea sitting next to my bed - Yogi, my new obsession following the most shocking revelation that tea doesn't have to be brown and milky! How had I survived this long without the beautiful taste of organic Cinnamon Spice tea, or ginger with orange peel and vanilla?! What was it that used to get me through assignments and accompanied my TV catch-ups once a week? Tea is what was missing from my bedside table, and coffee is what was missing from my desk in lectures.

The other day, I was in London visiting an old and perfect friend; we popped into Starbucks shortly after meeting, and then later on we ducked into Caffe Nero. Unlike many people my age, Starbucks is not my favourite place to go for coffee. I'm not passionately against them per se, I just don't get such a happy thrill when I order my personal favourites in there, whereas Nero or Costa always put a smile on my face. I do love that Starbucks ask for your name on a takeaway cup, though, and they always manage to get it wrong...
   My bestie Rikki drinks mochas, and his favourite is a white chocolate mocha with a shot of peppermint. Only Starbucks offer this unique concoction, so sometimes if I'm really stuck (and missing Rikki), I'll order that. So, the other day in London, I was walking around Covent Garden with a Rikki Special.
   Caffe Nero are my latte specialists. I'm a vanilla latte gal all the way, but I heard about soy Chai lattes from my mum, and this yummy cinnamon beauty is a serious contender for the top spot. I love Nero; lattes in general are my weakness, and they make them just right.
   My friend in London sat down next to me with his hot chocolate with cream, and proclaimed: "you can tell you're an actress."
   "How so?"
   "You have an order."
So there we go. I have now progressed to the level of Coffee Lover that warrants my own personal coffee order. Crazy.

I often think about the first time I tried coffee for real; I was sitting in Miss Finch's classroom, the legendary Room 38, with some of my high school besties at break time and being the supremely cool teacher Finchy was, she always offered us a sachet of cheap caramel latte in a polystyrene cup. She'd brew 'em with the kettle and extensive hot drink paraphernalia behind her desk, and we'd all sit and gossip until the bell rang. The Coffee Club. When I left school, Finchy cut out the front of the caramel packet and stuck it in my Leavers' Book to accompany her sweet notes and anecdotes. I loved those times, and besides the minor panic attack and severe shakes I got one day in my Geography mock exam after having three lattes and no food at lunch time, I think the coffee did me good.

First sign of growing up: having a coffee order and boxes of special organic tea beside your bed.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ode to Uni (II): Keep Calm and Love Winch.

At work, whenever there is a stressful moment or what looks like a heavy night ahead of us, we have this mantra; Keep Calm, and Love Winch. It's our own nice little spin on the pop culture craze that is modern-day spin-offs of Churchill's famous words "Keep Calm and Carry On", with posters appearing on many a student's walls saying 'Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake', 'Drink Vodka and Get Drunk', or even the ultimate anti-thesis: 'Now Panic and Freak Out'. These posters are available for the student-friendly price of £1.50 in our annual Freshers' Fayre poster sale at the SU, and so this craze has spread like wildfire.
'Keep Calm and Love Winch' is my personal favourite; it seems all too appropriate for me. I may not always keep calm, but I do love Winch.

The University of Winchester was my first choice university, and I was fortunate enough to be let in when September 2011 came around quicker than anything has ever come around before; thank goodness too, because I'd already fallen head over Chucks for the beautiful campus and idyllic college town feel. After seeing West Downs Student Village, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
My year at West Downs was the best year, probably, of my life. I miss it every day; I'd ramble on and on about the many wondrous days and crazy nights I had while living in House 38, but the rambling would never end and I wrote a blog post previously to serve that purpose.
   We're onto Second Year, the year of the big red house and the tiny damp room. I've loved living here so far; the proximity to uni is perfection, the park where we have outdoor training for Ultimate is right opposite, the handy yet tacky little Premier shop is right next door as is the Post Office, and for some reason I've really taken to sitting on the doorstep some nights, listening to music and drinking in the chilly quiet air - very poetic, therapeutic and what not. Don't get me wrong, though, I won't miss my freezingdark'n'damp bedroom, the squirrel scurrying in the roof or the grizzlygrimy'n'gross kitchen, and I'm crazy-excited to start anew in the cutest house with the cutest people next year - which shall henceforth be known as The Mildmay Era.

Winchester is just beaut. It's supposedly a city, but really that's just due to the rich history and the cathedral. It's more of a town - a very sweet, middle class town that has an all-round Christmassy feel and somehow looks pretty in any weather.
During the day the city sits peacefully cross-legged keeping an eye on its inhabitants as they browse the Farmers' Market trying to find the perfect bread to accompany their chilli-stuffed olives and chuckling as the students run for the Badger Farm bus, weighed down with Sainsbury's bags filled with pancakes and cider; At night, the city steps back and lets the students run free in its deserted streets, frantically getting last-minute money out at the 'gash point', attacking the 3one flyerers and spending most of their crazy night clubbing stood in the smoking area under a heater contemplating doing things that they'll regret the next day.

I love living in a place that has so much beautiful and insane history, a place where I can go for a wander in the cathedral grounds or up St Catherine's Hill, a place my family are always delighted to visit. I also love living in a place with an awesome piercing and tattoo scene, a place where I can pick up a cheese 'n' mushroom pasty and not have to eat anything else for the rest of the day, a place filled with funny characters and familiar faces.
A place where I feel at home, a place I'll miss someday, and a place I'll always want to come back to.


Hi, my name's Gracie. I love T'ing D, I think my family should buy a pub, Crunchy Bran is a true love of mine, vodka has an interesting effect on me, time travel is my dream, I fancy Shakespeare, my family rock harder than yours, I'm on that Mumford & Sons hype, I can watch Gilmore Girls in bed all day, I'm sad about Richard Briers, my best friends are all I need, I've given up chocolate and cheese for Lent, Australia is the perfect escape, I have met John and Hank Green, I miss him, musicians are my weakness, getting my hair done is a very guilty pleasure, I want to work behind a bar at some point in my life, I try too hard, I push too much, I don't know when to stop, I never know when to leave things alone, and I'm apologetic but I'm not sorry.

I do one of these posts every month.

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