Monday, 26 October 2015

Stylist Live : The event I was, amazingly, invited to.

Stylist magazine has always been a favourite of mine; I am constantly 'liking' their tweets with stories or articles attached so I’ll have them saved ready to read later over my afternoon extra large peppermint tea. This magazine is not like the others – and I know that anyone could say that about any mag-type publication these days, with all the barriers being broken down and the taboos being talked about, but damn it this one really is different. Stylist was the original boundary-demolisher. 

Their articles and pieces are always totally on trend, and on point.
I connected with the ‘Being a Girl Guide’ piece – and I really liked that I got to put my two cents in by responding with the hashtag they set up (#beingaguide). Their collection of ‘The Greatest Ever, Most Inspiring Random Acts of Kindness' made me weep and believe in humankind once again. The amazing ‘long reads’ piece taught me a lot and gave me several new idols and similarly ‘The Big Idea’ which was a series of bestselling authors revealing their creative inspirations and secrets had me scribbling down as many ingenious writing tips as I could. Also I was amazed at the ‘Women Who Traded in Their 9-5s’ – who knew the office life isn’t the be all and end all?! 
The piece about maternity leave and managers misbehaving was eye-opening. Their cover featuring a pic of the Queen with the title ‘THE BOSS’ was perfect. I also adored their Uzo Aduba cover. “Crazy Talent” should be the Crazy Eyes actress’ real-life nickname. Their almost weekly recipes they share are just next level – who knew it was possible to have totally healthy comfort food such as ‘Burrito Bowls’, or to make perfectly delicious dairy-free bakes such as coconut milk scones?!
And finally, my not-so-guilty pleasure at the end of each week is their ‘Best of Instagram’ piece, featuring the most liked, or most outrageously gorgeous snaps, celebs have posted on social media in the past seven days.
Now, the thing that really sets them apart from other magazines today is their genuine kindness. Let me tell you a wee story here:
Once upon a time, Stylist were tweeting constantly (@stylistmagazine on Twitter) about their upcoming event Stylist Live (@StylistLive), the first event of its kind for them. Featuring endless beauty pros and a selection of some of the best writers on this planet today, it was an event I was desperate to attend.The event took place from Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th October, in Islington at the Business Design Centre. It was after several weeks of these tweets that I spontaneously replied to one of them, saying “so devastated that I can’t go to #StylistLive, reason #3269 that radiotherapy sucks!” (I can list the other 3628 reasons as well)
I was just mindlessly ranting, not expecting a response at all, let alone what the magazine replied with (within the hour!). Tweeting me back, saying they were “sorry to hear this” and asking if there were any days I could attend that they could get me tickets for…I was speechless with delight. They then DM’d me the following Monday just after 9am (I’d been so worried they’d forget about me, but no!) asking which day I’d want to attend.
So yes, we love Stylist for a myriad of reasons, but this will always be my #1. They didn’t have to do that. They could easily have just seen my tweet and thought “meh, one less girl drooling over our Aveda stall I suppose”, but no, they reached out to me and made one of my weekends off from treatment all the more precious and magical.
They sorted out two tickets for me and my Mum, and for some bonkers reason they made us VIP. Meaning I could reserve a place at one of the many awesome talks occurring that would normally cost £10 on top of the regular ticket price, I’d also have access to the VIP Lounge, get a goody bag and free drinks, plus I could attend a catwalk show.
They had told me I could choose which day I attended, so I had such fun scrolling through the Stylist Live weekend timetables online and I eventually decided Sunday 18th was the day for me. It seemed like my perfect day.
I arrived at the Centre alone, Mama due a little later on, and I was first totally knocked back by the enormity of the spectacle. The whole exterior of the building had been given a Stylist makeover and was surrounded by glam lads and ladies, then when I got past the ticket desks (and the VIP band was wrapped around my wrist) and walked into the main hall area, I had to take a deep breath. Gorgeousness. As far as the eye could see. Everything was pristine and perfect. There was a snazzy shiny display immediately to my left, with some of the Stylist reps mic’d up and talking to guests in front of a small crowd, then “The Story of Stylist” to my right – a little exhibition area showing some of the magazine’s best covers and explaining how the publication came to be, and came into its own. I did hover there for a while, wanting to soak up every piece of fabulous information and maybe jot down a few things for that time in the future when I invent and launch my own magazine.
There were make-up stalls everywhere; Clarins, Benefit, NARS, Birchbox, Bean Burst. Hair-wise, the many hundreds of us in this building were sorted: Aveda and GHD were my personal favourites. There were fashion pop-ups everywhere too – I fulfilled my dream of actually seeing first-hand (not just on the browser on my phone) BOB by Dawn O’Porter. I fell in love with a pair of silken trousers with Egyptian cats on, then almost wept as I couldn’t find my size.
I also really loved that Waterstones had a little pop-up, too. They were of course selling books by writers present at the event, and all of the author signings took place there. Also, my inner online fangirl freaked out ever so slightly seeing YouTuber Daniel J. Layton manning the desk there – I’ve always meant to go into a London Waterstones and track him down, maybe snatch a smouldering selfie with him. Sadly, on this day he was too busy and I was too starstruck to attempt conversation. Oh well.
The only thing I found annoying about this event was that there were too many awesome things happening at once. I couldn’t fit them all in!
Here’s what I chose to check out:
There was a ‘Today’s Papers’ talk happening at 10:30am, in which the brilliant minds of Dawn O’Porter (who was co-hosting the entire event), Jessie Cave, Diane Morgan and Shazia Mirza dissected the Sunday papers.
At 2pm there was a ‘How to Write Your First Novel’ seminar with Laura Barnett (author of The Versions of Us) – which unfortunately I was not able to attend as I foolishly turned up to queue outside Learning Lab 2 at 1:50pm, when girls had been waiting there since midday which meant the board was up saying “this session is full”. My own stupid fault, thinking I was one of only a few who would want to be taught how to become a bestselling author, by a bestselling author…
2:30pm was the Stylist Life Lesson: ‘Things Get Better’ by Katie Piper. I’ve always been an admirer of this awesome woman from a distance, so being a few feet away from her and hearing her passionately speaking, sharing this lesson with us, was an honour.
Here are some other amazing things I missed out on as my schedule was already rammed:
At 10:30am, there was also a flower lollipop-making session with Alex Hoffler (one half of the hugely successful Meringue Girls, responsible for the recently released cooking book Everything Sweet). There was also a ‘How To Upcycle’ class with Annika Nicklinson (designer, art director and author of Junky Styling: Wardrobe Surgery), and I so desperately wanted to attend that as upcycling your old items of clothing or furniture never fails to amaze and inspire me.
At 11:30am there was another mind-blowing session: ‘How To Be More Mindful’, with Elaine Slater. Mindfulness is so important, and I am adopting it as best I can at the moment, so I would have loved this talk if I wasn’t already spoken for at that time. Then at 11:45 Frederique Tietcheu, (creator of SHE Unleashed and blogging at, was teaching us all how to boost your confidence with the miracle of fashion and finding the right style to suit your personality.
The ‘Why Motherhood is Not the End’ talk at 12:30 intrigued me – Dawn O’Porter, Sharmadean Reid (WAH Nails’ founder), Genevieve Kunst (MD of ShopStyle), Natalie Lee (House of Mamas co-founder), and Katie Kirby (Hurrah for Gin blogger) gathered to discuss why settling down and having kids is most definitely NOT the end of your career or social life.
However, I was at the talk I’d selected as my VIP option, ‘Social Media, Sherlockand Finding Your Own Voice’; Sherlock actor and writer Louise Brealey analysing the importance of social media for getting your voice out there, with Nimko Ali the women’s rights activist and co-founder of Daughters of Eve charity.
I thought of several friends of mine who might have appreciated one other talk happening at that time: ‘How to Get Your Fashion Business Off The Ground’ with Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel company – y’know, that gorgeous made-in-Britain accessory that’s taken off like crazy in just seven years; I’ve promised myself that the day I get accepted onto that MA, I will be treating myself to one… Preferably that hefty deep red one…or the teeny lilac one…
At 3:15 was a seminar on ‘How to Find a Mentor’ with Cassandra Stavrou, founder of Propercorn (the perfect snack we sell at my work and I treat myself to every now and again on my lunch breaks), talking about how important mentoring is and how she came to create the Propercorn Platform competition earlier this year.
Now, I totally would have attended this talk if I hadn’t been ogling at models..more on that in a sec.
First, I must share this little blip in my otherwise magical and stylish day:
I may have had a tiny personal panic about an hour and a half after I arrived.
I was still alone, wandering around drinking in all the beauty, and then I decided to grab a light lunch. I trotted up the steps to Feast Street, the mezzanine level which boasted many food and drink outlets; Grind coffee, Pukka tea, Delancey & Co., Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese… So many options for a bite to eat! I went with Jack’s, the slightly larger cafe with heaps of seating that overlooked the centre from the front – a spectacular lunchtime view. I paid £5 for half a butternut squash crammed with blue cheese, walnuts, zucchini, onions plus some other greens and quite honestly guys, I’d have paid a grand or two more had I known it would be that delicious. As I sat and munched it in the most ladylike way I could, while at the same time gasm’ing so hard over the deliciousness, I looked around me and saw an endless sea of beautiful women and handsome men, all giggling and discussing important things over their salads, walking by me with their VIP tags swinging from their expensive handbags or adorning their already heavily bejewelled wrists…I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling of I don’t belong here. I’m a fraud! I got tickets because the magazine were so damn lovely to poor old me, not because I work in fashion or am being paid to exhibit, or because I have that perfect profession of writing articles about these type of events. No, I’m just a fluke here. What’s worse is they all know it too – all these chic fashionistas or genius journos are looking at me and seeing an alien. “Who let her in? Oh my god, is that a VIP band? Who the hell is responsible for this?!”
I imagined a witch hunt taking place, an angry mob chasing me out onto the street with flaming torches and pushing me onto a train in Angel underground.
I kept calm, polished off my outrageously perfect lunch and snuck away to the loos. I locked myself in a cubicle and dug into my VIP goody bag, downing the super-sweet Birch water, gasping at the Aveda Dry Remedy freebie (how didStylist know that’s my favourite hair product?!), breaking into the NARS Jungle Red lippy but not daring to put it on my stupid un-chic face. 
As expected, as I always do in times of extreme anxiety and silliness, I took to Twitter.
I tweeted: “Okay, I suddenly feel super out of place. I’m not one of these glam gorgeous gals! I’m a fraud! #StylistLive”
Not only did one of my all-time favourite tweeters and major blogging inspiration Lucy Powrie reply straight away with a comforting “YES YOU ARE”, but Stylist themselves responded to me yet again with “We have no doubt you look glorious! Have a wonderful day x”.
That was all I needed; I hugged my phone, gathered my stuff, opened the cubicle door and marched up to the mirror opposite. I whacked out that perfect NARS and painted my smile the most delicious red, then strutted back out and into the main hall, the epicentre of style.
I roamed about with confidence for another twenty minutes or so, then my mum arrived.
I was soon rushing my mum around the VIP lounge (“Look mama, look at this! And this! Quick, get your goody bag! And your champers! Oh my gosh FREE CUPCAKES!!”) and then pulling her into the fifth and last VIP catwalk show of the day. I was beyond excited to attend my first ever catwalk show.
It was just like in the movies…but with Stylist, fortunately it was much more cheerful and accessible. There was a brief talk beforehand about the key trends we were about to see examples of – in high street clothes. The trends were all unique and exciting – especially for my mum, the Colour & Style Consultant, sat next to me. I was so thrilled we were both enjoying the show – her because she loves colours and changes in style, me because I had a free vodka cocktail in my hand and was geeking out pretending to be in The Devil Wears Prada.
The models were all kinds of beautiful, and bossed every single outfit. They somehow managed to get one outfit off and the next outfit on backstage between the change in trends – which was signified by a blast of a new eccentric club track. I was seat-dancing a little bit.
I found it so amazing that they kept cool and poker-faced throughout the show, strutting their stuff and working the cameras at the end of the runway, and then so lovely when they all came back on at the very end they were grinning and hugging and dancing. Of course, I thought, it’s their last show of the day and of the entire event. I found myself wishing I’d been invited to the models’ after-party.
In fact, I would be so interested to have had a glimpse of the whole Stylist after-party. Or even better, I’d have loved to have seen the office the following morning – hungover writers, ecstatic CEOs, half-asleep photographers, and the general feeling of accomplishment and joy just radiating through the building. The team did well!
The whole day was a crazy success. I was so delighted to have been given the opportunity to attend this one-of-a-kind, soon-to-be legendary event. And all thanks to a silly little tweet. Ah, the power of social media…
Stylist, thank you for inviting me, for responding to me and for reassuring me; I will owe you and worship you always. Let’s be Twitter pals forever. And maybe someday, you’ll want me to speak at one of these gorgeous events…or at least run the Waterstones pop-up stall…

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Radio: Still Okay. (8/30)

I always have to check in when I get to the Radiotherapy ward. I go to the desk and hand my appointment card over to one of the smiley ladies sitting waiting for me – one has dyed dark hair and killer brows, one has the most perfect luscious bob much like mine but better, and one is a Spanish sweetheart who always looks a little sad for me when I approach.
There's also a guy sat behind the desk and off to my left, an older chap who wears some kind of uniform jumper and always has his head in a little book. When I first noticed him the other day it was Roald Dahl. For the past two days it's been Agatha Christie (two of her novels). I'd quite like to befriend this guy – we could talk books every day. I get the impression he's more of a traditional reader than me though. I'd lend him a YA novel and he'd be so confused.

I'm really grateful that all my radiographers wear name tags. I hate forgetting people's names – I am always so close to doing the Dr Molly Clock trick and holding a person's face right before mine after they tell me their name, repeating this name over and over as I take in their features. Luckily I don't have to resort to that extreme with the radio people, they all have their names emblazoned on their chests. It is tricky, though, to catch their name when they're not looking and not seem like I'm staring at their boobs. Oh yeah, my radiographers are all women. Or have all been women so far. I see men wandering about the ward from time to time, but only ladies deal with me. I wonder if that's deliberate – female patients, female attendees. I can't imagine why they would make it this way, but maybe.

I can safely say now that it definitely takes longer to get me all set up and sorted – ask me for my name, date of birth and first line of my address, clip on the mask, get me all lined up and test the machine – than it does to actually administer my dose of radiation. I am barely in there for the length of a song. I'd say with the prep included, and the time it takes to walk from the waiting room into the special suite and back, it can't be any longer than nine minutes.
I'm so glad we're not driving up to the hospital and back every day just for this tiny period of time. Don't get me wrong, I know driving an hour and a half there and back (on a good day, that is) is the least we can be doing to help me in the long run; you cannot put a price on a healthy brain after all. It's just a bit of a palava some days. Which is why I'm so happy we've been given the flat.
Mama L and I have stayed in the hospital-managed flat in Belmont high street for two nights this week, and will most likely be there for three next week. We're making it homey and getting shit done: I am on a health kick and eating accordingly, we have started binging on Once Upon A Time series one, and in between outings and the aforementioned binging I am setting up my laptop at the cute little dining table and cracking out a few words on my novel (more on that in a sec, I don't want to go off on any tangents in this post as I'm so aware that my last couple have been paragraphs upon paragraphs of mindless word vomit)...

Our new local is Caffe Nero, Sutton High Street. Not the one down opposite Times Square shopping centre (not really a fitting name, goodness me Sutton people!), the one up the top near Morrisons that is so open and lovely and has the nicest team working behind its bar. We go there actually almost every day, use and abuse their free wifi and have at least two drinks each. The team always take my staff discount card and ask which store I work in, then say something along the lines of 'Ahh, you're one of us!' Which makes me do a little happy dance while waiting for my cuppa to be brewed. I have had to tell a couple of them why I'm so far from my store, and not working, though. I try and play it cool – 'Oh, I'm in the Marsden hospital? Yeah, having some treatment. I'll be back at work soon!' (Because I will. I will be straight back to work when all this is over!)

Yes, now, the novel. I figured six five-day weeks of radiotherapy and not much besides that will give me a lot of free time to get this bad boy started. I'm slightly surprised how easy it's been to 'switch on' and write so far. Also, how many plot ideas have come to me while I'm in hospital being zapped, drinking my second americano or even drifting off to sleep (I've learned that's when some of the best ideas hit me, and they're easily forgotten in the morning, so I always note them down now). Also in the last few weeks I've gone from nothing but creative dead ends and unfinished posts to three potential works of fiction and a whole lot of word vomit blog posts, for this my personal blog and my wonderful group blog Oh No, Not Another Blogger. I've also written guest posts here and there. My favourite thing I've done recently was the piece I wrote for Zusterchap, the awesome revolutionary blog devoted entirely to breaking social boundaries and exploring personal experiences. I wrote about a sex myth I heard when I was younger, that actually put me off getting intimate for a while – then made me feel that there was something wrong with me when the thing in the myth didn't occur... I'm bad at explaining. Read it here (family members, family friends, ex-teachers, I apologise and warn you not to read if you don't want to know me on a more explicit level!)

The other day I had a check-up with a radiographer and registrar. They told me my 'bloods' they took the day before had revealed that I am slightly 'on the low side' where my haemoglobin is concerned (I spelled that perfectly first time! Whoop!). Which means I am ever so slightly anaemic. It annoyed me because my mum chimed in and told them that we're a family of veggies, so that may have contributed to that, and the registrar nodded knowingly and rolled her eyes a wee bit. How dare she. We veggies get plenty of protein and iron, thank you very much. The radiographer then piped up with 'eat tons of spinach, Grace!' Pfffttt. She didn't need to force me, I freakin' love spinach. Anyway, since then I've been packing in the iron, and I have my health consultant/mama living with me, don't you worry readers...
The radiographer and registrar seemed very keen to remind me that side effects are a-comin'. They say at first patients shake it off, and wonder why they're being told this over and over because it's all going so well, but apparently it's two weeks in when the nastiness hits. The radiographer seemed to really want me to know that my hair will thin and fall out – which I already knew, obvs – and I reassured her that I was cool with that, and that I'd lost some hair already (and donated it!) because I knew more would be going before long. She then suggested I invest in a hat. That got me excited – 'I have the best HAT FACE!' I grinned at the two ladies, and they immediately agreed. I loathe and detest most things about my body, but damn it the one thing I can be proud of and enjoy is the fact that I have the best Hat Face. I look so good in hats, to the point where I can wear the most boring unsuited outfit, pop on a knitted cap and I'm sorted.

So the overall message of this, yet another post consisting solely of thoughts and recent occurrences thrown together and held in place by hardened crusty word vomit, is that I am okay. I am still pushing on and doing alright – for now, at least. Sure, they may come a time in the next few weeks when I hit a low and need reassurance or just someone to hug me and spoon-feed me my extra-healthy dinner, but for now I'm all good.
I'm still making the most of my weekends, of the precious free time at home; today I got a train to Eastbourne at 9am and spent two hours writing and guzzling coffee in one of my favourite cafes, because that's what I wanted to do, and it's one of the many places I've really been missing these past few days while living elsewhere. Other places would be my living room (sorted that one, Strictly Come Dancing date tonight with my family and a Scotch), my bedroom/newly-revamped happy place (spent last night in there reading and of course sleeping), my little home town high street, and another is central London (going there a few times this week!).
I'm making the most of my energy, too. Also my appetite, and my desperate desire for coffee (which I was told I'd lose for a while as the effects kick in, but so far so good! I think my love of coffee cannot be extinguished by mere radiation).
I'm making the most in general, I think.

Fun little P.S. here: my mum and I got a shout-out while driving home from Sutton yesterday evening. Good old Simon Mayo read my text, which was fab because it meant I didn't have to keep trying to call the station (never getting through) nor did I have to chat on the phone on air. That concept terrified me.
Anyway, 32:50. Check it out!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Radio: The First Few Days. (4/30)

I think when I had my mask fitted I was smiling. I now have to smile a wee bit each time they lower the mask onto my face before the radiowaves start tumbling into my head, because then it'll fit better. What a funny girl Past Gracie is. I like to think she was subconsciously preparing me, Present Gracie, for the harder days yet to come when I'll need to smile and get on with this. Then again, maybe she was just happy on the day when the specialists half-smothered her with hot wet plastic and chatted to her mum as it set on her face; happy because things were finally getting going, because it would all be over and she'd be well again by Christmas, and because the hot wet plastic was actually weirdly pleasant.

There's always music playing through speakers in the Radio Room. I really enjoy that. It's just an iPod packed with tunes that the radiographers all contribute to, which is nice because it means there's always something different playing, like a lucky dip of mood-setters. Day 1, I can't remember what the music was. I was busy looking all around me (from behind the confines of the blue mesh, of course) and memorising what happens over the course of the six-ish minutes I'm lying on that table.
Day 2, the tune that started up when I laid back was that one 'yessir, I can boogie, all night LOOONNNGGG!' which I found hilarious and sweet. I almost wiggled along to the song as though I was in a Cadbury's advert.
Day 3 was better as I'd got into a groove already. I started the day with a large black Americano (and then to chase it a skinny flat white, obviously) at Caffe Nero in Sutton high street. We binged on the free wifi there for a while.When I got into the radiotherapy area of the hospital I was frantically storming through the last couple of pages of my book (All of the Above, by James Dawson) when they called me in. The song that started playing as the radiographers left the room was 'I Need Something' by Newton Faulkner. Holy heck, I love Newton Faulkner. The album Hand Built By Robots takes me back to my school days, stressing over GCSEs because they were the most important thing in the world. The album Studio Zoo reminds me of a happy time, the weeks studying up on his latest sound before I saw him live in Portsmouth (and cuddled him after the show), and I hadn't a care in the world. His voice is just perfection. So real and relaxed. I was able to close my eyes, to let the machine whirr away and the waves work their magic.
Day 4, I couldn't recognise the music as it was playing slightly quieter for some reason and the sweet mechanical whirring around my head seemed slightly louder, but it didn't matter. I was too preoccupied thinking about my Dad sitting outside, it being his first time accompanying me, and him having just seen the 'radio room' and watched me being strapped in and set up with my mask and the machine. I was hoping he hadn't been too overwhelmed by it all. I like to think that those close to me will find seeing the room and talking to the radiographers reassuring. It may make everything that much more 'real', but at the same time it'll squash any unpleasant visions they had and convince them that I'm in the best hands.
***I had intended to upload a photo of my 'view' while lying on the radio table, but I had to sign a form saying the photos I took on my phone will not be sold to a tabloid or surface on social media or basically ever see the light of day unless I show them to someone for a maximum of five seconds all the while constantly checking over my shoulder for the Hospital Police***

Now I would request a song or two, or give the radiographers my iPod to plug in and a playlist to play while my session is happening, but that seems wrong somehow. That's like manufacturing a moment. I'd rather just let the nice things just happen to me. I'd like to be constantly surprised at what the universe decides on, what it throws at me.
Mind you, the universe has been a little too 'tough-love' with me for the past eighteen months or so... Oh well, I still trust it. I still believe that whatever happens happens; everything happens for a reason and shouldn't be uselessly needlessly questioned. We can make things happen for ourselves if need be, of course, but sometimes it's nice to just sit back and let things run their course.

'I'm so amazed how quick my sessions have all been so far!' I gushed as I sat up on the hard table, after Day 3's session ended and Newton's soft tones had faded away. 'This is only my third, but yeah...' Shh, Grace. I'm sure it's quick because they know what they're doing and they get shit done. It's probably nothing to do with me.
The radiographer smiled as she packed the equipment away. 'Yes, it's a nice clear 'n' clean arc, with you!' I almost swelled physically with pride. I'm an easy job for the radiographers! I'm a treat in their otherwise busy, complicated days. That's what I like to think, and what I took from that one sentence, anyway.

My first week (a week consisting of three days) was mostly surprisingly positive. And I'm so happy about this. Now I've started my first full week, and I'm optimistic. I think as long as I keep cool and do what the professionals say I should (lots of rest – but also keep pretty physically active, which I intend to do by walking a fair bit and doing a few local yoga sessions) then I won't get too much worse as the weeks go on. I'm dreading the tiredness and the possible nausea that sets in after a few weeks. I'm totally torn at times between storing up sleep and staying socially dormant now, in the early days, saving myself and building up a healthy happy body and an ironclad defence... Or making the most of my physical alright-ness (I could never say 'fitness', like ever) and doing AS MUCH AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE RIGHT NOW; seeing all my friends, attending so many events, drinking all of the whisky, staying up late, doing the occasional London Day (it's only £3.95 from the station near my hospital, y'know!).
The temptation to go totally mad while I still can is intense and relentless. But I must be strong, and I must be sensible. I don't resent that actually, not as much as I thought I would... I don't resent any of this. At the end of the day, this treatment happening now will benefit me later (I hope, I mean I won't know for a while), and I'm so lucky to have such awesome specialists looking after me. Also, such a fab family for putting up with me and my constant needs for lifts, errands and hugs. Yes, everything is good so far.

There is one thing, just the one negative, that I've realised after starting my treatment. No, it's not that I can't do certain things. It's not that I'm having to spend days at a time away from home. It's that my weekends have become infinitely more precious. I've always done shift work and never had a five day 9-5 job, but... I get the Friday feeling now! I will be filling up my weekends – at least for the first couple of weeks – with activities, treats and friends. I only hope other people will understand that for the next six weeks a) I am only really available on weekends (and the occasional weekday evening maybe, but we'll see) and b) if I'm seeing you on a weekend, it's a big deal and mustn't be taken lightly. I really would rather not be led on and then fobbed off at the last minute. Not that my bestest friends would do that – this is just a 'please don't' kind of warning.

Anyway, that's four sessions down. Bring on the next twenty-six! 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Gracie's Happy Place.

First of all, I know I'm not a YouTuber so I can't exactly give you a flawless guided tour of my bedroom/safe haven/habitat with special camera angles or funky music playing in the background. But I don't want to do that anyway! I'd much rather be showing y'all the little areas of my room, or certain bits 'n' bobs that I feel especially happy about or proud of... 

I'm exceptionally proud of my room. I've spent most of the past year working hard on it! I was brought home from uni kicking and screaming and then spent a good few months ignoring the boxes upon boxes (and backpacks, bin liners and tote bags) that had taken up residence all over the floor creating an ugly obstacle course from my bed to the door, but eventually I decided that things had to change. It's normal to be angry when you find yourself back in the family home after any time living independently, and it's totally understandable to revisit that teenage angst that was actually born in your childhood bedroom, when you're back in it again for the foreseeable future. I needed a phase of mourning - 1. For the last three years of freedom, 2. For the person I was at uni, and 3. For my formerly reliable and untouched brain.


However, soon I decided that if I was ever going to be happy at home, I had to revamp my room. I had to make it a nice environment where I could retreat to and find comfort in. I saw the bedroom of a good friend of mine and was amazed at how she'd made it into the physical equivalent of the inside of her head. It was her personality and her style, her passions - and her fandoms - all crammed between four walls. Suddenly I wanted that. I needed it. 

So, let's first take a look at the key area of my room, what you see when you walk through the door. This area has been massively improved by the addition of the luxurious double bed, of course. The noticeboard has been there since I was maybe early teenage, and it was one of my first missions when I set about revamping the room. It was covered in theatre tickets, cover shoots of hot band members and my favourite magazine articles from my Year 11/sixth form days, and while I can totally appreciate the importance of those scraps of paper back then and I know they contributed to the building of this girl (Caitlin writes perfectly about this, yet another reason she and I should hang out), I needed to update things. So I blitzed the board and set about re-covering it with 21 year-old Gracie's influences and fond memories. Now 22 year-old Gracie is itching to contribute to it, too...or just destroy it and rebuild. We'll see.
Items of note here: my poor little blue ukulele I found on eBay and promised I'd learn to play three years ago but never did (top left), Sully & Stitch in their honeymoon pad (bottom left), Cat Therapy colouring book + pencils (front and centre), Hippy my beloved HP laptop (purple and proud, bottom right), my graduation present from a uni friend - 'Grad? Grad.' a la TFIOS painted lovingly on canvas (top right), blue Caffe Nero takeaway cup sleeve which I pocketed during my first shift at my perfect job (lower middle of board), and the postcard that says 'smile' which seems to leap out at you from the noticeboard in this photo... 

Next, swivelling around to the right, my window sill. Here we have a collection of scented candles (not pictured as they are all half-burnt and blackened considerably, not very pretty at present but still smell divine), my mirror where I do my makeup in the mornings (because direct daylight is best, however devastating it may be when it first hits your sleepy face), my new roommate Kenickie the cactus who sits happily in his bed of a stolen Starbucks mug, my red jasper skull which encourages me to adventure and look beyond my window, my Feelings Stick made by my mum (see New Girl season 1 epsiode 4and three jars of pure legit Australian sand (one Surfer's Paradise, one Byron Bay, and one a mixture of several perfect Aussie beaches, all sand samples collected in Spring 2012 and smuggled back to the UK via Dubai. You can literally put a finger in one of these jars and say "I am in Australia."). 

Now let's examine the other 'big' area of my bedroom - my desk and shelves. Don't worry readers, I'll be condensing this as best I can into just one paragraph... 
My desk goes through a good sweep every month or so; I shift the stacks of books, piles of papers and collections of random significant objects, feeling my head clear and breathe as I do so, and every time I swear it will never get this bad again. It always does. There are a few staples within this mess, though. 
  For instance, my crystals. I have them currently on a china plate in the centre of my desk (in front of the completely packed but barely used tea caddy), as I used to have them in tiny clusters all around my room but I've found that having them all in one central location is best. Beside the plate is a pair of sculptured hands which always hold the one crystal of the bunch that calls out to me most that day/week/month. I have amazonite, jasper, onyx, garnet, quartz, fluorite, lapiz lazuli and many more. Also behind them (atop the aforementioned tea caddy) are my Buddha buddies. They are all different stones and all have different meanings, and every now and again a pat on the head or rub of the belly with just a fingertip is all that's needed to set me straight. Sat with these guys as well is a perfect little timepiece my grandparents gave me at graduation, and my prestigious Montjoie star awarded to me after I gave speeches at my old school last year. I also have my To Be Read pile glaring at me on the desk, which both fills me with pride but reminds me not to buy any more books any time soon...

  Above the desk are my bookshelves. They were given a tidy up and restyling earlier this year; my dear friend (the same one with the inspiring bedroom) got in touch with her Virgo tendencies and attacked the shelves with intense organisation. Every book is now crammed in and colour-coordinated. Often I'll be sat on my bed reading or Netflix-ing or blogging, and I'll look up and see the gorgeous rainbow of books on the wall facing me... It makes me so happy. 
I keep quite a few knick knacks up there with the books - some of my jewellery (4 ring holders, 2 earrings stands, 1 'miscellaneous items' pot), my nicer perfume, the spooky (as in, spookily accurate) fortune sticks, the coffee tamp I won at Barista of the Year, and my (now retired) prettiest Ultimate flying disc. Plus photos, obviously. I plan on someday having a shelf dedicated to photo frames, but right now I feel they punctuate my slightly overloaded shelves nicely. 

The rest of my jewellery can be found between the window and the shelves; I used to always hang necklaces and bracelets from pins on my noticeboards, but then that would cast shadows and just cover up the many valuable artefacts I'd collect and stick on there. Then one year for birthday and Christmas presents I was inundated with tall free-standing jewellery holders - especially those wooden painted ones made to look like female bodies with hooks sticking out of their necks. I gave those a go, but gradually grew sick of looking at them. My necklaces would not be best displayed on those, and they'd get tangled together as well. So now they're all on a little row of hooks - I think the proper purpose of these hooks is to hang coats on, but they work perfectly for this. Very handy. Looks quite cute, too.

One of my prized possessions in my bedroom is a gift I received from my lovely former workplace (Everyman cinema, Winchester) when I was yanked out from behind the bar one day and rushed into hospital... The wonderful team sent me signed cards and a perfect illustration done by Matt, a fantastic colleague and genius artist ( 

I also have a more personal noticeboard next to my window; safe from prying eyes and the harsh bleaching glare of the sunshine... This board is splattered with my super-special cards, tickets and photos. I cannot pick a favourite 'thing' here - every item is important to me. Photobooth snaps with my little sis and with my boyfriend, the postcard Frank Warren signed, the Hogwarts Express ticket John and Hank Green scribbled on, my Grandad's message which became pretty permanent on my forearm two years ago, all six of my Joshua Radin concert tickets, my fragment of the silk scarf my best friend ripped apart for us to share when we were just sixteen... Everything is golden, here.

So, that's my room. Or at least the parts of it that I don't mind showing... There's still some renovation to be done and some tweaks to be made. For example, I want my retro 60s typewriter to be a gorgeous ornament as well as a funky way to write letters to my friend in Berlin. I also need a place to store and display my best mugs - the Bing Bong one, the one with the heart painted on, the precious stolen Starbucks ones (my friend and I decided to take our own initiative and punish this company for cheating their taxes in 2012)... 
There's still a lot to be done. But I hope you appreciate and enjoy what I have so far! 
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