Friday, 30 September 2016

Ctrl Alt Delete ; a review and chat with Emma Gannon.

I have a lot of heroes in my life. People I am lucky to know, and worship accordingly. My family, obviously. Some friends. A few of the teachers/tutors/lecturers I've encountered throughout my time in education. The medical team who fixed my brain and then helped me recover. Authors, so so many authors. And, of course...bloggers. 


Emma Gannon is one of these blogger heroes of mine. I aspire to reach her level someday, both job-wise and general human being-wise. She writes a perfect blog and has a legendary podcast that's being recommended by all the best mags and people. I've been to one of her (now many, wonderfully varied) events, the IRL Panel (read my blog post about it here!), which I found fascinating and fun. I receive her weekly email newsletter, which always fills me with joy - and the list of links to recent articles she adds in every time gives me endless new reading material. 

Emma recently had her first book published, 'Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online', which I read while on holiday - and briefly reviewed in this post here! I don't think I did it justice, though, I didn't quite communicate just how amazing it was and how nostalgic it made me - while also exciting me about the present and giving me hope for the future. 

I couldn't possibly sum up in just one post how much I loved this book, nor how much it meant to me to read it, but I will try to cover all my favourite things about it. As you can see in the pic below, I broke one of my ultimate bookish rules while reading Ctrl Alt Delete on holiday and I folded over the corners of pages so I'd remember precisely where to look when I needed guidance or just a giggle. 


The first page that I felt the need to fold was #81, because a certain chunk of text in the section about the specifics of 'online identity' and what we hide from others got me super excitedly yelling 'YES YES THIS THO!'...

'We know that we're good at displaying, hinting, suggesting what our lives look like while leaving lots of puzzle pieces out of frame. The dodgy-looking bits: the arguments, the spaghetti down the T-shirt, the greasy-hair days, doctor's appointments, the super-plus tampons in the trolley, bills, Post Office trips, grocery shopping - all these things are never usually posted. We'd probably never do a post-STI check-up selfie saying, 'I'm all clear, guys!' Social media has never been a natural place for sharing the real stuff. Us human beings have a lot of boring life admin, so we're very good at hiding it online nowadays and only sharing the happy, bright, emoji-filled chunks of our lives, in order to give the illusion we are very happy, well-put-together, mentally stable individuals.' 



Another folded page was #134, because Emma and her friends perfectly captured what I'd like to see instead of a lot of the readily-available porn online these days -

 'Clive Owen entering the strip club in Closer. Magic Mike, obviously, any of the dance scenes...A freeze-frame of Johnny Depp in Chocolat (that lovely ponytail)...anything involving Idris Elba (maybe not Mandela though)...'

Then on page #173 Emma explained perfectly how it feels when a person compliments your blog...

 '[a blog is] a carefully built digital environment, a place you can have a lot of control over. It's your domain name, your rules, your content, your words, your little personal magazine that documents your life. I often wonder if I am 'better' on my blog than in real life. It's definitely prettier and neater than I am. It is also the way I share my soul with the world. Seeing as there are over 150 million blogs on the Internet, for someone to see you and tell you they like yours, well it felt quite amazing.' 


I am so grateful to have read this book - and to have come across this blogger in the first place, obvs. After being a fan of Emma's for a good while, I knew that the book would be special for me, and sure enough I was 100% in it and in love with it from the second I opened it. Actually from the first mention of MSN messenger and the fact that it was totally an after school activity when everything that couldn't be communicated in person was actually said (gurl, same), and then the descriptions of a Picasa editing obsession (ughh, I once edited out my eye bags very convincingly and then shrunk my eyebrows, the result was basically a plastic alien), the trouble with cybersex (most of my experiences with that took place on Gaia .com, anyone else?!) and lying about your taste in music to suit the boy you fancied (I now love so many pop punk bands thanks to the skater dudes I crushed on when I was 14, though, so...)


I was lucky to catch Emma via email recently and send her some cheeky Qs. I tried my best not to freak out and fangirl when I received such amazing responses. Play it cool, guys...


- What advice would you give to a blogger just starting out right now? 

Don’t be afraid to be different! Take inspiration from other people you admire, but don’t hold back from putting your own unique spin on things. Stand out! There are so many blogs that look and sound the same and I personally don’t see the point in blending in. If you can help it, try not to be so much of a perfectionist; the beauty of blogging is that each post doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. As Nora Ephron once said: “You don’t really have to believe what you write in a blog for more than the moment when you're writing it." I love this, it takes the pressure off. It's from this book, "The Last Interview with Nora Ephron".

- What was your favourite blog post to write? Like, ever? 

The blog post announcing my book deal. It felt so surreal writing that post, like REALLY? THIS IS HAPPENING? It was fun to give some behind the scenes of how the idea came about, how I met my literary agent Robyn Drury and how I found the perfect home for my book.

- Same question as above, but with chapters of your book?

Probably the earlier chapters, the cat-fishing and dating chapters of my book. They were so fun to write. I was chuckling and cringing to myself re-living it all.


- What would your #1 policy be if you were put in charge of the World Wide Web? 

GOOD QUESTION! It would definitely be accountability. It would be for people to not get away with using hate-speech online or making illegal threats. Have an opinion, yes, but there are currently so many people getting away with doing stuff that IRL they would definitely not get away with.

- What was your best (/cheesiest) MSN name back in the day? 

It was probably an Incubus lyric. (*) Whatever tomorrow brings I'll be there (*) - CRINGE!!!!


- If you had to change your username right now, what would it be? 

I actually just changed my Twitter username from @girllostincity to @emmagannon. I’m a grown up now! My old blog name is no more. I guess it’s the same as when I got rid of my hotmail account supachic23@hotmail.com. My old blog name has brought me so many amazing things and I was quite emotional getting rid of it, but we all go through different chapters and I'm on my exciting next one, now! 

*

Thank you so much, Emma, for letting me chat with you. And for the book, and the podcast, and the blog and ALL OF THE THINGS. I really hope someday we can go for coffee/cocktails and talk about life. Yep, that's the dream. xo

P.S. I am pasting in your recent vlog with Hannah Witton, because you two are just my OTP in terms of career goals, y'know? 


(I also recently changed my Twitter & Insta handle from @gracieactually to @_gracelatter. Because it was time. I hope all you readers and followers can support this change, and accept me for who I am - who I always was.)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

29.

Hi, my name's Gracie. 

On a typical day I carry 4 lipsticks in my bag, I wish I could sing, acting in a takeaway app advert is a dream job, I sometimes sneak personal posts in on this blog between other posts, I have 11 piercings and 10 tattoos (still not done), I feel Autumn is romanticised hideously by hipsters but then at the same time I love the way it makes me feel, the Waterstones I work in now has a perfect gorgeous cafe and I spend my lunch breaks in it with my laptop, I fancy Mark Ruffalo more now than I did when I was 13 (which was a lot), I get stupidly excited when I hear my email alert noise, London is an escape, I always need something to look forward to in the near future, overthinking is a habit I cannot but must break, dairy substitutes are proving interesting, the current GBBO drama is giving me life, I saw American Idiot 5 times in the West End this summer, social media ghosting is stupid, writing dates keep me sane, I get tips on how to be happier in life and want to follow them but...I prefer to make things up as I go along. 

I do one of these posts every month whenever I remember whenever I want to. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Grown-Up Goals...!

I have written about this kind of thing before – my To Do by 25 List was basically my way of saying 'I'm turning 23 soon, I supposedly should do all these things by 25 BUT why pressure yourself? Be free!' 
So this post will be a little more relaxed in terms of deadlines. Y'all are about to see my list of Grown-Up Goals! 


The beautiful Keris actually reblogged a text post on Tumblr not too long ago that said 'there is no endgame in life'. And wow, I totally agree. These items below are not my endgames. I won't achieve them all and stop trying, stop searching, no! I will simply move on to my next challenge, I expect. 

So here we go. My for-real mostly-sensible Grown-Up Goals. When I grow up, I want to have...

  • Travelled around a significant portion of the planet.
  • Be making a living from my passions. (No no not those passions, I mean like my writing and reading and speaking to people...)
  • Got my own place. Just me. Nobody else. I want to live at least part of my life on my own.
  • Rescued and provided a home for a cat. Or two. Or six...
  • Worked out what taxes are and what needs doing with them because, honestly, what even. (I recently found out my code's been wrong for a long time and I am owed a LOT of money from the tax peeps. Huh.) 
  • Have the health in check. I want to still be receiving regular tests and attending consults, and I want everything to be running smoothly in my head. Surely that's not too much to ask...? 
  • Be content and done with tattoos. (Note: this is an unlikely goal. I love getting tattooed.) 
  • Have got the whole LinkedIn thing down to a T. 
  • Found a hairstyle that I a) like and b) can maintain. (This is harder than you'd think)
  • Paid off all my debts and saved enough dolla that I can comfortably retire and sit pretty - and share my infinite wealth (ha!) with those closest to me. 

I know for a fact that I will have this blog forever - for the duration of my life, when I am growing up and a grown-up, and who knows, I may even appoint someone to watch over/continue it when I am gone. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. 
What I mean is, you readers will all see me when I properly reach that Grown Up era, and I hope you'll see me achieve each of these goals. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

This (My) Modern Love.

I recently read Will Darbyshire's 'This Modern Love'; the beautifully simple and strangely ambiguous red cover has been calling out to me from the New Fiction shelf at work lately, so I treated myself after payday...I thought I'd keep it as a 'coffee table read' and dip in and out whenever I fancied it, but I ended up devouring it in one day as I travelled to and from London. 


The book is a collection of letters, notes, and words submitted and sent in from all over the world about, yeah you guessed it, love. Love in all its forms – crushes, yearnings, relationships, flings, break-ups; every little thing, every flutter of a feeling, is covered in this book. It starts with crushes, then the middle section is relationships, and it ends with break-ups. 

This book didn't enrage me or irk me at all – despite the fact that it's a 'YouTuber Book' (*sighs*) and it's about love, a subject I am not very well-versed in or keen on these days. In fact, I kinda loved this book. Yep, quite an achievement. Well done, Will! 

I felt the need to answer the Qs posed at the beginning of the book. 
I really wish I had seen this project when it first took flight - I'd have written endless letters and poured my heart out, and made a complete tit of myself, no doubt. 


What would you say to your ex, without judgement?

1. Sorry. I was an idiot.
...you could apologise for that thing you did too, though. Please.

2. I hear you're boring now. Good.

3. You're boring, too. And you always said to me that you hated short hair on a girl. Liar.

4. Any time. Anywhere. 



Write a thank you note to your partner – describe or share (in a photo) the big and little things that make you happy.

These days, I hardly ever go into a shop without seeing something you'd like. Something specific, like a comic book or a suit jacket or a silly novelty item or a snack of some kind...
I think this means you're still in my head. In a good way. I still consider you – and every time I do, I think how lucky I am to have you as a friend.
What single word sums up your love life, your partner, or someone you like?

Weirdness. 


What would you say to a crush?
Write a letter to them to express it.

This is a terrible idea. Let's do it.


How has technology affected your relationship, either positively or negatively? Describe your experience.

I hate broadcasting my life on Facey B, like many people might. I'm also (believe it or not) selective about what I share on Twitter. My relationships have hardly featured on my social media platforms, save for the occasional #coupleselfie on Instagram. That's just me, though. Just my preference. It's like PDA – time and place, y'know?

Snapchat has always been good for my love life, though. No, not for that reason (although...no) just for checking in and sharing jokes while I was in an LDR. Quick, easy and free with wifi. Sweet. 


< 3

I would advise all of you readers to grab a copy of this book. If you are romantically confused, excited, lost, hopeful, at ease...there's something in this book for everyone. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Just Some Things #2 : Kasim.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works...
I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen entirely at random most of the time – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish. 



When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

This post features and celebrates the legendary Kasim, author of Affliction who has a flair for the darker topics and is also an aspiring (+ sassy and harsh af) editor.

His prompt was: Describe Heaven.

I don’t remember how I died. They say that this is normal, all part of procedure. You die and then you don’t remember your death, because why would God want you to remember how you died? It’s never a nice thing, even if you were surrounded by your family and friends and you had no regrets. Your heart still seizes up. Your lungs still stop breathing. You still feel your life fade from you.
Oh yeah, and then it comes back and you’re listening to your family cry over you. You listen to them talk about you and you wonder why they never said these things to you whilst you were still alive. You realise that funerals are for the living more than anything. You listen to the sound of their footsteps walking away and you’re alone. The ground cracks under you and you feel like you’re falling. Consciousness fades and returns and suddenly you’re sitting in the cracked leather chair from your grandfather’s house but it can’t be that because your grandfather died when you were eight. You distinctly remember going to his funeral and watching everyone cry. You didn’t understand that he was dead. You just thought he was gone.
You get up and walk to the door of the room. Your hand stretches out to the handle and your hand doesn’t look like your hand. It looks new. But your hand. It’s new but it’s yours. Your hand twists the handle and when the door opens, there’s a wind that ruffles your hair. You feel better than you’ve felt in years. Suddenly, your child’s betrayal has disappeared from your heart, that fucker that hit your car seventeen years ago exists no more, the woman at the checkout till did not give you a frown as she passed your eighteen bottles of wine through.
Everything disappears and you feel like a tree in the midst of autumn. Naked. Yet free.
You step through the door and everything is dark. Yet, fear doesn’t strike your heart. Not like it did when you were seven and you watched that horror film about the doll that came alive. You couldn’t look at dolls the same way for the next few years and even before you died, if you saw a porcelain doll, your heartbeat would rise a little.
Lights turn on. Natural light floods in. It crashes into you.
You’re standing in a meadow. No, a beach. No, you’re standing in the middle of a city, just one in a crowd of people bustling around to get to where they need to go. No, you’re sitting in a room overlooking a waterfall. No, you’re standing above the waterfall, about to leap in. No, you’re in space, looking at the Earth from a distance of many miles. No, you’re on the moon.
No, I don’t know where I am.
No, I don’t know who I am.
No, I don’t know what I am.
Why are you so fearful?
The voice thunders through me. It growls and is high-pitched, male and female. Accents collide into each other within its space.
I want to speak.
I want to say something.
Is happiness not what you seek?
My mouth opens.
My entire life crashes into me. Sad songs and white women, guitars laced with spider’s webs, drums made of flesh, slashes in my skin. A razor blade sings a soft ditty. A man cries my name, my head cradled in his hand. A bathtub. Slipper underneath me. Shower curtain, hospital curtain. There’s a nurse with pretty lips. I kiss her. I’m at an office. Head cradled in hands. Computer beeps. Life support. A whisper. We’re going to say yes. I want him to say yes. He says no. There’s a switch. It’s turned off.
Is happiness not what you seek?
No.
*

Kasim's Twitter : Instagram : Debut novella : Blog


And here is my response to the same prompt...

I'm walking down an aisle. It looks like the freezing, breezy church in my home town. That one I was christened in. Not the one I was married in. The stained glass is beautifully illuminated from the outside, it casts glowing colours every which way – over all the people. People. There are a lot of people. Who are these people? They're standing either side of the aisle...they're clapping...they're cheering...for whom? For me?
I can't imagine why they'd be cheering for me. I turn and look behind me. It's all blackness behind me. Swirling blackness. How can that be?
'Well done, girl,' a man's hand claps on my shoulder. It's warm and firm. I follow the arm up and gasp when I see the face. It's my granddad. He's here. But he died – when I was a teenager – he did, he did die – and there's my grandma, clutching his other arm, tears pouring down her face. Tears of sadness, or tears of pride? She's smiling. At me.
That's when I look around me again. And I mean, properly look. I see my teachers from school who always inspired me, my best friends whose weddings I attended and children I held, my own daughter who was never born but I know it's her...these people are all dead. They're dead and gone. They've come here. And so have I. And they're happy to see me.


If you are interested in doing one of these posts, do tweet or email me at grace.latter@gmail.com

(Perfect image by Kayleigh Causton illustration)

Thursday, 22 September 2016

A Recipe for the Perfect Alchemist.


~ An old and refined London setting.
~ A base coat of slick wit.
~ 3 spoonfuls of wickedness
(Face, Subtle, Dol Common).
~ 5+ fleeceable fools.
~ 5+ indignant neighbours.
~ Infinite layers of tricking.
~ A dash of guesswork.
~ A healthy dose of hilarity (approx. 2.5 hours' worth is best; apply when all ingredients are proven and prepped) (also give recipients of hilarity time between doses of 1.25 – so they may freshen accompanying drinks and recover from exposure to excellent farce). 



Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

Tips for a truly stellar production: cast Ken Nwosu, Mark Lockyer and Siobhan McSweeney, allow them to bewitch and enchant those onstage and in the audience; ensure Polly Findlay directs with Josh Roche assisting for utter deliciousness; keep candles burning throughout for maximum atmosphere; cut and snip text – Stephen Jeffreys is best for this; engage with the punters wherever possible; turn things over now and again for freshness.


Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.


Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

WARNING: do not forget the risk of the Plague. 


Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

For more information and inspiring practical demonstration, I'd advise you see RSC's performance of 'The Alchemist' at the Barbican. 
Running until 1st October, 2016.


Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Doctor Faustus; the night my love of plays was rekindled.

I recently was fortunate enough to see the incredible RSC's production of Doctor Faustus at the Barbican, in London. It blew my mind a little bit. Here's a few reasons why I loved it - and why you must all go and see it...

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

The vibes.

It sounds odd, but from the very beginning when the two leading males took to the stage and had the most intense exchange – both stood, mirroring each other, then lighting a match, letting it burn out, ooh – there was an atmosphere that fell over the audience. The entire theatre became a different place. The doors to the stalls slammed shut all at once, and after that first fragment of a scene, Faustus (Sandy Grierson) launched into his first monologue and we were all hooked on him, like a beautiful yet toxic substance.
This penetrable atmosphere continued for the entire performance; the energy would always be at its peak, never slowing or fading.

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

Your eyes will thank you.

The expression 'a feast for the eyes' can be overused, but let me assure you it's totally 100% relevant here. It's amazing what the the director and creative team did with the space, and then what the cast could achieve with such a minimal set. Well, it appeared to be minimal when I first went in...the cardboard boxes scattered around the stage and the tall hung sheets as a background initially fooled me. The stage soon became home to magic, demons, armies, the devil (more on her later!) and the deadliest of sins. 

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

The hottest devil I ever did see.

The evil yet irrefutable Lucifer was played by Eleanor Wyld. She was an absolute vision in her bright white suit as she commanded the stage – and OMG, my hair envy was unreal whenever I saw her.

The people. 

I was astounded to learn that the roles of Faustus and Mephistophilis are alternated between two actors, Sandy Grierson and Oliver Ryan. That bit of info alone seemed insane. I mean, that's a lot of lines to learn...
Then I found out that the decision as to who plays which character is made ON THE NIGHT OF PERFORMANCE!? Oh yes, when the actors take to the stage in a dark mysterious prelude to the play that I mentioned earlier, they're actually deciding something very important. The man holding the match that goes out first? He'll be the Doctor. I cannot imagine what goes through the actors' heads each night as they strike their matches. Does one role excite them more? Do they dread being damned and hurt by the devil? I wish I knew. 

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.


The supporting cast were all diamonds; I particularly want to applaud each of the actors who play one of the deadly sins, individually. Because, whoa. Such grotesque and gorgeous beings! 

No interval. 

I know this is a bit controversial, but...I've come to LOVE seeing a performance with no interval. It's so much more intense, not having a break - you're able to get utterly immersed in the show. Plus, it often ends quicker that way and you're free to go home and get to bed at a reasonable hour. 
Not that I wanted to do that with this show. My goodness, I could have stayed all night long. Staring endlessly at that troubled Doctor...

Words, tho. 

I'd forgotten how gorgeous a classic play could be - Christopher Marlowe's words would drip quietly or explode violently from the actors throughout and I found myself lost in the action, intoxicated by the speech. 



Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

So yes, there are many more reasons why y'all must see this production ASAP, but these few featured here are the most important, in my opinion. 
Another important reason is that it ends soon! Doctor Faustus is running until 1st October, 2016. Hop to it. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Just Some Things - the beginning...

As you all know (or should know by now because I mention it all the damn time, sorry!), I'll soon be guest lecturing at my alma mater, the University of Winchester. In October, I will be leading a couple of seminars on Professional Writing (specifically Blogging) within the first year Publishing module. So that's a bit bloody exciting. And terrifying. 

(I guarantee I will be visiting my beautiful halls when I go back there...oh, nostalgia.)

One of the key things I've been thinking about when planning these seminars is engagement. As in, getting the lovely fresher kids to engage with me, as a speaker, as a writer, and as a human. I've got tips from various people; friends, family, colleagues, the resident lecturers at Winchester, even experts in this field like Laura Dockrill, Anna James, Katie Webber, and my good pal Mr Gee. All these tips have been logged and considered, and the ones I've heard and liked most have been 1. be yourself 'or they'll see right through you', and 2. open the doors and break the ice immediately; ask questions, get the brains going.
The latter tip has got me researching and mind-mapping the most. I wondered what questions to ask straight away – I'm probably going to go with general ones such as 'what does the word blog mean to you?' and of course 'do you blog? Yes? Good. No? Why not?!'
But then I want to stand out and give these students something different. So I looked at my sexy bookshelves and it hit me – I can use one of my DIY books and personal favourite idea engine, '642 Things to Write About'!


This book has been given to me by some lovely considerate friends, all of whom have said 'this just seemed so YOU!' and it is. It's a perfect supply of inspo – 642 prompts big and small, long and short – it's ingenious. I have since bought more variations of this book, its brothers and sisters, '642 Things to Write About ME' and '642 TINY Things to Write About'. Endless inspiration for blog posts, creative pieces, articles, novels...!

So the idea is: I'll walk in, chat with the students a bit, and then throw some of these prompts at them. They won't know what's hit 'em! It'll break the ice and break down the creative walls. Perfect plan, me. *pats self on back*

Then I thought...what if I pre-empted this seminar intro device with some individual posts? And then I thought...who would want to help me with this? Why, my multitude of gorgeous blogger friends, of course!
And thus, this feature on my blog was born. It's probably been done before, it'll probably be done numerous times in the future, but this right here is gonna be mine.
I had been considering interviewing blogger friends at some point anyway, but wasn't sure it would fit right with my posts. I LOVE doing interviews myself, and have done a few now for some utter babes including Jo @ JoScribbles (Their Scribbles: Interviewing Gracie), Michelle @ The Unfinished Bookshelf (Q&A: Grace Latter), Stacey @ The Pretty Books (Shelf Swap with Grace), Jim @ YAYeahYeah (#6 Degrees: Only Ever Yours To...) and Josh @ Josh The Blogger (Blogger Chat with Grace Latter). 
I'm always honoured and excited to be asked to answer questions for other blog posts, and of course I LOVE guest posting for others sites such as The Olive Fox, so I figured I could send an email round and get some volunteers for this feature! 

How it works is, I'll send a writer an individual email with prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – these prompts are chosen randomly most of the time – and then when I get the responses I'll dedicate a post to them and their piece. They can do whatever they want with it - fiction, non-fiction, truths, lies, a total flip job...anything!
So then their piece will be put in first, and I'll add in a little piece of my own beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers. 

Watch this space, readers. It's about to get even more creative - and co-operative?! - around here. 

Let's have a taster now, an example of a prompt from this book and what a writer can do with it. This is my response to: You get 3 do-overs. What would they be and why? 

1. I'd cut my hair even shorter when I was 13. I wanted a pixie crop. It became an overgrown grandma bob. All the hair piled up on my head and my fringe became an enormous presence - even more formidable than it had been my whole life until that point. I'd cut it shorter, and I wouldn't care when the boys at school said I looked ugly or the girls in the playground called me a dyke. I'd stick a finger up and sass 'em. 

2. I would not have slept with that one, all that time ago. 

3. Okay fine, I'd have properly locked the fire escape door on our spaceship. Maybe that would have helped prevent the whole alien invasion issue. Maybe not. But c'mon, that whole day was fun, wasn't it? And our way of life these days is...different...but who doesn't love a challenge now and again? That's what the occasional erratic zaps on the street are. A challenge. We all look like we're dancing as we evade the beams. It's really quite beautiful. But of course you idiots don't notice, because you're too busy fearing for your lives, or whatever. Lame. 


If you are interested in doing one of these posts, do tweet or email me at grace.latter@gmail.com

(Perfect image by Kayleigh Causton illustration)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The triumphant return to......EXERCISE.

I went to an exercise class a couple of weeks ago. A Zumba class, in my town hall, one evening after work. No big deal. 
Except it is. I haven't exercised – not in a class, anyway – for a good couple of years. I think. Well, I tried my beloved Body Balance again after my first operation. I may have attempted yoga once or twice, and I must have gone swimming at some point. I even attended an Ultimate (Frisbee) tournament the summer after my first op (meaning I was running on a pitch throwing myself around catching a disc for 8+ hours a day for a whole weekend, approximately 5 weeks after I regained the ability to walk – not my best idea). I've tried, I suppose. But this was different. Going to this local fitness class was a step. A lot of steps, actually, to noughties pop songs and funky Spanish tunes...but one big step, metaphorically.

I warned the ridiculously energetic instructor when I first got there and paid my £5, I have had operations. I haven't exercised in a long time. Then I assured her that these operations would not affect my movement and I'm not at any risk. I would just be slower. I'd stay in the back, behind everyone else, keeping to myself and not alerting anyone to my hideous unfitness and appalling rhythm.
I don't know what I was expecting. I really don't. I'd just decided that morning that I'd go. I wanted to give myself a chance. I wanted to test out my body, feel a buzz maybe, push myself more than I have in ages. Like, my only form of exercise these days is walking. Running up stairs at work or in tube stations. Shelving stacks of books (more of a workout than you'd think). Yeah, that's about it.
I used to do Zumba, around the time I started uni. I loved it. It was the perfect workout for me – dancing madly, no strict moves, squatting a lot and kicking and punching and twirling. It was essentially sassy aerobics. I knew it would be tough going back, but I also knew I'd rekindle that old love. For the exercise, for my body, for me.

These were my thoughts in chronological order during the first class... 

  • I'll wait out here, until the music starts, maybe. Like, I'll rush in and just stay at the back. I don't want to be hovering, waiting to start. I don't know anyone...
  • It's actually good that I don't know anyone, I suppose. Nobody will chat with me and I won't feel self-conscious. I can focus on me. Yeah.
  • Oh wait, I know her. And her. They're lovely. I'll say hi.
  • Yay, we're standing together! Okay, this is actually nice. Zumba at uni was like this, when my friend taught and the rest of us danced like ACTUALLY CRAZY and laughing the whole way through. It's a good social sport.
  • Is it a sport? It's a form of exercise.
  • I vaguely remember dancing to this one – it's Beyonce, nice. I swear I did this set of moves way back when. Easy to remember. Good, good...
  • Ouch, I think my legs have realised what's happening. They're not happy.
  • People always say my legs are crazy strong. They are – my upper body can barely stand ANY weight, and I can't lift a thing most days, but my legs are powerful af. Just right now they are livid @ me.
  • Wow, my body is AWAAAAKE.
  • I forgot how much I sweat when I exert myself. I always have – cross country at school I was constantly stopping for breathers and drinks because I was bright red and puffing hard. Same as right now, tbh. We're only 2 songs in!
  • My butt is sweaty. Like, the small of my back, just above my butt. I hope nobody can see sweat patches. 
  • Oh wait, I'm at the back and EVERYONE ELSE IS PROBABLY SWEATING FFS.
  • Probably not as much as me, but yeah. Sweat happens.
  • HAHA, that song I just wanna make you sweat is the next track. Hysterical. It's like Snoop knew.
  • This song is supposed to go I just wanna make you wet, isn't it?!
  • Nobody is looking at me. Why was I worried about that? Of course they're not! It's so cool, everyone's wrapped up in their own thing. Everyone's working hard on themselves and making sure they nail every move. Nobody . Is . Looking . At . Me.
  • Whoa, the mythical exercise high is kicking in, I swear. I feel FLAWLESS.
  • Fuck yeah, body. You got this. SWIVEL, KICK, JAZZ HANDS.
  • SWEET DAMN I LOVE ME.
  • I LOVE THIS SONG TOO, OMG OMG I REMEMBER THIS ROUTINE.
  • C'mon, Grace. Sass, sass, sass. Squat harder. Punch higher. Push yourself. Slay.
  • I'M A SURVIVOR *punch* I'M NOT GON' GIVE UP *punch* I'M NOT GON' BLAH BLAH *punch* I'M GON' WORK HARDER!!! *punch**punch*
  • Wow, now my arms KILL. Will this move tone me up? It hurts so bad, even though it's just rotating and stuff. Aeroplane movements, spinning...
  • I AM GONNA DO THIS EVERY WEEK OMG IT FEELS SO GOOD.
  • SERIOUSLY WOW. 
  • Stretching now, must be nearly over. That went quick. But I'm glad, I was just starting to hurt.
  • That's an understatement. I HURT EVERYWHERE.
  • The instructor just complimented me. Aww. She must assume my operations I mentioned were on my appendix or something minor. Ha!
  • Holy shit. Good work, body. Let's drive home. *pats self on butt* 

I've decided that next pay day I'll be spending my spendable portion on body lovin' things. No, not those things, you filthy scuzzies. I mean I'll book in an upper body massage perhaps (my arms were CLICK-CLICK-CLICKING as I punched the air during the class), get my legs waxed, research my local salons for a really good (and preferably super affordable) hairdresser, buy more work AND casual clothes...I'll treat myself and my body. Because it's earned it.

So yes, this class, this epic return to Zumba'ing, was a triumph. I will hopefully continue with it – and maybe another class here and there, but not too many because, shit, it costs a fair bit of dolla...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: love your damn body. Treat it like the awesome source of life it is – remember it contains all your bits and bobs, your ticker and your breathers, your booze sponge and thought box. Don't abuse it. Lecture over. Let's hug. 
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