Adaptation

Whenever the inevitable time comes that you have to leave a job, house, or anything that you’ve spent a long time with, you have to commemorate the occasion with some form of party. The thing with leaving University is that one celebration is not enough.

I’ve been invited out to so many events over the next fortnight, it’s almost like a Fresher’s week. Bar visits and coffee catch ups and parties and get-togethers; all in the next two weeks. The thing is, I don’t want to miss a second of it. I’ve made such strong friendships over the past three years at University that I want to take every opportunity for the last laughs and posing for photos. But, as previously mentioned, I have money earmarked for the next stage in my life.

This is where I think being frugal meets its dividing force. There are some who reject social occasions in order to save money. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I think it shows amazing dedication. But on a personal level, seeing people and doing things are what I cut down in other areas for. I would rather eat lentils for a month than miss out on the end of term party.

However, there are things I can do to still save money, even when I’m socialising. First thing, drinks. Alcohol costs money, one of the sad facts of life. But I genuinely can take it or leave it. And I have discovered lime and soda! Especially at this time of year, a cool glass of lime and soda is a real treat on a hot day. I delightfully discovered this week that they only charge 10p a glass at my SU! I couldn’t believe it! Secondly, food. Most students are in the same boat in that they can’t afford to eat out in proper establishments. So taking your own lunch or snacks isn’t out of the ordinary in this group. Thirdly, entry fees. Well, there might be a few ticket prices I have to shell out for, but I will be attending several free events being held at the Uni, including several plays. I’ll get a night out with my friends for free – no travel costs (walking), no refreshment costs (take my own) and no charge for entry (as part of their exam, the drama group offers a free performance).

Cutting back doesn’t mean cutting out important aspects of your life. Balance and priorities, those are the biggest lessons I’ve learnt during my University life.

The wanderer returneth

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see the WordPress “New Post” interface on my computer screen. It feels like it’s been too long, which of course it has. I handed in my completed dissertation on time and to the best of my ability. I shall bear that in mind when I finally receive the mark back – I know that I tried my best. Since then, my attention has been occupied with other assignments, as well as various social outings to celebrate such a momentous stage of my University life. That life will soon be over, but I’m determined to fully enjoy my last few months as a student.

This was just a quick post to announce my return to the blogging world. I shall now proceed to browse around various blogs and catch up on all that I have missed. I may not be able to leave comments on every single post, but I will be reading through the archives to familiarise myself with my favourite sites.

Hopefully, I shall return to more frequents posting as soon as possible. It feels good to be back in the saddle.

The best course of action.

Important decisions are not easy to make. If something’s worth doing, it’s going to take both time and effort to complete it properly. The art of balancing is what I think University life is all about. It’s a complex period of negotiating your time between work, play, family and friends. The past two and a half years of my learning here at Winchester all culminate in a final assignment that is worth the biggest proportion of the final grade. The dreaded d-word: dissertation.

For my creative writing degree, this takes the form of the opening chapters of a novel, alongside an essay describing your own writing process. It matters, this piece of writing. It’s a daunting prospect to a novice writer like myself. 10,000 words seems impossible right now. So I’ve made the decision to focus entirely on my dissertation. I need to put in 100% effort if I want to achieve the grades I think I’m capable of.

I will be taking a blogging break commencing now. I shall hopefully return by mid-March, once the dissertation deadline has passed. I hope my kind followers will stick with me through this break. I’m not leaving my blog permanently, just for a short time to concentrate solely on my degree. I’m sure you understand.

Best wishes to you all.

It’s all in your head

I have to offer my most grateful thanks to those who have left comments recently. I can’t tell you how much you have boosted my spirits. It was nice to be reminded that I’m not a big failure after all.

I have many challenges in my life, both academic and personal. But I am starting to realise that I also have many tools to tackle these challenges and overcome them. The most powerful tool I have is my mind.

It’s easy to say “mind over matter”, but when the matter seems daunting, it can be hard to remember. However, a little self-belief can go an awful long way. As soon as I decided that I was perfectly capable of finishing my assignments, the words started to flow. I thought I was a writer and that’s what I became. I am inching ever closer to my word count. It’s easier to put pen to paper now that the mental blockade has vanished.

The same is true on the domestic front too. Instead of worrying about the cost of the next food shop, I took a step back to survey what I already had. I told myself I was perfectly capable of making do with what I’ve got. I’ve made a veggie curry today, and there are plenty of vegetables left over. So I’ll avoid the supermarket for now and save my coins for another day.

It feels good to be in charge and in control. By reassuring myself that I am perfectly capable, I seem to be getting more done. Try it, or let me know what works for you when you’re suffering with a cloudy mind.

Breaking News

I’m a little bit busy. Hardly ground breaking stuff, but it’s true. This time of year is always frantic, with birthdays, looming deadlines and preparation for Christmas in full swing. I thought I’d so a small round up post today, then resume normal posting asap.

– I’m no longer partaking in the One Pound Per Day challenge. I lasted ten days. I liked walking to the shops each day and seeing what bargains I could find. I didn’t like not being able to pick up food whenever I needed to when I was on the go.

– I’m back to spending as little as possible. I had a couple of last weeks where I opened my purse far too often. I’ve got to re-learn my limits and re-establish my budget.

– I spend most of my days at the moment writing. I’m already looking forward to when it will all be over.

– The chap is taking me out for dinner tonight, which makes me very happy indeed.

– I’ve loved reading all the tips that are popping up on all kinds of blogs. Tips on Christmas, and non-Christmas related things too. I am storing them for future use, possibly January when I have no money!

– Speaking of January, I managed to secure my first work experience placement. I cannot tell you how pleased I am about that!

I hope you’re all having a lovely week. Comprehensive posts to return shortly.

Am I Superwoman?

I’m trying to complete a degree to the best possible standard I can. I have three assignments due in at the end of term, as well as the continuation of the final year project. The three assignments consists of a 2,500 word non-fiction for children narrative, a 3,000 word opening for a children’s fiction story and a 2,500 word short story. When you factor in bibliography, various appendix elements and accompanying synopsis, the grand total reaches over 10,000 words. Over ten thousand words in just over three weeks.

Fine perhaps, if there was nothing else vying for attention. But there are still lectures and extra-curricular discussions to attend. Not forgetting work shop sessions with course mates to discuss stories. I strive to check in with my family also, calling up my sister or writing a letter to my grandmother. I make a vague attempt at a social life with a rare meal out, or having a friend over for a cup of tea. I feel compelled to supply the kind demand for my company.

And Christmas is on the horizon don’t you know. There are presents to buy and wrap. Some take priority, as fellow students will soon be returning home for the holidays. So the home made gifts have to be ready far sooner than the 25th. The chap is celebrating his twentieth birthday next month too, which consists of more presents, more travel, more memories made. Time spent with him is precious.

I have two blogs to regularly update, plus various correspondents with email to engage with. They serve as an outlet of enjoyment, but also a chance to practice my writing. I also have my domestic duties to keep up with. I have to source my food, that has to be on budget, gluten-free and vaguely healthy to maintain the body that society of today expects of me. The cooking of the dishes takes up time, and then there’s the washing up. There is always washing up, just as there is always a pile of laundry in the corner.

On top of all this, I still have to find the effort to wash and clothe myself each morning. A course-mate said to me yesterday: “you always dress so well Rebecca.” I cannot tell you how much her compliment meant to me. For if I look cool, calm and collected on the outside, that means the paradox within is thankfully concealed. The mask is firmly in place, now where can I get a cape?

Ah me . . .

I was so hoping I wouldn’t have to type out any quick “fly-by” posts, just to keep up with the NaBloPoMo challenge. But alas, here we are.

1) I have spent most of the day with a new short story, in which I question whether looking at the 1950’s with rose-tinted glasses is a good thing or not. The character of Betty Hart (or Rachel Hartley as the case might be) is blossoming beautifully.

2) Gallivanting around your room wearing a headband does constitute as exercise, I promise.

3) I’m going to make dinner now, a different take on cottage pie. That will make a much more coherent post tomorrow.

Better switch off now before an imagined school matron tells me off for breaking curfew! Gosh, I’m definitely in story-writing mode today . . .

Lucky Stars

I’m refusing to succumb to “Fresher’s flu”. I’m no Fresher. I haven’t been to a single Student Union event, although I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. I did my time, dancing on that dance floor. I’m twenty one now, a grown up don’t you know. My dry, scratchy throat just needs soup to comfort it. I’m sneezing due to the shift to cooler temperatures. This headache is because I’m run down after a hectic fortnight returning to University. It’s certainly been manic. But I love every single second of it.

Nothing affects me like writing. It occupies all possible time and space. My room is filled with notebooks and reading books. My head is filled with settings and characters. I think I’m very lucky to be able to say, hand on heart, I adore my degree. The tutors are vastly knowledgeable and friendly to boot. I learn so much every time they speak. We discuss the Sims and other computer games. I did my homework this week on how chocolate is made. I am actively encouraged to sit around and day dream in order to generate new ideas. What’s not to love?

Well, it is an awful lot of hard work. There is always reading to be done, and being forced to read specific texts does sap a certain amount of enjoyment from it. There is also a presence of expectation in every classroom. You are sitting amongst pupils who have the same dreams as you. Only a certain number of these dreams will come true. You listen to tutors who have been published many times over, and you can’t help but wonder, “Am I good enough?”

But as one of my favourite tutors said this week, “we all deserve to be writers!” Since being given the gift of time, I’m feeling confident about all of my modules for this year. I feel ready to succeed. This achievement does not come lightly. At present, a social life seems a small sacrifice for setting up the foundations of my future career. My family and the chap remain of the utmost importance, naturally. But if I do disappear from time to time (read: Monday’s nonexistent post), you can be sure I’ll be buried in a story. Stories of a queen and a teleport. Stories of witches and precious stones. The story of the Rambling Man. Oops, I’ve said too much.

Age old remedy

Last week was a blur. I spent every day bar one trotting back and forth to work, collecting every extra hour I could. I had visits from the chap and lovely sister. I enjoyed a meal out at Wetherspoons to celebrate a twentieth birthday. I cooked and cleaned. I washed and dressed. I tried to catch up on sleep. But then I realised it’s four weeks until the start of term and there are not enough hours in the day.

When your mind is on fire with duties, deadlines and dates, it’s often the simplest activity that quells it. It was time to be amongst nature. Sunday evening was perfect for a stroll. The rain had passed but a breeze had picked up, a whisper of autumnal weather. With a basket in one hand and a crook in the other, I returned to the laden blackberry bushes.

The slow ritual of seeking plump fruit and gently tumbling them into a basket was very calming. I spent a good hour collecting purple jewels, just as the sun was setting. I didn’t think whilst picking, I cut the engine on my pulsating brain and felt at peace. Performing such a traditional task in sublime conditions was good for me.

I came home with a bumper crop, 650g in all! I’m often so envious of the home grown produce that I see on fellow blogs. It all looks so delicious and healthy. I’m so pleased that I can join in with the fun.

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In tune with my rationing-style of eating (still going strong!), I’m trying to eat seasonably. Using this calendar here, I’m trying to only buy what’s in season each month. To ensure I can have lovely fruit even when the weather turns, I thoroughly washed my berries and bagged them up for the freezer. A fridge freezer was not a well known commodity in the 1940s, but my eating takes inspiration from the era, not a re-enactment. So, my fresh blackberries will be waiting for me in the depths of winter, ready for porridge or crumble. I like being a squirrel.

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PS Don’t add frozen blackberries to a flapjack mix. It tastes delicious, but the darn thing won’t stick at all! Blackberry-flapjack-mush it is – waste not, want not!

One week

It has been exactly a week since I returned to my beloved Winchester, after waltzing around Europe for the best part of July. At first, my once familiar world seemed blurred and distant. But, given time and ample amounts of sleep, my domestic side has flourished once more.

I managed to complete all of my unpacking and holiday laundry within 24 hours of returning home. No mean feat, as I had accumulated a fair amount of washing on our adventure. We used washing machines abroad, of course, but everything needed to be refreshed after being stuffed into a rucksack. Then comes the task of finding new homes for the souvenirs you’ve collected on the journey. My new postcards are decorating my postcard wall, and I smile every time they catch my eye.

At the beginning of the week, I batch cooked a large vegetable chilli that kept me going for days. It was brilliant to come home to a bowl of warm goodness, even though I was kept busy with extra hours at work. No room for complaint about that, I know how lucky I am to be working at all.

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I also met up with a close friend near the start of the week for lunch. We discussed plans for the future. Who knows where this Storyteller might end up? But I do have my final year of University to get through first . . .

I caught up with my blog reading, including this poignant post from A Girl Called Jack. Like Jack, I aim to spend around £10 a week on my groceries. But I don’t have a young child to look after. Jack is a real inspiration to me and showed me that despite having little myself, I can still share what I have. I put at least one tin into my local food bank. They have a collection trolley inside my local Sainsbury’s, so it couldn’t be easier to donate. I’m so pleased Jack is starting to get the recognition she deserves.

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Most importantly, I’ve allowed myself to relax. It took some time for my body to adjust back to a sensible routine. I feel so much better after a few early nights. It just shows what taking care of yourself can do for your outlook on life. It’s a subject I’m very interested in, and my day off so far has consisted of this:

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I’m trying to look after myself, mind and body, as best as I can with the budget I have. There will be more posts surrounding this topic this week. For now, I’m going to enjoy my two days off from work and possibly even put pen to paper. That would be my next adventure, albeit a little closer to home. Sounds good to me.