Saturday, 18 October 2014

Quelle Semaine!

Besides from the numerous perils associated with tests, the past few days truly justify this entry's title: what a week it has been! From attending dance classes (and nearly collapsing onto the floor as I staggered out the studio) to unearthing a shocking secret, I have been getting to grips with plenty of stuff recently and, while I'm taking a short break, the fun never stops. Well, how can you achieve joy if it is not relentless, albeit constantly full-on? 

Anyway, not all swinging parties possess enough energy to carry on until the early hours of the morning (or, if you think about it, a dull afternoon), so I'm making the most of some countryside peace while I can. Phew. Even processing all that has happened in my oh-so-frantic mind is producing a person much sweatier than a gym could handle; if anything else is added to the tower-tall pile, my head might explode like a bag of compressed crisps! 

Before I lose myself in opinions regarding parties, peace and strangely enough cheese-flavoured crisps, I will drag myself back to the road which I was originally heading. And that road involves much more than I could ever have expected, such as:
  1. One of my new nine week old kittens, Teddie, who I've been calling my little princess since adopting her a fortnight ago, is a boy.
  2. Until this week, I had absolutely no idea that mock exams will take place in January, the thought of which freak the hell out of me. Even more so than watching The Walking Dead in the dark (worse so sans company).
  3. According to the 'rents (yeah, such a noughties-tastic expression), I need to sort out my Christmas list fast. In other words, I must browse the likes of Amazon and ASOS to discover the Gift of Heavenly Gifts and learn how to construct a list on an Excel document. God help me!
  4. And lastly, Christmas. Need I say more?
For some people, they might not bat an eyelid if faced with what I've placed on my list (which, unlike my Christmas one, perhaps should not be given so much attention), but they are the things that I've managed to think about besides exams, revision and pre-school jitters in the morning this week. Yeah, this week will forever define my life and remain influential as the years pass by - sarcasm alert!

What shocked me to the core above everything else was, upon a trip to the vets' for his (how alien it seems to say it) first vaccination, Teddie was declared a boy after being checked by two vets, who were perhaps as surprised as my mum felt. I didn't have the slightest clue about Teddie's gender until my mum came home a while after I got off the school bus; when finally told, my mouth was literally hanging on the floor!

Even when I look at him, Teddie just looks so... girly. OK, 'girly' might be one of the most stereotypical words, yet I'm not kidding. He looks as cute, fragile and sweet as a female cat, or so I would imagine - had his, ahem, privates not been discovered, he would have been the family's first female kitty, which I had been praying and hoping for years. Of course, I still love him as much as I did before the discovery, yet my mind has somewhat been frozen in time: I haven't quite progressed from the 'Shocked' stage to taking steps towards 'Acceptance', as other matters have distracted me of late. Still, what a massive surprise - no wonder that I'm still reeling from it!

As for mocks, I'm as clueless as Cher Horowitz regarding what the exams will be like: even though they won't be the actual proper thing, piles of pressure will be heaped onto you like a stack of hay, won't it? Oh well, I've just completed several end-of-term tests, so January is firmly rooted in the future for some time yet - one thing at a time, I think!

And Christmas? Apart from a pair of Babyliss Crimpers, I can barely remember anything else that I included on my list. Which either proves how bad my memory is or the lack of presence of toys that used to dominated my dreams, conversations and thoughts as Christmas approached. To avoid any potential postal strikes, my parents prefer to purchase presents early - which, if it wasn't for my lack of ideas, I'm completely for - yet it does bother me so greatly if no ideas spring to mind when I need them most. I hope that I won't be stuck for inspiration until the very last minute; maybe a shopping trip in the city would clear up some fog in my mind (hint, hint)?

All in all, the past few days have been very busy indeed. Luckily, I've found the time to squeeze in a Zumba class, some TV and completing my only homework assignment of the week (sadly, my puppy-eyed look was not such a convincing winner as I previously believed) at 10pm, along with sleeping, writing and blending eye shadows. 

Whatever you think is impossible is possible if you put some effort into making it a reality - whether it is throwing yourself into exhaustive work or leaping out of the sofa! Though, on such a relaxing day like Saturday, I'm prepared to bend the rules slightly...


After wasting a precious week of my life to tests, end-of-term assessments and puzzling questions that brought on a headache that not even a dose of Calpol to cure, like a candle, I'm burnt out. Gone are my fantastic levels of energy that are at their peak once a new week commences; an exhaustion unlike what I've ever experienced has taken hold. My heart throbs with envy at the thought of animals preparing for several months of utter peace - and relentless sleep - as winter approaches, a dream which I wish would come true at this moment in time. I'm tired, drained and more than slightly sleepy: as this morning has revealed to me, ten undisturbed hours of rest is exactly what I need. All the time. Yet what do I do if time does not offer me the privilege of spending my whole life in bed, especially when important work - and hours spent in a half-broken chair - must be completed?

Cry, my head whispers, its longing to unleash its drama queen stronger than ever. Or, if I dared to pay attention to my heart - which, unlike my head, has perhaps not been affected by slight levels of insanity - I should simply accept what I have to do, even if becoming a contestant on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! seems much more appealing.

And what I have had to do this week is the cause of my banging headache, drooping eyelids and potentially the biggest spot outbreak from which I've suffered in years. Seriously, I would consider making a claim against school if another spot - the colour of my anger, which reddens like a lit flare - appears on my face because all of this work is not fair. Before you even dare to answer back to me, let me get my view across first: it truly isn't!

Ah, this madness can be solely blamed on the tests that I have been obliged to sit this week at school which, according to my teachers, helps them to determine our abilities and which grades we might achieve when we finally take our GCSEs. Apart from Catering and Media, a test - or controlled assessment, as was the case in English - has been forced down my throat in every subject, including the ones that I hadn't been told about. Well, not even the most superstitious can expect teenagers to analyze their minds and find out what their intentions shall be - so why should school toss yet another exam question our way without letting us revise beforehand?

Tests are yet another part of the school system that I have no true desire to accept, but am somewhat obliged to acknowledge in order to reach the end goal: achieving success in my GCSEs. As I'm now nearing the end of Term One in the first year of GCSE work, more steps have been taken towards escaping my school and getting nearer to the sixth form of my dreams in town. Still, I have every right to complain about my dislikes and anger towards the unjust system whilst walking on the path towards The Dream to Beat All Dreams, don't I?

Along with the conformists, disruptive kids and teachers possessing little or no sense of controlling their classes (if they even bother to show up), tests have joined the highly coveted list of Overwhelming Negatives of School Life. If luck falls on my shoulders, maybe The Sunday Times might publish it in tomorrow's edition which, compared to the Richest Under 30s list, would make a pleasant change, wouldn't it?

Anyway, you would have to have fallen in the deepest sleep ever recorded to not get the gist of my argument: this week would preferably be tossed into a deep-as-a-Subway-sandwich hole and buried in the woods, never to emerge and haunt my life again. The sooner it is over, the happier I will be, a sensation of which will flood my veins with pure, hot relief. Getting further away from the negatives puts my mind at ease, though it significantly helps that the worst - providing enough obstacles to fill an Olympic stadium - is over.

As you might have expected, I become a nervous wreck if an assessment or a test is lurking in the shadows, awaiting its moment to pounce on me like a vicious animal. I get worried, j'ai les jetons and I panic bigtime - looming tests hang over me like a rainy cloud, making me unable to think of anything else nor temporarily escape my nerves.

However, I've discovered this week that anticipating a test is more nerve-wracking than actually sitting the test itself. Last week, my Maths teacher informed the class that we would be sitting a GCSE paper in seven days' time which, perhaps in his mind, was a means of kick-starting an ambition to revise. Yet it somewhat had an opposite effect on me: I did revise for the test and began to worship my workbook like a bible instead of treating it as a possession of the Devil, but nonetheless alarm bells rang through my head like an irritating ringtone.

Whether or not it is linked to my impatient nature, I might never know, but a panic as feverish as a sudden craving for chocolate chip cookies (preferably with a hazelnut filling and from Lidi, of course) seizes me if a clock begins to tick towards my impending doom. In order to ignore my tendency towards being impatient (whilst pulling off a highly annoying act), you would have to be pretty good at not analyzing anybody's personality - mine, on one hand, are outrageously obvious! In the past, I've always interpreted emotions related to tests as pure panic: from day one, I have never considered it any other way. But could my panic also be derived from impatience? Maybe so.

If possible, I will always choose to get something I seriously dislike - such as a cold in the lead-up to Christmas - over and out of the way as quickly as I can. Why? It will stick to my conscience like a pretty girl attached to Harry Styles' arm. Whenever it relates to somebody as important as a test, you would be hard-pressed to witness my forgetting about it until that moment comes. Although I may have a break from time to time, that test - or, in fact, anything at all - will still be floating around in the back of my mind, unready to be flushed out of my system.

Beneath the half-purple bags below my eyes, I'm still revelling in a buzz that was created by the greatest joy of all yesterday: all of my tests are over. In reference to a poem that I studied last term, The Raven, these tests are nevermore (à la Bart Simpson). Despite being lumbered with Shakespeare homework in my last lesson yesterday, I left school with an ecstatic smile gleaming from my lips, swimming in a sea of joy, elation and pre-weekend excitement. Once the waiting and, as my horrible Maths test proved, the doing are completed, you are free to toss one worry into a bin, uncaring about whether you will come eye-to-eye with the blasted thing ever again.

Plus, my reward - besides from the four packs of cookies that Mum picked up for me during Zumba yesterday evening - is about to handed over to me: half-term. Only four days of compulsory lessons will be attended next week before I'm off to prepare for Halloween, shopping and ten days of very (I say this very dramatically) late starts in the morning.

And afterwards? The prospect of Christmas on the horizon will sooth any blows or more pre-test worries, though I have my questions over whether thinking about crimpers - and what I need to add to my list - will boost my knowledge of Maths!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Don't Worry, It's Just a Test. Yeah, right!

As my eyes droop like a setting sun, I am a meowing cat who, instead of releasing a contented purr, grumbles at the thought of lifting a finger - or, as I'm supposedly clad in a coat of fluffy tabby fur, a paw.

Two days into what could possibly be one of the busiest weeks of this term, my heart aches to return to bed and never leave it until Saturday morning arrives, the day of the week which, in my mind, is when the week truly commences. Instead of being lumped with countless homework assignments which the teachers forget about almost as quickly as they assign them to their unfortunate victims (a.k.a. me), I've been given an insight into the hell that awaits me: assessments.

Or, if you are not quite familiar with the A word, tests shall awaken a flurry of panic in which you are thrust, caught up between failed attempts to remain calm (as it goes without saying, is oh-so-impossible) and having the most stressful time of your life. Yes, those end-of-term assessments which seemed as far away as an A-Lister's residence last month are now upon me and, unless I fall prey to the pathogens floating around my younger brother's system any time soon, I will have to face up to what life - now somewhat a living hell - has in store for me.

Ah, you could declare that I'm tapping into my drama queen and squeezing more out of this scary piece of news than the most desperate soap star would, yet panics like these are somewhat justified once you reach such a point as my own in your education. The next two years are guaranteed to test me (both in the literal and pushing-me-the-very-limit sense), zap me of energy that not even a can of Red Bull can regain and, once the actual GCSE exams are lurking in the unexplored distance, will make me wish that I could avoid the wilderness until the academic frenzy has calmed.

Despite the first term probably being less significant than the ones shortly before mocks, I still take it as seriously as any other term - and perhaps even more so because, in order to establish a decent foundation, a decent beginning can help wonders. If you are bubbling with more confidence than a witch's cauldron as you wait at the starting line, will it not give you a perfect head-start?

Luckily, I feel pretty confident in most of my subjects, though that confidence mainly stems from my enjoyment of learning and isn't necessarily associated with my abilities. However, even the most confident of all people might not have their coveted feature in plentiful qualities once exams - or simple tests - roll around the corner, as fear drains them of the strength to ward off the gripping panics or anxious thoughts as you toss in bed past your bedtime. English may be my strongest and best-loved subjects, yet my passion doesn't mean that no niggling thoughts have not passed through my mind in the run-up to Thursday's assessment; those fears are still bubbling beneath the surface, posing the risk that they might arise at any moment.

And, when I dissect the source of my fear, the reasons involved are pretty obvious: a lack of experience. Having rarely sat any tests whilst educated at home, tests are among some of the things that I've had to get my head around since returning to school and, as I'm at the beginning of the two least test-friendly years of my life, I really have no choice except to embrace it. Or at least accept it and acknowledge the fact that the Charmed Ones would recite a spell from the Book of Shadows that will magically cancel tomorrow's Maths test. Still, there is nothing wrong with hoping so!

Every teenager will discover the perils of education - and, if you are a professional worrier like me, the misery - that is included in the package attached with school life. Though it feels like years ago since it happened, I have sat several tests at the school before and, if the subject was me-friendly, I actually didn't mind sitting a test. My fear washes away if I lose myself in work that I can complete without too many hiccups, so I stand a decent chance of forgetting about my hatred of tests - if only that fear could never arise before I sit them!

Oh well, some things - especially tests which, once all of them have been sat and completed, will allow me to progress to the next stage - can never be avoided. I'm looking ahead to the future and the test-free prospects that it holds, which provides some relief as I'm torn between jitters and impatience to get the worst over and done with.

There is one thing for sure, though: I won't be offered the privilege of lying in bed until five minutes before the bus turns up tomorrow, however bad that my 'cold' might be...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Top Three on my Radar

Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, there is always something bound to be on the radar. Like those chocolate stains that somehow remain concealed on your favourite pair of jeans, what shows up on the radar can keep a low profile then, bam!, you would struggle to believe that it had never really been there - or on the sidelines. 

Although life has been occupying more than you could possibly imagine, I haven't switched off my instincts, which are pretty good at picking up on what truly matters. Of course, I might not be paying much attention to it at the time, yet it enters my mind at one point or another; believe me, you would be putting up one all-mighty struggle if you didn't bother to glimpse into your radar. 

Thus, here begins what I hope shall be a fantastic feature on Life as a Modern Teen, in which I will give you a magic key into what is going in the crazy mind of a teenager. Like leapfrog, I'm jumping from one interest to another at superfast speed (certainly much quicker than the broadband in my middle-of-nowhere village) that it is extremely easy to lose track on my wants, needs and tons of other things that teenagers impulsively crave. 

Not only is the world evolving, but so am I. Into what? One day, it could be a world-famous journalist who is constantly asked for her opinions on international news stations; the next, I dream to live out my childhood fantasy as an X Factor contestant. Until I'm at least 25 years old, my brain is supposedly going through these oh-so-important changes, so I can only expect a decade more of indecisiveness - as ever a welcome addition in the drama that is a self-confessed dramatic teenager's life. 

1. GCSE Options
What with this hovering on the radar is attached a very long story that will take up the rest of my life simply by telling it. Again.
So, I actually started my GCSEs last year while I was home-schooled, and chose English, Maths, ICT, French, Law, Media and English Lit/Psychology (my inner psycho was seriously undecided about the last two). All very decent subjects - especially as Science was nowhere in sight - and I was getting on well as I studied at home.
Then along came The Big Move earlier this year and my world was turned upside down. What with an imminent return to school, varying examination boards and coursework, I made the hardest ever decision in my life: to go back an academic year. 
This decision then involved picking which GCSEs I wanted to take, along with the compulsory ones at my new school. Suddenly, some of the choices that I'd made a year ago were forgotten about or, if I had purchased books on the subject, were tossed into a cardboard box. no longer relevant in my studies. 
In the end, I chose (including the ones I truly detested):
English Language and English Literature
Core Science (originally Btec science, but was changed at the start of September - big fat con!)
History (originally Geography, but chose the former in order to save my life from drowning in essays on rivers)
Catering (a.k.a. Cooking, but not exactly catering for all my culinary needs)
Religious Studies
ICT (not a proper GCSE, but a Cambridge National, whatever that is)
Luckily, I saved several of my original options, such as Media and French, but Law and Psychology were sadly lost causes. My best bet is to study them at a city college at A-Level, but I've since changed my mind about Law because I've lost respect for the justice system. 
On the whole, I'm mainly fine with my revised options, yet feel a bit short-changed as to what was on offer. Catering, for example, was the only subject on one list for which I had a slight preference because I wasn't interested in materials or graphics, but I would gladly swap it for Psychology or Sociology, subjects of which I cannot wait to study in sixth form. 
And ICT? Creating a website on a design programme which very few people have heard of does not address the need to use current systems if you get a job in an office; it is a waste of time.
Sometimes, I guess that you have to accept things as they are, especially if it relates to a matter as important as your GCSEs. 
Yet it hasn't stopped me from begrudging several subjects which, had I been offered more freedom when choosing my options, I would never have opted for. 
If you cannot decide at such an important stage in your life, what is the point of GCSE options? 
Really, I'd like somebody to answer that.

2. Christmas treats

Despite mostly avoiding supermarkets in recent weeks, I haven't been immune from the sweetest thing that comes with the Autumn page: Christmas treats.
You can mark my words that, within the first week of school in September, boxes of mince pies - whose sell-by date miraculously lasts into November, let alone the actual festive season - and fruit cakes will gradually enter shops and supermarkets. Albeit initially a small selection, it grows and grows until you can get your hands on more glorious treats, including the lovely Italian bread Panettone (pictured above).
Since last year, I've fallen in love with the buttery and fruity dough which defines Panettone, along with the marzipan-flavoured yeast bread Stollen, which my amateur baker is desperate to make herself. In my opinion, dried fruits - currants, sultanas, apricots, you name it - come to life at Christmas, when the flavours are enriched with alcohol or sweet doughs. 
My heart nearly skipped a beat the other day when my mum produced a tiny box of Panettone because I last saw it at the beginning of the year, one of the few leftovers to have survived beyond Christmas. Although my slice was of a Gwyneth Paltrow portion size (if she would ever dare eat such a thing), I was instantly transported to Christmas and the happiness that encaged it. 
Part of me believes that Christmas - and its oh-so-lovely treats - will remain on my radar for a long time...
3. Kittens
At a glance, you would assume that I'm wearing a pair of cool, dungeon-grey trousers that are pleasantly keeping my legs warm in a spell of cold weather. Up close, however, you will notice numerous loose threads dotted all over my trousers, especially around my lap. An atrociousity that I dread the thought of occurring, my face reddens with horror at the sight of my half-ruined trousers. 
But I assure you that it wasn't my fault. In fact, two little people - if I should even be calling them that - are to blame for creating what Anna Wintour would define as a crime against fashion (or the treatment of discounted clothes). 
My eight-week old kittens, Teddie and George, love nothing more than climbing up - and certainly down - my legs, wherever I'm completing my homework, eating a meal or sitting down. Although I adore receiving attention from my two favourite kittens (the other ones are old enough to be called cats, so I'm not offending anybody), I really don't want it in the form of digging their claws into my legs. And leaving plenty of marks on my clothes. 
George, in particular, is the lead-ringer of the duo, whose mission is to play within anything within a kitchen-long radius. This week taught me a vital lesson, which I learnt much more from than the likes of Physics: never wear a hoodie. If a drawstring is in his mighty reach, George will try to catch it or even chew it, leaving his dainty teeth marks behind. And the zip? Even his sister Teddie is fascinated with my zip, which George likes to pull down with either his teeth or paw - the very last thing I want whilst shivering to death!
Despite their crazy behaviour, I love both of them so much and miss them (like crazy, haha!) whilst stuck at school, which I experienced this week. Even when I chuck George in his room for a time out, he still wants to spend time with me - and repeat his wrongful actions at the soonest possibility! Really, I can relate to Teddie because, at times, all that she wants is to go to sleep, while her brother is wrecking havoc!
Hmm, it doesn't take much to think about who does the same towards me...

Exams and Half Term = Curse!

If one single word could define me as a person right now, tired would certainly fit the bill. An word that precisely expresses my early-rising tendencies, hard-working attitude and deep-in-the-gut feeling, tired is perhaps the only word that truly describes me at this very moment because it is unlike any other.

A week of full attendance at a school that I make no secret of disliking (though I rarely, if never declare it in writing) is the ultimate brain-drainer, which burns the energy I gradually regain throughout the weekend within an hour of returning to lessons. 

After ages of sticking my head into workbooks that are occasionally marked by my teachers, an end - or a temporary one, at least - is nearly in sight. That end is the week (with the addition of the Friday and weekend before, of course) that I'll have off from full-blown drama towards the end of October, which I've been anticipating literally from the moment that the term commenced in the first week of September. 

Half-term will be my short-term saviour from the classrooms piled with people who, despite now putting a name to the face, remain as alien and unknown as they were when I first encountered them. They might seem to know everything about me - for people talk, though I'm often the last person to find out - but do I even know where to start with their background and who they truly are behind their rolled-up blazers?

On the other hand, at least I will also be granted ten days of lie-ins as late as I want which, if the entire week could be remodelled on a Saturday morning, would last until the early afternoon! My heart reaches its peak of happiness each Saturday because it is the day that I always wait for, getting even giddier than a little girl counting the days down to Christmas (who, upon thinking about it, was probably me). 

Life would certainly be as easy as tucking into cake (preferably of a calorie-free variety) if it could be altered to suit our tastes, but sadly some of our desires might be pushed aside at times - as much as it might pain us. And yes, a wave of desperation hits me at thought of not getting my man-sized slice of cake. Including, dare I say it, the calorific kind. 

However, my mind hasn't just leapt to thoughts of school-free days as yet because, during next week, I'll be facing an enemy for whom I reserve the sincerest feelings of hatred. If you assumed that pieces of paper beholding your idea of hell were restrained until the end of the year, how I begrudge letting you in on a secret: you're wrong! 

From English to the mother of all horrors, Maths, I shall be sitting assessments in various subjects next week, as a means of finding out how I'm getting on with my work, the thought of which sends shivers down my spine. Although these tests are minor and a hundred times less scary than the exams (including several actual GCSEs) that I will sit next summer, I still detest these tests because they are attached with unnecessary stress - how is it fair that I revise stuff that has barely been explored by the teacher, who is mainly responsible for instilling their lessons into our brains?

Leaping from one subject to another is exactly like leapfrog; we never stay in one place for enough time. And, at this point of the year, our brains are still adjusting to the new subjects that we are studying, especially the ones that we chose as GCSE options and were previously not on the curriculum. Therefore, is it any wonder that Maths is my biggest bugbear of all?

In fact, Maths has been winding me up from day one some of it does not make sense: whenever my teacher is describing it, I struggle to translate the words into English or, at a push, French. Not only am I half-bored to death, but two-thirds of my Maths lessons are held in the final period of the day, so my mind is mainly focused on getting home - and as far away from the insane world of equations as possible.

You see. the subjects I automatically toss into the oh-so-boring category - Maths, Physics (which is unfortunately among my tests next week) and, if I've found myself lost in translation, occasionally Biology - neither strike me as entertaining nor will be influential on my future career as a journalist. The teachers might sometimes put their chairs on top of the desk to explain why the colour red looks like red, but I forget all about it as soon as I walk out the classroom, my life not magnificently changed by what I've been 'taught'.

It saddens me that, while I'm so far away from sitting the majority of my GCSEs in Year 11, I'm already starting to feel like a guinea pig, whose only worth is take tests that are hardly meaningful and waste valuable time that could be dedicated to having a proper lesson.

Despite sharing the emotions of a rodent, please be assured that I'm not freaking out about English which, compared to my other tests, is the very least of my worries. In fact, I'm rather looking forward to letting rip whilst writing my rant - the theme of the assessment - next Thursday because the words have been burning inside of me for weeks, the flames getting hotter and hotter as the momentum has increased. And the theme? Discrimination against the home-schooled. As it is a subject that I feel very strongly about, you can merely imagine how I will tore into those who have discriminated against me - and hopefully gain a good grade by not holding back!

And, believe it or not, I'm quite annoyed that I will probably not be sitting a test in French which is my second-favourite subject after English, or my two GCSE options, Catering and Media. Saying that, I doubt that you can be tested on an episode of Sherlock (which I watched and fell in love with in Media) in an actual exam, though I would always prefer to discuss Benedict Cumberbatch's dashing looks than the reasons linked with battered fish evaporating in a cardboard box in Physics. Besides, most of my classmates in top-set French are predicted a C - the minimum pass grade - so it might look a bit embarrassing if they failed a test, though I would happily sit it for fun!

What I really dislike about exams is the anticipation that grows stronger than the most stubborn weed, which is almost as nerve-wracking as the actual exam itself. Luckily, I partly killed some anticipation yesterday by sitting a History test which, thanks to revising with my dad the night before (who absorbs historical facts like football scores), greatly relieved my nerves. As I swapped Geography for History almost halfway through the term, I hope that my grade won't be too heavily affected, yet I feel much more enthusiastic about the history of medicine rather than the functioning of rivers.

If I truly had the courage to do it, I wouldn't put it pass myself to talk about exams, half-term and curses all day, but a packet of Strepsils would be needed to relieve a sore throat. Although I'm still fighting the remains of an ugly cold, I soldiered on through the sniffles and cravings to sip my way through a bottle of Calpol - and got some important work done.

As much as I enjoy having the occasional day off, my mind wanders to what I'm missing out on, which possibly makes me sound like the most boring person in the world. On the whole, I'm a working person: doing very little or nothing simply isn't for me. But having that option taken away from you? Illness, including minor colds and tickly throats, can create more bother than necessary, but I got through the worst of it.

While part of myself freaks out big-time at the prospect of tests next week, I hope to bear in mind that, in less than a fortnight, half-term will have arrived. Lie-ins, days out and even Halloween (whose spooky-themed sweets I no longer enjoy, but get a kick out of gazing at) are no longer too far away, instead on the nearing horizon.

In the meantime, I shall be battling the curse of termly tests and all that is entailed with them!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Pleasures of Being an Anti-Conformist

As soon as our brains can understand a great deal more than a dull episode of the Teletubbies, we are taught about behaviour, attitudes and the way that we should be. Naughtiness is discouraged if displayed in the slightest manner; an eagerness to be polite is instilled at the earliest opportunity; and we gradually realize the presence of the so-called 'rules' that bind us throughout society and beyond.

Without rules, what would our childhoods be like - a wild mess in which we race around crazily and Hungry Hippos are constantly within our reach? Stability is the foundation that we rely on during those early years of our lives, yet we can so easily forget about it when we seemingly morph into teenagers - and our first couple of years dedicated to exploring are washed away like I gulp down a glass of Diet Coke. Adolescence is the perfect time in which we are taught vital lessons and develop a sense of who we are beyond the hiked-up school skirts, playful Facebook pictures and layers of make-up as thick as a Subway sandwich.

Among those lessons is why we should take pride in being ourselves - sans putting on an act as extravagant as a Broadway show whilst in the company of our friends, for the sake of 'fitting in'. As you're about to find out, standing up to stereotypes and speaking up for those anti-conformists out there - who, at times, seem to be in such short supply that I wonder whether they are hiding in the town library - is indeed not a horrendous curse that it is often portrayed to be. What justifies referring to the right to express yourself as a big, horrible curse for which we ought to hang our heads in shame? Unless you have a scary fascination with full moons and a fetish for howling at the starlit sky at night, that is.

Having explored the subject in the past, I've earnt the right to be known as a Know-It-All when it comes to conformism, which I witness and fight against on a daily basis when surrounded by conformists, whose short-sighted views are spread to other people like a contagious cold (from which I'm currently suffering - and am cursing the name of whoever infected me). If people are brought up in an environment in which self-confidence is in shorter supply than their 5-a-day, what chance do they have when faced with hard-going conformists, who are incapable of keeping their (unoriginal) opinions to themselves? Some people are weaker than others, whereas a certain group - of which I'm a proud member - is as hard as steel, possessing the strength to ward off any potential attacks from the opposing side.

Life is guaranteed to contain its battles, which we are sometimes given the freedom to either join or avoid, yet conformism is another story; your only options are to either become part of the conformists for the sake of an easier ride, or fight forcibly for the sake of keeping your independence intact.

Although I wouldn't call myself a hard-as-nails fighter, so far I've done a pretty good job at remaining as independent as ever since immersing myself in the greatest environment where conformism strives: school. Attacked for making decisions without the authorisation of fellow pupils, I've faced - and, to an extent, continue to do so - hassle from people whose limited supply of brain cells stands in their way of leaving me alone.

This week actually started off as a living nightmare that clawed at my heart like a cat pierces their sharp-as-knives claws through skin because one pupil - who could not accept me for simply being myself - was fronting a vicious hate campaign against the only person who had ever stood up to her in her entire life. I, a self-declared anti-conformist (a title of which would go down splendidly if I ever created a Twitter profile), was on the receiving end of constant abuse, fear and stomach-knotting dread.

But, at any moment, did it ever cross my mind that conforming would be the simplest route out of those problems? So many pupils at my school who, when separated from their It-crowd, possess the loveliest and most unique personalities feel the need to 'adopt a different persona' - as my so-called 'buddy' declared during my first week or so - in order to lead an easier life in the playground. However, aren't the lines getting blurred if pupils wrongly assume that school is all about popularity, when the real purpose of their attendance is to gain an education? My views might have placed me further apart from my peers who, as I decided to go back a year due to conflicting examination boards, are a year younger than me, yet I don't care. At all, if you wish for extreme empathis.

Had the same things been happening towards another person, perhaps the answer would be poles apart from mine, yet that steely determination was offered the perfect excuse to come out in full force: no way. Despite my maybe-average-or-slightly-petite stature, inside of me is home to a lion whose roar commands respect and prowess is on constant speed-dial, the source of the self-belief that keeps my spirit alive if ever experiencing moments of deep struggle.

On the possibility that somebody threatens to throw my self-belief into jeopardy, they will have to answer to an angered lion's roar which will send shivers of ice-cold fear down their spine, the coolness an eternal reminder of what they shouldn't do: messing with me. My heartbeat quickens as I hope that the person responsible for my troubling times at school has learnt her lesson, or at least will let me be from now on. Let me be the person that I admire, respect and cherish. Let me be a girl who can walk into school without stopping dead in her tracks if caught unaware by a menace as vile as a poisonous snake. And, most important of all, let me be the one who declares the faults in conformism, and does not deserve to be vilified for opening my mouth.

That being said, there is much more to anti-conformism than the backlash you could - or maybe not, if luck has truly given its blessing - get from people who have over-dosed on ignorance. Independence is a gift that is highly treasured at any point in our lives, let alone adolescence, when we are suddenly offered bucket loads of supply. And why should we lose out on independence if dictated as to how we ought to use it by other people, who know nothing different from a game of 'follow the leader'?

Being able to make my decisions (even if I can't necessarily decide and rely on the influence of others at times) is a gift that I cherish more highly than the acceptance of a popular crowd at school, whose attitudes oppose the morals that were set out in my first few years of life, and are utterly priceless. Staying true to myself might cost me a bench on the most-admired crowd's table at lunchtime, yet popularity doesn't last forever; your morals do. And what price can you place upon a life-long supply of independent thinking?

Despite tough times that could have pushed me towards the dark side (with or without the guaranteed of gooey chocolate chip cookies), I've enjoyed being an anti-conformist and feel at home with my identity. There is nothing easier than being myself, especially as I cannot foresee a future career as an Oscar-winning actress (though the money part is a possibility!). I couldn't bring myself to go along with the crowd because it just isn't in my nature to do so. End of.

However, if the crowd included clever and kind-natured people, perhaps I would brush up on my Maths skills and wash off the angry over missing out on an A/W 11 Prada handbag... On the opposite end of the scale, would I bother hiking up my skirt, piling on the foundation and go from determined to ditzy for the crowds at school? Don't even think about it!

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Joyful Beginning of a New Beginning

Plenty can happen over the space of twenty four hours, yet it nonetheless amazes me that, compared to my previously easy-going life, all that I've known has been thrown into the air, influenced by such a massive change that there is no going back. And by which, I cannot go back on the decision to introduce two seven week old kittens in my world who are not only getting used to life without their mother, but realizing that their new lives involve my other two cats. Despite this fact, I can assure you that this entry will not be dedicated to one of my most-loved past times, moaning.

However far you may be from where I live in a dead quiet village in the middle of a country renowned for its fat-laden Cornish pasties, frightfully 'posh' accents (only if you're among the headline-grabbing socialite crowd, mind you) and weekends solely about The X Factor, your heart will melt into a warm mess as I tell of the events that have just taken place, and will certainly not be forgotten in a hurry!

For weeks, I'd been visiting my two beautiful kittens - a girl whom we had called Teddie (because her long, silky-soft tabby fur truly resembled the coat of a bear) and a boy with fur as dark as a bar of Bournville chocolate who shares his name with the Royal Baby - every Saturday while they were being cared for by their foster mum, who took them, their two siblings and mother in shortly after being discovered outside a supermarket in the city.

Their tough start in life could let alone be the cause of a rampaging war between book publishers and film studios because it featured all the key elements in a heart-warming story: a struggle, a dose of tear-streaming sadness and bundles upon bundles of cuteness. Even I would definitely picked up the book, though I'm now the one contributing to their on-going story - and happy ending!

Before deciding to welcome more felines into our lives, my family had previously adopted two cats, Bart and Benny, the year before, and only celebrated their first birthday a month ago. Although we love both of them dearly - and, to an extent, revolve our lives around them (I'm pretty sure that the weekly budget on cat food is much higher than the spending limit on my Christmas list!) - there was an urge to offer a home to another cat, after having a somewhat rude awakening whilst adopting our own shortly before last Christmas, who had been rescued by an animal charity.

From an early age, I've regarded the family pet - who has undoubtedly been of the feline kind - as a sibling because they mimic the behaviour of a human and, at times, behave even better than my goodie-two-shoes self! Expanding our family was a dream come true because, despite already being surrounded by plenty of people (both in the forms of a wannabe Chelsea striker and a bundle of snuggle-your-face-in fur), I craved more company. Well, if it doesn't answer back to you and is unable to leave suspicious messes in your en-suite, of course I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to bring more cats into my life!

This summer marked the beginning of my adopt-a-kitten journey, which originally commenced with a golden tabby kitten, who was known as the first Teddie. After contacting various animal centres, we had picked the ideal kitten for us who was a) tabby (despite loving all fur colours, tabby is the ultimate favourite), b) an absolute cutie and c) apparently in good health. In fact, I visited this kitten while on a day off school (which fortunately coincided with Sports Day - how relieved I was to avoid it!) due to illness, and fell in love within moments of meeting her. At the time, she ticked all the boxes and lived up to my fantasies, yet fate had other ideas; it simply wasn't meant to be.

At around the age of five weeks, this kitten was becoming increasingly weaker, having just been diagnosed with a heart defect. She was neither gaining weight nor recovering from her illness which, as we would soon find out, was a condition that she was sadly born with. On a Saturday morning, her battle - which didn't involve a future bright with victory - ended, thus our search for a kitten recommenced. And, though a bit of my heart was broken, I vowed to remain strong, for which I was rewarded almost as soon as I started to look for that dream member of my family.

In the summer holidays, I came across another female kitten who, despite possessing those distinctive tabby markings, was darker, yet had a much bubblier personality than the previous one. Later known as Teddie, she was healthy, kind-natured and - without a doubt - an absolute cutie. As soon as I caught a glimpse of her, I was certain that this was a love story that wouldn't end in tears: only joy could be the end result.

Our original intention was to adopt one kitten as a birthday for my mum, who literally trademarked the idea. Teddie was the perfect candidate to fit this très important role, and all of us had fallen head over heels (especially myself as the heel-wearing one), yet we were increasingly drawn towards her brother, otherwise known as George. While her two female siblings had been reserved, George had not yet found a home, which may or may not have been down to his seemingly black fur - which I'm absolutely determined to declare is not the case. In fact, Teddie was closer to George than to her fellow siblings and even once played with him during one of our weekend visits; it was obvious that she had such a brilliant bond with him.

As the deadline to bringing her home got nearer and nearer, we made yet another one of our absolutely-important decisions, which now had an impact on little George's fate: we would adopt him. Having always adopted cats in pairs, we couldn't bear the thought of leaving him behind as his sister lived it up with Bart and Benny who, compared to her slight stature, looked as intimidating as an 8ft tall basketball player. And, during that short time we shared with him, we loved George's personality. Fearless, playful and wild, George was the yin to Teddie's shy, reserved and calm yang. How could we dare to tear them apart?

Fast forward several weeks, here I am resting on my bed (as I slowly recover from a cold/sore throat, courtesy of three weeks attendance at a germ-infested school) as Bart sleeps by my feet, constantly aware of the kittens' presence in the kitchen downstairs. Yesterday morning, my mum, dad and I picked up the two babies before bringing them home - and literally turned Bart and Benny's world upside down! The older two sniffed the kittens' basket for a second before racing faster than a cheetah up the stairs, and haven't dared to sneak downstairs since then.

Of course, introducing a new feline into a cat's life is hardly the easiest of all jobs, yet I'm hoping that Bart and particularly Benny - the most protective of the pair - will accept this change within time. If they can cope with moving over hundred miles away shortly after being rehomed, surely letting two precious kittens into their hearts won't be a major struggle?

On the other hand, Teddie and George have adapted better to their new lives than I could have ever expected; George only ever cries if he can no longer ignore his constant hunger pangs! However, it didn't surprise me at all that Teddie's emotions were a mixture of excitement, pining for her mother and exhaustion. Curious when exploring her new surroundings, Teddie would sometimes fall asleep whilst walking around, which was hilarious to see! She did get a bit upset around bedtime, though, and cried for a while, sounds of which were quite saddening. I wanted to make those first moments in her new home as comfortable as possible, yet I couldn't wipe away her symptoms of homesickness - she had to experience those emotions before moving on.

Therefore, I was astonished when I woke up this morning (ten minutes after my Physics class would have begun) and witnessed Teddie whizzing around the kitchen. chasing after a toy mouse - miles away from her emotional self the night before! She has carried on settling in today, and looks much more relaxed; I think that she coped with the change by sleeping it off, which she do so for the entire afternoon yesterday!

Now the main focus is being placed upon Bart and Benny, who have yet to cope to terms with the fact that there are two kittens in the house and they will be accepted as members of the family at one point or another. It doesn't feel like I only brought home Teddie and George a day ago, but I'm hoping that some progress with the older two - whom I love to bits - will be made by the end of the weekend.

In the meantime, I shall cherish each moment of this joyful beginning which, after having started afresh when Bart and Benny were adopted last Christmas, is somewhat a new beginning!