Was that really four years ago?

Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths

Branches and leaves, spiders and ants.I’d found a little haven, tucked behind the shed. A faded plastic ledge offered a small, but welcoming seat to be concealed by the thick tangles of bush.

Past the shed and it’s belly of books-which seemed to always be over fed- was the tiny garden. A circle of grass and pebbles and a neat little stack of potted herbs. Only just enough space for three cartwheels. Maybe a couple of handstands.

The sloped roof with my bedroom window jutting out mirrored the rest of the street. Inside, my cabin bed only just managed to fit in my minute room, with a little space on the floor for me to lie and contemplate life and existence. One of my favourite twelve year old pastimes.

My bedroom used to belong to a baby, with thick wooden shelves, designed for nursery rhyme books, and little wardrobe handles to match the walls, which had been painted over in lilac at my request.

My next favourite place was the loft. Though horribly cold, it was the only place where I could get lost for hours with my dollhouse. No, I didn’t ‘play’. I decorated, I planned, I organised, until I would have been the top interior designer of the doll house world.

The long, laminated floors of the living room, although unknown to my twelve year old self, would be the space for hours of blanket gliding at Christmas time. And the front garden home to a trampoline, which would eventually be eaten away by ice and rust. Years of laughing in the dining room at my sister’s face covered in spaghetti. The wall of photos smiling at me in black and white would accumulate more and more of my smiles.

In the small village, a bus journey from the world of school; a walk from my best friend’s house and a an even shorter walk to the shop. And in the shop was over-priced chocolate. Chocolate!

Just don’t break her heart, okay?

You’ve been given the opportunity to send one message to one person you wouldn’t normally have access to (for example: the President. Kim Kardashian. A coffee grower in Ethiopia). Who’s the person you choose, and what’s the message?

Dear Future Boyfriend of Lucinda,

Hello. You got this far without being put off by her weirdness, so congratulations! Good luck with the strange things that will come out of her mouth as she gets more comfortable with you.

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Please don’t break her heart. You’re her first serious boyfriend, so she kinda deserves it to be special. So, don’t be a dick, don’t even think about cheating, and just treat her right. Believe me, her friends might not look tough, but if you do wrong, they WILL kill you. Beware…

The most important thing to her is honesty, so respect that, and be honest. Don’t expect her to change for you, or expect to change yourself for her.

And finally, thanks for picking her. The girl who can’t touch her own toes without bending her knees. The girl who hates dodgeball with passion. The girl who doesn’t usually get noticed. Thanks.

P.S. I know I’ve already said this, but don’t be dick. Really. Don’t.

Birthday Cake and Eating Whole Pizzas

I’m finding it hard to think of a particular meal that I really enjoyed. I am conscious of trying not to sound like I have (or have had) eating disorders, because I haven’t, but I’ve never really been into food the way most people are. Whenever I am anxious or stressed, the first problem I have is a loss of appetite. Even when I am happy and healthy, I never eat much-I’ve always had a small appetite. It is only on the odd occasion where I can finish a whole pizza on my own and shout ‘Yeah! I just ate a whole pizza!” Of course, I like treats like chocolate and cake, though.

So, I’d probably have to say my favourite childhood food was birthday cake. That smell of blown-out candles triggers my memory to relive the moments of celebration, and party hats, the smiling faces of friends and family. Every time I look through my photo albums, I always stop for longer at the picture of me and my grandpa at my sixth or seventh birthday and smile. We are so happy in that moment. It almost makes me sad to think about how long ago that photo was taken; so much has changed since then.

When I think about birthday cakes, the image of my little sister’s face slathered in chocolate icing appears in my mind. And with it, her wide pearly grin. I think of my mum and all those shopping trips for party food (and obviously, the big cake), all the setting up of the living room. For me, my brother and sister, she must have lit thousands of candles over the years. Now I remember her in every memory, always busy helping make that memory special, I feel that I was never grateful enough for everything she did.

Thanks Mum, for nearly seventeen birthday cakes and so much more.

Rosie in Red

For today’s assignment, write a scene at the park. Up for a twist? Write the scene from three different points of view.

Jessica clasped my hand in hers, the softness of her young skin against the coarseness of mine. She guided me through the park. I leaned on her and shuffled along, too slow and too heavy. My little daughter was still in there, shining through. Twenty six. Two decades had gone in a blink. And now, clutching my hand, was a young woman. No more fits of giggles or games of hopscotch. No more bedtime stories or campfire songs. No more mending of freshly broken hearts or wiping of teenage tears.

The autumn leaves, a scatter of red, brown and gold, were glued to grey pavement with the morning raindrops. A grey haze was hidden behind the thick arching branches of trees. Some leaves fluttered to the ground as we walked past an oak tree. Jessica gave my hand a gentle squeeze and glanced up at me. Our eyes seemed to tell each other more than words would, as they always had. I followed her gaze. She looked towards the bench across the field from us. A small lady was hunched over, her wrinkles deepened in concentration. She was knitting. A flash of red emerged as she lifted the sweater up to examine her work.

The same flash of red appeared before me. But not in the hands of an old lady, but upon the body of a small child, no bigger than four. Rosie. ‘Rosie in red!’ I heard myself shout. But the words didn’t come from my lips. My voice was young and full of joy. She turned towards me and beamed. Her little cheeks were a rosy red, too. Her mother turned too, carrying little Jessica. Little eyelids fluttered slowly up and down, in and out of the world of sleep. From across the road I watched my three beautiful girls, my family. Fidgeting one hand into her pocket, Kate fumbled for the car key. On finding it at the same moment Jessica began to cry, she dropped them on to the damp pavement. Before I could even see them land the flash of red came and was gone in an instant. Before I could move a muscle my wife’s piercing scream ripped through the air. ‘ROSIE!’ The van was gone in a blur. Crumpled on the pavement, she lay, limbs like a broken doll. All I could see was flashes of crimson blood. Not the rosy red of her cheeks, now ghostly white. Not the cheery red of the little sweater, now smeared with her blood. No, not a rosy red anymore. A dark ugly red. The worst red.

I hadn’t noticed Dad’s silent tears until I looked back from the curious old woman. I had been so fixated on the rhythmic movement of the needles up and down…up and down. He didn’t seem to notice my look of concern; he was in some kind of trance. I stared across the park back to the woman. His body was turned towards her, but his eyes were glazed over, brimming with his tears. Staring at nothing at all. ‘Dad?’ I croaked, my voice hoarse. No answer. ‘Dad?’ I repeated. His lips quivered slightly. This made some of the wrinkles in his mouth curve and deepen. Almost a whisper, he spoke not to me, but the woman it seemed. ‘Rosie.’ The name was so far away, tucked into the dark recesses of my mind, that I had almost forgotten. I held my breath. It was so long ago, I was too young to even remember. Rosie, my older sister I had only known through faded pictures and the few descriptions from Mum and Dad before they shut themselves out of the pain again. I used to visit her grave often and talk to her. I imagined her to be beautiful, like my mother, with her flowing blonde hair and soft green eyes. In pictures she was bright and happy with few teeth, but a giant smile.

‘Rosie in red’ he murmured, slightly louder this time. Then, without any warning a cry was released from him. A sound I had never heard from him before. It was so full of pain. I grabbed his shoulders and stared searchingly into his unfocused eyes. ‘Dad. I’m here.’ I spoke as softly as I could, unable to stop myself trembling. ‘It’s Jessica.’

I dropped my knitting needles. The man opposite me, stared.  Not at me-but through me-it seemed. The cry of a wounded animal suddenly filled the air between us. I stood up, but age was not my friend anymore. I grabbed my walking stick and began hobbling towards this man. His poor daughter looked at him, pained and helpless. But as I walked away, clutching the sweater I had been knitting for my grandson, a scarlet red (his favourite colour) I saw that his eyes were fixed upon it. As I moved it towards him, his whole body followed. Like a magnet.

‘I’m sorry.’ his daughter pleaded, ‘ I don’t know what to do.’ Her eyes were brimming with tears. As I reached them, I could see his cheeks were stained with tears. ‘Rosie’ the man whispered so softly, I was surprised to hear it. ‘Rosie?’ I asked, directing my question to the daughter.

‘She…’ she trailed off, worry wrinkling her face. ‘ She died. A long time ago. She was a child, only four.’

Four, I thought. The age my grandson would turn in only a few days time. Without sparing a moment of thought, I held out the sweater to the man and wrapped his fingers around it. Then, I turned and hobbled back to my bench. The words, ‘Thank you’ came from two voices.

The Problems of a Bad Tree-drawer

How are you at receiving criticism? Do you prefer that others treat you with kid gloves, or go for brutal honesty?

I think I have improved a lot recently at receiving criticism. My sensitive character caused me to take things too personally. I once cried when I was told that I didn’t draw trees the ‘right way’. To be fair, I was only nine or ten. I didn’t even know there was a right way to draw trees!

I have come to understand that most criticism is intended to help the receiver improve in whatever they do. That helps me take honest views from people, because I do want to improve as much as I can, so I can be the best I can be at all I do. I still feel, though, that it’s just in my nature that I dwell on criticism possibly more than is necessary.

I would definitely prefer to have honest criticism. The ‘brutal’ part isn’t exactly enticing, but sometimes you need to hear it! I’d rather know what is wrong, or weak, than go on pretending that what I am doing is amazing.

The type of criticism I am worst at taking is about my posture. Whenever my family comment that I am hunching, it makes me even more self-conscious- when I hunch, it is because I am self-conscious! Another reason it gets to me is that it is so hard to change. I have become so used to hunching that I don’t notice and it is hard to straighten up without feeling awkward or stupid.

You get a lot of criticism when you’re a teenager. From people your own age, even if it’s just a dirty look from the mean girl. From teachers, with pressure added… From parents and most adults!

In terms of giving criticism, I think sometimes I am too subtle or try to be nice, which isn’t always what the person wants.

All in all, I am, and always have been, a sensitive person. So criticism is hard, but important and useful to me. And giving criticism can be hard when I am sensitive of other people’s feelings too.

After-school Sherbet

Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

Clusters of schoolchildren swamped in the greens, blues, blacks and whites of their uniform huddle around the string of shops. The buzz of chatter is like the low-pitched rumble of a swarm of bees. Sherbet-coated smiles reveal blue-tinged tongues and the children delve into their edible treasures. Bikes lie at awkward angles, looking almost broken, awaiting their owners’ return. But as the crescendo of chatter arrives, bikes are forgotten amid the gossip. A few slumped shoulders enter the shop alone. Probably looking for something to perk up their senses. Tired, or sad, lonely or just alone, the contrast between their solitary silence and the buzz of buddies slices the groups apart.

Lips are licked, blue faded from tongues, and an abrupt urgency arises. Fluttering, the crowds disperse. Bikes regain their pose as noble steeds to the green-shirted gentlemen. Thoughts of tea and homework and football practice emerge in the young minds, quickening their pace. And within minutes the clusters are gone. The shops look bare with just a sparse collection of passers-by. Weary signs flop from age and posters on the windows tremble in the breeze.

Stop reading if you don’t like cheesecake!

You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?

Who am I really?

I am a teenager trying to grip hold of the little girl inside me that is gradually drifting away; and cowering away from womanhood that looms ahead. Here is my story.

I was born in Chester and it wasn’t long until my parents divorced, when I was age four. It’s not the divorce that I remember, or that hurt me-it was what came after it, and what still goes on now. Yes, my dad cheated. And in short, I am still not fully okay with this.

But young four year old me was protected for some time by naivety. As I grew up, moving house to places across England, I developed into a shy girl. I went through a series of best friends, who left me, or were left by me, who turned out to be bullies or just drifted from. While the bullying and the anxiety gnawed away at me, I was too lost in my shell to realize that one day those things would make me stronger. And over the years, I have developed, as they say, a thicker skin.

More recently I have been through more, and being aware and unprotected by the cocoon of innocence and naivety, it has affected me more deeply. I have lost people I loved. I have met new people I hated. I have spent months trying to work out how to deal with the effects of these things. One of the best ways was through writing. Even now, speaking daunts me, so writing has always been my strong point because it such a liberating way to express your thoughts and emotions.

I think I am allowed to call myself a dark horse, because I always seem to surprise some people when I succeed. Either because I was working hard, but so quietly they forgot about me, or they just never saw me as competition. But my GCSE results are an example of something I have worked very hard to be proud of.

A select group of friends know what I am like when I am being myself, and not the quiet me. Then, I am crazy, silly sometimes, but still as caring-I hope-as usual. If you want to get on my good side, I love oreos, cheesecake and chocolate. I am mildly offended when people say they don’t like any of these divine creations.

Hobby-wise, I like to read, write poetry, walk or jog, listen to music, watch action films, make cards and sometimes draw, watch youtubers, go to concerts/festivals, sing in a choir, hide at the back in the school production, hold my rabbits, have gorgeous lie-ins and be an idiot with my friends.

I am trying very hard not to take life too seriously. (That sounds a bit like an oxymoron…) There’s not much left to know about me! I like honest people; honesty is the most important quality  to me. Oh and I’m sixteen years old, studying A-levels and hoping to go to uni and then become a writer of some sort. And, despite the English rain and other disappointments in my life, I have to say it’s a pretty good life.

Let’s call her Carly

Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

While I was away on a residential trip for a week in the Peak District, and then a week in a local university halls of residence, I met a lot of new people. At first it was scary and daunting having so many unfamiliar faces around. But as I got to know everyone more and more, we became almost like a family.

All of the young people were my age or a year older, and most of the leaders were fairly young. So, they were easy to get on with, and brought me out of my shell more than I expected.

The person that interested and inspired me the most was one of the younger leaders, let’s call her Carly.

Her thick accent the first noticeable feature, would cause most people to immediately judge her as ‘common’. And yet here fairly tanned skin, free of makeup, shone with the beauty no expensive highlighter could ever recreate. Small in stature, she at first, seems unassuming. But when you notice the slight bend in her knees and her almost manly posture, the football side of Carly is revealed.

When she speaks, her voice is full of energy, just like her muscles, itching to be active. Competitive is not a strong enough word for Carly. As a leader she is supposed to encourage young people to take part in activities, not winning. But the streak melts away her leading exterior and she is one woman for herself. This fierce determination is funny to see, as her forehead crinkles in concentration, as her lip puckers with ferocity.

Whether she is au naturel with a messy bun and jogging bottoms or dolled up with straightened hair and a face of makeup she is Carly. Lively, outgoing, keen to encourage others. When you hear her laugh, you cannot resist joining in with her.

The stereotype Carly falls into may brand her as unintelligent, but she is far from it. Flying through her university course, and with her usual passion and determination, studies are another goal for her to hit. And when she has a target, she must hit it with all her might. Carly is an inspiration to anyone to go for things and laugh about them if  they go wrong.

Ten to Eight, just too late

My watch reads ten to eight;
Just ten minutes until
This poor lover will stand in the
Cold and rain,
Waiting in vain for his love…

In my hand
The words smudged by ink-
Or tears?
Pieces of this stranger’a heart
Scattered on the page
In such a hasty hand

Yet his hopes were crushed-
Not by his love-
But by fate,
Or is it destiny?
The cruel gods pushed his letter,
To the rain soaked pavement,
Only to be read by me;
Simply a stranger, whom it does not belong to .

Writing101 challenge

Faulty Humans and Frill-less Love

Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

Something that I can feel okay about being confused about, because it even confuses science is love.

Love is complicated, hard, amazing, so many things. Relationships are so intricate, even just with acquaintances. You never know how someone else really feels about you, and you have to trust that they are showing their honest, true self. So many people don’t even know that people have feelings for them, or are even in love with them. And then there’s the meaning of being ‘in love’. Some people take the meaning too lightly, some become obsessed and crazed.

Feelings are so difficult because they are often out of your control. You can’t stop yourself from being affected by things, it’s just natural. Yes, you can repress your emotions and hide them from others. That’s another complication. We only see a snapshot of someone’s life and sometimes we  judge them too heavily on that tiny part of their life, we assume, we create false images and ideas.

Humans have so many faults! How do so many people fall in love with someone that has done so many bad things?

Because they are human, and faults make up our lives, and build us into stronger versions of ourselves.

I think love is beautiful. The raw, real love that doesn’t need cheesy songs or any sort of frills. Just two people that like each other’s faults more than anyone else.

We hear of these happy stories of true love and cute old couples that have spent their lives together. I just want that. Even if it’s not for very long. Doesn’t everyone want that?

It makes me sad because the people that lie and cheat are just winding the tangle of lives and faults so that the people that are meant for each other have more trouble finding each other.

Love ramble over…