Always telling stories

I have always loved telling stories. From telling anecdotes of terrible customers at work to writing out fantastical ideas that I always dream of doing something with one day to share them with the world. There’s just something so incredible of creating a world in your head, of thinking up characters and descriptions that exist only in your imagination. There’s something special about that infinite space, and then looking at either a blank notebook or a blank word document with the cursor blinking, full of possibilities. Seeing the physical evidence of someone’s creativity is always astounding, but with books it’s even more so as the only materials the writer used were a combination of 26 letters. It’s probably why I love reading fantasy, just to see how other writer’s minds work and the things that they can imagine and create, see where they’ve been inspired and how they, in turn, can inspire me.

I’ve known that I want to one day write books for a very, very long time. In past posts I’ve gone into detail about some of my ‘early’ work, which included a very short play which was essentially Scooby Doo with a retriever (there was a graveyard, a vampire, and a witch), along with two pieces of fiction, a duology if you will, that was inspired by my seven-year-old-self’s crush who ended up moving to another country, which is what the second book deals with. Such heartbreak at such a young age, but if I remember correctly the only reason I liked him was because he was a fast runner, which probably isn’t the best thing to start a relationship for.

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So clearly I had a love for stories and imaginations as a child, but when thinking back I remember all the ways I loved stories. It seems child-me didn’t quite understand the very important difference between telling something as a story and telling a story as if it were a truth. AKA child-me lied about a lot of things, but didn’t think of them as lies, more as ‘stories’.

When I think back, a few of these little ‘stories’ come to mind, all that occurred in primary school up to the age of about nine or ten. There are minor ones, such as telling a girl that I had seen a unicorn or a friend that I had been taken from a tribe of magical warriors (though that one I blame on my brother, who I distinctly remember telling me that I was adopted in probably the most imaginative tale ever, which included our parents travelling to a tribe in the wilderness and doing some ritual in order to get me). But the one that spiralled entirely out of control, and which still makes me smile to this day, was the story that my cat had had kittens.

My cat, of course, hadn’t had kittens. Bundle was, in fact, neutered, and so would never have kittens ever, but little me (I’m pretty sure I was in Reception or Year One, so maybe five or six years old) really liked the idea of my cat having kittens. So much so, that I imagined how great it would be if Bundle had actually had kittens. All I can remember is telling a few of my friends and perhaps even my teacher, the ever-wonderful Mrs Hill – she was involved in another one of my story-related obsessions, in which I took home a lot of books from the school library, but didn’t want to give them back, and so soon collected a box-full of books, which my Mum discovered, but luckily Mrs Hill didn’t tell me off. Apparently stealing is not ok, but when it could demonstrate a child’s love of reading there isn’t much of a punishment.

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Back to the cat. So all I remember is telling a few people that my cat had had kittens, the dream of any five-maybe-six year old girl. After that I don’t remember much at all, apart from what I’ve since been told by my Mum and brother. Apparently the news of kittens spread through the primary school like wildfire, a primary school that my older brother still attended at this time, possibly in his final year there before secondary school. He found out about our cat supposedly having kittens when one of his friends asked if the kittens were for sale. Next thing I know, my Mum is telling me that it’s wrong to lie after people kept enquiring after our kittens. I’m pretty sure little-me was as confused as everyone else – I mean, after all, it had been a story, and was it really my fault that other people couldn’t recognise such excellent creativity and imagination?

It’s safe to say that the story-telling, or ‘lying’ as others called it, died down after that, and by the time I reached secondary school I understood the importance of clarifying to the mere mortals when I was telling a story.

My only regret? That I threw away the original manuscripts for those two books I wrote about my heartbreak over this boy. Man, would I love to be able to read them now. That would be some serious entertainment right there – though I seem to remember in the second one that he moved to Australia and was bitten by a black widow spider, because apparently little-me was a spiteful so-and-so.

 

The One When I Used to Play Golf

I used to play golf. There were times I loved it and there were times I hated it – let’s just say it was a complicated relationship. Part of that just had to do with my ‘compatibility’ with the sport, I suppose. Four hours is a long time, especially to a 14 year old – which is around the age I started to play.

I mainly picked up the sport because my parents played, and still do, a lot. On a Saturday we would go, usually early, most of the time in cold temperatures, and always with my groaning about said things. I would play with the ladies, because playing with the juniors wasn’t so great (more on that in a bit). The thing with golf is that it’s very difficult to be consistent. One day you could be brilliant, and the next your swing just isn’t working and you get caught up in your head and the next minute you’re throwing your clubs at the ground.

Maybe if all I had to worry about was myself and just playing golf I’d still be playing today. There were times when I loved it, especially when I managed to somehow get a hole in one. The last golf coach I had told me that I had a great swing, and it was nice to find something that I could be good at. Unfortunately, there are many other factors that I had to deal with.

Like with several other sports, you don’t see a lot of female golf players. On the TV it’s the male competitions that get the most attention, just like with football and rugby. For me, it was very similar at the golf club I played at. There were no other girls my age, so in the juniors it was myself and boys of all ages up to eighteen. There was a ladies team, but most of them were over forty.

The first coach I met was called Mike, or Mark, but we’ll go with Mike for now. He was an all-around arse anyway, but he clearly believed that women didn’t really belong in the golfing world. His comments to me were far from encouraging, and I remember him telling me not to compare myself with the others as I’d never be able to hit as far as them because I’m a girl. The first time I went out on the course, Mike announced that I would go around with two 8/9 year olds instead of those my age because I had to go off the women’s tee, as if that made me less worthy. The two boys immediately complained about having to play off that tee with me and I remember quitting halfway through the round because of how awful it was. The embarrassment of not being able to putt well, especially it being my first time playing on the course, was only made worse by the two boys already having finished and telling me to hurry up.

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Luckily I didn’t have to deal with Mike for long, and a different coach came to the club, the exact opposite of Mike in every way. Despite this, it was now the other players I had to deal with. I remember a lot of staring and laughing. On a Monday night the coach offered a training session for juniors for £5 which I attended, only to be avoided by the boys who refused to instigate any conversation with me. When we were partnered up, they were wary of answering me or just trying to even speak to me. The coach once set up something to help us concentrate, where each of us would try to make a putt whilst everyone else jeered and shouted and tried to distract the player. Each boy stepped up, each boy received the same shouting. Yet when I went to putt, everyone was silent. In my embarrassment, I tried to quickly make the shot to get it over with and still missed it. It was very apparent that I didn’t quite belong there, or at least that’s how they saw it.

My experience of playing golf is usually the first thing I bring up when people try to downplay sexism. But my tales of woe and melodrama don’t end there.

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I talked in another post about the difference a good teacher can make and within that I briefly mention my PE teacher whose treatment of me was the final nail in the coffin of my golf-playing days. The lack of support in my chosen sport was astounding, and maybe it was just through lack of knowledge of golf on her part but it was like she didn’t even try to help me. There was definite favouritism in that AS PE class, and it seemed like those favourite pupils were the ones to always do the best. Maybe they simply blossomed under the light of favouritism and the constant remarks about how wonderful they are, whilst the rest of us were left to wilt. Every week that teacher would demand to know if my handicap had dropped yet, as if I could just simply drop by 10 in a few days. A completely demoralising experience, which just made me want to give up because how the hell was I supposed to compete? I even played a round of golf with her and won, but that didn’t help.

The whole class went to a local driving range where the professional there told myself, and the teacher, that I had great technique and a good swing. The two of them assessed me as I coached my classmates, and the professional told us that he’d give me full marks for everything. There were about five categories all marked out of five, and when I came to find out what my teacher gave me it wasn’t what the professional, let me emphasise the professional, had said at all. I was given one 4, two 3s and two 2s. She commented that she didn’t know if I’d had a ‘fluke’ that day, and she was trying to reflect that in her marking. And that was just for the coaching. For my playing, she scored me a low C – and by low I mean it was a C by a couple of marks. There was a man in my club that was a mediator for PE, so he assessed me on perhaps the worst day possible – freezing temperatures, and even some hail – so although I wasn’t playing my best, he still told me that I was a high B on that day and he would assume in better conditions I could be an A student. He called my PE teacher, and next thing I know she’s telling me that she’s decided to bump up my grade – to a middle B.

It should come as no surprise that quite PE after a year. There were other moments in that class of absolute dejection – such as being made to swim against my classmates, most of whom were talented swimmers whereas I was not. I lost, on every front, and was met with laughter, and then the classic scene of being picked last. Definitely my worst school experience by far, and I’m surprised that I managed to actually get through the year when I think back to it.

There’s not much else I feel like I can say. I decided to write about this a few weeks ago when talking with friends about bullying, and this popped up in my head. My experience with golf doesn’t even come close to the horrors some people have had to survive, but it’s still one that, looking back, I have more bad memories than good. I remember the sexist coach, the staring, the boys who refused to talk to me, feeling isolated, alone, different, unwelcome, that PE teacher, feeling worthless, and just wanting to give up. There are moments I consider trying to play again, when I think about when the nice coach told me that I had a great swing, or how that professional at the other club told me I had talent. I think about getting fantastic at golf, just so I could go back to that PE teacher and show her theream good at something.

But for today, I’m happy, and I’m not going to risk that.

Teachers change your life…or something

My family is moving in two weeks out of the house I’ve lived in for my whole life, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that there is a lot of crap to sort through. I came across my old school reports (teachers really need to use words other than ‘conscientious’) and it came as a bit of a shock that I wasn’t always good at English. Now, this isn’t me being all ‘I am a genius, how could I have ever been bad?’. No, this is me saying that there was a time that my best subject was Maths and my worst was English; which is something a Classics-with-English student never expects to discover. I was looking through my primary school books (it’s unsurprising to see that I was never good at art), only to find that English didn’t really appeal to me early on. In fact, the comments from my teachers mainly told me to ‘stop writing about horses, think of other topics’ or ‘stop using the words beautiful and lovely in every piece of work’. It seemed sightly strange to me that, yes, although I was a seven year old obsessed with horses, my teachers were telling me that I shouldn’t write about what interested me. So what if it’s a creative writing piece with the title ‘prints in the snow’, we don’t want to see you following them to find a pony.

Ok, some of you might be thinking that they had a point and sure, I could have tried to write about something that didn’t include horses (or horse related creatures, such as unicorns or a pegasus), but that’s clearly what inspired me to write. That was what I enjoyed. Soon after my horse ban, my writing went downhill and there are comments on my sudden lack of effort and enthusiasm. Clearly I wasn’t impressed with being told I couldn’t write about the one thing that interested me.

Then comes secondary school and in my first year my English marks pick up, only to plummet in my second year (a year which I detested English due to the teacher). Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly start to get really good marks in my third year which only continue to improve throughout the rest of my education – all which was taught by the same English teacher, who I loved. Which brings us to today, where I’m pursuing a career in writing.

If that teacher hadn’t come along, I might have never enjoyed English. I might have stopped having lessons after GCSE. I might have chosen a completely different career path, maybe even choosing sciences, god forbid. It just seems absolutely bizarre to me that something like what teacher you have, which shouldn’t impact your education, changes your whole life. Maybe if I had a fantastic chemistry teacher who inspired me I would have decided to take it for A Level, and then gone on to do something like biochemistry. It’s pretty terrifying, actually, to think like that. English (and Classics, of course) is what I always think makes me, well, me. I’m the girl who is always reading, always writing, who wants to be an author, who is desperately trying to discover how I can get publishers to send me books for free to review – because, of course, everything is better with free books. Of course there are other things that make me who I am – this is where I include a shoutout to my family, my dog, my friends etc – but I’ve always thought that English was always my thing. I found a script, of all things, for a play that I wrote at a very young age (it’s about a group of kids who investigate a graveyard where there’s a vampire who they eventually defeat with the help of their dog – Scooby Doo, anyone?). Reading that, I just assumed that I always knew writing was what I wanted to do. But apparently not.

Teachers change your life. They do, as silly as it sounds. You think it all depends on what school you go to, but it also depends on what teacher you get. Maybe if I had been encouraged in primary school to write about whatever makes me interested, I would have been better at the subject earlier on instead of being upset that I was told to stop writing what inspired me. Maybe if that history teacher I had in my first few years of secondary school had taught me for GCSE as well I would have continued it. Maybe if my maths teacher didn’t ‘jokingly’ call me Twit every single lesson, I might have been more confident about my abilities.  Maybe if my PE teachers didn’t make me feel completely inadequate at AS, asking me constantly if I my handicap in golf had dropped every week, I might have enjoyed it and done better in the exam. Maybe, just maybe, teachers are far more important than you first think.