Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Girl Crushes: Because My Eyes Aren't Painted On

I wish it was less clichéd, but it really did start in the changing rooms at school.

One of my friends had the sort of figure I didn't realise actually existed outside of the silver screen. She was an early bloomer and had a real Marilyn "hourglass" shape, all curves at the chest and hips and thighs with the daintiest of waists. Her body was exquisite and almost unearthly; even when the rugby shirt and nylon shirts were worn for P.E. she was statuesque. I never thoroughly examined what it was I was actually feeling at the time - attraction, admiration, maybe even arousal - but one thing was certain; I could not tear my eyes away from this girl and her beautiful body.

Though I've not been in school changing rooms for years now (thank God), this kind of attraction to the female form has honestly only intensified. When an attractive girl walks by, I still struggle to tear my eyes away, forcefully resisting the urge to saunter up to her and blurt "I'm sorry, it's just that you are really bloody gorgeous" Women in magazines, women on Tumblr, women on the music scene; I regularly gawp at them all, usually whilst wondering how it could be humanely possible to look that beautiful.

Still, it's not exclusively along the lines of the superficial "pal, I've gotta say it - you are FIT FIT FIT" to the attractive strangers I encounter. Many of the girls I am fortunate enough to call my friends I feel similarly about; their strength, their wisdom, their talents and their magnificent peach of a bum. They just have fanciable qualities. To some extent, I am besotted with each of them; I don't feel that the fact I've only ever had boyfriends really does much to deny me accepting the plainly obvious facts.

But if this is how I feel, are boyfriends what I'm meant to have - or could it be that I'm gay?

Well, over time I've realised that's not the case - I identify as straight. Sure, sexuality is fluid and nothing is totally certain; for all I know, I'll meet a woman tomorrow who I'll want to run off to Vegas to elope with. But in the meantime, I can only see myself being in relationships with men - what can I say? I like a bit of stubble in my life.

Yet there's just something about women. I can appreciate the softer skin, the wider hips and more delicate wrists. They are just universally wonderful. But as time has gone on I've started to realise that it does go beyond the high school terminology of "fancying" them; it goes so much deeper. I think it's just sincere wonder and admiration for beautiful human beings, whether they are this way physically or on the inside.

And quite positively, whilst you are filling yourself with this admiration for womankind as opposed to envy or bitterness, it's easier to feel less resentment towards yourself. If you are able to see so much beauty elsewhere, sometimes it's easier to identify when it's a little closer to home; you might not know it sometimes, but you are allowed to give yourself credit for your own strength, wisdom, talents and magnificent peach of a bum.

In that sense, my changing room fascination blossomed into something meaningful and important which I carry with me every day in life; I truly believe that loving and appreciating other women was crucial in helping me to love and appreciate myself. And every thirteen year old girl checking out their friend in the changing room deserves to know that as soon as they possibly can.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Flomeo and Blogliet

Can I be frank with you?

This blog doesn't do it for me like it once did. We're like an old married couple who stayed together for the kids; slowly growing more and more resentful of one another, not even spooning in bed like we used to.

I am the dissatisfied wife, he's the high maintenance husband. I still curl my hair in the hope that he'll push it behind my ear and whisper that I look beautiful today. I keep an eye on my figure and make breakfast for him in the morning. I sit with him for hours trying to start conversation; you know, open ended, harmless questions, like asking how his day was, is work okay, does he want a cuppa?

But I get nothing in return, not a single word. I'm frustrated and embarrassed. I mean, after all I've done for him?

I don't think I'm being unreasonable, here. He could at least take me out now and then - nothing fancy, even just the M&S Café. He could maybe even go to the gym. Pull his socks up and try to woo me, again. Be the blog I fell in love with and couldn't get enough of.

But I fear that blog I knew is gone. We're not right for each other, any more. Maybe it's - oh god, it's dramatic - the end.

Ridiculous metaphors (you know I'm a sucker for those...) aside, I seem to have this recurring problem with this blog. Like the dissatisfied wife previously described, I try and try again to make this work. I want it to be good, I want it to be liked, I want people to say "wow, you should have told us you weren't totally useless!" but these days I can barely write a few sentences before resigning myself to "nah, uselessness is just part of your....charm? Maybe? Flo?"

Seriously. Sometimes I look around for inspiration on what excites or riles me and I don't see anything. Usually in conversation with friends I'll say "oooh, I might blog about that!" at least once, but recently the need to express that never seems to reach my lips. It could be that I'm just fine with everything right now; nothing is particularly exciting or riling, the two emotions which usually inspire me on to put down whatever I'm doing, shut everybody else out and sit down with BlogSpot. My current reactions to what's happening in the world are rarely more meaningful than a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down".

"UKIP MP elected" - not good man, not good at all. Thumbs down.

"Gone Girl released in UK cinemas" - yeeeees! That's grand. TWO thumbs up.

See? It's just not exciting reading. You wouldn't take a few minutes of your day to read 600 words of that. But I can't come up with anything else, any more.

Really, I'm writing this because then at least I've have written something, and that's better than sitting with my head on my keyboard, wondering what I'm doing wrong and how I can ever keep this spark alive between my blog and I.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dear Freshers,

Well, you look awful. If you ended up in bed with somebody last night, they’ve probably taken one look at you and made a run for it.  Is that vomit in your hair or is your brain literally leaking out of your ear? I bet it feels like it is. I bet you were drawn towards those one pound Jagerbombs last night like a moth in the dark to candle light. It’s alright, though. This blog is a judgement-free zone. But if you ever actually want to recover, I would advise you to stay out of the kitchen where you hosted pre-drinks for a while yet; the actual state of it will plunge you even further into the dark, gloomy pits of this hellish hangover.

But then, you might not fit that description at all. I might have found you clear headed and fresh faced, ready to face the day and to face the new life you’re embarking on, but without alcohol and partying. That’s alright - you don’t have to do that. There's still every chance you might feel pressured into doing so - "come on, just one drink! Don't be boring!" - but you just do whatever the hell makes you feel comfortable. A lot of people use university as an excuse to teeter out of their comfort zone – in heels they cannot walk in, usually – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with staying contentedly within it. I commend you for it.

Nonetheless, it goes without saying that with all this newfound freedom and drinks that will cost you less than a bus ticket into town, you may find yourself making a bit of a tit of yourself in the next few years. You might make some mistakes; you might put faith into people who perhaps aren't worth it, you might get your social life/academics priorities wrong, you might drastically overestimate your ability to drink those Jagerbombs. You might even sleep with your flatmate! (no, I don't care HOW fit they are - nothing good will come of that situation) But you're better off making these mistakes now. You will learn from them, so forgive yourself. I love a bleak Tweet about the foolish, ridiculous situations I seem to frequently wander into, but there's only so much social media self pity before you have to dust yourself off and say "fine. Whatever. What's next?"
Besides, you have your studies to focus on! Woah, did you forget? Ah, sorry - turns out those highlighters aren't just for drawing cute designs on your face.
Here's a tip: I'm assuming you chose your degree subject because you love it. Try and keep it that way, even if the chemistry seems to fizzle out now and then and you hit rocky patches (especially when you’re 500 words under the word count and you strongly suspect you may actually burst into tears if you have to think about a theorist again) The fact is that you're lumbered with this subject for the long haul, so you may as well find it worth the blood, sweat and tears. I know people who have already sussed that they’ve chosen the wrong subject for them and don't enjoy it at all, but they've decided it's just "easier to stick with". And you know what’s crap? I feel sorry for them. I feel genuinely sorry over the fact that they have chosen to spend the next three years working their sorry arses off for a subject they don’t absolutely love.
So weigh up if it's "love" or "oh my god, what have I done?" as soon as possible. If you think it through and decide your course isn’t for you, try and change courses. If that isn’t possible, I would go as far as to advise you to drop out entirely. See it as a blessing in disguise, re-apply and do something else for a year; find employment or even get out there and travel, if you can. If you think that university won't do much for you in general, don't see it as a "failure". You can learn so much more about the world through alternative means, because university is not the only way of receiving an education.   

Here I am talking about dropping out, when you've only just arrived. You're probably already overwhelmed - nope, I don't believe you if you try to insist you're cool and collected right now. You've just moved away from home and have been dumped into this pool of pissed up randomers who may be your best pals or the banes of your life. You damn well should be overwhelmed! But it will pass in time; freshers week is intense but as the semester begins and the conversations less clouded by whatever neon concoction is on offer at the student union, you will settle into the new pace of life. You might still have moments where you think "I'm meant to study...without being prompted? Christ, what is this meant to be?" (I definitely still do) but you may be surprised by how quickly you become accustomed to it.

Or you might not. Not a nice thought, huh? I know, but it concerns me that nobody else will say it to you and you'll only get the "best years of your lives!!!!" talk. People might still not want to own up to the fact, but university might not go as smoothly as you'd like socially; your flatmates might not be your kind of people and you might not meet the best friendship circle you were told you'd basically walk into immediately. That's not a fun situation to be in, believe me I know. Plus, the workload is a step up, the deadlines are usually tighter, the textbooks even thicker and yes, it could become hugely problematic for you. University is fun, sure, but it doesn't come without it's new obstacles.

So this is the most important point I want to make with this post: look after yourself and your mental health. Never feel ashamed, embarrassed or alone in feeling how you do. Do not be afraid to talk to somebody if you don't feel like everything is as hunky-dory as it feels it should be. This is actually the biggest regret I still carry from my first year of university. I was unnecessarily sad and anxious for so long because I felt too embarrassed to confess that I was struggling. Slumping into passivity will only prolong whatever the issue may be, so get in touch with your parents, tutors or a counsellor - most universities even have phone helplines. Seriously, this is actually one mistake you actually can't allow yourself to make. Please know that you are too damn important to compromise your own happiness. I mean it.

But I don't want to leave this letter on a solemn note, because - as I've now had the joy of learning for myself - you should spend the next few years feeling anything but solemn. You should be excited - there might be some nerves thrown in there, too, but you should be bloody well bouncing off the walls. Make sure you make use of the university societies; you'll meet people who you already have things in common with, which is half the battle, really, plus they may have great social events. Sports clubs, student media, choirs and amateur dramatic societies - anything that floats your boat, push yourself out of your circle and go for them. Always try and talk to the people next to you in lectures; they're willing for somebody to extend a hand of friendship just as much as you probably are. Don't shy away from the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of you; take your tail out from between your legs and run towards them.

Look after your friends, look after yourself and have a bloody brilliant time.

Now go for a shower and sort yourself out. Like I said - you really do look dreadful.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I've Lost My Keys

In my life I have always acknowledged that to some extent, I am kind of a dickhead. You might think I'm being a wee bit harsh on myself here but actually, I'm pretty okay with it. It is a realization that occurs to me like a football boot to bollocks quite frequently; for example, when I ignore everybody's advice to "slow down a bit" at predrinks, then I pass out in the birthday girl's bed an hour later and miss the night out. I realise it on the many occasions when I say too little when I should speak up, and when my filter suddenly disappears at times when maybe, I should pipe down a little. It happens especially so during Mighty Boosh marathons when Howard says something lame and my response is not to guffaw at the screen, but to nod and wistfully think "y'know we'd probably be great pals if you were a real person?"

To be honest, the "you're a dickhead, Flo" realization is hitting me again right now. I have just finished eating Indian food with my dad, who has since popped off on the Subway back to his hotel. I would like to be doing what he'll be doing right now - lying in bed, full and content, like a pregnant penguin - but instead I'm sitting by myself in the library. I'm locked out of my flat. Lost the bloody key. I've lived there ten days.

It is surreal typing that though - "my flat". Unlike "my halls" it's got this wonderfully adult quality to saying it; it signifies having my shit together, paying actual rent to a landlord and cooking actual meals and even doing a bit of dusting now and then. Saying "my flat" beats "my halls" any day. Check me out - I bought bin bags for my flat today. And kitchen roll. Because I'm an ADULT in MY FLAT. That's what we all do, right?

You'd think that would be the case. But I don't think real adults lose their keys.

So I feel more of a pretend adult right now, really; kind of like a toddler in nursery school playing in a plastic kitchen whilst the real adults smile and utter through gritted teeth "oh, she's really..energetic?!" Sadly those nursery school days are even further behind me now, since I turn twenty in over three weeks. I'm not looking forward to it. Once you turn twenty, you have to accept the fact that you actually are a sullen bitch and it really isn't just those pesky teenage hormones. Saying you're twenty years old has no wonderfully adult quality; just the regular kind - "I miss the days when I didn't have to care about the shit like kitchen roll".

In other news that doesn't make me feel like I'm pretty much going to fail all the basic tasks life naturally gives me, I now have a column for qmunicate! Considering I had roughly twelve Twitter breakdowns over my application, several crisis talks with my mum and maybe one too many "consolatory entire packets of Maryland cookies" after getting a bit upset over it, this has undoubtedly been the best thing to happen to me in my first year of university. Proclaiming that something is a "dream" of yours always sounds a bit naff, but since learning I could coherently string a sentence together, writing a column has been...well, yes. A dream of mine. "Triumphant" is a good word to sum up how I feel - like Marythe cow from that advert ("she's always wanted to be a horse...")

It came at an especially good time too, since my blog inspiration has been a little low recently and when people know that you write there seems to be this pressure to...always write. Write and be funny, write and be thoughtful, write and write and write.

Moral of the story: lose your keys, start writing.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My Big Health Kick - No, Seriously!

“…what’s all this about?”

Really, my dad was well within his rights to ask me this with a level of suspicion as I pulled my running trainers on recently. Since, well, birth, I have been a bit… willingly immobile. You know, more of a “running a bubble bath for me to lie in for the next three hours” kind of gal, not really “running, actual running with my actual legs because FITNESS!”

But this was all before My Big Health Kick. Don’t laugh at me - even if the chances are we’ve hung out and you’ve seen me lying in bed balancing an Irn Bru on my stomach and Marks and Spencers ready meal under my chin. I am being serious.
For once in my life - which has often revolved around my next sugar fix, packet of Monster Munch or glass of pear cider - I am wholeheartedly trying to be healthy.

I am trying to move more, and not just from the couch to the fridge. I am swapping my carbs for cardio. I have started excitedly running into my parents' bedroom in the morning to let them know that I have beaten my Plank record. I don’t drink lots of wine after working, I whine lots after I work out. Whilst I have not mustered up the courage to actually ask anybody what they actually are, I acknowledge the existence of electrolytes, which are important (?) for exercising and I might (?) need (?) them. There's a playlist on my iPod dedicated exclusively for motivating my cellulite-ridden arse to get out of bed to do some sit ups. I purchased weights the other day, too – I know. Bloody weights. Can you believe it? I barely can.
But it’s not all rainbows and (cauli)flower beds; the “healthy” route has not been an easy one to follow. Especially on days like yesterday when THIS of all things ends up standing in my way:
You are shitting me

But overall, I give the whole "looking after myself a bit more" experience an 8/10, so far. Sometimes it’s all I can do after doing some squats (my all time exercise nemesis) but ponder in despair “this is all very well, but when do I start looking like Iggy Azealia, man?” but by and large, I think those medical types are right about endorphins. You know, those things that are released after you exercise which make you…happier? Something like that, yeah? Well I think they’re a little more active these days.
Nonetheless, if I ever go a few hours with no social networking activity, you’ll know where to find me – collapsed in the middle of some forsaken country road, trainers thrown into a nearby hedge and crying for somebody to feed me Monster Munch.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Danke Schon und Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland

Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom as I’ve always hated to see my numerous bedrooms over the years. It is stripped bare, the walls are blank, unsettlingly free of mess, and toxic fumes of cleaning fluid are heavy in the air. This bedroom is painfully impersonal. It doesn’t feel like my bedroom. It is simply “a” room.

The future of this room is uncertain, and the forces lifestyle is one full of uncertainties: where will I be this time next year? Will my dad be at home? Will I live in a different house? Who’s leaving? Who’s staying?
These questions are regularly up in the air. But for me, there is always one constant certainty - Germany is my home.
But it’s time to pack up our bags and move again, which brings me to the next certainty; every day from now on, I am going to miss Germany.
I will miss the bakeries and the ice cream parlours on every street corner. I’ll miss the unfailingly warm summers at the outdoor pools and freezing cold winters spent on the ski slopes. I’ll miss the Christmas markets. I’ll miss cycling everywhere (cyclists rule the pavements in this country, not pedestrians). I’ll miss the German traditions; whilst I’ve never been quite sure what exactly they are or why they happen, any excuse to dress up and get drunk is fine by me. I’ll miss the German cities which are so vibrant and rich in culture with beautiful, intricate architecture. I’ll miss the nightlife, however pricey it may be. I’ll miss the summer evenings walking through Gutersloh or Bielefeld and the brief, happy realisations of “how lucky am I to be here?” I’ll miss my friends who are people in the same boat as me, not quite from anywhere, never quite sure where they’ll be next. I’ll miss living within the military community intensely – every single last thing about it.

I’ll even miss natives’ somewhat dismissive attitude to queuing.                                                     
Though this time there will definitely be no moving back, I have moved away from Germany before and I know how it's going to be. The first few weeks are hellish as it doesn’t seem to sink in that you’re not ever going to be returning. You feel like you’re on some strange, extended holiday in somebody else’s empty house for a little while. But one day something hits you and this is how it is now, you think. You need to move on. After that it starts to become manageable, the old memories you still long for are pushed into the back of your mind as new ones are created. Yet now and then, something will take you back; the scent of a certain food; an old photograph capturing a different time with gleeful smiles that reveal the world was kind to you and life was carefree; a school jumper with the distinctive crest; when it’s a scorching hot day and you wistfully think “god, I’d love to be at an outdoor pool”.

Moving away from a place you dearly love is like grieving not for a person, but for a life you once had. I was blessed for this one and I will never forget these incredible ten years in Germany.
Whoever lives in this bedroom next will be lucky to have it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Come Dine With Me: A Story of Love and Scoreboards

Come Dine With Me is the best show on television. I don’t want to argue about it. I am not prepared to listen.

Because the thing is, I am in love with Come Dine With Me. I am properly, unashamedly in love with it. The show is the Brad to my Ange; the Kanye to my Kim. I often cosy up with Come Dine With Me after a long day and find myself basking in a warm, besotted glow, like I would with an actual human lover. Also like an actual human lover, it reminds me that even when essay deadlines loom and the cupboards are not stocked accordingly with Haribo, the world is simply not all that bad – how can it be when Ricky from Sunderland roars like a lion when he laughs? Or with the fact that Pam from Brighton keeps a scorpion carcass in her DINING ROOM?! For SOME RIDICULOUS REASON?!
So my feelings are strong, very strong; that much is clear. A love so intense can only blossom through some serious chemistry. The secret is, Come Dine With Me wooed me by indulging my ultimate past time: people watching – or it’s truthful name, being incredibly nosey. 

It leaves me chuckling every time. I love seeing people in their natural environment, doing things their way, no matter how odd their ways are; watching them flap over the fact that the napkins do not look exactly like swans, attempting to laugh off the fact that the cat has actually just taken a dump on the worktop or violently insisting that everybody will eat the steak they are preparing their way because it is their damn dinner party. Classy and stylish Come Dine With me is not. But Come Dine With Me is people being their fascinating, bizarre and often worrisome selves, and that's what keeps me running back to it.
My favourite part of the whole show is when a contestant boldly introduces "entertainment" to their evenings, such as drag queens, discos, DJ sets or - my personal favourite - "now, I would like you all to try your hand at some love poetry!" The results are frequently hilarious and cringe worthy. Take the older, conservative men awkwardly attempting a tiny two step shuffle to Party Rock Anthem in a suit that is clearly too formal, or the gobby lady who's had a little too much to drink, is hiking her skirt up and getting very carried away with Highland dancing; surely this is far more entertaining than Gino and Mel Do Lunch, which I have only ever been able to watch blankly.

Speaking of other cooking shows, you might presume that I myself am a "foodie" since I enjoy Come Dine With Me so much and it is - arguably - primarily a cooking show. This is not the case. I wouldn’t spend my television watching hours fawning over Nigella as she rustles up something “oooh, soooo lovely and scrumptious!” with her glossy hair and ample cleavage spilling over a baking tray. Nor do I find Gordon Ramsay’s crazy swear-fests particularly entertaining. Truthfully, I would skip any of Jamie Oliver’s shows purely because they rather annoyingly remind me just little my body has to thank me for. But what makes Come Dine With Me so unique is the way it depicts the preparation of food as what I personally understand it to be: a massive hassle. A pain in the arse. Never all that smooth sailing. Makes you sweat and swear a bit. A bit awkward.

But it's not about cooking, is it, really? Come Dine With Me is about the mini domestic drama of every episode, coupled with Dave Lamb's commentary laden with sarcasm and pure piss taking at the contestants, who's every move will inevitably merit a verbal swipe of some description. People will make total arses out of their selves, whether it is by taking the competition that little bit too seriously or by making clearly outrageous comments to their other contestants. Of course, these poor souls are selected on the basis of how much trouble they are likely to rustle up, rather than the meals they'll prepare. Still, when popular TV is so often filled with images of people being so unnervingly talented, it's refreshing to watch a show that highlights the honest truth - it's never "just us", everybody can be a bit mental.
So take your X-Factors, Britains Got Talents and all the other popular prime time TV shows. You may be content with those, and I am happy for you. But I am content with Come Dine With Me. So happy, in fact, that Floraidh from Fife is gonna score it a "10".