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Planning for NaNoWriMo

Planning for NaNoWriMo

I have always wanted to complete NaNoWriMo, the challenge to write a whole novel in the month of November.

I’ve started several times, but sitting down at my computer and hoping that inspiration will strike every day haven’t worked. I’ve never actually managed to complete it.

Right now I am working on one novel which is proving an absolute joy. The setting and characters will be with me for many stories if I have my way but it’s still good to get a creative kickstart sometimes and that’s what I am looking for this year.

So, instead of sitting down and hoping for a brainwave, this year I am planning ahead for NaNoWriMo.

I’ve chosen historical fiction as my genre because I really enjoyed having a go at it during the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition earlier this year.

After lots of reading and research looking for my initial idea, I’ve now latched onto something that has enough interest to keep me occupied for a month.

I’ve made several pages of notes on plot points that will hopefully guide me through each day. This is very loose planning; I don’t want to completely stifle my creative instincts. I know that each day will bring with it new ideas, but this way I think I’m giving myself the best chance to actually complete a novel.

Have you completed NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear your tips!

I’m a Finalist!

I’m a Finalist!

I’m very excited to share that after entering the Reading Room Project competition I am going to have a poem included in their anthology!

The theme is ‘Mad Like Us’ and the anthology brings together different works on mental health experiences. My piece is a poem that shares my experience of sleep paralysis.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the anthology and reading everyone’s work.

The Food Report: A Seafood Feast

The Food Report: A Seafood Feast

Last week in Bournemouth, we held a mini Nom Nom Club with some new members. To celebrate our proximity to the shores, we create a seafood feast!

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We ate: sushi and prawn spring rolls, all lovingly wrapped by hand; a fish curry made by Olivia that I still can’t quite get over; a beautiful sea bream that we bought on Mudeford Quay with pommes dauphinoise (and an extra version with cider!); a crème brûlée. I have never cooked a crème brûlée before but I jumped at the chance when Laura happened to have a blowtorch!

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We listened to: plenty of music on a sea theme, plus a healthy dose of Kate Bush and electroswing.

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We played Cards against Humanity and Articulate, and talked about everything from our dating techniques to how much of a dream this Summer has been.

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We drank: mojitos, moscitos (with vodka), a somewhat unhealthy amount of malibu and some crisp, cold French white wine (the only thing for seafood).

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It was a pretty special evening – I’ll bring you our Sunday treats soon as we cooked up a pretty impressive roast with a delicious crumble.

What’s your favourite seafood? Have you held a supper club yet?

The Drinks Report: Rum Punch

The Drinks Report: Rum Punch

I swear when I started the drinks report I envisioned it being about tea and smoothies, but it seems to have taken a turn to the alcoholic.

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Punch is one of my favourite things – take all the drinks leftover from house parties, anything gross that you want to get rid of, some fruit and some ice, et voila – a delicious (and only slightly lethal) treat! For Caribbean supper club last weekend we made a rum punch. In all honesty it was an ever-changing beast but in the end we reached something delicious which I would definitely recommend if you’re looking to make a party in a jug.

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We started with rum (obviously – Sailor Jerry’s is a good spiced option but I’m keen to try Kraken Rum soon and we had a bottle of Navy’s for the non-spice lovers) and a tin of mango pulp (you can usually buy these from world food shops or large supermarkets). We threw in pineapple and coconut  juice (you could go with malibu for the coconut but we went for a dark rum instead), lots of mint leaves and ginger beer. The fizz combats the sweet syrup of the mango, but you can play with your quantities to get the right mix for you and your friends!

To make this week a little more healthy than the weekend, I’ve also been drinking all of the vitasoy (you can grab this in Asian supermarkets and it’s too delicious for words). I just need to resist the urge to make it into punch.

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What delicious things have you been drinking this week?

The Food Report: Caribbean Supper Club

The Food Report: Caribbean Supper Club

I really love creating new traditions. My friends and I can sometimes be a bit stuck in our ways when it comes to our little rituals and places to go, but we’re still always looking for new things to add to the list. When Olivia returned from Thailand last summer she wanted to cook us all Thai food. An afternoon in the pub and a few pints later, our supper club was born. The idea was simple – pick a theme, pick a date, everyone brings a dish or two and then we eat it all! Nom Nom Club was born.

So far we’ve had curry, Mexican, Japanese food complete with sushi, American diner, Alpine dining, Christmas nibbles and Chinese. This weekend, we headed to Stafford for a Caribbean edition.

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We had goat curry, prawns, jerk chicken, rice and peas, sweet potatoes, slaw, and mango salsa – all washed down with a Red Stripe and rum punch. Nicole made an incredible upside down pineapple and coconut cake for pudding.

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We all agreed that Caribbean supper club was our best ever Nom Nom – delicious food on a beautiful day, everything was ready at the same time (we’ve been known to forgo a sit-down meal in favour of grabbing things out of pans in the past), and no excessive leftovers!

We played Articulate and Cards against Humanity late into the night, and a good time was had by all!

Have you ever been in a supper club? Do you like to hold dinner parties?

I’ll pop the rum punch recipe (it was constantly changing really) in the drinks report on Thursday. 

 

 

National Stalking Awareness Day

National Stalking Awareness Day

Today is National Stalking Awareness Day. Given that the law changed last November, this year’s awareness day is particularly important as our rights have changed and knowing them could get you the help you need.

Changes to the Protection from Harassment Act implemented on November 25th 2012 now mean that stalking is an individual and specific offence (although this only applies to cases after this date; those before November 25th are still treated under the original Act). There is not a singular definition of stalking because of the wide variety of behaviour it encompasses, but the list includes “following, contacting/attempting to contact, publishing statements or material about the victim, monitoring the victim (including online), loitering in a public or private place, interfering with property, watching or spying”. Two or more incidents of this behaviour amount to a “course of conduct” and can therefore be reported and investigated under section 2A of the Act.

Section 4A concerns “stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm of distress” – these are not narrowly defined concepts and can include “emotional or psychological trauma”. Section 2 carries a maximum prison sentence of six months, whilst for Section 4 this is 5 years.

Stalking can happen to anyone or any age or gender, but the lack of specific law led to a culture in which it was often brushed off or unseen. Even now, we joke about “Facebook stalking” all the time, potentially forgetting that stalking can have serious mental and physical impacts upon those who have experienced it. My personal experience was non-violent and one that luckily ended without legal intervention, although it was emotionally manipulative and included threats of violence against both my boyfriend at the time and myself. While the threats never came to fruition, the fear factor was still there, especially given that the perpetrator was a man with a tendency to anger. I’m lucky that this has now become a story I tell quite freely, usually with jokes, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time and I want to stress that I am just one lucky case.

If you are experiencing stalking I would really encourage you to look into the law and seek the help you need. The National Stalking Helpline is a really useful resource, Protection against Stalking has good information on what can constitute stalking, and the Crown Prosecution Service has in depth information on the law. If you feel able, telling friends and family can be incredibly helpful in acknowledging your experience and gaining support. One of the stalking behaviours is engaging a third party – in my case ex-boyfriends and friends were contacted leaving me wondering who I could trust. If you have already told these people what is happening they may be better placed to question why they are being contacted in the first place. It may be frustrating to need legal advice, but it may be your only course of action. I, for example, thought I could just have a number blocked and was told by my phone provider that this was not possible without police intervention, and that they would probably recommend a new phone number altogether.

If a friend, family member, colleague, or anyone you know, has discussed warning signs that lead you to believe they are being stalked, do encourage them to access help and be a good listener. One of the most important things is to believe them. I know that being 18 at the time, if I had outright labelled it as stalking I probably would have been brushed aside. Now I’m fully aware of the law, and my rights, and I always call it stalking because to acknowledge and label our experiences is to take back our agency, and potentially help others acknowledge theirs.

Finally, do consider your safety and the safety of others. It is never stupid or wrong to tell someone about the repeated phone calls you’re getting, or that you feel threatened by someone. The majority of stalkers are known to their victims and it may feel difficult to accuse someone for contacting you, but if you feel in any way unsafe you are entitled to help no matter what. If we can stop stalking in its tracks before it becomes assault that is never a bad thing.

I’m happy to talk more about these issues, particularly with those who are looking to seek help, either in comments, by email or on Twitter.

#HowToKeepYourMan

#HowToKeepYourMan

Yet again, Twitter has managed to conjure a hashtag filled with sexism and fuckwittery on a Tuesday evening.

Quite aside from the concept of ownership of another human being, the heteronormative bullshit and the idea that a woman is only a success with a boyfriend, it’s so full of the tired old sandwich jokes that it’s almost boring. Almost.

Whilst I am loathe to click on such things knowing the rage they will induce, I just can’t help myself. Even at a glance, it’s completely transparent how these trends happen. It’s not just men, rolling out these old sexist tropes. It’s women so drowned by the patriarchy that when they come up for air they use it for nothing better than to oppress us all.

I wish they had saved their breath.

 

 

First day at school

First day at school

Yesterday I started my MA in Politics and the Mass Media. After a long summer getting back to lessons and moving to a new subject has been a little daunting but exciting all the same.

I’m going to try and blog about what I’m studying and reading during the course as a way to collect together what I’m thinking about. This term I’m taking Political Communication 1 and International Politics of the Mediterranean and Middle East – both are fascinating.

One of the things that has struck me straight away is the nature of mediation between, for example, governments and the public. The way in which we choose to, or are able to, receive our media directly influences our ability to engage with democracy and our society.

Today I’ve been reading around theories of political communication in relation to the Bush administration and the Iraq war. It’s interesting to see that in texts from 2007 the onus is placed strongly on the press to scrutinise the news put out by governments. This is obviously still the case today, but citizen journalism, Twitter and blogging have taken on a role in that scrutiny today.

I can’t wait to get going with the rest of my term!