Holiday reading

Over the half-term my parents and I went on a lazy poolside holiday in Oman. Of course, this presented a wonderful opportunity to read, something I never seem to be able to find time for here, so now I will share with you a couple of reviews. I enjoyed both books, but with future newspaper articles in mind I had better show some kind of critical analysis. Here goes… Luc

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca WellsThis book can only be described as different. The author cleverly interweves the story of Sidda – a 40-something New Yorker in the midst of a midlife crisis – and that of her mother Vivi’s somewhat exuberant past. The result is a disturbing, heartwarming and sad account of a family’s battle to come to terms with its own failures. The Ya-Yas, Vivi’s life long girlfriends, give humour and sentimentality to the sometimes unforgiving plot line.
I must admit that the events that unfold are sometimes not explained and the character are left looking woefully melodramatic – often to the point of the ridiculous. Sidda seems emotionally detached from the very things that should cause a reaction, and then reaches great revelations from not very much at all; but then again I liked this quirkiness. it makes the book interesting. I was certainly never tempted to skip a few pages.

For someone my age – and perhaps of my reading experience (which is a mixture of CHERUB and chic-flick) – this book is a real eye-opener. The reader is plunged into deep issues and light humour in equal measure; as a new, grown-up world is revealed. Nothing is simple for Sidda and Vivi but they get through. The writer gently helps us through considering our own relationships, while entertaining us every step of the way.

The Old Girl Network by Catherine Alliott
This is a great holiday read – easy to read, exciting and funny – what more could a girl ask for in a book? Reading the blurb in Waterstone’s, I was pretty sure that I could have told you the plot there and then. Well, I don’t say this often, but I was completely wrong. This is not a typical romance. Action mixes with love and betrayal, heartbreak with bumbling comedy. I can’t explain without giving the whole thing away, but take it from a girl who has read a lot of chic-flick – this is a good book. The second in the series is most definitely on my Christmas list.

Back seat

During a poetry masterclass week I was asked to write a poem about a journey. At first I thought of a major event, like a holiday, but then I wondered if I could make more of a mundane journey more interesting. I chose a trip that holds special significance to me and wrote about that. This is dedicated to wonderful Lou. I hope it makes you all smile, Luc

I know it’ll only take a while
Twenty minutes, nothing at all really
With her with me I’m always safe
but not completely, not yet
Those I’m looking for are those I love,
those who give me peace
Happiness – I’ll find it at the end,
I hope, I wish
And the traffic drones miles away,
so remote from thoughts and feelings,
from the radio-forced wonderings
of my mind, and the building excitement
But only when we park up on the familiar concrete drive,
and the front door opens,
and I see the cherished, over-photographed
faces, does a smile pull up the corners of my lips

The news today

Burma holds first elections in 20 yearsBurma is ruled by a harsh military junta, who took power in a coup. They have outlawed many political parties and undermined student organisations. Entry into the country is severely restricted. The elections held today are reported to have passed without incidence, but voting irregularities have become apparent. Many people were forced to vote in advance rather than at the polling stations and several major opposition parties have boycotted the elections. Officials from these parties have said that pro-military supporters were told they had to vote or risk losing their jobs. Even if these claims are false, it is very unlikely that the elections will change how the country is run.

Haiti cholera outbreak worsens
Hurricane Tomas, which hit Haiti on 6th November, has caused flooding in the south of the island, which has increased the spread of the stagnant water which is the source of the disease. Those living in tents due to January’s devastating earthquake are at particular risk both from the hurricane and from cholera. The country is still without clean water and rebuilding is yet to start. The government needs another $19 million just to cover the immediate need for humanitarian aid, and no figure has been put on the medical and clean up operations. Today the death toll from the outbreak exceeded 500 and 1.3 million people are still living in temporary camps with no sanitation. There is not much hope for the country which is now battling three humanitarian disasters.

Jobless forced into work
Anyone classified as long-term unemployed and receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, who is thought by the Department of Work and Pensions to need ‘experience of the habits and routines of working life’, could be forced to work 30 hours a week or risk loosing their Jobseeker’s Allowance. The proposals come as the UK government aims to cut the nation’s deficit. The work would be mostly community or charity based, which the government hopes will help these sectors deal with cuts. The UK has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Europe, with one in five people who could work claiming benefits.

How I came to write this blog

As part of my school’s journalism team I attended a training course today. Listening to the range of ways into the career, I realised that I needed to do something to give myself a head start, and blogging appealed to me because it is so versatile. By writing here I can share articles along with creative pieces, which is a freedom not many media outlets offer.

There are two main aims to this blog. The first is simple – I want you to read this and be entertained. The second, I’m afraid, takes a little more explaining. I have cerebral palsy, which means I am physically disabled (see for more info, I won’t bore you here) and I feel that by blogging about my experiences and the things that affect me, I can slowly make a difference, one story at a time. This isn’t a blog about feeling sorry for myself, it’s about changing people’s views on disability.

I also want to explore all aspects of life, from politics to science through to literature and art, as I need all my options open if I am going to get anywhere with journalism and creative writing. For now, let’s see how it goes.

Holding back

I wrote this for a piece of English coursework last year. It’s a very important piece for me because it reflects how I felt at the time (yes, I know that’s quite cheesy, but also true). Hope you enjoy, Luc

The nervous, chaotic and strangely muffled atmosphere of the airport hit us as soon as we stepped through the automatic doors into Heathrow Terminal Five. I carried Clara’s hand luggage for her as she dragged two bursting suitcases across the hall to check-in. The bright lights seemed to create a surreal feeling of day time, which made me float in timelessness, especially as it was actually ten thirty at night. I wondered why Clara had chosen that flight, at that time of day. But then, Clara always had her reasons – even if they didn’t make sense to anyone else. Which leads me to what I was dying to ask her: why was she leaving?
Clara and I have been best friends since we met on a college partnership programme in the first year of our A-levels. I had attended the local comprehensive and she had studied at a private school only ten minutes away. She then passed an exam and made it in to a private college, while I was left to scrape through my exams. When we met, I thought she would be as different from me as humanly possible. How wrong and in some ways right I had been. With Clara at my side I’d managed good grades and gone with her to Bristol University, where we had both studied medicine. We had graduated four years ago, and in that time I’d secured a job working as a junior consultant at Charing Cross Hospital. I’m as happy as I can be, but Clara has always been a dreamer. It’s in her nature to reach up and touch the stars. So she’s leaving her life behind to go and set up a clinic in the Australian bush, in an effort to help the aborigines and their culture prosper. Don’t get me wrong, I support her cause, I just wish it wasn’t so far away. Couldn’t she be happy as a doctor here too?
As we joined the unimaginably slow, jostling queue she turned to me and I saw in her eyes the determination I had fed off in earlier times.
she said “I know you don’t want me to go, but you know I have to. This is me”
I nodded, this was her. Stubborn as an ox and hell-bent on helping those she’d never met in her life. Yes, that was Clara, and that was why I loved her. We took another couple of steps forwards as the family at the front finally cleared check-in and gathered up their three hyper children. I took a deep breath and looked at my watch. 10:42 it blinked. I felt my hand go cold. I didn’t want to lose her. Not now. She was the reason that I had got so far when everyone else had given up on me. Of course, I could never tell her this. She would just raise one eyebrow, in her classically Clara way of showing skepticism, and inform me patently that I only had my own will power and determination to thank. But now I really would be on my own.
It was as I thought about all this that I started to watch her closely. She was stood with one foot tapping out a hectic rhythm on the floor, her frizzy blond hair hurriedly tied up and forgotten about, gripping her passport in her hands and looking with a gaze of concentration at the big electronic notice boards. She didn’t look much different from when I’d first met her. But as she finished reading the board her body language changed. A sense of purpose surged through her before my eyes, straightening her up, and she took another step forward.
“Don’t forget to get a new roommate” she instructed me casually. “Maybe a university student or something.”
“No, actually” I said, “I thought I might, you know, live on my own for a bit.
A flicker of surprise passed momentarily across her face, and then she smiled. She was happy for me.  I looked at my watch again: 10:59.
We reached check-in and passed it without complication. I think I’d expected the BA worker to tell Clara to go home and carry on her life, but she didn’t. Instead, the woman just tagged the suitcases and told her to have a good flight. 11:13. I swallowed hard. People who weren’t flying couldn’t go past security. Clara reached out and took my hand.
“See you, Liv,” she whispered, her grip suddenly tightening. “I’ll miss you.”
I could see that she was holding back tears, blinking rapidly so that her eyes were sure to stay dry. I am sure I asked something unimportant about whether she had packed sunscreen or such like. But I can’t remember. There was a final grasping hug and a fumbled goodbye.
And then she turned, swinging her hand luggage over her shoulder. “Goodbye!”  I croaked and she walked away, each feeble step taking her a million miles away from me. “Text me when you land!” A flick of her high pony-tail gave her assent. I stood still and watched her go through to security. There she went.
I found an almost deserted observation deck and stood by the huge windows, staring out. Time passed and I felt the cold from outside penetrate the glass and wrap around me. I began, without realizing, to reminisce. I don’t know if it was the dark and lonely atmosphere that made my mind wonder back to the night when, not long after we started university, I had found Clara’s diary. I had known before I’d opened it that, not only was reading her diary wrong, I would regret it.
Dear Diary, I’d read,
I should have gone to Oxford. I’ve let my dreams go for Liv, but will it be worth it?
I suddenly wished I’d thanked her. Properly. Clara had given up so much and fought so hard for me. Well at least now she was free of me – free to dream.