Why I bloody love Skins.

I will fully admit I am a television addict. I love the joy of finding a new show to immerse myself in, the detective work that comes with working out the plot, the bizarre emotional connection you get to fictional characters and the anticipation of the next episode or season. From fantasy shows set around a family of New Zealanders who also happen to be Norse gods to sitcoms about the parks and recreation department of Pawnee, I’ll watch it all. However, there’s one show I will always come back to; Skins.

If you haven’t heard of Skins, it’s a British drama set in Bristol that follows a group of teenagers in their last two years of school. It first aired in 2007, with the cast changing every two series and ended in 2013 with a one off series bringing back characters from the past generations, showing them in adult life.

gen 1

I was only 13 when the first series started but because I have a mum as cool as Regina George’s, I was allowed to watch it. It opened me up to a world of partying, drugs and sexuality. While I knew some of it was exaggerated, what struck me was that some of the situations and problems they were dealing with were something that could affect me in the near future. The actors are actually age appropriate and not in their twenties for a change, it gives the show a completely realistic feel. It isn’t all about the teenagers though. Parents, teachers and the like are played by some great British actors. While most think of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, I can only see him as Mark Jenkins, Sid’s foul-mouthed father.

The characters are fully rounded and you can often find yourself picking traits in them that you have yourself. Some appear a tad stereotypical on the surface, a speccy nerd who follows his best friend like a side kick or a metalhead who isn’t the most friendly but with each character getting their own episode, you’ll soon discover that stereotypes aren’t everything. The writing will make you love them, hate them and back again. Online, especially when you get into tumblr territory (find my own Skins tumblr here) you’ll see a lot of debates on favourite characters. While some can sympathise with a character, others are quite ready to bring them down.

Skins-Series-4

Plot wise, it packs a lot in. It deals with mental health from eating disorders to depression, drugs, grief, sexuality and religious beliefs clashing, falling in love, teenage pregnancy, crime, being adopted and how to get that darned history coursework in on time. There is something there for everyone. Plus with the cast changing every two series, you can see different backgrounds and perspectives on British teenage life. If you aren’t feeling one generation, there might be something for you in the next.

The other thing I loved about Skins was the soundtrack. I was and well probably still am a total indie kid. Skins introduced me to loads of bands and artists, with every episode featuring a lot of new talent. As well as new, they picked pop classics (Britney Spears = excellent car chase music) and soundtracked an entire episode with Debussy. The music choices are just as well thought out as the plot, with each moment musically glazed to perfection.

gen 3

I don’t want to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching. Even after all these years and multiple rewatches later, I’ll never get sick of Skins. It’s TV at its best. Binge watch it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll become a teenager all over again.

 

 

 

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Alternative Universes.

So as we get into January, the daily grind starts again. Although for us joyous people in retail, it never ended. Anyway, everyone’s trudging back to work and school after the season of indulgence and it always feels a little bleak. Why is it no longer acceptable to crack the prosecco out for breakfast and have a decorated tree in your living room?

Our days become a little less excitable and a lot more ordinary after the festive season. We all have a bit of a reboot. Some decide to detox and hit the gym, even if it is only for a month while most hit the reset on their jolly emotions. The festive period made everything seem a little brighter and happier and it reflected through everyone, take notice because people smile a hell of a less throughout their year. When we get back to this stilted ordinariness, I refer to one of my favourite concepts:

Alternative universes.

It’s the idea that right now there are hundreds, thousands, well an unfathomable number of other universes. Some dramatically different to ours where say the dinosaurs still roam but others only a little different where I might happen to have brown eyes instead of blue. It’s an insane idea to get your head around that there’s possibly tons of different versions of yourself out there but at times it can oddly give me comfort.

Say I’m having a bad day, I’m running late to work, I’ve got a long shift and I’m full of the cold. All you want to do in that situation is curl up and feel sorry for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously do that too. However, I think about the universe where I’m on time to work, feeling great and I’m only in 4 hours. At least somewhere out there, I’m on the right path. There’s also the me out there who’s already writing her 3rd bestselling novel and I’m happy for her but I know I’m not ready for that yet. You can easily use it in reverse, as the only saying goes ‘things could always be worse’. For instance while dealing with tricky customers is a pain, I could be in a world where the Hunger Games is actually real or the mass majority of the population has turned into cannibals.

Now a lot of you could be saying I’m just running away with my imagination or I spend way too much time day dreaming. To be fair both of those assumptions are pretty accurate. However, I urge you to creative your own alternative universes. Some only a little different, where you’re studying photography instead of art but others that are completely over the top with monsters and aliens.

Some days we all feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. I’ve been there. I’ve been stuck in the emotional fog and it’s horrible. My alternative universes help me realise that while things could be better, they could also be worse. It hurts to lose someone but it’s even better to have had them in your life at all. Life is a middle ground. Sometimes you need a little bit of the ridiculous to appreciate it.

 

Warning: clichés ahead.

So I’ve sat down with a green tea to reflect, like a gazillion blog posts before me. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the whole celebration of New Year until this year.

I was sensible this year, I stayed in for most of the night with my best friend and her dog. We watched films, treated ourselves to pizzas and chocolate and stayed sober the entire night. As midnight approached we went to a firework display the town over. At the stroke of midnight we gave each other that huge cheesy grin that Hogmanay qualifies for and hugged. We were surrounded by tons of people doing the same. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses and all the well wishes in the world. It was a pretty adorable sight to see.

While I’ve usually found making New Year’s plans stressful, only finding that it was another excuse for a party and while I’ve had fun at those parties, the next day comes with an inevitable hangover and a bit of let-down. Was all that fuss worth it? I think New Year is about coming to the end of a year and appreciating what you’ve got in your life. All the alcohol and party dresses aren’t necessary to appreciate your wonderful friends and family.

I have a feeling my reflections on New Year, have something to do with the kind of year I’ve had. 2015 has been full of ups and downs. I lost two family members early in the year and I’m still getting through that now. That, the stress of finishing university and my general lack of routine for the second half of the year have made me really ill. Unfortunately it’s not something I can really help, having a rare headache condition sucks. With all the negativity though, I can truly adore the positive in my life. I graduated with an honours degree in English and Creative Writing, seen some of my favourite bands live, had an amazing holiday to Amsterdam with my Mum, spent my 22nd birthday playing childish party games, visited my Dad’s for a lovely chilled break, I’ve dressed up in fun costumes for birthdays and Halloween, spent plenty of nights out with friends and I’m ending the year in a job which has its challenges but I enjoy it.

I’m very much ready for a new start, 2016 brings a nice clean slate. I’m not usually one for resolutions but I want this year to be all about writing. I’m determined I’ll finish my first novel, I started it as part of my final project for university so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch. It’s an achievable goal and I know how satisfying it will be. So with this post, I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, writing.

Happy new year everyone, I hope 2016 is good to you all.

Tell everyone, lasers are cool.

I haven’t blogged in rather a long time. Considering I want to be a writer, that’s practically disgusting. However, this year has been one of the most hectic and emotional I’ve gone through, blogging hasn’t exactly been my top priority. Now things have settled down so I’m back and hopefully on more of a regular basis too.

I posted late last year about a condition I have called PCOS, and how I’d just started laser hair removal treatment. You can read it here. This is essentially a sequel. As of a few weeks ago I finished my treatment.This is my story of the process I went through, a process that it might actaully be available to you.

One of the symptoms of PCOS is growing dark hairs in places more common on men than women, in my case my neck and back. It’s one of the things that I’ve always struggled with, I never had the patience to wait for my awesome beard which I would obviously rock. Joking aside, as I started to get into make up and building up my own look in my teens, I always had unwanted hair to deal with first. My getting ready routine consisted of hair removal creams and a lot of plucking. Eventually I got fed up.

Laser treatment was something I’d talked about, it was something that would be a possibility in the future if I saved up. One day when I spoke to my doctor I discussed how my recent medication was helping my PCOS, it had made a little difference in hair growth but nothing to rave about, I mentioned about laser treatment, asking what the results of it are like, would it be worth it and she told me she’d find the relevent information for me. A few days later I got a phone call from my doctor with a rather delightful surprise. Through the NHS, women with PCOS can get free laser hair removal treatment. Now if PCOS affects so many women then why aren’t we screaming this information from the rooftops? I was elated. My years of nairing would be a thing of the past.

I was refered to a private clinic for 30 minute appointments every 6 weeks. I had 12 sessions treating my neck and back. For those of you who are afraid due to the expected pain, don’t be! I actually got my first tattoo before I started treatment almost like a warm up and that ended up being more painful. Most of the time you’ll barely feel a thing. Cold air is blown over the skin, giving it a slighly numb sensation. If you do feel something, it’s a nip. I’d take that nip, that physical pain over the emotional pain. I wish I had pictures to show you it’s worth it but you’ll have to take my word.

I can put my hair up without worrying, I can spend my time applying eyeliner and not hair removal cream, I can feel somewhat more confident about my image. To any of you ladies with PCOS out there that know what I’m talking about, I urge you to reach out to your doctors. Your doctor’s an asshole and won’t listen to you? Change to another and get what you know is owed to you. If you want treatment to feel more confident, sexy, beautiful and like the damn woman you know you are, then you are quite welcome to it.

Altogether now, tell everyone that lasers are cool.

A Rant on PCOS.

My end to 2013 and start to 2014 hasn’t been the smoothest. Just after Christmas, I had a bit of a meningitis scare. Spent a day in hospital getting all sorts of tests, I was well and truly poked and prodded. Luckily it wasn’t meningitis, I wouldn’t have been too happy with Santa Claus leaving me that late gift. However, the main symptom which set off my scare, a bizarre headache in the right side of my head, has led to a back and forth between my doctor’s surgery as we try and diagnose my problem. After a week of new medication, we might have found out what it is but alas I’ll have to wait until my next appointment.

Since my mind has been pretty focussed on health just now, I wanted to discuss another condition I happen to have and today seemed appropriate to do so. I was diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS years ago. Today it feels appropriate since I got my second laser treatment treating one of my PCOS symptoms.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the condition, which quite frankly wouldn’t surprise me, PCOS is a condition which affects women and how our ovaries work. To put it simply, our hormones can go rather wonky and we can develop cysts in our ovaries. I don’t want to bore you with details, but by just mentioning it I’m getting the word out. Obviously because of some of the symptoms it causes and the area of the body it concerns it’s not the easiest thing to talk about. For example, one of my worst symptoms was dark hair growing where it wasn’t wanted. That’s why today I’ve been having laser hair removal. And why would I share this information with the internet? Because not enough people do!

PCOS affects an estimated 1 in 5 women in the UK but when I’ve spoke about it with friends rarely any of them have ever heard of it. I understand that it’s rather embarrassing but the internet has managed to banish that block elsewhere. We can speak anonymously on blogs and forums and we can speak publicly in the form of video blogs and social networks about all kinds of topics. Yet despite how common PCOS is in a doctor’s surgery, it’s very uncommon online. Now I’m very aware if you search for it, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Google is a wonderful thing, I will not deny that.  The jump that needs to be made though is for it to be spoken about in real life.

I’m a very open person, I pride myself of essentially being an open book. However, when it came to PCOS, I’d get a little bit quieter. If someone asked why I had to go to Edinburgh (I have to go to a specialist there for laser treatment) I’d never specify, just dance around an answer. I’ve now had a few treatments though and quite frankly, I’m feeling happy about it! It is early days but the results are great and I already feel better about myself. When I share something on my facebook, twitter and various other social networks (yes, I’m a bit of an internet addict) I want it to be something that has made me happy.

I’m not saying that we all have to come forward but just be aware of it, this goes for any conditions not just PCOS. Don’t suffer in silence, you’d be surprised how good it feels to let it out. You never know you could help someone figure out what’s going on in their own body or make someone feel like they’re not alone.

More information on PCOS – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx

The Work Experience Year.

After writing my first entry on finality, this one is strange to follow.
So this year will not be my last year of my BA education. Unfortunately I did not pass all my classes in Germany and therefore did not come back with enough credits to continue to my third and final year. Due to this, I am a now a part time student, having to take two second year classes next semester so I can then continue into my third year, next year.

At first I was obviously annoyed with myself. I clearly had not worked as hard as I thought. A lot of people have asked me if I regret going to Germany now. Every time I will answer back no. I got more than an educational experience by studying there,  I got cultural one and quite frankly a hell of a lot more life experience there than I would have ever got staying in the UK. My time abroad, in Germany and travelling has given me so much inspiration to write. I even have the boarding passes and train tickets covered in messy scribbles to prove it. Since writing is what I want to really do with my life, I’m glad I took the leap because now I’ve actually got some idea of what I’d like to write. Travel writing is something I’ve done a little of but now it’s become a passion and I certainly would not have discovered that living in Sunderland. Saying that, after being in a different culture for so long it has made me realise all the little beauties in the places I’m so familiar with like Sunderland, my home town and Edinburgh.

So instead of seeing this as a hindrance, I’m calling this year ‘The Work Experience Year’. While my fellow classmates will be writing up dissertations and portfolios I plan to get as much experience to add to my CV as humanly possible. While I’ll be graduating a year later (which I would have done had I gone to a Scottish university) this gives me one more year to make that all important CV really stand out. Whether it be with in a full time retail job, a few writing competition wins or even some unpaid work at a publishers, I’m happy getting as much experience as I can.

Have I said experience enough? No? EXPERIENCE.

Finality.

Today I began my third and final year of my degree. You could really call it the beginning of the end.

I have mixed feelings towards the end of things. Something as trivial as my favourite television show ending, I cannot stand. You’re emotionally attached to fictional worlds and characters for weeks, months, years and then all of a sudden they’re off, sometimes without a real goodbye. It’s really rather rude if you ask me.

However, when it comes down to reality, the ending of those big stages in life excites me. In primary school, I could not wait to leave for high school. Education enthralled me and finally I’d be in a place where I could learn about everything and anything. I was genuinely keen to write essays on my favourite literary heroes like Shakespeare.
Six years later, I could not wait for high school to finish. After studying everything and anything, I had realised that I wasn’t so keen on all subjects. University brought, despite limiting me down to one area, a sense of freedom. I was no longer obligated to study Geography just because of timetable regulations or prepare for a ridiculous exam which probably covered everything you didn’t revise for. Of course I would miss the people of my high school experience. Luckily I keep in touch with most of my friends from home still, thank goodness for Facebook! However, the essence of high school, the education, I was glad to see the end of.
For the second half of my second year, I studied abroad in Germany. It’s safe to say, I had the best summer of my life. I was opened up to a world of new cultures and new types of people. Considering that though, it made me appreciate home and the country I’m from a lot more. I miss Germany an awful lot but I remember that satisfying moment when the flight attendant announced we’d arrived in Edinburgh and I knew the end came at the right time.
And now here we are, my final year of university. This is one particular ending which should be handled with care. While I can’t wait to go off on more adventures (I hope to do my Masters in New Zealand), I will be sad to leave this stage behind. Sunderland is a city which will hold a place dear in my heart, despite some of remarks I’ve heard about it. It is where I lived on my own for the first time, where I marvelled over language and literature in a much brighter light and wrote my first Gothic play. Thankfully, this is only the beginning of the end. This university and city isn’t getting rid of me just yet.

Ends are certainly a puzzling thing to handle. For example, I’m not sure how this blog should end…