A house isn’t a home until you’ve made a bit of a mess of it. That’s what I told myself when I moved in on the 17th to stop me from whining so much as I mopped up the spilt decaf coffee on the floor. It wasn’t entirely untrue, but when a thunderstorm came over the night after I had just moved into Canterbury, I realised I didn’t have a Thunder Buddy. I was the only one who’d moved into the house. So I’m pretty sure the storm wasn’t at all intimidated when I sang the Thunder Song on my own.

By the 20th, Housemate 1 moved in. Housemate 2 followed a few days after.

So there I am on the 24th in the living room, writing this blog post on my laptop because a certain level of calm and happiness has emanated throughout my cynical facade.

I sit in companionable silence with two of my housemates in our living room. There is a distinct emptiness opposite me where the television would be, if we could afford one.

Housemate 1’s laptop purrs like a possessed cat as she goes about her business playing a game whilst Housemate 2 chews loudly on an apple, reading manga on her phone. Every now and then 1 and me burst into song, whilst 2 probably wonders why we’re so crazy. Not that she’s much more normal. And though we have no WiFi and no television, I think we’re pretty happy. (Yes, you can be happy without WiFi, it just doesn’t last very long!)

Every house or flat has it’s own dynamic. Let’s call Housemate 1 Hannah so she doesn’t strangle me in the middle of the night for deformation of character. Hannah is like the Mum of the house, and Housemate 2— let’s call her Suze— she’s like the younger sister. Not because she’s actually younger— even though she is— but because she got lost trying to get back home from uni today and Hannah had to get her. Hannah was joking that Suze was a troublesome daughter.

Fresher Year is great because you get to be introduced to such a variety of different people for the first time in your life, from all sorts of backgrounds. But lets face it, who you end up sharing Halls or a house on campus with is pretty much like the lottery. You just don’t stand a chance of winning.

I had reasonable housemates last year, and at first they were quite easy to get along with. Then two dropped out, a fire occurred and we got two new housemates. They. Changed. Everything. 
A casual threat left outside my room

They were real pranksters for sure, and a bit too open about their sexual lives than I was comfortable with. But they were funny and sarcastic and I think the whole experience really taught me something. They taught me not to tell strangers you live with that write novels or they will forever attempt to steal your notebooks.

But Fresher Year is in the past and I am now a slightly more experienced Second Year. (Sorry, Americans. We don’t do that whole “Sophomore”, “Junior”, “Senior” thing that you do. It is literally just First Year through to Third Year for most courses.) One of the greatest perks of Second Year is choosing housemates and I think I may have just won the lottery.

And even if something changes, at least with a double bed in my room I know no one will be bothered enough to move it to the kitchen this year as a prank.

The housemates you choose to live with can just be people who you were willing enough to share the cost of a decent house. At one point last year I thought I would be happy if I never had to interact with my housemates again. But I can’t deal with that kind of isolation. Hopefully your housemates will become like the family you actually chose. You can sit in a room eating dinner whilst ignoring each other on your laptops and smartphones, just like your real parental units at home.

In other news, Housemate 5 moved in today and brought a board of Scrabble. Why must he tear apart this fragile family unit with his boring competitive game?

Summer holidays have always been encompassed by disappointing weather and dithering about whilst simultaneously attempting to convince myself that doing nothing for a whole month was what I really wanted. A longer holiday than usual might have been a dream come true for my former self, but now that I’ve experience the wonders of independecne from my parents, going back under their roof might as well have been purgatory.
At least I had Snapchat as a means of escapism.

A third year Computer Science friend of mine, recently graduated, told me that I’d want to pull out my own hair within two weeks. He was wrong. I want to pull out my little sister’s hair within only a few days.
Mind you, I didn’t do absolutley nothing during the holiday. I participated in CampNaNo in July and “won” after writing 35,000 words; secured a voluntary job in August and went to Bournemouth and Leeds Castle with my family; caught up with some old friends; and found a way to combine my love of CS and writing. 

Family time is still important, regardless of age. My family went out on a weekend to Bournemouth. They were having some sort of celebration/ military fair type thing, hence the tank.

Who doesn’t love a good firework display? Add a bit of live music and dinner at a restaraunt, and it made for a really good night with the family unit.

So why the bitching? I missed the uni life.
They don’t warn you how much you will miss being at university. All your educational life, you’ve been counting down the days to summer. And why not? Most everybody else seems to have gone abroad, or to some other sort of trip. Whether it was Soul Survivor, the Duke of Edinburgh, or The Challenge, everyone else is having more fun than you. And if you never felt that way, then you were probably the rich bastard I was always jealous of.

The number one problem with parents is usually curfews. Now, granted that you actually have somewhere to be (I know I never did), this had different repercussions for different people. But once you’ve experienced the freedom of living away from parents, there really is no going back. It’s like trying to shove the toothpaste back in the tube. It ain’t happening.
Except it does. Slowly. But then the toothpaste is never the same again.

When I got back home I didn’t ask for permission to go out. I told them I was going out. (Unless I needed money from then, in which case, I needed to warn them further in advance.)
My parents never spoke to me about alcohol. It was an unspoken rule. Don’t drink. Ever. I was underage so they figured I wouldn’t, and I didn’t. Yeah, I’m just that boring. So when my friend called me at the last minute, asking if I wanted to go to the pub sometime in July, I wasn’t certain I’d be allowed, but I was 18, dammit! I was ready to hold my ground.
I don’t know if any of these restrictions apply to you, but I think we can all agree as young adults, that parents can be really boring and stuffy at times. My life had gone from society meetings and house parties to cooking dinner being the highlight of my day.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait forever to think up of alternative options for that summer job you applied to. Make something of your holiday. Something you can be proud to write on your CV, or even something you can just rememeber fondly– future employers be damned!
Summer holidays needn’t be a limbo state as you await the next year at uni. Get a job or start a new hobby. Further your studies in your own time. If you make something of it, it needn’t be a state of purgatory.
I’m just glad all the moaning about wanting to come back to uni was worth it.
They tell me Second Year is harder. I guess I’ll find out just how much harder it is.

I know it’s been quite some time I last blogged. “What have I been up to?” you may wonder. Exams. But today I went to Tate Modern, in London.

This is a snail:
“The Snail”-
No, seriously. The above artwork is entitled “The Snail”. My sister and I went to an exhibition at Tate Modern called “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs”. Matisse lost some of his mobility in his later life due to illness and arthritis. But did that stop him from creating art? No. Initially, his cut outs were a way of experimenting with composition, but they later became a medium within their own right. The snail obviously doesn’t look like a snail to us, but it is Matisse’s interpretation of one. Please don’t ask me how. I actually don’t understand this piece. I really just like the blocks or colour.
So why am I writing about Matisse if I don’t understand him? Because I identify with him. 

 Sure, I’m not a sixty something French guy experiencing life during a World War, but his mobility problems are something I identify with. A year ago I tried doing CampNaNo and halfway through my challenge, the doctor told me to stop writing if I didn’t want to create long-term damage. He put me on some strong dose of aspirin and told me to stop using my hands. No writing. No fluting. No saxophoning. Thankfully I got out of doing the dishes for a while, but really it wasn’t worth it if I couldn’t create my art.

“Two Dancers”

It’s difficult to really appreciate his artwork on the web or in print because part of what made is so beautiful are the layers. Above, you can see that Matisse used pins to stick down some of the pieces of paper.
I’m paraphrasing here, but Matisse said something like this: “An artist must never be a prisoner of himself. An artist should never be a prisoner to illness. An artist should never be a prisoner to style.” So I won’t be. The doctor may say I have Repetitive Strain Injury, but I won’t let that get in the way of my art. This of course has as much to do with my writing as my flute playing. Generally, it’s been much harder for me to play the flute for long periods of time. But now that I’m on Music Committee at uni, I really need to get on top of that.

“Nude IV”

So did I really need a long dead French artist to tell me to get a hold of myself and not let my condition deter me? No. I’ve had my mum telling me as much but since she’s been quoting Bible verses at me, it’s not really sunk through.

So… what now?

My first year of University is over and now I’m one of many students looking for something to do. It’s a good thing I’m a writer, or I’d be going insane right now. I intend to do CampNaNo this July, as I have a new story idea. I’m thinking of serialising a series of short stories. I don’t want to give too much away, but it involves Greek Mythology. If I were to reach my goal, and complete the revisions in August, I should start posting the stories on this blog, so WATCH THIS SPACE 🙂

Today I received something through the post. My grade 8 certificate for flute from Trinity Guildhall. It occurred to me some time after that this was it. It might be my last certificate or award for playing the flute ever again. I’ve since stopped taking flute lessons since starting my Computer Science degree. After all, there isn’t much point since I’m not going to be doing it professionally in the future and I’m already stacking up quite a nice debt. £9000 a year for my undergraduate education, not to mention I still have to pay for accomodation. Sure, the student loan helps, but it isn’t enough.

So in the grand scheme of things, what was the point? And why do I still play the flute? Because I love it. It’s an interest of mine, whether or not I end up playing with a big orchestra. And it’s the same for writing. The truth of it is that many completed manuscripts never see the light of day, and many more never even get finished. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone, mind you. Just know that if you’re doing the writing thing because you want to be famous, I’d advise picking an alternative career. Write because you have something to say. Or because your characters demand to be noticed. Mine do. I stay up at ridiculous hours sometimes to get short stories finished. One time, I wanted to write something serious and thought provoking but my MC was adamant that he really just wanted to get it on with a bellydancer.

So sometimes ideas will feel like they’re forcing themselves on you and sometimes you’ll be scraping the back of your mind for something new and exciting. Sometimes you’ll be bathing in happy comments from readers, and sometimes you’ll be swimming in the waters of your own sad little soul. The writing process is long and arduous but don’t give up. Set yourselves goals and give yourselves little treats along the way. Listen to your characters but if they start talking general nonsense, remind them who’s boss, and that as the writer, you are their GOD!

Just remember, if writing were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.