Blip.

Yesterday, I had what I can only think to refer to as a ‘blip’. I was eating food with my friends and I was having a lovely time (albeit I was feeling a little worse for wear after coming down with a bit of a cold), and then, rather abruptly, my head started to feel a little swimmy and everything seemed a bit heavy and just generally off. This happens sometimes. When asked why I was being so quiet, I responded, with a shrug, “I just feel a bit quiet.”

A few years ago, I had a really rough, difficult time, and I went to the doctor and I made some huge life changes and things got a little bit easier. Thankfully, since then, things haven’t been quite that bad, but sometimes things get a little bit off again. Sometimes they last for days or weeks and sometimes it’s just a few hours. I always feel a little bit guilty and I tend to keep it mostly to myself – I don’t want to worry anyone and I feel like it’s my responsibility to take care of myself. I must be doing a good job of it, because people have commented on how I have it “so together” and I never seem to have any problems, and all I can do is laugh and smile awkwardly and say, “Yeah, I mean, not really, but thank you.”

But the thing is – it doesn’t have to all be down to me. I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, and I remind other people of this constantly, but when it comes to me I have a hard time accepting help without feeling like an inconvenience. This is silly. I am not an inconvenience, and the people around me don’t see me as such. Anyone who does has been cut off; lopped off like the dead ends of bleached hair.

I do feel bad admitting I’ve been sad when I’ve been doing nice things with good people. I feel as if I’m letting everybody down – but it can’t be helped. Sometimes we get sad. It’s okay.

If you feel like you need to see a doctor, then you should see one. Being taken seriously by your doctor can definitely help you feel like your feelings are valid, and they are. When you start believing that your sadness is valid and important and real, it becomes easier to deal with. You’re no longer dealing with something that you’re denying is true.

If you aren’t comfortable enough to see a doctor, then talk to someone you trust. Just having someone assure you that what you’re feeling is important can give you the courage to take steps to change it.

My blip didn’t last long this time. Sure, I’m feeling sorry for myself today because I haven’t had a cold this bad for a while and I’m feeling rather pathetic, but it’s no blip. We’re coming up to my favourite time of the year, and I have a handful of exciting things planned, and even though there’s no guarantee I won’t  have those weird feelings (in fact, it’s rather the opposite), I’m confident enough in my support system that I’ll be able to cope.

I don’t have a point in writing this post this time. I just had a funny mental turn yesterday and it was playing on my mind, so I sort of just felt the urge to blurt this all out. I’m better than I was a few years ago, but I’m not better. Sometimes things don’t feel good. I’m not letting anyone down in admitting that.

It’s okay to not get better all at once. There are going to be blips and some blips will be worse than others. Sometimes, I might need to go back a few steps, and that is okay. I’m just going to take it all as it comes, and we’ll see how it goes.

-K

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Talk About Yourself

Given that twice a week I publish a blog post based upon my own life and experiences, you can probably assume that I’m a person who feels comfortable in talking about themselves. While I (obviously) do that quite often, I am far from comfortable with it. In fact, whenever I do find myself turning a conversation to a story about myself, a little voice in the back of my head pipes up:

Nobody actually cares, you know? They’re probably annoyed that you’ve made this about yourself. You’re being really selfish right now, aren’t you? You should have just said nothing, or told them their story was interesting. You should ask people more questions about themselves. Nobody wants to hear this. Wrap it up.

I hear this voice every single time I talk about myself. Somebody tells a funny story about their dog and I have a similar one about my own, so I start telling it, and immediately I regret it. I feel guilty for talking about myself. I’ve taken the shine off someone else. I’ve made it all about me. Every time I talk about myself, I feel bad about it.

But why?

Whenever other people apologise to me for “making the conversation about [themselves]”, I am quick to reassure them that there is no need to apologise. This is the way that conversations work, after all. When people talk they swap stories – we link them together as one long chain of tales, with big connections and small ones and ones that barely make any sense. There’s no need to apologise for telling me a story when I’ve finished telling mine. Sure, if I was interrupted midway through I’d be a little annoyed, but if I’ve finished? Take the floor; it’s all yours.

Sometimes, people apologise for telling me about themselves. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and I’m always looking for little bits of inspiration and little things I can steal and adapt and twist into my stories and characters, but I love hearing people talk about themselves. I want to hear about the time you broke your leg or got lost in the supermarket. Please, tell me about the time your dog pulled you over and dragged you down the street, or how your brother once successfully backflipped onto his skateboard without falling down. I want to hear how you’ve had similar experiences to me, or how you haven’t. I don’t mind telling people that there’s no need to apologise, but it saddens me that they feel the need to do that in the first place.

I’m well aware that there are plenty of articles and studies and so on out there about the linguistic differences in the way women and men speak. How women will begin an email, “Sorry to bother you” while men are more unlikely (not that it won’t ever happen) to do so. If you type “Why women apologise” into a search engine there is no shortage of think-piece articles and research studies that will pop up, and they’re all written much more eloquently than the job I’m managing here. They discuss why we do it – that it’s linked to our idea of politeness, or that women see more acts as deserving of an apology than men do. I’m not writing this post to discuss why, though. I’m writing this post to remind you it’s okay to talk about yourself.

It’s okay to talk about yourself.

It’s okay to tell stories about yourself, and it’s okay to want people to hear about your day. It’s okay to make conversations about yourself, and it’s okay to want attention. It’s okay to want someone to validate your frustration if you’ve had a hard day at work. It’s okay to share a funny story – it’s even okay to share a funny story even if you’re the only person who thinks it’s funny.

You don’t have to apologise for existing and you don’t have to apologise for wanting to share your existence.

And if the people you’re talking to don’t want to hear it, then talk to me. You can tell me about your day. You can tell me what’s annoyed you and what’s made you happy. You should find people who want to hear about you because I promise you – you are worth hearing. You deserve to be heard.

You don’t need to apologise for talking about yourself.

Talk about yourself – more often, more loudly and with pride. You have stories worth sharing.

So, now, in the comments, feel free to say something. Anything. Tell me about your day; tell me about your trip to the dentist; tell me about something you’ve just remembered. Tell me about anything you’ve wanted to share this week but have stopped yourself because you didn’t think anyone would want to hear it. In the comments, talk about yourself without apologising.

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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RTX Round-Up!

The weekend of October 13th and 14th marked the first official RTX London, and I was lucky enough to get to attend. If you don’t know what RTX is, it’s a gaming and internet culture convention hosted by Rooster Teeth – an online company that produces not only gaming videos (Let’s Plays, etc.) but web series’ (Red Vs Blue, RWBY, Day 5, etc.), podcasts, movies, games and much more. I’ve been following the company for years now and it’s been my dream to attend RTX, so when they finally announced they’d be hosting one in the UK there was absolutely no way I was going to miss out.

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All in all, I had an amazing weekend. There were some minor issues with queuing at the start, but the guardians did their best to keep everything organised and running smoothly and the twitter account RTX Queues did a good job at keeping us updated on the state of queues over the weekend. In the end, I made it to two panels and a RWBY Cosplay meet on the Saturday, and on the Sunday I had an autograph signing/photo op with Gray Haddock and Kerry Shawcross and snagged some cool merch from the shop!

The first panel I attended was for Lazer Team 2, and it was brilliant. It was definitely worth waking up at 6am so I had enough time to get into cosplay and eat breakfast before we headed over. I won’t spoil anything about the film, but the sneak peeks we got a look at have gotten me really excited for its release next month, and I’m very glad it’s getting a theatrical release because I love being with this community and I can’t wait to see my boys back up on the big screen. I can already tell that Nichole Bloom fits in with this cast brilliantly and her character, Maggie, looks like she’s going to be an amazing addition and I can confirm that I already absolutely adore her. I’m especially glad that the sequel isn’t just a rehash of the original film – it’s not just “Oh, and here’s Lazer Team back to save the planet again!

You can watch the teaser trailer for Lazer Team 2 HERE.

The other panel I attended on the Saturday was for RWBY, which, if you know me, you know is my absolute favourite series in the entire world. RWBY has been a really huge part of my life for a few years now and it means so much to me. I won’t go into too much mushy detail, but it’s kind of a big deal to me. I was so excited to get a chance to attend the panel! I cried from pretty much start to finish after we were shown the YANG CHARACTER SHORT for pre-volume 5 and then the entire first episode of the fifth volume! It’s looking to be an amazing season and I cannot applaud the animation team enough for the sheer amount of improvement they’ve made over the past couple of volumes. Seriously, volume 5 looks amazing. We also got to take a look at a sneak peek for the upcoming series Gen:Lock, which looks like it’s going to be something totally new and interesting.

If you haven’t seen RWBY yet, I urge you to give it a watch. A lot of people even watch it with young children, but I will stress that come volume 3 you’re going to want to give it a watch beforehand… it gets pretty… serious.

You can watch RWBY in its entirety HERE or on the ROOSTER TEETH WEBSITE. It’s basically about kids training to become huntsmen and fighting both monsters and humans as they do so. Volume 5 has already begun, and is released on Saturdays at 4PM GMT for Rooster Teeth FIRST members, Tuesdays at 2PM GMT for all Rooster Teeth site members, and the following Saturday on Youtube!

Before the RWBY panel we wound up, totally accidentally, at the RWBY cosplay meet. I met so many wonderful cosplayers who all looked amazing and I made a bunch of new friends. It was wonderful to have so many people compliment my cosplay (RWBY Volume 4 Blake Belladonna) because I was a little worried about it not being entirely accurate as I’d made it all myself, but everyone was so nice. I’m definitely excited to re-wear it now, and I remembered how much I enjoy cosplaying this character even after all these years. I feel really confident in this costume and I’m very proud of how far I’ve come. I love meeting fellow RWBY cosplayers and I hope I get another chance to do it before Amecon next summer!

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A TINY fraction of the RWBY cosplayers we met. Photo by Enthusiastic Walks Cosplay

As I mentioned before, on the Sunday I had the amazing chance to meet Gray and Kerry. They told me my cosplay was amazing, thanked me for cosplaying, laughed when I told them nobody believes my name is Kitty when I’m dressed as Blake and were super lovely. It was a really, really lovely meeting and I’ll treasure the items I had signed forever. I was really nervous, and I’m really bad at making eye contact with people when I’m nervous, but they were so sweet that they really did make me feel more comfortable.

Not only did I get to meet Gray and Kerry, but I was lucky enough to manage to meet Miles Luna, too. Miles is my absolute favourite person in the world and I didn’t think we were going to make it as he was short on time but we did, and he hugged me, told me I looked absolutely incredible, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried afterwards. I was really overwhelmed, you guys. I just adore him.

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I missed the second RWBY meet as I was in the queue for my autograph signing but I still managed to meet up with a bunch of lovely cosplayers and some of my friends from a RWBY cosplay group we have here in Liverpool, which was great because I never get to see them because I’m really terrible at finding the time to attend their meets. Regardless, they are always super welcoming, kind, lovely and funny whenever I do manage to see them, so I’m really glad we found each other at RTX!

The only merch I bought was a couple of Blind Box RWBY figures and the large Vinyl Figure Yang, and I’m super happy with all of my purchases. I don’t really have room for more figures right now, but I definitely want to collect the other larger vinyl figures so I can finally have a complete Team RWBY set!

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Overall, it was an amazing weekend. I really love being part of this community and attending RTX definitely reminded me of that. I can’t wait for next year and I’m already missing everyone so badly. I have never suffered post-con blues as badly as I am right now. I really hope some of you who aren’t Rooster Teeth fans will be willing to give something a shot (watch RWBY) and maybe I’ll see you there next year!

Have you attended any comic, cosplay, gaming, etc. conventions? Would you like to?

Until next time, stay cool!

-K

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Tips for Living With a Chronic Skin Condition

I talk to my friends quite openly about the fact that I have a skin condition, but every time I mention it online, I get a little… embarrassed. I don’t know why. It’s not contagious, and nobody seems to find it as off-putting as I do, but I think because it’s something so personal, I’ve got into my own head about it. I’m writing that post to try to break myself out of that.

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I was born with eczema. Eczema is super common. Chances are that you or someone you know suffers from it, and it most commonly affects the insides of the elbows and backs of the knees, though it can affect any part of the body. I am one of those lucky people in whom it affects the entire body… yep – every inch of skin. Until recently I had never had it affect my face, and then my last flare up (the worst I’ve ever had) had my face swollen to twice its size.

So yes, born with eczema and suffered horrifically throughout my childhood with it. Then, as I got into my late teens, it concentrated on my hands. I rarely had it on any other part of my body, but it was excruciating when it would flare up on my hands and would leave me pretty much unable to use them. And then, all of a sudden, it started flaring up all over my body again, including my hands. So basically, no skin is safe.

I’ve found that people tend to think of skin conditions as cosmetic issues rather than medical, but that’s simply not the case. When I’m in the midst of a flare up, it can get so bad and painful that I struggle to move, can’t leave the house, can’t sleep through the night and am constantly having to change my clothes because my skin has begun to bleed. It’s exhausting to constantly have to cover your body in ointments and creams and even then to know they might not even work.

Here are my tips for coping with life when you have a chronic skin condition:

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, and this is all entirely based on my own personal experience. You should ALWAYS consult a doctor. This is NOT a substitute for medical treatment.

  1. Don’t be afraid of your doctor

I hate going to the doctor, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet – things won’t always clear up on their own. Your doctor will do their best to help you, and it’s always good to keep your flare ups documented. Your doctor might refer you to a dermatologist, who can help you not only to understand your skin problems but the best course of action for medicating it long-term.

I’ve tried all kinds of home remedies for my skin condition, but nothing has cleared it up as well as prescribed medications have. Sure, they won’t be for everyone – but don’t be afraid of them if nothing else seems to be easing your symptoms.

  1. Avoid anything fragranced

I’ve always avoided any products that include fragrances. I don’t use perfumes, I only use certain soaps and moisturisers and when I find a product that doesn’t irritate my skin (shower creams, shampoos, etc) I stick with it. Fragranced products can trigger a reaction in your skin and it can be needlessly painful. I promise you, you won’t miss them.

  1. This will sound stupid, but… stay clean

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that any of you are unclean. What I mean is, the shelf in your bedroom, is it dusty? Maybe that’s making your skin worse. When my skin is beginning to feel like it’s going to flare up, I like to change my bedsheets immediately. If you are cleaning, you will probably want to wear some gloves. Do whatever you have to do keep your skin safe and happy.

  1. Bad skin can affect your mental health. Take yourself seriously.

I have cried over my skin a lot. I have cried in public over my skin. When I’m having a flare up, it can trigger my depression really badly, and it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin when you’re, well, uncomfortable in your skin. You’re valid. It is a valid way to feel. Don’t feel like you have to bottle it up and don’t feel like it’s “just stupid”. It’s not. Talk to someone. Talk to a doctor if you need to.

I’m currently on a course of steroids which clear up my skin amazingly, but when I stop taking them my skin is extremely vulnerable and the flare ups can come back worse than ever if I don’t have another treatment lined up (this is why we think my last flare up was so bad – a delay between the end of my course of steroids and the date I was due to start my next new treatment). Aside from prescribed steroids, I make sure to apply an ointment to my entire body as soon as I get out of the bath or shower to seal in moisture, and then I use topical creams where the flare ups remain the worse. I wash my face with a solution of oilatum and water every morning, pat dry and immediately apply moisturiser, and I take antihistamines daily. For me, this routine works right now. For you, it might not.

I’d love to hear any of your experiences with eczema or any other skin condition, and anything you’ve found that helps your skin or just makes you feel better! I know for a lot of people dietary changes help their skin, but I’ve never found that changing my diet had any effect on my eczema. What about you?

Until next time, stay… not… itchy?

-K

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A Mid-October Catch-Up

Hey!

I’ve been super busy for the first half of this month. I had all of my blog posts planned before October even began, but a lot of them depended on me completing tasks/finishing books/etc before I could post them, and I definitely overestimated the amount of time I would have free. Today I am travelling back to Liverpool from London, and hopefully that means I’ll have a bit more time for the second half of the month to dedicate to my blog. For now, I decided to once again shuffle around my blog schedule and slide in a sort of “catch up” post, to let you all know what’s been going on with me.

This month, I have been…

Doing:

Finishing my Volume 4 RWBY Blake Belladonna cosplay. Unfortunately, my thigh-high boots didn’t arrive in time for the con, but I’m proud of how the rest of it turned out. I made the jacket entirely from scratch and for the crop top I took a regular T-shirt and modified it (added the collar, straps, cropped it). My sewing has definitely improved a lot over the past few months and I’m excited to begin even more challenging projects now!

Learning:

To crochet. My nana taught me to knit when I was a child, but I never learnt to crochet. I bought a pack of 12 aluminium crochet hooks on eBay for £2.99 and have already begun learning! I’m picking it up and I’m enjoying practicing it, and I’m excited about all of the blankets and soft toys I’ll be able to make if I stick at this!

Listening to:

I finally hopped on the bandwagon and have been listening to the podcast Criminal while I walk my dog in the morning. I’m about half way through the backlog and I am loving it. Initially I downloaded a bunch of different podcasts and intended on listening to the first episode of a lot of them and then picking one to stick with, but after just one episode of Criminal I was hooked. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m all caught up and have to wait.

Watching:

Boku No Hero Academia/My Hero Academia. That is, I was, until the season ended a couple of weeks ago. It’s quickly become my favourite series and when the season ended I couldn’t wait so I started reading the manga. It’s about a bunch of kids training to become heroes and I love it. I would definitely recommend it – even if you’re not one for animation, if you like superheroes and/or things set in schools, you will love it.

Reading:

I’m still partaking in Victober even if I haven’t had much time to read. I’m currently reading and enjoying The Old Curiosity Shop. I’ve never really read much Dickens so I was looking forward to finally getting around to him and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

So that’s what I’ve been doing over the first half of this month. I’m sorry that my blog ended up being kind of all over the place – hopefully now I’ll have the time to dedicate to it!

How is October going for you so far? Have you picked up anything you’re excited about? Books, music, a hobby? Let me know.

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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Tips for Writing Essays

All of the “back to university” blog posts seem to have fizzled away by now, but mid-October means that coursework deadlines are creeping up and essay due dates are probably much closer than you’ve realised. At least, that’s what it was like for me at university. This is my first year as a graduate, but over the three years of my English degree I like to think I got pretty good at writing essays. Now, I sort of don’t have a use for that, so I decided I’d share a few of my tips with the next generation of students!

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DO YOUR SECONDARY READING ALONGSIDE YOUR PRIMARY

There’s nothing worse than coming to write your essay, finding 20+ journal articles, chapters and books to read as secondary criticism/evidence/etc and then being so overwhelmed that you can’t bring yourself to read it at all. When you initially tackle your primary reading, try to read a couple of journal articles on the text or subject, too. Not only will this help you to get more from your seminars as you might find topics you’d like to bring up and discuss, and not only will it mean you’ll have a better understanding of your primary texts, but it means that when you come to writing your essay you’ve already tackled a big portion of the work.

Obviously, you might want to read over them again, but having already read them once this will be a much speedier and more fruitful endeavour, and you will likely understand it more clearly and much quicker.

Honestly, doing a little bit of wider reading around the same time as you read your core texts is not only useful, but enjoyable. It’s interesting. You’re studying this degree because you like it – people have interesting things to say! I promise!

DIFFERENT TUTORS LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS…

Okay, these next two tips can be flipped either way, but I’ve written them out this way first so we’ll stick with this. It’s just the luck of the draw – different tutors like different things in your essays. By third year, every time an essay was due my university group chats would become a constant stream of, “James*likes essays that do this”, and “I had Sarah* last semester for [module], and she always told us to do this” or “she seemed to like when we…”

I can’t tell you what kind of thing your professors will like, so maybe this is something you can’t know beforehand. You’ll pick it up, and your essays will get stronger, and if you attend your seminars you’ll definitely get an inkling of the kind of thing your tutors want from you. Make the most of it. You are going to learn to tailor your essays. It seems almost dirty to say that now, like some kind of cheating, but it’s a skill you will develop and utilise.

*Names changed for anonymity

…BUT THERE ARE FEATURES THAT YOU NEED TO ALWAYS INCLUDE

But, all that being said, there are most likely marking descriptors that all of your tutors will be using. You should ASK if you can have a copy of this if it isn’t provided for you. Some of my tutors would physically hand us a copy of this at the start of the module, others would include it online in our web resources folders, and others would mention it in passing, but it was available to us from first year. It was basically a massive grid: along the top was each grade from a fail right through to a first, and along the side was a list of categories including things like “focus on question”, “use of scholarly material”, “technicalities of writing” etc.

If you can attain a copy of something like this it will benefit you immensely. I blocked out all of the information on the grades I would be unhappy to receive (for me, this was a 2:2 and below – because I was aiming for a 2:1 at the lowest, not because there was anything wrong with a 2:2), so the only information I could physically read were descriptors for grades I wanted. Then, when writing an essay I would constantly refer to this grid and make sure I was ticking every single box. For every single paragraph. It will make a massive difference to your grades, so I would definitely encourage you to ask your tutors if there is any form of marking descriptor reference sheet available to you.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO INCLUDE WIDER RESEARCH

To clarify: you should definitely include it. For every point you make in every single essay, you should try to include at least one piece of wider research relating in some way to the point you have made, but that alone isn’t enough. You need to engage. You need to respond. You might get away with just slapping a quote at the end of a paragraph that seems to support your point, but by third year that most certainly will not fly. Engaging with the research will show that you not only understand it, but are capable of more than just regurgitating quotes. Your originality is crucial and your tutors want to hear what you have to say on this, not what the first six results of typing “Shakespeare” and “feminism” into JSTOR have to say on it.

YOUR BEST PIECES OF WORK WILL BE PIECES YOU WANTED TO WRITE

Uh, duh.

Basically: whenever I wrote an essay because I thought it would be easy, yeah, I would pass, but it would be a pretty standard piece and nothing I was amazingly proud of. Whenever I wrote an essay that I was passionate about, my feedback would always seem to be about how interesting the tutor found the essay, how strong it was, how original, etc. I was always so proud of these pieces, and I would talk about them to friends who weren’t even in my university. You’re studying this degree because you enjoy it, right? I hope you are, and if that’s so, then try to remember that you like this when it comes to actually doing the work. Your passion will be one of your most useful tools. Try to hold on to it.

These tips weren’t very technical, but I think they’re useful things to bear in mind when it comes to your coursework. I hope they can be of some help to some of you.

Do you have any tips for essay writing? Honestly, now that I’m not in university, I kind of miss it! Do any of you feel that way? Let me know.

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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#Victober: ‘The Familiar’ by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

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‘No, no, no,’ interrupted he, with irritability – ‘no, sir, I am not a credulous – far from superstitious man. I have been, perhaps, too much the reverse – too sceptical, too slow of belief; but unless I were one whom no amount of evidence could convince, unless I were to contemn the repeated, the perpetual evidence of my own senses, I am now – now at last constrained to believe – I have no escape from the conviction – the overwhelming certainty – that I am haunted and dogged, go where I may, by – by a DEMON!’

-‘The Familiar’, J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin in 1814 as the son of a clergyman. During the early years of the Tithe Wars, his family lived in Limerick, where Le Fanu was exposed to the folk superstitions that would likely influence his later writing. He studied law at Trinity college but went on to become a journalist and, later, a writer of fiction.

‘The Familiar’ is the second story from his collection In A Glass Darkly. It was originally published as ‘The Watcher’ in his Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery in 1851. It follows Captain Barton as he is stalked by a seemingly supernatural creature that resembles a miniaturised version of a man from his past – a man that Barton insists it could not possibly be.

As are all the stories in In A Glass Darkly, ‘The Familiar’ is draped in layers of narration. The story itself

  1. centres on the experiences of Captain Barton
  2. is retold by an acquaintance of his
  3. whose writings are found in the possessions of the recently deceased Dr Hesselius along with his own notes on the case
  4. all of which are being shared with us by his assistant.

This, obviously, leads to some doubt to the legitimacy of the story. I know, I know – it’s fiction, of course it isn’t real – but you know what I mean. Personally, that’s one of the things I like about this story. I’m a fan of the unreliable narrator. I like that we’re left to wonder. When you read the story, it’s presented as fact: Barton is being stalked. The first time he experiences The Watcher (which is how the creature refers to itself) is merely the sound of footsteps following him on his way home, but when he turns he finds the street deserted behind him. As we read it, this did happen, but if you take a second to think about it – can you be sure it did? Was it just the fancies of a man alone in the night? Is it being exaggerated? By whom? For me, this adds mystery – more mystery – to the story, and I love that.

In my initial Victober TBR post, I mentioned that I was already a fan of Le Fanu. I was actually quite interested to see if I enjoyed his writing as much as I remembered or if, in the absence of it, I’d grown fonder. It was the first. I knew vaguely what ‘The Familiar’ was about before I read it, having discussed it briefly when we studied ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Carmilla’, but it was the first time I had actually read it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s only about 40 pages long, so it was easy to read in one sitting, but it wasn’t the length that had me read it in one – I just didn’t want to put it down. Not only is it easy to read, but it’s easy to picture in your mind.

It was considerably past midnight when Mr Barton took his leave, and set out upon his solitary walk homeward. He had now reached the lonely road, with its unfinished dwarf walls tracing the foundations of the projected row of houses on either side – the moon was shining mistily, and its imperfect light made the road he trod but additionally dreary – that utter silence which has in it something indefinably exciting, reigned there, and made the sound of his steps, which alone broke it, unnaturally loud and distinct.”

It’s basically a scary story staple: a deserted street, misty moonlight and the feeling that, despite all evidence, you are not alone. The desire to run home like a frightened child is almost overwhelming, and as you read it you want nothing more than for Barton to finish his walk. We’re like children playing tag and home is ‘den’. There is, logically, no reason to believe we would be any safer at home – if something wishes us harm, why would they be stopped by a closed door? But we believe we’ll be safe, and that alone is enough for us.

[[[SPOILERS AHEAD]]]

Perhaps that is why the ending of the story is so disturbing. That Barton, shut up in his bedroom of the apartment he fled to in fear, is still pursued – that the creature sits on his bed. It’s frightening. It violates the spaces we feel safest. It harks back to Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ and the idea of the unheimlich – the unhomely. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of Freud. I actively dislike Freud – but, when analysing Gothic, ‘the Uncanny’ is very useful. These supernatural creatures invade the spaces we feel safest – they take the familiar and make it unfamiliar. Where do we flee to when our bedrooms are invaded? The threat comes inside the places we feel safest – it crosses that boundary. We are not safe. Perhaps that is why the ending disturbed me the way it did – and I loved it.

[[[END OF SPOILERS]]]

So, for my first Victober recap post, I give you Le Fanu’s ‘The Familiar’. It’s a gripping, simple tale. It probably won’t terrify you, but it’s delightfully spooky, and perfect for October. Being followed is scary – being unrelentlessly followed and stalked to the point of madness is scarier. If you have an hour or two to read 40 pages (depending on the speed you read), I’d highly recommend it. I’d recommend any of the stories from In A Glass Darkly – give Le Fanu a chance if you’re looking to get into Victorian literature. IAGD is perfect – the stories are short, they’re easy to read and I, personally, thoroughly enjoy them.

[This completes challenges 1 and 3 of Victober]

What have you been reading this month?

-K

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Celebrating Halloween as a Halloweenie

So we’re five days into October now, and I’m pretty sure you’re all already sick of all of the Halloween-themed blog posts. Initially, I had intended to post my first #Victober recap post today, but I’m a little behind schedule with my reading because I’ve had a busy few days, so I’m shuffling around my schedule! For those of you who are already sick of Halloween blog posts, I’m sorry. Feel free to leave. This is one of them.

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I have a phobia. It is bad. I don’t use that word lightly – I’ve studied phobias, and I know the difference between having a phobia and a fear. My phobia is somewhat popular around Halloween, this year more than ever. I’m a massive fan of the holiday because I love (almost) all things spooky and scary, but every year I have to make the adult decision to stay inside, no matter how much I’d love to go out. It’s not fair for me to put the responsibility of caring for me on my friends when I inevitably see the object of this phobia – it’s a pretty bad reaction involving panic attacks and crying, and it would undoubtedly spoil everyone’s night.

So – what can you do on Halloween if you can’t go out and party? If you’re like me, and it’s not worth the risk? Or maybe you just don’t fancy going out but still want to get into the holiday spirit? Here are some of my favourite ways to spend it…

HALLOWEEN BAKING

I’ve mentioned before that I want to bake more this season, and Halloween is a great excuse to try my hand at it. I’m not a terrible baker – I took food tech in school and I did well at it, and I bake occasionally, but I never tend to branch out with flavours or foods, instead opting for the same muffins and cakes time and time again.

I’ve been perusing the Halloween collection on BBC Good Food for inspiration, and am hoping to try my hand at making this pumpkin cake this month. I realised recently that I actually have no idea if I like the taste of pumpkin, but since we’ll likely be carving a few anyway, it seems like the perfect time to figure it out! However, if you’re not a fan of pumpkin flavour but still want to make some spooky snacks, you can always make something you do like and decorate it with a spooky pattern or face! These spider web muffins are adorable, as are these little ghost biscuits!

SCARY READING

I love ghost stories. I’m a massive fan of Tom Slemen’s Haunted Liverpool series and have been reading them since I was… well, too young. There’s nothing I love more than walking past somewhere and saying, “Oh, there’s a ghost here, you know!” to whomever I’m with. There’s something about it being here, in my home, that makes it that much more exciting and spine-chilling, and I love that.

If you’re not one for real ghost stories, though, there are plenty of scary books you can check out. One of my favourite scary books that I’ve read in recent years has been Juno Dawson’s Say Her Name, and if you’re a YA fan and you haven’t read it yet I implore you to do so. However, if YA isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of other books out there. You could try something classic, like Frankenstein or Dracula, or you could even go with something like Northanger Abbey. I studied that in my Gothic module at university (definitely one of my favourite modules of my entire degree), and it was extremely interesting to discuss/debate whether we agreed that it was a Gothic novel, what makes something a Gothic novel and the problems of genre definition, especially in terms of Gothic, in general.

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Spooky Cthulhu photo box by Jon Turner*

SPOOKY MOVIES

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a true “Halloween recommendations” post if I didn’t tell you to watch some films. You’ve undoubtedly already got your own list of favourite films for this time of year, so I won’t waste too much time with recommendations. My favourite scary film is Scream (1996), but if you’re looking for something spooky that won’t give you nightmares, then my go-to is The Addams Family (1991). There’s no shortage of film-recommendation blog posts for Halloween, so I’m sure if you do a little searching you’ll find something to your taste.

So, go on ahead, get your snacks and sweets, light some seasonal candles and curl up with a warm blanket and make this holiday your own. You can also, obviously, decorate your home with Halloween decorations whether you’re throwing a party or not! I’m a big fan of the Halloween stock in shops like Poundland – it’s fun, it’s cute, and it’s all £1. You can’t really go wrong at prices like that.

What are your favourite traditions for Halloween? What would you recommend for someone like me who is too much of a Halloweenie to go outside? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, stay spooky.

-K

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*I got this wonderful artwork at MCM Liverpool 2017 back in March. It’s by Jon Turner, and he has tons of gorgeous artwork, from robots and monsters to Pokémon! You can find him on Instagram HERE, and can shop his artwork at his Etsy store HERE.

Are We Interesting?

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I think I’m pretty boring. When I try to think of interesting facts about myself, I draw a blank. I know I’m not alone in that – I don’t think it’s a matter of modesty for me, and it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about, it’s just something that is. I think I’m really boring, and it baffles me whenever people are interested in what I have to say. Every single time I receive a comment on a blog post my mind is absolutely blown by the fact that anyone would care enough about what I wrote that they would want to respond.

I’ve discussed the matter of finding oneself interesting with a handful of friends frequently as of late, and we all seemed to think of ourselves as boring. The thing is, when they said they didn’t think they were interesting, I couldn’t believe it – they’re some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t believe they could be blind to their own extraordinariness. After discussing it a little and all assuring one another that we find each other very interesting, we came to the conclusion that perhaps nobody thinks they’re interesting simply because of their own familiarity with their story. I only know my own experiences, but living them day in and day out has dulled all of the shine from them. On top of that, anything that somebody might find interesting seems so average to me because I surround myself with people who share my interests and hobbies. It’s hard to find something interesting when it’s your norm. That isn’t necessarily a problem.

When this becomes a problem is when we stop believing that anyone could possibly ever find us interesting. Sure, I think I’m boring, but that doesn’t mean everyone will. We can get down on ourselves for this kind of thing – overwhelmed with feelings that we should be doing more, experiencing more, and comparing ourselves to people who are doing different things to us. When people do want to listen to us, we assume they’re just trying to be polite and brush them off. Then it becomes a problem.

I’m trying much harder lately to believe the kind words people say to me, whether I agree with them or not. There is nothing in this world that I am more exposed to than myself, but if I’m going to chase new experiences it should be for me and not because I want to have an interesting story. I’m okay with the idea of chasing experiences, but I don’t think we should chase stories. I don’t think I’ll ever find my story interesting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t.

One of my friends was discussing a scrapbook she keeps, and another friend pointed out that this meant she obviously thought these things were worth remembering even if she doesn’t agree that they make her interesting. I don’t know why exactly, but that comment has stuck with me. Perhaps it’s because despite not thinking I have had many interesting experiences, I have a lot of memories I love to think about. We don’t have to be interested in our stories to cherish them, and without even realising I had equated them I hadn’t considered until that point that the two (interest and cherishment) could exist separately. Good memories don’t have to be interesting memories.

Originally, I had intended the point of this post to be that you shouldn’t worry if you don’t think you’re interesting – somebody will, and somebody probably already does. However, now I think the point I’m drawing to is this:

It doesn’t matter if you’re interesting as long as you’re happy. Maybe you have a fond memory that isn’t full of excitement and twists and shocks and punch-lines, but if it makes you smile when you think about it, does it matter? Maybe our stories don’t have to be interesting. Maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to just be. We should worry less about what other people think of us and concern ourselves less with entertaining the masses. I know I’m happy right now to just exist with a small handful of supportive friends – I don’t need to impress them. Some of the best weekends of my life were spent sitting around a friend’s house watching television we’d already seen and eating crappy, 10-minute meals. Not every memory needs to be a story.

I want to know about the rest of you: do you find it easy to consider yourself interesting? Does it matter to you that you are? Or are you happy to just be and believe that the people around you are there because they want to be? Let me know in the comments. I want to hear from you guys!

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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