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Christmas Time…

Mistletoe and wine… and gin and chocolate and tinsel.

Ever since I can remember Christmas has always been my favourite holiday. I’ve always associated with happy memories, with magic and with family.

Every family has Christmas traditions and mine was no different. We would wake early after a restless nights sleep waiting to here the jingle bells and the footsteps on the roof, but we didn’t care if we were tired. My brothers and I would rush downstairs and gather in the living room – fire on, and mum waiting with a smile on her face. We’d settle down and start opening the presents piling the wrapping paper into the middle of the room for a quick clean up later.

As the morning went on we’d binge on Quality Streets or Celebrations – knowing the exact limits so that we wouldn’t spoiling our dinner appetite. While we were opening boxes and watching Christmas Movies on TV there’d be the smell of Turkey filling the house, the steam of the kitchen forcing condensation over the windows trapping us in our own magical day.

After a Christmas dinner that I swear got better every year, we’d all get dressed in clothes that were wrapped up only hours later. We’d then all wrap up warm and start the 5 minute walk to my Nanna’s house where all of our extended family would be waiting.

There we’d exchange cards and hugs, and enjoy each others company in to the night.

It might sound romanticised, and in part it might just be, but it’s how I remember it, it’s how I choose to remember it, and I’ll remember it as some of the happiest years of my life. Forever.

These days, some 15-20 years later it’s still the time I look forward to, seeing the Coca-cola Christmas advert on TV for the first time signals to me that it’s time to start getting festive. I chose to put my decorations up at the earliest opportunity – my record is November 22nd. There’s something about the colourful lights, the tinsel and the atmosphere that brings me joy and happiness.

With so many things different now, my traditions have changed, they’ve evolved. Now, a week or so before Christmas my partner and I have a Christmas jumper party with our friends, then the next day we have our own Christmas Day complete with presents, Buck’s Fizz and Christmas dinner. Its something I look forward to all year, it’s a time we can lock ourselves and in our house and just be with each other and that’s one of my favourite places to be.

When it comes down to Christmas week, now that I’ve moved away from home I try my very best to get home to my mums a few days before, so we can have our annual shopping trip, and an adventure to see Fenwick’s Window. From there the traditions revert back to those of childhood, even as an adult I still find the magic in waking up early and spending that quality time with my family. Although, now I’m not waiting for Santa Clause, I’m waiting for the turkey.

To round off what is usually a day to remember we gather around the TV together, with leftover sandwiches and we watch Mrs Browns Boys in the living room, drawing comfort from the glow of the Christmas Tree lights.

Goodbye 2019

We’re fast approaching the end of another year, another one that’s gone by faster than time should, another one that’s escaped through the fingertips of the universe. This time, it’s not just the year that’s over, it’s the decade.

I always try to be an optimist, I try to believe that everything happens for a reason and that every decision I make is the right one, and whether it’s now or further down the line the result of those decisions will be made clear to me.

At the start of every year, I try to give myself a list of things I want to do or accomplish and this year was no different. While I completed a few, the big ones aren’t quite there yet and I’m not about to lie and say that I’ve achieved everything I set out to do. Year after year I tell myself that by this time the year after I’ll be in a better place mentally and physically… don’t get me wrong my year was far from tragic and I’ve had a load of new experiences and I have accomplished some personal victories. But there is still a list as long as my arm of things I haven’t checked off my list, things that I mark down as personal failures.

I always find time around this time of year to reflect, and this time it’s more of a public reflection.

So my question for anyone reading this, is have you accomplished everything you set out to do?

Take a moment and reflect.

My Experience With Time

Time heals all wounds

It’ll get better

All you need is time.

Those are phrases I’ve used in conversations to friends that have been hurting. Those are phrases I’ve said out loud to people, but what if I don’t believe them. What does that make me?

I’ve always tried to be a person of comfort, I’ve always prided myself in being a good friend, maybe I’ll go a while without talking but nevertheless my friends know I’m there for them, through it all.

Yet, when I tell people it’s all going to be okay, I’m a liar. I’m a liar because I don’t think time does heal all wounds. I think that those wounds will always be vulnerable and fragile, and that they’ll open at a moments notice.

One thought, one song or a phone call and everything I know could come crumbling down. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to control it, it’s all part of human nature and coupling those realities with severe anxiety results in my constant stream of depression and panic attacks.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a little while, but I could never find the right way to phrase it, and today after a brief cry I finally figured it out. I had to just do it.

When I was fourteen I lost someone, I lost my best friend, I lost a part of me, I lost all hope when my Nanna died. Still to this very day, 11 years on, I cry, I cry like it happened yesterday, I cry like I was at her funeral only this morning. Every single time, and I mean every single time I hear the song that was played at her funeral I break, something inside of me snaps and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Every version of the song, no matter who sings it, those lyrics will be burned into my memories forever. I remember the exact lyric the exact moment in the song that they closed that curtain and she was gone forever. I remember everything I felt that day, I remember waking up with such fear and such dread that I couldn’t move. I remember sitting in the crematorium with my dad to my left and my cousin to the right. I remember seeing the look on my mums face, I remember the atmosphere and I remember feeling empty. It hurts me so much and to this very day I can not forget it… and I don’t ever expect to, it’s something I have to live with.

When I was sixteen I got my first boyfriend, and I’d like to say he was sweet and thoughtful but he wasn’t, I just didn’t know any better. He was my worst enemy. My life for those 11 months was a constant stream of endless nightmares. It was because of him that I drove away all of my friends, it was because of him that I almost lost my family. It’s because of him I have nightmares still, almost 10 years later. He threatened me, he hurt me and left me with emotional scars. I remember the feeling of his hand around my throat, I remember the panic of the moment I grabbed my shoes and ran for my life out of the fear that he was following me. My feet pounding on the ground in the rain trying to get away. I remember exactly where I was and what day it was when I told him it was over and he told me he was going to come to my place of work, jump over the counter and slit my throat. That night I had to call my mum to pick me up from work, because I couldn’t leave there alone. Even now, I’m scared, I’m scared that he’ll find me, that one day it won’t just be a nightmare anymore.

Life is full of hard times, and I’m by no means saying that my experiences are worse than someone else’s. Everyone copes differently, everyone deals with things in their own way and I… I don’t know how to deal with death, I don’t know how to deal with pain and hurt in this capacity.

As an atheist I don’t believe in a god, I don’t believe in heaven or in hell, but I am afraid of death. I am terrified that one day it’s going to be over for me, this thought overwhelms me to the point where I can not breath, where I am afraid to be inside of my own head. I need to believe there is something other than nothing at the end, but I can’t.

In the end, it’s mother nature’s twisted tale that tell us all when it’s over, when it’s time.

Awake But Not Aware

I remember the first time it happened, it was like it was yesterday, since then… it’s been irregular and continuously terrifying. 

The first time it happened, I was away from home with my family in Gran Canaria. It was me, my younger brother and my mum, we’d just settled down for the night, my brother and I were in the twin bedroom and my mum on the sofa just 4 meters away. I’m not sure what time it was or what we did that day, but I do know that it was felt just as real as anything I’ve ever experienced my life awake. It was like I was asleep in my head, but my conscious was partially awake living in the real world, it was like purgatory. It was then that I saw it – to this day I’m not 100% what exactly it was but it looked like a spider. I’m sure you’re thinking a spider, that’s nothing but it was there and it was the size of the wall. It was there – in my head – this 3m x 4m spider. So I screamed… I screamed louder than I ever had before, which at some point had woken up my brother who instinctively started screaming along with me – he didn’t know what was going on, maybe he thought there was danger. I jumped out of bed and ran to the door where my mum was standing, (I mean it’s no surprise that two screaming teenagers had woken her). I said ‘I need to get out of here’ and I could hear the desperation in my own voice… the fear. As she stepped out of the way I moved quickly over to the sofa and sat down, looking around the room as my brain caught up with my conscious realising it hadn’t happened, there was nothing to be afraid of. Even with that realisation, I still slept on the sofa that night.
The next morning, I could barely remember what had happened, it started to come back to me when my family asked me about it, when they told me what had happened.

That was only the beginning.

To this day – 6 or so years later I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what triggers it, I don’t know how to stop it and I don’t know when it will happen again. I’m writing this today because it happened again, only last night – but I’ll get to that soon.

If I’m remembering correctly, the next time it happened it was early morning before college and my alarm was due to go off – I know this because as soon as it did I screamed and ran out of my room towards my mums bedroom. She was awake but hadn’t yet gotten up, I sat on her bed and as my brain caught up I asked ‘Why am I here’, I couldn’t remember getting there. In the moments that follow these… let’s call them episodes, I can’t remember it. It takes a few hours, or for someone to remind me before it all comes back. Now, I can’t forget it.

From here the timeline gets a bit messy, so I’ll just mention a few episodes that have stuck with me.
Screaming aside, I went through a phase of something that resembles sleepwalking – only I was awake, but not consciously there.

The only person who ever witnessed this was my twin brother, he used to stay up passed everyone else and watch TV in the living room until early hours of the morning. I’d go to bed, and suddenly I’d be downstairs, eyes open, sitting on the sofa opposite my brother. I’d stare blankly at the TV, feeling his presence but barely interacting with him. Then I’d go back upstairs and back to sleep – the times that this happened my brother told me about it the morning after. After it happened a few times, I’d become subconsciously aware that it happened, but not conscious enough to stop it. So one night I’d ended up downstairs watching TV again, then my brother looked at me, and I subconsciously said ‘I know I’m here you know…’ and went back upstairs.

I didn’t know I was there… I didn’t remember any of it.

When I moved away from home for university I moved into student accommodation. A few times I’d wake up thinking there were spiders on my bed, I’d jump up and run for the door, only then would I pull myself back to reality when trying to open door and then there was once that the weekly fire alarm test went off and I screamed.

Then fast forward a few year I met my current partner, and I’d failed to mention any of it, I just hadn’t happened for so long that I thought it was over, I thought I was free from whatever was holding me back.

So the story goes, we were visiting my family, and staying in my brothers room – he was in my mums room and she was downstairs on the sofa. We were asleep and somehow I caught a glimpse of the eagle painting my brother had put painted onto the majority of his bedroom wall and I lost it. I screamed and ran; waking up my brothers, my partner and my mum. I came back to reality when I was at the top of the stairs, my mum standing at the bottom looking up at me, my brothers and my partner standing in the doorways of the bedrooms. All eyes on me…

If my memory serves me right, there hasn’t been another big episode since that one… until last night.

It was a pretty standard night, we’d went food shopping and watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead, and while my partner went to bed I played a few games of Call Of Duty before heading to bed and watching two episodes of One Tree Hill on my iPad before going to sleep.
Then about 4 AM I came back to semi-consciousness already in the middle of an episode, kicking violently and screaming I felt trapped, stuck to the bed. As soon as I managed to get free I ran to the spare bedroom and just stood there, waiting for whatever was happening to stop. When I returned to the bedroom my partner was sitting up, waiting, and the duvet was all on the floor. I remember him saying ‘That hasn’t happened for a while’ – In the end I found out that it was him, keeping me down, restraining me in a sense, scared that I would end up at the top of the stairs – or at the bottom of them.

So as another episode passed totalling 6 years since the first one I still have no idea what triggers it, what it is, if it will ever stop and what caused it in the first place. So instead I live in fear, fear that one day it will happen again and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

One More Light – Linkin Park

An incredible and haunting album from one of the worlds most influential bands, and a lasting tribute to the legacy of the late Chester Bennington.

★★★★★

At one point in their life i’m pretty sure most people have heard a Linkin Park song and it was more than likely ‘Numb’ or ‘What I’ve Done’ – both incredible songs. It’s safe to say that they were the voice of a generation and they were and are one of the most influential bands in their genre.

In May 2017 they released what would become their last album as a complete band, the albums is titled ‘One More Light’. I first listened to it in June 2017 and I loved almost every second of it – the only song I don’t like to much is ‘Good Goodbye (feat. Pusha T & Stormzy)’.

The sound overall is a lot different to their past music and it attracted some negative criticism upon first release and it seemed that some reviewers thought that the band had ‘sold out’, but I didn’t understand where the negativity came from, I still don’t… it’s an album I can put on shuffle and listen to all day, over and over again – for me, that kind of thing is rare.

Every song has its merits, and each song has something I love about it, whether its rhythm, the lyrics or Chester’s incredible voice sending me into a blissful haze, it’s one of my favourite albums and it contains one of my favourite songs of all time

The song I cannot fault is the title track for the album, One More Light.
A song that has become even more relevant and haunting since Chester Bennington’s death. The lyrics are touching and although the song was wrote about the death of friend of the band, they can so elegantly be reflective on the death of the bands frontman.

I get chills when listening to the lyrics, his voice was unique and it was passionate, it certainly was a loss for the music industry, but I believe this song and this album will carry his legacy on long after the rest of us have been forgotten.

“If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do”

‘Who cares if one more light does out? Well, we do’

(Feature image credit to the photographer or owner)