Time to…stop being anti-social as get out

Zara, who likes whales

One screen is no longer enough.

As you read this (cheers, you!), chances are – if you’re anything like me – you have another window open or a television screen in front of you or you’re really fancy and can surf the net ON your TV. Get you.

When I’m on Facebook, I find myself scrolling down my news feed at high speed, absorbing key words from status updates and freshly uploaded pictures – so quickly that, even when I see something that really truly takes me aback, I don’t stop. Instead, I take a mental note, continue scrolling and scan a few more key words and key faces before returning to delve deeper – unless, of course, I find a more attractive or hilarious story in the meantime.

On Instagram – and apologies to those who follow me and get a constant stream of dreamy quotations and dog selfies…

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My Call for Revolution

At this present moment in time, I am sitting at a desk in the Portadown Times office at Carn Industrial Estate in Craigavon. Carn is not a place of dreams, but a place of employment for those working in offices and factories, alike.

I’m utterly restless.

Today – as with many of the other days I’ve spent here – my login to the system has failed, therefore I’ve been rendered temporarily incapable of contributing to the editing and journalistic efforts of Johnston Press’ Portadown news. Regardless, I’m determined to write something today.

I arrived into the office at 8:45am this morning, with all the joys of a fresh new Tuesday flowing through my veins. On Dad and I’s commute, we had both agreed that it was time to make global-local by introducing Portadown Times’ readers – those faithful folk – to the issues faced by the outside world. I’m by no means suggesting that Portadown sits inside a little glass globe, happily ignorant of all which occurs outside it – we live in an age where we all have a fair idea of what’s happening at every corner of the globe and any given moment, but I wanted Portadown Times to specifically reflect this; in an age when we couldn’t be more informed about the activities of our global counterparts and cultures which have no more in common with us than a blue whale has with a blue bottle.

Alas, when I reached the office, my ideas were met with a low chortle. Apparently, my globo-loco plan isn’t happening. At least, not in the Times New Roman font of the Portadown Times pages.

Hence, I’ve turned my keyboard-tapping distal phalanges to WordPress. The internet is the most wonderfully, instantly universal contraption since the postal owl – and even Hedwig took his time with deliveries – so I here are three things I’d propose for the people who sit on this hopeful little globe:

1. Get informed.

2. Take heart.

3. Take arms.

Allow me to divulge:

1. Get informed about what’s happening. Most of us have handy little news apps, which kindly buzz when big important events are taking place or big important decisions are made. I get my buzz from The Guardian, but find a news outlet that caters to your tastes – just make sure it’s reliable and unbiased.

(I’m not suggesting you allow the news to take over your life. Find a balance and know when to set your phone down so as you don’t miss what’s happening where you are. News is breaking all around you. Don’t let your breaking news notifications lead down to a break down of communication with those around you.)

2. Take heart, as  it’s not all bad. By taking heed of the above, bracketed words, you can learn to find a balance and take your head out of the news at times when it all gets too negative. Some people don’t watch the news on TV, or go out of their way to read up on current events; they find it really sad and disheartening, and that’s okay. At a time when we are investing more heavily in issues of mental health – and rightly so – it’s important not to fill your head with negative news and heavy issues of worldly conflict, as it’s just not going to be overly helpful to you. Unless you have the solution to the conflict in Iraq in the palm of your hand, or the words to convince people the world over that there is never justification for sexual violence, then it is not up to you alone to work this out.

Take heart, as there is also so much hope in this world – and plenty of people who are actually employed to ensure that hope materialises.

I’d also add these words:

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus Christ (John 16:33)

(I find that incredibly reassuring.)

3. Take arms – the peaceful type. Many pray. Many write to leaders. Many travel to the source of conflict or localities affected by violence. Many form connections and relationships with the people who are directly involved in the breaking news appearing on our screens. Regardless of who we are, where we live, who we choose to live life alongside, where we work, how we spend our weekends, etc, etc, we are all inextricably bound together by one common bond: we’re each rooted to this globe by gravity – we all live here. Even if we don’t choose to actively participate in the goings-on of the outside world – we might even choose not to acknowledge that neighbour we’ve lived beside for the past two years – we live on the same Earth. We’re all human. We really ought to care a little.

As a Christian, it’s important to me that my Church takes up arms on a global scale. I want us not to stay seated in the pews of our little village Church, but rather to expand our minds and hearts and arms to those living on the farthest parts of the planet. And I think we’re doing that.

Not everybody goes to Church, but that doesn’t exclude you from taking up arms. Open up a global dialogue with those around you. Get people talking. Transform global issues into local concerns – into familiar concerns.

I believe that people innately care about people. And if everybody finds a little aspect of life here on Earth that really pulls at their hearts, and moves into action to make a change in that aspect – to combat the destruction of our rain forests; to rally our governments to better accommodate asylum seekers; to stand for the homeless; to combat sectarianism – then I daresay we might have it all covered.

Platform 9 and 3/4

Today’s been one of those days.

One of those days, whose ends you don’t mind seeing; the ones whose evenings you hurry along; whose nights you rush into, and jump into bed particularly early – in anticipation of tomorrow.

As the time drips down the clock, I feel like Harry Potter. Not because I’m a wizard. Or have an arch-enemy with a disturbing face on the back of his head. Or own an owl. (Although, the latter is tempting.) I feel like Harry Potter in that first book – the one I read – standing, anxiously, on a busy platform in London’s King’s Cross Station, with his big load of luggage on a trolley, staring at a brick wall and desperately trying to think up a way of getting through that wall to reach Platform 9 and 3/4.

Not because I’ve been admitted to Hogwarts.

But because Harry was in a bit of a pickle, really. He was surrounded by people who knew where they were going. And they seemed to be going there fast. Meanwhile, he was off to someplace he had only minimal evidence of; someplace, that, at that very moment, he had no idea how to reach.

Our JK was on to something. Yes, I’m really going to stretch out this Harry Potter episode and align it with real life.

Right now, life is getting pretty real.

I’m just back from Joanna’s hen do. (The tired results of which, may or may not have brought about this wall-hitting analogy.) Joanna’s getting married in 2 weeks – the first of us to sail away into the sunset and then come back and build a new little life with the love of her’s. It’s all terribly exciting. Like, SO exciting.

My medic friends are graduating. My dentist friend is graduating. Within a matter of months, they’re going to be earning more sterling pounds than they’ll know what to do with.

Life right now is like Platform 9. (Hear me out.)  People are skiting all over the show – but in the direction they ought to be going. Tickets in hand, ideal soundtrack playing harmoniously in their earphones, appropriate footwear – sorted. Whether their destination is a new and lovely adventure across the world or a new and lovely degree to study for or a new and lovely career or a new and lovely spouse and house. Or a combination of a few.

Then there are the Harry Potters in their midst. The Harrys are a little more vague. We’re not altogether clear on what’s happening right now. We know there’s a plan. We know there’s a destination – though it may be one of many; a stepping stone to the next, if you will. We know there’s a way of getting there – and get there, we shall. We have huge big hopes and dreams – they’re just going to take some time to pan out. But right now, we’re kind of just repeatedly hitting our trolleys against a wall – and sometimes, we find ourselves quite literally hitting our heads against a variety of walls, in an attempt to make things make sense. A lot of the time, various bits and bobs fly out of our trolleys upon impact, but we manage to keep a hold of our dearest possessions.

Don’t get me wrong – the lovely passers-by do stop and ask where it is we want to go, doing their best to point us in vaguely the right direction. They’re a great help. Fantastic. And we wouldn’t still be standing, if it weren’t for them. But sometimes, the questions about where we’re going are the questions that really throw us, and send us running voluntarily into the wall.

Fret not. Whilst I stopped reading the Potter books after he encountered that chamber of secrets, I hung around long enough to see him past Platform 9. And I seem to recall he got out of that conundrum of reaching Platform 9 and 3/4.

I repeat, fret not.

Why not?

Well, because the Weasleys are here.

That endearing, red-headed little family of endearing, red-headed little people. They understand the pickle Harry’s got himself into. And they’re here to cheer him on.

In life, we find our own Weasleys – or maybe they find us. Those individuals who just have to give you a reassuring look, or say one sentence, in order for you to realise that everything’s actually going to be alright.

Everything actually is going to be alright.

Today, I bumped into one of my Weasleys in a coffee shop. She is simply splendid. All I have to manage is one, unsure statement and aim it in her direction – a statement like this:

“It’s all going to pan out…?” – the sentence seeped in uncertainty and an urgent need of confirmation.

“Of course it is! Everyone’s different. God has it all worked out.” – in the most blasé and wonderful of tones.

She’s my Weasley. She even has vaguely red hair.

And it doesn’t mean I raise my hands to the handles of my trolley, give the wall a death stare and march straight through.

Not today.

But, what it does mean, is that I have the strength to raise my hands to my trolley once again – and the sense to lift a blanket and a pillow out from my luggage for the long-run. I might have to shack up on Platform 9 for quite some time.


Untangle the Web

I haven’t typed words in a really long time.

And yet I dream of being a journalist.

Adds up, right?

This is me deciding to once again lift hands to keyboard and type.

Type until words come out that are worth being read.

Read until issues that matter are learnt about and processed inside my head.

So that battles for justice in the form of words can be led.

And the usefulness of good words to effective leaderships can be wed.


Words are incredible. They’re impactful. 
Words and pictures are all we have when it comes to social media and the internet.

So you best make those words count.

And you also best make sure those words impact the right people in the way intended.

In the right way.

Clear this webby world of abuse, snide criticisms and bitchiness.

And from here on in.

Use it for good.

This world could really be something if we did that.

Instead of fickly swaying from one world issue to the next.

Instead of ‘doing your bit’ and hashtagging #thelatestbigissue.

Find just ONE that niggles at your heart. That breaks your heart.

And promise to SEE IT THROUGH.

Raise awareness. Write to the people concerned.

Pray your heart out over it.

Believe in the change. 

And then make it.

Sharing the road.

With little over a week to go before we three at Novar Drive disperse, thoughts about those alongside whom we coexist are rife in my mind. Now, if that isn’t a sentence to put you off reading, I’m not sure what is.

Over Easter, I underwent the overwhelming abruptness one experiences when returning home after any significant length of time away from the family. The sudden need to share where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. The sudden awareness that maybe your room SHOULD have visible floor space, and that the wardrobe IS there for the purpose of containing those lovely clothes you got washed and ironed and then draped around the chairs and over the bed. (I only have one small chair in my room. Not many, as that might have implied. My room is quite but sufficiently small.)

It is an odd little era in our lives – as previously noted in the talk of transience – though, despite my relative closed-off-ness over my fortnight at home as I locked myself in a room to dissertate, I was struck by one thing. And it wasn’t until this afternoon as I sat soaking up the sunny rays (that reach me through my window as I study, sadly I didn’t manage to persuade anyone to procrastinate in the park with me) that I found this photo I’d taken on one excursion with the dogs and the fam.It’s my lovely brother and father. (The two blurry spots are two blurry dogs.)

If you look real close, you can see my lovely brother sports a lovely mo-hawk, while my father dons the more fashion-savvy farmer’s cap. Quite a contrast. Yet they’re both putting their right foot forward. Both walking along the same path. Sharing the road.

The family unit is an odd one. I think it’s at the fair age of twenty two that I have finally exited the long, dark tunnel of self, which my mother always asserted I was in during my teenage years, and walked out into a big clearing, shielding my eyes from the glare of the big beaming sun. That same big beaming sun now emphasises the presence of others in my life, along with their woes and worries.

It’s that same realisation you get when you arrive at big family gatherings, only to find that you’re no longer the one sprinting upstairs to play games with your similarly childish cousins – we all pretended we were dogs at a pound, not sure about you – instead, the ‘older ones’ are asking you big questions about your life and engaging you in conversations about current affairs. You’re no longer allowed to skip the queue for dessert and orange juice. No longer excused early to change into your PJs for the long car journey home. Instead, you’re expected to be your own team in Scrabble – no more help from Mum and Dad in making sense of those seven random letters. It’s no longer my older cousins asking Granny how she is or listening to Grandpa’s latest adventures on the farm. My older cousins are deep in conversation with their husbands or keeping on eye on their youngsters – who are now running around barking, pretending to be dogs or something.

And so it’s this concept of sharing the road. Sharing the road with our immediate family unit, which can also take the form of our little alternative families. Like our’s in Novar Drive. As cosy a cliche as that may sound. We three have shared burdens, even if, at times it feels like we each have heavier and more important burdens than the other. We arrived at university still in our teenage tunnels, at the ripe age of eighteen, and as we prepare to leave, we do so at twenty two. My mother’s tunnel analogy would suggest that, during these four years, we three have emerged from our tunnels and been awoken to one another’s woes and worries. We still occasionally prefer to lock ourselves away in our own rooms. It still sometimes takes a long time to realise and prioritise the concerns and lives of others. I still look back at my teenage tunnel and kind of wish I knew the password to re-enter through the exit.

But I have a niggling feeling that this is just the beginning.

And that returning to my tunnel is probably not the appropriate response as we graduate and prepare to return to our family units, or saunter off to find new ones.

The thing is, I feel like there’s a lifelong tendency to want to rebuild that tunnel. And Hollywood is really quite keen to assure you that, so long as you are the builder of your own tunnel, it really doesn’t matter how much of the pain you witness outwith that tunnel. Just find your way. Find success. Tunnel your way to those dreams of your’s. And then emerge at the end of it all. Just try to count the people still around you at the end of it.

My brother is nineteen. Still a teenager. So you might say he’s still in that there tunnel. But he also happens to be one of the most loyal and concerned people I know of. So he either emerged sooner than me, or his tunnel has skylights installed.

Even though I’m sure to try to rebuild a tunnel out of my own dreams and desires as I leave Scotland for elsewhere, all I can hope for is that he’ll put me in touch with the same man who installed his skylights. Maybe go all out and put windows in the sides, too.

The science of transience

So I took a little break from the blogosphere to write a dissertation there. After presenting my introduction to my supervisor, he told me it was too bloggy, so I got my objectivity on and decided not to step near a blog until the blessed dissertation was complete.

7,500 odd words later (odd being the operative word – my head is so tired I can’t really be certain that I made any sort of argument or helpful statement in those 7,500) and I think I’m just a few read throughs away from a masterpiece. Ha. If only. With the deadline in two days, I can’t help but feel a LITTLE smug/uneasy that my usual record of last-minute-ness has been broken.

Aside from all of this, the past two weeks have been a time of big changes and a repetitive realization that, after the next month of exams, there’ll be no more living in Glasgow, a very interesting move home and nowhere to go in September – for pretty much the first time since I was three. Literally from nursery, Summer has always reached the inevitable end brought by the abrupt dictatorship of September, ordering us to return to our institution of education and learn a little more before proceeding to the next stage. Like Monopoly’s ‘Go’, but minus the £200.

Over the past two weeks, writing about Britishness (for more information, email me and I’ll send you a full dissertation on the topic), I have typed the word ‘transience’ about 500 times. But each time I’ve misspelt it ‘transcience’, hence the name of this entry. Realizing the complete lack of necessity in sharing this, I want to explain why I shared…’transience’ explains an ever-changing, fleeting, temporary state. And this is exactly how I envision the next little level in our lives to be. Fleeting. Temporary. But moving toward something more permanent.

The nervyness comes when I realise that maybe the ‘something more permanent’ may not occur for quite some time. In fact, it may genuinely be a myth.

If, up until now, the ‘permanent’ state has been our places of education, then maybe the next ‘something more permanent’ is marriage? A family? Children? And that’s scary. And brings with it a whole new wave of nervyness.

Maybe, then, I and we should embrace this transience. Embrace this time of change. This September, for the first time since I can remember, I won’t be shopping for stationary – one of the small joys in my academic year – or getting myself ready for the five day week structure and prepping my brain to acquire new knowledge. (I admit the five day week structure has not played a role in my university career whatsoever…this semester, it’s been a five hour week.)

But it’s going to be really exciting. And while the adults and older people in my life insist on questioning what’s next – I’ve decided ‘gap year’ is the term which best describes the twelve post-graduation months – and don’t seem best pleased when I tell them that job applications do not interest me the slightest bit right now, I am telling myself daily that it is going to be exciting. Moving home is going to be hard. Moving outside of this little bubble of studentness is going to be very odd. But the next state will not be permanent. I’m not sure any of what’s next will be permanent. But I reckon that will be a gradual realization and coming to terms with. For now, after June, transience will have to do. There may never come a time in my life when I feel untransient. (I’m making up more words here than I can count, but I’m putting that down to post-dissertation, mushy mind.) It is human nature to constantly want for more. And most probably is vital to my faith to never be content. Once  we are content, we are cosy. Therefore, transience must be positive.

Looking back on my time at university, a LOT has changed. Whether it be relationships, friendships, my own opinions, attitudes and desires. A great deal has changed. So this state of transience has been a long time in the making. And no matter how much change we are faced with in the next few months, there will always be aspects of our prior states to back us up and encourage us as we move into our next little realms. I know I’m going to take my flatmate right back home with me. Even if she does rush off and get married soon after.