Tag Archives: teenagers

Writing awkwardness

Over the last few days I’ve been writing about a burgeoning teenage relationship. The first, for my protagonist. I’d been wondering why there was so much to-ing and fro-ing on my keyboard, so much doubt about the right way to express things, so much angst as I painfully tapped out the scenes word by awkward word.

And then I realised this morning, just as I was about to give up, that maybe, actually my writing was just mirroring what was going on with my characters. That my inability to find the right thing to say, the painstaking cautiousness with which I was placing the words on the page, was just a living metaphor for the relationship that was unfolding.


It made a lot of sense. Because when I stopped to think about it, it wasn’t all awkward. Those excruciating moments where I just wanted to hide under a rock were sandwiched more often than not by others where the words flowed freely, where I just let myself be carried along by the excitement of it all.

It’s been surprisingly tricky transporting myself back to the mind of a teenager. I say surprising, because if I’m honest with myself I was stuck in the realms of teenage angst for way longer than I should have been. But it has been the innocence that has been hard to capture: an internal monologue unsullied by experience. In the scenes I’ve been writing this week, my protagonist has been twelve and thirteen. She’s clever, and she knows things, but she hasn’t lived them yet.

I’ve had to really hold onto that, because my main conceptualisation of this character has been as an older girl and woman. Thoughts and phrases have come into my head that seem to fit the situation she’s in, but actually she’s not quite there yet: I’ve stored them away for the scenes yet to come where they will be far more relevant.

And it’s in these coming scenes that my tolerance for awkwardness will really be tested. This first relationship, over before it had really begun, was just the warm-up to the main event, where adolescent awkwardness is just a sideline to the many layers of crazy we are about to find ourselves embroiled in.

I think it’s going to be rather fun.


Writing Bubble

Q is for queue


As I was mulling over words to inspire my contribution for the letter ‘q’ I kept being transported back to a very particular place. To a queue I stood in for hours and hours on end on many, many Saturday nights. Well, afternoons really: we were waiting for Whirl-Y-Gig to open, a club I frequented in my teenage years which at the time was held in Shoreditch Town Hall. It kept the rather unusual hours of eight until midnight – handy for sneaking out as a sixteen year old, and a party which people were keen to extend by whichever means they could.

The queue started to form in the middle of the afternoon. Often when we made it there by four or five it would already be snaking down Old Street – people chatting, banging drums, excited about what the night would bring. On the night this photo was taken I’m pretty sure we’d arrived early and made it to the steps of the town hall itself. This was the most coveted spot, the place you’d find the most hardened regulars, where you could look down over the pavement as the queue and the anticipation began to build. I vaguely remember dancing to The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ as it blasted out of someone’s battered ghetto blaster.

Once we were inside it really was as if we’d been taken to another dimension. Colours and music and lights and rhythm, dancing at the front of the stage as if our lives depended on it. Everyone was so friendly, their hugs and smiles quickly replacing the grey hostility of the London streets we’d left behind.

The streets around Shoreditch Town Hall were very different then. There was The Blue Note in Hoxton Square, the Comedy Cafe and a couple of pubs on Curtain Road, but nothing like the teeming mass of bars and restaurants and wannabe hipsters you find there now. There are even hotdog stalls on Old Street on the weekends, peddling their questionable wares to drunken tourists. A long, long way from how it used to be.

We took less photos then of course. It took me ages to dig this one out, trawling through boxes of old prints, and even then the picture I found was clearer in my imagination than in reality. Not that it wasn’t fun: there’s something quite different about holding physical photographs in your hands rather than just scrolling through images on a screen. I’m still friends with the core group of people I hung out with twenty (!) years ago, and it was pretty awesome to see us as we were then – at parties and festivals, in gardens and parks, cooking and laughing and getting up to no good.

We’re scattered across the globe now, from London to LA to Osaka, but there’s a bond that was formed by adventures like standing in line for hours on a grimy street in East London that I don’t think will ever be broken.

Q is for queue.


Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.  

The most important meal of the day

When I was a teacher, I was always more than slightly alarmed to see teenagers clutching litre bottles of cut price energy drinks as they arrived at school in the morning. Sometimes this was supplemented with a packet of crisps, but either way I doubted it was going to do much to set them up for a day of learning.

Just by talking to kids about their breakfast habits, it was clear that there was a strong correlation between a healthy and nutritious morning meal and the ability to focus, study and learn – something that has been confirmed by numerous studies over the years.

It is a sad fact that one in seven British schoolchildren go to school without having eaten breakfast at all, but when you look at Africa the figures are even more stark. Research has highlighted that about a third of people in Uganda and Rwanda are gravely undernourished – an estimated fifteen million people. For children, this becomes yet another factor which holds them back from reaching their full potential.

It is for this reason that Send A Cow has launched the Break… Fast Appeal which aims to raise £500,000 to give children in Africa a better start to their days and to their lives. And as part of this appeal they have launched a fantastic free recipe book, ‘The Most Important Meals of Their Lives’, which is available online here and captures in stunning images the food that fuelled the achievements of some of the greatest people in the history of humankind.

From Winston Churchill to Rosa Parks, from Florence Nightingale to Nelson Mandela, this intriguing and inspiring book offers an insight into the meals that created history. And not only that, the clear and straightforward recipes offer you the chance to recreate the meals for yourself.

I rather like the look of Cleopatra’s Ancient Egyptian bread sweetened with honey and dried fruits.


Someone else who was keen on a starchy start to the day was Jane Austen, with her breakfast of bread and cake accompanied by tea and cocoa.


Or perhaps you’d rather go for something a little more savoury, like Charles Darwin’s feast of game and eggs?


Whatever your tastebuds crave in the morning you’re bound to find something in this book to tickle your fancy. I’m certainly looking forward to trying out some of the recipes as an alternative to our breakfast staple of porridge and fruit.

But this is more than just a recipe book. It is a fantastic educational resource that could be used at home or in school not only to raise awareness of the importance of breakfast for children in Africa, but also to spark off conversations with young people about how they start their day. Perhaps by exploring the meals that their heroes enjoyed, teenagers might be encouraged to rediscover this essential meal for themselves – who knows, it might just be enough to release the potential of the people who will shape our future just its subjects have shaped our past.

You can find out more about the appeal and download your copy of the book at www.sendacow.org.uk/breakfast. Whilst the book is free, there is a suggested contribution of £2.50 to the appeal. The UK government are doubling all donations made until the end of June 2014, meaning that your £2.50 would provide enough to support an African child for a month. For £30, you could support a child for an entire year! Now that’s a lot of breakfasts…








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