Wednesday, 23 November 2011

1000 views - Thank you!

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

Just a very brief thank you - we passed 1000 views at Love from Life yesterday. So thank you for reading, for commenting and for being lovely.

Muchos gracias.

Just to let you all know, I'm on Twitter at emilyjstedman. I very much enjoy Twitter conversations, however perplexing I found them at first.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Face Your Fears: An Afternoon of St Agur.

Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? 

Spiders are not a problem for me. Bring 'em on. Actually, let me revise that. Spiders that I know are there are absolutely fine, surprise spiders I'm not so good with. Yes to Boris the tarantula, no to anonymous arachnids in my bed. Similarly, I'm down with heights, sharks are pretty cool, and being alone in the dark is just One Of Dem Tings. I'll admit to a slight aversion to knives, but that's just a Risk vs Benefit thing. The benefit of you pretending to stab me with a kitchen knife is outweighed by the risk that you may actually stab me with a kitchen knife. I digress; I do have one genuine phobia. Mould.

Even thinking about it makes me feel really odd. University kitchen fridges are famed for mould, perhaps explaining why I have an aversion to buying anything that requires refrigerating. And why most of my food comes in a tin. Everyone always tells me "But that's what penicillin is made from!" I'm allergic. Move on. More upsettingly, I've frequently been told "But that's what cheese and yoghurt is!". As a dairy enthusiast, I am fairly well versed with the yoghurt and cheese industry. It started after I dabbled in small-scale curds and whey production as a seven year old, when I left a glass of milk to fester in the microwave for two weeks whilst we were in Ibiza. Coming home to that was a bit of a downer (I remember very little else about that holiday), made worse by Mummy Stedders announcing that that was how They made cheese. I didn't know who these mysterious They people were, but they clearly had sick minds, a lot of microwaves and really nice tans.

Fortunately, my older and occasionally more rational self understands that, although many dairy products are effectively mould (as is anything that requires fermenting I suppose), it's done in a controlled manner and That's Okay. It's the uncontrolled, accidental mould that is Not Okay - much like surprise spiders. I'm still struggling with blue cheese; I know it's just as controlled as regular cheese, but the whole fun of a phobia is surely the irrationality. Like the people that are scared of buttons, or oranges. "BOO! I'm full of vitamin C." 

So the other afternoon, as I waited for my hair dye to take (more on that anon - that dyeing session was a learning curve and-a-flopping-half) Mummy Stedders and I sat watching Elf and contemplating what we should have for lunch. Her idea of course, but we ended up having St Agur on crackers. Gosh. It was just so yummy. For those of you who are unversed with the glorious St Agur, it's a very soft, blue cheese. Not a lot of blue, I'll admit, but it was there nonetheless. It stared up at me from my first cracker, and dared me to do what I had never done before.

The key I've discovered over the years is, when doing something scary, to not think. Not even a little bit. Just stop it. Whether you're going alone into a roomful of people you don't know, standing up to sing solo, or jumping off of a 35ft totem pole onto a trapeze, don't think, just do it. This is not the time for looking before leaping; it's the thinking that'll stop you. So after a nanosecond of hesitation, I wolfed down the first bluey, seemingly mould-ridden cracker. It was so good. I don't even know how many I had in the end, but I ate a good half a wheel of it in a delirious and delicious blur. Maybe there's something good to be discovered from embracing one's fears.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be smothering myself in mould any time soon. Eugh.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

When is it too early for Christmas?

There's more of gravy than of grave about you.

My general standing is that all bets are off once November has hit and, more specifically, Daddy Stedders' birthday has passed. Generally there are four stages of Christmas mood. First comes an awareness that the festive season is on the way. Shops are adorned with tinsel, and you can hear Wizard just about everywhere you go. Second comes the thought process: do I have enough blank cards left from last year to scrape through? What should I buy for Brother Stedders? Where can I inconspicuously leave my Christmas list? Third is the merging of acceptance that Christmas is coming with personal participation. It's sometime during this period that The Choirboys are ceremoniously welcomed back to my car. And the final stage, the Christmas Rush. Although the time of glad tidings and goodwill to all men has hardly come as a surprise, the day itself always creeps up alarmingly quickly. Suddenly it seems like everything still has to be done. Where is all the selotape? Have we bought enough parsley? What the giggidy goo can I get for Brother Stedders?!

This year, as an experiment, I've done it a little differently. Stage three always seemed to come a little too late; I had never managed to give myself enough enforced festive feeling to feel sufficiently jolly when the time actually came. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas (as if you hadn't guessed that already). However, one needs a little motivation to complete the less entertaining festive activities, such as writing hundreds of cards, or testing far too many fairy lights. So a couple of days after Daddy Stedders' birthday this week, Mummy Stedders and I curled up on the sofa in our Christmas pyjamas and Santa hats, watched a snowy film and drank tea from the snowman mugs. The Choirboys went in my car. I started singing carols in the shower. Yesterday I ate a mince pie.

Funnily enough, now I've initiated the festivities, everything else seems to be fitting nicely into place. The Christmas trees in shops are beautiful, not gaudy. I'm appreciating the presence of Wizard. As I wrote this post in a glittery conglomerate coffee shop yesterday, I could see out across the town. The lights were twinkling, and maybe it was just me, but there seemed to be a hint of excitement in the air.

Bring on Christmas; I'm more than ready this year.

Unless, of course, I'm sick of it by then. I'll let you know how it goes. 


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Emily Jane by Paul

When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.

There I was on Friday, merrily getting lost in Spitalfields after a much needed haircut, when a man asked me if he could take my photo.

Turns out his name is Paul and he writes a fashion blog called London Fashion by Paul . Seems to do what it says on the tin. He asked me very nicely if I could tell all my lovely friends about his wonderful blog, so here you are. You should read it.

Would just like to note, I wasn't as angry as I appear to be in the picture; I'm just not allowed to smile in photos.

What lesson did we learn from this excitement?

Always say yes to strangers.

(Terms and conditions apply)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

It's been a while

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.

For the past seven and a half weeks I’ve been at university. I’m nestled somewhere in the depths of North West London studying CreativeWriting. No, not English. Not even English with Creative Writing. Just straight Creative Writing. Apparently my future employers will deem it The Soft Option, but I wanted to do the comedy module. Seemed like a laff.

“So,” people say, “you’re going to be a writer?”

The thing is, before seven and a half weeks ago I hadn’t considered it as a realistic potential career choice. Writing was just something I enjoyed, much as I enjoy art galleries, pie, and all sorts of other glorious things. Just like the numerous art gallery and pie-based careers I had overlooked, being a writer had simply not crossed my mind.

That’s what university is all about, so I’m told. People (the same people that ask if I’ll be a writer) say that it’s here that you find out who you truly are. I can see that; I’ve met new people, done new things ,and done even more of the things I had done before. But in those first five weeks I became someone I didn’t know very well. Gone were the perpetual heels and the everyday hair washes. I waved goodbye to eating anything other than custard creams, and I frequently couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten fruit, vegetables or meat. Most evenings were spent with cider, and I went for five consecutive days without milk…several times. 3am was my new bedtime, evenwhen I hadn’t been out on the razz, and I didn’t have any clean clothes. Acouple of times I said ‘innit’ without being ironic. In short, I was a dirty, nocturnal, inarticulate mess, surviving on carbohydrates and booze. Also known as a common or garden student.

In no way am I attempting to encourage stereotyping students. There are plenty of perfectly clean students, who do their laundry and cook every night. I’ve met them; they live upstairs.

Inevitably what one reverts
to at home
After those five initial weeks, during which I’d only done one food shop and one laundry excursion, I went Home. I arrived on a Wednesday with embarrassingly visible roots, a vitamin deficiency and eight loads of washing to do. On Thursday I was in a National Trust café with Daddy Stedders. On Friday I watched Have I Got News For You with Mummy Stedders. On Saturday night I was inbed by half ten. On Sunday morning I was up by eight. I ate three meals a day and didn’t drink any alcohol. My hair and clothes were clean. It was nice. I felt more like myself then than I had in the past five weeks.

So here’s my question: am I actually capable of living normally whilst in the abnormality of university halls? Goodness knows, but I’m giving it a go. The two and a half weeks that have passed since I first went home have been promising. Today I got up, unprovoked, at nine. I haven’t spent all day unwashed in bed eating dry cereal. I wore fresh clothes, and I’m currently enjoying some casserole. I’ve even got a haircut booked for tomorrow.

Importantly, I have discovered one vital thing.
Before, people said “So you’re going to be a writer?” and I would reply “I guess so, maybe.”
Now they say “So you’re going to be a writer?” and I say “I already am.”

Prepare for an info dump; life is teaching me oodles.