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A nineteen year old with a camera in rural Norfolk. http://rosajoy.com

Friday, 28 August 2009

Hold the front page!

[SMCOM:] Rosa (17, Norfolk) is ridiculously excited at becoming a bone fida, published journalist.

So back in June, College hosted a so-called Career's Day. These sorts of things are always dire, as you probably know. So it wasn't really any wonder that I was sitting at the back of the room texting K when the editor of our local paper began handing round that week's copy.

Journalism is on my list of "Possible Actual Careers". (This list differs immensely from my other list, entitled: "Possible Careers".) I have no idea - as, I think, I have a right not to at only 17 - of what I want to persue as a job. But saying you want to "go into journalism" is like saying you want to "go into property". Building? Surveying? Investing? Therefore, it suits me well.
Creative? Kinda...
English-based? Sort of...
Money? Um...
Yes, it ticks lots of boxes.

Even so, I wasn't expecting much from Editor C's lecture. I was far more interested in hearing about K's eventful bus journey than a talk on local press and services to the community. It wasn't until I heard the words "work experience" that my ears pricked up.

The Eastern Daily Press are notoriously difficult to get a placement with. To get work experience you generally need a degree and a nice reference before you are even considered. So, Editor C's lecture on the importance of prior experience seemed to me a little unfair. Equally, I'd blatantly been sitting at the back and texting on my phone while he'd been speaking, so when the offer came ("We may possibly have an opening for a placement during the summer, if anyone is looking for experience...") I felt a bit sorry for myself.
Apologies K, I thought, I've got an impromptu interview to initiate.

The long and short of it is that I voiced my concerns that the EDP didn't always report "responsibly", to which Editor C called my bluff, and I reached into my (metaphorical) hat and pulled out a handful of cases where I'd been less-than-impressed. "Of course," I said, "It's not normally the individual reporter's fault. I'd imagine it's the head office who demand certain spins. Most journalists want to report fairly and service the public to the best of their ability. Especially for small regional papers, where trust is so important." Insert smile here.
I got the gig.

The past three days have been immense. I will never ever ever insult local press again. I expected to be making tea and running papers between offices all week, reminding myself it's all good on the CV, but what I got was so much more. In the past three days I've researched backgrounds for breaking stories, answered phones, travelled out in the field, interviewed kids, proof-read articles, and come this close to conducting a phone interview - before I bottled it. And better than that, I've been published.

Ok, ok. So they're only press releases. Perhaps 10cm-worth of story space in the Daily. But still. I was sent them, I wrote them up, and attached all the notes and subcodes and adhered to all the EDP 'style rules', and now four of them have been printed.
"You should cut them out and keep them," Dom said today as we sat in his car waiting for the photographer to show for a piece on local vandals.
I tried to play it cool. "Yeah... My little claim to fame."
"Nooo," Dom replied, "People come here for weeks and don't get anything printed!"
To which I squeaked, and ruined my façade.
It's all down to luck, of course. Today's edition must have been quiet. But still.

Here they are.

Now don't tell me that isn't cool. It is cool.

I must have done something right. Editor C (who managed to warm to me during the week, once I'd put the phone away, stopped insulting his paper, and bought everyone doughnuts) wants me back for the Christmas rush.



Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Holy Trinity

1) Nikon D40 SLR

2) Adobe Photoshop 7

3) Flickr Pro

You know it's true.

So, Photoshop came today. And I got WAY too excited about it. And, apparently, excitement spawns creativity. Ergo, one new blog banner (and one for K too...)

As well as...


and many, many, many more.

When I told E the news, he asked whether I'd done anything useful since I got home. I told him that he is going straight to Photography Hell.
K was more encouraging: "WOW! Photoshop rules!!"

Amen sister.

Monday, 24 August 2009

So, what do you do?

When you’ve messed up. No, really messed up. Dashed-your-hopes-and-dreams, potentially-jeopardised-your-relationship, ruined-your-future kind of messed up?

Well, you cry for sure. Ideally not in the middle of the corridor, but sometimes it can’t be helped. And then you get put in offices with directors and deputy directors and teachers, and talked about over your own head. And then you start to listen to what people are saying, and calm down a bit.

And then you walk away and think about it, and talk to your boyfriend, and make a promise.

And then you spend an evening (and a morning) together, and then you call your best friend who says you’ve been screwed over and they should all go to hell. And then you call your other best friend, who tells you to stop being an idiot and pull yourself together.

And then you eat a lot of chocolate and decide to kick some examboard ass, and spend a few days working on a project you enjoy and excel in. And in the meantime, you do some decorating and find a load of old photo frames to cover your walls with. Happy smiley pictures which remind you that life isn’t controlled by Edexcel, nor Cambridge, nor any of the idiots that make you believe that.

And then you find yourself, three days later, realising that you haven’t really messed up. Most of your hopes and dreams aren’t dashed. Your relationship isn’t jeopardised. And your future most certainly isn’t ruined.

Sure, you have to retake Music to get an A. That’s a bummer. That, you can be gutted about. But you’ll get there. And sure, you were told you were on an A in French, when actually you got a C. But you’re dropping French.

And you got an A where it was important. And there’s your EPQ to come. And no, you aren’t your brainbox “5 As and counting” boyfriend. But at least you don’t have to worry about an Oxbridge interview anymore.

You finally get round to buying your birthday present, and download Photoshop, and you treat yourself to a Flickr Pro Account while you’re at it. You read some more of your book. And you know that Yeah, next year’s going to be tough. But you’ll get there. So you stick some music on loud; a song you don’t really want to listen to because it reminds you of how things should have been. But you sing along with the lyrics anyway, because it always cheers you up, and come next year, you’re darn well going to have it on full volume.

Don't think it won't happen, just because it hasn't happened yet.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


Well, we busted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record baby
Than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighbourhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you're tired and you just want to close your eyes
And follow your dreams down

Well, we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

Now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
Now I'm living to grow young again
And hear your sisters voice calling us home across the open yards
Believing we could cut someplace of our own
With these drums and these guitars

We made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim
The walls of my room are closing in
There's a war outside still raging
They say it ain't ours anymore to win
I wanna sleep beneath peaceful skies and in my lover's bed
With a wide open country in my heart
And these romanics dreams in my head

Because we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

No retreat, baby,
No surrender.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Redemption Songs

I feel the need to redeem myself from yesterday. I don't soley use Youtube for watching the Muppets.

Look! One of my favourite classical singers singing one of my favourite arias, with added comedy.

Look! One of my favourite American rockers singing one of my favourite songs, with added '70s fashion.

Monday, 17 August 2009

2.5 minutes of pure genius

K sent me this. I love her.

Yes. You will find yourself singing it all day.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Beaches and Cameras

Normally, they don’t mix. But EPQ called, and when you gotta get a shot you gotta get a shot. So, I dragged K, E, and the wonderful G* down to the beach and… waited. Yes, waited. Because the shot I needed was a magnificent sunset over the waves, with sea breezes and sand dunes.

*Her name doesn’t actually begin with G. It begins with L. But I have far too many important people whose names begin with L, so we’ll use the first letter of her glorious nickname instead.

And while we waited, we went paddling.

And then we went swimming. Only, there are no photos. And before you scream liars!, I’d like to see you use a dSLR in salty water. It was freezing. And incredibly fun.

But I do have photos of us jumping off sand dunes…

…and hugging trees…

…and getting very, very cold.

I love my friends very much. And yes, K has changed her hair again.

And finally at eight O’clock, the sun flared up. E stood on top of the dune, looked out across the waters, and I snapped the shutter.

And the hilarious thing is, after all that, I’m not allowed to upload it. The bigshots at AQA will have me done for plagiarism or perverting the cause of justice, or something.
But, I can upload these. And, when all’s said and done, I think they’re more important than AQA’s exam work.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

My Saturday Job

It isn't anything like K's (waitressing), or Lo's (mucking out horse stables). I work for my piano teacher, at her kids' music group: Youth Into Music.

There is way too much I could write about it. But the fact is that, this week, we've been having a summer school, and I've been teaching under-8s how to play the recorder(/guitar/chime bars/violin) for three hours a day. Ergo, I am shattered.

So all I'll say today is this. Little J (cute as a button, you wouldn't believe) had been looking at me over her guitar with a strange expression for a while. Professional that I am, I'd been tactfully ignoring her. Suddenly, her hand shot up. "I think," she said, clearly and with great weight, "I think, Rosa, that I will always be younger than you."

They drive me round the bend, but I do love them.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Aah! Too many posts!

What the hell? Why are there suddenly so many posts?!

It doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't. Just don't click here. Whatever you do.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Hello, Home!

Hello Garage, with your cranky door and your flickery light!
Hello Utility Room, with your strange musty smell and your piles of patient laundry!
Hello Kitchen, with your overflowing shoerack and your freezing floor!
Hello Staircase, with your scratchy carpet and your peeling paint!
Hello Bedroom, with your...

Who the hell tidied my room?!?!

Friday, 7 August 2009

It's not the winning...

Even though the flies have claimed the gîte as their own;
Even though the house has proved smaller and less sturdy than we’d imagined;
Even though we had to organise a party for 120 people, instead of spending out holiday elsewhere;
Even though the Merc was less robust than we’d hoped for;

it’s been a pretty fantastic three weeks.

Our departure is looming. Come tomorrow, we’ll be heading out on a jet plane towards left-hand-drive, dull drizzle, and (finally!) a computer with internet access. And yet, today was decidedly English. We had English weather (clouds), English music (Billy Bragg), and then we played Monopoly. And bought English houses.

Yes, despite the mishaps, the last three weeks have looked far less like this:

(This was E’s hand, by the way. E – I-never-ever-ever-lose-at-Monopoly – ’s hand.)

And altogether more like my game:

It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts. And while it may be back to UCAS, back to my AQA Bacc EPQ, back to essays and prospectuses and work, I feel very much like it’s been a winner of a holiday.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

My sister is so pretty.

Just look.
It makes you sick.

Pooling Around

Because of this:

We were gîte-bound today.

No more clowning around for us.

So, we did this instead.

As well as this.

And, finally, I thoroughly embarrassed myself with this.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Al fresco

he he he.

The Vehicle of Terror's Amazing Shredder


Come visit the WORLD'S MOST PETRIFYING - the awe-inspiring, nerve-shattering, Vehicle of Terror!

It'll shred your tyres and shred your nerves!

WATCH as the tyres deflate on a main road!
HEAR the clunk of metal-on-asphalt!
SMELL the burning rubber!
GASP as they attempt to find a garage!

Will they make it in time?!
Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Thoughts on blogging, and a ball of fluff

Blogging isn’t like a journal, I’ve decided. It’s not like a daily account. Today I did this and this, and this happened, and I felt like this. It’s not something that has to be filled in. It’s more like a scrapbook. Random little things which happened to be important, or general impressions, or huge, detailed accounts of one, tiny event. Whatever.

So, for the last fortnight there’ve been posts on entire days, on dreams, on general thoughts which perhaps had nothing at all to do with this holiday. An interactive pick ‘n’ mix of me (as I want to present myself here, on Mystery Companion – oh, the mystic, manipulative powers of autobiography).

But, I foresee this week as different. In lots of ways, the last fortnight didn’t quite go to plan. By this I mean, E and I – and his family – ended up organising an entire party for 120 people. And while in some ways I was perfectly satisfied – in the Mediterranean, in my organisational element – there wasn’t that much to write about.

Now, Mum, Dad, and L’s arrival seems to have injected some of the fantasy back into our stay. The atmosphere is different. The village is different. And it helps there aren’t hundreds of English people running around. We’re going places.


Update: Oh, the irony.


In light of that, I feel the day worthy of record. We drove to Mirepoix market this morning, where last week E bought me this necklace made of seedpods.

And where, today, I picked up souvenirs for K and Lo. I like buying them things. They have completely different personalities, and yet they are both incredibly easy to shop for. For K, I have a necklace (which suits her character perhaps more than it suits her…). And for Lo, this:

It reminds me of her. Take from that what you will.

Also, we visited the town of Castalnaudry, and wandered by the canal, and visited the church. The organ was built in the 17th Century by some top bloke, but it was silent today. Weather not great – for the first time since I’ve been here – and L pining for the gîte’s pool.

And here is a ball of fluff I found in the market.

Isn’t it the cutest thing you ever did see.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Mum, Dad, and L arrived yesterday evening. I was happy to see them – I’ve missed them a lot in the last two weeks – but the enthusiastic honk of the foreign, silver Merc (Mum is ridiculously excited to be driving a Mercedes) which E and I walked down to meet, brought a loud and abrupt end to our two fairytale days.

There wasn’t a lot of time to think before The Relatives left. I think that the sudden surprise of it, of being the only two left in the country, was part of the initial thrill. Just me and him, alone in a hilltop village in the South of France for two days. Privacy, for the first time in two weeks. A house for ourselves. Space to be Us and grown up. Freedom.

In our minds, the Mediterranean heat drew a kind of shimmering haze in the distance, and my parents’ imminent arrival seemed far in the future. So, for 36 hours, we drank wine and wandered in the hills and read books together and made meals and put the washing on the line. We gorged ourselves on chocolate, and talked pseudo-intellectually about literature and life, and then fell into bed together.

I was thinking about it last night while L, always precocious in her reading choice, cross-referenced “Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers” with her English version. I was writing this post and thinking about fiction and reality, and whether true-life fairytales are forced, expected, exist at all. Sometimes, yes, and only if you’re incredibly lucky – I think.

The past few days have whet my appetite. E and I, and our time alone here; an apéritif. A soupçon. A taste of what is to come?

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Aside Reading for Meaning

I mentioned that E read This is all. He picked it up when I left it on the table, still not yet opened, because he’ll read anything he can reach. I warned him, from somewhere in my fifteen-year-old memory, that it was very much a Girls’ Book; Cordelia, and here relationship with Will, and the romance (and, something naggingly reminds me now, symbolic meaning) of the trees, and the loss of her virginity in the church. A book to her unborn child, first person narrative. Yes, a girls’ book.

He read it anyway.

E races through books. He read The Tempest in 24 hours, Joyce’s Portrait in a few days, Far from the Madding Crowd in a week. This book, this book which is all, is a brick. But I’d never seen him read that way before. It wasn’t just the speed – all 800 pages in three days – but the feverish way (a kind of desperation?) to gulp it all down, plot, language, syntax, symbolism, all in one. He said to me, that the book is so thick with all the things you so want to know that reading it in one go is the only way to make sure you snatch it all up. I disagree; I like to savour my food.

But the other thing I noticed was the way E would sometimes physically put the book down, and walk away from it. Once when we were by the pool he got up and jumped in halfway through a page. He said it was because it all piled up, “and you have to clear your head from it for a bit.” The plot (although I haven’t reached that far yet) gets progressively more harrowing, as relationships fall to pieces and awful things happen to Cordelia. But E said he also identified elements our relationship within the book, and made parallels between This is all and things I’ve written, and that the literary aspects were incredibly interesting. There’s so much in it, that I guess I wonder why his head didn’t explode from cramming everything in at once.
“Why is Brideshead our set text, and not this?” E asked. I agree: every Lit student should read This is all. It makes you want to be a Lit student.

Reading for Meaning

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that some books are life changing. Not life changing in that they suddenly mean everything around you becomes different; your entire life, and everyone and everything in it, changes. Perhaps, then, a better description would be thought changing. They make you see things differently, and accept things differently, and think about things differently. Some books open doors in your head you never knew existed. And some books open windows you’ve been bashing your head against for years. I was given a book like that in October 2007, and in November I stopped reading it.

The date would be far more foggy, except for that it coincided with my second NYCGB audition. I was in Cambridge, and, as soon as it was over, I walked across the road and bought my own copy of Aidan Chambers’ This is all. Back home, I swapped my bookmark from my teacher’s copy to my own, and put it on my bedside table. And didn’t open it again.

I knew it was important. I knew it was going to explain things which I was desperate to understand. But I also knew I wasn’t ready for it yet. Not that I didn’t follow it, not even that I didn’t understand it, but that I couldn’t comprehend it. The significance was tiny but distinct. I knew it would explain, in strange and beautiful detail, two things that I wasn’t then ready to realise. The first was writing, and the second was love.

This is all centres around the Pillow Books – a scrapbook of diaries, journals, accounts, poems, thoughts, musings – of a girl from 15 to 19. It’s fiction, but it’s one of those fictions which seem so real (or which you want to be so real?) that they don’t feel like a novel. Cordelia loves music, she loves writing, and she loves Will. She has flaws and she has endearments. And I wish so much that she were real, and that we could talk together.

That’s a testimony of Chambers’ writing. I remember marvelling at just how well he captured the thoughts of a fifteen-year-old girl – that he was spot on with how she feels, how she behaves. And she’s so insightful because of it. She’s a character, of course, and so she’s a fifteen-year-old with an adult mind behind her. So when she tries to explain how A poem should not mean, but be, my revelation comes too. The long and short of it is that I identify with her, mentally, sexually, emotionally, and that she provides a more educated approach – feeds me higher level ideas – than I can come up with myself. Her relationship with Will, with her friend Izumi, with her teacher and her clarinet and her pen and paper – these are relationships I too have, and yet she gives me insight into all of them in ways I’ve not seen before. Windows, and bashing your head.

This holiday, I put it in my suitcase without thinking. It seemed right, that I should read it now. Perhaps it’s because I’m more knowledgeable in my writing, more clued up to understand what she’s getting at. And, I have E. Who, incidentally, has read all 800 pages in three days. Click here.

I haven’t started it again, yet, but I will before we go home. I’m not like my boyfriend, I won’t read in that time – although, I think I probably could, considering how excited I am about it. I want to savour it, I guess. Chew it over, let it sleep, come back to it all. I’ll keep you posted.


I’m not totally crazy for leaving a book unread for almost two years. These are comments from a teenage book prize’s judges, on their reasons why they didn’t award This is all in the 12-to-16-years category:

“We do not want to leave it unsaid that the aforementioned novel This is all by Aidan Chambers for us, too, is one of the most important and beautiful books of 2007. The high expectations with which each one of us started out reading it were fully met by the author. In fact, this in all respects spectacular novel about Cordelia Kenn's road to maturity impressed us so deeply that for some time we were unable to read another book. We would have loved to award the novel with the maximum prize […] if we had felt convinced that reading This is all does not require the deep understanding and reading skills that most readers between the ages of 12 and 16 lack […] Even those who claim that not everything in a book should be understood in order to learn from it will agree that sometimes readers may as yet not be experienced enough and had better wait for a while.”

Is it just me, or are they not simply talking about the lexis of the book, but also the content and the context? I think so. And the thing about being unable to read another book afterwards? Totally true.

Reading for Meaning (II)

Reading for Plot

Normally, I read absolute garbage when I'm on holiday.
"Damaged" by a pseudo-named care worker: the case of how another child was failed by inept social services. I cry into my pillow at night, I really do. Why do I pick up these books in the first place?

The other nasty habit I have – apart from reading misery memoirs – is having five novels on the go at once. My eyes are bigger than my literary stomach. So this holiday I decided also to complete some of the reading I’ve had stored up for months. And, in once case, since November 2007.

First on my list was Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Back in my ND days, we were about to start it for coursework. The cover reminds me of dark bus journeys on foreboding mornings, when I could dive like Celia into its cool fountain and escape my petty worries. (And also, in Cee’s tacitly seducing fashion, of replying to E’s morning-bus-ride texts. “How’s Catholic Central today?” It was just before we got together.)

I see too much of my younger self in Briony. The overactive imagination, the precocious sense of always being right, the notebooks filled with “stories”. My masterpiece at ten was “SS3”, and I regarded it with as much pride as Briony with “Arabella”.

In any case, I finished it this morning by the pool in the shade (fantastically audacious reveal at the end; heart-wrenching, throw the book across the room epilogue), and made a start on Brideshead Revisited.

It was not by choice. Mrs C has set it as an A2 text, and I was initially more than disappointed. Perhaps it had something to do with Dad’s summary of “a book about finding moral guidance and re-assessing your life”. Fantastic choice, for a bunch of seventeen-year-olds. Or maybe E’s outraged 50-pages-in review: “It’s about a load of public schoolboys and their upper-class escapades.” Things appeared to happen, just not in a very interesting way. It was going to be, all in all, a dull read.

But, in the Mediterranean sunshine, in the lavish holiday laziness, I feel I may have been a bit mistaken. Yes, it is about public schoolboys, their upper-class escapades, and not a lot happening in a very boring way. But. I’ve come to the conclusion, on pp100, that I don’t get it. I don’t get the literary meaning behind Anthony’s five-page monologue. Nor the reason why the Flyte’s Catholicism is so interesting to Charles Ryder, or what it has to do with me. Nor how, in fact, I am supposed to find symbolism and theme and literary meaning (what is that, exactly? Will someone explain?) behind a book which is, primarily, about public schoolboys and their upper-class escapades.*

But this is ok.

I have reached my peace. I read for plot, and nothing more. And in doing so, I’ve found, it’s actually quite amusing to poke fun at.

*AND, while I’m at it, it treats women appallingly. This is not ok. This is not ok at all.


There is another book I want to write about. But it needs a post of its own.