Talk Literary to Me

Excuse my language here, but there is no other way to say it – books are the shit. I mean that in a good way. Books are my greatest joy, apart from carbs and my dog Chewie. For three years, I studied BA English Literature & Drama at the University of Winchester; I basically did a degree in books. However, doing a degree in books means that you have to read and you more than likely don’t get a choice of what you read. When you do get a choice, you quickly learn to regret that choice (don’t pick a favourite book for a dissertation topic, it will soon no longer be a favourite, at least for your final year). Reading becomes graded and regimented, and the joy of reading can sometimes fade (especially when you look at texts through psychoanalytic lenses. Thanks for that, Freud).  However, university is now complete, I never have to look at Lacan again, and my love of reading has returned! Less sitting in a hot study room, banging my head on the table, more sitting down with a cuppa with a good book. Riding off the back of my renewed love of reading, here are my top six books (so far). Let me know in the comments below what you think of my choices, and what your favourite books are.

 

6. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, 1911

6. Peter Pan.JPG

Ah, that childhood classic. Well for me, the book was not a childhood classic. The 1953 Disney move certainly was. I remember young Rosie putting the VHS in and singing along to ‘We’re Following the Leader’, only to rewind it to sing it again. Looking back, the film was certainly not very politically correct, but young Rosie had no care for that; she just had a desire to sing and an odd crush on Peter Pan. It was when I was older, in my early teens, that I discovered Peter Pan was a book. In my early teens, I was going through an ‘elitism’ phase. I had a side fringe, a studded belt, and an attitude that shouted ‘the only real music is classic rock’. Yeah, I was one of those. That elitism seeped its way into my reading habits, and I started reading classics because ‘they are the only real literature (followed by a teenage grunt and sassy hair flick)’. I remember reading it in bed, feeling ridiculously proud of myself for ‘being cooler than the other girls’ because I was reading a classic book. However, it elicited something more. It was the first book that ever truly struck a chord with me. It pulled me back into childhood wonder and totally absorbed me into the world within its pages. I read it in one sitting, and swiftly read it again the next night. As a teenager, it brought me back to being a child. As an adult, it’s a book that makes me happy in its simplicity, something I have yet to find in another book.

 

5. Voyage in the Dark by Jeans Rhys, 1934

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This was a book introduced to me by The Modern Age module in my second year. I had never heard of it or Jean Rhys before, nor had I ever been really invested in Modernist literature. I mean, I liked a bit, but that was all. I did something that you should never do in university (please learn from me and my mistakes), and that is read the book at 1am the night before the module. I thought I would do a little skim read, maybe check out Shmoop.com for the book’s themes, but I became instantly invested in the text. It’s about a young woman, a chorus girl, who moves away from her home and has to support herself in rainy England. It’s a simple premise, but incredibly enticing. The text deals with taboo subjects of the time, notably female sexuality, race issues, abortion, and the crushing of the darn patriarchy. Feminist and ground breaking? Hit me up. This is the book that really turned me into reading Modernist literature, and turned me into an accidental Modernist scholar. If you like feminism, modernism, and aren’t afraid of bluntness, give this book a go.

 

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005

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I’m not normally a dystopia kind of gal. All of the dystopian fiction I have tried to read was too violent or too regressive for my taste e.g. too many alien slave girls. That is, until I read Never Let Me Go. This books follows the character of Kathy as she grows up in a specialist English boarding school and how she deals with love, loss, and life. Very simple, very lovely. Oh, and a large group of humans are bred as clones to serve the purpose of being a donor. Ah.
I’ve managed to put my finger on two points as to why Never Let Me Go is one of my favourite books. Firstly, it’s just a good, easy, heartfelt read. I took it on holiday with me to Dubai and read it sat by the pool. It is the perfect holiday read. It’s also easy to read because the characters are easy to understand and to relate to (that is, apart from being bred as a clone). Personally, I believe these characters are the most realistically written of any book I have read so far. Secondly, it has an underlying socialist message that questions human morality and ethics. That’s right, lull the audience into a false sense of warmth and then strike them with the Orwellian messages. I have always admired books that can entertain and make you think, and this book made me question the notion of morality and identity for days. In fact, I haven’t read it in about a year and it’s still making me question what I thought I knew.

 

3. Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt by John Cooper Clarke, 20143. Ten Years

A-Level English crushed my love of poetry. We seemed to only study Romanticism, Blake, Bysshe, Byron; all self-important men with whiny words that bored me to death. I decided poetry was not for me, except for good ol’ Shakespeare’s sonnets.  That’s until I discovered John Cooper Clarke. I was meandering my local Waterstones, and came upon this book in the poetry section. I loved the fantastical Rolling Stones-esque cover, opened it up to page 49 and was sold. Page 49 was a poem entitled ‘Evidently Chicken Town’ and it was like nothing I had ever read before. It was rude and rhythmic and real. It was intelligent and silly and garish and all encompassingly punk. After buying the book, I fell in love with one of the poems called ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, which was made famous by the Arctic Monkeys. For me, Ten Years, upholds everything I like about poetry. The musicality, the brashness, the honesty, the creativity. I tell you, I would pay good money to read John Cooper Clarke’s rewriting of the Romantics.

 

2. Just Kids by Patti Smith, 2010

2. Just Kids

My enjoyment of Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids came as a big surprise to me. I had heard such marvellous things about the writing of the book, but I had never listen to any of Patti Smith’s music before. I just assumed she was your usual nineteen-seventies punk rocker, all loudness, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Hand on heart, Just Kids is the most beautiful book I have ever read. It is so incredibly descriptive, you can feel her emotions dripping off the page. It documents the struggles she and others like her went through, the rise to fame, the high and the low points. What impressed me the most, is that you can hear Smith’s voice throughout. She has such a distinctive way of writing, whether that be poetry, lyrics, or her books, and she unashamedly keeps her voice. I would recommend Just Kids to anyone for the sheer beauty of it, but I would highly recommend it to my friends trying to make their way in the arts. She documents that endeavour perfectly, but also inspires.

 

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963

1. The Bell Jar

This is the book that made me me. I would not be the Rosie Lewis I am today without it. I first read this book when I was about fifteen, when I knew that I wanted to study Literature. I was starved for influential female writers, so I made it my mission to read as many books by female authors as I could. When I read The Bell Jar at that young age, I could feel the importance of the book. I could tell it was ground-breaking and daring but I couldn’t really relate to it. I enjoyed it and put it back on the shelf and in the back of my mind. I re-read it again when I was eighteen, and I broke down sobbing on a train because it affected me that much. The story follows Esther Greenwood as she tries to be successful whilst struggling with mental health problems. Every theme, every interaction, every thought Esther had had felt like mine. Every struggle and joy she had, I had a variant in my life. I have read this book more than ten times in the last two years and it has gotten me through my worst depressive period. I can genuinely say what pulled me through was anti-depressants, love from my family and friends, and The Bell Jar. For a book written by Sylvia Plath about depression, treatment, and oppression, it’s a surprisingly uplifting book. Every time I read The Bell Jar, I find something new and resonant within it. It has made me, changed me, and inspired me; that is why it is my favourite ever book.

 

Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think of the post, and what your favourite books are in the comments. I’m all about that conversation.

 

Rosie, out.

Rosie Lewis, the unhealthy potato

Last week, my nightmares came true. I had to run for the bus.

It was time to take the eleven year old boy I childmind to his oboe lesson, and we were going to be late to the bus stop. So I picked up my pace to a quick walk, the one that you tend to see Londoners doing. Look, the only thing I’ll run for is gig tickets, a puppy, or free pizza. I continued down the road at this quick pace. He turned around to see where I was, his face fell. He shouted ‘the bus is behind you, we’ve got to run!’ and he started sprinting.

Balls. It was behind me.

I began to run. It wasn’t so bad at first. Well, for the first ten seconds. Then, it hit me. ‘Bloody hell I am unfit’. I could feel my asthma beginning to kick off, my whole body screaming ‘what the hell are you doing? This is not a pleasant stroll’, and my knees were creaking like the ropes of a pirate ship. I went back to a quick walk, red faced in more ways than one as the bus drove past me.

Whilst listening to the screeching sounds of Grade 5 oboe, I had an epiphany. I am gosh darned unfit. I ran for ten seconds and felt like I was going to die. My joints click and muscles ache from under use. I’ve lived in Winchester for three years and I still need a lie down when I get to the top of Romsey Road. I sprained my ankle tripping over some water for Heaven’s sake. To the sounds of squealing Bach I realised, I have to get fit.

There are so many reasons for this, not just because I got out run by a 5 mph city bus. I see so many people on social media going rock climbing and doing yoga; I look at them and go ‘wow, I want to do that!’ The thing is, when I try to do that, it doesn’t go well. My arms can’t support the weight of my body when rock climbing, so I end up lumped on the floor like a sack of potatoes. In yoga, I can manage that really difficult pose I’ve been admiring for weeks, but then my muscles start to spasm and I’m reduced to a sack of potatoes yet again. I feel like a potato. And not a French fry, or a croquette; I feel like a potato that’s been left in the back of the cupboard for weeks that has gone slightly green and is a little mushy. I don’t want to feel like that. I want to be strong. I want to feel like a hash brown. I always run in head first when it comes to exercise, and then I get upset that I can’t do things as well as other people. The truth is, I’ve got to start at the very beginning. It is a very good place to start.

I’m also Queen of the Asthmatics. My doctors have told me that my asthma will get better if I exercise a bit more. I always say ‘oh yes, of course I will’ but we all know I never do that. Plus, my hormones and brain chemicals are all kinds of messed up. If you exercise, positive endorphins are emitted and can have a positive impact on mental health. But no, I always retreat under the covers instead of donning my trainers.* Furthermore, my boyfriend is fit, and I don’t just mean in appearance. He’s on the Ultimate Frisbee team, he finds joy in playing football, and he can run up St Catherine’s Hill. I can barely walk up St Catherine’s Hill. I want to be able to keep up with him. Well, I could never play Ultimate Frisbee because I have the hand-eye co-ordination of a new born deer, and I just don’t enjoy playing the same kind of football he does. I like a bit of a kick around, not eleven player, 4-2-3-1, score or die football; that intimidates me. However, I love it when we go jogging together. I want us both to be able to push ourselves and enjoy it, not him saying ‘come on love, you can do this’ whilst we are only five minutes down the road, and me thinking ‘I hate him so much, how dare he be stronger and faster than me’. That is how most of our jogging sessions go. I also love physical theatre (that’s the sort that’s a bit arty farty and a little bit dance-y, for those people who don’t know), but I always feel restricted by the fitness level of my body. If I get fitter, I can create even more theatre. And maybe my knees won’t click when I perform. It’s very loud and distracting.

And now, here’s the section that I’ve been nervous about writing. I also want to get fit so I can lose weight. I know there will be the influx of ‘why though? What? Don’t be silly’ etc from some of you readers. Wait wait wait, everything shall be addressed.

It was pay day, a good one at that, so I meandered into New Look for a browse. Well, a little shop. I saw some ripped black jeans in the sale, they were in my size, so I went and bought them. Simple. How happy was I, walking home, thinking of how indie I would look the next day. Alas, the time came to pull them on. I was very happy I didn’t ruin them by putting my foot through one of the artful rips. I wasn’t very happy when it came to doing them up. No matter how much I struggled, breathed in, hoisted to my waist, the button would not do up. I checked the size; size 12, my regular New Look trouser size. I grabbed my old pair of New Look jeans and tried them on. Balls. They didn’t fit either. Then ensued an hour of me trying on pieces of clothing and noticing that the majority did not fit or sat oddly on my body. Many things went through my mind. Many negative thoughts. However, the overriding thought was ‘I can’t afford to buy any new clothes! I’m a student!’ So, in losing weight, I am saving myself a fortune in avoiding buying a new wardrobe.

It’s all fun and games laughing with me at wanting to be strong, at my foolish behaviour, at me falling over, at me not fitting into my jeans. But here’s the truth; I am unhealthy. I am overweight, according to the doctors. I am not happy with my body.  When sorting out my bedroom, I found a diary from seven years ago, from when I was thirteen. It was a food and exercise log. I have been trying to lose weight for seven years. I’ve struggled with body image for at least seven years. I know a lot of my negative thoughts are bred from society and are engrained in my mind; the desire to be skinny and perfect and all that jazz. But I’m trying to block that out. I know they are stupid thoughts. To be honest, I have no desire to be skinny; I have large childbearing hips, there’s no way they’ll ever be skinny. I just want to be fit and healthy and happy. I know I am beautiful; I have the shoulders of a Greek goddess, a bum to die for, eyes the colour of the sea, thighs strong enough to kill a man. But, I want to be able to look at my arms and belly and hips and back and the bits I don’t like and say ‘damn girl, you are strong and beautiful’. This is not about being skinny. This is about being strong and healthy. This is about being the best Rosie I can be. This is about my body, my rules.

Now, that’s all well and good, but I can imagine a lot of people saying ‘why the hell is she writing about this?’ Well, it’s a few reasons really. Firstly, I’ve got to keep this blog alive with some quality content. Secondly, I am fickle, I hate letting people down, and I care what people think of me. Oh so healthy, right? If I tell myself I’m going to get fit, there’s a high chance that I’ll go ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ and do that for the rest of eternity whilst getting stuck to my sofa. If I tell other people, I’ll have no choice to do it or they’ll think of me as a lazy loser who lies around lying. (Essentially guilt tripping myself.) Look, if it works for me, it works for me. Finally, I know a lot of people are going through the same problems as I am; struggling with body image, finding it difficult to get up and going, people who are not healthy but really want to be. You’re not alone. I can guarantee millions of people are feeling the same as you, including this little wheezy woman here. But we can do this. We can. It may be bloody difficult and painful, but we can do this; and my oh my, won’t it be worth it?

So, hold me to it world. Watch my self-esteem and strength go from slightly off four week old potato to MacDonald’s hash brown. I’m excited. I’m also nervous and sad because I hate running. But excited.

*I know exercise does not solve depression and other mental health problems. Oh hell, I know. But, it does make me feel better for a little while.

(Originally posted on April 11th 207 @ https://rosiealewis.wixsite.com/home/single-post/2017/04/11/Rosie-Lewis-the-unhealthy-potato)

What to do when Life kicks you in the balls…

Excuse my French here, but life can be shit. And when it is shit, it doesn’t do it by half. Life rains down upon you like hellfire and brimstone, throwing debt and morality at you like an absurdist cricket game, taunting you with every negativity you can think of. I’ll admit, life has not been an easy, breezy walk in the park for me in the last seven or so months. Instead of moping about it (which I am very good at doing), I‘ve decided to take a different approach this time. Here, I’ve collected my top tried and tested tips on how to alleviate Life’s horrible antics and ways to come to terms with her mean ways. I’m not saying these will work for everyone, I’m not even saying they work for me all of the time, but they have been successful in the past. So, this is for those who have been bullied by Life, whether that be through grief, relationship stress, money troubles, or Life has just beaten you up in loads of different ways and now you find it hard to get up. I hope you get something worthwhile out of reading this, whether that be you feel better, you are amused, or you find my writing so atrocious that it makes you feel better about yourself. Let’s begin.

1. Don’t dwell on the situation

Ah yes, a lovely easy one to start off the list. Not. When Life has decided to kick you in the balls, it is all you can think about. It plays on your mind non-stop, and ignoring it is nigh on impossible. However, don’t forcibly think of the situation. Don’t force it to the surface constantly. Allow yourself to be distracted, don’t feel guilty for that. If Life is going to keep hitting you with reminders every hour, there’s no point wasting the other 59 minutes stewing in sadness.

2. Have a hot bath

Or a shower, both would work. I wouldn’t recommend having a shower and a bath at the same time though; no-one likes a flooded bathroom. As Sylvia Plath says ‘there must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.’ Man, this is my mantra. By having a hot bath, I find myself relaxed and unable to focus on anything else other than my book and my glasses steaming up. Just make sure the bath isn’t too hot; you don’t need second degree burns making Life an even more difficult task.

3. Do what boosts your endorphins!

Now for some people this involves waking up super early, and jogging out in the forest for hours on end. For others, this involves shoving a tonne of chocolate and red wine into their body. Find what boosts your endorphins, find what gives you that little lift, and do a bit of it each day. PSA: this is not me saying it is fine to drink a bottle of wine a day. It may fix some problems, but I can assure you that they’ll be worse in the morning.

4. Drown your soul in Netflix and YouTube

I, for one, recently drowned my soul and sorrows in ‘The People VS OJ Simpson’ and the Amanda Knox documentary. Now, they may seem a little hard hitting, especially if you’ve got Life running after you with a machete, but I found them really good as a distraction. Why? Because my problems do not involve a celebrity murder case, John Travolta, and a five day murderous romance in Italy. I could get completely sucked in and focus solely on storyline without anything reminding me of my own problems. I’m sure, watching Zoolander and Louis Theroux could also alleviate some symptoms of Life.

5. Make sure you eat and drink

Easy-peasy, but you don’t think to do it when your mind is elsewhere. Eat your veggies to make sure you don’t get a cold. Drink so water so you stay hydrated. Treat yo’ self because you deserve it.

6. Accept that you are in a world of pain

Your heart is hurting. Your chest is pounding. Your head is swimming. And that’s fine. Life is beating you up with a hammer, you are allowed to feel pain. You may not have any control over the situation you are in, or the feelings you are having. It is only when you stop fighting the pain you are in, that it can begin to get better. Accept that you are in a world of pain. You can survive it, I promise.

7. Venture outside

Oh man, I hate this tip, I never want to do it. When Life hates me, I hate Life and I just want to sit down and not get up. Unfortunately, going outside does work. Walk the dog, look at the flowers in the garden, stand in your door way looking out at the horrible rain and then go back inside. Feel the air on your face, move from the house a little bit, and know that the world is still turning outside.

8. Get on with it

This is a little bit harsh but it’s true. Life may be kicking you in the balls and you may be smothered in pain, but get on with it. Get on with living as you were. It may be difficult as you’ve got one more thing to worry about, but the world will not stop for you. It won’t. So, you’ve got to continuing moving on and loving those that you love and doing what you need to do. Get on with it for the sake of your friends and family and for yourself. It’s harsh but true. Getting on with life as normal may help you forget the pain, or even alleviate it. Try it, it may help.

9. Cry

This is my favourite tip. Let it all out. Howl. Scream and punch pillows. Cry to your loved ones. Sob until you can’t sob anymore. Get red in the face and have blood shot eyes and have a runny nose and cry and cry and cry. Let out all of the pain and the anger. Bottling it up certainly won’t work; we’re like a shaken bottle of Coke, bottling it up will just make a mess.

10. Know you are good

Know that even if you have messed up to the highest degree, if your world is ending, if you are confused to the heavens, if you feel jilted, if you are alone, if you have failed – there is good in you. Life may want to beat you down and that may make you feel weak and useless. Just remember, you still have good in you. You may not see it now, but you do.

Life may be kicking you in the balls, but in the immortal words of the eternal Samwise Gamgee, ‘in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’ Life will eventually top hitting you and will move on to someone else. You’ve just got to keep going while it happens.

 

(Originally posted on March 21st 2017 @ https://rosiealewis.wixsite.com/home/single-post/2017/03/21/What-to-do-when-Life-kicks-you-in-the-balls)