Emerald Swathes

The following is the full first part of the story I began in my Winchester taster session, detailed in “The Pull, Part 4”

The protests gradually faded away as Christopher ran further and further into the forest, and all sound disappeared along with the daylight. There was only silence, darkness and accompanying danger within these trees, and the only reassurance came when rays of distant sunshine leaked through the web of branches for a split second every few metres. Not that Christopher cared much at this moment. What coursed through his veins as his feet pounded along the rough terrain was not fear – he’d had more than his fair share of that in recent years – but determination and strength that overrode the burning in his lungs as he gasped for air, or the fatigue rapidly spreading through his limbs. He was on autopilot, with his eyes firmly on the ultimate prize that lay ahead – his freedom.

The more Christopher thought about this, the faster he went. He sprinted and sprinted, trying to ignore the searing pain from the gash on his knee as each new bramble and thorn pricked at him. He knew that he had to focus only on escape, and that meant running and never looking back. Christopher would never have a better chance than this, and he was actually quite glad to have realised that – he’d forgotten what true hope felt like, and to feel it again reminded him of the man he used to be. Five years ago, at 16, he’d had the ambition and the confidence of someone twice his age. As a matter of fact, what he demonstrated was borderline arrogance, always swaggering around like he had to be seen and heard. When he was lost in his own importance, he thought nothing of it. He saw himself as a character, someone fun whose energy would be irresistible to those around him. He eventually gained the benefit of hindsight; in odd moments he would remember all the times people rolled their eyes or moved away, always when they thought he wasn’t looking. He believed that he was loved by all, but he had only succeeded in alienating every potential new friend.

Following this, Christopher realised that his life was meaningless without real companionship from others. He had plenty of money and affluence, and assumed they would set him up for the rest of his days, but he was mistaken. When he realised this, he turned to rebellion, making the wrong choices and falling into the wrong crowds. They all seemed like groups of kind strangers at first, people who related to what he was feeling and were quick to offer a shoulder to cry on. They did, initially. There was warmth and understanding aplenty, and the more Christopher was shown, the more ensnared he was by his new friends. They had him under their spell – he just didn’t know it yet. He was so blinded by a façade of concern that it was all too easy for them to introduce the drink and drugs. He was led to believe that they would block things out, or make his constant state of misery more bearable. The moment he was under the influence, though, he was a marionette, completely controlled by his new puppet masters. It made him a highly dependable modern-day slave.

At this point, Christopher temporarily removed himself from his train of thought, and was awakened once more to his dingy and unforgiving surroundings. There was little point in trying to recall anything more about the past few years, since they all passed – quite literally – in a hazy blur. Christopher knew that his captors preferred it that way, and that the only time he ever spoke a word was when he was begging them for his next dose. When lucidity finally did come, it only did so in a fleeting moment, when he decided that enough was enough and that he had to get away. He was kept in such isolation that he didn’t know how many other slaves, if any, he might have left behind – but he had chosen to cast any guilt about who he could have saved aside for the time being. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

Christopher was definitely getting somewhere in the dense woodland. A new spot of sunlight, which had appeared at the size of the eye of a needle at first, was gradually enlarging and welcoming him into its embrace ahead. It was brighter and warmer in colour than any of the light he’d already seen on his travels, and he took this as a welcome sign of positivity and encouragement, even though he didn’t know how long it would last or what it actually signified. He just knew that whatever lay ahead couldn’t possibly be any worse than what he had already endured. He was more than ready to persevere through some minor sunburn if it meant he’d be out in the open and free from claustrophobia. The patch of light was now big enough to hurt his eyes, causing him to squint, and he tentatively raised a hand to his forehead to shield them from it. The brightness continued to increase until there were no more trees to block it out, and Christopher was faced with a near-whiteout, unable to see a thing…

When it faded, and shapes began to form once again all around him, he found that he was in the midst of a breathtaking and lush green opening, with space aplenty. The undergrowth was thick, but rather than appearing dilapidated it was full of vitality, with small flowers blossoming on various bushes. Only a lone tree stump and faraway bursts of birdsong interrupted the swathes of soothing emerald vegetation. It would have taken a man more hardened than Christopher not to be overcome with calmness, and he duly stopped to savour this new pocket utopia while he could, exploring its perimeter and crouching down to examine some of the plant life. He was distracted by the beauty and serenity of this hidden gem for some time, but his focus on every one of its details was suddenly broken when he spotted a faded blue denim cap lying inside out and unclaimed in the undergrowth. Whilst he was surprised by its presence, he thought little of the object itself – people tended to lose things in the countryside all the time, after all – but could it mean that he wasn’t the first escapee to find this spot?

To be continued…

Mason

 

 

 

 

Aussie Sunday

Today marked possibly the one day every year when a 5am wake-up call from my alarm does not bother me in the slightest. What it marks is the start of the frantic, unrelenting eight-month world tour that is the Formula One season, and within minutes I was out of bed and downstairs waiting for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix to begin. Since the end of the previous season in November, there had been plenty of speculation – as there often is – regarding how 2018 would unfold for all of the teams, but as the field lined up on the Melbourne grid the time for talk was over. Honda and the Halo would be forgotten for at least the next two hours, as only the race remained.

I can now safely say that it did not disappoint. Of course, you can never be entirely sure of what will happen during a season-opener, but as someone expecting another demonstration of Mercedes dominance from Lewis Hamilton I was pleasantly surprised to see Ferrari end the day with the upper hand, thanks to a win from Sebastian Vettel. Some may see his triumph as lucky or even controversial, since he plucked the lead from Hamilton in the pit exit during a Virtual Safety Car period triggered by maladies for effective Ferrari B-team Haas. It is not an outcome to be sniffed at, however, for if it is representative of what we can expect from the next 20 races this year, then I am very excited by the prospect of another close title battle between Ferrari and Mercedes. What’s more, it would be foolish for anyone to discount Red Bull, even if they didn’t show quite what they are capable of in Australia. Max Verstappen started the day stuck behind a fast-starting Kevin Magnussen, and ended it trying and failing to claim fifth from Fernando Alonso’s Renault-powered McLaren – his lack of pace can most likely be explained by damage his car picked up during an off-road excursion in the early laps. His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo started from eighth on the grid following a three-place penalty, but spurred on by his home crowd, the man from Perth charged to within spitting distance of the podium, coming home fourth after an unsuccessful assault on Kimi Raikkonen’s scarlet machine. His more encouraging performance must surely indicate that Red Bull can once again challenge their biggest rivals in 2018, although whether they can usurp Mercedes from their throne remains to be seen.

Further back, there were a number of other noteworthy performances in a very tight midfield. The most commendable of these came from the Haas duo of Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. After Ricciardo’s penalty had been applied on Saturday, they found themselves locking out the third row of the grid and took full advantage of this as the lights went out, keeping themselves solidly in the top six. From the outset, it looked as though the American team were virtually assured of a valuable haul of points for both men, but their dream start would turn to a nightmare on lap 23 when Magnussen ground to a halt after his pit stop with a loose wheel nut. In the garage, the mechanics and engineers were visibly frustrated, but total devastation would follow just two laps later when Grosjean also retired at Turn 2 with exactly the same issue. Every team member who appeared on camera thereafter seemed genuinely inconsolable, and I struggled to think of another time when a team had been so upset following a crushing defeat such as this. It was impossible not to feel sorry for Haas, but the new VF-18 possesses a great deal of pace and they will have another opportunity to shine again next time out in Bahrain – after they’ve ensured that their pit stops run more smoothly. McLaren enter 2018 with a new papaya orange colour scheme and, as aforementioned, a new engine partner in Renault. During the Australian Grand Prix the Woking team’s new alliance paid dividends, as it easily achieved a double points finish. Alonso’s fifth place equalled – in just one race – the best result he was able to notch up in three seasons with Honda engines. It was incredibly uplifting to see such a great champion almost rejuvenated on track, knowing he can now be confident in McLaren’s ability to be consistent scorers and fighters once again. Indeed, he made the somewhat bold post-race claim that the team could now forget about lingering in the midfield and focus their sights on Red Bull instead. Perhaps nobody will really know whether McLaren can catch the Austrian giants until after a few races have passed, but surely no fan can honestly say they wouldn’t be overjoyed to see this happen after all the misery the squad have experienced in recent years. Finally, I feel as though I must give a special mention to Carlos Sainz, who finished tenth whilst battling a spraying water bottle and resulting sickness for Renault, and to veteran Swiss minnows Sauber. Marcus Ericsson was an unfortunate early retirement thanks to a loss of power steering, but his rookie partner Charles Leclerc completed his debut race in a respectable thirteenth, ahead of Lance Stroll’s Williams and Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso. In doing so – on the lead lap, too – he kept up well with the rest of the field, giving me hope that yet another team can move up from the back of the grid and into the mix against their rivals.

Those who must have wished for much better things from their afternoons include the aforementioned Williams and Toro Rosso teams. In the case of the former, it was an uneventful and disappointing drive to fourteenth for Stroll, whilst the second debutant on the 2018 grid, Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin, pulled off after only three laps with a brake failure. Toro Rosso were hampered by a blown Honda engine for Pierre Gasly – after the Japanese powerplants had performed faultlessly in pre-season testing – and a last-place finish for Hartley, who was left a lap down after an early pit stop and unable to regain lost ground. It was also a surprisingly unremarkable race for Force India; deserted by their usual pace, they left Australia without a single point for the first time since 2009.

Thankfully, we are only one event into a long season, and those affected by the misfortune that is typical of motor racing have many more chances to strike back. As I have already suggested, there are plenty of unknowns and questions to be answered as this year’s Formula One narrative takes shape, and whatever they may bring, I can’t wait to be on hand to witness the twists, turns and everything in between. Let’s go racing!

Mason

 

Resonating

Shortly after attending the taster session that was painstakingly described here, I decided to send a link to the University of Winchester via Twitter and see what resulted. Upon checking my tweets this afternoon, I was excited to find that they had indeed read the post – and, as a nice little bonus, they’d seemingly enjoyed it too! When I was writing it, I wanted every last drop of pure enthusiasm and joy to seep through the text, and to leave no stone unturned so that no reader could be in any doubt as to how much I was buzzing before, throughout, and after the day. It was clear that to some extent, Winchester must have got what I was trying to say. My sincere thanks go to them, first of all.

What was less clear, and therefore more of a surprise, was what their engagement with my little blog and one of its many entries led to. As it is hosted by WordPress, this has its own Stats page, on which I can check the performance of the site and the views that its content, tags and categories have had. At this point, just bear in mind that there must be millions of blogs on the Internet, all jostling for space and exposure – mine is a tiny dwarf planet in an infinite online galaxy of bigger rivals. I have a long way to go with Third Time Enabled before I can even begin to compete with them, so imagine how delighted I must have been when I noticed the 36 views it has had so far today. This must be due in no small part to Winchester’s interaction, and it is a monumental figure compared to what I can usually expect in a day. As a matter of fact, I don’t always get that in a week. Furthermore, the “University of Winchester” tag I attached to the post received 50 views, and whilst I like to showcase my own writing and experiences, I mostly wanted to convey just how awesome a place it really is, full of friendly and passionate people. If you don’t think I’ve managed to do that in any of the last three posts, my mission obviously isn’t accomplished yet – but if you have read this and my point has resonated, thank you very much indeed. You might just have made my day!

Mason

Accentuate The Positive

Politics dominates the news we wake up to every day, and in the last couple of years, particularly following the Brexit vote and the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House, the world’s focus on it has only intensified. Generally, it doesn’t make reassuring or uplifting reading, and whilst I do understand the importance of paying attention to the events that shape the future, I don’t feel I can write about them confidently on Third Time Enabled right now. This occurred to me only a short time ago, when I was looking over Angharad’s most recent post. It was incredibly well-researched and had been written with clear passion and concern in the aftermath of yet another terrible American school shooting. She did, of course, hit the nail directly on the head with her content – you can see it right here if you wish – but in seeing this I realised that I could never match what she had done, no matter how strongly I feel about the topic.

If you have read all of the posts I’ve written since the beginning of January, it might have struck you that life has been very good to me of late. University looms, accompanied by a fresh and exciting start, and in the wake of accepting my place, my mood has been lifted infinitely. A year ago, I wondered if my life was heading in any sort of direction at all, but now I feel as though anything really is possible. I’d like this new-found positivity to be reflected regularly in my writing, both in the lead up to my departure from Somerset and beyond, when I am fully settled in Winchester. This won’t be at the expense of the more hard-hitting aspects of life, as I will return to those on a day when I can bear to face them, but for now I will leave their exposure on this blog to those who are eager to speak about them, such as Angharad and Will. To cover them in a proper and well-informed manner, a lot of potentially difficult reading is required, and I can rest safe in the knowledge that both of them are capable of doing the job well. If I’ve mentioned it before, you may remember that Will once told me this blog has what it takes to save lives with its positivity. If this is true, I’d better make sure it lives up to the hype – and at this moment in time, I have more of a reason to accentuate the positive than ever.

Mason

The Pull, Part 4

Any excuse to visit Winchester is fine by me – and on Saturday I had the best one possible when I set off with Mum and Dad to attend a second open day at the university where I will be studying from September. I knew from the outset that it would be just as immensely enjoyable and useful a visit as the initial one in October, and I was duly proved right. As we parked up and signed in after a three-hour car journey, my thoughts turned immediately to something I hadn’t initially had the chance to participate in at Winchester – a taster session in my chosen Creative Writing course.

In just one hour, the session would give me a condensed sample of what to expect in the three-hour classroom gatherings I will have as a student – and, predictably, I immediately liked what I saw. I have always felt comfortable as a writer, and any opportunity to demonstrate this is instantly seized, but even I was surprised by how naturally writing came to me in an academic setting. The session was well-attended, presumably by many of the students I will soon have the chance to collaborate with and befriend, and as I sat waiting for everyone to file in I found that was I seated next to a lovely girl called Lara. We hit it off immediately, and could hardly stop chatting – during the course of our conversation I discovered that she too had already accepted her Winchester offer, so I think we were both relieved that we’ll already know each other when we start! We worked really well as partners too, reading what we’d written to one another and feeding back accordingly.

What exactly were we writing, I hear you ask? Allow me to explain! After a brief introduction to the course, and a few minutes in which we examined short descriptive sentences and shared our first impressions, we were presented with a photograph to work from. It showed an open but secluded woodland spot, bathed in bright sunlight but surrounded by forest that was denser, darker and much more sinister. Just as before, our first task upon being shown this was to jot down what we thought of it. Rather than immediately noting what I actually saw in the image, I found myself thinking about its potential metaphorical significance, and seeing the part illuminated by the sun as a glimmer of hope – a hidden gem – in a sea of despondency. A light at the end of the tunnel for someone, if you will. When it came to placing a character in this setting, we were invited to choose anyone from a small child to an elderly pensioner, before taking a moment to think about why they were in the woods and how their behaviour might be influenced by their circumstances. I chose to make my character a teenage boy named Christopher – I’ve always given characters fairly random names, and he was bestowed with his for no other reason than St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers, apparently. Once I’d clarified these basic details, I started to think more about his background and what had brought him into the great outdoors. It emerged that he’d had an affluent upbringing with money in abundance, but that his life had been turned upside down following a kidnapping which resulted in him being a prisoner for some considerable time. On the day that he found himself amongst the greenery, he was running as fast as he could – terrified, dishevelled and devoid of the confidence he had been bursting with prior to his ordeal. He was running because this day represented his best possible chance of escape. I introduced him like this, joining him as he dashed through the gloominess and into warmth:

“Christopher sprinted through the darkness, trying to ignore the searing pain from the gash on his knee as each new bramble and thorn pricked at him. He knew he had to focus on escape, and that meant running and never looking back. He’d never have a better chance than this.”

I couldn’t quite write quickly enough to expand on that opening, so when we were told to stop after the sentence we were on, Lara had more than I did. Her story, if I recall correctly, concerned a woman who was out walking her dog in the countryside with her husband and child – both of whom had been driving her mad. She appeared worn down, tired, overworked and underappreciated, and neither they nor her mischievous dog, whom Lara named Scruff, were making things any easier. I thought it was a beginning with a lot of potential, and I was interested to see just how far the lady could be pushed, or if her luck might change dramatically. And what part would the scenery play in it?

My question was about to be answered. The next stage of story development saw us invited to pick an item from a table at the front of the room that our characters could find in the landscape – we could demonstrate how well we knew them by thinking about their reactions to these. Lara kindly went over on my behalf, and gave me a fading and slightly dirty blue denim cap, claiming she knew it was right for my story as soon as she saw it. Great minds think alike, don’t they? I agreed, and instantly began scribbling away just as it landed on the desk. Just as Christopher emerges into the sun’s embrace, the following occurs:

“Taking in the beauty and undoubted serenity of this hidden gem, Christopher spotted a faded blue denim cap lying unclaimed in the undergrowth. He thought little of the object itself – people lost things in the countryside all the time – but could it mean that he wasn’t the first to run out here? For a moment, Christopher kept his eyes fixed on the cap, briefly forgetting the desperation of his own situation. If its owner had escaped too, with or without their cap, had they found safety?”

As I finished this, I looked up to see Lara putting her own pen down. The object she had taken from the table was a jewel-encrusted brooch, which she also chose to cast to the ground in her story. By this stage, Scruff was off his lead and totally uncontrollable. He had rushed off, far away from his struggling owner, but stopped an instant when he saw the brooch gleaming before him. He alerted the woman to its presence, and she was immediately and understandably intrigued upon examining it. She may well have been distracted by its striking and colourful appearance, but was determined to get to the bottom of what it was, taking it to an antique shop. Lara never got the chance to reveal what had happened there, but it was definitely an interesting proposition in a well-structured story. Would the brooch make the woman and her family millionaires, or had she gotten her hopes up all for nothing? Alternatively, would it be something tainted in some way, or even cursed? Lara and I both saw that the possibilities were endless.

That was what made the session great. The amount of creativity in the task at hand made us both feel right at home and very comfortable indeed. Neither of us had any doubts about the university choice we’d made prior to the session and, if it was possible, we had even fewer when we emerged. Thanking the lecturer for such a fruitful and enjoyable hour, we left and said our goodbyes, even more excited for what is to begin in just over six months’ time. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day, feeling certain that the session was the start of many things, including academic and creative satisfaction, endless social and personal benefits, and at least one wonderful new friendship with Lara. Life is good – very good indeed. You could say that just one year ago, I felt as though I was going nowhere. Twelve months on, with each passing day, I’m feeling as though anything is possible. What’s more, I’m going to make the most of every moment of it.

If you’re lucky, you might even discover Christopher’s ultimate fate one day…

Mason
 

Wake Up, America!

It’s a cliché phrase, one which has been tossed around by conspiracy theorists for decades. But today, I mean it very seriously. Wake up, America.

Your children are being murdered en masse. In the first seven weeks of 2018, you have suffered no less than eight school shootings. Furthermore, the perpetrators are often not some kind of 50-year-old illegal immigrants who snuck assault rifles across state borders. They are overwhelmingly committed by young white American men, with legally obtained firearms. Men who were no doubt denied the help they needed, or whose victims’ reports to authorities were ignored. Some people have speculated that had the perpetrator been Black, or Mexican, or Middle-Eastern, the outcome would have been incredibly different. Trump said in a speech regarding the recent Florida shooting that “the difficult issue of mental health” should be tackled, when only last year he “repealed an Obama-era rule allowing the names of certain people on mental health benefits to be entered into a criminal database”. You made it a lot easier for people to access weapons, Trump, you cannot play the sympathy card now.

Moreover, gun-lovers, you cannot demand that school shootings should not be politicised. They must be politicised as soon as they happen, because we cannot dismiss this debate. I am not even an American, so technically none of this should affect me or my country, but it does. Europe is devastated by the preventable tragedies which keep occurring in America. There is a Zeitgeist, and this is evidenced by the students themselves, who are speaking louder than they ever have before against the defendants of the Second Amendment. One key example was the riveting speech of Florida school student Emma Gonzalez, who announced a student walkout and march on Washington, which she named “the march for our lives”. I cannot fathom why some American pro-gun parents are content to send their children to school, knowing that there is a high chance they won’t come home. I read accounts now where schoolchildren are dressing according to a school shooting drill: “if I wear these clothes, I can escape faster”, “I shouldn’t wear sneakers with lights because they could give away my position”. They’re children, not the CIA! They should not have to consider these things over their own grades!

Do you know what the Second Amendment says? “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. The quote which has caused so much bloodshed was originally a reference to militias. Military forces. Not civilians. America, you’re a self-fulfilling prophecy – you wanted guns to begin with, now they’re becoming a necessity. Are you going to send your children to school with little AR15s of their own next? Will you train them to shoot before teaching them to read?

Your government system has turned schooling into a real-life Hunger Games; here, the survivors are the ones who get to sit their exams.

I fully support the upcoming student marches. We know that marches are effective, and I’ve no doubt they will be this time, too. I would send my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims, but we all know by now that this does nothing to ease their pain. Instead, I send my support, and my hope that there will one day be enough pressure on the American Government to push through some effective mental health and gun legislation. Until then, perhaps America should focus on making more coffins.

“Home of the free, land of the brave”? To that, I propose a new, more accurate line: “Home of the ignorant, land of the murdered”. Wake up, America.

Angharad

 

The Pull, Part 3

Nearly two weeks after receiving my first offer, I am thrilled to reveal that today, a second university place was offered to me for Creative Writing. Upon seeing it in black and white on my Kindle screen in my bedroom, I shot down the stairs to relay the good news to Dad. As I did so, I was beaming from ear to ear, and Dad said that I looked like I’d just won the lottery. It certainly felt like that – the first offer felt unreal enough, but the latest one has escalated that feeling to truly indescribable levels. When I spoke to Mum on the phone to give her the news, I mentioned that now we have reached the proper decision-making part of the process, it feels as though we are on the home straight – and in response, she said it is as though I can almost touch it. University was closer than ever before a fortnight ago, but now I have one hand on the trophy. I hope that I will soon be grasping it with both.

As aforementioned, both of my options must now be placed under the microscope so that I can decide once and for all where I will be going. I am aware that it may be a trickier process than I expect, since both universities would be excellent destinations, but with the support of my family and friends, I am confident that I can reach the best possible outcome – and you will know by now that I can’t wait. Onwards!

Mason

Blessed Are The Writers

The annual Doctor Who festive special on Christmas Day finally saw Jodie Whittaker make her long-awaited debut as the Doctor, replacing the outgoing Peter Capaldi in a burst of orange light. It was a fantastic send-off for Peter, who has been a brilliant Doctor and ambassador for the show, but its closing moments – depicting an explosive regeneration and Jodie plummeting to Earth from a fiery TARDIS – were an introduction to an even more exciting era to come (previously discussed here).

Finally seeing the Thirteenth Doctor take over as the star of the show actually gave me goosebumps as I sat slumped on the sofa. We may have to wait until the Autumn, but that fresh new Doctor Who dawn will be the very next thing to greet us. The corresponding feelings of eager anticipation have only really come to me once before; whilst I obviously look forward to the start of every new series, I haven’t been this excited since 2010, when Matt Smith took over as the Eleventh Doctor for Series 5. If you ask Will, he’ll tell you I hold that particular run of episodes in very high regard. At that point, everyone in and around Doctor Who also found themselves looking at a changed animal of sorts. Much like now, there were plenty of new faces in the cast and production team, and what came from them was a series that I believe is yet to be topped.

Any of its thirteen episodes could easily have stood out as a favourite, and all were memorable – although, in my opinion, the modern classic “Vincent and the Doctor” (written by Richard Curtis) is a particular highlight. I remember watching the series on first broadcast very clearly. It felt – and still does feel – like Doctor Who was a new programme, closer to five years old than fifty. I’m not criticising how it’s been before or since, because I owe an awful lot to its complete 55-year history. I just think that Series 5 had an especially vibrant quality that may not have been the same had there been more continuity from Series 4, David Tennant’s swansong. Change is a good thing, more often than not, and with it there was increased vitality. Eight years on, Series 11 has a golden opportunity to bring even more, with new crews in the TARDIS and behind the camera. I may have said all this before, but I reckon that conveys just how excited I really am. When the Doctor comes down to Earth with a bump, I can’t wait to see what adventures will await her. Blessed are the writers who get to find out first.

Mason

The Pull, Part 2

Happy New Year to you all! Please allow me to start 2018 with a swift update on my university situation, as promised. I was most excited to wake up this morning having lunch with a couple of friends ahead of me – but imagine my elation and surprise when, at around 11:20 this morning, I spotted an email notification telling me to check my applications-in-progress for an update. Of course, I spent a split-second thinking of the worst-case scenario. What if it was a rejection? I found myself simultaneously getting excited and trying not to set myself up for a fall, but as it turned out I need not have worried.

At once, I hurriedly logged into my UCAS Track account, to be greeted with the news that one of my choices was offering me an unconditional place on my chosen Creative Writing course. It is difficult to describe the joy and relief I now feel with this outcome – I only know that it’s big, and that I can now begin looking to the future in earnest. I can’t accept or decline the offer until I’ve heard from my second choice, but it is a major boost and I couldn’t be happier. University seemed almost unattainable for me two years ago, but as of today it is closer than ever. Watch this space, people!

Mason

Christmas Eve Fever, Part 2

So, the second-best day of the year has come again, and I find myself seated comfortably in the front room just as I did last year, watching the lights on our Christmas tree enchant me as they always do. We have now introduced a string of warm golden lights alongside the regular multi-coloured lights, and whilst I was initially sceptical about how they would appear together, they do ultimately compliment each other very well. As they fade slowly in and out, somewhat hypnotically, they can have a magical effect on an otherwise dimly-lit room. They entice you, drawing your eyes towards their vibrant embrace, and for a moment you can lose yourself fully in the magic of Christmas.

That never changes, it’s the same year after year, but in this instance – as we head into 2018 – I feel like the lights are a bright appetiser for an exciting twelve months to come. As I write this, I am on the brink of finishing my university application and sending it away, and when I do it a period of intriguing uncertainty will begin as I await an offer. Of course, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be wanted, but the apparent strength of my personal statement has given me a lot to be optimistic about, so I intend to keep my head held high whilst I wait for news. The excitement has made Christmas that little bit better for me so far, and whatever happens I will keep you all updated on the situation from the start of this new year. Right now, however, I must live in the moment, and that means eating, drinking, being merry and watching Casino Royale with my nearest and dearest. Whatever you’re doing tomorrow, and for the rest of December, make it happy, stress-free and fun. I know I will. Merry Christmas, one and all!

Mason