A Heart Full Of Hope

Here we are, folks – my very first post for 2019. I can safely say that 2018 was a corker of a year for me, and although I spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve alone at home, I did so with a belly full of pizza and a heart full of hope, so I was more than happy. I used some of that quality time to continue reading a book Lara bought me as a Christmas present, Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, which features none other than Hercule Poirot himself. She got it upon hearing that I’d never read any of Christie’s work, and told me that I’d find it very easy to become immersed in the story. She was absolutely right – as I write this, I am 93 pages and seven chapters in, at a point where many probing questions are being asked of every potential murderer. I got there in no time, and my enjoyment of this new book in my spare time has subsequently increased my excitement for what lies ahead at Winchester even more.

Of course, nothing by Agatha Christie is on the reading list, but a few other books are, and two of them arrived yesterday. I am yet to look at them properly, but both are works of non-fiction – and as you might have gathered, I’m rather fond of life writing. The opportunity to read about the experiences, trials and tribulations of others is always tantalising, as is the opportunity to write straight from the heart about my own. The prospect of so much creativity from that and my other modules – including one actually called “Creativity”, and one on poetry, which I have always enjoyed – makes this January much more inviting, since I can’t yet tell what new ideas will manifest themselves, or how. I don’t know what will happen outside of my work either. The world is once again my oyster and as always, the unknown is very exciting. I can’t wait to go and see what it’s all about! Before that, though, I have another very precious fortnight left here at home – and before that, there is a brand new episode of Doctor Who for me to enjoy coming tonight. I fully intend to make the most of both.

Happy New Year to you all!

Mason

What Can I Say About Christmas?

I have managed to publish a post here on each of the last two Christmas Eves, and I hope that they both managed to encapsulate the joy and excitement I feel each December in the eyes of those who read them. This is, after all, a truly magical time of year for which I am always hugely thankful. It has to be said, however, that such posts are getting harder to write – since I now risk sounding insincere – so when I came to think about what I was going to say this time, I was more than a little bit stuck. I eventually decided that it would probably be best for me to look at the festive period from a perspective that is even more personal than usual, as I can look back at the year leading up to it with a lot of pride.

Being one semester in to a three-year degree course, I have already seen, experienced and learned a lot – as I sit in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, I couldn’t be happier with how everything has gone. The work that I have done has given me good marks in return, I have bonded really well with Lara and a host of other friends, and I have lived independently without getting significantly poorer or fatter. In addition to those things, I have also been part of a winning quiz team – yes, it might have taken us eight weeks, but who couldn’t be proud of a result like that? Broadly speaking, I believe that all of the necessary tools are in place for the second semester to be just as successful – and that means the turkey can go down even better than it usually does this Christmas.

I can relax with the family knowing there is a lot to be pleased about, but I feel like none of it could have been truly achieved without the love, support and friendship that has been constantly shown to me. From the unwavering encouragement at home in Somerset to the broken lift heroics and general awesomeness of my friends in Winchester, there has been an abundance of warmth for which I am truly grateful. Long may it continue! I would like to thank everyone who has supported me so far, either in big ways or in smaller ones. Christmas allows us all to come together and take stock of who and what we have around us, while being immensely thankful for all of it. Rest assured that I couldn’t quite have gotten to this point without you. Now that I am here, I intend to enjoy every last moment of it, because it feels wonderful. I hope everyone has a Christmas that is as magical as mine!

Mason

The Pull, Part 14

Allow me to present what is effectively Winchester Mission Control, just six days before we launch the rocket towards its destination. The large pile cluttering up the centre of the image above is made entirely of clothes I will be taking – in the process of clearing out the wardrobe, I was surprised to discover that I owned many more T-shirts than I thought I did! The garments that had to be retired after years of loyal service were consigned to one of two other piles, and as I write this they are destined either for the charity shop or to be used as miscellaneous rags in one of Dad’s many household jobs. I have to say that seeing everything I would definitely need grouped together made the whole exercise feel somewhat therapeutic – together with Mum I had been ruthless and made some sacrifices, which did feel quite calming. The first thing that introduced even a modicum of stress to proceedings was deciding what to wear to the ball I have booked a ticket for during my Freshers’ Week.

The dress code is very much a formal one, but even though that seems straightforward enough, it did open up something of a small can of worms, because “formal” can mean any one of a number of style choices. I tend not to be good at those, so I turned to my new flatmates for a spot of fashion advice – I had no idea whether I should choose a jacket, waistcoat, shirt and tie, bow tie, or anything in between. Panicking, I put the question forward, but the response was encouraging and it really helped to defuse the situation. The general consensus was that I should go for whatever I felt most comfortable in, since all of the contenders fell under the umbrella of formality. I have therefore decided to keep it simple – as things stand, I will be opting for a shirt, a tie, and a nice pair of trousers in an attempt to look dapper.

That particular dilemma was thus resolved, but what remained proved to be just as difficult. As I plan to take my record player away with me, I needed to choose ten albums that I simply could not do without. Panic filled my brain – what if I sorely regretted one or more of my choices, and couldn’t do anything about it? This notion immobilised me for a moment, causing me to flick through my collection aimlessly before I gathered my thoughts and decided my choices had be well-established, undoubted favourites. You can see one of them in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture – Oasis’ Be Here Now (1997). It is one of two albums by the Manchester greats that I selected. The other was their debut (and absolute finest hour) Definitely Maybe (1994), and that in turn was accompanied by Blur’s Parklife (1994), Pulp’s Different Class (1995), The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow (1984), Jamiroquai’s Automaton (2017), Busted’s Night Driver (2016), Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations (2006), Moby’s Play (1999), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979). They have now been separated from their fellow LPs ready to be packed up, and I have reassured myself that if I do regret not bringing one or more alternatives, I can just listen to them on Spotify instead. That’s it now, though – final choices are being made and the final ball has been set in motion. When those records next see the light of day, they will be two whole counties away…

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 11

As part of my ongoing Winchester preparations, I am now coming to you live from a brand-new laptop! It is, in a way, another statement of intent bought with practicality and working in mind. I chose – after a long period of deliberation with the salesman in the shop – an HP Envy, coincidentally the newer version of the laptop Louis had a few years ago. Like many laptops you can buy today, it lacks a disc drive, although I intend to buy a portable one soon. This saves a considerable amount of weight from something that is already very light, and that was key for me when I first considered what to buy, as I need to be able to transfer the laptop from table to bag as easily as possible – preferably with one hand. It has the USB ports and headphone jack I wanted, as well as a more powerful processor that can deal more efficiently with multitasking (perhaps at the expense of some storage space, although Louis says I can save documents to the cloud if I need to).

One of its other, more unexpected features was re-discovered only this morning, just as I had begun this post. Louis had been silently studying the laptop for a little while – particularly its hinges – and he suddenly pointed out that I might have bought a laptop which folds all the way over and doubles as a tablet. We nervously tested his theory and he was right – when it is folded over, the laptop asks you if you want to enter tablet mode, and even in its regular form it features a touch-sensitive screen. I remembered that I had already been shown this in the shop, but had completely forgotten it since. I will probably put it to good use at some point in the future, but seeing as the laptop is brand new, I don’t really want to put fingerprints all over the screen just yet!

This post is the first productive thing I have done with it. The aforementioned portable disc drive will be particularly important when it arrives as it will finally allow the audio notetaking software I have to be downloaded. As I may have said before, I already have the app on my phone and the microphone to plug in – thanks to a test I carried out with Louis, I am pleased to report that it works perfectly. All that’s left is to install the disc, and Microsoft Office at a later date, and this laptop will have everything it needs to serve me well at university. I couldn’t be happier with my choice so far, and I definitely couldn’t be more relieved about how much easier it is to carry!

Mason

The Pull, Part 9

Yesterday morning Mum and I were poised and prepared to go shopping for university, and I for one was very excited. I have never been as eager to write a list as I was when I sat down – once again at the kitchen table – to compile one on Friday night. As I look at it now, it features 15 items, although I am pretty much certain that I will have overlooked others of considerable importance. I was assisted in my efforts by my laptop, and a blog post written by a past student featuring everything that she had put in and around her room. Some were essentials and others were sentimental in nature, but I obviously focused on getting those in the former category down first – although I’m sure some reminders of home will join them before I move. My beloved Scrabble mug will definitely be accompanying me!

The hastily-scribbled selection of items we took was as follows:

  1. Notepads and stationery.
  2. A cheese grater (it may be random for this to be so high up on the list, but Mum insisted I include it before either of us forgot).
  3. Pots and pans.
  4. Cutlery.
  5. Mugs and glasses.
  6. Bed sheets, pillows and cushions.
  7. A doorstop, which is good for sociability.
  8. Toiletries and towels.
  9. A bin, unless one is already provided in my room.
  10. A plentiful supply of wipes.
  11. A selection of wardrobe additions.
  12. Any desired oven trays.
  13. Kitchen utensils.
  14. A kettle and toaster, if necessary.
  15. A microwave lid to go over any food (as an afterthought, we did consider that we might actually need a microwave as well when the time comes).

We came home with most of what we were looking for after a day of frantic but inspired trolley dashes that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Supermarket Sweep. The shiny new haul is now waiting patiently in the corner of my room for the big day to arrive in just over a month, but there is still plenty that needs to join it. The acquisition of what remains will depend on seeing the accommodation when I move in – that currently consists of the stationery, bed sheets, doorstop, bin, wipes, kettle and toaster, and the microwave and lid. Extra thought needs to be put into them anyway, and whatever else I might not have considered – I will keep you posted on my progress. Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated, so please feel free to comment on this post if you think of anything!

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 8

I come home from my haircut. Louis has gone to work and the house is empty and tranquil. I am on my own, and I take a moment to soak up the peace, not only in my surroundings but also in my life. I have now finished work, which means that what had previously seemed so far away is almost here at last – I move to Winchester in just under seven weeks’ time. I enter the living room, where I see the delivery I received yesterday lying patiently on the sofa, waiting to be used. It is the audio notetaking software that will surely come in very useful when I have a new phone and laptop to accommodate it – and acquiring those things in good time is among my top priorities before September.

There are many other small things that need to be done in that time. There will most likely be a big shop, in which everything I will need at university will be purchased in one fell swoop, and I also need to ensure that I open a student bank account as soon as possible. At some point, a presentable photo of myself must be taken and uploaded for my Winchester student card. All of these things, among others, are close to the top of my list, and to some it may seem like a daunting one – but I am largely unfazed.

A number of people have asked me about the nerves I might be feeling ahead of this new adventure, but the honest truth is that I am still yet to feel any. I am under no illusions whatsoever that there may be tough times ahead, but overall I prefer to look at university as something utterly beautiful. The road to the future rumbles on for a few more miles until September, and so does “The Pull”. This particular series of posts will end once I am settled in Winchester, but there’s a little way to go just yet – so let’s just sit back and enjoy every last morsel of excitement, right through a truly great summer.

Mason

The Pull, Part 7

Well, July is now officially upon us, and as I sit here writing this I am just over three weeks away from the start of my summer holidays – and beyond that, my great Winchester adventure. In the meantime, however, there is still work to be done, and not just in my day job. There is also the small matter of my poetry project. The titles for my poems are all present and correct – you saw them in “Accordion” – but what form the accompanying material will take is still yet to be seen. I do have some rough opening lines for the first poem, “Time Off For Good Behaviour”, but those were mainly written as an excuse for me to open a new notebook and are therefore likely to change.

Beginning a new notebook of any kind is always a treat for the senses. Everything about it is something to be cherished – the spotless and totally unspoiled cover, the pristine pages that lie within, and every magical indentation your pen makes upon them. The notebook I am using for this particular project came from the University of Winchester itself, and I told myself that it would never go to waste playing host to half-finished ideas. It was therefore set aside for poetry, and that in turn meant that I could not start writing in it properly until yesterday. I will admit that it has been increasingly difficult to resist, sitting patiently on my bedside table, always lingering in the corner of my eye. No matter how big the temptation got, though, I told myself that the end reward would be well worth the wait. I only allowed myself to sign and date the first page, so that everything written in it could form a time capsule I can look back on with fondness in the future.

I wrote the first paragraph of this post yesterday, when I had not yet attempted to change the opening lines I had already composed. I subsequently opened the notebook – and, deciding once and for all that they simply did not work, I crossed them out and started again. The new lines that resulted from this flowed much better and felt less forced. I am planning to show the completed poems to my coursemates before you get to see them here, but I will give you little snippets along the way. Make of these what you will!

For a few precious months, the shackles are off. Lie down in your bed, or feast in your trough.

This freedom’s a nectar you simply can’t waste. Feel every last drop flow through you with haste.

Mason

 

 

The Pull, Part 6

The formalities separating me from the start of university are gradually diminishing day by day. Last week, I participated in an assessment arranged following my application for Disabled Students’ Allowance – something which proved to be very fruitful indeed. It answered more of the questions Mum and I had about the support I would be entitled to as a student, and at its end I was relieved that my pre-Winchester to-do list was one item shorter. She and I travelled with Louis to the offices of a company that I was subsequently told would collaborate with the university to work for my benefit; once there I met with a very helpful man who started to ask me about how cerebral palsy affects me in certain situations. Obviously, as you might expect, the questions mostly related to education and how I have coped within it.

Among other things, the man asked what I found difficult during my school years, and what I still find difficult now. He asked about the people and the resources I have had at my disposal to make things easier, and based on my feedback he was gradually able to recommend the support that would best suit my needs on my new course. As I had anticipated, there are many options open to me, and I intend to pursue a great deal of them – not least to acquisition of a piece of software to assist me in lectures. My handwriting is somewhat slower than that of others, making it hard to keep up when I need to jot down a series of notes. With this equipment, however, I would no longer have to worry about such an obstacle. It is compatible with a microphone that can record a single voice whilst excluding all other surrounding noise, meaning that every crucial piece of audio can be captured without a problem. On a computer, this audio can then appear along with the breaks in speech, allowing the user to isolate any given section – this can be especially helpful if a particular piece is more relevant to an essay than another. In addition, these sections can be colour-coded to help them stand out, and notes and photographs can be placed alongside them as further visual aids.

I saw this all demonstrated in my assessment, and was left absolutely sure that it could be beneficial to me once I am settled in Winchester. I expressed my enthusiasm and was told that I am entitled to four hours of tuition in the software’s use (although I don’t have to use all four of them). If I do go on to accept it properly, I will be very eager to see how it can help me, and it was very encouraging to hear about everything else that the company and the university could do for me. It just goes to show that anything is possible if you ask for it – and this positive mindset makes the prospect of requesting help at Winchester even less daunting. Very few questions remained before the assessment, and Mum and I were already highly enlightened on arrival. It is even better to know that we are now tantalisingly close to being fully knowledgeable about what lies ahead.

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