Paradise Found

It pains me when the sun is out to be stuck inside. I love being outside in the summer but here in Reading it’s hard to find a decent place to bask in the sunlight. There is a park just down the road, but it isn’t all that pleasant as the field is scruffy and the only only nice place to sit is a lonely bench in the middle of a playground. My step-dad also told me that he thought two teenage girls were murdered in that park the other year, which makes me less inclined to sit in it on my own. Since living in Reading I’ve missed Norfolk and the endless green we seem to have. I’m desperate for fish and chips on the beach, or to take a stroll through the forests with my friends, or to lie idly in the grass between Ed’s home and mine and watch the hours float by with the clouds. 

Today I was walking through town and I looked down a street I don’t normally look down and I saw a river snaking its way through the city, and in the distance I saw an old looking wall and a lot of green so I followed a path down to where a few barges were and found a very peaceful area of town. It wasn’t huge, but there was a canopy of trees shadowing a path, there were swans and geese moving in the water and people sitting on their barges in the day light. In the middle of a city I found a spot of paradise. 

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It turns out that the old looking wall was part of a medieval abbey built in the 1100’s under the rule of king Henry I, and he founded it to be his place of burial, and the abbey was then dissolved by king Henry VIII in 1539 along with thousands of others across the country at the time when England was split from catholic Rome. The abbey was turned into king Henry VIII’s palace and then over the years has slowly become abandoned. There’s tours around it in June that I might go to to have a proper look at the building and learn a bit about the local history. 

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This is what I love about Reading, it keeps surprising me with these little places. The bookshop in town also used to be a church that was built in the 1300’s and the original stained-glass window and doorway remain, which is beautiful. There’s another medieval church and another small park near the train station which is pleasant and peaceful. The walk to university passes through a field and crosses a river and right now in spring it’s over flowing with flowers and birds, and there’s the place I found today.

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While the sound of the cars and the buildings that surround these areas destroy the peacefulness of these places it’s nice to know they’re there. Of course, I still miss Norfolk and all of my favourite memories include Norfolk in the summer, from standing on a beach amidst a storm, or filming Reprieve in the fields and forests and rivers and lakes that are abundant in the countryside outside of town, but while I live in the city I will grasp at the spots of paradise for all that it’s worth. 

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Two People, Two Years

Today is a rather celebratory day for me, even if I have spent the day in lectures, cooking and watching unhealthy amounts of Netflix. The thing is that I am supposed to be celebrating the second year me and Ed have been together. The problem with living in different downs is it makes it too hard to do it properly. I have given him his gift already, a notebook in which I hand-wrote every memory we had together in chronological order, and to celebrate today I decided to share with you the first part of the story: how we came to be dating. 

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It started at midnight, which in fairy tales is when a lot of fateful things happen. It was November 19th 2011. We could have met two days before when we were on the same trip and knew the same people, but we didn’t. Perhaps if I took the hopeless Romantic approach I would say fate didn’t want us to meet then, especially when on that day he had a girlfriend. He did not on the 19th. At midnight I clambered on to a mini-bus (not a coach that used to be a pumpkin) as I was going on a school trip to Greece. As luck would have it the rest of the sixth formers packed too much and there wasn’t a seat for me on the designated “sixth form” bus. I made an awful joke as I sat down and awkwardly waited. Ed climbed onto the bus just a few minutes after and sat down next to me. As luck would have it it was the only seat left. At first it was awkward because we didn’t know each other at all and we were both pretty reclusive in our personalities, but we bonded quickly over music, archaeology and classics and our hobbies. We chatted for a while until we were too tired and fell asleep. I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight, but I knew I kind of liked him. 

When we got to Greece we had an evening in Athens, having been to Sounion, and I asked to hang out with him as the sixth formers (whose only reasons for going on the trip were to drink booze and smoke goodness-knows-what) weren’t the sort of people I enjoyed hanging out with. We went to a shop and I bought a souvenir or two to remember the trip. On the way out I looked at the bracelets they had displayed, and then I walked away. Half an hour later the men from the store approached me. 

“May you show us your pockets?” They said in broken English. 

“Excuse me?” 

“Did you steal something?” What?! As far as my memory serves I have never stolen anything. For some reason at that moment I thought telling them “No. I promise. I’m a girl guide.” would help the situation as I showed them all of my pockets and the contents of my bag. They asked me to be escorted to the shop. I admit I was scared. I was shaking. ED, who at this point I hadn’t even known for 24, came with me as I could barely talk and a second pair of eyes would perhaps help my case. We watched the CCTV footage they showed us and I explained how it must have been my iPod which I had in my hand to keep track of the time. Ed explained that I was the sort of person who would never intentionally against the law while all I could think to say in my head was “ego Britannica sum!”. They accepted my apology and let me go, and for the rest of the evening every time they saw me they patted my shoulder and showered me is “sorry”. 

We hung out a lot on the Greece trip. On the Acropolis, at the museums, and other sites. One evening I came into his hotel room while a person I shared the hotel room with was showering and wanted privacy. There I taught him how to use twitter and he fixed mums camera which I had dropped at the airport (and almost left in Delphi, sorry mum). And we talked and talked. At meal times we sat opposite each other and, like a gentleman would do on a date, he would pour my water. I bet he would have helped me into my chair if he could, but the space was next to the wall. 

One evening some of the students got tipsy and there was a huge row over a boy. Ed and I escaped the room where all the drama was happening and made our way to the fourth floor. We raced there. I took the stairs, two at a time, while he used the elevator. It was a close draw but I won. While we were hiding from the rest of the school we talked a bit and he admitted he liked this other girl. I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t sink, just a little bit. 

On the minibus home from the airport we sat next to each other on the mini-bus again, but the girl he liked flanked his other side. I fell asleep. So did he. And so did she. It was, theoretically a menage a tois, as there were three of us sleeping together, but it wasn’t like that. When we stopped at a station to get food the girl and a boy very much into card tricks traded places and the three of us stayed up the rest of the night. We recited Going On a Bear Hunt off by heart and discussed just about everything. I devised a plan to get his number which included getting other peoples to make it look normal, and it worked. 

After Greece we texted a lot and hung out in school and I would spend my lunch times walking in circles to “bump into” him. One day I saw him going through A-block corridor so sprinted across the car park and through the hall and positioned myself to seem as if I had been there forever. 

“You seen Vie?” I asked. I knew perfectly where she was. 

“No. I haven’t.”

“I’ve been looking for her all lunch time. Where are you going?” 

“Library.” 

“I’ll come with you, maybe she’s there doing last minute homework…” Needless to say she wasn’t in the library but I said that if she wasn’t there then I’d never find her, and used it as an excuse to stay in his company. Some people would call that sweet, others would call it creepy. They go sort of hand in hand. 

February was the first time we hung out outside of school grounds. It was a snow day and Vie wanted more sleep  so I texted him asking if he wanted a snowball fight. We met up, and there I met his mum, dog and little sister and we had a snowball fight. By the end we were drenched and I was freezing cold so I was invited back to his house for hot chocolates and to dry off. We spent the majority of the day in his room playing computer games and laughing about it. I was sat on his lap and he had his arms around me and occasionally we snuggled. This was definitely not what “friends” did. But when people asked us if we were a thing we would scoff and say no. I left in the evening and he walked me home. As we parted we hugged, and he may have kissed me on the cheek but I’m not sure. After that day we hung out every couple of weeks doing the same sort of things. 

On march something made me upset, and I knew that I wanted to talk to him about it, so I went to his house in tears. The door was open as he had just got home and I just stood there.

“Hey.” I said pretending to smile. 

“Hey!” He replied a little shocked to see me. And in that instant I broke into tears. He led me into the house and sat me down while I explained everything and he cuddled and consoled me and made jokes until I smiled. When I left he hugged me goodbye which we hadn’t done since February. Honestly, I was fairly confused about us. I knew I definitely liked him at that point, but I wasn’t so sure if he felt the same or not so I kept quiet for another couple of months. We hung out as usual, and I would come to his house every couple of days like I normally did. Around May I knew I didn’t want to be “just friends” anymore, but I was too scared to say it myself as I had tried before but chickened out. So I wrote a letter and walked across the park to post it through the door. I got half way across the park and stood there, stalling myself for forty minutes, to an hour, debating if I should or not. It was raining hard that day. Eventually I ran out of time and I had to go home to make it to Vie’s A.S performance for Theatre Studies so I did not send the letter. 

Instead we met up on Sunday and I packed the letter in to my bag, just in case. I don’t remember the details of the 6th of May 2011, I know I bought white choc-chip cookies as, I learned in Greece on an evening where we all dared him to have his finger nails painted and I bribed him with chocolate, white chocolate is his favourite, and I went to his house. I presented the cookies first thing. They say the way to a mans heart is through his stomach. Perhaps this would work? And we talked and did the usual, I suppose. But at some point we were both sat on the sofa-bed in his room and we were discussing something. I was mid-way through a sentence when, like the usual cliche, he leaned in and kissed me on the lips. I was surprised to say at the least, as I never thought he would. I think I was too stunned to kiss back at first, but I did. And I came away blushing, and smiling. 

When it was time for me to go, as mum had called me to say that dinner was ready soon, I grabbed my shoes and started to out them on. Ed saw the letter in my bag. 

“What’s this?” He asked. I blushed.

“It’s.Um. Nothing.” I mumbled as I his behind my hair. 

“It’s addressed to me?”

“Um, yes. But…I don’t think I need it anymore.” 

“Well, it’s got my name on it, thus it is mine. I’m opening it.” And I watched as he tore open the envelope and read it. I pretended to be concentrating on my shoelaces as I waited for my heart to explode, either through utter sadness and humiliation, or joy. I was preparing to say that if he said no I didn’t want it to affect out friendship and that I would still like to hang out. But just a minute later when I started to say it he looked up from the paper and said “okay.” I smiled and tried to stop myself from dancing there on the spot. We hugged, and kissed a little, before he took me downstairs to wave me out of the door. When the door was closed I skipped all the way home. 

Two years to this day we have been staying strong. Of course we have been through good times and bad times, but we made it through this far. It’s weird to see how it has been this long as he has been my first boyfriend ever, and first kiss. And it seems like an incredibly short amount of time, yet it seems miraculous. We are young, of course, I am only nineteen years old, but still there’s a part of me that is screaming “more!”. who knows if this will end in happily ever after or not, but we’ll see. For now I’m just celebrating two years. 

Whose Easter is it Anyway?

Today Mellie said “put your hand up if you think Easter is about Jesus being alive again!” I did not put up my hand. It’s not because I don’t believe in Jesus or God, I’m pretty agnostic about them, but it was because Easter is actually a very ambiguous holiday. Yes, Jesus was crucified at this time and holiday does mean ‘holy day’ insinuating that a god is involved, but there is more to Easter than Jesus. In trying to remember Jesus the festival has became Christian-centric and I think people have forgotten what else there is.

 

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If you see this tapestry in the Vatican, look at the eyes…they follow you everywhere!

The word Easter actually has Anglo-Saxon roots and is derived the Old-English “Eostre” which is the name of the norse goddess in charge of fertility. She was also celebrated celebrated around this time, and it is possible that Eostre came from a different goddess closer to the equator with a very similar name. Eostres festival was however celebrating the coming of spring rather than the resurrection of Christt. It only became about Christ in England after England was turned into a christian state following St. Augustine’s mission in the seventh century A.D. However there was also an ancient Assyrian goddess called Ishtar who was a goddess about fertility and sex dating two-thousand years before Christ, which is where we also get a lot of the symbolism behind Easter and the name. Since Assyria was one of the earliest cultures after the neolithic age it is therefore seen as a central hub for mythology, religion and culture. The Assyrian stories also talk about a great flood, which in Christianity is the story of Noah’s Ark.

Christians teach that we eat chocolate eggs because it symbolises the re-birth of Christ. If we’re going symbolically I think a snake would better fit the metaphor. Snakes were the symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis, to the Egyptians the snake was associated with Isis because the flooding of the Nile brought around fertilityy and re-birth of crops because of how he sheds his skin and appears to be “born again”. The snake was resurrected. However I don’t think snakes are as easy to come across in the local Sainsbury’s and they probably don’t taste as good.

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Eggs are, however, the general symbol fertility and not officially re-birth. The Greek goddess Persephone was often depicted dressed in a vast quantity of eggs. The myth of Persephone coming back from the underworld is an almost resurrection which is probably why the Christians eventually used it in their symbologies of Christ’s resurrection. The story of Persephone and Ceres is that Persephone was taken to the underworld by her uncle Hades (who was in love with her). Ceres was so upset by this that she refused to let the crops grow. Eventually a contract was drawn out between the two stating that Persephone was to spend six months in the underworld- as that was how many Pommegranite seeds she had eaten in the underworld- and the remaining months were with Ceres in the summer. The story of Perdephones return not only explains the seasons bit was celebrated in spring because that was when the animals and crops were fertile again. Eggs are also depicted on Eostre and other deities but are not directly associated with the crucifixion and re-birth of Jesus Christ and little to none depictions of Christ with an egg are in existence.

 

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Persephone with an egg on top of her staff

I would like to say that this post is not saying that Christianity is wrong, that we should be praying to a different god on this day, or celebrating in a different way. Christianity has adopted a lot of traditions from other cultures. (Christmas has taken Saturnalia and the birth of Mithras and adopted it) and without Christianity we might have lost a lot of these traditions, but in remembering it is about Christ we have forgotten the rest of history. We eat lamb, not because Jesus ate lamb, but because they are associated with spring and new seasons. We have the Easter rabbit because it was an animal associated with Eostre, and why would a bunny deliver eggs in our gardens if it was purely symbolising Christ? There’s more to Easter than meets the eye.

No matter what I hope you are enjoying the holiday.