WANTED: Your Housing Experiences And Opinions

THE PITCH
Housing is becoming a big problem within the UK. There are more people than there are homes, a ridiculous amount of people claiming Housing Benefit to claim their rent, record numbers of homeless living on our streets, “slumlords” and Estate Agents cashing-in on people’s desperation, and of course the Housing Benefit restrictions now coming into play.

I want to write about all of these things, and more.

WHY?
I want to spread awareness of the positives, and more importantly, the negatives. The aim is that people will read the facts, figures, and opinions that I will be writing about, and they will be inspired to take action, partaking in charity campaigns, signing petitions, etc, to try and fight back against the difficulties I will be writing about.

MY INSPIRATION
I have been inspired by my own recent experiences and those of my friends and family, changes being made to the system, and by fellow journalist Lord Matt of Thanet Star (see ‘Further Reading’ below) who recently blogged about housing problems in Thanet, where we reside.

I can really see this being a series of articles, rather than just one. There are a lot of things to be covered!

HOW YOU CAN HELP
I am writing an article regarding landlords, estate agents, Housing Benefit, council housing, etc, etc, etc, and I want YOUR experiences, YOUR facts and figures, YOUR opinions, YOUR say.

This is going to be a big project, I am going to be speaking to members of the public both employed and on benefits, several councils about their housing policies, estate agencies, etc, etc, etc.

Please, if you have anything at all to say on the topic, no matter how small, no matter where in the UK you live, no matter your circumstances, let me know.

Comment, or email me (contact at illisia dot co dot uk, or via my FaceBook) in confidence (nothing you say will be used without prior consent).

Thank you in advance for your help.

FURTHER READING / REFERENCES
Stamping Out Rogue Landlords In Thanet
Is Thanet Ready For The Immigration Of People On Benefits?

Getting Back On Schedule…

I have not posted an update in more than a week, due to my lack of internet at my current residency – though this will be resolved when Fibre Optic is installed on April 4th – and I apologise for this.

I am visiting fellow journalist Lord Matt for a couple of days, now, though, and he has kindly lent me the use of his laptop and internet capacity so that I might continue with my work.

During this time, I am speaking with him about the redesign of my website (as discussed here), catching up on my business emails, sending questions to my interviewees, finishing (and publishing) my review of The Sci-Fi Weekender, and organising my backlog of photographs for sharing.

Currently my photographs are only available to view – exclusively – on my FaceBook Page, due to the sheer number of images that I have now rendering my original Photography section of my website to be unpractical. There you can see new additions to my Photography Portfolio, including images from GEEK 2013, full size snow scenes (as teased with a Special Preview here), and a five hour photoshoot at Quex Park Paintballing. Soon to be uploaded are more images from all those categories, along with some from The Sci-Fi Weekender 2013, and some very special surprises…

Getting back to more formal, non-“geeky” journalism, as per my promise, I also have a very special article on the way to mark one year since this Blog was founded, several reviews of local eateries around Thanet, unfinished game reviews which will be able to finished once I am online and able to access my game saves from Xbox Live’s Cloud Storage, two book reviews, and many more surprises in store…

So, keep watching this space!

Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Three (Saturday)

Introduction

I promised to do a daily Event Report, and though this one is late due to illness, here it is. As with Thursday’s Report and Friday’s Report, I am keeping things simple and used categories and a bullet pointed system. Please note, all images are copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Do not reproduce them without prior consent, thank you.

Report

Layout

The main gaming floor has an interesting colour coding system for genres of games

The main gaming floor has an interesting color coding system for genres of games

Now that I had the lay of the land, it was easy enough to find my way around. Though admittedly the names of the different halls, etc, was still a little difficult at times, when announcements were made, to figure out where to go. It is one thing to know the layout, it is another to know the names of the places you are walking through, especially when the map is difficult to understand.

That said, I had the pleasure of meeting the lady who was responsible for the blocks of GEEK logos (etc) hanging from the ceiling in the main games hall, and she informed me that, actually, the different games genres as marked and colour-coded on the map can be seen physically in the games hall, with different square blocks showing different colours in each area. For instance, ‘Fighting’ is orange, and therefore if you are interested in fighting games, you look for the orange blocks. I felt absolutely stupid for not noticing it before, as it seemed so obvious once I knew, but the fact that no staff had told me this, either, was disappointing.

Games

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

The new Crowd Funded console, still awaiting release, was playable at the convention at the Fists Of Awesome stand.

I spent time with the Independent games today, there were some really interesting, unique ones on offer, of different genres and available on varying platforms.

Fists Of Awesome, a very “old school” inspired game with plenty of humor that is oddly addictive, was drawing in the crowds with its Ouya console, a gaming platform that has yet to be released, but was available there due to the game being one of the launch titles of the Crowd Funded console.

Another game, Chompy Chomp Chomp, was a multiplayer game for up to four players where you face-off against your competitors to literally “chomp” one another by chasing after the player who’s color you have been given. I found it ridiculously challenging (I scored zero points three rounds in a row!), but also lots of fun.

The third independent game I unfortunately did not manage to play today, but it seemed very popular with the crowds, which is no surprise given how it seemed to be a form of retro games emulator.

Talks and Workshops (etc)

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes!

… It drew in quite the crowd!

Today I listened to a Talk and sat in for a few minutes on a Workshop about cosplay. Fascinating stuff, by people who clearly know what they are talking about from years of experience.

Another Talk that was beyond fascinating was Matt Fox’s The Complete History Of Video Games In Ten Minutes. The seats were all taken, and crowds were piling around the back and the sides, as well, he had everyone enthralled. And for good reason, too. Not only is a ten minute history of video games a seemingly impossible task, but when you manage it with such humor and interaction with the crowd. This Talk was to coincide with the release of his second book, The Video Games Guide volume 2. We swapped contact details and I have every intention of hunting him down for an interview.

Cosplay

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday's stage.

A group shot of cosplay on Saturday’s stage.

Saturday, being the most popular day of course, drew in quite an impressive cosplay crowd. Even my partner and fellow journalist, Matthew Brown (seen here in the center, in the top hat) aka Lord Matt was drawn into the Cosplay Masquerade, with his steampunk-esque clothing, which ironically is his everyday wear!

Four of those cosplayers came all the way from Scotland, and they were an absolute pleasure to speak with, and even later on, play games with. A long way to come for gaming and cosplay! Word of GEEK is clearly spreading…

Exhibitors

There were plenty of stalls with a wide range of games from different genres and consoles. The stand owners seemed very knowledgeable. My friends at Groovy Frog in Ramsgate were also there in full swing, and not just as an exhibitor, but also hosting various workshops on the games that they sell there.

Food

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

The Irie Soulfood Cafe staff (right) and founder (left) taking a short break as the crowds lessen.

Today I decided to try the Jamaican food available from The Irie Soulfood Cafe‘s stand. I have eaten their food before, last summer in Cecil Square during the Diamon Jubilee celebrations, if I recall. They are still holding strong, and their food is just as gorgeous and their staff and founder just as pleasant as I remember.

Staff

After three days of being at the event, I have found myself seeing familiar faces in amongst the Crew, who greet me by name when they see me and make recommendations for Talks, Workshops and games. I swapped contact details with several of them, I can see us being good friends. These people are geeks, and very polite, friendly ones who are well informed, at that. Questions that could not be answered in days past, ongoing problems, etc, are now easily resolved by them, they are clearly learning from mistakes. Good to know.

Over 18s Late Play

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

Geeky gaming-themed poetry, courteousy of Game City Nights, as read by Dan Simpson and others.

There were plenty more Tournaments. Once again, I entered a Call Of Duty one, this time for the original Black Ops (not last year’s record breaking sales sequel). I got lots of comments from my fellow gamers about how a woman aught not to be so good, much to my amusement, and the Replay Events (who host the Tournaments and provide many of the consoles at the convention) staff knew me by this point, cheered me on, and even waited for me when I was running a little late for my turn.

Once again, however, there were many problems with the way that the Tournaments were structured and played. For the Black Ops one, people were told they could not use Custom Classes, but persisted in making them anyway, and the maps used varied from match to match, which made the games unbalanced. There is clearly needs to be more effort to make these games fair for whoever plays them, next year, but nonetheless, I had lots of fun and made many friends.

GameCityNights also provided alternative entertainment for the adults with a gaming themed poetry recital from Dan Simpson, and others. I recorded it, so I can share it with you all at some point in the coming weeks (keep watching this space, or Subscribe to know when it is posted). It was quite brilliant.

Other Notes

  • Disabled Access is limited, but available.
  • The toilet facilities are well maintained.
  • The “GEEK Around Town” events have been well received and recommended by all.

Conclusions

Saturday is widely regarded as a convention’s busiest, and therefore most difficult to run, day. I think that, although there were problems with the schedule, etc, considering the crowds, GEEK did a good job.

Event Report: GEEK 2013, Day Two (Friday)

Introduction

I promised that I would do a day-to-day report, so here is my Report from Friday’s convention. As with Thursday’s Report, I am keeping things simple and used categories and a bullet pointed system. Please note, all images are copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Do not reproduce them without prior consent, thank you.

Report

Layout

The GEEK 2013 Map

I photographed the map to share, so you can all “get the lay of the land”.

There are more halls and rooms open today than there were yesterday, and honestly, the map provided was a little confusing at first for myself, and several other visitors that I spoke with, but we soon go the “lay of the land” after speaking with Crew members and asking advice.

The layout is actually a lot simpler than it seems, and it gives you lots of space to move around in, none of the horrible “shuffling” through crowds that other conventions suffer from. Even the main games hall which looked quite crowded when I first entered was actually rather spacious and well organised so that there is little need for queuing and it is easy to find the game/s that you are interested in.

Talks, Workshops and Food, again, though a little confusing at first, were easy enough to find and were spaciously arranged.

Games

The Video Games Carnival

Outside of the main games hall, there is a Video Games Carnival which had laser games, 3D handheld games, and even giant size games and games controlled using fruit!

There were many more games available today. The main games hall had more games than it did yesterday, including several new independent ones. The entrance hall where the Talks and Food Court has a Video Games Carnival with retro 3D handheld games, giant size competitive gameboy play, and even a PacMan game controlled with the use of fruit (isn’t science fun?)!

Talks and Workshops (etc)

I did not “sit-in” on any Talks or Workshops, but I did walk around the room and I could hear clearly what was being said so the sound travels well for the Talks, and I passed by several Workshops which seemed to be interesting enough to be drawing in the crowds.

Tomorrow I shall attend Workshops and Talks.

Cosplay

Cosplay Group Shot

The Cosplay Masquerade entrants pose for a group photograph.

I met the cosplayer organiser, she is a very pleasant woman with lots of passion for and knowledge in the field. The Cosplay Masquerade was well organised, though there were a few technical difficulties that had it running past its scheduled time, and during the Masquerade there were a few mishaps with the music being played, etc, but jokes were made and laughs were had when this happened, it was very professional. The judging system seemed very efficient and fair, and there were two prizes available. I agreed with their choices, well deserved. Many more photographs to follow.

Exhibitors

The Exhibitors were different today, much more available for purchase.

Food

Hand Prepared Food

The Food Court had much on offer, including a stall selling hand prepared sandwiches.

The Food Court has now been opened, and though it is a small area, there is a reasonable variety, dependent on your preference and budget.

Mr Simms Sweet Shoppe from Margate’s Old Town were there selling imported goods, The Great British Pizza Co were taking orders and having them delivered directly to GEEK’s venue for attendees, a local Jamaican food restaurant (name to follow, bare with me) were preparing hot meals on-site, and there was a stall with plenty of hand made cakes and freshly prepared sandwiches.

  • I decided on the sandwiches. The stall staff were very pleasant people, lots of smiles and very polite, and they even made me a sandwich that was not on their pre-prepared menu, at my request, and for no extra cost. It was well “filled-out”, quite filling, and good value at three pounds. I later tried a lemon cake, a ninja shaped ginger bread man, and an Angry Birds themed cookie. I was pleasantly surprised by the effort to make “geeky” food, and they were quite “yummy”.
  • A fellow attendee purchased a pizza, which he waited around half an hour for, and he allowed me a slice of to try. It was absolutely delicious, lovely and warm, beautifully presented, and not a bad price, given the size of the pizza and how filling it was. Five pounds per pizza.

Tomorrow I shall try the Jamaican food.

Staff

As with yesterday, I found the volunteers to be wonderful people. As you interact with them more and more, you find some even start to remember you and treat you as though you are an old friend. They are happy to answer questions, recommend things to do, and one even got me a glass of water to take pain killers with. Again, no unpleasant experiences with any of them so far, I am very pleased with them.

Over 18s Late Play

Tournament Winner

The winner of the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Xbox 360 Tournament

The main gaming hall was opened late for adults only, and a special section with 18 rated games was additioned. I like this concept, it means that adults that do not want to share their gaming experience with teenagers and children can purchase an evening only ticket.

I myself entered a Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare gaming Tournament, a game that I have never once played, and reached the Semi-Final. I am not happy with the way the Tournament was hosted, I noticed a lot of screen-peaking from fellow players, and even some communication between friends in the Tournament together. This definitely needs improving for tomorrow’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops Tournament.

There were other Tournaments from other genres of gaming (racing, fighting, etc) as well, so there was something for everyone, and the lack of crowds in comparison to during the day meant there was much more freedom in what you could choose to play and how long you could play each game for.

I definitely approve of the Over 18s Late Play.

Other Notes

  • Disabled Access is limited, but available.
  • The toilet facilities are well maintained.
  • The “GEEK Around Town” events have been well received and recommended by all.

Conclusions

Though the map is a little difficult to read, and the schedule of events was overrunning, I like the spacious layout and the range of games, talks, events, exhibitors and food that was available today. A big improvement on yesterday’s start. The Over 18s Late Play was also a fantastic addition.

GEEK 2013: An Introduction

GEEK 2013

GEEK, aka Games Expo East Kent, is a gaming convention spanning several days held yearly at Margate Winter Gardens, and other venues around the town, celebrating retro and modern computer games alike.

The concept launched to great success in 2012, so much so that, to help it grow, this year there has been much more community involvement, with several Meetings being held to discuss ideas for the event.

My questions are is this event really worth attending, and how does it effect Margate? And, Press Pass in-hand, I have every intention of finding out… So, I intend to post a day-by-day report of the event, with photographs, interviews, personal opinions of my experience, etc, and an over all review of the event when it draws to a close.

Snow Photographs: Coming Soon…

Image

I have not posted an update regarding my photography for some time, so here is a quick one to assure you that I am indeed still working with my art. For my existing Portfolio , see the Photos section on my FaceBook Page, as I am currently re-designing my website.

Snowy Photographs Preview

I will be uploading full size images from my snowy photography outing(s) shortly, but here is a preview in the meanwhile.

Theme: Snow/Winter/Christmas
Location: Clitonville, Margate
Date: 20/01/2013
Description: I was ill and bed-bound for the majority of the snowing this year, but I was able to venture outside for a short while nonetheless, and these are a few of the shots that I was able to get during this time.
Notes: I have done two snowy shoots this year, these are from my first.
Copyright Notice: Copyright Illisia Adams 2013. Please ask permission before sharing and give appropriate credit.

February is a busy month!

Making up for a long absence… 

After much drought with my journalism and photography due to ill health, I have started anew in 2013, and I am flinging myself straight into the deep end, with a busy schedule of events to attend and report on, potential photography “gigs”, and a long list of articles, interviews and reviews to write up.

My New Year’s Resolution seems to be right on schedule, with the past few weeks being more productive than the past few months of work.

First on the list is spending the next couple of days typing up the interviews from Euro Gamer 2012, a long overdue task that I hope will be well worth the wait. I had the pleasure of speaking with Special Effect! about their charity who work to make computer games accessible to everyone, even those with mental and/or physical disabilities, and two young gentleman who were part of the team who’s original game won Virgin Media’s 100 Day Challenge.

This weekend is GEEK (Game Expo East Kent) 2013, a games-dedicated convention held throughout Margate, which I shall be reporting on and photographing. I hope to bring you updates at the end of each day.

The weekend after is The Sci-Fi Weekender, a residential convention held in Wales which will require a thirteen hour coach ride to travel to and cost a tidy fortune and a lot of organising to get tickets for, but will be well worth the effort. There is a very prestigious list of Guests, Talks, film showings, and even a party DJed by none other than Craig Charles, aka Lister of Red Dwarf! It will be a big task to report on, but I welcome the challenge and I hope I can share my experiences with you as-and-when they happen.

There are also plenty of artistic photographs almost ready to share with you, a couple of potential unpaid photography “gigs”, and my website, though it has been offline for several weeks now, looks as though it might (fingers crossed!) finally be fixed (“within 48 hours”).

So… A busy month indeed! I hope it will compensate for my lengthy absence and get me back on track.

Keep watching this space.

New Year, Fresh Start

Introduction
Irony can be quite harsh! I initially wrote this article at the very start of the new year, but, thanks to a huge influx of personal problems, I am only now posting it, which is precisely what the topic is about: my New Year’s Resolution to balance my personal life and my professional efforts.

So, it would appear that thus far, I am not succeeding very well in my task, but, here is my article, finished, and published. A start, though a delayed one, is better than no start at all.

Thank you all for your patience.

Article

NEW YEAR, FRESH START
a history lesson and a fresh perspective on new year’s resolutions

– – – –

When I initially started this Blog in March 2012, I had made a decision to pursue my dream of becoming a professional journalist and photographer. I was determined that my move to Margate, a fresh start in and of itself, would be the push in the right direction that I needed. A new place, new people and plenty to write about and photograph.

Whilst those first few months were relatively productive, I found that my personal life was holding me back. My suffering poor health and having family and friends in turmoil, my writing and photography was taken almost to an utter halt, made a secondary priority, essentially, to life. But, the longer I went without posting, the more I realised how much I truly missed it, how much I truly needed it.

– – – –

Having thought long and hard about this dilemma, of the “pros and cons” of attempting to balance journalism and photography with a stress-filled personal life and poor health, I have now, ironically in the month of January which is considered worldwide as the beginning of a new year and a fresh start, decided that it is of the utmost importance that I return to my passions, to start anew what I began last year.

So, with the timing of my fresh start falling on the New Year, you would not be mistaken if you considered it to be a form of New Year’s Resolution, one that aims for me to have a healthy balance between my personal and professional lives, and begins with me spending days of researching facts and figures on the history of this worldwide tradition to inspire me, and my readers, to embrace it..

– – – –

New Year is a tradition dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years which originates from dozens of cultures and historical civilisations. It is believed that it was Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire who first suggested that the year begin on January 1st, in honour of the Roman God Janus, after which the month was named. This was all the way back in 46 BC, but it was not until 1752 AD that the Britons adopted the Gregorian Calendar, with its twelve month cycle ending in December and beginning in January. Prior to this, we actually celebrated our New Year as “Lady Day”, believed to be the day when Mary, Jesus’ mother, was informed of her son’s coming birth, on March 25th.

The tradition of New Year’s Resolutions can also be traced back just as far, if not further, although what was considered the start of each year was different. The ancient Babylonians and the Romans began their calendar year by making promises to their Gods, and the Knights of the Mediaeval era took “The Peacock Vow” at the end of Christmas each year to re-affirm their commitment to their code of chivalry, to name but a few examples. It is unknown as to when or how the modern, international tradition of New Year’s Resolutions came to happen, however.

– – – –

Interestingly enough, New Year’s Day is quite possibly the only global Public Holiday, even though many countries have their own unique calendars for their national faith or heritage. This fact literally brings the world together, breaking down all boundaries of skin colour, sex, country of residence, religion, or culture, and that is a truly beautiful thing.

So, why is it that the majority of people fail to succeed in the goal that they set upon themselves? In recent surveys it has been discovered that eighty-eight percent of UK residents that were questioned had failed in their prior year’s goal. Surveyed Americans fared even worse. With these negative statistics, many people would not be blamed for taking a “why bother?” stance on the concept. I, however, prefer to have a “glass half full” perspective.

– – – –

These same studies show that, though many failed, there were very valid reasons as to why. They set themselves unrealistic, almost unachievable goals, or far too broad ones. “Lose weight”, “get fit”, “get a job”, these are all achievable, but more difficult to reach because of the lack of specifics or their long term nature. One is far more likely to succeed in one’s goal by setting smaller, more realistic tasks, or step-by-step lifestyle changes to achieve it, such as losing a certain amount of weight each month, or changing ones diet. This should, in theory, create a regular, positive feeling of achievement in the person, compared to the dragging negativity that results from many months of supposed failure.

Further examination of studies into New Year’s Resolutions shows us that there are also distinct differences between how each sex succeeds in their tasks. Men are more successful when they broke down their resolution into smaller, more achievable goals, whereas women found more success when they made their goals public and drew on the support of friends and family.

– – – –

I have decided, for my New Year’s Resolution to succeed, it needs to combine everything that I have learned. My resolution must be clear and concise, broken down over the year into smaller, more achievable goals, and shared with my friends and family so that I can gander support and advice throughout my efforts.

So, my overall resolution for the year, though originally something such as “pursue journalism professionally” or “Blog more”, has moulded itself into “earn money from my journalism and photography”, through smaller weekly or monthly goals such as “reach 200 Likes on my FaceBook Page” and “send Portfolio to magazines to consider for publication”, the progress for which I will be sharing through social networking.

– – – –

The facts and theories are sound. Whether, however, they work in practice, remains to be seen. Perhaps, this time next year, I shall be writing a follow-up article of my personal experiences and conclusions on the topic. Only time shall tell…

In the meanwhile, I leave you all with my findings, and hopefully, the inspiration to take them in your own stride and embrace this new perspective on a very old tradition. Will you, as I have, set yourself a New Year’s Resolution this year, and try to see it through? Comment and discuss…

Further Reading
The Mental Health Foundation’s guide to New Year’s Resolutions
Wiki-How’s guide to succeeding in New Year’s Resolutions
US New Year’s Resolutions statistics, updated in December of 2012
An interesting article on the history of New Year’s Resolutions
The History Channel’s history of New Year’s Resolutions

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

Coming Soon…

I have been busy the last few days helping a friend, and during this period, I was not able to type, but gosh, did I click! My camera has been a busy girl, flashing some beautiful shots of nature. Nothing journalistic, of course, more just contributions to my more personal Portfolio, but it has been many weeks since I last took a snap, so I am quite please that I am “back in the game” of photography to say the least.

That excitement and happiness that I felt when I was behind that lens, I missed it very much. I have been sitting affront my computer screen for so long, typing away for hours on end about all manner of subjects, but there is just something more passionate and meaningful to capturing moments on film – allbeit digital.

I have decided that I am going to be looking for local events to attend and photograph, perhaps even report on, pairing my two passions together at last. Doing that would be a big step for me.

So, I am finishing (and Posting) the articles that I have so far on the film and television industry which are very much picture-less, but hopefully still an enjoyable read, and then I am going to try something more journalistic and factual, as apposed to opinion-based.

Wish me luck!

Margate Is My Home Now

Introduction
Below you will find my first ever article that I have written and decided to publish. It has taken two weeks for me to deem it finished. It is perhaps longer than my usual, but there was a lot of ground to cover. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to provide feedback. Constructive critique is of course encouraged. Thank you.

Article

MARGATE IS MY HOME NOW
the story of a disabled citizen making a new start in one of the most “run down” cities in the country

– – – –

One month ago I signed my life away. A week later I was the center of attention on my road as my nosey new neighbors peaked earily out of the corner of their window curtains at the rucous of the moving van and the awkward sight of a woman on a walking stick actually attempting to move bags and boxes. That disabled woman was me, and yes, I am that stubborn.

– – – –

Moving here was never the plan. I had never visited the coast in my life, London and Dartford were all I knew as home, and I certainly had no intention of leaving my small circle of friends and what little family that I had left. I liked my life, enclosed though it was, and I had no intention of changing it.

But life is full of surprises – some good, some bad – and a few months later three of my oldest friendships had fallen apart, my parents had decided to move halfway across the country, and when my (then) boyfriend drops a bomb on me saying “let’s move to the coast and make a fresh start” I – for the first time in my life – took a chance on change, and replied with an enthused “yes”.

– – – –

As I said before, I had never seen the coast in my life, and I can tell you, when we arrived in Margate for the first time I was fast asleep in my uncle’s car, but I awoke when I smelt it… that fresh, wonderful sea air. And then I saw it. It was everything that I thought that it would be, and more. I was like a child discovering cookies for the first time, it filled me with this almost unexplainable happiness, it was so beautiful. A tear fell from my eye as we pulled up to the estate agents and I said “hello” to the possibilities this world could bring me.

– – – –

It was many weeks of going back and forth from our residencies in London (myself) and Dartford (then boyfriend) and several estate agents later before we finally found it: a three bedroom double glazed Cliftonville split-level flat. I insisted it looked more like half a house, so we came to know it as our “flouse”, the best of both worlds. He fell in love with it straight away, contrary to my want to continue looking, but love does conquer all, including my stubborness, so once again I found myself agreeing with him and we decided to put down our holding fee and “seal the deal”.

But, sealing the deal is harder than it looks and there was much to be done. It was almost a month – and we nearly lost our flouse – before we got the “okay” to come down and sign our tenancy agreements. Sadly and ironically, my partner and I broke up only one week prior to the signing, and we had many talks about whether we still wanted to do it, but we both needed that “fresh start”, even if it was just as friends, and rough though the transition has been, we neither of us regret it.

– – – –

It was cold and dark the night that we moved. Think of everything that could possibly go wrong, and it probably did. A car broke down, belongings were damaged, furniture would not fit… but “positive thinking leads to positive results” as an old friend of mine used to say, and that day we proved her right because we triumpthed over all that would delay us and that night we slept in our seperate bedrooms in our new flouse. A flouse that, in time, we would come to know as home.

The following morning we were exhausted and we truly wanted to stay in bed, but we were far too excited. We insisted on exploring the area, even just a little, not as “tourists” but as residents. We had a mini argument (which delayed the bus, much to our embarrassment) about whether to get a Return ticket to Westwood X for supplies or a Free Rider to explore some more. But, it was late on a Sunday afternoon, so a Return seemed the obvious choice, as in true British fashion, “everywhere would be closing soon”. The irony is that apparently a Free Rider would have only been seventy pence extra each, which we were shocked to discover as in London and Dartford the fairs are higher to say the least. That was our first sign that moving here was a good decision.

Our second sign were the welcoming smiles of two gentleman who own a small burger stand in Westwood X, opposite Marks & Spencer. I had read mention of them on the website for the shopping center* but as an Ethitarian – someone who tries to live life ethically, supporting local businesses, eating only free range meats, etc – I was expecting to have nothing on their menu that I could eat, as that is what I was accustomed to. But here on the coast, things are very, very different. When asked about their meats, we were informed that most were from local farm(s) and completely free range. Some produce were even from a farm that allows deaf children to raise hens, supporting local charity The Royal School For Deaf Children Margate. All this news made me more than happy, but tasting that burger made me ecstatic. It really was amazing – and so was the conversation. They gave us a wonderful welcome, and we really look forward to seeing them and eating their foods again.

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Not everything has been that easy, though. I am not just physically disabled, I also have agoraphobia, a mental health concern which means that I am scared of leaving home without someone accompanying me. I have had my fair share of scary encounters in London and that led to a fear of future occurances. The hope was that moving to the coast, I would feel safer and more at home; that I might even be able to leave the “flouse” unaccompanied, in time.

Cliftonville (Margate) may not seem like the safest or most welcoming place in the world, but we have introduced ourselves to some of our neighbors and some of the local businesses, and I think that in time, this place could really grow on me. Him, on the other hand? He goes out at any chance that he gets and is probably already becoming a “regular” at some of the local cafes and shops, so he has settled in just fine.

There is also the small matter of the fact that we still have thirty years (for him) and twenty-four years (for me) worth of boxed “bits and bobs” to sort through. I imagine most of it will be going to charity, but this is still no small task to complete.

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One week passed and whilst I decided to cut and dye my hair, he was already making his mark on the area, placing in a Tournament at the first convention of its kind, GEEK 2012**, coming home with a medal and some geeky goodies. “A fresh start” was what we agreed upon, and we were well on our way.

We were travelling back again to collect some final items, swap contact details with neighbors we did not want to lose touch with, etc, and although we were sad to be leaving for the final time, when our friends and family passed comments about how “different” we seemed – not just in appearance – we knew that we had made the right choice. There was no looking back, only forward, to our futures.

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“And what does the future hold for you?”, you might be asking. Well, he may have had to leave his job in Bluewater Shopping Center when he moved, but he has had some interest for job postings already, he is volunteering to work at a local charity shop, and with my support he is even considering furthing his education here at the Kent Adult Education Center and possibly Thanet College.

Myself? I am finally working my way through my “Living List”, a list of things I want to do with my life, from “write and publish a novel” to “lie on the grass and stare at the stars”, checking more of them off each day. I felt so contrained in London, but I do not know whether it is the fresh sea air or the people or the dust from all of those old book stores and antiques shops getting to my head and my heart and my soul, but I finally feel like I am making something of myself, like my life is worth living and I truly want to live it.

This is my home now, and so far, I never want to leave.

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*Since updated to no longer include the aforementioned burger stand, sadly.
**Now known as the Game Expo East Kent (hence “GEEK”).

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External Links
Westwood X Shopping Center
Royal School For Deaf Children Margate
Geek 2012

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