Summer feelings and sunsets

Blanca Schofield-Legorburo

I wish summers were always seen as continuous periods for experiences like learning, helping, loving, self-recognition, rather than blocks in the year that need to be filled with exciting, ambitious plans and occupations that make you feel worthwhile, make you ready to tell a comprehensive summer story of events rather than thoughts and impressions.

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This summer I decided to delete social media for a while. It came after too many hours half-spent with friends and half with screens, after noticing the small details in a different dimension that would preoccupy me and increase my insecurities, the dependence I was developing to false connections and approval and particularly after I realised that I was as excited about getting a photo from my uncle’s wedding than being in the actual wedding itself.

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As an international languages student living in London, I am lucky every summer to be able to travel to my native Spain and Ireland, to France and this year even to St Petersburg for a language course. Yet I was and am weary of having allowed the last few summers of travelling to be tainted by the filling of just enough, but not too many, of those squares with photos of me enjoying my different plans, trying to tick those boxes of appearance, enough fun, enough variety. All the while academic guilt of a degree I love but fear whispered at the back of my mind, distorting my reading and everything. All these worries and insecurities preoccupy and distract, when I just wanted to sit, walk, swim, be and do it while realising just how much I have been able to experience and just how grateful I am too.

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So that’s what I tried to do. Sit, walk, swim, be and, though it may seem like a simplification, be grateful. Insecurities plague me all the time, from am I good enough for this amazing family, this guy, these loyal adventurous friends, these travels, this degree, this or that language, to am I really doing enough to help, to change, do I belong in this movement, can I actually help or am I just being self-gratifying? But I want to and am trying to silence that insecurity, to see how important recognising my privilege is so as to listen and take every moment and feeling and be a part of the dismantling of this tension of insecurity and egoism that is causing so much destruction and inequality.

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After three months of persistent tirades against it, I ended up downloading some social media again when I arrived in St Petersburg. Three weeks in this country I had studied so much about and that is portrayed so unwelcomingly, struggles with language fluency, a distance from home, and, above all, the desire to capture the creative and exciting atmosphere of the city led me to begin posting snippets of my life again. I also felt that though it was easy for me to ignore it from my comfortable position, I couldn’t negate the platform social media can provide for so many movements and voices, ones like this one that I also believe in and need myself. Yet a summer without it has left me with more of an experience of feelings and stillness, rather than plans and occupations; I now feel more confident to tackle the negativity and insecurity that comes with constant expectations, and the dominance of personality and individual over collaboration and empathy. I did not want this to be a pedantic summer story, nor one of a block of time spent on self-discovery, but one of a renewed determination to live continuously, in touch with the every day, open to life and what feels real, like the sense of peace of these sunsets.

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Navigating the pace of summer

Bea Carpenter

Once again, summer has done that inevitable thing of behaving like an unfurling ball of string – at first it seems never-ending, almost punishingly slow, and then, just when you get to grips with it, it runs out of your hands uncontrollably and comes to a halt. For me it began with celebrations. In our family the months of June and July are a season of birthdays and along with the heat, they brought joyful parties and reunions.

Summer tends to also have a habit of swallowing your plans. In January it seems so simple. You have a grand plan of getting a job, travelling, seeing friends and even reading for pleasure in those long summer evenings. The reality can often be a little tougher to swallow.

So, July led me to visit Barcelona and Prague, see friends, celebrate my sister’s 21st birthday and travel around England, even braving a dip or two in the North Sea. But come August I felt somewhat deflated, job plans had fallen through and all my friends seemed to have jetted off on exotic holidays or were just busy, and rightly so. The days blended into each other and I began to drift along in a muddled summer haze. Not, however, on the luxurious inflatable pink lilo I had imagined, but instead on one of those funny foam floats you can find at your local swimming pool – far less fashionable.

In September I forced myself off that float and made concrete plans to fill up my days. I began ticking off the things I had on my mental to-do list and finally started relaxing into the inevitable lethargy of hot summer days. By this time I’d exhausted the selection of podcasts and books I’d put aside for ‘downtime’, and come September their words suddenly took their effect, inspiring and motivating me as I had hoped.

Then came a lovely trip to Ireland (a reunion with my college husband), a family holiday to Scopello in Sicily and long summer nights spent chatting with old friends. All briskly followed by a series of final goodbyes, watching the same friends set off for their degrees/art courses/jobs in the autumn.

I too began to be excited about my imminent return to Cambridge and started to find a greater sense of purpose in the days that followed. Work came, as it tends to do, and then I was able to volunteer with Help Refugees in the Calais Warehouse. These four days were some of the most worthwhile and interesting of my entire time away from my degree. They forced me out of my own head, and I focused solely on everything and everyone around me. Inspired by the truly lovely people I worked with and for, I came back excited for the year.

So, my new approach to the working term is to start picking; break out of the fog and away from that silly swimming float. Instead of drifting through until Christmas, I will carve my own path through the busy and bustling term ahead of me. Instead of splashing around for the rest of the year, I want to streamline my way across from one side to the other and not just stay in the same lane.

The pace of summer was often intangible, neither one thing or the other, but its variety reminded me just how important balancing the varying speeds of life really is and the value of setting your own tempo.

Memory of summer

Julia Lasica

Over the summer I watched Michael Kalik’s film, ‘Do svidaniya, malchiki’ (‘Goodbye, boys’), at the Barbican. The film was broadly focused on juxtaposing the boys’ innocence and the horrors that they would soon encounter in the impending Second World War. But, as I watched it, I found the way that Kalik captured the very memory, the minutiae of their lives, incredibly moving. The camera would linger on the boys as they swam out to sea, half submerged, with the sun on the waves glinting on the audience as spirals of bubbles clustered and sprinkled out around the boys’ bodies. They would walk as silhouettes, framed against a listless evening sea, from one end of the screen to the other. And as they turned their heads and their faces flooded with the setting sun, I would hold their gaze for a split second, sitting in a future, in a city that they would never know, intruding on their last days of childhood. Then they would look above me, into the sky, and shout something to one another, the shot would pan out and they would wave their hands and run out across the sand. It seemed to me that I was watching them through the eyes of an adult, one who was desperately trying to bottle up the feeling of one’s feet running over a pier’s uneven concrete, the feeling of the sea wind blowing fabric against one’s body- to encapsulate moments of childhood.

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It made me think a lot about memory, and the summer that had just passed. I have always had a frustratingly awful memory, and there was a period in my life during which I religiously noted down every event that had occurred in my day in order to never, ever allow it to leave me. I pasted flowers, posters, flyers from concerts into scrapbooks, imagining that one day I would be able to relive a particular emotion or sensation, or that a melody I had heard being played would come into my mind, through the material I had safely secured on the page. Letters were important to me too – I found in them an ability to stop time, and they allowed a moment of joy or love to extend beyond itself, into the present moment within which I was re-reading the text. A couple of weeks before I watched the film, I came across notes from my grandmother to my grandfather. Suddenly my grandmother was not the frail lady I always imagined wearing a yellow sunhat, smiling as she turned to little me under the shadow of the apple and plum trees. Instead, I glimpsed her through the words and letters, a young woman hurrying through the kitchen, grumbling about the stains on her green skirt, listening to trams trundling outside, learning English, scribbling notes in pencil to her new husband.

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So what will that long, long summer, that cavernous gap between the last May Ball and moving back in October, which I fell into and wandered around in for a while, be fragmented into in my mind? Imagining that the diaries and scrapbooks that had documented it were lost, how would it appear, unassisted? At the very end of Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’, an emotionally exhausting letter recalling the long history between Wilde and his ex-lover, he makes a startling comment: he claims that neither of the two men know each other truly, that there is still so much for them to find out about one another. This idea that nothing can be related in its wholeness, meaning that I will only ever be able to access echoes of my grandmother’s character, that I will only ever be able to stand at the platform, watching the train carrying the boys in the movie away, only able to follow them to the brink of the end of one epoch of their lives, was oddly freeing. The anxiety I had felt to pause and encapsulate moments of my summer in the manner of freeze frames in films, two figures perpetually sitting on a beach as notes continued to spill over into one another in the soundtrack, was finally lifting. I still appreciate the sentimentality of those objects and texts, but perhaps my memories of this summer will be most vivid and tangible when they return to me out of the blue, as my life flows on, perhaps at the most mundane moments – the rainy, dark fields spotted in white scattered flowers, which I tried so hard to ingrain in my mind as I left them behind, will flash out to me one day, unprompted. Then I will quite happily remember a little part of the summer passed.

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Summer anti-story

Anna Curzon Price 

I’ve now mastered my summer story. After the first efforts at retelling the complexity of a few months of semi-adventure, semi-boredom, I’ve worked out a rather formulaic meta-narrative to explain my summer. It is the only way to cope with the repeated need to detail and justify how you have spent the last three months at each new social occasion.

My story needs to touch upon the general themes of overcoming loneliness and homesickness, pushing boundaries and gradually gaining the confidence that I too can act in the practical, adult world, as opposed to being solely confined to the abstract labyrinth of the UL and social theory. It must explain how dealing with unrecognisable alphabets, failed credit cards and sim cards, the booking of countless bus journeys and the planning of detailed, complex itineraries were not boring organisational tasks. Instead they were challenges – each a small test through which I could prove my own resilience and independence as well as the rather macho ability to travel as cheaply as possible (I definitely think this is one of the most subtly competitive aspects of the retelling of a summer story).

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Yet the more down pat my narrative seems to be the more distant the experience of travelling feels. It was only when a friend recently summarised their summer to me as ‘beautiful’ that I realised this is what I have been forgetting in my edited-down adventure story.

The feeling of exhilaration and excitement that one gets from stumbling across a green leafy temple in the middle of a concrete jungle mega-city, or wandering aimlessly through what is, to seasoned inhabitants, identity-less suburbs, doesn’t really fit into the self-development narrative so it gets left out. It is difficult to explain these moments without delving down to a level of detail that even my parents are not prepared to listen to.

But as memories of my summer increasingly rely on my repeated retellings I feel these memories becoming more and more distant – devoid of the feelings of enchantment which made travelling so exciting in the first place.

I think this putting of beauty on the back-burner when retelling one’s story comes from a desire to be seen as constantly improving and pushing oneself, progressing, growing up. Of course travel does have a self-development function – and the construction of one’s personal mythology around a summer is both enjoyable and necessary. But I still find it a shame that the successful gap year or adventure abroad is one in which one ‘finds oneself’ – to the point where it can feel like the particularities of the foreign scenery where this introspective adventure was played out has no relevance to the overall story.

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The only way in which I rekindle a shadow of these intense, exhilarating moments of contact with otherly beauty is when I flick back through my sketchbook. Drawing as a form of recording requires intense focus on what is outside of oneself, the particularities of the scene around. Unlike with the taking of a photograph, I do not think about how my method of recording will somehow fit into a wider story which I will tell about myself and my travels to others. Drawing is not an immediate, readily shareable medium and therefore it removes some aspect of the pressure of narrative construction; instead, it allows for a more intense appreciation of one’s surroundings.

Valuing beauty and the time one spends simply in a state of wonder or enchantment is important. It is something I think that in Cambridge especially one can easily forget to do. Not everything has to fit into a story of self development. As a result I would like to share a few snapshots from my summer instead of a summer story – moments which I had forgotten before flicking back through my journal in the search for a story I could write about.

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We are looking for a new committee!

We are looking for a group of passionate self-identifying women to form our new committee.

If you are enthusiastic about bringing self-identifying women into dialogue, celebrating their achievements, and hosting inspirational and exciting events, then Cambridge Girl Talk is for you.

To apply, please take a look at the job descriptions and send an email to cambridgegirltalk@gmail.com explaining who you are, why you want to be part of Cambridge Girl Talk, and why you think you’re suited to the role. We cannot wait to hear from you!

ROLE DESCRIPTIONS

Director

The role of director is challenging but rewarding. It involves:

  • Organising and chairing regular Girl Talk committee meetings, to keep tabs on progress with upcoming events and blog content
  • Making executive decisions about the direction and running of the project as a whole
  • Ensuring that different teams on the committee – blog, events, social media and administrative – are working in sync, ideally through a committee group chat and Facebook group
  • Supporting other committee members in their roles
  • Ensuring that Girl Talk has a stall at the Freshers’ Fair and ordering merchandise
  • Organising informal committee socials to boost team morale and, particularly at the start of the year, making all committee members feel welcome and valued as members of Girl Talk
  • Listening to any concerns that committee members may have and being prepared to help if anyone is struggling with their tasks for personal reasons

Secretary and publicity

The role of secretary/publicity is:

  • Helping with the technicalities of organising events such as booking rooms and sorting equipment
  • Reaching out to new sponsors and maintaining good relationships with existing ones
  • Taking care of the girl talk bank account and reimbursements
  • Coordinating projects by updating trello boards
  • Maintaining and expanding the Girl Talk Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, working with the Blog team to ensure all blog posts are well publicized

Events Coordinator (x 2)

The events coordinators will need to be organised, creative and enthusiastic about making Girl Talk as exciting as it can be! The role is:

  • To be the driving force behind each of the events held by Girl Talk throughout the year, and planning a variety of events with help from the team (from socials to panel discussions and keynote speeches)
  • Sourcing speakers
  • Working with publicity to publicize the event
  • Being in charge of logistics on the day

Blog editor

The editor will be in charge of our successful blog. The role involves:

  • Coming up with fortnightly commissions centred around a creative theme and ensuring content is a diverse and interesting range of personal essays, art, argument or creative writing.
  • Collaborating closely with the artist in residence and interested contributors to create engaging posts for our readers

Sub-editor / Columnist

This combined role requires someone with both creativity and a good eye for detail. It is a role that is more flexible and independent than much of the student press, that the columnist can really make their own. It involves:

  • ( As sub-editor) Supporting the editor in commissioning and selecting articles, but also in the nitty gritty process of editing and uploading the articles.
  • (As columnist) Having lots to say and a clear journalistic voice.
  • Being committed to writing weekly articles centred around a theme or pertaining to the blog’s fortnightly theme.
  1.  Please submit some examples of your writing when applying for this role.

Artist in Residence

This role involves:

  • Designing publicity material (facebook cover photos for events, term-card, and any additional material)
  • Contributing illustrations/artwork to the blog and social media
  • Undertaking other design work that the committee decides (e.g. merchandise, website)

N.b. Please submit some examples of your artwork if applying for this role.

A Warm Welcome to AWOMENfest

Raniyah Qureshi

If you asked me five years ago, I would have told you that I didn’t identify as a feminist, let alone that I had decided to set up a feminist arts festival. The strains of feminism that I had encountered up until 2013 had not been diverse, and didn’t really account for experiences that weren’t white, secular, cis, and heterosexual. To put it bluntly the feminism I had previously encountered simply hadn’t been intersectional. As someone who isn’t white and could be described as religious (although how you define what that means is fairly complex) it took a while to see myself in the feminist movement. Thankfully and blissfully, after much digging and research and through endless conversations with many patient individuals, I have finally decided what I want my feminism to look like. I’m so hopeful that open discussion, communication and kindness can get us to a point where slowly everyone engages in intersectional conversations, and intersectional feminism becomes commonplace – where the words become ‘intersectional feminism’ become unnecessary, because they’re implicit in every interaction.

I don’t think anyone is fully ‘woke’ because I think every individual has certain privileges, and views the world with themselves at the centre, but I do think it’s something that everyone should aim to be. This is where AWOMENfest comes in. We want to push everyone, gently and lovingly, to try and understand experiences beyond their own. A play on the Hebrew ‘amen’ (so be it) AWOMENfest focusses on the diverse narratives that compose what ‘womanhood’ (if such a term is useful in 2018) really looks like. AWOMENfest is a weekend feminist arts festival taking place from the 23rd — 25th March at DIY Space for London. Our incredibly magical and supportive team, including Alina Khakoo, curator of AWOMENfest (and co-founder of Cambridge Girl Talk) and Indigo Theatre Productions are helping to bring what was once a daydream and a fantasy of mine to life. We’re creating a loving and safe environment, where we can celebrate the diversity of feminism, and show that even the most radical aspects of feminism are accessible to all. We want all individuals attending the festival, whether they identify as male, or female or as non-binary to feel uplifted and communally celebrate all things radical softness!

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Our four sessions across the weekend will explore the themes of vulnerability, solidarity, spirituality and desirability. AWOMENfest is a multi-disciplinary affair: we’re showcasing the artwork of renowned individuals such as Alice Skinner, Fee Greening and Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee, alongside performances by the incredible Emma Jean-Thackray, Transgress Productions, and roundtable discussions on topics ranging from ‘forgiveness in feminism’ to presentations of The Women in Porn project. Our whole team fiercely believes that through art, individuals who don’t necessarily care about or haven’t engaged in ideas concerning BME mental health, or the nuances of drag performance, can come and have a great time, and slowly contemplate ideas that they may not have encountered or wished to think about before. We’ve embraced ‘radical softness’ to demonstrate our commitment to being open and inclusive.

The way we view it ‘radical softness’ highlights that feminism is a merging of the political and the personal. ‘Radical softness’ involves embracing the kindness within feminism and using emotional vulnerability as a means of resilience and fortitude. Feminism has given me so much, it’s given me networks and communities of support, I’ve met individuals who not only have the most amazing stories to tell, but have channelled their vulnerabilities, their heartbreaks and their struggles into the most beautiful and overwhelming pieces of art. AWOMENfest holds onto this feeling and tries to encapsulate it in a single weekend. By focussing on ‘radical softness’ we’re showing that all the upsets, and the difficulties of a collection of diverse experiences can be made into something beautiful.

We really hope to see as many Girl Talk readers there. For more information please visit www.awomenfest.com, and buy your tickets, so together we can push back against the kyriarchy, and raise funds for the My Body Back Project:(http://www.mybodybackproject.com/). 

The Wasted Hours

Phoebe Cramer

The middle of the day has become non-existent.

1 – 4 pm are The Wasted Hours. Sandwiched between mornings of fresh motivation and evenings of panic-driven productivity, the middle of the day dissolves into nothingness. I cannot work. I cannot do the other things that need doing and are decisively Not Work. I cannot even really socialise. It’s not procrastination because of a complete lack of intent. It is simply a time of pure, irrational unproductivity.

It is both frustrating and strangely satisfying to know that you are wasting time – a precious commodity in Cambridge – but below that there’s an underlying feeling of melancholy, a familiar sort of gloom. These are the moments in the day when I am at my lowest. Every single day – without fail. I’m usually tucked away in my room after braving a morning at Sidgwick, (although not at the moment, due to the strike) and though I’m lucky to not feel lonely here, it is an inexplicable sensation of isolation. Just in the middle of the day, between 1-4 pm.

It is tiredness. And resignation. And the realisation that this is an insanely relentless place. It is an overload of work and jobs that need doing, and the ease of not doing them. For me, it is grief. And longing. Missing home and missing things in Cambridge that feel slightly out of reach. Not insecurity, but a quiet examination of myself: my attitude, my creativity, my body, my relationships.

It is a difficult thing to articulate, this simple feeling of middle ground that comes with these hours. Do other people do this? Waste time in the same way? Feelings of insecurity and mediocrity are far from rare in Cambridge, and provide most of the ‘jokey’ bonding between me and my treasured ‘gal pals’ here. In Britain, typically the only socially acceptable answer to ‘How are you?’ is ‘Fine, thanks’, but in Cambridge I have come to realise it’s not too honest to just say, ‘Exhausted’. It seems to do the same job. Both answers just mean average, the usual – we signed up for this exhaustion so cannot really complain.

It only takes some basic self-examination to realise that wasting this time is just another expression of insecurity – anxiety that feels better left alone. It’s simple, casual self-sabotage as I lose hours in the days that could otherwise be utilised. It’s the ‘I-Haven’t-Revised-For-The-Exam’ excuse that most of us have told ourselves when we are conscious of the possibility of working hard and still failing. Failing with the knowledge that you could, actually, have worked harder is more comforting.

Wasted hours makes my incomplete to-do list less harsh in the evenings: it’s okay that this and that didn’t get done, I wasted those hours, but if I hadn’t I definitely could have achieved all this. Definitely.

This week I wrote down some of the things that I did within these hours:

  • Rearranged the posters on my wall. Then arranged them back again.
  • Ate two Twix bars, one quickly and one slowly, to see which way was better. (This is subjective, but the satisfaction of a quick crunch may outweigh longevity).
  • Tidied my room, other than washing my plates. My room was already very tidy, the plates needed washing.
  • Looked up cinema listings are my local cinema back home despite being physically a two-hour train journey away from the cinema.
  • Realised that after having pitched this article, I should probably write it. Added it to the to-do list instead of starting it.
  • Felt my heart rate increase as I thought about how much work I need to do. Decreased my heart rate by deciding to think about something else. (In this case, the Pixar film Ratatouille).
  • Who knew my old primary school’s website could be so interesting?
  • Googled, studied and worried over the side effects of taking the Pill despite having never experienced any in the slightest.
  • Drew a highly artistic Twix wrapper on my forearm and genuinely debated whether getting this as my next tattoo would be arty or ridiculous. (Currently undecided).
  • Discovered ‘Bullet Journaling’ blogs. Spent a long time reading these. Made my own bullet journaling blog. I do not have a bullet journal.

I would not particularly recommend writing down the things you do when you waste time – unless you can spare an afternoon of existentialism.

Of course, wasting time is also pretty therapeutic. It is different to self-care, it’s not scheduled self-reflection or tea or face masks. But it is a period when time just slips by, and ultimately that is a uniquely relaxing feeling. Stress comes, goes and fades. Using this time would probably help me face that, and everything that needs doing. But as I continue to waste time and yet somehow tick along, it is reassuring to know that not every single hour of the day has to have a purpose.

featured image via instagram | @sophiaviggiano