2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49 – Hamilton: An American Revolution

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We have almost reached the end of my 2017 Reading Challenge books, it was a long road and I really stupidly left the two longest books to the back of the year. Which I did in 2016 as well and had to abandon it, but this year I was determined. By the time the final week of the year rolled around I had 3 books to read, the other two will follow but this one was one of the ones that I had been left to the end of the year:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49, Hamilton: The Revolution
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49, Hamilton: The Revolution

I kind of did that intentionally.

I saw Hamilton on 23rd December and was going again on the 30th and so I left it for that week in between to truly just stay immersed in the Hamilton world.

This book was also under 300 pages, had a lot of pictures and I got ‘er done on Christmas Day.

The book offered a really interesting insight into the process of getting the production to the stage and how all the pieces of the puzzle came together to create the thing that has had a grip of my soul for over two years now…

I found it interesting to see how the choreographer and the costume designer and so many other various people felt the pressure to get it right just because they felt the impact of what this could be. There were loads of parts like that, but it was those two in particular that really resonated with me, especially the choreographer. And also the whole section of It’s Quiet Uptown, not only did I enjoy that it was the only part of black pages and was incredibly symbolic and it somehow found a new to make that song even more painful.

I loved the annotations against all the songs, it revealed new levels that I hadn’t even noticed. It really highlighted that this is an ode/homage/nothing but total appreciation for hip hop and also musical theatre. And comes with bonus Shakespeare references. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the whole play, which I had already but am always down to learn some more about.

If you’re a fan of the musical in anyway I would recommend this book. It’s full of some gorgeous pictures and provides a really great insight into how it moved through from conception to the stage.

4/5 stars

Parentheses count: 1. See you tomorrow!

 

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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

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And with this I conclude my (hopefully) one and only ‘Crazy Ideas’ themed month. I have somehow managed to come out of this just as in love with this soundtrack as I was when this whole idea sparked, so that’s good. And now, without further ado post 30 of 30 (which, yeah includes another revisit).

‘In their eyes I see you’

I never got to know the parents. I threw myself into the deep end at a time when they were already gone. Nix was 6 months into her new role as a mother when I met her, and her sibling brood.

Scott introduced himself to me first, and with him came Lydia, I learned quickly that they almost always came together. Before our abrupt introduction to one another where he pretended to confuse my leg for a tree that was nowhere in sight, I had already noticed the pair. Swinging dangerously high and competing against one another to seemingly see who could fall backwards to their demise quicker. My first thought was what parents would be so irresponsible as to let their kids attempt such a competition but when I found the adult responsible for them I realised that they were being watched like hawks as if it were a routine they were used to dealing with. My second thought was, she was not their mother. Related to them sure, but not their mother.

Her blue eyes glowed in the sunlight that was hitting her table and even though they didn’t match the twin sets of brown eyes rhythmically swinging back and forth outside, they were all clearly part of the same set. The third thing I properly registered was that all 3, 4 when if you included the sister next to her, carried a look in their eyes. One of sadness, loss and hurt. One that screamed grief.

But I’ve come to know over the past few weeks that they all carry the look slightly differently. Scott and Lydia try to push through the sadness, Mia deals with it by playing in to the sullen teenage stereotype and Nix deals with it by pretending that she’s strong.

I know that she isn’t. I’ve learned that much over these past few months as I have gotten to know her and her siblings.

The thing that gets me the most is the fact that Hayden has Nix’s eyes. Or more accurately, they both have their father’s eyes. From the pictures I’ve seen of their parents, his were a shocking blue. And full of life. He looked on at his kids with nothing but love and joy and pure affection and every time I catch a glimpse of him in pictures I feel sad for them all over again because of what they’ve lost. Hayden has elements of that excitement and joy for life in him. But then again, he has been relatively untainted by the events that have deeply affected his siblings. Everything is new and exciting to him, he loves, rightfully, takes such joy in discovering the world around him. And sometimes I catch traces of that  uncontrollable happiness in Nix. When she sees Hayden figure out something new, when Mia comes back from school with a great story to tell, when Lydia can’t wait to show her a new dance move or Scott can’t help but celebrate with her whenever he scores a goal. She allows herself these minuscule bouts of happiness before her eyes turn back to a shade of grey. Her and Hayden are like two sides of the same coin in some ways. Or rather their eyes are somehow. A before and an after, but always a small piece of their dad.

The other three, the pseudos and Mia, are all their mother. Deep, expressive eyes that feel everything so clearly and make it impossible to ignore what they’re thinking. Scott has figured out how to use them to his advantage, knows that if he tilts his head in a certain way he can convince anyone that something is a good idea. Lydia, Nix claims, is most like their Mom. From watching old home videos with her when she is feeling their loss explicitly, I can understand that. They express everything and somehow change colour with her moods. Become almost black when she is angry, they speckle with caramel when she is happy, they take on a greenish undertone when she’s upset. They make brown eyes so much more than just brown. She’s passionate and fiery and I get what Nix means when she says she’s just like their Mom. Mia’s are always guarded. She’s somehow taken on the role of ultimate protector and she holds that all on her face.

It’s through their eyes that you can tell everything about them, and can tell things about their parents. When they actually talk about them their eyes light up in every way, especially once you get Mia or Nix going. Full lives enriched with stories of their parents that they both love and hate to tell. Stories that brighten everything about them and I love hearing. It’s like they bring them, their parents, back to life. It’s beautiful to watch, and rare, but becoming more common the longer I spend with them. And I feel like I am getting to know their parents.

While I can see the resemblance physically in all the pictures, I can truly see their influence on them, mainly in Nix, when they talk about them. It’s what keeps them alive and I’ve never seen that in action before, but it’s sort of beautiful.

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The World Was Wide Enough

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It’s the last day of April and yesterday I actually hit my word count goal for the month so…winning. And somehow through some strange twist of a lot of hard work and furious typing sessions I am actually finishing this thing on time. Which to be honest, I didn’t think would happen when my creativity took a long walk off a short pier and I was left with the uphill battle of writing 6 posts in 3 days. And I’m closing the month with two posts, shall we start with the first one?

‘There is no beat, no melody.’

The waves crash against the shore quietly in the late purple glow of dusk and brings with them a sense of calm. They lull him into a false sense of security and convince him that everything will be okay. He regulates his breathing to move in time with the waves. In for 4, out for 5. In for 4, out for 5.

He lay back on the slightly damp sand and felt his clothes start to cling to his back. It was cooling at first and as his breathing slowed down to match the tide perfectly he felt himself slowly sink back into the sand. The grains of sand scratch at his scalp and in his general sense of calm and almost relaxation they remind him of his reality.

The water starts to lick at the soles of his shoes before it drags itself back in. The motion getting quicker and the sound starting to sound louder in his ears reminds him that he is alive. When the waves start moving too quickly to be relaxing he feels the full extent of his reality crash over him and he chokes. The spluttering causes him to sit up and watch the water move around him, dampening his jeans and shoes and embedding sand into the denim. He starts to feel distinctly uncomfortable with his surroundings and regretting even coming out to the beach in the first place.

It was supposed to be calming and yet all it had done was lull him into a place where he thought he could partially forget and then snatched it from him. The waves were coming in quicker and even though he was trying to avoid it, so was his breathing. He could feel himself getting panicked and worked up. There were spots starting to blur his vision and the roaring in his ears became so loud it was almost deafening. He could no longer hear the waves crashing around him, but he could feel his clothes becoming so wet that they were almost like a second skin.

His hands are shaking and even though they are clenched into fists they won’t stop. He tries to breathe in for 4 and out for 5 again but they won’t work like that. They keep trying to match the waves again but they are getting too fast for that to be relaxing. In the confusion between trying to breathe properly and trying to breathe in time with the ocean he has stopped breathing at all which is making the whole situation worse as a whole. He can feel his eyes start to droop as his vision clouds over even more and the rushing in his ears is making him feel light headed and weak.

He tries to stand but he feels weighed down by the water and his clothes and in even attempting to do so he also feels all his energy disappear. Just the simple motion of putting his hands back into the sand feels like too much effort because he can’t seem to get a grip on anything. He feels it slipping through his fingers and he thinks it’s almost amusing how the sand seems to reflect his life.

He has no control. And on this beach in the middle of the tide moving in he feels that more than ever as he struggles to get to grips with the panic that has latched on to every cell of his being. He feels like he’s falling, but there is no place to land. Nowhere is safe and for a split second he thinks that it might just be easier to let the water take him.

It is that thought that makes his blood turn cold. He digs his nails hard into the fleshy palm of his hand and the sharp stabs of pain give him a sense of grounding. He starts to pulse the pain, releasing and tensing, and in doing so he tries to match his breathing to the pain. Focuses on it. Feels things start to settle again. The rushing in his ears quietens down until all he can hear is the distinct sound of the waves crashing against the shore again.

Things still feel like they are falling apart, but he feels more together now. His clothes are sodden and uncomfortable to be in and the sand is scratching at his skin in multiple locations making him itch and slightly paranoid. His breathing follows a pattern again, not a relaxing one, but one that he can focus on. In for 3, out for 4. In for 3, out for 4.

In for 3, out for 4.

In for 3, out for 4.

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Your Obedient Servant

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It is finally (almost the end of) Friday, and I say finally because for three days (including today) I was convinced that it was Friday and so it made for great disappointment every time I remembered that it was in fact not the end of the week. Bring on the bank holiday, please and thank you.

‘I will not equivocate on my opinion I have always worn it on my sleeve’

They were always good at arguments, they knew the perfect way to dismantle the other one and leave them in a quivering pile. They almost took it it turns to deliver the final blow, came to a weird silent agreement in the middle of all the rowing as to who was going to get that final hit. The last words that always led to doors being slammed, incoherent shouts being cried out into the silence, a silence so tense that you could almost see it.

This one was different though, everyone around them could sense it. This one wasn’t resolved with a small gesture that signalled that all had been forgiven in a matter of seconds. This one led to one leaving the room the moment the other entered. It led to stunted questions and muted responses. It led to a complete breakdown in communication between a pair where that had never been an issue.

And with that came a change in their characters. They became withdrawn and quiet. They were now quick to snap at other people, quick to dismiss them, no longer open to discussion. Guarded.

This brought with it a newfound tension for everyone around them. They lived in slight fear of mentioning the others name in case it caused a reaction that no one knew how to deal with. They didn’t know what they could or couldn’t say. Whether they could address the elephant in the room or if they could suggest that they try and talk it out. They didn’t even really know what made this time different from the other ones, but they knew they couldn’t ask. They figured it was better to err on the side of caution then make it worse.

The longer the battle continued the more it became apparent that there was never going to be a white flag waved on either side. This wasn’t going to just be another one of those petty sibling arguments. There was no ending.

As the months passed it got easier for those around them. People became accustomed to adapting seating plans at big events accordingly. Kept them on opposite ends and never made them spend time in any closed quarters outside of their house. Any smaller gathering involved alternating which one was invited. It meant that a lot more thought had to go into the planning, as second nature had to be unlearned, but over time it got easier. Everyone learned to live with it.

They went their separate ways after finishing their exams and fell in with different groups of people. They found themselves again and those closest to them noticed the changes. They were slowly returning to the version of themselves that they only brought out when they were together before.

Without each other.

The development was both a cause of concern for those around them and one that brought about relief. It alleviated some of the tension.  They still wouldn’t talk to one another, but they were freer than before. Less likely to snap at people, more relaxed should they ever end up in the same room as each other.

Different to before and yet also the same.

They never really find their way back to one another, but they find a way to be happy again.

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Stay Alive (Reprise)

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So I was a no show yesterday because I went and got a life which threw me slightly. One because it has left me convinced that today is Friday when in actual fact we are in the middle of the week and two because my life is so boring I always get thrown when I get actual plans (I should probably make that not the case sometime soon, but then…Netflix). So I’m playing catch up again, but I will for sure be finishing this thing up on Saturday, because it’s the last day of April and it will end then. I’m sure of it. And I also lied, I’m poaching again, well half poaching it wasn’t finished when I stumbled on it.

‘You changed the melody every time’

Hayden was restless for no evident reason all of a sudden. He had been fine as we drove to the store, happily slipping between a light sleep and complete wonder at the world flitting past the window. But the second I got him out of the car he wouldn’t settle.

This meant that I was navigating through Whole Foods one handed as I tried to keep him entertained. It wasn’t the easiest way to shop but, as with everything these days, it was manageable. He slipped in and out of sleep and drenched the bare skin of my chest with dribble when he wasn’t laughing to himself. He was a heavy, yet oddly comfortable weight attached to my side. Until he woke up properly and decided he was bored and wanted to play.

It started small, just lightly grabbing clumps of my fringe, that definitely needed trimming, and letting it fall back on my face. Then he started tugging. Yanking it down before he watched it twist back into a loose curl. He laughed every time. The few other people milling around in the aisles around me watched with that look that seems reserved for those times that you are looking at other people and their children, kind of a gentle ‘awwing’ with their eyes and soft smiles.

And then once the curls weren’t entertaining him enough he shifted his focus to a hole in my t-shirt. A small one, but one with a loose thread and therefore one that held a world of possibility for him.

So while I tried to juggle prising his fingers away from his new favourite thing and remember what kind of yoghurt Mia ate my world kind of narrowed and I zoned out. And then Hayden pulled too hard and leant too far back as my free hand finally grabbed the correct yoghurt and in that split second I knew how that was going to end. Me surrounded by yoghurt and an infant who would probably be asleep again in a few minutes acting like he hadn’t just made me the centre of attention. One of my worst fears in life. I prepared myself for it mentally in the split second before it would all play out.

But then a hand grabbed the yoghurt just as I let it go and pulled Hayden back into me, freeing his fingers from the thread of my t-shirt and making note of the fact that the small hole in it was no longer all that small.

Green eyes, dark hair.

Josh.

Of all the places in the whole of this city.

‘Good choice of yoghurt.’ He noted, looking at the tub in his hand.

‘My sister eats it. Devours it really. If she could eat it for all 3 meals of the day I imagine she would, but she also likes potatoes so that stops her from doing that. For dinner at least.’ I was rambling. Trying to distract from the fact that my t-shirt now had a gaping hole in it and a child was squirming away in my arms.

‘Your sister, she was the one sitting next to you the other day I assume?’ He was staring. At me, at Hayden, at the yoghurt, his gaze was shifting between my trolley and his basket with great intensity. Piercing green eyes, staring. I stuttered before I replied.

‘Yeah, that’s her.’ I nodded and shifted Hayden to try and settle him.

‘Teenager?’

’16. She’s really fun to be around sometimes.’ The joke fell flat to my own ears.

‘Rough.’

‘No, she’s the easy one actually. I get being a 16 year old girl. It’s the boys I’m worried about.’

‘Naturally I think the boys would be easier.’ He laughed, deep and gravelly.

‘I’ll trade you the yoghurt for Hayden.’ It was a joke. I meant it as a joke, but still for a split second I wanted him to take it seriously. I wanted anyone to just take him and leave me to shop for yoghurt in peace. Without having to worry about anything but myself. I wanted someone to allow me to be a selfish again.

But obviously he just smiled and gently dropped the yoghurt in with the rest of my groceries.

‘He looks pretty happy where he is.’ He gestured at Hayden who, naturally, was now sleeping soundly against me, a finger trapped in his mouth.

‘Yeah, that’s my cue to get him back home as quickly as I can.’

‘I’ll leave you to it. It was nice to see you again…’ He trailed off and I realised he still didn’t know my name. I’d forgotten that he was still a stranger.

‘Nix. My name is Nix.’ I supplied to avoid the silence between us becoming awkward.

‘Well, nice to see you again Nix.’

‘Yeah, you too Josh.’

I pretended not to notice that in the moments after walking from him I felt happier than I had in weeks. I also pretended not to notice that Mia noticed my change in mood when I got home too.

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Blow Us All Away

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And then there were 6. 

‘To take someone’s life that is something you can’t shake’

It’s something that has always been said to me. The first one is always the hardest. But then it becomes scarily like second nature.

I’ve avoided it so far. Someone else has always been there to cover for me and take care of the messy stuff for me. In a weird way I have been lucky like that. But I’m waiting for my luck to run out.

Because it’s inevitable. It’s been 4 years since my training ended. I shot a dummy back then,  looked for the biggest threat in a sea full of people. Very Men In Black. And it also didn’t really affect me all that much because it was rubber and paper.  And a blank. It’s not the same.

I’ve seen multiple people come back from missions that included their first end shot a completely different person. They come back a bit broken. I’ve heard people say that the way in which you do makes all the difference as well. The general consensus is that if you can do if from afar then do it that way. Try and avoid anything that might mean that you have to watch the light leave their eyes. Or see the blood leaving their body.

Long distance shooting is basically what they say is the best thing.

The problem with that sentiment is that the opportunity to shoot someone from a distance doesn’t present itself all that often. Especially if you’re on a solo mission. That’s all hand to hand combat, and if you get the chance you take the shot. Blood on your hands be damned.

I have so far avoided solo missions.

Until now.

My luck has run out.

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, because I did. There were signs, the biggest one being that of those that became fully fledged agents at the same time as me have already had their solos and I haven’t. Another one being that I have history with the guy that needs someone to be sent for.Which in theory should mean that I am kept as far away from it as possible, but that’s not how things work in this business. Because even though it’s kind of my worst nightmare to finally get my solo and have it be such an important one, I know that I would be 10x more annoyed if I found out that someone else got it.

I’m currently in preparation for the dispatch. Which basically means I have a long line of people coming into my room wishing me luck and rather morbidly saying goodbye. That’s never happened before. People have never swanned into my room and said that they had had fun knowing me and that I was always a right laugh or other very complimentary things. They’ve never left my room with a tight hug and a look of worry in their eyes before.

Then there’s Rome. Who has pretty much covered my ass from day 1 and is the reason that I am 1) still alive and 2) am still kill less. And has spent the entire time that I’ve been in prep preparing me for the fact that I am probably not getting out of this without shedding some blood. Rome’s proficient at this, the killing thing, has built up a tolerance to it. An alarming tolerance if I’m honest, but one that I am grateful for nonetheless. Rome has done nothing but give me advice:

– avoid anything that involves open wounds and bleeding out because it involves being too close and there’s a higher chance I’ll mess it up snd that could make the psychological affects greater.

– avoid choking a person to death on their own blood, it’s a distinctly horrible experience

– my best bet is a bullet. I’m a good shot. I can get the bullet in and then not have to worry about it. If the shot is good enough it should be relatively painless as deaths go. I know all the pressure points for that, can make it clean and quick. As long as I have the time to get those shots in then apparently I should be fine. Better then fine. It should be relatively easily, as having to kill another person goes.

I would still rather not have to do it, but sometimes these things are unavoidable.

I just have to remember my training.

And ask Rome for the name of her post-mission therapist.

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Burn

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Happy Sunday folks! There is less than a week to go of this blog project and it’s hard to believe that it is almost coming to an end. It’s been a whirlwind that’s for sure. Home stretch time.

‘You built me palaces out of paragraphs, you built cathedrals’

In my head I imagine myself leaving his life as if I were a ghost or something.

Kind of like that thing that happens in music videos and shit like that, he sees me somewhere where we used to go together and convinces himself that I am there by his side and then when he goes to grab my hand or place his hand on the small of my back, I disappear. He turns over in what was once our bed and goes to sling an arm over my waist only for it to fall heavily onto the mattress and for him to get a rude awakening. He makes enough dinner for two people and serves it all up and then goes to call my name only to remember that I am no longer in the house and am not going to come, no matter how loudly he calls my name. He doesn’t sit in my favourite spot in the living room because he is still waiting for me to walk into the room and doesn’t feel like getting into the whole charade of moving seats. He still picks up my favourite things when he goes shopping because at this point it’s second nature to him, sometimes he even gets them all the way home before he remembers that he won’t have any use for them. I imagine him just sort of getting hit with waves of sadness and remembrance that I am not there anymore. Even though I am gone, I am a presence in his life and he can’t do anything about it. He has finally realised what he had, but he only misses it now that it is gone.

That’s how I imagine it.

That’s not the reality of the situation I am almost certain of it.

He probably hasn’t even noticed that I went from being everywhere in that house to non-existent almost overnight. All the things we shared are now half empty, my presence eliminated. He probably sleeps just fine at night, revels in all the extra space that he now has, he doesn’t feel pangs of emptiness that he no longer has someone to spoon with. He has probably let the mess of the whole house escalate to a level that I never would allow, because that was always my responsibility. He’s probably enjoying the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about me waiting at home for him like some kind of idiot. He’s probably making full use of the fact that he is essentially a ‘free man’ for the first time in almost 8 years. No more secrets for him. I am no ghost that is haunting his every moment as he comes to terms with what he’s lost. I’m not even a passing thought to him these days, I would bet money on it.

I thought a clean break would be best for both parties. I don’t think he cared all that much how it went down just so long as it went down. He was a coward like that. He wasn’t happy but he didn’t want to be the one to stick the final nail in the coffin because at some point many years ago he said he would never hurt me. Which is bullshit when you think about it, because I was hurting. For that whole conversation, for months before, now. Hurt was, is, an omnipresent being in my life that he invited in. If he really didn’t want to hurt me then he would have ripped the plaster off and made it quick. But he couldn’t do that.

Doing that would have made him the bad guy, and he can’t stand the thought of being the bad guy. 8 years of being with him pretty much taught me only that. He likes to paint pretty pictures and use his words to create the perfect illusion, the illusion that he is just trying his best to be a good guy and do right by those he cares about. He talks a great game. You can tell he works with words for a living, he is the master of manipulating them. Says exactly what you want to hear, exactly when you want to hear it. He keeps a track of all the things that he says too so he doesn’t get caught out in his own word web of lies. It must actually be exhausting being in his head and having to keep track of all that shit.

We were 21 when he uttered the apparently fateful words ‘I won’t ever hurt you’. I didn’t believe him when he said it and I sure as hell didn’t think that he believed what he was saying. But apparently that sentence is the one that created the foundation of our entire relationship. He lied to me for 7 out of 8 years. Looked me dead in the eyes and lied to me. He kept on lying to me, he never stopped lying to me. And maybe I should have seen through it all, maybe I was naïve in that respect and just believed everything he said because I wanted to. Because it was easier. Because it was all so new and it was just easier to believe that everything was good then think that within 10 months he was already bored of me.

Because that’s the reality of it all. He got bored of me really quickly and then carved some pretty pictures and did enough that it kept me around. It kept people off his back because he gave the illusion of being committed and in love. He played an almost perfect game of charades and I know he would have kept going for as long as he could because he wasn’t going to be the one to hurt me. No, he had his way out. It was the guilt trip. He almost played that one well too.

But he forgot that I wasn’t the 21 year old that he got into this game with all those years ago anymore. Yes, it hurts a bit, but the main reason it hurts is because 8 years is a long time to invest in something and have it not work out.

So while I know that I am not a ghost presence continually appearing and then disappearing in his life, he isn’t a ghost in mine either.

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