outside an uninhabited
house with boarded up
windows and crumbling stone
i spy a plethora of lilies
growing in quiet
outside an uninhabited
house with boarded up
windows and crumbling stone
i spy a plethora of lilies
growing in quiet
evenings in mid-june
coming to a close. confessions from
midsomer murders hum into the whispers
of nine o clock. mum is asleep
on the sofa, stray hairs from
her blonde fringe jump
up happily to the sighs
of the window gaping.
forgotten to shut. apple pie
left out on the side. the custard
carton sliced and oozing. i do not
mind these life messes at all. nor
the rickety trains on tracks in the
distance. i am warm. the low sun spies her
time to turn in.
believe in tomorrow and good people with kind smiles called toby or lily and their blonde dog. place your faith in shoe polish and homemade pasta bake. take a trip to a beach with messy sand dunes and rocky shores. watch the tide come in and then, watch it go out. favour tartan. lose yourself in the cluedo mystery. the biting tension of your next scrabble word. write honestly.
don’t be conquered by love
be championed by it.
that morning i sauntered
into the sun as it spilled on to the
street. i skipped past the transparent blotches
on the cobblestones like puddles on the
table from the water jug over breakfast.
i looked up. the sky was a beauty that morning.
a newborn baby. flickering waves on the water.
airplane clouds ahead. i was ready to chase the day
through the fields and up the hills for miles. just
run recklessly with dripping cuts on my knees.
rips in my shirt. knots in my hair. not a care in the world.
it was the type of happiness where
if i picked up a harmonica for the first
time and blew so hard, cheeks puffed and rosy, a melody
would play forth. and just like that it would sound like Bob Dylan
and the Beatles on ‘love me do’. i could’ve made
a melody out of flatness that morning. i could’ve basked in messy
dreadful music, and laughed. i was batshit crazy. i was off my head.
i was so in love with you that morning
on my way to our first date. you damn near
blew me away, with your rising smile and moon eyes
you took me in one swoop
these first signs of spring
opening me up from
the inside out.
I haven’t shown these
parts to anyone
in a long time.
Since I last blogged, I became an auntie. My niece was born in late December and she’s small and soft with a tuft of hair. Jillianne and I bought her some duck-beak slippers. As of a few days ago, she has begun to smile.
Since I last blogged, I’ve climbed two mountains. Mount Ozzard (750 metres) in Vancouver Island’s Ucluelet and Ben Bhraggie (397 metres) in the Scottish Highlands. I have also climbed the Callander Crags, but I am not sure if this counts as a mountain, but it is worth a mention at the very least. I’ve found that I really like to hike, because I imagine the feeling of reaching the top is better than any drug. Plus, lying down in leggings on the sofa upon my return to the house is really nice. Two mountains is better than none. Next up is Ben Stack (736 metres).
Since I last blogged, I’ve had several genuine near death experiences and lived to tell the tale. A most memorable one is in the North Vietnamese outback on a motorbike with Jillianne, trying to push our bike through slippy wet mud piles and ditches everywhere as our phones navigating us dropped to 1% battery and darkness fell around us. Our motorbike crashed more than once and we plummeted into the mud. We had to wash in lakes and drag our weary bodies back somehow. This is me telling the tale.
Since I last blogged, I’ve driven through the Canadian Rockie Mountains. We started in Vancouver and drove as far as Canmore/Invermere in Alberta. Then we drove all the way back to Vancouver to fly home. It took us about nine days in total, full of hotel stays and egg and cheese mcmuffins, and the occasional pee by the roadside. The sea to sky highway is as beautiful as it sounds. The type of days I will look back on when I’m old and grey.
Since I last blogged, I reached the most northern point in mainland U.K. It is a village called John O’Groats, in the north east of Scotland. There is not much there, besides a gift shop and a couple of coffee shops and the ferry to Orkney. We visited the lighthouse and the cliffs of Ducansby Head. We stared at the chopping seas spilling over stone gates. I don’t know why, but have always felt a sense of safety and comfort the further north I go. Maybe I feel like no one will find me or know who I am in these tiny villages. This trip set it in stone. I am so excited to continue to explore every nook and cranny of Scotland.
Since I last blogged, I’ve hugged trees reaching 800 years old. A douglas fir tree in British Columbia called ‘the Big Tree’. It was thick and wide. It made me feel very special to be standing underneath it, a mere human by a magnificent tree. The greatest of companions.
Since I last blogged, I watched my sister get married to the love of her life. Watching her cry as she walked down the aisle in a place very close to our hearts is a moment I will never forget. She was the prettiest bride.
Since I last blogged, I watched my brother get married to the love of his life. His speech was excellent, and I still believe there is no one braver, or funnier, than my big brother Tommy. Also, he was the coolest groom around in his flat cap.
Since I last blogged, I’ve spent Christmas and New Year (Hogmanay) with dear family, including my girlfriend Jillianne, for the first year of many happy years. We had a great time in Leicester with some of my family and Dornoch with some of Jillianne’s family and we are so excited to start our own traditions one day.
Since I last blogged, I have tried and loved, veggie haggis.
Since I last blogged, I have been rejected for every writing job I have applied for (in Glasgow).
Since I last blogged, I got a job as a swimming teacher and I currently teach kids around Glasgow city. My greatest achievement at the job so far has been teaching adult and baby swimming classes, which I was terrified to do.
Since I last blogged, I have visited spectacular waterfalls, including Cao Bang in Vietnam, on the border of China. The Falls of Shin, in the highlands, where fish are known to make a huge leap eight times their body length. The Big Burn waterfall, which I showered in, with my coat still on. And more recently Bracklinn Falls in Callander, Loch Lomond. Afterwards, we hiked and picnicked on top of the Callander Crags by a cairn for Queen Victoria and it was pure stunning.
Since I last blogged, I have had an MRI scan. Pretty cool and pretty scary in equal measure. If you haven’t had one, it’s very loud and it sort of feels like a club in Berlin playing bad grime and there is no escape. On a positive note, there is no inflammation at all in my brain!
Since I last blogged, I’ve watched some heartbreakingly good TV shows and films. Greys Anatomy, ofc. Good Will Hunting. And if you haven’t seen Killing Eve, I beg you to watch it before season 2 spoilers start leaking!
Since I last blogged, I set up my own poetry Instagram account (@sghpoetry) and bought my official website domain name (sghpoetry.co.uk), promoting my creative work. I hope to publish my own poetry book in the next year, which will pretty much be the best thing I have ever done.
Since I last blogged, Jillianne and I have moved in together in our lovely wee flat in the Southside of Glasgow. We have been here for three months now, slowly decorating it with candles and blankets and making it our own. So far, we have already hosted several dinner parties, with lots more to come!
Sometimes, I still cling to the hope that one day everything will fall into place. But right now I don’t need it to. Right now I am so content and warm in love. I want time to go by slowly, so I can savour each 9am morning when I am filled with so much excitement at what might happen today. Special thanks, as always, to Jillianne for whom 90% of these things were done by her side.
© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.
This is something I know to be true.
A woman’s heart is in in her Apple iTunes.
For a depiction of her recent moods and emotions, consult her recently played. To understand the person she truly is, past the flesh and down to the bony core, examine her top 25 played of all time. For if you’ve ever allowed someone to browse through your iTunes music with their casual sliding finger on screen and furrowed brow as you anxiously watch their every expression, you will know this: showing someone – anyone – your music is a very intimate act. You are giving away a part of yourself and exposing it to silent judgement. You are removing your Zorro mask and stepping into the dazzling light, and who knows how your daughter is going to react when she finds out you’re her father. She could hate you bitterly, she could love you devotedly. She could not understand who the hell you’re meant to be.
I feel it is only right to tell you that when you share your music with another you will never be able to walk away from it unscathed. You will not be the same again, ever.
I remember one – potentially two occasions where I let someone look at my music. It is not something I do freely, because it feels like my music. Although I am not the artist who put mouth to microphone or fingers to key, nor did I play the chords in order to churn them into a beautiful song, when I listen to music alone in a darkening room with shadows playing on the walls, or staring out the window on a packed miserable tube, and I am completely engrossed and honed into every syllable that chokes out of their rough throat, it feels like it is mine. It is a conversation between me and them that I don’t have to answer, I can just sit and watch, sit and wander. In many ways, these songs are my home. If they could morph into a physical inanimate thing, it would be my bed – a place where I can strip off my clothes and sink into the sheets time and time again on awful or blissful days. A place where I am unapologetically my own.
I like music to take me somewhere where I can wander. These wanderings can be about nothing particular or niche obsessions, I don’t mind which. But if a piece of music makes me fuck off for a while where time passes me by or traps me still, if it can seize some part of my mind and make my heart swell to the point where I have to squeeze something, it has done its job.
I will reveal to you a few of the songs that do this to me, as featured on my Apple iTunes playlist ‘SGH All Time Favourites (I want to die to these songs)’. Why? Because why not. It’s healthy to reveal some heart every now and then. On a seperate site note, some of these songs will also feature on my Funeral playlist when I inevitably pop my clogs. (My funeral is going to be so lit, I wish I was going.)
This song is the one of the saddest. I first heard it watching the film Mr. Nice starring Rhys Ifans. It reminds me of black birds taking flight, for some reason. It is bitterly sorrowful and heavy, whilst at the end the song teeters on hope when John Lennon sings ‘I just believe in me’. John’s mind must’ve been a wonderful and terrible place to be. This song is one of my number one’s because it has made me cry, smile and feel all sorts. I love it.
I just can’t get over this song. I fell for it when I was about ten years old watching Lindsay Lohan arrive in my home city of London, leaning out of a black cab as she waved to a living statue (and it waved back to her). Over a decade later, I fall for it nearly every single time I listen to it still. This song is lifelong for me, and that’s all I can explain about it really.
An ardently loved classic for many people, myself included. With its hoppy, almost childish electronic melody Friday I’m in love takes you to dreamy heights. When you have this song in the back of your mind, you can do anything in the world and nothing can stop you. How one song can make you feel so overwhelmingly brave and high on life, I don’t know, but this is the Cure we’re talking about. The Cure are pure magic.
This song is by one of my favourite bands who I finally saw live in Nottingham earlier this year. When this song plays, I imagine a three o’clock sunshine, picnic blankets, tinnies and quorn cocktail sausages. It is late spring and everything is pretty in bloom. The song carries with it the same sense of haziness that you get after lounging about all day in spring-time, too. It’s all ‘let’s smoke a blunt and take polaroid pictures’, and I’m always about those vibes.
I wrote my university dissertation about David Bowie, so David holds a place in me no one can quite replace. I love so many of his songs so much, but this one tops them all, and honestly I couldn’t tell you why. When it comes to David Bowie I can’t tell you much, and I have a funny feeling being a fucking bizarre mystery was his intention all along.
The first dance song at my sister’s wedding that grips me with years and years of emotion piled one on top of each other. This song has it all – sometimes I think it’s the lyrics, other times the jazzy drum beats or electronica, but I can’t put my finger on it. This song also makes me think of my best friend, Elizabeth Strain, and the hours we spent chucking a ball to each other in my caravan and ordering 463648 pizzas when she lived in Stoke Newington. I miss her terribly.
There’s something about the croaky and sharp American voice of Creedence lead singer John Fogarty that speaks deeply to me. I remember listening to this song on repeat on a 45 minute train on a weekday commute, and it made the journey infinitely better. Since that day my love for it has only climbed higher. I also seriously enjoy rain at night, when it comes down in sheets and you can see it in the street lights.
Gary Oldman once appeared in a documentary about Elton John and said ‘I just find his voice heartbreaking’, and now it’s the only way I can fully describe old Elton. He is the red-specs boy who holds the nation’s heart (as David Bowie still holds mine) in his hands and this song of his has a piece of mine. Psst: I once named this song correctly in the music round of a pub quiz in New Cross, South London, and was the only person in the joint to get right. I guess that’s why they call it the bluez bitches.
An orgasm hidden within an octave. I think you understand what I’m saying here so I won’t go on. Also special shout-out to my girl, Emma Beynon.
This song makes me feel like I can live forever. And I don’t even know whose garden they’re talking about, but I don’t really want to know if their garden grows either. Oasis have an incredible talent of coercing you to believe what they believe with fiery northern passion and I believe it all, whole-heartedly.
This has been a revealing of some of my favourite songs. Now I think you need to discover more of yours, so sail off into the sunset with a pair of Sony speakers and all of that hoo-ha. Just remember – upon sharing your music with others, whoever it is, you won’t be the same again. That person will take a part of you that you can’t get back, so be careful who you give it to. And yes, you will know more of her heart after scrolling through her library, more of what makes her tick, the notes that make her cry, but alas, that doesn’t mean you’re any closer to getting it, soz. x
© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.
You’ve seen a few films in your time, so you’ll know what I mean when I talk about the dramatic monologue in the last minute of a film sequence, when the main protagonist (probably) is talking about what they’ve learnt throughout the film’s narrative. How all the twists and turns that they suffered or nearly did, which may or may not have been their fault, have affected them. Maybe they nearly died or something, and in the end we discover they’ve sprung back to health with a naked smoothie in hand and full gym membership that they are using semi regularly. When the film has drawn to a close, as the audience we hope they have overcome these hard times. We hope they are on the road to recovery and have seen the light, at long last.
Whatever I think about the character in question, I have a real soft spot for these revolutionary monologues. They hit me in the chest. I feel their pain, I feel their joy. Although it is not the focus of this article, the opening monoglue in Trainspotting deserves a special mention, just for being one of the best pieces of fucking writing I’ve ever heard. (If you haven’t read/heard it, you need to right now.) You see, myself and the character have been on this journey together for nearly 130 minutes and I need them to get the ending they rightfully deserve. This stubborn need, above all else, is inside me like a primal instinct. It’s like my nesquik milkshake before bed, I just can’t give it up, and I don’t wanna know a world without it.
An example of a monologue like this is by Billy Crystal in one of my favourite comfort films, When Harry Met Sally (1989). Crystal’s character, Harry, met Sally (Meg Ryan) when they were in college, and of course, they hated each other from the beginning. They join each other on the long drive back to NYC from Chicago and have a lot of time to kill on the journey discussing (and arguing) the big topics: sex between platonic friends and that four-letter killer term, love. They arrive in NYC hell-bent hoping they never see each other again. In the years after their first meeting, they meet again by chance in a bookstore, and again, years later, through work. From the first instance when they shared a car together, to all the random meetings since, they had chemistry you could feel in the air and cut with a knife. They had that something you can’t quite put your finger on, but was there, lingering, blatantly obvious to all those around them but they were blind to themselves.
Life flies, they waste time. They date other people and break up simultaneously. They have moments where it nearly happens, and then it doesn’t. You want to shake them, because it’s taking them so long to see what’s in front of them, it’s taking them literal DECADES to take what they want. To grab each other’s face and kiss it. To have the bravery to look each other in the eye and fucking slip out the words they’ve wanted to say this whole time. IT’S YOU GODDAMMIT. I WANT YOU. I ALWAYS HAVE WANTED YOU. YOU SHAKE THE GROUND I STAND ON AND STEADY IT AT THE SAME TIME. IT’S YOU. YOU ARE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, MY HEART AND SOUL. THE PERSON I ACTUALLY WOULD PULL A ROMEO-AND-JULIET FOR. THIS SHIT IS IT FOR ME, YOU UNIMAGINABLE BASTARD!!!!!
Harry doesn’t quite say this, but this is what he does manage (on New Year’s Eve, the holiday of all revelations and love confessions):
“Well, how about this way? I love that you get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts, I love that after a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Well said, Harry. And that, ladies and gents, boys and girls and beaut non-gender binary folk, luvvers and fighters too, is why I can’t help but get so sucked into romantic films, no matter how predictable or camembert cheesy they are. This stuff is the real deal. Love may not conquer all, in all the varying circumstances that it should or should not, and sometimes love makes you want to fight, or breakdown. Love can make you question who you are and what you believe. Love can hold you down until you think you can’t summon the energy to see the light of day again behind your curtains, and love can build you back up again, soaring higher and higher than before. Only love can achieve such great heights, there are some days that I believe only love is worth anything at all.
What I know of love, is that love, is. It is what you give to it. It is how much you open yourself to it. Let it fill you up. It is only when you are willing to let it break you, that you truly understand its power. So you are right to be scared. Face that scary unknown with a puffed chest and clenched jaw. I am trying to love without fear and be unafraid in what I want. Maybe one day it will break me. But it might just make me, too. It might just be the biggest regret of my life if I let her go. Remember that most of the time life is not simple, but we can forget (or ignore) how much of it is.
Love with everything you’ve got. After all, isn’t love all that we’ve got?
© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.
I landed in Toronto on 14th May, at the beginning of my two years in Canada. It is now 2nd September and already I feel different to the girl that stepped on the plane those months ago. Since the 23rd June, a place called Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park has been my home.
I couldn’t accurately pinpoint where I am on a map. My finger would slide too north or perhaps far too south. I am surrounded by green and blue for forest and water, two natural elements that have become everything I need. (I legit sound like a full-on geography teacher right now). I’m calling Canoe Lake ‘my home’ in my head with such fondness, the way my voice sounds like when it’s about to crack, because I’m filled with such excitement about absolutely everything I’ve experienced this summer that I can barely hold two syllables together. I only wish you could hear my voice right now.
I’m currently sitting in the Camp Ahmek B.O (business office) looking out of the window across at the water, so content. There is a slight breeze in the air today and an angsty grey in the sky; the kind of grey that water turns into after someone has dipped a used paintbrush into it. My Patagonia sweater (which my friends and I refer to passionately as Patagucci, specifically Annie) feels soft against my neck. I like this day a lot and how quiet it is. Families that have stayed as guests at September camp have arrived and gone. They all depart in the same way: rolling out in their cars with a wave, a grin and a crunch of gravel under their wheels.
More goodbyes are beckoning and I can hardly stomach them. I leave tomorrow. So I thought I’d write and think back whilst I still can. This wind and the smiles around me have got me full of nostalgia.
Endings and Beginnings
Two and a half months ago my friend Molly dropped me at Toronto Pearson airport with my whole life in two bags, and I waited alone in the lobby of a hotel for a random bus to take me to somewhere called Camp Wapomeo. I had been hired as a Counsellor there back in January, but amongst working full-time and handing in my notice, right up until I moved to Canada, I had barely thought about it since. I wish I could watch myself back then from the hotel security camera. Sophie Hollis sitting there alone in her denim jacket with the collar up, hair messy and shower-fluffy, needing a drink so badly but too numb with terror to get up and get one. Those moments before the bus came were a whirlwind.
I cannot stress this enough: I didn’t have a scooby where I was going. I didn’t know anything about Camp Wapomeo, except that judging from a quick scroll on their website they seemed to like canoeing. I didn’t know how to pronounce the name either (basically still don’t). But what ate away at me the most was that I didn’t know anyone going to wherever the hell I was headed, apart from two girls I had met on my Bronze Cross lifeguard course the weekend before and hadn’t been able to contact since as neither had Canadian phones. Shout out to my first friends in the TSC fam Bailey the boat driver and Chloe Palmer. It was honestly the thought of seeing your beaut and friendly faces again that got me on that bus. So a million times over, thank you.
The little I did know about Camp Wapomeo was from an Instagram post that I had seen of a green house on the water. Everything and everyone else was alien to me, complete strangers, and these strangers looked at me strangely too because they didn’t know who I was and why I was there. Apart from boarding my original flight to Canada, when I left my family and best friends behind, waiting for this bus was the most scared I have ever felt in my 23 years on this Earth.
Fear went, briefly. The bus came and picked me up. A girl jumped down the steps and I told her my name. She scratched my name off of a list and told me to get on the bus, I could put my paddle around the other side.
I remember thinking ‘a paddle? Da fuck is she on about’. I nodded, said I didn’t have a paddle. She looked surprised but again repeated to get on the bus, so I knew this was it. I had to rip the plaster off now. I could hear faint, boisterous cheers coming from inside. I kept unclenching and clenching my fists. I was terrified, truly shitting it. I stepped up onto the bus and quickly sat in the closest seat to the front. I didn’t dare look behind me. I kept texting Jillianne and staring at the three full stops as she typed. She was giving me a pep talk. Telling me I could do this, that she loved me so much and she was sure other people would love me too. I looked out of the window as the bus started to move, seriously questioning whether she was right.
Nearly four hours later the bus jolted in front of an entrance surrounded by trees in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. The horror movie had officially started. People began to move, collecting their bags, chanting loudly. Groups of beautiful people with the healthiest skin and hair I had ever seen were loading luggage onto something which I know now is a barge, but initially looked like a plank of wood that was particularly buoyant. I just sort of stood there with my bags, not knowing how to look busy. I was the definition of deer in headlights, of dazed and confused, helpless and very aware of it and so different to the people around me.
When I look back to that day now, to the bus and the mysterious journey to Wapomeo filled with questions I didn’t know the answer to, I am filled with joy. It’s the kind of happiness that comes from overcoming an obstacle and being able to meet it again at the other side. I am proud that I stuck it out and that my fear eventually subsided (it took a few weeks, but subside it did), because Camp Wapomeo has been beyond worth it. This summer has taught me to endure challenges whether it be mental, physical or emotional. I have learnt that when you find you are in a situation alone, be your own very best companion. Be yourself, on good days and bad days. Stay true to who you are, or as much as you can grasp of who you are. Hold on to your quirks, no matter what you have done or go on to do. Your weirdness is not shameful, it’s fucking incredible.
I thought I had a lot of things down when I was travelling alone in Toronto and Montreal before camp started. I thought I knew who I was. I believed I had the bravery to be able to return to the camp lifestyle I used to love and settle in quickly, but I didn’t. It took a while. I was shocked out of my complacency by living in these lakes. These lakes brought me back to being okay with being a bit of mess in the best possible way, and I don`t think being grateful will ever quite cut it.
So here is a summary of the camp quotes that I stored on my phone throughout the summer to give you a very faint idea of how hilarious and just indescribably beautiful this summer and the people around me have been. (Update: this isn’t all of the quotes, I will be adding more.)
Until next time,
At bar night, sitting in a dinky table with the pitchers and the girls, one drink down.
Erin: I`m not on instagram for the likes
Soph: What are you on there for
Erin: The truth
One of my Kiowas staring dumbstruck at Marbles, a blonde horse with different coloured eyes, who was innocently standing there.
Kid: YOU`RE REALLY FREAKING ME OUT (repeatedly)
In the chalet with Max, Nina and Erin, describing my new CIT co-staff to Max so he knew who she was.
Sophie: she’s quite small probably around 5 ft 3. I know the measurements won’t help
Erin: She’s got asthma
Max: I don’t know people’s medical records off by heart
On trip, on the campsite. Ruth and I are playing a game of families with my Kiowa campers. I am sitting on a rock as I was playing the servant and was kindly given a 10 minute break from my chores. I see Ruth in the distance begin to gallop.
Ruth: My name is Mia, Mia the horse
Georgie and I discussing the big topics at dinner with some salty dish.
Soph: Why are the salt shakers clogged?
Georgie: Because this camp likes its traditions including its salt shakers since 1924
In the chalet having a deep discussion about Cluedo characters and their traits.
Sophie: Lizzie you’re Professor Plum
5 mins later.
Lizzie Bevans: Who’s doctor plum, what’s he like
Sophie, about to ring the activity bell for the first time. Rose turns to her abruptly.
Rose: Would you ever consider going trans
Lizzie Bevans canoeing by as the Kiowas are doing their nightly hand squeezes before bed. It’s entirely silent. All that can be heard is Lizzie’s contemplating voice over the water.
Lizzie: People don’t usually describe me as funny
It’s 7:46 AM in Centre 3. A Tuscie camper shouts to Marie C over the wall as she lies asleep.
Kid: Marie I just cracked my back, it really hurt!
Marie, rolling over, sleepy and extremely casual: you okay
On a night off at the P store with Rose, Rosie, Catarina and Bob. It’s very dark and we’re about to canoe home before Rose suddenly squats by a tree.
Rose, mid-shit: Since turning vegeterian I`ve been shitting all over the place
On trip with my Kiowas, at the campsite. Max, trying to describe what dyslexia is after a Kiowa very seriously asked him.
Max: It’s like if you wanted to spell dog you would spell it gog. (long pause) that wasn’t a very good way of explaining it.
In the infirmary with a camper who keeps fainting. It is deathly quiet and serious.
Nurse: What’s your first name
Kid: I think it’s … it’s something like … Pepper.
A conversation during dinner with the most homesick camper I have ever met.
Another kid: why is your fork bent
Kid, starting to cry: At home we don’t have bent forks
Caught in a thunderstorm on the way to the P store, so Nina, Lizzie Bevans and I find ourselves sitting drinking tea in a random old man`s cabin with another two Brits who were also canoeing and seeking shelter. The family are being very kind and trying to get to know us.
Man: what do you study at university
Lizzie Bevans: I’m at Bath Spa University. I study Education Studies with a Primary Teaching pathway
At the archery ring celebrating the last night out. Georgie and I are talking with drinks.
Georgie: This music is not my vibe
Sophie: I know it sounds like onomatopeia
Napping in a guest cabin called the Annex after looning was completed. Guests Tim and Sally Crocker come in and do not see us. Rose and I wake abruptly.
Sophie, standing up straight: welcome to your cabin we just finished cleaning
Catarina, the drunkest she has ever been, sitting on the senior docks with Annie and me. She sees someone reading the dish schedule which is pinned onto the caddy shack.
Catarina, shouting: My name is Catarina am I serving tomorrow
*A while later but the same night, after Catarina drunkenly turned on her data to text a boy. She received a text instantly charging her 50 euros before she had used any data.*
Catarina, peeing behind a trash bin: Sophie I`m scared
Soph: Why babes
Catarina: 50 euros
Napping in centre three with Rose, and all of a sudden she sees something strange perched on the branch of a tree.
Rose: Sophie look out the window!
Sophie: why is there a squirrel with a full-on bagel
Around 9pm at Show Time night September camp, and Jem and I are eating snacks in the kitchen.
Penny, 7 years old, coming up to us: Why is there a chipmunk in the kitchen
Jem, very intoxicated and holding a bowl of fruit loops: don`t worry about the chipmunks honey they come and go as they please
With Cassidy and Catarina, watching Rose take on the Rickety Bridge at High ropes. Rose is extremely scared and saying she wants to come down.
Cassidy: Try… try climbing
Max, playing the character of Mark the ranger at council ring.
Kid: I saw a wild giraffe
Max, overly-kindly: … well done
In the B.O office at Ahmek, September camp
Annie: What’s our cabin called
Soph: (long pause) Bonfield
Hannah and I in the B.O sorting out our VIA rail tickets to Montreal. We needed help so asked a question on VIA rail`s live chat room.
Hannah: they haven`t replied in a while… Oh Monica is typing
Sitting in woodworking, watching Hannah sand down her paddle.
Soph: what music would you listen to at a silent disco
Hannah: classical. A bit of Beethoven.
At lunch talking about Hollie’s big tooth, which sits exactly in the middle of her face (as opposed to her two middle teeth together.)
Sophie: So if Hollie was a vampire there would be only one tooth mark
Hollie: No I would use my canines
© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.
On Monday 14th May I flew away from my home for the past 23 years. A land that I love. Sorry, before I get ahead of myself, I will just say this. I can’t help but romanticize the green pastures of the United Kingdom when I am away from it. I have always been this way. I feel like a soldier at war, in a dirty uniform and mud-smeared cheeks, dreaming of those haphazard hills scattered with cows and sheep with longing. I’m hanging on to crumpled letters in my breast pocket from the fam and the woman like those men did. (Obviously I appreciate that the context of their situation in a bloody war and my situation, checking into a modern hostel, could not be more different. Please don’t rile yourself politically correct people.)
In the day to day, the rain can bring me down and the shelves of the local supermarkets remain ever-dull. I immediately mute ‘The One Show’ the moment I hear it in the living room and I detest the Central line when I’m tired in the mornings and when I’m drunk in the evenings. But yeah, I still dream about all those things. Specifically, the Welsh countryside of my ancestors and long drives through the valleys with my head against the window. The sound of Felixstowe docks late at night and the first gulp of tea in a morning full of whippy coastal wind. Primrose Hill, damp grass, the crack of a beer can and the London skyline. The sun setting over houses on my walk home from the station. (Just listen to Think of England – Bear’s Den, one of my favourite songs, and you’ll get the gist of what I’m saying here.)
However, I am not homesick. I am so blissfully glad to be away from all of this for an extended period of time. I am so excited for what my future has to bring in Canada. I feel like I’m on the top of the world with an unknown road mapped out before me. I have been here in Toronto for only six days, and this place and this experience has impacted me deeply already.
There is definitely something about travelling alone, a power that is so strong I can’t put it into words. I arrived at Canadian customs with my green rucksack, jean jacket with the collar up and my blonde hair ever-scruffy from trying and failing to sleep on the flight over. I was entirely alone and I knew that. I was a needle in a haystack. I kept having to clasp my hands together to stop them trembling. I had to constantly pep-talk myself as I looked out the airplane window after leaving my family, friends and people I love behind. Tell myself that I would be fine and throughout this whole adventure I would do better than I think.
So far, I have proved that.
I got through to customs and was asked a few questions about what I intended to do in Canada. The printer shuddered, and a moment later a swanky new and approved work permit was placed on the desk in front of me. ‘Keep this with your passport every time you enter Canada,’ I was told. ‘Get your SIN number at the Service Canada desk next door and you’re good to go.’ Two years starts here.
These are the highlights of my first week in Toronto, Canada. A great city if there ever was one.
-Having a $7 pint or three in the Steam Whistle Brewery. I sat outside on a bench right next to the CN tower with my new friend Philip from Christchurch, New Zealand. He was showing me pictures of his nieces and telling me about his sisters. I had a belly full of Italian pasta. I realised that true contentment is usually accompanied by fucking good pasta.
-Taking 40 minutes to settle the bill with Lucie and Marcus in bar 224. We were on the hostel pub crawl, but we’d already left the others because we were too engrossed in conversation with each other. Namely about films and a lengthy discussion about Call Me By Your Name. We were on our second pitcher of beer and 4 quesadillas down, and each time we’d look at the receipt and hatch a plan, one of us would say “so wait, what are we doing again?” Literally one of the funniest times of my life.
-Philip saying that Frodo in the Lord of the Rings had a terrible Kiwi accent. We then told him that he wasn’t meant to have a Kiwi accent, it was a mystical world. A fantastical land. Philip coming to terms was is the best revelation reaction I’ve seen.
-Walking over 20,000 steps in about 5 hours with Marcus. I wasn’t dressed for the sunny weather. I was feeling comfy and lazy, and was donning a mixture of winter and summer attire in my STA hoodie, jean jacket, jeans and birkenstocks. As we walked we spoke about everything from love and loss to fraternities, everything LGBT, villages in Spain, solo-travelling and the future. I had no idea where we were most of the time, but I remember the iced-cap from Tim Hortons went down so well. My feet are covered in blisters from this walk and I don’t give a shit.
-Meeting my Canadian cousin again after probably over a decade, and meeting my English cousin whose just moved to Toronto!
-Spending time with rooftops and cigarettes – literally the best combination. The rooftop of the Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto now holds a special place in my heart. You can see amazing graffiti, people’s backyards, the CN tower and other tall buildings as far as the eye can see. My favourite time to go up there is at 8PM, when the sky is pink and deep conversations are brewing. A particular favourite is being with Philip, Lucie and Anne talking about fruit and vegetables and Paris.
-Toronto Island is the coolest! I love a good boat me, and this boat only costs $7 to across Lake Ontario to Toronto Island. To be fair, there isn’t much to see there. The fair ground was shut, and the Greek street food looked dodge, but it was worth it for pictures on the pier and the sign post that showed the km to Vancouver (and other destinations.) We also threw balls at a shoot-the-clown ride even though the machinery was off, which felt like something out of a movie.
-A night watching the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre with Molly and Maddy, and meeting some lovely people at a housewarming party afterward, even though it was fleeting. I had a lot of beer at that point and the night was young. 11:15 PM never felt so good.
To summarise, I feel differently in my bones. When I smile, it is from the core. I have made connections and friendships with people I have known for 48 hours. I have loved our conversations and the fearlessness in which we explored this city (Toronto) together. Here’s to discovering a bit more of everything, one week at a time.