In three days, I’m moving out of Birmingham indefinitely.

When I moved here, I was scared. But it was something I wanted. I was ready to be somewhere new, to lose myself in somewhere totally foreign, to surround myself with a totally new crowd… Now I’m leaving, I’m terrified.

I don’t want to go. I’ve cried, I’ve made jokes, I’ve panicked, I’ve made plans… I’ve been through more conflicting emotions in the past fortnight than I would’ve thought I was capable of.

When I was waiting to find out my A-Level results, to find out if I’d made it into the university of my choice, my dad told me that no matter what, everything would work out. He said that despite what I might think at that moment, the course I was on would become a secondary matter. I would value university for the experience, for being somewhere else. And he was right.

Over the past three years, I’ve become a music journalist. Granted, an amateur one. But it’s more than just a hobby. I write about bands on a near daily basis, I’ve helped put on gigs, and you know what? I’m good at it. I co-run a website, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known. They’ve changed my life in more ways than I can begin to be thankful for. I’ve been through the highest, and the lowest, and it’s all been worthwhile when I’ve had this crowd around me.

If you’re reading this: I adore you. You’ve probably seen me at my best and my worst, and I’ve probably seen you at yours. It’s been truly spectacular, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.

I say “I love you” a lot. I say how much I really mean “I love you” a fair amount too. I send out mass messages saying all of that on a semi-regular basis (and will probably say it again before the week is out). It might be twee, overstated, or cliche, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, I mean it.

I’ve never felt more a part of anything than I have this crowd and this city. Somewhere along the way, it’s become everything that matters. And now I’m leaving, it’s terrifying. I keep making jokes about being back within a week, but it’s tearing me apart. I feel like I’m about to lose touch with everyone and everything I’ve come to hold dear – which I know is ridiculous, but who ever said I was logical?

I can’t look back on my time here as anything but positive. I can’t look back on it too much at all at the moment in case I break down in floods of tears, which is another testament to how much this has all come to mean.

But I still have three days left.

Stay classy, Birmingham. And stay in touch.

Tonight I went to a place I’d never been before all on my own and gave a talk on music journalism to a decently packed record store for a full hour. I have such a sense of victory, it seems unreal. Up until I was about sixteen, I had a horrendous stutter (or stammer, I’m not sure what the difference is, or even if there is one). It was the worst thing. I couldn’t even read aloud from a book in a classroom of my peers, hell, sometimes I could barely answer the register. I hated it, I hated myself for it. I used to kick myself under the desk, or dig my nails into my arms as hard as I could, hoping it’d force the words out. It still terrifies me. I’ve somehow lost it, or grown out of it, for the most part, but every time I have to do anything that involves speaking out in public, even if it’s something as simple as a comment in a lecture, I get a bit of the fear.

To have done what I did tonight, on my own, in a room full of total strangers, in a town I’d never visited before, in relation to something I’m as passionate about as I am about music journalism… It’s surreal.

A substantial part of the energy behind this post may be due to the fact that I was given one of the world’s sugariest cupcakes before I left the record store, but I don’t even care. I’m beaming. And I want the whole world to know it.

P.S – I had my first piece published for Line Of Best Fit today. Short, but sweet. Dig it.

The end of this month marks five years since I first wrote and first published a review online. I don’t know for sure when, but it’s around now. Pretty monumental, huh?

Five years – that’s a quarter of my life. A quarter of my life. I owe so much to it. I really do. It’s more than free entry to concerts or free music. It’s new people, it’s new ideas, it’s new sounds. The people I adore the most on this earth – I might not have met them had it not been for the fact that I write about music and about shows. Or it would have been different, at least. I love it so much, I really do. I care about it, and I enjoy it, and when that comes back to me in the form of articles being reposted, or thank you messages, hell, even comments in person – granted, I’ll probably feel like I want the ground to swallow me whole, because I’ll be damned if I know how to react to the spotlight – but it means the world.

I’ve had emails from local BBC stations consulting me about music news. The man who signed my one of my all time favourite bands messaged saying he thought I had my finger on the pulse. I’ve helped put on one of the most spectacular shows – in the form of God Damn, performing again as a three-piece, alongside four other incredible acts (sod what a certain review said – sorry). And there’s so much more to come. At the start of next month, I’ve been asked to give a talk on music journalism at a record store to people who are interested. People have signed up to listen to me talk about this. There are more gigs, more releases, more everything to come, and I can’t wait, I really can’t.

The idea that people read what I write constantly astounds me. That people can recognise me from the name attached to an article – wow. That’s something special. That people appreciate it, even seek it out… It all seems mad to me. It’s a passion, it’s something I like feeling involved in. That my involvement is appreciated or valued by others as much as my own drive… None of this is meant to make out that I’m doing anything particularly incredible with my time. Just that I’m doing something I love immensely, and that I appreciate the support I get with it more than words can say. So, to mark this monument of passing time, here are a few messages to the characters I’ve encountered so far along the way.

To everyone who’s read anything I wrote: Your interest has been beautiful. Thank you for giving up some of your time to read something I put my own into. If no one read… No, I’d probably still write. I’d just feel a lot shittier about it.

To everyone who’s published anything I wrote: I owe you everything. Without the platforms you provided, I’d be nothing more than some indie kid writing about local bands on a blog and wishing I knew how to do more. I’d probably still be using MySpace. For the opportunities, for the guidance, for everything – I’ll be forever thankful.

To everyone who’s ever invited me to a show or sent me music:  A world of gratitude. Sure, I can complain about the amount of dumb emails I get, but I love it really. Finding new things to get enthusiastic about, being handed free CD’s at gigs – it’s the BEST, it really is.

On that note, to anyone who’s ever given me free stuff: I love you. You’re my favourite. Call me sometime.

To anyone who’s ever said “hi” to me at a show: When I nervously shuffle back to my friends, it’s only so I don’t grab hold of you and never let go. You’re all beautiful, and you make me feel beautiful – and that is incredible.

To anyone who has quoted anything I’ve written back at me: You’re the worst. I hate you. Please never leave me.

Essentially, all of this can be summed up with a massive THANK YOU, to E V E R Y O N E . But I wanted to address a few things separately. Or, I wanted to write enough for this post seem worthwhile. Always so damn sentimental. Things haven’t been especially great of late, and this, it makes me feel better. So to all of the above and everyone else: you make the time and the effort and the cost and all of it worth so much more. Thank you, and I love you. Goodnight.

This weekend was insane. I think I fell in love with every single one of my friends a hundred times over. Those of you that read this, you mean more to me than anyone else on this planet. I mean that. I’d be so utterly lost without you guys. You make me.

I don’t think I’ve been that genuinely happy in a while. This year has had a rough start. But I’ve got through most of it, and I’m getting through the rest. Being out with so many people on Saturday, it was incredible. Everything about it, I was completely in my element. I wouldn’t have given up that for anything.

But now I feel like I’m losing it. It’s like everyone’s been talking at me and trusting me with all these different things to lead me different directions and all of a sudden I don’t know where I am anymore. I signed up for a music journalism course in London. I’m not really sure why. I can’t really afford it. I just need to do something I’m passionate about somewhere else for a while. There’s so much I’ve lost sight of this past year, and I’m not really sure what I’m left with.

I’ve forsaken so much lately, barely realising most of the time. The thought of failing, of succeeding, all of it, it’s just seemed – I’m not sure if it’s been too distant, or just too much, but either way… I’ve reached a low point. I’ve acted like such an idiot. I’m still acting like such an idiot. Whatever I decided I wanted to work for when I first came to Birmingham, I’ve lost it. I used to be so driven. I knew what I wanted to achieve, and I had so much hope. In fairness, I still do have a lot of hope. It’s just… Different somehow. And now some of the people I adore the most are drawing into question the reality of the things I care about. I’m meant to trust what these guys say – that’s part and parcel of this whole thing we call being friends. But when what I’m hearing makes me doubt so much… Where am I meant to turn?

I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I’m terrified. My morals are questionable, and my priorities are far from in order. I don’t have a clue. Sometimes I feel like this city is swallowing me whole. I’m far from the person I was when I came here. I thought that was a good thing, but now I’m starting to wonder if it really is.

I need some sunny afternoons. I need some picnics, or some days spent in town. I need to go shopping (well, window shopping), or chill through someone’s band practice, or spend a few hours on someone’s sofa watching films. I need intoxicated nights that end in drunken singalongs sat on someone’s floor. I need people to stop telling me which parts of my life are genuine and which aren’t. I know who I can trust, and I know how far. I know who, and what, I care about. I don’t need to doubt that. Insecurities are bad enough without being played into.

I guess I just want someone to tell me I’m right. My friends are my friends, and we all do really care. Maybe I’m overreacting (okay, there’s no maybe about it), but that someone could say this to me and believe it, that hurt, and it hurt a lot. I don’t really know what else to say. My mind has been reeling and spinning all day.

I’m drawing a line in the dirt, or the dust, or whatever it is that’s been gathering around here of late. I’m going to don my determined/stubborn voice (one and the same, mardy arse), I’m going to play the new Howler track, and I’m going to get on with things. I don’t have to listen to this stuff if I don’t want to, right?

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was born and raised in the north of her homeland – a cold, harsh place, fraught with all kinds of dangers – but she lived a sheltered life, a quiet life. Surrounded by rural fields, she longed for something more. So, as soon as she was of reasonable age, she packed her bags and made her way out into the world.

Settling down further south, she found herself in a strange new world. Away from all she knew, she tried to carve out her place in the big new city. Entranced by the bright lights and the sounds that found their home in the streets, she saw where she wanted to be. Following the sounds that captivated her so, she started to fall in love with the place that was almost her home. Then she met the men with the wide eyes. They gave her magic dust, and introduced her to a new world she hadn’t quite seen before. And as she touched down at her abode the next morning, she knew it was one she wanted to be a part of. That Christmas, she ventured to a celebration to top all celebrations. Six of the city’s finest artists all graced a single stage. Barriers were broken in sheer adulation, and the girl knew there and then that there’d be no turning back.

She got a job writing for one of her city’s publications, and set about documenting the sounds made in the city that mesmerised her so. One night in particular, she received an invitation. Monsieur Parker was hosting a ball, with five of the city’s most talented minstrels were to perform at. Donning a gown, the girl headed to the address. What she witnessed was out of this world – the kind of thing you have to be there to really believe in its importance.

Upon returning back to the real world, she hooted and howled about the event to anyone who would listen. And listen they did. The girl found her name becoming linked to the printed word about the city’s sounds – though she could scarcely believe it, she revelled in it. That was when everything changed.

The men with the wide eyes – with whom she’d remained good friends – whisked her away to a land known as Cannock. There, drinking ale in the warm sunshine on a grassy knoll, she met the comrades who would change her life forever.

A fortnight later, along with her comrades, the girl discovered a fabled hangout known only as TALK. It became a regular meeting point – a place for them to go, to drink, to dance, and to communicate. Likeminded people did the same, and sure enough, the group of comrades grew and grew. As summertime hit, the world could not have seemed more glorious. Graced with great friends and good experiences, the girl continued on her quest to document the music of the city, and continued to do so always with the best of company. To this day, they say that if you attend a concert in one of the city’s many music halls, you might just happen to find her there…

This year has been incredible. I can’t state that enough. I have fallen in love more times than I can count: with the city, with the music, with the people… I’ve achieved so much more than I thought I was capable of, found things I didn’t realise I was searching for, and I know that I’m never going to forget or lose any of them. I won’t let it happen.

I almost feel like it could be a fairy tale sometimes. Sometimes I’ll reach a point in a night where things couldn’t seem to feel more beautiful if they tried. It might be something that’s said, something that’s done, something that’s heard, or even just how everything looks at that particular moment – I’ll fall in love with everything and everyone all over again.

Don’t get me wrong – this year has also been difficult. I’ve felt down and out more times than I’d care to own up to. But that’s the thing – when I’ve been surrounded by something as good as this, by people who make me feel as good as this – I don’t have to turn far for a reason to pick myself back up and smile. There have been some horrors, I’ve even scared myself at points, but here we are at the end of the year, still standing. I’ve come so far in the past twelve months, in so many ways. Not all of it is good, but is it ever? You live, you learn, and you have a bit of fun in the process.

In the past twelve months, I’ve been recognised from reviews I wrote, seen bands in a living room, been invited to video shoots, seen a new club become our hangout, been to glastonbury and back, seen friends support The FREAKING Cribs, got a job in a venue, had press pass at a festival, crowd-surfed in J Gatsby’s house, put on a gig… And that’s just for starters.

But more than that, I’ve done it all with the best of people. If you’re reading this, I want you to know how much you all mean to me: you’re princes and princesses, you’re absolute royalty, and I hope that you all know it. As we hurtle into 2014, let’s do so with a smile. Let’s be young and beautiful for another year longer.

Recognition can come from unexpected places.

Last night was incredible. I went to a gig with my closest friends on the planet, had drinks at one of our most frequented hangouts, then went back to a lock-up, where we all wasted time together into the next afternoon. It doesn’t sound too special, put like that, but I reached a point where I didn’t think a night could possibly feel more beautiful.

I made new friends, caught up with old ones, had conversations with people I haven’t been out with in altogether too long, and laughed until I cried with people I can barely seem to go a week without. Nights like last night mean the absolute world.

I love this crowd of people more than I can find the words to express. Each person is so different, and there’s so much I know and don’t know about all of them. The conversations I have with each of them are so varied – the way they talk, or their sense of humour – it’s such a weird thing to think about, how a personality is evident in the way you communicate. But it’s a brilliant thing. Even if you couldn’t see faces, or distinguish voices from any other, you could still recognise a person from their dialogue. That’s astounding. Everyone has such a distinctive character. I love all of it.

Last night one of my friends dedicated Mac DeMarco’s ‘My Kind Of Woman’ to me because he knows it’s my favourite song by him. Sentences that begin “I’m only telling you this because I’m drunk, but…” are becoming some of my favourites. Someone I’d never met before brought out a copy of his single because he knew I’d be there, but kept hold of it until halfway through the post-gig drinks because he didn’t want to just seem keen. Moments like these are what make me so in love with the world. I can’t express how much it means to me. I’m going to end up with such an ego though.

I’m feelin’ so tired, but most of all, I’m feeling good.

Last night I put on a gig.

It’s something I’ve been looking for the opportunity to do for a while. I pestered my editor to let me have a hand in the shows we put on, and he agreed. I helped choose the line-up, promoted it to everyone I knew in the area, and was ready to work the door at the first show I’d assisted in the organisation of. Then a band dropped out. As the only person with nowhere I had to be the next day, it fell to me to fix the situation and make all arrangements. After a boatload of stress and a few tidal waves of nerves, I managed to find two bands to step in last minute.

The turnout wasn’t quite what I hoped, but for my first attempt, I’m pretty proud. Sure, we could have drawn more people in, or made some money off it, but I’m happy with how everything turned out. I got to put on a local act who’re really quite impressive, my two favourite unsigned groups in Birmingham, and a prominent up-and-coming band from London-via-Leamington. And it was a good show. All of those who played were totally wicked.

Thank you to Loom, whose onstage antics and unrivalled appreciation for houmous provided amusement-a-plenty. Thank you to JUICE and Curb, who I love more than I love a lot of bands, and who I will forever hold dear to my heart. And thank you to Ghosts Of Dead Airplanes, who I should probably have paid more attention to before now – they definitely seemed impressive from where I was sat. Thank you to everyone who turned up to watch, everyone who applauded between songs, and especially those who danced along. You made it something I won’t forget.

Next show I’m working on is God Damn at the Hare & Hounds in King’s Heath on 18th January. Can’t wait.

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