Written by Betty Furmston, aged 16. Get Hastings Young Voice Issue #1.

I wake up and it is Monday – notorious for the start of the working-mans’ week, or a death toll for students under pressure. I belong to the second category, however fortunately for me, Mondays are when I have English: two hours of arguments, debates and Christina Rosetti – I can think of nothing better.

I am late (again) and I have to jog to make the bus, but it rolls around fifteen minutes late anyway. On a good day, I’ll spend the extra cash to take the bus, because despite the man two seats away listening to football commentary with no ear buds, the route to my college passes by the sea, and it’s beautiful this time of day.

I think that’s what is most special about Hastings; it’s a half-town more than anything. On one side, it’s exploding with arts and culture and people and restaurants and houses and opportunity, and on the other, it is an expanse of blue, unbroken except for fishing boats in the early morning and swimmers in the late summer. It makes me remember writers who were so taken by such views, all over the world — Sylvia Plath, Murakumi, Virginia Woolf, all who managed to capture and shrink that chaotic living blue into ink and paper. It is an unrivalled feat, one that I’m sure everyone tries, and fails, to do once in their lifetime.

When I get to school, the grey face is a prison cell. It is disappointingly uninspiring to anyone who wants to learn — ironically. The fluorescents make everything look dead, and the quizzes held in the canteen are overscored by radio one, playing 24/7 without cease. And they wonder why people don’t stay to revise when McDonalds is 15 minutes away. I am being unfair, however, to the library and teachers, both of which are fantastic. The teachers are absolutely mad, and that’s how I like it; no suggestion is too outrageous, not when studying Hamlet.

I get home early today, and I meet my friend (let’s call him A) at a coffee shop in Trinity Triangle, once run down, but now booming — a change that I’ve witnessed happily over the years, from the refurbishment of the huge library, to the book and record shops. Me and A are quite similar in certain regards: we both love English and media, and we’re film, book and music nerds. We both love writing poetry, following psychology and Vice news. But now we are in college, I can slowly feel us peeling apart, not in those fundamentals which are as strong as ever, but at the root of the question: what do you want to be?

“I believe the highest honour in writing and journalism that someone can achieve is a Nobel prize; he believes that it’s being assassinated by the FBI”

I get home early today, and I meet my friend (let’s call him A) at a coffee shop in Trinity Triangle, once run down, but now booming — a change that I’ve witnessed happily over the years, from the refurbishment of the huge library, to the book and record shops. Me and A are quite similar in certain regards: we both love English and media, and we’re film, book and music nerds. We both love writing poetry, following psychology and Vice news. But now we are in college, I can slowly feel us peeling apart, not in those fundamentals which are as strong as ever, but at the root of the question: what do you want to be?

For me, I’ve always had a few key dreams, and I’ve always known that university and academia are infinitely appealing — I see myself working late hours in the library, pushing my critical analysis higher and further, and at the end of it all, holding the diploma and knowing ‘This is it,

I’ve done it.’ I’m not naive enough to believe this is the be all and end all, but it’s a start, and a dream I’ve had since reading about Lyra’s adventures in Oxford in Pullman’s The Northern Lights. But A also has a path to follow: he believes in the world of work, of journalism and blogging, and he’s taking steps to ensure his path just as I am. Just because our dreams are different, it doesn’t mean they aren’t equally important. I believe the highest honour in writing and journalism that someone can achieve is a Nobel prize; he believes that it’s being assassinated by the FBI.

We gravitate to the West Hill. It serves as a perch from which everything else seems small and unimportant. It turns cars into ants, the buildings, Lego, and the sea more infinite. If we liked, we could reach out and crush the town with our fist, but we wouldn’t because it has shaped us, just as we in turn have shaped it. We joke about getting in a bathtub and paddling to France, but we have school tomorrow — so we can wait another year or so. Or we could start a hippie commune! But we have too much revision to do. As infinite as the world presents, it is also governed by certain laws. We are in college now, we’ve wised up to these facts, but that can’t stop the dream.

At six, the sun sets behind the castle ruins, and the sky is painted with brilliant gold and pink. I play some music out of tinny phone speakers and we laugh and talk about the future, but not for long because The Cure’s Just like Heaven comes on again, and I’m forced, by virtue of how good the song is, to do a little jig while screaming, “Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick!” I have a bad singing voice but it doesn’t matter: there is no one around but A, who wouldn’t breathe a word on pain of death, and my voice is lost into the wind that howls anyway. On nights like this, with tired eyes and burning lungs and clouds on the horizon and the sun setting and the first glimmer of the dog star, it feels like anything could be possible. Good friends and good music helps too.

Written by Betty Furmston

Author

  • Mel Elliott

    Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Mel Elliott graduated with an MA from The Royal College of Art in 2007, after which she started her publishing label, I Love Mel. Mel's pop-culture colouring books have sold worldwide and her children's books have been published in many languages. Mel has worked on projects with major publishers in the UK, USA, Italy, Taiwan and South Korea. She is currently working on her first YA novel... as well as Get Hastings.

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