Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

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We All Have Our Own Journeys

Today’s gospel, the parable of the generous vineyard owner (Matthew 20: 1-16), is a message sure to ring true with a lot of people. How often have we been stuck in a dead-end job whilst those on par with us rise to greater things? How often have we received a lower grade from a teacher than a friend with almost the same answer? How often are we surrounded by couples and babies whilst we linger alone?

It’s easy to feel cheated when someone puts in less effort and receives the goal you’ve worked so hard for, and to say ‘it’s not fair’ when things don’t go our way.

This is especially true in the world of art, or, in my case, the world of literature and writing. Whilst I love reading stories of authors who’ve snagged an agent or a book deal, twinges of envy attack me as I read of another’s success.

Some authors are lucky enough to get both in short time after submitting. Understand this isn’t the norm – but when these stories crop up, it’s hard not to notice the level of success the particular author has had, compared to your supposed lack of achievements.

Too, every author has their own style, and it’s easy to criticise their style and berate them for being so successful with it. Remember how subjective reading (and life) is. And there’s probably a lot more to their success story (including previous losses) than they care to share publically.

But think of this, and take from today’s parable the simple idea: they’ve made their journey, and perhaps it’s not the route that would have suited you. Some authors have to go through self-publishing before they can attract the attention of an agent/publisher; others are ready to let certain books go, whereas you might have a confidence in an unusual book regardless of its place in the market.

In the end, you must judge yourself only by your own levels and not by how other people, whose circumstances can never mirror yours (and circumstance and luck/timing plays a major part in art careers), not thinking of what others are getting, but looking on your own pay as a worthy prize. In terms of writing, this means trying to stay away from comparing yourself with another, ‘successful’ (whatever that word may mean for you) writer, and respecting what you have already done on your own journey to ‘success’. Though many people say this, it’s worth reiterating: if your goal is to finish a book and you do so, that is worth celebrating. It’s a step many writers do not make. If you gain a new goal whilst writing to publish said manuscript, good for you to have such a goal. However, do not disregard how far you have already come; whilst ambition is commendable, it is never equal to achievement of the present.

Try not to fall into the camp of thinking ‘it’s not fair’. When someone’s journey may look as if it were lighter than yours, it may have been full of pitfalls you cannot see. Everyone is unique and their experiences reflect from how they’ve lived their life so far. Everyone has their own journey to take and we must trust that the Lord will guide us there in His own time, not what we think is the best time.

Roll on Palm Sunday...I need a new cross.


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7 Quick Takes About The Usual, The Unusual and The Moving Back

Join us over at ConversionDiary as we recap our weeks.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about cool vintage books, a radio studio in my home, and the only five things that really matter when you host a party


Hullo. I travel back to uni tomorrow *sad face* So I expect the posting to become more sporadic again as I try and find my feet and help out with the freshers. On the other hand, that means I’ll have more to talk about every week! :P


On the blog this week, I mainly talked about my trip to Lincoln and the annual Steampunk convivial held there. And it was amazing! Although I didn’t make as many of the panels, talks and workshops as I would’ve liked, and I didn’t buy any of the things I set out to, it was great to experience the British side of Steampunk lifestyle, which is, sadly, not talked about or videoed as much as US meets. We have more conventions in the UK than first appears, so it seems.


I finished a mystery book I’ve been reading – will get at least a mini review to the blog soon. I’m also munching my way through the biographical book about Agatha Christie, which is quite easy reading, but still detailed. I’m currently on the section about Poirot.

Poirot x2

Poirot x2


Music-wise, I’ve been learning to play some jazz pieces (as well as upping the tempo of I’ll Rust With You, which I am enjoying so much that I’m no longer following the twins strumming patterns and melody line, respectively) for the big Swing event we’ve got on the second week of October. Peggy Lee’s Fever is fun to play because of the jazz strumming patterns:


I’m CP for four-ish writers at the moment. Unusually, I managed to get some non-YA CPs, so, though all of stories I’m reading at the moment are fantasy, they are a variety of sub-genres, from steampunk NA retelling to time-travel to epic fantasies. Cool stuff.

On the other hand, with everything going on, I’ve not had so much time for editing. I tried to finish the rewrites of the first Craig house scenes, and I think I am almost satisfied with the details I’ve removed from that scene. As those things are important (to me), I hope to get the information squeezed into later chapters. I’ve also been thinking more about the use of cipher across the trilogy, and its fingertips in OJAP.



I’ve been thinking about the companion story to Horology, and whilst I want it to exist, I have my reservations. There is, for starters, the fact that having it set in Egypt isn’t anything new, and this could be/is problematic in terms of plot. Sure, Amelia and Cathy’s world has The Passing of spectres, but what else can I add that’s not your stereotypical “let’s dig up this pyramid/dune; oh, look, weird artefact; oh, look, dead body…”?

The simple answer is “don’t write an excavation book”, but if I ever write a solo Amelia book, I intend to have her in old Dubai, which, according to the history I read when I was there, used to be all sand. She may be a cartographer, but Amelia learnt a lot living in Italy.

At the Lincoln writing workshop, the general reaction I got when I read it out was that the setting was very clear, the MC was more upper-class (good, I think), and it reminded people of the 30s. I guess that’s good. However – I hadn’t planned to write dieselpunk…even though the airship is powered by paraffin. I wanted an almost smoggy chemical to be polluting the air from the ‘ship, but I hardly had access to the internet to Google an elaborate-named simple compound.

Also: Mummy on the Orient Express. I think we’re going to see Egypt and archaeological stories come back into fashion soon.

Hence, I’ve planned it as a novella. I’ll aim for 40,000, but I believe that’s the upper boundary, and I’d be happy with 25 or 30,000.


This is the beginning as it stands so far. Actually, for me, I’m pretty proud of this beginning. It has setting, genre and conflict, and the writing is pretty spiffing in any case.

Amelia stared at the academic as he scrubbed sand from his duffel coat. The skyship had barely left a trail of ash and paraffin across the sky, and he was already complaining.

“Damn scarab bites. Almost as bad as horse-flies.”

Amelia straightened her under-corset and cleared her throat. She was already getting the feeling that Dr. Rathburne would be the one man here to rattle her nerves.

“Welcome to Egypt, Dr. Colonel Reynold and my team are arranging the newest artefacts in tent F.”

Your team?”

Ah. Only a matter of time.

Amelia caught the end of her blonde plait as it swung towards her face, and retied it with a tough tug.

“Reynold didn’t tell you? I’m the one leading the expedition. After Italy, that’s the least I can do, don’t you suppose?”

The doctor of Archaeology – the Institute of London’s finest, apparently, and she should know – grunted. He shuffled his satchel over one shoulder, avoiding her eyes with flail, and set off across that ‘damn sand’.

Personally, Amelia liked it.

Thoughts on the beginning? I’m still not sure what I think of the changes, especially in Amelia’s line. It’s less telling, but… Also, I have a friend whose allergic to horse-fly bites. They are cruel.

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The Lincoln Steampunk Asylum (Part Two)

Yesterday’s post was Saturday at the Asylum. Since it rather got into heavy wordcount, I decided I’d split the days. Yesterday was all about nerfs, friends, shopping and drinking. Today – fiction, guns, jetpacks and the closing ceremony.

Day two

Vendor_AlexBAfter pulling myself from a listless four hours sleep at 7am, I proceeded to breakfast – and joined the table of the four other young steampunks who couldn’t afford more than £40 per night, two of whom offered to drive me into the Steampunk Quarter in Lincoln – and onto my activities for the day. As my room had to be vacated by 10, the morning was a little of a rush, but not one I couldn’t handle. I arrived at the Academy Rooms at 11 on the dot for the second part of yesterday’s writing workshop, and we didn’t start reading out our pieces until 10 past at least. And I went first – not by choice, I add. *gulp*

Anyway, twenty minutes later, I didn’t place, and I do wonder if I’d have had a little more luck with the original – to be fair, I hadn’t changed much, and I’d focused on strengthening verbs and giving the piece its desert atmosphere – but the piece that won was something I’d definitely vote for myself.

It seems narrative flow has tripped me up once again; one of the judges afterwards remarked to me the gist that I ought to have had dialogue tags when the conversation was confusing. I guess I’m so used to editing them out that my default is to avoid them altogether.

After the brief general writing chat we had with the judges, I had fifteen minutes or so free time – as we’d finished early – and I attempted to write on, to no avail. I guess, as well as overview planning, I ought, or even need, to write a sentence or two in my plan about the direction of the chapter and its chapter shift

GunTalk_AlexBThe time passed, and I remained in the same spot for the Weapons in Steampunk Fiction talk. Whilst a steampunk martial arts class was going on in the main ball room (Bartitsu), I had the weapons talk down as one of my definites. I may have missed all the other talks – supernatural in steampunk, the book signings and general book fair stuff (in fact, I mark myself very poorly on attendance of the literary side of the festival) – but this one I’d always planned to attend because correct use of weapons I find needs more accuracy than correct use of technology and science. After all, one of the elements of Steampunk is its anachronistic and futuristic use of science. Although I have yet to improve and turn into a novella Cavendish Mechanics, I made sure that I thought long and hard about the types of pistols the MC, love interest, and antagonist would be using in the final scene. Agnetha will also assert that correct naming of calibre pistols comes from my being a former Colonel’s daughter.

I digress. The talk was great and very in-depth, though the small room heated up quite a bit and a few of us started feeling faint. The focus was mostly on the types of handguns and rifles that were used in Victoria’s reign and into the early Edwardian reign, but we got to handle a couple of replicas at the end. Always good research, multi-tactile.

As much as I adore this photo – and thanks to Ryan for the background editing away the scaffolding around the castle – I am very promptly the odd one out, wearing neither hat nor goggles. I didn’t find a hat I wanted to wear, sadly, and my goggles are in Reading.

As much as I adore this photo – and thanks to Ryan for the background editing away the scaffolding around the castle – I am very promptly the odd one out, wearing neither hat nor goggles. I didn’t find a hat I wanted to wear, sadly, and my goggles are in Reading.

I had planned to see a lot of things on the Saturday and not so many on the Sunday, partly due to the fact that there were less anyway, but I think I had more of a case of not making my mind up which of the amazing convivial’s activities I wanted to take part in. From the weapons talk, I browsed the Academy room’s market, restraining myself from buying books or some fine, expensive goggles or even a waistcoat, though I ought to, and rejoined the soldier, the rifleman, and The Spine (looking decidedly less Spine-like today) by the Hendricks tent in the Academy grounds. And more gin.

As Rabbit would say: the only way to fly...is with a jetpaaaackk.

As Rabbit would say: the only way to fly…is with a jetpaaaackk.

We caught up with the pink-haired lady to watch the Minimum Altitude Display team (I can’t think of a better way of putting it than “running around making aeroplane noises”) and the Wacky Races – an event which involved actual human-powered machine running a course around the castle grounds, and not-so-actual jetpacks.

As I’d missed yesterday’s fare, I was hoping to make my way back to the centre of the Steampunk Quarter for the Tea Duelling UK finals. We hurried back to the Assembly Rooms, but were informed that the Tea Duelling had finished. Sorry, people of the internet – I couldn’t get you any Lincoln 2014 footage of Tea Duelling. However, an apology is not enough, so here’s the Tea Duelling from DragonCon (USA), courtesy of Professor Upsidasium. Professor Elemental is MC-ing! Yay!

Nevertheless, we hovered around the markets to past the time. The Illicit Market, where traders, those who’d had stalls and those who’d not yet, offered their wares more cheaply and in the hustle of the crowded ballroom. After all, if the Piemen (members of the Guild of Privateers, Illicit Entrepreneurs and Scoundrels) caught any of us, the whole of the illicit venture would collapse. Hehe. ;)

When the closing ceremony came around, we were, of course, all dismayed to think that the weekend had come and gone so quickly. In particular, I regret that I hadn’t had the ability to drive up for the Friday’s events and that I was substituting the Sunday evening Dead Dog Party for taking four trains home. Still, I was exhausted and I don’t actually know if I’d have survived that night as well.

That’s it, folks! I had a great time and am definitely thinking about returning to the Lincoln Asylum next year :)


The Lincoln Steampunk Asylum 2014

I woke myself at 6am and dressed in what shouldn’t have been darkness but was. I forget summer has pretty much come to an end. I shuffled into my swing dance petticoats, and zipped up the long black dress I’d bought from the vintage fair a month before the end of the academic term. It caught on the necklaces I’d chosen – one, my digital watch on a chain long enough to stuff into my top; the other, the rose-key, the only proper Steampunk necklace I own. I scraped my hair into a surprisingly-effective low bun and clipped a large blue flower over the escaping curls in my right-hand fringe, before painting my face with some muted tones.

Instagram_AlexB_steampunkThen, running late at ten past 7, I shuffled (I do that a lot with the petticoats) into the car and proceeded on my journey to Lincoln, home of the idyllic castle and cathedral. And, for one weekend per year, hundreds of alternate-history, Steampunks and eccentrics that love to dress up (I fall into each category) – for the biggest purely-Steampunk event in Europe: Weekend at the Asylum, run by the UK Victorian Steampunk Society.

Irritatingly, I missed the opening address/ceremony, since we arrived in Lincoln at 11 on the dot but had to find our way across the city to the Steampunk Quarter and Bailgate Road – which involved trekking, and I’m not overexaggerating with that choice of word, trekking up a hill road, aptly named Steep Hill. Luckily, once my feet hit cobbles, the number of utterly curious looks from ‘normals’ at my costume diminished somewhat and the number of men and women with fans, guns, hats, goggles and petticoats increased. I was on the right track.

I exchanged my ticket for the weekend wristband, and pressed my way through to the Castle Square – I’d given myself time for lunch at 12, and so I had an hour of nothing planned. Nothing…or shopping.

With three or four markets of vendors to peruse, we were spoilt for choice. The mainly-outdoor settings of these markets, which were always thronging with buyers, also gave me the opportunity to use my camera skills. Granted, it was difficult to truly get a good photograph with a pocket-camera, what with the different levels even in the street and the rushing of people all around…and my bewildering lack of height for these sorts of things! Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to get some shots of Lincoln Castle whilst in its grand grounds and also on both sides of its exterior.

wonderful, wonderful…

wonderful, wonderful…

I also almost bought myself a proper corset. As I ummed and erred over the shapes and colours, a pink-haired woman helped balance my umbrella and chatted about corset-belts (apparently, they’re called ‘waspies’) that do and look much the same as actual corsets, but are far less complicated. I recalled that I’d looked at them in passing, but I’d not bought one because of, you know, priority spending (and a fedora that never existed). She added that this was her first steampunk event, too, and that if I’d find her again – not hard to miss with the bright pink hair – I was welcome to wander around with her family. I grinned at her, thanked her for her recommendation and offer and wandered to where a crowd of photographers was gathered around a lady and her extraordinary costume.

TheSpineCosplay_AlexBAs my camera fawned over how photogenic and beautiful this lady and her costume were, my eyes lingered to the rest of those gathered nearby. Some sat munching their lunch on the narrow cloisters of the castle; others hurried back and forth, dodging normals as they peered at the vendors’ wares; a solider, his scarlet uniform and white pith helmet decked with numerous cthulhu references and tea utensils, waited whilst a young woman snapped pictures of another’s dress, her movements sharp at the corners and her face a familiar plate of titanium alloy and dark steam vents.

That’s right, people. The Spine made it to the Lincoln Asylum (whilst the actual band were in Canada, I might add. They’re slowly, slowly making their way out of the US!).

I sidled over, and timidly asked if I might take her photo. Then, a little less timidly, I complimented her on her cosplay, so that she’d know I knew The Spine (come on, he was the subject of my last Teens Can Write, Too! post!).

Made of money…

Made of money…

“Gin?” someone asked, a beacon of light out of nowhere.

The reply was unanimously “Gin!” and I found myself chorusing along with the rest of this merry band. Over a decent Hendricks cocktail (seriously, although Hendricks is expensive, it is very good quality gin and worth trying), I learnt that everybody was just as new to each other as I was to them. The Spine and her rifleman friend (who had been The Spine for Friday’s events, so I was told) were local, but a lady dressed in a garment of money and the soldier, along with the Lone Ranger and a masked man, had met them at the Asylum, just as I had.

Sadly, my need for company (and gin *cough*) meant that I missed the heats of Tea Duelling at 1pm that I’d intended to attend in the ballroom of the Assembly Rooms where I’d hurried to grab my weekend wristband.

In the next hour, I also managed to avoid several of the talks and panels. ‘Putting the Punk into Steampunk’ was one I could have gone to, but there are lots of articles and notes online voicing the punky bit of Steampunk anyway. Same with ‘Steampunk as an International Scene’ – after all, I learnt about Steampunk from the US and most of the steampunks I have talked to are US people. It grew bigger and more quickly there



Instead, I wandered back through the castle grounds at 2pm where a crowd gathered my attention again. This time, I ducked through the arms, legs, hats and hydraulics to a side where I could clearly see the Steampunk version of space invaders. Nerf Vaders. Real life space invaders with nerf gun pellets, and awesome costumes.

3pm led me to my next activity, a writing workshop focusing on creating great beginnings (something I have trouble with as it is), held in Westgate Academy school. I actually chose this steampunk opportunity to give thought to any companion stories to Horology. Just as with When the Clock Broke, I’d postulated over sequels for a while, but, whilst having ideas, I’d not certainly said “yes, I want to write a sequel” or “no, this is preposterous”. (Or more precisely: “yes, I want to write a sequel. This is preposterous!”) Steampunk in particular lends itself well to novellas in the world. The writer cannot touch on all of the aspects of the alt-history fantasy in one book alone, hence must more be honed from the mind.

In the writing workshop, led by Sam Stone, author of several steampunk novels and a commissioning editor at Telos Publishing, we studied a couple of openings, both famous and alternate-history-y, discussed what we each thought makes a compelling opening of a novel – whilst the general consensus was “it depends on genre,” which is always very true when it comes to professional literature, the interesting point that arose from our discussions was that of our reader subjectivities, though not in so many words. Whilst I, having been ‘trained’ by the internet that way, was on the side of in media res, a good number of the writers in the discussion actually favoured reading and writing the slower approach to openings, be that via a world-building, scene-setting paragraph or by having the MC be introduced to the integral characters of a story. We also discussed recent published book beginnings we’d read, and the spread was the same.

After that, we were given fifteen minutes to write an opening (with no specifications as to length or genre or context), and we spent the rest of the workshop reading out and commenting on each other’s pieces. That’s right – reading out first draft pieces in front of strangers. This was practise for the competition tomorrow.

GinforTwo_AlexBFrom the Westgate Academy, I pressed through the Steampunk Quarter, and down to meet up with the rest of my group, whom I’d abandoned for the workshop.

By now, my feet were aching, as was my core was from the waspies I ended up buying. And the amount of people asking to take my photograph, whilst gratifying, also had a tiring effect. As I sat considering whether dinner had any point, I realised I was running out of time to check in to my accommodation. I hurried back into the normal Quarter of Lincoln, gaining two hecklers on my journey, and bused to the suburb of North Hykeham where my B&B was.

Half 7pm passed in a blink of an eye, and I’d barely taken the weight off my feet before I had to put it all back on. I changed outfits as much as I could – I anticipated the cold with my pashmina, and threw caution to the wind by letting my hair down and swapping the flower for a mask. After all, we didn’t want Major Tinker, organiser overlord of the event, to know that the dance hall event we were going to was not the saintly folk singing he assumed but dancing with a little less decorum! I’ll leave it at that! ;)

The Fedora was optional. You might recognise it as The Spine’s… Yup, I steal fedoras from robots now. … xD

The Fedora was optional. You might recognise it as The Spine’s… Yup, I steal fedoras from robots now. … xD

In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed the event, meeting up with the soldier and the rifleman for the actual event, and buying drinks with the pink-haired lady afterwards. Although a lot more static than I expected (we were in a theatre, rather than a room in which I expected to move from table to table socialising and the like), What Would the Major Say? is good fun, especially if you don’t take it seriously, and a good alternative for those of us who didn’t managed to snag tickets for the coveted Empire Ball.

Afterwards, the four of us wandered from the theatre to the Assembly Rooms and rejoined The Spine and co, who had managed to get to the Ball. Despite the fact it was definitely midnight by then, the steampunks migrated to the Victoria Pub just outside of the castle.

*phew* Stay tuned. Tomorrow: Sunday at the Lincoln Asylum.


Photo of the Week: Fantasy

I took over 100 photos. Seriously. Yeah, there are some similar photos and rubbish ones, but they do total over 100. Yay, photos! *laughs* This means I have a wealth of actual photos (ie. taken with ma camera, rather than phone) to choose from.

Cue huge photo size…


This lady always has a wealth of creativity in her outfits. As such, however, I didn’t see her without a collection of photographers – as we all wanted to catch a photo of her outfit(s). So, this is cropping out the people at the edges. And hence the ivy of Lincoln Castle acting as the perfect background for photography. This is the raw photo otherwise, though I might play around with filters and colour/exposure tweaking once I’ve sorted myself for the week.

In actual fact, this photo doesn’t do her justice. Below the corset, the golden, wire-like dress goes on, balloons out with flowers and butterflies emerging from the ‘metalwork’ (if we are going by the idea of a steampunk fairy), blue gems, light sapphires entwined.

I think fairy is the right word, but that’s probably too mundane a word. She did have giant, hydraulic wings of gold and the same wire-like pattern, but they were being repaired when I took this photo (I did see her wearing them later, though). Just goes to show how diverse even a single costume and a genre can be! Love it!

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Quick Takes Friday About Gaining Dual POV, Generating Poetry and Glueing Rhinestones

Join me and the other Catholic bloggers over at ConversionDiary for our weekly Quick Takes summaries.


Firstly, in case you missed it, yesterday was my 500th post here, so I did some summing up of the past 2.5 years I’ve been working. I can’t really add anything more to that other than the hope that I can up the output and reachability of the blog over the next three years, and that people will continue to join me (and hopefully find me useful/interesting/worthy).


Lincoln tomorrow!!! That is all.

Okay, it’s also kind of funny trying to make my 21st Century gadgets into retrofuturistic objects I can use without heading too far out of character. Also, I currently have a centre parting. The right side of my forehead feels icky. It’s not used to hair.



On Monday, we went to see the animals in the local garden centre, and the weather decided to cheer a bit more than the typical British weather we had creeping in the end of the summer. Yes! *air punch* I can’t say I’ve gone out of my way to leave the house this week – and who can blame me? The outside world is scary – but I have been trying to vary my routine. This week, I’ve mostly been about writing.


Writing: I managed to do some serious paragraph threading-together for chapter one, and the first fifty pages have been my priority for this week’s editing. I haven’t really dealt with OJAP this week – though, after the weekend, I hope to actually work out what I’m doing with chapters 8, 9 and 10 now that Carrie’s not in the Josh’s-bedroom scene, and whether I can manipulate her meeting with Agnetha later in the novel to include certain lines.

I mean, some things are telling about her character, not in terms of the plot, but in terms of what I figure is important for Carrie as a wounded soul, such as, “Yeah, my parents didn’t get along, either.”


I wrote my first poem for months and months. Although I’m not going to share it yet, it’s my typical metaphorical and metaphysical, metadescriptive stuff. Yeah, I made that last word up.


Reading – this sounds like it’s randomly-placed, but it’s connected to the below – Nicole Helm’s TOO CLOSE TO RESIST. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and am really absorbed into the characters. The writing’s not as elaborate as I’m used to – but that comes from moving from fantasy to contemporary, and it’s good practise for me for my contemporary romances.


Annoyingly, I did manage to distract myself and write some new stuff – for UTC, and suddenly I have dual POV when I’d not consciously made the decision to look from Laurie’s POV to begin with. I think this is chapter two or whatever.

After waving Ceriwyn into her own room through a hollow doorway that pointlessly split A block in half, Laurie trudged to his room. September’s full moon was already reflected high in the window he passed, and it was no doubt gone 2am. Laurie always kept Ceri company as the freshers seeped out of the bar – a habit that had started the day she’d got the job in the final term last year. The same time he’d got his job organising formals, posting on the Wellington Facebook page and welcoming foreign students into their rooms at any time in the term.

Thank goodness for his childhood habit of not getting to sleep until the downstairs noises had stopped.

Laurie spun his key in the door, and shouldered his way in. A block was on the older side of Wellington, in its main quad, and thus everything had been made sound-proof and out of pre-WW1 stone.

I like Laurie. He’s a History second-year and friendly despite being sensible/not-crazy. Although he grew up in a moneyed house, he’s learnt to take events beyond their face value, which makes him a useful ally because you know what you’re getting when Laurie turns up.


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