Monthly Archives: October 2013

14th of April 2013 – No.30a: Compete in a Beauty Pageant


I had been meaning to enter the competition for Hastings Carnival /Miss Hastings for a long time but had not had the confidence. Even so, I couldn’t shake the desire to try, so in 2013, I plucked up my courage and entered.

The photo I used to enter.

The photo I used to enter.

The competition is actually just a public interview, unlike American pageants there is no talent section or modelling but you do have to wear something nice and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to trot out the shoes I bought with my birthday money. These shoes are the Best Shoes Ever. They are Irregular Choice ‘I’m Bossy’ shoes in green and they have little bunny buttons sewn on the toes. (You can see them here

The only problem is I had nothing that went with them, so my friend Sue and I made a pink polka dot skirt and sewed little rabbits along the hem. A few days before the competition, my poor little Emi came down with a bug and subsequently passed it on to me, albeit much more mildly.  I was really worried that I was going to unable to participate through illness, however I continued to prepare and even managed to get down to the nail salon the day before (accompanied by Elliot to make sure I was OK, even though the smell of the nail stuff gives him a headache- there’s love for you). I got pink polka dot to match the skirt.

A couple of hours before the competition, I began getting ready, dressing in the pink polka dot skirt, plus a cute cream cardigan and the Best Shoes Ever. A friend came over to do my make-up, watched like a hawk by Emiko, who is fascinated by her as she looks rather like her ‘Operetta’ Monster High doll. There was a mild panic when she accidentally dropped the mascara brush on my skirt but with a little soap and water we did get it out eventually. I added a few accessories, a bracelet Sue made me and a turquoise necklace Elliot bought me, then we said goodbye to Emiko and her babysitter and drove over to the venue.

At the beginning of the competition

Photography by Alun Sambrook – At the beginning of the competition

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who had turned out to support me and began feeling quite excited and happily nervous. All the contestants were rounded up and taken to a room downstairs for the pre-contest briefing and the opportunity to meet last year’s winner, the Mayor of Hastings, and the rest of the judges. We had a wait of ¾ of an hour until the pageant began, so we started chatting amongst ourselves and getting to know one another. I mostly talked to one of last year’s princesses, who told me she was a cheerleader and rode horses. She seemed very nice, as did most of the girls.
Finally, it was time and we were guided out to parade in front of the audience and judges, before going backstage. From there we were called up one by one for our interview. When it was my turn, I stood up straight, smiled my best beauty queen smile and walked elegantly (I hope) onto the stage. Taking my seat on the bar stool, I answered a series of questions from the compere.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - Being interviewed

Photography by Alun Sambrook – Being interviewed

“So, tell us a little about yourself,” invited the compere.
“Well,” I smiled charmingly, “I volunteer as a Girlguiding Leader with the Rainbows, I love to dance and I am learning to play the flute.”
“And how long have you lived in Hastings?”
“I was born here.”
“In the Old Town?”
“Er, no, central Hastings”, I answered, caught off-guard for a moment as there are no hospitals near the Old Town. There are none in central Hastings either, so it was a stupid answer to the question and internally, I was thinking ‘I probably should have just said yes.’
“What prompted you to apply for Carnival Queen?” he continued.
“It seemed like a good opportunity to promote our lovely town and at the same time make friends and enjoy new experiences,” I responded.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - Being interviewed

Photography by Alun Sambrook – Being interviewed

“What is your favourite thing about our town?” the compère asked, as he had to every contestant. Knowing that every girl before me had said the same thing I was planning to say, namely that the town’s events were the best thing, I ad-libbed from my practiced answer a little at the beginning, before ending with my rehearsed response:
“I think Hastings is a place where people can really be themselves and feel free to express their individuality. I also love the sense of community that comes with events such as Jack in the Green, Pirate Day and of course, Hastings Week and the Carnival.”
“Thank you; let’s have a round of applause for Elizabeth!”
I stood up and walked off-stage past the judges, smiling and waving as if I were the Queen of England, catching a glimpse of my adoring fans (Elliot and my friends) as I walked past. Once all the contestants had been interviewed, we were allowed to hang out with our friends and family until the judges had finished deliberating.

All of my friends asked me how I was doing and I told them I was having fun. Rosie wanted to know if I’d been nervous and I told her truthfully I’d been more nervous about the flute exam. Elliot was disappointed that none of his photos had come out well. One friend had brought all her kids to support me, which was nice. Soon enough it was time for the results, so along with the other eight finalists, I walked back on-stage and seated myself to await the announcement.

Photo by Elliot - The announcement

Photo by Elliot – The announcement

Photography by Alun Sambrook - All the contestants

Photography by Alun Sambrook – All the contestants

The crowns and sashes were laid out on the table and the thrones were positioned at the front of the stage.  The compère seemed determined to draw out the suspense as long as possible, listing the various prizes for the winners, but even so, I was surprised when one contestant’s mother, standing far too close to the stage, yelled out:
“Get on with it!” but  the compère continued unperturbed. The title of Second Princess, he informed us, went to a 14 year-old, the youngest contestant. That was when I knew I hadn’t won. I just had a gut feeling about it, so I was graciously accepting when First Princess went to one of last year’s Princesses and the titles of Old Town Carnival Queen and Miss Hastings went to a girl who’d previously been the Hastings May Queen. Not so the rude mother, who shrieked:
“What a crock of sh*t!” and stormed out, leaving her poor daughter on the stage to face the embarrassment of everyone pointing her out and muttering to each other. While I felt sorry for her, I felt even sorrier for the new Carnival Queen, having her victory moment marred by such an outburst.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - The winners, with everyone else

Photography by Alun Sambrook – The winners, with everyone else

My friends all said they were genuinely surprised that I didn’t at least get Princess but I didn’t really think much of my odds to begin with which is why the goal is ‘compete in a beauty pageant’ and not ‘win a beauty pageant’. You might be wondering why I would bother going for something I believed I had low odds of winning but then if I never entered then my odds of winning would have been 0 and not 1-in-9, so there you go.
P.S. And yes, I did spend the next morning crying in my bathroom  but I know in my heart that in the eyes of my friends, fiancé and family, I am beautiful and will always be a Queen. I’m not giving up.

Thanks go to Alun Sambrook for the use of his images.

27th March 2013 – No.44a: Learn to Play the Flute; Grade One Exam


I have always wanted to play the flute. There is just something about the instrument which appeals to me. As a child, of course I asked my mother for lessons but money was tight and in the end my mum signed us up for keyboard lessons from a friend, which was considerably cheaper. My twin sister Roisin immediately took to it and still plays the piano now. I did not enjoy it. No one wants to be forced into doing the same thing as their twin, especially when that twin is better at it than you!  In secondary school I tried again. This time I got saddled with bassoon lessons. A bassoon is about as far away from a flute as you can get. It’s enormous, heavy, cumbersome and sounds (to quote my youngest brother) “like a dinosaur in pain”.

It's not easy to take a picture of yourself playing the flute...:)

It’s not easy to take a picture of yourself playing the flute…:)

I resigned myself to waiting until I could sort it out myself. Then in the summer of 2011, my friend Ivan introduced me to Rosie, who plays flute at a grade 6 level.  Rosie heard that I wanted to learn how to play and offered to teach me for free; we have been friends ever since. She even found me a website where I could rent a flute for six months and then buy it from the company; I would have struggled to afford one upfront.    I worked hard learning basic pieces, until one day Rosie said she thought I was ready for my Grade 1 exam. I booked it with ABRSM for the 27th of March.

I spent the morning of the 27th practising hard, before meeting up with Rosie and heading to my pianist’s house so she could drive us to the exam centre in the nearby town of Bexhill. As the exam drew closer, I still felt fine, perhaps distracted by the company. It wasn’t until my pianist was parking the car that I began to feel somewhat nauseated, however I passed it off as travel sickness and it soon faded. My nerves, on the other hand, were beginning to appear. I sat in the waiting room, filling out the slip of paper that I would hand to the examiner; detailing which tunes I was playing and the order in which I would be performing them. My fingertips began to sweat. My hands were slightly shaking. I could feel adrenaline rising in my stomach. I tried to persuade myself that this was no different to the excitement one might feel before boarding a rollercoaster. As I silently practised the fingering for the trickiest parts of my pieces, I was summoned to the exam room. This was it, the culmination of a year’s preparation, twelve minutes that would determine if I was capable not just of playing my instrument but of performing with it too. I handed my slip to the examiner and set up my music.

Me playing the flute

Me playing the flute

“Begin whenever you’re ready.” She waved her hand casually, not even looking.  I glanced at my pianist, who nodded to show she was ready, took a deep breath and began ‘Shepherd, Shepherd.’ It went perfectly, just as we had rehearsed. Too early, my body relaxed and sent floods of ‘it’s over’ adrenaline, causing my knees to wobble and my arms to shake. I felt sick. I barely managed to perform ‘Vielle Chanson’ and it was not without error –to raise notes an octave on the flute, frequently the technique is the same fingering and simply an alteration in the way you breathe; a feat difficult to accomplish when your mouth has gone dry.
After my accompanied pieces, my pianist left the room and I played ‘Study in F’, my solo piece. Fortunately, this went off without a hitch. I performed my scales with less confidence than I ought to have, making a couple of elementary mistakes which resulted in me asking if I could have a second try, which I was granted. Then the sight-reading component, which for those of you who have never taken a graded music exam, comprises a short piece of music you have thirty seconds to read and must then perform. This I thought went well and then it was onto the aural section, a variety of short tunes played by the examiner, who requested me to clap the rhythm, sing sections back and answer a few queries as to the content of the pieces. This is something I am reasonably comfortable with, due to having been a member of my secondary schools chamber choir.
And that was it, the exam was over. About three weeks later, I received my certificate in the mail, I passed!

Rosie and me with my Grade One certificate

Rosie and me with my Grade One certificate