Thursday, 17 January 2019

Technology And I Are NOT Friends...

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I have a YouTube channel I'm really passionate about.  I'm very proud of the videos I make and the whole filming and editing process has become something I hugely enjoy.

The trouble is, editing is done on a computer.  And I am...the least technological person ever.


When I use anything beyond a computer programme I'm very familiar with, I instantly become a ninety seven year old, utterly flummoxed by "new-fangled technology."  I flail helplessly, mashing keys and wondering why the screen brightness has suddenly changed, but the programme itself isn't doing what I want it to.  If I still used a desktop PC, I'd probably resort to sticking the mouse in my ear or something.  That's the level of ineptitude we're talking.

And so, for someone as technologically daft as I am, it's quite a wonder that I've taught myself to use Final Cut Pro at all.  That I can edit green screen sketches without somehow managing to accidentally force my MacBook into some kind of bizarre unsafe mode is a constant surprise.  In fact, editing is usually a delight.

Until earlier this week.

You see, I have a problem with my MacBook, in that it has the memory of a goldfish.  It fills up quicker than an Amazon shopping basket on Black Friday.  I only have to blink at my laptop and it responds by telling me I've run out of disk storage.

So, naturally, I have a couple of external hard drives that come in very handy.  And often, when I'm editing a video, I create a library of files that saves directly to an external drive, in order to save space on the laptop itself.  

But sometimes...  I don't.  Sometimes, if I'm a bit sleepy, in a rush to crack on with editing or just having a very typically Emma day, I just import lots of files onto my MacBook, create a library and expect it to cope.

And this week, it did not.

I can't accurately describe the frustration of being three quarters of the way through editing a video, when your computer suddenly says no.  I would imagine it's a similar sensation to the one you'd get if you'd stayed in all day, waiting for a very important call, only for the phone to finally ring and for you to answer it and realise it's just someone wanting to check if you've been mis-sold PPI.

There I was, with probably three hours of editing time under my belt and the finish line starting to creep into sight, when that familiar error message popped up, to tell me that my laptop's teensy, tiny memory was, much like me after Christmas dinner, simply too full to be of any use.

In a moment of what I assumed simply must be genius (spoiler: it was not), I decided that there was an obvious and quick solution to this problem.  I'd merely transfer the folder with all the video files onto my external hard drive and send the Final Cut Pro library to the external drive, too.  Once it was all on there, I could delete it from my laptop and carry on editing like a freaking boss.  

So, that, dear reader, is exactly what I did.  Except somewhere between my laptop and the external hard drive, the library and the folder of video files decided to go off on a beautiful adventure, together.  Because only after I'd deleted them from the laptop, did I realise that despite the "sending items to external hard drive" message that had popped up on screen, the files had most certainly not completed their journey.  They had vanished.

Now, yes.  A tech savvy person would have double and probably triple checked that the files were on the external hard drive before she deleted them from her laptop, but...  I am not that person.  And I was three hours into an editing session and therefore my eyes were sore and I wasn't thinking like a normal human, anymore.  Editing turns you into a strange zombie who notices the sounds your lips make when they slap together too harshly on a syllable.  It doesn't make you alert to the very real dangers of DATA LOSS.

My reaction was obviously typically understated.  I pulled the kind of distressed faces that some would consider Oscar-worthy.  I got very creative with my insults, whilst swearing at both myself and the laptop.  I might have cried.

Believe me when I say that nothing shows you how much of a technological disaster area you are, quite like having to sort out something like this.  The simple answers - check that it's not in the trash, try to restore from a back up etc - were there in my head (and didn't work, irritatingly), but anything beyond that was like trying to carve an elegant swan out of a lump of rapidly melting butter.  

Many questions were asked of Google, and the type of question became more frantic as time passed.  I went from "how to recover accidentally deleted files" to "SOFTWARE DOWNLOAD FOR IDIOTS WHO RUIN THEIR OWN LIVES" at a frighteningly fast pace.

And of course, then I had to navigate a whole heap of slightly dodgy downloads and free trials that let you look at your lost files, but then wanted ninety bazillion pounds to let you have them back again.

I went to bed at gone midnight, by which time I had lost any semblance of remaining sanity, along with all the files I'd deleted.

Thankfully, however, the solution came to me not so much in a dream, but in a fevered state of panic at around 3am.  I remembered I'd once recovered files lost from my camera's SD card using a programme I'd downloaded off the internet.  Surely, I could recover these files from my SD card, too?!

Yes, naturally I'd deleted them off the SD card, too.  Shut up.  They were on my laptop and supposedly my external hard drive.  They were meant to be SAFE.

Anyway, long story short, the following day, I managed to download three separate free trials for programmes that each let me recover a few of the files I needed back.  My reaction upon actually being able to start editing again (admittedly from scratch, which was a pain) was like something more commonly seen on one of those "People's Postcode Lottery" adverts.  I practically fell to my knees and promised my soul to the IT community in general.

Look, the moral of this story is twofold: 1) SAVE STUFF REGULARLY AND BACK IT UP TO MULTIPLE DEVICES.  2) Don't trust me with anything technological.  Seriously, it's for your own good.

Mine, too.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

2019 Blog Plans!

So, here we are in a fresh, new year and if you're particularly eagle-eyed, you may have noticed that this blog also has a fresh, new header.  Don't worry, I won't be offended if you didn't notice, but... Well, I'm rather pleased with it, despite my usual lack of design ability.

The main reason I figured the header needed a spruce up was the fact that the old one was technically out of date.  It still suggested that there would be a free bedtime story for children, released right here every Wednesday at 6pm.  And if you're a regular reader, you'll know that that's no longer true.

One of the reasons I decided to stop writing the weekly bedtime stories was because I was spending so much time planning them in advance and writing them in bulk, I wasn't finding time to blog about anything else.  What with having a day job and a YouTube channel to maintain, writing the stories was becoming the only thing I did on this site and I missed the frequency with which I used to be able to write about anything that took my fancy. 

I was also stressing about the incongruous nature of there being a sweet bedtime story nestled right beside an angry blog piece about, for example, romanticised abuse in fiction. 

For those reasons (and a few more besides), I called a halt to the weekly bedtime story feature in the hope that I would find the time to write something else, instead.  A rather fanciful part of my brain is still keen on the idea of finally getting around to writing that difficult second novel, but if I can make do with posting regularly on this blog - and getting back to writing about a whole variety of different things - then I'll be satisfied.

So, in 2019, you can expect to see more of me on this blog.  No, no... Not like that.  I've not taken to posting nude selfies or anything.  Nobody wants that, believe me.  But you can expect to see more rants, more opinion pieces, more random posts about whatever has popped into my head that day and, as ever, plenty of personal anecdotes.

The Rambling Curl will be rambling in all directions, this year.  I'm rather excited to get started!

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Bedtime Story (26/12/2018)

So, here we are - the last of the bedtime stories!  I won't say the last ever, in case the feature returns someday, but certainly the last for now.

What else could I end on, but a story about growing up?!

There is, of course, one final podcast for you to listen to, should you prefer.

What Will I Be?

As I lie, tucked up in bed,
It's unbelievable to think
This year is almost over,
It's flown by in a blink.
I wonder what next year will bring?
How much taller will I grow?
I wonder what new things I'll do?
I just can't wait to know!

And as the years keep passing,
I wonder who I'll be.
This world has so much to show
A curious child like me.
I'd love to explore new places,
To travel across land and sea.
Perhaps the life of an explorer
Will be the life for me.

Or maybe I'll stay close to home,
With my friends and family near.
I know I could go anywhere,
But I do quite like it here.
Perhaps one day I'll have a house
And a family of my own.
Maybe that's waiting for me,
One day when I am grown.

I wonder what job I might do?
There's no dream that's out of reach.
I could be a chef or doctor,
I could fight fires or teach.
And I wonder what I'll look like,
When I'm finally finished growing.
Maybe I'll be very tall,
Or have hair that's long and flowing.

I could be anything I choose,
Go anywhere I like.
I only have to wait
For inspiration to strike!
But first, there's growing up to do,
That's very clear to me.
So, I'll wait a while longer
To find out what I'll be.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Bedtime Story (19/12/2018)

I freely admit that I LOVE sprouts.  I've never really understood their position as the seemingly least liked part of a Christmas dinner.  So, this story is about learning to love the humble sprout.

Click here to listen to this story as a podcast.


I love the turkey on Christmas Day
And please send plenty of carrots my way!
Crispy roast potatoes, I love those, too.
And why have one stuffing ball, when you can have two?
But there's one thing on my plate that makes me shout:
I simply cannot eat my sprouts!

I really like the gravy and sauce.
The pigs-in-blankets are delicious, of course!
My sister has nut-loaf and I like that, too.
And sweet potatoes?  I'll eat a few!
But there's one thing I always make a fuss about:
Please, don't make me eat my sprouts!

They're round and small and sickly green.
The taste, I'm sure, is quite obscene!
They smell as though they should be binned
And they always give my grandpa wind!
So, unless you want a scene in this house,
I suggest you don't cook any sprouts!

Nan boils them for ages until they turn to mush.
Dad likes them crunchy, as though cooked in a rush.
Whenever I see them, piled high in a bowl,
I feel a sinking sensation, deep in my soul.
You see, in my mind, there is really no doubt:
I could never, ever eat a sprout.

But this year, a sight sent my heart a-flutter:
Mum in the kitchen, frying sprouts in butter!
She added some bacon into the pan
It all smelt delicious - well, as much as sprouts can.
And when to the table she carried them out,
I wondered: is this the year that I try a sprout?!

Whilst the grown-ups pulled crackers and started to talk,
I gently prodded one sprout with my fork.
Ensuring I also added some bacon bits,
I slowly lifted it up to my lips...
Well, all I can say is it's heaven in my mouth!
The best part of Christmas dinner is sprouts!

Never again will I shake my head
And say I don't like something without trying it, instead.
I've learned a lesson the delicious way.
Now my love of sprouts is here to stay!
So listen up, as I give a delighted shout:
"Merry Christmas to all, now eat up your sprouts!"


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Bedtime Story (12/12/2018)

Homemade gifts have a special place in my heart.  I love receiving something that someone has made for me and whilst I'm not the best when it comes to creative endeavours, this year I have made something for someone!  This story is for everyone who has ever made a gift themselves, or who treasures a handmade present from a loved one.

To listen to this story as a podcast, click here.

The Homemade Christmas Presents

Lola had covered the dining room table with everything she would need.  Scattered across the surface were bottles of glue, pots of glitter, sheets of paper and card, paints, pens, ribbons, beads and a whole lot more besides.

Dad frowned over the top of his newspaper.  "What on Earth are you doing?"

Lola smiled.  "This year, I'm going to make you and Mum a special homemade present to give you on Christmas Day."  She leaned forwards dramatically, trying to hide everything she'd gathered on the table.  "You're not allowed to look," she ordered.  "Or it'll spoil the surprise!"

Dad chuckled to himself and returned to his reading, leaving Lola to get started.  She hadn't quite decided what to make yet, but she knew that it should be sparkly.  It was Christmas, after all!  Drumming her fingers on the table, Lola thought about the picture Mum kept stuck to the fridge.  It was of Mum, Dad, Lola and Branson the dog, all sitting at a picnic table in the sunshine.  Lola decided she'd make a frame for it.

Reaching across the table, Lola grabbed a sheet of brightly coloured card.  She'd never made a photo frame before, but she guessed it couldn't be too hard.  All she needed to do was put some decorations around the edge of the card and then stick the photo in the middle, didn't she?  Mum would definitely notice the picture was gone from the fridge, but Lola was sure she would be pleased on Christmas Day, when she saw it looking really special.

Lola opened a bottle of glue and tried to gently squeeze some onto the edge of her card.  It spurted across the whole sheet, leaving it sticky and wet.  Lola frowned.  That wasn't meant to happen!  Using her fingers, she tried to wipe the glue away, but that just made her hands all sticky, too.  Besides, the more Lola wiped, the thinner the card seemed to be getting.  Before long, a small hole had appeared right in the middle.

Lola let out a long sigh.  This wasn't quite going to plan.  Not that she'd had a plan...

After a minute or two of frustration, Lola decided to carry on as best she could.  She grabbed a pot of bright pink glitter and pulled off the lid.  With a flash of colour, the glitter exploded from the pot and rained down onto the table, the card, Lola and everything else in sight.

"Is everything okay back there?"  Dad called, putting down his newspaper again.

"Yes, Dad," Lola called, pulling a face as she desperately tried to sweep all of the glitter back into the pot.  It stuck to her gluey fingers, leaving them pink and sparkly.

Lola looked down at her photo frame.  It looked okay; maybe a bit dog-eared and overly glittery, but she could rescue that, she was sure.

Lola leaned across the table to take a handful of beads.  As she leaned over the frame she was decorating, her clothes stuck to the glue.  To Lola's horror, her jumper was covered in glitter and the frame she'd been working on had lots of bright red fluff all over it.

Lola groaned as she tried to pick the fluff off the frame, but all she succeeded in doing was making her hands even more glittery than before.  She let out a sigh.  "Fine," she said to herself.  "It'll be a glittery and also fluffy photo frame."

She began to add a little more glue, so that she could stick beads onto the frame, but the card was now wearing ever so thin and soon, there was so much glue around the edges that the whole thing began to bend.  Worse still, the glitter Lola had poured on earlier was starting to drip all over the place as the glue ran.

Lola started trying to mop up the glue with a sheet of kitchen roll, but it stuck to the glue and soon her photo frame was a soggy, slightly ripped mess of glitter, fluff and bits of kitchen roll, plus one or two stray beads.  "This is rubbish," Lola sighed.  "I'll paint a picture, instead."

She leaned over to grab a bottle of paint, but as she squeezed the bottle, paint spurted out all over the photo frame.  It was the final straw.  Lola held her head in her hands and stuck out her lower lip.

"Oh," Dad said, as he appeared behind her.  "You've made a...  Um...  It's a..."

Lola rolled her eyes.  "You weren't supposed to see it until Christmas Day," she tutted.  "It was going to be a photo frame," she added, with a sigh.  "But it's no good."

Dad shook his head.  "I don't agree," he told her.  "I think it's great!  And your mum will really love it."

Lola frowned.  "But it's all messy and there's not a nice, clean space for a photo!  It looks like I've just chucked a load of paint, glue and glitter at the page and then got my clothes and a load of kitchen roll stuck to it.  Which...  I sort of... Did."

Dad chuckled.  "But when you stick a photo in the middle, none of that will matter," he said.  "It'll just look like funky decorations around the sides.  And your mum will know that you made something special, all by yourself."

"I was going to use that photo we took in the summer," Lola explained.  "The one Mum keeps stuck to the fridge.  I know she loves it."

Dad disappeared into the kitchen and came back with the photograph in his hand.  He gently stuck it in the centre of Lola's handmade photo frame.  "There," he said, stepping back.  "It looks brilliant."

Lola gazed at the photo frame and then back at her dad's broad smile.  The frame was still messy and it didn't look anything like Lola had imagined it would, but her dad didn't seem to care.  Lola wrinkled her nose.  "Don't you think it should be prettier?  Or at least neater?"

Dad shook his head.  "I think it's perfect as it is," he insisted.  "Because it was made with love.  That's all that matters, Lola.  You wanted to do something nice and you put a lot of thought into it.  The very best Christmas presents aren't necessarily the ones that cost a lot of money.  They're the ones that show how much someone cares."  He smiled at Lola.  "I think this will be your mum's favourite present, this year."

Lola beamed up at him.  "Thanks for making me feel better," she whispered.

When the frame was dry, Dad helped Lola carefully wrap it in sparkly paper and together, they placed it underneath the Christmas tree.  Lola knew that it wasn't the best photo frame in the world, but she also knew that that didn't matter.

You wouldn't be able to find another photo frame like it, even if you searched all over town.  Lola's photo frame was handmade with love.  And that made it extra special.


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Bedtime Story (5/12/2018)

As is tradition on this blog, I'll be writing some Christmas themed bedtime stories, this month!  However, before we get into the first one, I would like to make a small announcement.

For over three and a half years, I've been writing weekly bedtime stories.  These stories have been published here for free and there is now a full list of hundreds to share with the children in your life.  Whilst I've enjoyed creating these stories, it has, at times, been difficult to maintain a level of originality and to ensure that new stories are ready to go up each week.  Finding time to podcast the stories as well, in order to make them more accessible, has also been challenging, given that this blog is something I maintain as a hobby, alongside my day job, my YouTube channel, running an abuse-awareness campaign account on Twitter, being in charge of social media for the chorus I sing with and of course, practising for said chorus.  Add to that the fact that I would like to be writing more books and a wider range of blog posts and you might understand just how much effort goes into ensuring that the bedtime story feature goes live each week without fail.  

For these reasons, I have decided that, as of January 2019, the bedtime story feature will be going on an indefinite hiatus.  I'm referring to it as a "hiatus," rather than saying the feature will stop and never return, as I don't want to rule that out entirely.  However, for the foreseeable future, my goal is to find time to write more blog posts and to potentially begin working on a new book, whilst also trying to grow my YouTube channel and begin working to improve my directing skills (did I mention I'm also Assistant Director of the chorus I sing with?!).  With all of that taking priority, I don't see myself finding the time to keep up with the bedtime story feature, as the very last thing I want to do is to rush the process and create stories that are not up to the usual standard I pride myself on.

I'd like to thank everyone who has shared the weekly bedtime stories with the little ones in their lives, over the last almost four years.  The bedtime stories page will remain up on this blog and therefore the stories can still be enjoyed for years to come.  I also hope you will enjoy these last few, festive additions and that you'll continue to visit this blog, to see what I get up to next!

With that out of the way, let's get on with the story!  As usual, it's also available as a podcast.

"What Shall We Hang On The Christmas Tree?!"

The Christmas tree was standing tall,
Green and lush and proud.
Mum handed decorations to all;
Shiny baubles, gold and round.

But "what are these?" Young Florence asked,
Looking ready to make a fuss.
"These round things don't mean anything!
We should hang something special to us!"

Her brothers frowned and scratched their heads.
Whatever did young Flo mean?
"Our Christmas isn't baubles and stars," Flo said.
"It's a very different scene."

"We should hang excited faces,
Hardly able to sleep.
And piles of torn off wrapping paper,
Lying crumpled in a heap."

Her brothers gathered closer:
"We could make our own!" They cried.
"Pictures of what Christmas is to us;
Festive films, cocoa and mince pies!"

And so the family set to work,
creating decorations to hang.
Laughter rang out through the house,
As from each mind an idea sprang.

"I'll draw my cosy pyjamas,
I wear each year on Christmas Eve.
The ones with Santa's sleigh on the front,
And reindeer flying up the sleeves!"

"Then I'll draw Bobby at dinner,
refusing to eat any sprouts,"
Florence said with a giggle.
"Those Memories are what Christmas is about."

Her brothers laughed and nodded.
"I'll draw Dad with the Christmas lights,"
Bobby replied, with a chuckle.
"They always get into a fight!"

"Draw the dog chasing wrapping paper,"
Flo's brother, Ben, exclaimed.
"Or the photo of Dad eating turkey at midnight!
The one Mum printed out and had framed!"

They all sat around the table,
Sharing memories from Christmases past.
With each joyful memory they laughed and smiled,
Hardly believing that time flew so fast.

"Remember when Ben got a ping pong set
And the ball flew across the room?
It knocked over a flower pot
And Mum just laughed and gave Ben a broom!"

They thought back over presents
And family games they'd all played.
They remembered delicious Christmas dinners
At a table all festively laid.

Christmas cracker jokes that made them groan,
Cosy evenings with a warm, glowing fire.
The three children remembered it all
And their smiles grew wider and wider.

"This is what Christmas is all about,"
Flo said, "not baubles on a tree.
But memories shared and fun to be had,
With your best friends and your family."

And together they hung all their pictures
On the Christmas tree with pride.
Seeing all of their happy, festive memories
Made each of them feel warm inside.

"We'll add the baubles as well though,"
Flo said, grinning from ear to ear.
"Because decorating the tree together
Can be a memory we make this year."

It really was the prettiest tree;
Probably the family's best ever!
But better than any decoration
Was the joy of just being together.


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Bedtime Story (28/11/2018)

Sometimes, I am guilty of being a bit needy and perhaps trying too hard to show people what they mean to me.  I think it's almost certainly because of situations I've found myself in, over the years, where someone I've wrongly thought of as my "best friend" has turned out to be anything but.  This story is all about friendship, love and letting someone know you care.  

If you would prefer to listen to this story, it is also available as a podcast.

Melanie's 'Best Friend' Mission

All weekend, Melanie had been up in her room, working on a top secret project.  She hadn't gone to play at the park with her older brothers.  She hadn't watched any of her favourite TV shows.  She was only interested in finishing what she was working on. 

Finally, on Monday morning, as Mum was getting everyone ready for school, Melanie emerged with her project completed.  In her hands, she held a rather misshapen scarf.  

"Remember when Nan said she was going to teach me to knit?"  Melanie beamed, holding the scarf up for approval.  "Well, I practised and practised and I've made Willow a scarf.  She always gets cold, this time of year and I wanted her to have something to keep her warm, because she's my best friend."

Nobody mentioned the holes in the scarf.  Nobody mentioned that it was wider at one end, or slightly frayed at the edges.  Everyone told Melanie what a lovely thing she'd done.

At school, Willow grinned when she saw the scarf.  "I can't believe you made this all by yourself," she exclaimed, wrapping it carefully around her neck.  "Thank you!"  

Willow wore the scarf at play time.  She and Melanie played together just as they always did.  But, as they walked back to the classroom, after the bell rang, Willow noticed that one end of the scarf was stuck in the zip of her coat.  Even though she tried her hardest to get it out gently, before long, the scarf began to unravel.  All of Melanie's hard work was undone.

"I'm so sorry," Willow sighed. 

Melanie shook her head.  "No, I'm sorry," she insisted.  "I didn't make it strong enough.  It wasn't very good."  She stared at her feet.  "I just wanted you to have something nice to keep you warm.  I wanted to show you how much you mean to me, but I couldn't even knit a simple scarf..."

Willow opened her mouth to reply, but Melanie trudged away, taking her seat in the classroom without another word.

Their teacher handed out thread and some brightly coloured beads.  "We're going to practise threading and making patterns," she announced.  "You can make a necklace, a bracelet or anything you like, as long as you remember to stick to a pattern."

Melanie's eyes widened.  "I know how to make it up to you!"  She gasped, turning to Willow.  "I'll make you a necklace!  Then you'll know how special you are to me!" 

"You don't have to make it up to me," Willow insisted, but Melanie was already scooping up all the purple and green beads, because she knew those were Willow's favourite colours.  Willow smiled.  "Okay, well I'll make you a necklace and we can swap at the end."

For the rest of the lesson, the girls worked hard on their necklaces.  Just before lunchtime, their teacher told them it was time to finish up, so everyone began carefully tying knots in their thread.  Willow tied her thread and held up a pretty, pink and blue necklace.  "Here you are!"  She grinned.  

Melanie was struggling to tie her thread into a knot.  It kept slipping through her fingers, somehow.  The more she tried, the more flustered she became.  Before she knew what was happening, the thread slipped out of her grasp once more and the beads came sliding off, scattering all over the table.  "No!"  Melanie cried, clutching at the beads as they rolled away.  "I promised you a necklace," she whimpered, avoiding Willow's gaze.  

Willow held out the necklace she'd made.  "Do you want to wear the one I made you?"

"I don't deserve it," Melanie replied.  "I'm such a rubbish best friend.  All I wanted to do was show you how much you mean to me, but I can't, because I'm not good at anything."

"That's not true!"  Willow cried, but Melanie had already darted out of the classroom.

Willow finally caught up with Melanie in the hall, queuing up for lunch.  "Please don't be upset," she urged.  "You don't have to do anything special to prove that you're my friend."

"But you do so much for me," Melanie insisted.  "I just want to show you what it means to me."  She blinked suddenly, reading the dinner menu on the wall.  "I know!  They have strawberry mousse for pudding, today.  I can get one for you, it's your favourite!"

Willow frowned.  "But you don't like strawberry mousse," she reminded her.  "And I can just get my own.  You can get a pudding you do like!"

"But if I get a pudding I don't like and give it to you, you can have two!"  Melanie replied.  "And then you'll know that I really care about you and it'll make up for the scarf and the necklace."

Before Willow could stop her, Melanie had placed a strawberry mousse onto a tray and had handed over her dinner money.

"There!"  Melanie beamed.  "That's to show you that you're my best friend!"  She turned to carry her tray to a table, but didn't notice another child standing close by.  With a gasp, Melanie tripped, dropping her lunch tray onto the floor and sending its contents flying across the hall.

"Melanie!"  Willow shrieked.  "Are you alright?!"

Melanie's eyes streamed with tears.  "I just keep getting everything wrong!"  With a sob, she ran out of the hall.

It took Willow a while to find Melanie.  Eventually, she spotted her sitting, huddled beneath her coat, in the cloakroom outside their class.  "What are you doing here?"  She asked, sitting beside her.  "Come back and have some lunch.  You must be starving!"

"I dropped my lunch all over the floor, remember?"  Melanie sniffed.  

"You can share mine," Willow promised. 

Melanie shook her head.  "You're always doing nice things for me," she sighed.  "And I tried so hard to do something to show you how grateful I am and I just...  I make a mess, every time."

Willow smiled.  "I know you're grateful," she insisted.  "But I'm not your friend just so that you'll feel like you have to do nice things for me, you know.  I don't expect you to make presents for me, or go without pudding just so that I can have two!"

"But I just want you to know how much you mean to me," Melanie replied.  "I want you to know that you're my best friend."

Willow chuckled and placed an arm around Melanie's shoulders.  "I do know," she told her.  "And it's not because of anything you buy or make me.  I know I mean something to you because you make time for me.  You listen to me when I'm sad.  You help me whenever I need it.  You always think of me and you want to do nice things for me.  I know I'm your best friend, because you're mine.  That's much more important than any present or extra pudding could ever be!"

"Am I really?"  Melanie asked, managing a smile.  "Even though I'm clumsy and silly and I made a scene in the hall just now?!"

Willow grinned back at her.  "Always," she promised.  "Those things are just part of who you are and I love everything that makes you you."

Melanie flung her arms around Willow's neck.  "Are you sure you don't want me to buy you another strawberry mousse?!"

Willow laughed.  "I'm more than sure," she insisted.  "You know what I do want, though?"

Melanie shook her head.

"I want my best friend to come back and have lunch with me.  And I want her to promise that she won't ever think I need her to do anything to prove herself to me, again."

Melanie smiled.  "I think I can manage that."

And with that, two best friends walked back to the hall, to share a lunch together.