Approximately 2 weeks into our relationship, David and I booked our first holiday together, a weekend camping in Wales. But not just any weekend in Wales, three days full of stand up comedy. We did have a bit of a discussion about whether we would still be together four months later (I was quietly confident) but decided that even if we weren’t, we could always take a second tent, so bugger it, it was booked.
At 19.26 on a rainy day in February I shut and locked the front door, skipped back into the sitting room and did a tiny little dance and squeal because I was so happy I couldn’t really express it in any other way. I did a quick run round the house, a bit like Annie during the song ‘I think I’m gonna like it here’ in the 1982 film, but with far fewer domestic staff and in a much shorter time.
So why was this?
“Well I’ve seen fires that split the summer
Seen forests burning to rise again
Sent from the sky to land asunder
Your songs are turning tears to cooling rain
I heard their rhythm, it was in the thunder
It was heard at midnight and through the day
Your catechism, my eyes of wonder
That once had seen you could never look away
You are the tune no one expected
Unsung and unpredicted
Like a dream in the night ahead
I thought the moon
It just reflected our silver light
But when it rose up it was red
No priest or templar ever told the future
And if they could perhaps we’d never fall in love
Well I’ll repent if you’re the preacher
For your songs of gold and the moon above
You are the tune no one expected
Unsung and unpredicted
Like a dream in the night ahead
I thought the moon
It just reflected our silver light
But when it rose up it was red
As red as blood, as black as carrion
Our muse is scattered on battered wings
Bruised and bolder, the muse is older now
And still she sings
I’ve heard them say blood-moon’s arising
And this could be the end of all joys
Well I can face that far horizon
If the final chorus is in your voice ”
‘It Was Red’ by Nancy Kerr
The air as I’d walked home from the tram after work last night was fresh and crisp, the moon amazingly full. I’d called Granddad and my brother for a catch up and then spoken to some friends. The heating in my house is temperamental at best, but had been refusing to engage at all, so I’d spent my evening under some of the many blankets I’ve made over the last 5 years, working on two new ones. I thought I’d chance the thermostat before retreating to my duvet with a hot chocolate and, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, it worked. Upon a recommendation from a friend, I put on the Bros documentary and watched it in a state of disbelief – it’s still on iPlayer if you have the opportunity, I just don’t have the suitable words to describe it just yet – slowly becoming enveloped in the warmth of both my bed and the drifting heat from the under-worked radiator.
I’m happy. I’ve been happy for almost a year with barely any depressive dips and I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s not just happiness, perhaps it’s also contentment, self acceptance and generally better mental health.
With this happiness has come a willingness to leave the house more often, which has also led to reconnecting with friends that I’d drifted away from over the past decade, apologising to some for having lost touch when I was at my lowest and getting to know others who were probably acquaintances before.
One of the best things about my world and the people I chose to surround myself with is that they are intelligent, creative, artistic and kind. I see what they are doing with their lives and I’m so proud that I even know them a little bit. I know people who can write beautiful poetry and prose, who can sing, play and dance, who take stunning photos, who make people laugh and cry with their stories, who create works of art in physical forms and send them out into the world. The world at the moment can be very frightening, depressing and unsettling, but I’m grateful for those bringing joy into it.
One of my favourite new podcasts is Films to be Buried With with Brett Goldstein.
Brett talks to comedians, breaks the news that they’ve sadly died and then they go on to discuss the films that meant something to them when they were still alive. For each of the ten episodes so far I’ve been wanting to jump in and talk about their choices with them. Brett is a brilliant host for this podcast, he’s a film enthusiast – his joy and love of films just exudes through the headphones and he doesn’t treat any of his guest’s choices with scorn or disdain. It’s a joyous celebration of movie making and it’s made me want to answer the questions myself. So… (apologies for any spoilers and for mashing up some of the categories from across a number of episodes, I just wanted to talk about a lot of films)
Like our genial host, Michael Ian Black, I have never read ‘Jude the Obscure’ by Thomas Hardy. I have, however, seen the 1996 film adaptation starring Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet and Rachel Griffiths.
I had rented it from Ritz video store in 1998 when I was 14, my Mum’s friends came in as I was watching it and thought she was letting me watch porn. No, she was letting me watch classic literature and a ’90s film that Kate Winslet was in, but Mum was horrified at the thought of it for years afterwards. I won’t talk of the film any further as I don’t want to spoil anything for first time Juders, like Michael.
I came across the podcast via an ad in ‘Unspooled’ and thought “That’ll be right up my alley,” and indeed, it is.
I have enjoyed Michael Ian Black’s work since ‘Ed’ was regularly screened on Channel 4 and was re-introduced to him when my university flatmate told me that I had to watch ‘Wet Hot American Summer’. I agreed to watch it because Janeane Garofalo is a badass, and now it’s one of my favourite films. Also, if you’ve not watched ‘Burning Love’ get on it.
So what’s the appeal of listening to someone reading a book aloud for the first time? LITERALLY EVERYTHING. Obviously MIB’s delivery is excellent, as an English person I appreciate the accent work and pronunciation of tricky words – I grew up near Bicester and Towcester and people really struggle with saying them out loud. I enjoy his asides and commentary on the book. I now want to try a cruise to New Jersey and can’t wait to hear what he thinks as the book progresses.
So if you find you have half an hour to spare, settle in and join Michael Ian Black, coming to you from the Jill Schwartz Memorial Library and revel in the Obscure.
“Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m sick of playing by the rules of someone else’s game…”
If you’d said to me a few years ago that I would spend a hot, Summer evening sitting naked with two strangers in one of their living rooms, being recorded for a podcast talking about my body image, having been abused physically and emotionally and various other things for a podcast that anyone anywhere in the world could listen to, I probably would have said that that is bollocks. But a couple of weeks ago I did just that, I headed to Jenny’s flat to record for The Naked Podcast, having put myself forward to do it.
For most of my life I’ve had a difficult relationship with my body image. For a long time I thought I was fat and how could anyone like or love that, but in the last 6 months I’ve actually found a peace within myself and a comfortableness with myself that I could not have imagined before. The beginning kernel of this change in attitude started in February when I sent out a request to some of the women I know from school. I messaged them saying that I’ve been thinking of writing something about body image, this is how I thought of myself back then, what are your memories of me and how did you feel about yourself when you were a teenager?
Today I woke up at 5am crying. I’ve had about 15 hours sleep at most in the last three days, I’m hot, clammy and now I feel like someone is hacking apart my insides. Why is this? I got my bloody period again, that’s why.
When I started going out with the last boyfriend I went back on the pill, it’s a marvellous thing, not only would it help to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but it was one that I took everyday so it effectively stopped my periods and therefore stopped the period pain that went with it. About a year and a half ago I stopped taking the pill because I had stopped having a boyfriend, after he stopped having sex with me, and so didn’t really need it in terms of preventing pregnancy. I’d forgotten about the pain relief aspect. I actually went cold turkey, apparently that’s not the best way to do it but I did, and for about three weeks I was moody, snappish, irritable and horrible to be around. I suppose this was part of my hormones re-balancing, but it really sucked.
But let’s go back to the beginning. In the summer of 1996, when I was twelve, I went on a morris dancing holiday around the south of Ireland with my Mum and her team. On the Tuesday I woke up with terrible pain in my belly, went for my morning wee and was horrified to see blood when I wiped. It was truly traumatic. And the worst pain I could ever remember experiencing. I was surprised that it was happening, although Mum had told me about it a few years before, something along the lines of “One day there will be some blood between your legs and it might hurt a bit, but don’t worry it’s normal.” I didn’t tell her when it happened. I was in pain and a bit ashamed and scared and so I stuffed toilet roll into my pants and said I didn’t feel well so they went on a sightseeing day and left me in bed.
The other night, cutting it a bit fine before the cut off deadline, I started to listening to a BBC Radio 4 Extra programme by Jessica Fostekew called Motherhood: Bump, Birth and Beyond.
Here’s the description from the BBC website:
“Made for 4 Extra. Jessica Fostekew charts the horrors and highs of the nine months of life with a bump, the moment of reckoning with birth, and the chaos, or not, that lies ahead.
We have clips from over 50 years of Woman’s Hour, programmes on pregnancy and childbirth from the 1960s and 1970s, and archive interviews about coping with parenthood – and we’ll be speaking to the comedians Jenny Eclair, Cariad Lloyd, Sara Barron, Richard Herring and Catie Wilkins, Caroline Mabey, Jen Brister, Hatty Ashdown, Kirsty Newton, Katie Mulgrew, Taylor Glenn, Robin Ince, Laura Lexx, Sindhu Vee, Diane Morgan, and Holly Walsh about their experiences with fertility, pregnancy and motherhood.”
I was listening, sitting in bed, in the dark, on my own, late at night and it made me quite emotional.
I’m not really one to follow trends, I’m rubbish at knowing what’s cool, what’s not, I mostly stick with stuff I like and if it happens to be something that fits with the world’s view of cool then so be it.
Bullet journaling has really taken off – my former boss introduced us to the concept as a way of managing tasks about 18 months ago, but it didn’t really click for me. For the uninitiated it’s a system of organizing your time, tasks, activities; it’s a to-do list, a diary, a sketchpad, notebook, pretty much everything you can think of and want it to be. When Jess told us about it it was not really something I needed. My job was running the cafe and so making plans of what I needed to do took a back seat to actually doing it, but now things are different.
I’ve now got two jobs, volunteering and am attempting to make stuff and have a small social life too. I work from a small diary to keep track of which job I’m meant to be at when, but now that doesn’t seem to be enough.
At the start of this year, Genevieve at job no. 2 showed me the start of her bullet journal and this, coupled with the fact that I’d got a Paperchase voucher, meant that of course I needed to give it a go because I’m a sucker for new stationary.
Do you still get the urge to rush out to WHSmith’s every September to get new notebooks, ring binders, pens and geometry set? I really do. I’ve been out of the education system for 11 years, but every new academic year I feel that longing to get new stuff ready for the start of school or university, as though the old stuff just won’t cut it any more, I’ve chewed through all the pens and pencils, notebooks lie forlornly half filled with ideas and snippets. I don’t even really need a geometry set anymore, it’s very rare that I can put to good use my set square or protractor. I couldn’t even remember the name of the protractor, I’ve actually had to just look it up in order to write this, but I know I want, no need, a new one each Autumn. I know I’ve been conditioned to feel this way, in the same manner that while watching ‘Bake Off’ I’ll find myself suddenly with a mixing bowl in my lap, creaming butter and sugar together without really having realised it…. September for me is changing leaves, conkers shiny shoes and needing to give myself a restraining order for a stationary store.
I started gathering the stationary bits from around my room – collecting the coloured pencils, pens, a mini ruler and bought myself a blank notebook with dots instead of lines and then my mind went blank. What should I include? What should I write? What would be useful? Can I fit in time to fill it in? Then I stalled for a week.
Desperate for inspiration I signed up for the official newsletter, I fell into the twin rabbit holes of Buzzfeed and Pinterest – gorgeous pictures of layouts with fancy fonts, doodles, weekly and monthly trackers… It all seemed a bit beyond me.
Some of the ideas from Pinterest
When you start school, you are placed in a class with other children born at roughly the same time as you, in the same area. You may be in the same class as those children for the next 6 years, maybe even longer. They become your friends and you may lose touch with some of them over the years, or you may still be talking about when Ryan and James jumped into the lake and got soaked 25 years later.
If you go to stay in halls at university, you get placed with people from all over the country and live with them for at least a year. You become friends through your living situation, the experience of moving away from home for the first time and dealing with all the things that come with having to become an adult for the first time.
You start jobs, you have hobbies, you make friends in a number of different ways, but it sometimes seems harder to do when you are older and move to a new place. I’ve been in Sheffield for 4 years now and I have some lovely friends, but it’s always good to make more.
Last week, I went along to the second Girl Gang Sheffield ‘Speed Mate-ing’ event at Union Street. I had planned to go to the first one but it was sold out, so I bought my ticket early for number two. For those reading in the future and may not know, the UK was rocked by ‘The Beast from the East’ over the start of March this year and Sheffield did not escape the Siberian winds and the snow storms that covered the country, but that didn’t stop the ladies (and one gent) of the city and surrounding area from heading into town to make some new friends.
Last night was part three of my Sparkle Dress Comedy Challenge and a trip to Sheffield’s City Hall for ‘Lefty Scum’.
I worked all day in Meadowhall, got changed into the sequins in the staff room behind some mannequins (getting semi stuck in the previous dress as I went) and headed to the tram stop, hoping to get to the venue on time. I found my seat, but had to take the long way around to get to it and missed out on a trip to the bar – but then the queue was long and I have very little money left at the end of the month, so never mind.
I chatted a little to the couple to my left (naturally) about recent things they’d been to, I’d been to, how they’d moved up here from London recently and are looking for more stuff to do and to meet new people. They seemed lovely and, coincidentally, the lady I was sat next to on Thursday came up and said hello to them – she the girlfriend of one of their friends, they told me. Foolishly, we didn’t exchange names or details to meet up, but they might read this, so ‘Hello!’
The gig was kicked off by Josie in some great dungarees doing her bit of ‘chatting’. I’ve never seen her live before, I’ve heard some of her podcasts: Short Cuts, Robin and Josie’s Utter Shambles, Book Shambles and as a guest on others like The Made of Human Podcast with Sofie Hagan.
I sat on the tram opposite an older woman. Her face was turned to the window and tears streamed silently down her face. I took out my headphones and asked her if she was ok, she just nodded. I smiled at her and put my headphones back in, listening to funny women being clever.
I was sitting directly opposite her but tried not to keep looking directly at her, but because I felt she didn’t want a witness to the still falling tears. She turned back to the window, clutching her carrier a little closer. I could see her wipe at the tears from the corner of my eye, in the reflection of the windows. I wanted to check again whether she needed help but I didn’t want to draw attention to her.
The tram rattled on, halting at each stop, unusual for this time of night. When the woman and I locked eyes briefly we smiled at each other. I looked away and focused on the voices being pumped into my ears.
My stop was announced, I gathered my things, stood and gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder and another smile as I headed towards the door. Another year fell and she smiled again wearily, putting her hand over mine. I left the tram, stepping to the pavement and the dark night. After a few seconds the tram rolled past me, the lights inside harsh and garish compared to the muted streetlight ahead of me. She was lit up, once again looking out of the window away from me. The tram sped on, carrying her further into the night and whatever awaited her at home.
Twenty two days into February and I finally got to go to another live comedy show. This is officially part two of my Sparkle Dress Comedy Challenge, following last month’s trip to Greg Davies in Leicester. You can read more about that here.
Last night was John Kearn’s show ‘Don’t Worry They’re Here’ at DINA venue in Sheffield. It was also my 34th birthday. I sent a link to some youtube clips of John to some friends and invited them to come with me, but I did let them know that I’d not be offended if it wasn’t their thing. Comedy can be very divisive, you laugh or you don’t and there’s nothing worse for me than laughing my head off with friends who just don’t get it, it stresses me out and I’d rather go on my own and enjoy it than be worried about how others are going to react.
Sometimes I find it hard to find presents for people. There is an ongoing and unresolved discussion with my siblings about Christmas – whether we should do presents for each other. My view is almost always yes – I’m single, have no kids and so if my family don’t get me present then I don’t really get any and that just seems sad.
I love planning presents – what to get each person, how to wrap and present it. This year was a bit different to usual as I was made redundant in August and from September to the end of November I really had very little money. I managed to pay for some things for the nieces and nephews and make something for Mum, but everyone else was going to miss out a little.
I was due to stay with my brother for Christmas, so wanted to get something for him and he’d said that they always like home made presents, which is handy because I have resources at home and I can normally think of something to put together.
When we were younger we had some lovely picture books; one that went astray and which we have both tracked down copies of was ‘The Winter Bear’ written by Ruth Craft and illustrated by Erik Blegvad. The story is a simple one, of a group of siblings on a winter walk and finding a lost bear. The landscapes are beautifully painted and drawn and for a while I’d thought that I could re-create some of it in felt but the main issue would be picking which page.
I settled on an image of the boy rescuing the bear from the tree because I liked the snowy scene, the colours of the landscape, I could embroider the grass and tree and the boy reminded me of my youngest nephew.