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.
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.
“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 last posted in September with big plans for streamlining the blog, actually writing something for a change but then I got confused and distracted. Writing just didn’t seem to be high on my list of priorities, but some things have happened and I’ve got a new love and enthusiasm for it.
So firstly, I got two part time jobs, one in Meadowhall and the other at Sheffield University Student’s Union. They couldn’t be more different, but I’m working with lovely people at both, I have a relatively steady, but meagre, income and I’m feeling happy again. I’ve also been making some of the felt pictures, more on that in a later post, and trying to build myself a social life again after becoming a relative hermit from habit and poverty. As part of my self care, building my social life and getting out doing fun things more…
…let me introduce you to The Sparkle Dress:
The Sparkle Dress was something I saw online one day in September but couldn’t think of obtaining. I got a job and The Sparkle dress became something I gazed at as I walked past Simply Be on my way to work. The Sparkle Dress called to me because it had all the colours of my hair. The Sparkle Dress was something I couldn’t afford because I had to pay for other, less frivolous things, like rent and food and travel to work and Netflix.
I bought it on sale, no refunds because it was a bit broken (something I could easily stitch up. It made me so happy to get it and wear it to Christmas. At Christmas I got a ticket for Greg Davies’ show ‘You Magnificent Beast’ as a present – thanks Liz and Richard. I decided that the Sparkle Dress should not just be worn once, but should be worn out and where better to dress as a giant glitter ball from G.A.Y. than a show called ‘You Magnificent Beast’?
It seems like so many things have changed recently, I broke up with my boyfriend and was made redundant from my job of over two years.
It’s a shame to leave my job but in a way it’s been really freeing because I’ve had the time to decide what I want to do with myself. I have been looking for part time jobs, no luck yet, but I’ve decided to not worry too much because something always seems to turn up. But there are sometimes lower points and I’ve found some great support from strangers – members of the Made of Human Podcast Facebook group and the Attic24 Moorland and Moor Facebook group. It’s lovely to be able to see the brilliant creative things others are doing and have a place to have a little chat with people you don’t necessarily know.
Just under two years ago I met a lovely man. I asked him out and I was quite surprised and excited when he said yes. We got on really well, we went to the cinema and to a couple of gigs and out for food. One night when I got a lift home from a friend and our evening was cut a little short, he walked across the city to see me.
When I was in primary school we did loads of cool art things that I don’t get to do any more. I could do something about this; I could build a makeshift flower press; I could take out some crayons and paper and head out for a walk to take some rubbings; I could even buy a load of different pasta shapes and make a collage, but I am less likely to do any paper marbling at home. Mainly because I can’t really remember how to do it and I don’t really remember what equipment I might need.
So when I saw that my friends at Edge of the Universe Printing Press were running a series of workshops last Summer I signed myself up straight away. It’s just taken me this long to type up my notes about what we got up to!
I went along to have a go at marbling and book binding in a two part session. Sarah and David divided up the participants into two groups, one tacking the marbling first and the others working on the book binding. I had brought along some coloured paper, trimmed to A5 size, and sat myself down to bind my little book first.
This post contains some issues that may be triggers for people. Please do comment below if you would like to.
When I was 13 I was walking across the courtyard of school, just chatting to a friend and heading to a lesson. Three older boys were walking in the opposite direction, one veered towards me, groped my breasts and walked on laughing.
When I was 16 I was traveling on bus in Oxford, sitting by the window when a young man came and sat by me. When he sat down his hand brushed my leg, he apologised and I said not to worry. As the journey progressed his hand resting against the side of my leg started moving further up my thigh. I squirmed towards the window to move away but there was nowhere to move to. I got off the bus three stops early to get away from him, but he stood up followed me, pushed himself up against my bottom so that I could feel his erection. He smiled at me, shrugged and walked off.
On Friday the 13th of May I got up stupidly early, took the tram to the station, sat on a train bound for Manchester and made my way to the absolutely huge Paperchase store that they have there. Now I like stationary as much as the next girl, but that’s not my reason for making the trek, oh no! I was going to learn a new technique for making things, lino cutting.
I’ve seen lino cut prints before but I’ve never actually tried it before, so when I was sent a link to the Paperchase Project craft workshops it caught my eye immediately and it turns out I bought the first ticket.
The class takes place on the first floor, but you have to pass through a mezzanine level to get there. The lass who was teaching us introduced herself, but I’m afraid I forgot to write down her name, so if you work at the Manchester shop please tell me so that I can amend this! Continue reading
Winter is flowing into Spring once again and although it’s nearly May (yes, I know it’s May now that I’m typing this up, but let’s just stick with it.) the forecast threatens snow today.
I have arrived at work two hours early, because I can’t keep track of my calendar at the moment, I’ve drunk too much coffee and so am drinking lots of water and forcing myself to write. Why am I forcing myself to write? Because I’ve not been writing and it’s a good habit to get myself back into.
So in the last 6 months I have worked, read lots of books*, done a bit of screen printing, investigated European folk patterns and embroidery on a superficial level, watched some films, cut and dyed my hair, walked along a river and seen a heron standing before me, looked after my sister, read some more books and made a mess of my bedroom. I keep trying to control the bedroom mess but it’s having none of it.