They said it on the air on the radio


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.

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Biting the bullet


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.

An aside: 

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

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So no-one told you life was gonna be this way


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.

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A tram at night


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.

Back to business…


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:

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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’?

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Taking a new direction


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.

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Something has changed within me, something is not the same.


About a year ago I was in a very bad place.  I hated my job; I felt like a complete failure because I hated my job.  I felt like I was imposing on my friends by staying with them.  I felt like I had no good options ahead of me. I was sinking into one of the worst bouts of depression that I have ever experienced.

A year later I have part time work, I’m off medication, the doctor doesn’t want to see me regularly any more.  I’ve made friends and I’ve settled into the city.  I feel calm and almost contented, which is something I’ve not felt for a very, very long time.  I don’t feel guilty about as many different things as I once did.  I speak to myself more kindly in my own head.  I can recognise my worth again.

There are little things that help me recognise my improving mental health.  When I am at the worst of my depression, I cannot laugh, I cannot sing, I cannot dance around the kitchen like a loon.

I am stupidly busy, but going out and working, even odd shifts and hours, feels much better than sitting with a Netflix binge (although that’s still a big draw now and then).  Spending time with people, talking about everything and nothing helps me as a person.  I don’t have to feel guilty about having a bit of a social life, despite being poor.

And now I feel like I’m on the verge of something new and different.  Something that could be quite special, but even if nothing really comes of it, it will still have been a positive boost.  Usually, this is when I would feel nervous and awkward, but instead there is this calm radiating inside me, a hitherto unknown confidence and sense that actually, everything is probably going to work out alright. I’m actually quite excited by the unknown for once!

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

#RefugeeLivesMatter


Words matter.  Carefully chosen words can be beautiful, caring, compassionate, descriptive, elegant and stirring.

Words matter.  Carefully chosen words can be deceptive, cutting, hurtful, vicious, selfish, offensive, bitter and damaging.

How we speak about people matters because people matter.  People live around the world in desperate circumstances, often not of their own making.  Referring to people fleeing from war, from persecution, from mutilation, from the constant threat of injury or death as migrants is doing them a disservice.  Referring to it as a migrant crisis sounds like the problem is ours and that people risking death to escape war are somehow putting us out.  Referring to people as swarms leads to connotations of plagues, pestilence, being over run by unwanted pests.

The way that our politicians and media are talking about desperate people trying to protect themselves and their families from wars that we have had a hand in physically disgusts me.  We have newspapers that promote nationalism and xenophobia.  The same newspapers will have marked the recent anniversary of VJ Day and stirred up the ideas of Britain saving the world during the war.

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People are dying. People, not ‘migrants’, not ‘swarms’. Humans. People. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sons and daughters.  All of these people have loved and been loved.  These people matter.

We need to care.  We need to show compassion.  We need to help where we can.  We need to give a shit about something other than X Factor, Kardashians and Celebrity Big Brother.

It would be easy to turn off the news and ignore what is currently happening in the world, what is always happening somewhere in the world, but I can’t do that.  I hope that you can’t ignore this humanitarian crisis either.

I know that this blog is read all over the world, so where ever you are, please read up on what you can do locally to help prevent children from drowning on European seas trying to escape a war they had no part in.  Please read up on what you can do to stop people dying of dehydration in the backs of lorries in tiny concealed spaces.  Please see what you can do to stop desperate people from being exploited by human traffickers preying on the vulnerable.

Check in twitter, check on facebook, donate clothes or toiletries or cans of food.  Hold your politicians accountable for the way that they speak about people, for denying access to fellow humans in need.  Get in touch with groups supporting refugees and asylum seekers.  Go and have conversations with people to improve their new language skills.  Make it personal to you, because it should be personal.  We should all understand that just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  It could happen here and we would want help and support from other human beings.

In Sheffield we are a city of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. There is a group collecting donations to take to Calais to the people who need them.  There are other groups around the UK doing similar things to help out however they can, please see if there is one near you and if there isn’t perhaps you could start one.

https://sheffield.cityofsanctuary.org/

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/02/europe/europe-migrants-welcome/

UPDATE FOR PEOPLE OF SHEFFIELD AND SURROUND AREA:

There is a facebook group you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CalaisMigrantSolidarityActionFromSheffield/?fref=ts

“A quick word on donations:

The list of recommended donations to the camp in Calais change on a regular basis, so we’ll aim to update this list as much as possible. We request that all donations be in good condition and hardwearing – no holes or tears and where appropriate unused. Where possible please bring and buy new items.

Any donations that are not suitable to take down to Calais will be donated to refugee and asylum seeker charities in Sheffield.

Please drop off all donations at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen (The Moor, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 4PF), which is open every Thursday to Saturday, 11am – 4pm.

Please note we can only accept donations during these times. Can we please ask that you do not leave donations outside on the doorstep.

**A note on clothes: must be clean and wearable**

Toiletries – unopened
Washbags
Socks – hardwearing new pairs
Tools
Nails, screws and rawl plugs
Wind-up torches
Rolls of Bin bags
Tarpaulin
First aid kits – unopened and unused components
Salt, pepper, spices, condiments – unopened and in-date
Tea bags, sugar – unopened and in-date
Duct tape
Pens/notebooks
Playing cards
Plastic/wooden cooking utensils
Stackable/foldable items
Stackable / foldable plastic storage boxes
Hard-wearing shoes and boots.”

This is Craig:Morgan:Robson singing Ralkp McTell’s Peppers and Tomatoes.  Please have a listen, have a think about how you can get involved and go and do it.

Into the Woods: in search of bluebells


As a person who grew up in a reasonably small market town, I love being in a city.  There are so many more things to see and do, places to explore than there were back home.  But, I grew up with Summer holidays spent searching for bullhead fish and sticklebacks in the river, climbing the ruins of the viaduct before I knew what a viaduct was, playing on a broken down, abandoned digger in a field, sitting on fences watching the sun start to set, heading out on scavenger hunts for rose hips and different grasses.

So much as I love twisting, turning streets, brick and steel buildings, roads filled with buses, trams and terrible drivers, sometimes I just need some grass, trees, leaves and flowers.

I’ve now lived in Sheffield for a year and I’ve barely explored its magnificent green spaces.  I have made a concerted effort to get out and about a bit more.

A couple of months ago, I packed a bottle of water, a scotch egg, a penguin biscuit and some crisps, got on the 85 bus heading out of town from Hillsborough to go exploring.  I was headed for Wheata Woods, in search of bluebells.

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#Inspiringwomen


This year I have officially joined the WI.  Having dabbled in finding a suitable group for a few years, I am now apart of Steel Belles WI in Sheffield, a very new group full of great ladies.

2015 is the centenary of the formation of the WI and as we are entering the week of the centenary celebrations I’ve been thinking about the women who inspire me and why they do.  So here’s a top 4 women (in no particular order) that I think are awesome.  They are all people I’d like to be when I grow up please, or at least steal aspects from…

Tina Fey

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I bought ‘Bossy Pants’, Tina Fey’s autobiography and it’s hilarious.  I’ve read a huge number of funny books, but I’ve rarely laughed aloud to one as often as I did with this.  In my eyes, Tina Fey can rarely do any wrong – she wrote Mean Girls, she wrote 30 Rock, created ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, she turns up in all sorts of things and is a breath of fresh air; I even really like Baby Momma and Date Night, I know I’m somewhat in the minority with the last two.

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Build me up, don’t get me down, weather the storm, because life goes on.


“This band behind me’ll tell you that that trophy means more to me than owt else in the whole world. But they’d be wrong! Truth is, I THOUGHT it mattered. I thought that MUSIC mattered. But does it bollocks? Not compared to how people matter. Us winning this trophy won’t mean bugger-all to most people. But us refusing it – like what we’re going to do now – well, then it becomes news, doesn’t it? [flurry of press camera shutters] You see what I mean. That way, I’ll not just be talking to myself, will I? Because over the last ten years, this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry. OUR industry. And not just our industry – our communities, our homes, our lives. All in the name of “progress”. And for a few lousy bob. I’ll tell you something else you might not know, as well. A fortnight ago, this band’s pit were closed – another thousand men lost their jobs. And that’s not all they lost. Most of them lost the will to win a while ago. A few of them even lost the will to fight. But when it comes to losing the will to live, to breathe, the point is – if this lot were seals or whales, you’d all be up in bloody arms. But they’re not, are they, no, no they’re not. They’re just ordinary common-or-garden honest, decent human beings. And not one of them with an ounce of bloody hope left. Oh aye, they can knock out a bloody good tune. But what the fuck does that matter?”  Click on the quote for Pete Postlethwaite in his full glory.

Well, it’s been quite a week hasn’t it?

I can’t say I was particularly confident of a major shift towards something that I would have seen as more positive than the last government, but, as I believe was the case for many of my friends, the last thing I was expecting was a Conservative majority.  I am saddened, I am disappointed, I am angry, I am frustrated, I am filled with dread with what is to come.

I have mixed feelings about my national identity.  I am both English and British.  I was born in a cottage in Buckinghamshire.  I have one Scottish grandfather who died 10 years before I was born and one Irish great grandfather who died 75 years before I was born.  We’ve traced branches of our family tree back over a thousand years and, as with many English people, our family has come from all over Europe – France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Norway, Germany, Turkey, Hungary – and that’s just the people we have records for.  When I was abroad I think I ended up saying either depending upon how I felt on the day.  I haven’t visited Europe recently so I’m not sure how we are currently being perceived over there.

I have real struggles with national pride and nationalism.  I can see why people want to have a sense of pride of where they come from.  People can be house proud, proud of their hamlet, village, town or city, their county, their region, their country, that’s fine if it brings them some happiness.  What I really hate is when that is then used as an excuse to say “I’m this, so I’m better than you!”  Just because you were born in this time and place doesn’t make you better than anyone who wasn’t.  Perhaps you are a better person than someone else, but that has nothing to do with an accident of birth, that’s to do with how you speak to people, your actions and your intentions.

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The kindness of strangers – now is the time


In the last few years I’ve had help and support from a number of different people.  My younger* brother, Richard, and his girlfriend, Liz, let me live in their attic when I came back from Tanzania.  My sister, Alex, and her family let me live with them for a few weeks when I came back from travelling.  My poor niece was put out of her room and I don’t think she complained.  Well, if she did then they didn’t tell me and she’s so ridiculously cute she’d get away with it. I’m very grateful to them for helping me out when my world was slowly disintegrating and we had all lost a father.

When I was in Fiji, with about £30 left to my name I was really panicking. I think I knew I was a bit depressed again, I was annoyed with myself because I didn’t have enough to get across America and was having to face the fact that I was going to have to go back early.  I really couldn’t face going to live back in Northamptonshire.

Now I want to clarify, my home town is lovely place.  It’s relatively small, it’s got good schools, it’s a short walk to the countryside.  It’s pretty safe to bring up a family in, but for me it’s suffocating.  I can’t be there at this stage of my life, and actually, I don’t know if I can ever go back permanently.  When I’ve been back to my old school to talk to the 6th form I ask them to put their hands up if they want to stay there for all their lives.  I then ask who thinks that their soul would be sapped away, second by second, if they stayed there forever.  I’ll let you guess which option is voted for the most often.  Obviously it’s a bit of a joke, but I feel trapped there, partially by my own inability to drive.

So sitting by the beach in Fiji last May I was talking to my friend Ruby about how I could manage to move to Sheffield in my self-imposed impoverished state. She suggested contacting musicians to see if they happened to need a house sitter or babysitter over the summer.  Which is how I messaged Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and ended up living in their attic for 6 months or so. (Or, as their infinitely wise eldest son said ‘You live in the whole house, not just in the attic!)**

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No, I don’t want your number, no, I don’t want to give you mine


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As regular readers may know, at the moment I am looking for work.  I’m doing volunteering and applying for loads of jobs but no luck yet.  It’s only a matter of time.

What this does mean, however, is that I have to regularly go to the job centre so they can see how I’m getting on and I can get a small amount of money to live on.

About a month ago I had an interview at Sheffield Uni and then had to go in later than usual to the job centre.  Everyone was on their lunch, but I had to go and pick up a little boy I was babysitting, so the supervisor agreed to see me and was lovely and very helpful.  She was going to head downstairs with me to find some extra forms that might be useful for me, but just had to deal with something else, so asked me to wait a second.

Now since I had been to the interview, I was a little dressed up – a 1930s style green dress, cardi, heels and even had foundation and mascara on.  I got up from my seat, started putting on my coat and one of the security guards came over to keep an eye on one of the other visitors and started talking to me.  He said I looked nice, I said thanks, I’ve been to an interview.  He didn’t ask how it went but asked me if I had a boyfriend.

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‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable


There are days,

There are days when your life clouds over

and the world gets so dark

that all at once you can’t tell night from day.

There are times

when your heart cries ‘this isn’t happening’

but the truth is cold and real

and I know this storm won’t go away

‘It’s her or me’ from Miss Saigon, by Boublil and Schonberg

I’ve been quiet on here for the last few months.  I know some people have dropped by to see if anything has been written and I have tried to, but it’s been a difficult end to the year.

Not many people know, but I’ve been off sick from work for 2 and a bit months.  Mental health issues are still quite taboo in our society and I don’t really understand why.  It’s something that can affect anybody and yet still it’s not something we feel confident talking about.  I have depression, which I think is something that I’ve been battling with for a decade and it’s dreadful. This bout has definitely been the worse of the lot.  A stressful job, moving to a new area, not having much if a social life, various things that have happened in the past, lack of money all building together until I essentially cracked.  I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t go outside without having a panic attack and I couldn’t go to work.  It’s such a difficult thing to describe.  I get frustrated with myself because I can’t physically do things that I want or need to do.  I can’t get out of bed.  I can’t speak to people.  I don’t have any outward physical manifestation of this, there is just this mental block, a cloud, a haze that won’t let me through.  Then I spend time arguing with myself in my head – you know what you need to do, just get up, just get up, just move yourself, just stop wallowing in self pity and get up and do something.  But it’s no good.  There is some chemical imbalance at the moment.  There is something just stopping me whether I want to or not. Ruby Wax says it better than me, so here she is:

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