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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I am giving up on greener grasses


Ah, the world of internet dating.

Every so often I begin to think it’s a really good idea, that I can get to know people, communicate with them and see where things go from there.  These are normally times when I get a general feeling that I could really do with a boyfriend, as I find myself eating a large amount of toast and watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning again.

Speaking of Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve been re-watching a fair bit (as I am prone to) and this little quote from new doctor, Maggie Pearce, jumped out at me:

Maggie: There’s  a gap. Between me and most people. There’s just always has been. I used to think I was younger in school but even  after school. The gap, it just got bigger. And more impossible. I wasn’t too young, I was just too different. So I know what it looks like when I say yes to Ethan. It’s fun and we’re happy for a while until it’s not. Things always get awkward and weird so I over correct and he misinterprets and then we’re not on the same page anymore cause we were always miles and miles apart with  this gap between us, pretending it wasn’t there. I don’t wanna pretend.  I came here to work and just stay focused on that, and I’m fine on my side of the gap. I’m a little lonely but fine. There’s just no point to me saying yes.

 

Now this is not entirely me, but there are some aspects that made me just think ‘Yep! That’s it!’, specifically thinking there’s a gap and me over stressing an interest in something the other person likes that I’m not so bothered about.  For example, a couple of months ago I meet a man who was stupidly beautiful and as I got chatting to him I found he was into comics.  I like comics, I’ve seen a fair few film adaptations but I’m by no means an expert, but I could get away with a shallow level discussion about them.   But why would that be a good idea? Feigning an interest in something to get someone to like me?  That’s not a good way to go ahead.  I’ve done that lots with men and perhaps that’s why I’m still single.  Because I wasn’t being me.

 

But, every so often I think ‘Come on, you’re a grown up, it shouldn’t be this hard.’

So I sign up to a site.  I start off quite eager, sending off messages to people I think I’d get on with and getting excited when I get the email through saying I’ve got a new message or something.  Then my enthusiasm sags as they admit to enjoying hunting with dogs or that their mum is their best friend and they do really enjoy going on holiday with her twice a year or that their favourite band is U2.

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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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Song of the Week: I know where I’m going


Having seen the recent news about events in Baltimore, last year in Ferguson and in other areas across the United States, this song keeps popping into my head.

People say that rioting doesn’t solve anything, but perhaps this is the only way people feel they can be heard at the moment.  The American Civil Rights movement didn’t end in the 1960s and 70s, it’s ongoing, as are the struggles for LGBTQ people and other minority groups who are marginalised and sidelined and are refused equal rights.

This song comes from ‘Hairspray’ the musical, this version was performed in Glee to support a character who was transitioning from female to male.

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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Song of the Week: Take It Right Back by Bessie Smith


I first heard this song as part of the London Cast Recording of ‘Blues in the Night’, where it’s performed by a group of women and a lot more upbeat.  I’ve chosen it as song of the week because I think it fits with the sentiment of my last post.

Bessie Smith is an amazing blues singer that I’ve been listening to a lot recently, and I just love her version of the song.  She had an interesting life, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s.  Smith became the highest paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, and touring in her own railroad car.

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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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