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…

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Weekly photo challenge: Symbol


This is not the most artistic of my photos.  Ideally I’d like to take the blanket up to Hillsborough Park’s Walled Garden to show it off a bit more, but I’ve not got the time.

So why have I chosen this stripy, single bed sized blanket to be my ‘symbol’?

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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.

Song of the week: Chasing the Sun – 6th March 2015


Yes, it’s back, not particularly through popular demand, but because I’ve been listening to music again and like to share. So here you go.

Over the past week here in Sheffield I have been battered by wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow and today the clouds parted long enough for me to get warmed by the strengthening Spring light, so much so that for the first time that I can remember I felt almost uncomfortably warm in my winter coat and cardigan.

I’ve been pulling myself out of my depressive slump with the help of a great doctor, medication, good friends and who knows what else.  This week I’ve been accepted for volunteering roles, I’ve explored the city a bit more and found some awesome places that I’ll be visiting and spending more time in.  I’ve caught up with a chum that I’ve not seen for years, is marvelous and very kindly bought me wine and dinner (Hey Masoom!) and had a job interview.  So even if I don’t get it, at least I’m back in the swing of things a bit.

I’ve picked this song because it’s been in my head and hasn’t shifted.  When I first heard it, I wasn’t that keen on it, I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because the lyrics don’t quite scan in the way I’m used to but it has been a real grower and I love this stripped down version below.

‘Remember that life is not meant to be wasted, we can always be chasing the sun.’

What do you think?

And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’…


Today is Remembrance Day,  the Sunday closest to Armistice Day and, as such, many people have been wearing red or white poppies and visiting cenotaphs to remember the dead, both civilian and military, that gave their lives in wars across the world. 

 

Tomorrow is 11th November and 95 years ago it was the day of the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. Armistice Day is a day to remember the sacrifices made by many, too many, people over the years in order to protect the ways of life back home. 

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And the world was a song and the song was exciting…


…there was a time when it all went wrong.

I have an amazing ability to make myself feel and look like an absolute idiot.  I wish I could stop it but unfortunately it often stems from my own forlorn hope and attempts to make my life better.  So unless I stop trying to find ways to make myself happy I will invariably always end up looking like a tit.  I just wish I was better equipped to deal with it.

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I want to explore the light


I think in general I have pretty good instincts but I am pretty crap at acting upon them.  I’ll give you a few examples:

I thought I should have left my job at the homeless hostel within about 6 months of starting there.  But I thought I would be letting people down or that it might not look good on my CV if I was only in a job for 6 months.

After a year with my ex boyfriend I thought that things weren’t working and that I should leave but various things had led me to think I wasn’t strong enough to cope on my own.  So I stayed and he made me miserable and I tried to make him happy but couldn’t.  I stayed for 2 years and for that whole time he was cheating on me.

The week before I moved here I went to visit my dad and told him that he needed to start looking after himself because I wasn’t coming back for 2 years and I didn’t want this visit to be the last time I saw my dad alive.  He thought I was being ridiculous but we still talked about things like wills and getting his important paperwork sorted out.  I don’t know why I said that to him in the glow of a summer afternoon’s sunshine but I just knew somehow that I needed to because my instincts told me he wasn’t well.  And two weeks later his doctor’s visit told him he had terminal cancer.  Four weeks and 3 days later he was dead and that visit had been the last time I saw my dad alive in any real sense.  Of course I saw him for the two days before he died in his hospice bed but by that time he was not really recognisable as my father – the person who told me that I should say ‘May I get down from the table?’ rather than ‘Can I get down from the table?’, the person who would push me on the swing and let me push off his tummy with both feet just to get higher, the person who kept a text message from me saying ‘I love penguins I do’ on his phone for 4 years because it made him giggle.

So I think I know somehow when I need to change things but mostly I’m too afraid to do so because I don’t want to let other people down or disappoint anyone.  But I’m 29 now.  I don’t want to be living to please others and keeping on to see if it will be alright when I know deep down somewhere that it won’t.  And so I’ve come to a decision.

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Edges are blurring all around


I’m back at school, I’m tired, I’ve got a cold coming on but otherwise things are good.

After my Christmas trip to Kenya I was quite drained, sunburnt and altogether dreading going back to work. Having a break of a month is not necessarily a good thing for me. (Yes, I know, boo hoo, poor me, I’m sure you would love a month off for Christmas – I’m not bemoaning that, I just recognise that I need more structure than all that time to my own devices.)

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Begin the Begin


“Fresh starts: thanks to the calendar they happen every year —just set your watch to January, our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions, put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last year to bed.”

Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy [2.13]

It’s nearly the end of the year, very soon I will be by a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and so many things have changed.  The Mayans thought the world would end today.  They were wrong but for me, this year, a good many things have ended.

The first, in January, was a three year relationship, I thought that we would get married (mainly because he said we would), I thought that we would have children and that I would live in a cottage somewhere in the North East (he said all that too…).  Last December I sat at my sister’s and then at my brother’s playing with their children and decided that enough was enough.  Enough making do with someone who couldn’t look after himself, enough hoping that if I was supportive and patient that things would pay off and we would be happy.  Enough of being afraid that I couldn’t cope on my own without him, despite him dragging me down gradually with him. So I told him that this was it and he agreed.

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“…you were born in a merry hour…”


“No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born…”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.  I think it’s a very accessible way of seeing Shakespeare, which I started seeing live on my 12th birthday.  Yes, it’s a bit far fetched that Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are brothers and Keanu’s not really worked on his acting, but Michael Keaton is a joy as Dogberry and it has a great pairing of Beatrice and Benedick in Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.  The characters just spark off each other from the beginning of the play/film, trading insults and quips, with equal levels of intelligence. They deceive themselves in thinking that they don’t care anything for each other, but after being tricked by their friends they have an open and honest declaration of their feelings and have one of the strongest relationships in Shakespeare’s plays.  (Sorry to anyone who has actually studied literature, I just really like Shakespeare and that’s my understanding of it, feel free to correct me in the comments….)

Growing up I saw these films and plays, I read books and imagined that one day I would meet someone  like Jo Marsh meets Professor Bhaer, Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley, you get the picture.  Basically someone who gets me, can put up with my nonsense and give back as good as they get from me.  Someone who I feel completely comfortable with and can just be myself.

Now I know someone like that, in fact my Mum even said he was my Mr Knightley, and I’ve loved him for years.  With all that’s been going on I thought it was about time to tell him, because he might feel the same, or he might not, either way I would know and could either give it a go with him (not sure how that would work in separate continents) or let it go and find someone equally marvellous but who wanted to be with me.  So I told him, I wrote a letter.

I was very stressed waiting for a reply – never post something important over a weekend, it just drags out nervousness – but when I got one, well, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for but it was good to hear.  Not sure why I was worried really, I knew that he would be really good about it and reply in a way that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  So, yes, it doesn’t seem like my life is going to be working out as it does for literary heroines, but there you go, it rarely does.  I’ll just have to keep reading things with a pinch of salt and remember that reality isn’t always so neatly plotted – happy ever afters don’t just drop by, you’ve got to make some choices to help you find your own, but if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.  So I tried and it didn’t quite work, but I’m glad that I did.  I’m now back in touch with a really good friend and don’t have to be trying to hide how I feel (apparently I wasn’t so successful in that anyway because he already knew.  Balls)  I know he’ll always be there if I need him and life is much better with him in it, whether we are a couple or not.

So that’s that then, and in 5 days I go back to Africa.  These past five weeks have been a huge mixture of emotions, but I’ve got normal life to get back to…

(For those of you wondering, I know I would be, I let him read this before publishing it, it seemed only fair.  His only comment to add was: “You should mention that I was wowed by your paella.  I certainly was.” So there you have it.)

Travelling in time


I’ve come to my grandmother’s house to clean up before my aunt gets here tomorrow; I pressed play on my ipod – there’s 7144 tracks ont here at the moment (I really should get some more) and the first that came up was this song by Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts .  Jamie is the little brother of Kathryn Roberts that I linked to earlier in this blog, talented family.

Travelling in Time:

I wandered off today, back to the house we lived in then, the sound of voices play, the children are young 5, 8 and 10.

The rooms seem darker to me, but everyone else says they can see fine, shapes are all I can see, your voice calls me back to present day time.

It seemed to fit with what I’m doing.  I’m picking up some cds I loaned to Dad, pinching back the DVD The West that I gave him, and getting rid of the mess I made staying here last week.  It doesn’t seem fair for my aunt to come here to come to say goodbye to her brother and mother with some of my washing up still here.

It’s a different house now.  It has been in our family for 80 years or so – I think my great-grandmother lived here, my great-uncle, great-aunt, my grandmother moved here after her husband died 38 years ago, my dad moved in 9 years ago after he and mum split up.  The house will be sold now, maybe it will stay with another family for as long, but more likely someone will buy it and  build something in the garden, sell it for much more.  I don’t want to stay here now, it was fine when I was staying to visit dad, my cat was here, but now the cat has gone to live with my oldest brother and his family, so nothing living is here now.  It still has its familiar books and pictures, models that dad made, plates, pencils that went towards Gaggy’s collection.

I know that this seems morbid or melancholic, but I don’t think it is really.  People are what makes something or somewhere make you feel like you belong.  I’ve been very lucky, I’ve lived with 18 people in the last 9 years and I’ve felt at home nearly everywhere I’ve been.  I’ve had a good week – I’ve been singing with my old choir, I’ve sat in on some lessons at my old school to see the sorts of things I should be doing when I get back to Tanzania, I’ve bumped into people I’ve not seen for years.  Although I can’t picture myself ever living permanently in Northamptonshire or even in England for quite a while, it’s good to know I can fit back in relatively easily.  And I know I’ll fit back in Tanzania when I go back there.

It’s been interesting watching people since I’ve been back because I’m the only one on my own – in some respects that gives me a fair bit of freedom because I can decide what I want to do without having to co-ordinate plans with someone else, or think about what they want to do.  It’s good to be a bit selfish sometimes.  But it’s also good to see people being able to support each other, being happy, doing silly little things together, I do miss that a bit but for now, it’s just me on my own and it’s time for that.  I’ve completely lost my train of thought now and should probably get back to cleaning things up…

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put it well, Ella Fitzgerald sings it best

(Although, I don’t think you have to have a man around to make your house a home, but that’s not the point of the song.)