“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.
Just after recording my episode of ‘The Naked Podcast’ for the BBC with Jenny and Kat. And yes, all totally nude. Photo from The Naked Podcast.
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?
I just read this on my friend’s facebook status and decided that from the other side of the world I should write about it. As usual, this will be a stream of consciousness so hopefully will make sense!
“So… Some of you will be aware that, between Acting jobs, I work as a Supply Teacher. This past week I’ve been back at a school I regularly work in – no names – teaching a variety of subjects. Wednesday it was PE. Now, PE is a strange one to cover because the kids are not used to me being in anything but a suit and tie however, at least when I teach PE they get to have a practical lesson rather than just sit in a classroom.
“Lesson 3 was a Yr11 (5th year in old money!) lesson in which a number of boys were playing football. Still more boys had “not got kit” (for which they were not reprimanded at all!) but spent the lesson leaning against a wall. At one point, noticing movement out of the corner of my eye, I turned to see the non-participants clustered over at the fence (a tall steel affair with a spiked top – to keep the paedos out! …or, in truth, to keep the kids IN!) One of the boys – a ruddy-cheeked, pretty-boy – had climbed up the fence and as I watched, hawked a great mouthful of phlegm which he then spat at a woman walking past!
“As you can imagine, she was disgusted – as was I! I ushered the boys away from the fence and apologized profusely to the woman – who spoke no English – while the boys jeered and made racist remarks! On taking them “in” I spoke to the Head of PE who had me point out the spitter, who – to my face – refuted the accusation with “He’s a fucking liar, Sir!”
Today is my last (half) day at school. The work has come down from the walls, the trays are emptied, the bags gone from the hooks outside the classroom. I’m counting up pencils, pens, folders, rulers and writing notes on the children for the next teacher, next year.
I’m taking back ribbons and crepe paper to the store room, adding up house points and finding things once lost behind dusty cupboards.
I clambered into the 4 by 4 and apologised for my bacon sandwich dripping all over the seat. Edward the Dog ran alongside us as we drove down towards the gates, the askari on duty waving me off as if I was leaving for the holiday as nearly everyone else had.
But I wasn’t being driven down Airport Road to catch a flight out of Mwanza, instead we turned left off onto a dirt track that would take us out into the villages and some local rural school. Sheila Murray, a teacher at our school, has set up a charity that promotes links between rural schools in Tanzania and schools in the UK. We were going to see how some of the donations from the UK had been spent.