Thursday, 31 December 2009

So long, farewell...

Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. Or a hearty 'piss-off' and middle finger to 2009. I'd like to say it's been a good year but I would be lying. And as you know readers, I do not lie. Actually, I do. Sometimes. White ones only...

2009. The year sucked in epic proportions. Our economy crumpled under the worst recession in years, unemployment rates soared. (Yes, thanks for that). Every week a Soldier was bought back from Afghanistan in a box, younger than the one before. When it felt it had killed enough people, just the threat of Pig flu turned everyone into hypochondriacs and mask-wearing head-cases. Michael Jackson died. So did my Nan. Jordan and Peter Andre got divorced. The bad time shocks were endless.

Still, at least I had my health. Hmm. That's debatable. I spent the best part of the year throwing up and the rest recovering from surgery which felt like my stomach had been run over by a truck. I couldn't walk properly or laugh for months. Oh the joy!

But wait. Through all the sadness, obstacles and general 'such is life' moments, I am forgetting something. It is nearly over. And here comes the best part of a New Year. It's filled with endless streams of possibility. Untrodden paths and journeys. Hope.

Readers, let's take a cup of kindness and drink to that. Happy New Year.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Christmas Message

Behind this screen I sit and pray
That all should have a Merry day.
Forget the sorrow and loneliness,
I wish you health, love, and happiness.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Hope it's a good one.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Hopeless: Coming to Job Centres Near You

After months of constant ear bashing from my mum to 'sign on,' I had a meeting at the job centre. Quite possibly, I am the only person in the UK who doesn't want to be on benefits. Just the mention of the words 'job' followed by 'centre' makes my heart sink to my boots. Which I proceed to stamp all over. Many times.

As a British citizen it's my right to receive help when required. Instead of feeling indifferent and accepting of my unemployed position in these economic climes, I just feel ashamed. Should I really feel this way? Since when has asking for help been synonymous with shame?

Nervous, I hoped that my meeting would shake my fears and settle my soul. So I arrived early. Outside, as my shoes argued with the ice-slicked pavement and the threat of more broken limbs loomed, I stood looking at the grey building, the bright green sign. My stomach flipped. Breath white in the bitter air. Automatic doors slid open and the inside heat enveloped my cold bones, bewitching my feet.

Inside, ten angry/depressed/frozen faces met mine and five voices asked why I was there. Thought that was obvious. Job centres are self explanatory. Directed to a man far too happy at such an early hour, I grew annoyed. As he rejoiced over the cold weather (kills germs, apparently), I spied my surroundings. Inconspicuous desks. Bland faces. 8.20am and bored already. A good start.

Fifteen minutes and four forms later, I sat in the 'comfy' chairs awaiting the next step. The job centre's definition of comfy does not match mine. But you're not meant to feel comfortable. They want you alert, back rigid, on edge for questions. The edge of an IKEA chair perfect for torture. Or bad taste.

As the clock edged closer to 9am, cold air gushed in and out, repeatedly, as more people filed in. Old men. Women pushing prams. Children moaned, babies howled. The office pulsed with disdain. My feet itched to leave. I told them to shut up. I'd come this far...

Finally, twenty-five minutes later I sat opposite another cheerful fellow. He smiled, telling me the systems were down and my application would have to be completed by hand. 'Don't worry,' he shrugged. 'It'll only take an hour.' My returning smile did not reach my eyes.

As we talked about my endless search for employment, I started to feel better. Unexpectedly, it was a relief to discuss it with someone who knew how bad things were. My stomach fluttered with a feeling akin to hope. Then he hit me with it: 'I'm being honest now though, don't think you've got much chance for a while.'

Oh the hope was slaughtered. 'Yeah, if you want to get a job, I'd remove all of your education info from your CV.' It was like he had taken a bat and repeatedly whacked me over the head. He was Al Capone and I was the gangster who had betrayed him. My brains were all over the desk.

Not only will I not get a job for at least another month but I've apparently wasted four years of my life, and thousands of pounds, studying for two degrees. Seemingly, educated people can't get jobs nowadays. But if I lie about what I've been doing all this time, I may end up on someones payroll. It's true. You do learn something every day.

Alas, I left the job centre still hopeless. I put myself out there and asked for help. Where did it get me? Watch this space...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas in New York

Fairy lights glimmer at Rockefeller,
golden sparks leap from green firs;
their elfin flames twinkle in eyes
as I scan the ice,
searching for my sister
who stutters across the frozen sheet.

From here we board the red bus
that rides in the wrong city,
passing snowflakes fastened on the wall
of Bloomies, bullion colour flashing
in sequence to Carol of the Bells
chiming in my ears.

We peer at the Plaza, sited in grandeur
by Central Park, where children wrapped
in coats and scarves and bobble hats
throw tiny handfuls of greying snow
at black beauties standing in rank,
waiting for fools to pay $20 for a ride.

Car horns peal from traffic lined by
FAO Schwarz, where shoppers leave with
bulging bags of toys and treats and
tourists nervously hail taxis for
the Brooklyn Bridge, where they
gaze with glee at the Hudson River.

Ensared in the sleepless city,
we make way to Times Square, where
neon lights blaze, crowds pour from
subways, shops and Broadway shows, and some
buy salted pretzels from the shifty man
frozen on 47th.

Steam rises from subway grates on 49th,
as we hurry down to catch the R,
speeding us to the Empire State,
stemming proudly from the city's middle,
where we soar 102 floors
above the earth.

From this highest point we huddle,
bitter from the minus winds, and gaze at the
yellow ants crawling slowly around blocks
and rows of streets, inflamed by
the city's glow, like streams of lava,
as evening dusk finally falls.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes...'

It's that time of year. The over 65s get flu jabs. Tesco runs out of tissues and Vicks vapour rub. The red-nosed germ infested man breathes heavily down my neck on the central line. Everyone is coming down with something. And so am I. A relentless scratch at my throat. An annoying sniffle. A plague of headaches that will never cease. I am sick. Of. Everything.

I'm sick of hearing about the X Factor. In Sainsbury's. The pub. Boots the Chemist. Even the oldies in the Post Office give me their two pennies' worth. Just the sound of their admiration for the 'sexy' swinging hips of Olly-can't-sing-but-will-probably-win-Murs results in ear ache. Plus an annoying hum that won't end. A bit like the high pitch that accompanied the BBC test card with the little girl and the freaky clown.

I'm sick of reading about Tiger Woods and Tiger's Wood (now an upcoming porno- get ready people). As mistress number thirteen comes out of the woodwork (pun intended) I wonder how he managed to have sex with all those dirty women and play golf. Contemplating levels of sanitation makes stomach heave. Chunks threaten to rise.

I'm sick of Gordon Brown and all the other waste of space MPs who've spent all our money on golden syrup, potted plants and pay-per-view porn. (I've now said this twice in one post. It's getting out of hand- no pun intended).

I'm sick of people thrusting their iPhone's in my space. As if I want to use a phone that doesn't have keys to press and looks like it's been made by aliens. And no I don't care if you have an 'app' that makes the screen steam up like a shower. Will that help me when I need to call 999 after I've had a mental breakdown from all this rubbish? No. But it will look pretty. Sod off.

Henry David Thoreau once said it was healthy to be sick sometimes. If that's the case, I'm the healthiest bloody person I know...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

If Only...the two saddest words in the world

A recent post by fellow blogger Hunter (over at the brilliant Time Crook) got me to thinking. I could demonstrate my wittiness here by inserting 'yes it hurt' or 'that's new' but it would be a lie.

Thinking does not hurt. Nor is it new. I think far too much. All. The. Damn. Time.

As I approach my 25th birthday (8 days, not that I'm counting), I am taking stock of my life. To some this may seem premature; the kind of thing appropriate only for the wrinkled as they sit in armchairs approaching 90. But I like to reflect. See how far I've come, what I've achieved. What I'd like to achieve next. Introspection is good for the soul.

So it follows that Hunter's post resonated with me. He wrote a moving account of childhood regret and I was surprised that his younger self experienced this cruel emotion at such a young age. I've always assumed, perhaps wrongfully, that we only regret things at a more advanced age. When we've seasoned the ability to understand and appreciate our actions, in-actions and wrongdoings. Consequently, I started to think of my own regrets in life. And here came my unintentional revelation:

I have none. Sure, I used to. I thought I did. But as I've got older, I regret not a single thing. Moment. Choice. Person. Situation. Event. Feeling. Not even wearing that pink and green shell-suit when I was five years old. (It was the 80s and fashion was flammable; give a girl a break).

Okay, so that's a silly example. But I figured, if I was to regret everything that has bought pain or difficulty, confusion or disappointment; I'd be crippled under its weight. I've learned from every choice and action that has resulted in a mistake. If I regretted those mistakes, it would mean I'd regret that chance to learn and the path I'm now on. I cannot and will not regret that.

Regret isn't wrong. It is, after-all, a human quality that we cannot escape. But if we learn to accept our mistakes, actions and in-actions that result in this cruel emotion, we won't waste so much time in the past. We'll be more open for the future, for the here and now.

Sure, life is hard sometimes but it's also far too short.

What say you, reader?

Monday, 30 November 2009

Hearing Damage

Me + my sister + cinema = fun filled weekend. It is true. Betraying every sense in brain and body, I went to see New Moon. Begrudgingly. Okay, I wasn't dragged kicking and screaming. Nor were my hands tied and eyes propped open Clockwork Orange-style, forced to watch. But this is the Twilight saga. How would I describe my feelings towards this? Meh. Yes. Meh.

Sat down in our seats, I had the aisle. I like to be able to run if required. You never know when an alien life form of jelly-like substance may creep upon the unwitting cinema goer. You know, The Blob. Keep up reader, keep up.

We arrived early. Row upon row of empty velvet seats. Silence. Bliss. But it started. A slow steady hum of boots and heels in the distance. Raucous laughter and squeals of dolphin pitch that scratched ear drums twenty miles away. Louder it grew until the oxygen dwarfed and the cinema filled. From all directions hundreds of tweenagers poured in, squeezed through the gaps, marching up steps in near-darkness. Silver streaks glistened from T. Shirts emblazoned with 'Team Edward' and 'Bite Me.' Cheeks painted with uneven scrawls of 'Team Jacob' in black eyeliner. I had never felt so old in my life.

As the trailers finished, the sounds of popcorn munched and slushies slurped faded into the roar of screams from every pre-pubescent pair of lungs. A huge sallow-looking moon appeared on the screen. Screams. A green meadow filled with purple flowers. Screams. That sickly slouchy fellow with pained yellow eyes followed. Screams. 2 minutes had passed and I was deaf. It did not bode well for the next 128. I started to pray.

Prayers unanswered. Two hours of my life lost forever, snatched by evil Father Time in cohorts with Summit entertainment. Robust hearing built to withstand the toxic levels of my iPod obliterated in mere minutes. I don't remember much about the film itself. Abstain from sex blah. Vampires sparkle in sunlight blah. There was a lot of buff men running around the woods topless, dressed only in denim shorts. But I suppose I would remember that.

For the most part I stared aghast at my sister. Laughed at the madness around us. Worried about the hyperventilating teens along our row. By the time another batch of wild hysterics faded and we turned back to the screen, we'd missed about twenty minutes.

I am now scarred for life. Tweens and teens are the new enemy, riled up on sugar and desiring a man that eats animals and, oh yes, doesn't exist. I am too frightened to venture into my local cinema. They're not just under threat from The Blob. I think next time I'll wait for the DVD. Or perhaps I won't even bother. You know. Meh.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


There's a woman at my gym who walks on the treadmill at an incline of 15. This really bugs me. It isn't that she's holding on with a white-knuckled grip, struggling to keep the pace. It isn't that I can't possibly walk at an incline of 15 without flying off and causing myself (and others) serious damage. It's because this woman is the size of a broomstick. And no one seems to care.

Every bone in her back protrudes from sallow skin. Stick legs harsh and a face pinched tight. Her slack mouth gasps for air, eyes roll backwards, and I worry she's about to go into cardiac arrest. Whenever she is around I am on edge. I have to force myself to not make a scene. The floor is a refrigerator, my feet are the magnets. Week by week I watch her determination and that incline of 15 killing her.

It gets worse when other gym-goers talk with admiration. 'I wish I had such a small waist,' or 'I wonder how she got arms that thin?' She's been placed on a creepy pedestal and used as thinspiration. I must have a screw lose. They see beauty. I see serious mental issues. And someone crying out for help.

With my increasing worry for treadmill woman (and my need to understand) I found myself researching thinspiration. Hundreds of websites talk lovingly, promoting their best friend Ana. I soon realised who 'Ana' was. How naively clever of them. No one will realise you're Anorexic with such masterful disguise.

A recent article on Fox has suggested that these Pro-Ana websites do not encourage Anorexia because the disorder is biologically based. Furthermore, the idea that websites, blogs and images supposedly encourage eating disorders is not supported by either Science or research. I'm not convinced. Just because a handful of studies haven't found evidence, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The Pro-Ana message doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't dwindle my senses or blur my focus on reality. But what about those easily influenced; highly impressionable people who think their hips are too big or their stomachs aren't toned enough? What about the women gazing up at that pedestal in my gym? Ana's message- 'the only thing that matters is being thin'- might mean something to them. And worryingly, it just might get through.

, what do you think?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I am Scrooge. Hear me roar.

I saw the Coca Cola Christmas advert on TV today. The one where a whole village runs to catch sight of the neon-lit lorries, and a giant face of Father Christmas on the back holding a bottle of diet coke. Hmm...big nose and rosy cheeks, I thought he was more a beer kind of fellow. Of course the hills are dusted white, there's a coldness in the air and a faint jingle of bells in the background. Doesn't it make you feel all christmassy?

In a word, no. It is only November. NOVEMBER! Businesses everywhere are wishing my life away, willing it to be that time of year where spending a fortune has replaced the real meaning of Christmas. You know, the whole birth of Christ thing? Ring any bells?

I can't buy a birthday card in November. Clinton cards has shifted those for all the cheap ones with cute reindeer and picturesque scenes of snow falling over thatched cottages. The last time it snowed at Christmas, I wasn't born.

In Sainsbury's, I could buy my Halloween pumpkin and a box of mince pies, if the feeling fancied. The Christmas spirit on TV, however, started a few weeks ago. Jamie Oliver and that tiny Top Gear bloke travel through country villages promoting real hearty home-cooked grub. Tell me, does Christmas only exist in villages? I'd like to see Richard Hammond walk his trolley through the streets of South East London. If he makes it to Morrisons in one piece, I'd have more faith in a Christmas miracle.

I am sick of going into shops that look like the Christmas fairy threw up glitter everywhere. I'd like to find a car space in Bluewater without all the panic-buying mum's and people on the dole who should be paying their gas bill rather than buying out Toys R Us. I'd like to make it round Tesco's in peace without the sales assistants trying to tempt me into tasting their mince pies. They all taste like crap to me.

By the time December 25th comes around my Christmas cheer is skating on very thin ice. No ice-skating-at-Christmas pun intended.

Consequently, I have decided to boycott all things Christmas until mid-December. So if you see a woman wandering around with three ghosts of past, present and future; that will be me. Yes reader, I am Scrooge. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Hay Wain

I used to stare intently;
eyes met hands
as they ran along the print,
my chubby finger
poking away at the speckled sky
or the open window
on Willy Lott's cottage
and the man on the carriage
pulled by red-saddled horses
through the shallow River Stour.

It was always there for viewing
at the bottom of the stairs;
detail hidden in brush strokes
of white and green,
waiting to be found.
I wanted to move the man
or name the dog
barking at his owner
from the dusty yellow river bank.

I was eager
to retrace the curve
of the water's edge,
unearth the broken boat
as it lingered in overgrowth,
count the swift trail
of dabbling ducks.
As night fell around me,
I would await change
through that window
to some hidden sun-filled world,
where days never did end
and darkness never reached.

In my world
the picture
at the bottom of the stairs;
its paint film cracked,
glaze darkened
and colours diminished
as Flatford Mill ceased trade,
the Stour began to rise
and trees and shrubbery
outgrew its frame.
But that image
memorized, captured,
imprisoned in print,
always stayed the same.
It will never change.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

We shall keep the Faith

It's that time of year again. Out into the cold they tread, men and women, medals pinned to their chests. They jangle a tin of coins and present a box of poppies.

The poppy as a symbol of remembrance originated in 1918. Inspired by the war poem 'In Flanders Field' by John McCrae, US Professor Moina Michaels promised to always wear a poppy for those who served in the war. And so it goes...

Sadly, the Poppy Appeal has bought much debate in recent years. Last year Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow refused to wear a poppy on air, stating that it should be a personal choice, not a political force. 2009 proves no different. In The Independent yesterday, Mark Steel asked, 'why should I be pressured into wearing a poppy?' He argued that the selling of the famous red flower was a government conspiracy; a ploy to ensure we keep on fighting. Even pubs and libraries have jumped on the 'poppy fascist' bandwagon by refusing to sell them.

I am disgusted.

They are missing the point by a country mile. The wearing of a poppy is not just about remembering those who have lost lives fighting for the freedom of our country. It's not just about the past. It's about hope and support for our future. To turn the poppy into a political symbol is outrageous and extremely naive.

The Royal British Legion use money raised in the Poppy Appeal to help provide financial, social and emotional support for those who have served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces. By actively refusing to wear a poppy, we are implying that these needs are not valid; that our forces are not important; that we just don't care. In times such as these; how is that right?

When my Nan passed away a month ago, we found a poppy amidst her belongings. Stuck to a small wooden cross, underneath she had written, 'To us you were the world.' This for my Granddad who died in the RAF in 1944. It represented his memory, her pride in his duty served. A tiny red symbol of her loss. Our loss. She kept that for sixty-five years. Political? I think not.

Just like my Nan, I keep a poppy. Every November I buy a new one and I wear it with pride. Not just for my Granddad but for all the Granddad's. Uncle's. Brother's. Friend's.

In the big scheme of things, it isn't difficult to pin a small red flower to your lapel. For one week, one day out of a year, that's all it takes to show some respect. Forget the political ramifications, the debate, and the conspiracy theories. Remember the dead, the injured, the families left behind. That's what the poppy really stands for.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hurling words into darkness and waiting for an echo...

It started as a smile, a glance. A flirtation with ideas. It grew into words. I dabbled; a few here, a few there. Soon they came together, merged effortlessly as one. Yes, reader. I am writing a novel.

For weeks, maybe even months, I've worked on one story. Every day I'd add a new paragraph. Change some words. Delete. Adjust a sentence. Complete a chapter. Days passed and my characters became real to me, fleshed, alive, ready to jump from the page, to give me hell if I didn't do them justice. If I didn't give them a chance.

The right side of my brain has taken over, given itself fully to my fictional world. Nothing is logical. Life's situations are no longer my own. They're my characters. As I sit at my computer, I do not exist. I am Lucille. I am Simeon. I am about to come of age.

What started as a short story has today become a novel. Lucille was babbling on about herself, recounting a flashback, when suddenly I appeared, left side of brain kicked into gear. I sat there in my fictional world and realised; there's more to this.

I am writing a novel.

I announce this like those at an AA meeting. They say the first step is to admit you have a problem. I do. I've convinced myself I have more than a short story on my hands. Such a lethal confession. Once committed, I do not give up. The harder things get, the harder I try. Am I even capable of this? Who knows. But now I'm in this for the long haul. It'll be scary. Daunting. Challenging. It's going to be one hell of a journey.

Fingers crossed I reach my destination.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Who do you think you are?

This week I've unearthed a lot of dirt. Not literal dirt of course; the metaphorical stuff that lurks behind closet doors and under floorboards. The kind that has Forensic Anthropologists' all excited because what's in that dirt has just uncovered a hundred years' old mystery. I've also watched far too much of the TV series, Bones.

Rifling through boxes of books from my Grandmother's house, I was arranging them into three piles: Oxfam. Recycling. My Bookcase. I snatched up the complete works of Oscar Wilde, binding ornate with gold stitching, insides doused with the scent of a thousand libraries. I begrudgingly threw Rudyard Kipling into the recycling; his pages too tattered for eyes, too worn for hands. Oxfam is now the proud owner of thirty books on Marxism. (Nan, what were you thinking?!)

Mission accomplished, I returned the books to their new homes. Placing Oscar Wilde lovingly on my bookcase, a photograph fluttered to the floor from inside; hidden between Dorian Gray and some Woman of No Importance. I studied it; black and white, edges frayed, yellowed. A man I did not know.

Impatient for more I poured the books into one frenzied pile, organisation be damned. Fingers, eyes scoured every page and book. But there were no more hidden photographs. No more dirt unearthed.

Now I spend time hunting relatives, delving into the unknown depths of my family tree in search of the man I did not know. It's like I've been given a key that unlocks the door to my family history and yet I have no idea where that door is. I have a single jigsaw piece and the rest of the puzzle lurks in some muddy boot-fair with the rest of the unwanted crap. Only I want it. I really do.

The importance of knowing where you come from is as fundamental as knowing who you are. They are not one and the same. You could know that you're courageous and determined and yet not know where that courage comes from. Sometimes, certain traits that we value so highly really are passed along that family tree, branch to branch. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not the only one out there, sitting on a limb.

Reader, I know who I am. But the man I did not know; he's going to tell me where I'm from. And I cannot wait to find out...

Monday, 19 October 2009


I don't like seven. It's all sharp edges and odd number. In a list it's even worse. Why would anyone write a list of seven things? Why not round it up? You know how I love my Top Ten.

A few days ago, however, I was given the task of writing such list. Seven things about me. Along with this was the honour of the Kreativ Blogger award, given by the lovely Sarah over at The Good Girls. She writes some great stories. I suggest you visit immediately.

Seeing as I have some new followers, particularly over the last month, I thought I would recycle an earlier post. Fear not readers, I do not lack inspiration. I'm just being lazy...

1. I am one of those people who needs things to look forward to, else I lose the will to live.

2. I am double jointed and can freak people out with a twist of the elbow or the pulling of the thumb from its socket. As you can see, I know how to have a good time.

3. I'm a bit of a movie buff (or freak depending on your viewpoint) and have over 250 DVDs in my collection. Due to the low prices in Tesco, that collection is growing rapidly. Thanks Tesco.

4. I love my surname. I do not love being called Highlander by every guy I meet. Yes, I know. Highlander was a MacLeod. I'm a McLeod. You're correct. Well spotted. Now sod off.

5. I went travelling by myself when I was 19 years old. Some say this was brave, others say it was foolish. The fact that I was chased 2 miles by a homeless man would prove the latter correct.

6. My favourite word is 'bollocks.' It is just so expressive. If I could use it in every sentence, I would.

7. I was very fortunate to get my own back on someone who made my life hell at school. Said bully approached me on a train and asked if I remembered them. My reply was that I had a brain condition which meant I couldn't remember arseholes. Bully stunned into silence = smile on my face all day long.

8. My real name is Zion5 and I'm from the year 3021.

So there it is. Seven things about me. Okay, the list says eight but I had to round it up and we all know number 8 isn't true. Or is it...?

Finally, I must pass on this Kreativ Blogger award to a new and deserving fellow writer. After reading yet another great post from him, this award goes to the brilliantly witty plentymorefishoutofwater. He never fails to make me smile. Over to you...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Snow Sky

As soft mist lingers white over waters
starched by the cold hand of frost,
a bird's wing snaps the silenced air;
a grave mark on the horizon.

A willow weeps for its branches
trapped beneath the frozen pond,
caught unawares as winter creped
in a windless night-time lull.

And in the darkened hush,
Winter's breath blew cold the scorched leaves
brittle from the distant summer heat,
as ripe and red as berries.

In woodland shamed naked by an iron chill,
creatures live, breathe and beat,
backs turned, eyes closed
to brace the arctic bite.
A tree branch, severed, cracks.

Grey clouds a solemn smudge
on a pink and purple sky,
beckons a white hell of flakes and flurries
and drifts, to shackle nature in its frozen grasp.

Underneath rimy rooftops,
faces pressed against cold glass
misted by warm breath,
await the first sign of Winter's torment.
A single flake met by giant smiles.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Humanity is just a work in progress...

I am not a misanthrope. This is me we're talking about. I openly adore happy endings and smiling at strangers. I want the good guy to win. Always. But sometimes optimism fades.

As a society we are confronted frequently by our actions. The seedy underbelly of humanity is laid bare on a daily basis, stripped of benevolence. Through media we have no choice but to meet with our failings, or as such, the failings of others. Sex isn't the only thing that sells. Add violence and corrupt politicians and you've got one big money-making equation.

Day after day I read some version of kids murdering kids, people enslaving people. Governments stealing from their own country. Abuse. Fraud. Theft. The list is endless. Out in the world we exist together, and yet so far apart. People on the street are lost; passers-by a void around them. Hold open a door for someone and you won't get a thank-you in return. Sometimes it's the little things.

Repeatedly I get knocked; gradually I am worn, eroded. That's when the optimism, the faith in humanity, starts to wane.

But today there was hope. I awoke this morning to stories that recharged my belief that, at its very heart, humanity can be good. People can be good. A small group of British Firefighters are off to help search for survivors in the aftermath of the Samoa tsunami. The knowledge that these men are to risk their lives for others, in a country that on any other day we would not think about, warms my soul.

In addition to this story, a British football team stopped a woman from jumping to her death from the Humber Bridge. This simple act of kindness to someone in need reminds us of the invisible ties that bind us. Humanity, in its most basic form, can be found in the strangest of places.

As a result (for now at least) I find my faith in humanity restored. Or should that be faith in footballers...?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Top Ten: Things to know before going to University

Five years ago I was on my way to Sussex University. Sitting in my Dad's car, next to an old toaster that wasn't needed and a kettle that would burn me more than it boiled water, I felt excited. Anxious. Completely unprepared. It seemed crazy. I'd relished in writing endless lists, delighted in trips around IKEA. Upon arrival, fear gripped me. What should I do now? Where do I go? What do I do? I wanted to vomit. Thankfully, I didn't. What a first impression that would have been...

As students across the UK enter the world of academia; all eager to jump start on destroying their livers, I thought I'd make this Top Ten an educational one. Here I impart with four years worth of experience. Wisdom. And it's free. Take it, please:

1) It's okay to introduce yourself to every person you see, including the maintenance guy. He may come in handy when the light bulb blows at 3am and everyone has to pee in the dark.

2) Make every single moment of Freshers' Week count. No one told me this. Or they did but in a really flippant way as if they had asked me to buy them a pint. 'You want anything at the bar?' 'Yeah, I'll have a Bud, oh and by the way, make freshers' week count.' Doesn't really get into the thought processes, does it? Maybe if they had written it down in capital letters; they seem to do the trick. MAKE FRESHERS' WEEK COUNT. GO TO EVERY BAR CRAWL. CHAT UP THAT CUTE GUY OR GIRL. DANCE ON THAT TABLE. You'll know what I mean in four years' time. Comprende?

3) Don't buy every book on your reading list (or read them). Not only will you still have those books (unopened, in pristine condition) five years later, your wallet won't thank you for it. Then you'll be all, 'Sorry guys, I can't go out tonight, I bought a book instead of dancing and laughing and generally having a good old time.' Sitting in halls, penniless and alone, your new books will start to mock you and that's never fun.

4) SAVE SOME MONEY. The capital letters return. By the third week of uni, after you've paid rent, bought way to much food for one person, and wasted enough money getting wasted, you'll be scraping inside the smelly communal sofa for extra coinage. So be prepared. It will save you sticking your hands down that sofa. Worth the effort alone.

5) Learn how to cook. Even just the basics. A diet consisting mainly of toast, kebabs, chips, and alcohol will age you thirty years. And possibly give you an eating disorder.

6) Go to the Freshers' Fair. You may think it looks like a load of drab tables lined up in the drizzly rain with naff home-made posters pinned to trees. You'd be right. But there are freebies. Baked beans. Light bulbs. Spoons. What more could you possibly want?

7) Sign up for the Doctor asap. Yes, there is such a thing as Freshers' Flu. No, it is not a rumour and/or a conspiracy theory. I wish.

8) It's okay to not go out drinking every night. It doesn't make you un-cool or antisocial. It makes you normal. This is good.

9) Attend lectures. You never know, you may actually learn something. Learn, she said? Of course! Remember that grey matter inside your head? The brain. It's quite handy.

10) Whatever you do, DO NOT break your foot a week before starting University. Crutches and drunken people do not mix. Trust me...

So reader, anything you'd like to add?

Thursday, 17 September 2009


We are crazy. Unhinged. No not really. We're fine. Normal. We even went to school today. We were taught Pythagoras' theorem in Math and contour lines in Geography. We zoned out in Science.

At lunch we stood under the blue tarpaulin that hung from the side of the music block, listening to the rain making soft beats that blended with the guitars and drums humming through the wall. Sam lied to us. He told us it would be quiet by the music block 'cos of all the building work, but we heard those guitars and those girls who can't sing for shit. We heard them and boy were we pissed.

We found Sam in the science block. He's always there. He likes that sort of thing; burning shit with Bunsen burners. He's in room 413, his 'safe-haven' he calls it; thinking we can't find him there. Dumb. He's there all the time. We smile when we see him lighting up an old Bunsen under a condenser thingy. As we said, we zone out in science.


Sam jumps, dropping the glass bottle to the floor.

'C'mon guys. Not now. Please. Science is my time. We agreed.'

'You lied to us, Sam. You said the music block would be quiet and it wasn't so our agreement no longer stands.'

'I want to do my experiment. I need to pass this. I'm failing everything else.'

'Not our problem.'

Sam starts banging the table with this fists. He gets angry easily. We smile.

'Now, now Sam. What did that table ever do to you? Take this.'

We hand him a shard of glass from the floor.

'What am I meant to do with it?'

'You know what to do.'

Sam sighs and presses the glass into his arm. We feel his pain but pain is good. Red blood trails over his knuckles, staining skin creases. Blood is better.

Now we're back at Sam's house. We go up to his room. He's at his desk trying to finish homework. We start poking him.

'Leave me alone,' he says.

It is so easy to wind him up.

'C'mon Sam. Live a little. You said yourself, you're failing. Why bother trying?'

Frowning, Sam raises from his seat and starts marching the room. Back and forth. Back and forth. We feel dizzy.

'I don't want you here. You're always here. Always here. Go!'

We laugh. Sam starts shouting loudly, bashing his fist against his temples.

'Get out! I can't take this anymore! Stop laughing. Get out!'

We like it when Sam is like this. His face goes all red, eyes go hazy, and he starts twitching and shit. Then his mum bursts into the room with that worried face again. She never changes, always worried.

'Sam! What's wrong? Who are you talking to?'

Sam looks at us, quickly. We press our fingers to our lips.

'No one mum. Just talking to myself.'

And we're the crazy ones...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Land of Hope and Glory

Friday night I flicked idly through the channels in vain hope of something inspiring to watch. I'd pass up inspiring for vaguely interesting, I was that bored.

I stumbled across the BBC Proms. It always seemed a tad too conservative for my musical tastes, despite my liking for Barber's Adagio for Strings and Fauré's Pavane. This time, however, I persevered.

Held in the Royal Albert Hall, the orchestra played in synchronised supreme. British, English, Scottish and Welsh flags rose up from the audience whom waved them freely, proudly, with the music.

As these flags fluttered and 'Land of Hope and Glory' filled my living room, I felt the stirrings of a patriot. An old patriot that I have hidden under lock, key, smothered with dust and a collection of Spice Girls records.

Though in no way staunchly patriotic, I have always felt some pride in being British. Growing up I felt lucky, grateful even, to belong to a country that stood up for its beliefs and marched forth into a new world, however poorly the outcome.

As with anything, however, our positives began to fade. What once made us great, a leader, made us tired and weary. A second in command. With each election and passing year where the true message of what our country stands for was lost, my little patriotic light diminished.

And so I hid it. And it was lost.

But we have a history that cannot be ignored. We may not have made the right choices. We may have needed help, as most countries do. But we have always paid back in kind. And we have always been there. The little country surrounded by water, so small it would get lost in the corners of some lands. We have produced some of the most incredible minds, some of the most ingenious inventions. We have led and we have followed. But we have always been there.

In spite of what is presently occurring in the world and what will continue for future generations, last night I realised; I am still proud of my country's history. However dusty or faded; my patriotic self will always be there. Sometimes lost. Sometimes hidden. Never forgotten.

Monday, 7 September 2009

I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate

God be damned, I cannot sleep. Again. My insufferable affliction forces my body through sleep deprivation for the forth day in a row and results in the use of phrases such as 'insufferable affliction.' I sound like I ate an Austen novel. Indeed.

During my sleepless state my mind starts to wander to insane possibilities. I have discussed this previously. I won't recount how I discovered the secret of time travel but you can read that lovely episode here.

At 1.05 this morning half the world was quiet. The only light was the orange flicker of street lamps and the moon's milkiness behind scattered clouds. Out of my bedroom window I peered at the black, the still. The quiet tried to soothe my heavy lids, to no avail.

I paced; quick fevered strides that didn't care if they woke the house. My hands gripped my temples. Eyes narrowed. Blinked once, twice, a hundred times. In the corner of the room stood Rick Deckard. What the hell was the Blade Runner dude doing in my bedroom? I smiled. He smirked.

I got into bed certain I should be certified. 'It's only the insomnia. Not real. Not real. You're just sleep deprived that's all. Not real. Not real.' I pulled the duvet over my eyes like a child who'd just spotted the Bride of Chucky crawling in the shadows.

Eyes scrunched tight, I willed my brain to shut down but Rick Deckard had ignited my imagination, was pushing it into gear. All of a sudden, I was off...lost in a world where illegal replicants were causing havoc on Earth and a man suspiciously like Rutger Hauer was spouting poetry at random intervals. Oh, wait a minute...

It begs the question; why does my sleep deprived mind always end up trapped in a science fiction film? Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Should I be worried, like, Matrix worried? It's possible...isn't it?

See. I told you. My level of crazy rockets to demonic heights without sleep. This morning I was a sky high ninety-five.

But for now, all these moments will be lost in tears in rain...time to sleep...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Until tonight...

Hello, moon.
Chalky captive in bloody sky.
Hopes of shepherds delight dashed
as the sky weeps,
and rain heals her wounds
She fades to grey.

Tell me moon.
What did you do?
When daylight recedes beyond your
nacreous gleam,
her shameful retreat brings
night to menace.
Confess your sins;
you have time.

You can't see me moon,
from your crescent perch.
Your light can't reach our faults
hidden within the shadows.
But I see yours.
Luminous imperfections
across your face.
I wonder if you know.

I'm sorry, moon.
Lonely sole deserted in an
ordinary sky.
Where stars burn universal,
a galaxy determined
to surpass your shine.
You only have yourself to blame.

Goodbye moon.
The sun may scold you;
chase away the darkness
but she too brings new shadows to hide.
You recoil into the blue,
fade beyond the clouds.
But I know you're there...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

We're all going on a summer holiday...

That's right. It's that time of year when I shove my belongings into a suitcase, dawdle on down to Gatwick airport and board a plane to nowhere.

Nowhere is a good place to go. Sun. Sea. Sand. Oh and iced lollies. Can't be without those.

I am off today to the land of no expectation. Usually just the fear that my life could slip into a mundane routine sends me over the edge but when I'm on holiday? Now that's a different matter. I like the way my yearly holiday hasn't evolved as with everything else. It takes the same pattern:

Disembarking the plane, my party comments on how hot it is. As if coming to a country near the equator wasn't warning enough. Upon check-in there is usually some mix up. Probably due to the fact that twenty five years ago my mother decided to christen me with the same initial as my elder sister.

Two Miss L M's? No es posible! Oh yes it is.

Once unpacked, someone will profess their annoyance at the lack of fridge/toaster/air-conditioning/bed. Delete as appropriate. It happens. Three days into the holiday I will resemble the pallor of a lobster or, depending on my voraciousness with suncream, that of a white china plate.

And so it goes. And will continue to do so until the end of time.

But it wouldn't be a holiday without it. Until next time my lovelies...

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Judgement Day

This morning I went to the corner shop in my pyjamas. Yes. I'm that person. The kind who puts on flip flops when it's raining and has scruffy bed hair when she buys her newspaper and a pint of milk.

Stood in line with my purchases, I was keen to return to my weekend indolence where all that matters is tea, toast and fine smudgy print. Behind me, however, was the judgemental squad. A long line of pitying glances, as if I was a homeless person who had found a pound coin and the first thing she must do is treat herself to skimmed milk and a liberal broadsheet. One or two were stunned by my audacity to leave the house looking less than perfection. People go out without mascara and lip gloss? Our eyes! Our poor eyes!

Does my lack of style, at 7.30am, really matter in the great scheme of things? I wasn't on my way to a job interview. I wasn't off to meet friend's in town. My big plan was grabbing my weekend favourites and returning to bed to watch crappy morning TV. I didn't realise I needed Gok Wan's assistance to enter the high society that is the corner shop. Forgive me, please.

Why are people so judgemental? It's yet another one of those unanswerable questions that life likes to throw at you but please, I'd really like the answer.

Psychologically speaking, it's possible that we have an internal self-belief that everyone should behave as we ourselves do. An ideal representation of socially correct behaviour. When we come across someone who breaks this self-belief, someone who challenges it, is that when judgement occurs?

I don't know, reader. Consider me flummoxed.

Monday, 10 August 2009


My daughter gave me a present today.
Bunched in her pink hands
so tight the tips of her nails pursed white.
She offered them to me,
face obscured by the bells;
tiny pendulous blossoms bowed
and coiled in fragrant lavender blue.

It may have been that scent.
as Manley Hopkins once said
was like faint honey,
a sweetness that
awakened the dusty web of my past.
All at once I was there,
in '53, six years old,
holding hands with Lesley.

We left the house in Dorking,
linking tiny fingers,
running towards sandstone hills
at the edge of town, air so fresh
so full of grass, cows and hay,
lingering in our noses
as we opened the gates to Glory Field.

Early in the day,
grass still moist
and our black buckled shoes would squelch
their way across the green sea.
We would use our arms to row ourselves
across to Glory Wood
while looking out for dog pirates.

Our green eyes widened,
ears listening, hearing
nothing but eerie calm of the clearing
and our hurried breaths.
Trees narrowed into a path;
sunlight peeked through their leafy canopy,
falling in pots of gold hidden
in the mass of lavender blue.

Once again we'd row ourselves
across the sea, running fingers
through long stalks, falling into the
deep flowery water, legs lost
amidst the honeyed scent.
Glory Wood began to darken;
a coolness enveloped our arms
and we'd pick some gifts for home.

Every sunday we gave our mums a present.
Bunched tightly in our pink hands,
nail tips white,
pendulous coiled petals obscuring
our red faces.
They always smiled, distant,
expression vague
but now I know;
they too remembered the bluebells.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you're a f****** idiot.

Isn't that how the saying goes? I never paid much attention. It always got the same reaction as 'Chin up love' or 'Pull yourself together.' If I knew how to pull myself together, don't you think I would? Utter bloody contempt.

Has anyone else experienced it? That darkness; so deep one could believe they're blind. Once you've been into The Darkness, you're more susceptible to it. It's like poison. It remains undetected, coursing through veins and vessels when suddenly it attacks and once again you're at its mercy. You don't know when it will strike but its cloud is hovering. A black threat in the distance.

Depression is a serious illness. I know the depths Darkness can reach. It isn't pretty. What surprised me was how little people realise this; how flippant they can be. 'Oh she's depressed? Nothing a bit of fresh air and sunshine can't fix!'

Erm. NO. When you're depressed, air is a stale evil. Hurts to breathe. Sunshine burns every layer of flesh yet never pierces one's soul; it's too bright for one's eyes. All you want to do is shimmy under the duvet and let sleep win over. Let the Darkness in.

Then come the tears. Standing at a bus stop, sitting in class, at work, when that bitter salty taste reaches your lips. Crying and you didn't realise. Numbness a result of depression's destructive path.

Somedays it feels like it's brewing again. The light is slowly fading, shadows contort my face and I'm bracing myself to be immersed. It's like I can feel its pulse; the sadder I feel the louder it gets. I call them 'those days.' I want the sun to shine but on 'those days,' the sun doesn't have the time.

Sadly, I'm not a lone sufferer. Research suggests that depression is on the rise and even more worryingly, left undiagnosed by GPs. Why? Apart from lacking a cure for depression, the main reason is shame. When one feels embarrassed for the loss of their emotional state, their deficient grasp on their life, one doesn't want to admit it. Owning up to losing control? Not on your life.

This is where we're going wrong. People should confess. Go to the GP. See a therapist. Whatever it takes for The Darkness to fade. Do it and be proud. If anything, at least you're gaining back some control.

And if anyone tells you to 'pull yourself together' feel free to punch them in the face. And once from me too...

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Welcome to Hollyweird

Every day hundreds of people pack their belongings into bedsheets, tie it to the end of a stick, throw it over their shoulders and make their way to the land of fame. Well, if they were a cartoon. Nowadays they just use a suitcase. Much easier.

The epitome of wealth, Hollywood is the place to fulfill one's dreams. Or so they say. I'm not sure who 'they' are. I just know 'they' are foolish, as are most of the poor souls who gravitate there; hopes and dreams a heavy burden on their backs.

In popular culture Hollywood is promoted as THE place to be. The young and beautiful drive expensive cars, pour themselves into designer clothes and live in hilltop houses. Life is so perfect, so peachy, why would you want to live anywhere else? Well. The above do exist. In abundance. But sadly it's a lot seedier than one can imagine.

Rejection stands lonely on street corners, it screams from sad waitresses in every bar. Barbie's walk painfully on dirty faded stars on the street; hair bleached to breaking point, starved faces pulled tight, lips injected with so much botox I'm surprised they can read their lines in auditions. Broken dreams fill every bus ride along Hollywood Boulevard, on the hour every hour.

'Hollywood' doesn't exist. In yesteryear the term was culturally and historically significant in American cinema. It was the place where it all began. It meant something. Today it's just superficial. Fabricated. Dirty. It's Hollyweird. You don't need to be an actor or singer. Talent is no longer a requirement. You just need to be desperate. Fame hungry. Pathetic. If you have these qualities; celebrity and notoriety, here you come!

It's all rather tragic. This wealthy place, once the symbol of glamour and greatness, has now disintegrated into nothing. Just a has-been shell of its previous life. This kills me. I rather like the old fashioned importance of working hard; honing one's craft because you can't bear to do anything else. In today's society, people flock to 'make it' in Hollyweird because they don't want to get a real job. Working hard is too exhausting. They want it easy. And Hollyweird gives it to them. Modern practices; an emphasis on fame, wealth and beauty as paramount have resulted in standards slipping. Hollyweird now represents everything that's wrong with our contemporary world.

It's definitely questionable. Who wants to be in a place where the stars are stuck on the ground? They shine better in the sky...

Friday, 17 July 2009

It's not the end, it's the beginning...

Mondays. Manic. Happy. Sometimes cheap. Mine was dull. It was graduation, part deux. Dressed in my finest I begrudgingly slipped on that monstrous cap and gown and made way to my seat. Two minutes later, the music started. Personally I wouldn't call the organ, music per se. It's more like the wail a piano makes as it crashes to the ground, dying. You know; like they do in cartoons.

The organ continued for ten minutes, bleating and thundering, forcing every eardrum to endure its slow painful death in a ten mile radius. I wondered if the pianist was deaf. And then wished I was.

Eyes darted to the nearest exit. If I took a quick left, back ten paces and then out the door, I'd be free. My ears could rest. I would breathe in the fresh air, smell the freedom. I imagined it smelt good.

I didn't find out. Couldn't. I was squished between two people; our chairs packed so closely together I deduced that the girl next to me was extremely fond of garlic. Or perhaps she was terrified of vampires. It wasn't pleasant, either way.

Suddenly, a procession of people appeared; dressed in multicoloured gowns depicting their levels of education. Boredom hit me. Struggling to compress a yawn, my face contorted to demented levels and Garlic Girl gave me the evils. Stop doing that, weirdo, she said. Well, her face said it all.

The speeches began and I found myself dreaming of what I would do when released. I would eat cakes and drink vodka and go for long walks on the beach, relishing in my freedom. Phasing back to reality, the Mayor was staring at me intently. I turned to the right of me; nothing but a row of empty chairs and an angry woman at the end, beckoning. If she could have punished me, she would have. Oh yes.

Led backstage, I awaited with my fellow graduands. Some spoke of their nerves, their excitement, their achievements. I prayed I wouldn't fall over my own feet and land on my arse. When I finally reached the stage, name called, my mind drifted again. Somewhere above in the clouds I hovered whilst my body dumbly nodded and shook hands with I don't know who. One step, two step. Here come the stairs. Don't fall down them. Nearly back at your seat. Ah. Potential embarrassing situation averted. Relief.

The rest of the ceremony fluttered past in a daze of monotony. Hands went numb from all the clapping. Garlic Girl continued to breathe her smelly self all over me. And the Mayor couldn't take his eyes off me. I doubt he had a little crush. Looks like I won't be welcomed back any time soon.

I'm still pleased that I went. I have stories to tell, memories to recall. That's the best part. Oh and the whole getting a degree thing. Oops. Forgot about that...

So in light of graduation season, I thought I would leave you with a few words of wisdom:

'There is a good reason why they call these ceremonies 'commencement exercises.' Graduation is not the end, it's the beginning.'

-Orrin Hatch

Fingers crossed he's onto something there...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Library Spell

Morning seeks refuge amidst the
yellowed paper and faded print
leather bound tales of woe
and joy.

Tips of fingers trace the
pinched in curve where
page meets page
of open book.

Ears oblivious to worldly noise
I crawl inside the words,
deafened by them screaming
an enticing spell
of verse and rhyme.
My back arcs over the 'A's
and 'B's, I coil within
the 'me's and 'we's.'

Loneliness a forgotten affair,
there between the bonds of book
and I
find my friend's who make
magic with mystery,
an illusion, of poetry and prose.

When I leave my shelter
of words that never hurt me,
I stretch past.
Limbs ache from time spent
cramped between them,
eyes adjust to the change in light.

The only evidence of the
library spell?

A star filled sky.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Top Ten: Movies

We are back to the list. I seem to have an obsession with these. Note to self: must see some kind of list specialist concerning possible cure.

Soon I will morph into David Letterman, what with all the Top Ten I insist on creating (most of which are yet to be published; you have been warned). My lists are more refined. Take, for example, Letterman's 'Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas.' So silly. And too easy. Sneeze. Bees. Keys. Sleaze. Knees...nope, I'm out. Trickier than I thought.

Right now I'm talking about the talkies. Movies. Films. Whatever you call them, they're entertaining. Most of the time. They can be cheesy. Intriguing. Thrilling. Funny. Exciting. Moving. They can make you think, believe, dream. Or bash your head against a brick wall in vein attempt to erase the memory.

As with my Top Ten: Books list, I found this difficult. I own a lot of films. Hours of my life were stolen from me by watching some truly terrible ones. (Speed 2: Cruise Control, you owe me 2 hours 1 minute). That said, I like to think I'm qualified in knowing a good film when it hits me in the face. Popcorn at the ready:

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
2) Back to the Future (1985)
3) The Colour Purple (1984)
4) Schindler's List (1993)
5) The Godfather (1972)
6) Rear Window (1954)
7) Platoon (1986)
8) An Affair to Remember (1957)
9) Imitation of Life (1959)
10) WALL*E (2008)

So reader, what's on your Top Ten Movies list?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Auction

Silver speckled tea set,
angular handles,
curved spout,
fine letters engraved
on the underside.
And me,
sitting in the garden
aged four or five,
pouring air and dust
and dreams
into a cup, offering it
to my imaginary friend.
Sold for £150.

Mahogany bookcase,
deep shelves,
bobbled pattern,
thick lines carved
into wood coloured like
rich autumn leaves.
And Granddad
sifting through books,
mind roaming,
questioning Descartes
and Plato
and Rousseau.
Sold for £50.

Raggedy Ann doll,
white dotted
cobalt blue dress,
straight red yarn hair
that frames her
child drawn face.
And Nana
in 1923,
slumped on the floor
crying and
cuddling and
whispering that she
was her only friend.
Sold for £85.

Metal sewing thimble,
slate coloured,
thin lines imprinted
around the edge
And Ma,
holding brown thread,
to sew badges onto
my brownies sash,
frowning and
cursing and shouting
that the thread
just won't go through.
Sold for £100.

All these objects,
this junk,
this stuff,
my stuff
now sits in another garden,
another house
in other hands.
While I'm left
with nothing but
Only they can't be sold.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Legacy of Peter Pan

When I was three years old I danced my very first dance. Well, that's debatable. It was more like a bum wiggle. But the song that so inspired the wiggle was 'Don't stop till you get enough.' And I didn't. I 'danced' until my little legs could no longer do so.

The following year I was given a battered cassette tape labelled 'Bad' and a portable player from my sister's hand-me-downs. Clipping the player onto my skirt, I adjusted the massive headphones and pressed play.

The rest, as they say, is HIStory.

So far I've had a 21 year love affair with Michael Jackson's music. I spent most of 1988 to 1995 listening to the entire catalogue of hits from 'Off the Wall' to 'Thriller' and 'Dangerous.' Needless to say I was shocked when I heard the news of Jackson's passing. The reminder of death always leaves an unpleasant feeling. It hangs around, questioning our beliefs, our way of life, our future. It goes against what nature intended- that is-to live. Ironically, death is a part of life too but, when it happens, you never remember that. Why would you want to?

It is important to remember that Jackson has succeeded where so many others have failed. He left an amazing musical legacy that I doubt anyone will repeat. Or even come close. Despite his death he will continue to live- through this legacy. Regardless of how the media and some may have viewed him, he's left his mark on the world. One hell of a mark. Isn't that something?

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Importance of being Educated

Can you smell that? It's a bit of excitement with a whiff of anxiousness and a dash of pride. Yes. It's that time of year when millions of students start the first day of the rest of their lives: Graduation.

Next month I'll be one of those students. Except that I've done it all before. Yep. Been there, done that, worn the t.shirt. Instead of excitement and anxiousness there's just the stench of embarrassment.

My last graduation in 2007 was hell. I was forced to wear a scratchy black gown that bought me out in hives. And a cap which made my head sweat so much I looked like I'd been swimming. Then there's the endless sitting around, for hours. The kind of sitting that makes your arse so numb that it feels like a separate entity. Oh and the constant clapping. I'm all for congratulating my peers but jeez, I couldn't feel my hands for the rest of the week. The only good thing to come from that day was that I got to shake hands with Richard Attenborough who was Chancellor of the University of Sussex. Now he's the man.

So I find myself full of regret for agreeing to attend my upcoming graduation, part deux. And it isn't because I had a boring day the last time round. Sadly, I feel that 'further education' has turned into a bit of a farce. That's where the stench of embarrassment comes in.

90% of my brain (and my heart) hates me for feeling this way. But there's that 10% that can't be denied. The 10% that thinks education has become nothing but an excuse to get out of getting a real job in the real world. That believes by making university education so readily available, we've downgraded its value. It's such a harsh opinion to have but I just can't help it.

Going to university was always on my agenda. The reason my life for so long was study hard and study harder. I went off on a gap year to relax and have a good time, pre-empting that I would need all my strength in my future education.

But when I arrived at uni, I felt like I was surrounded by people on their own gap year. A stopgap. A bit of time to figure out what they really wanted to do with their lives. When students come out with things like, 'Oh I only need 40% to pass the first year,' well, you know there's a problem.

Education and its importance has always been drilled into me. Having a degree would further my career and widen my prospects. I've since discovered it's a bit of a hindrance. So many people have degrees nowadays, all fighting for the same jobs. How on earth are employers meant to separate the men from the boys? The good from the bad? It's just one big vicious cycle of mess.

Surprisingly, I don't regret going to University. The skills learned outside the lecture theatre have provided me with a greater wealth already. I'm independent, responsible, know how to cook and the social skills alone are surely a benefit. Plus I did learn. My brain got bigger. That's always a good thing. I just think that the education system needs to change. We need to adapt the way it is used. And make sure it's used for the right reasons.

Reader, what do you think?

Monday, 8 June 2009

I'm back baby!

While I am not one hundred percent and my walking can be likened to that of an old fart or a snail or possibly an old snail, I am feeling okay after my operation. Unfortunately, it was more serious than your average appendectomy; my appendix being the size of a foot when it should have been the size of a finger. Add that to the removal of a small part of my bowel and you've got some idea of the scar now trawling its way down from my navel. Not that you needed to know that. Jeez. I really should stop with all the sharing.

My stay in hospital was an eventful one. You would think that the Gods of Fate or whomever ordains our paths in life would have allowed me a quiet convalescence. Oh no. First, there's Evil Nurse. She's the one who doesn't really want to be there. Who sneers at the sound of help-alarms and tells everyone you've been nothing but hassle when really, you've been off your face on meds and not made a sound. Evil Nurse woke me on the first night of recovery by slapping my face. Just to make sure I was alive. The care provided in hospitals is first rate.

Then came Frances. The 69 year old lady in the bed opposite. She liked to talk. A lot. Particularly at 4am when the morphine was crawling through my veins, hypnotic and sleep inducing. Frances was erratic and confused, pulling out IVs and jumping from her bed. I once awoke to find her asking me if I was part of the conspiracy occurring in the ward. My 'yawn' had qualified me to join the 'scheme.'

This all really happened. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

But now normality has returned. I'm back. Kind of. In a half-hearted sort of way. I can't really laugh 'cos it hurts. Sneezing is out too. Plus any kind of bending down and spinning round. Man. This op has really taken all the fun out of life. Whatever will I do now?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The end of an Era

It has come to an end. My relationship appendix. Yes, sadly it is true. For 21 years we had no problems. We co-existed in harmony. I knew he was there, he knew I was here. I thought we'd be together forever. Until...

2005. He decided to be a bastard. I was studying at University, in the midst of deadlines and research when he decided to let himself be known. It started off as an annoying niggle. I brushed him off. He persisted. Before I knew it, he stabbed me constantly in the side. Oh the pain. The pain!

The Doc said he was rumbling, grumbling; that was all. Nothing to worry about. And so I got on with my life. I ignored the annoying niggle, the inconsistent stabs of pain. I turned a blind eye to his pleas for attention. No, I said. No! Leave me alone. Can't we go back to the way we used to be?

Sadly, we could not. And so this afternoon, we will end it. My appendix is being removed. This is why I will not be posting for a while. I need time to come to terms with my loss.

Fear not reader, I will return. Until then my lovelies. Until then...

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Ironic Bandwagon

My dad does it. Every night he reads the paper before stacking it with the rest of the week’s crumpled, old news. He also does this with cardboard. Empty Weetabix, Frosties and PG tips boxes are cut up in a prolonged, time-consuming fashion to be taken on their weekly trip to recycling.

So what is the meaning behind this environmental endeavour? I know my dad didn’t do this for the good of his health, or mine for that matter. It’s possible that we love our planet dearly and want to ensure future generations survival. More cynically, it’s because we’ve jumped on the eco-bandwagon as it catapults our society into an overwhelming sense of eco-panic.

Okay, so my dad may have been first on said bandwagon, but he’s definitely not the last. According to governmental statistics, as a nation, we are getting better at it too. Earlier this month it was reported that recycling rates have increased by 30% in the last year. This comes as no surprise. The idea of ‘green living’ and all that sits under the environmental belt has become one of huge importance over the last few years. Thus changing the odd habit into more eco-friendly ones is never far from our minds. In fact it’s everywhere.

Supermarkets stock ecological or ‘green’ merchandise, ranging from cleaning products to reusable bags for life. Websites pop up on Google searches reminding us to switch off our lights, turn off our TVs and insulate our homes. Adverts by retail giants encourage us to go for electrical products with the Energy Saving Recommended Logo. On TV, politicians claim to be environmental activists. Even the Academy Awards are in on it; the documentary film 'An Inconvenient truth' won an Oscar three years ago for the discussion of its global warming issues.

Even so, behind the ‘save the earth’ campaign, lurks an extreme rampant hypocrisy. Articles do their best to argue for eco issues, exerting their environmental prowess in the form of perplexing words such as ‘CO2 emissions’ and ‘carbon footprint.’ Next to said article is an expensive advert for a well-known airline which, ironically enough, emits the same amount of CO2 as a small country.

Similarly, the United Nations Climate Change Conference is to be held in Denmark for 10 days this December. The aim is to discuss the Kyoto Protocol; a ten year treaty hoping to reduce the harmful greenhouse gases which cause climate change. The annual meeting, however, attracts around 20,000 politicians and environmentalists, as well as the odd celebrity. The environmental cost of transport for all these people? Oh, only a few hundred thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions.

In addition, leaflets on voting for Green Parties are printed, posted and thrown away without so much as a glance or regret for the amount of trees wasted. Trees that could help decrease these harmful greenhouse gases, as well as moderating ground temperatures. Implicated supermarkets may very well produce green products, ban plastic bags and promote their trusty bags for life, but the revenue made on such commodities are pumped back into their already successful multi-billion pound businesses.

Sadly, nothing will change. My dad will carry on with his painstaking recycling methods. I will continue to re-use my bag for life until my baked beans fall out of the hole in the bottom. Eco-warriors will continue to camp in trees, remaining unwashed. But together, while the supposed ‘environmental’ consumerists reap the monetary rewards, we will leave the irony (and mess) of it all for the next generation.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies

Sigmund Freud thought childhood was a time fraught with oedipal complexities; lots of penis envy and castration anxiety. This coming from a man who believed cocaine wasn't addictive. Hmm...

No offence to Freud but childhood isn't that complex. Sure it's a difficult period of psychological and biological development, as well as a variety of challenges. But does anyone else remember it being fun?

It's the only time in your life when naivety and ignorance is accepted. When innocence isn't something to be ashamed of and responsibility is an enigmatic word only spoken by big people. It's also a time when the word 'enigmatic' evokes a puzzled frown.

Looking back there was something so comfortable about being a child. Everything in the world, even the most mundane, was looked on in wonder. Curiosity ran through the blood. Climbing a hill felt like climbing a mountain. Swimming ten metres felt like ten miles and the discovery of a worm wiggling in the mud was the most amazing find ever.

What happened to that fresh, excited feeling? Why does growing up suddenly make us feel stale? In Western cultures, coming of age is advertised as the best time of life. Which it is, mostly. As adults we gain independence and an invitation to a whole new world. Sex, gambling, smoking, driving, voting, marriage. They seem pretty novel at first but soon that novelty wears off and we're left longing for the innocence and freedom of childhood.

I don't want to go back. Apart from missing all the novelties, I still haven't figured out that whole time-travel conundrum. However, I think we must change our adult perceptions. Occasionally we should act our shoe size. Go outside and splash in puddles, dance in the rain and play on the swings. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Investigate. Discover. Look at the world in wonder again. Maybe the staleness will fade away.

That said, I'm off to look for worms in the garden. Oh dear. Freud would have a field day with that...

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Words to Live Your Life By

I am trying to write a play. I have already done this; my first attempt deemed a success. I feel, however, that was pot luck. A fluke. Last year there must have been a magical creative current flowing through the skies above my house that poured its imaginative contents into my brain.

But I stood outside last night, stared into the lifeless sky; the kind of sky that is neither grey nor white. There was no magical current flowing above me. Just grey rain from a dove grey sky.

Sadly, I am suffering with an acute case of ‘inspiration-lackus.’ All writers encounter such problems. It happens. Free-flowing words get tangled up and eventually we trip and stumble upon them. The words stop. The cursor blinks, the pen dries out and we panic. Our thoughts become clichéd and stale.

In this situation, I have to jolt myself from all the wallowing in self-pity. This is where my beloved quotations come in. I take pleasure in finding some pearls of wisdom scattered about the internet, hidden away in the many ‘Os’ of Google like lost treasure. As I am not an evil pirate who hoards her treasure, I thought I would share it with you:

‘Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.’

-Calvin Coolidge

It amazes me that words spoken over eighty years ago still have such resonance. However much we may argue against it, human work ethics have not changed in that time. We have and always will need to work hard at everything we do.

So despite my resentment at my blinking cursor and stale ideas, I must persist with my play. Without a struggle, without any effort, success has no meaning.

Wish me luck! :)

Saturday, 9 May 2009

To Me, Love from Me

Hindsight is a powerful thing. Magical some might say. That is probably why we don’t have such ability. The power of it is far too great for us mortals to handle.

Last week I read the God’s letter to his sixteen year old self. By God, I mean Stephen Fry. In it he talks of the difficulties surrounding his sexuality and the repercussions it had growing up. The letter was such an inspired idea that it sparked a mass of replies from regular Joe Bloggs, like you and me; all writing their own letters to their younger selves.

I sat down yesterday intending to read a couple of these letters. There’s something quite alluring about having a window into other people’s lives. I never thought I would spend over an hour reading pages and pages, peeking into hundreds of windows. Hundreds of souls. Because that is what it felt like. I had access to years of resentment and heartache. It’s been a long time since I’ve cried that much. I felt like I was bleeding tears.

It got me thinking. What would I write to my sixteen year old self? If I were to have the power of hindsight, what would I do with it? Some people, a bit like the Old Biff in Back to the Future Part II, would tell their younger selves to bet on winning races. Make the future a little bit richer. Other people would warn themselves away from trouble, be it people or otherwise. Make the future a little bit safer. And me? Read on reader and find out:

To me,

The year is 2009. Firstly, there are no aliens here, robots or flying cars. The Fifth Element, Total Recall and all Philip K. Dick books were not predictions as we so thought. I’m sorry. It’s a big let down. There’s more future to come so fingers crossed.

Secondly, I want you to stop. Put down the book, revision card and highlighter pen and breathe. Look out the window. There’s a world out there. Life. Education is important but you’ll waste enough of your future on it for you to make such an issue of it now. So go out. Enjoy yourself a bit more. Remove that scrunchie and let your hair down. Oh and by the way, you will regret ever wearing a scrunchie. I mean Carrie Bradshaw hates them. You will find out about Carrie and Co in about a year. Oh and don’t stress too much; she does ends up with Big.

I also want you to stop worrying what other people think. You are still doing this now and we are growing weary from all the worrying. Paranoia is not healthy. If you get a bitchy look from someone, it does not mean that this person hates you or that you have done something wrong; it just means they are jealous of something or their face is naturally like that. I’m afraid there have been no developments on a bitchiness cure. Yet.

Unfortunately you will meet a few more bastards on top of the ones you feel have already ruined you. I would name names and tell you to steer clear or murder them if murder didn’t result in prison but alas, I will not. I cannot. Because Lou these people, like it or not, will make you. They will be the reason you know when someone is feeling sad, lost and alone because you have felt that way. They will be the reason you can spot/smell/sense a complete arsehole/twat/bully ten miles away; a very good safe quality to have. In spite of all the crap that will naturally happen, you are still here. And you still have your heart. You are a lot stronger than you realise. A lot.

So just remember, everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. (I know how much you love quotations). Good luck Kid.

Love from Me

PS: When you go travelling in a couple of years, watch out for the homeless man hiding in a bush on Hollywood and Highland.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Playground games

In 1994, I spent the majority of my time in the playground running away from the person trying to 'tag' me. Back then I could hide in the girls toilets or behind a tree. Here in the blogosphere I cannot. There's no tree. There's no toilets. There's just time, space and many people tagging me at once.

Alas, I'm a little slow at response. I apologise. If I haven't responded to one of the kind awards I've been bestowed it doesn't mean they're unappreciated or unacknowledged. It's just that I forget to put them here on the blog. You see, I think too much and this thinking means that other details get pushed out. I'd be a super encyclopedia if it weren't for all the thinking.

Anyways, I was tagged. A few times. You know who you are. This time I have made the effort to participate in our playground's game of tag: 7 things about me:

A) Link to your original tagger and post these rules:
The lovely Alpha Buttonpusher tagged me. You should check out her blog. She always has some very insightful, thoughtful things to say.

B) Share 7 things about yourself:
I'm going to recycle my very first post on this blog. Most of you probably haven't read it so I'm not cheating. I swear.

1) When I was little, I used to bite glass. Seriously. There are loads of glasses in my house with tiny chunks missing from them (illustrating that I was a freakish child who bit glass and that my mum keeps random crap for many, many years).

2) I have a fear of foxes. When I was about five or six, I had nightmares that foxes would climb through my bedroom window and claw at my face. Even to this day whenever we see a fox in our garden, while everyone says ‘aww how cute’ inside my head I’m thinking: ‘die evil fox, die.’

3) My favourite word is 'bollocks.' It's just so expressive. If I could use it in every sentence, I would.

4) I am one of these people who need things to look forward to or else I lose the will to live.

5) I am the most accident prone person ever. If there is something to hit, fall over, fall on, I will do it. Even if there isn’t, I’d fall over myself. Hell, I’ve even caught my foot in my own trouser leg.

6) I love New York to the point of obsession. Can one have too many black and white photographs of the same NY skyline? The ‘official’ answer is yes. My answer is no.

7) I get so angry at books and movies with sad endings. They lead you on with their happy beginnings and happy middles and then the ending appears where the lead character dies and I’m left feeling like I’ve been stabbed in the chest. If I wanted to feel that way, I’d go out and get stabbed. And don’t give me all that ‘well, real life is like that…real life is tough’ bullshit. Books and films are about escapism. I don’t read books and watch movies for reality bollocks. I leave that to Big Brother.

C) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and links to their blogs:
Here goes people. Watch out. You may get tagged!

D) Let them know they've been tagged:
Meh. I'll get round to that later!

So there it is. I've run ragged around the blogosphere. I've had my fun. Now it's over to you my friends. TAG! You're it!