Sunday, 19 December 2010

TIGER BEATDOWN, BUT NOT BEATEN...



 You can't have missed the constant media hoopla surrounding the sexual assault and rape charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the past few weeks. Before the snow hit, the media seemed to be covering every minute of his court hearings and bail applications, especially since this has been happening in the UK. But what you may not have heard so much about is the reaction to the Assange case in the USA and boy, is it a shitstorm.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

HOLLOW LAUGHTER...


 Last Thursday marked two things. One was Thanksgiving, but the other was International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. This isn't just a day of awareness but the start of 16 Days of Action Against Gendered Violence when this often taboo subject can be discussed and action taken to prevent it and aid those who have already suffered its effects.

Here in London there have been events such a Rape Crisis fundraiser and the annual Reclaim the Night March last Saturday. I toyed with going to the march, but the cold weather and an invitation to go for cocktails sidetracked me. I also have some issue with the fact the march itself is female only. I understand some people think it should be a 'safe space' but I think it would be helpful to get a wider variety of men on side, not just the kind of right on guy who happens to be dating an outspoken feminist, but the kind of regular guy who doesn't know whether he knows any rape victims or feminists, but probably knows the type of man who thinks getting a girl blind drunk doesn't 'count'...


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

DING DONG! THE BELLS ARE GOING TO CHIME...



Unless the last 24 hours have been your annual cave retreat, you just can't have failed to have heard or seen the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement after 8 years together. The media has seized this rare piece of good news and have rolled with it to the point where everyone has had to talk about it and express some kind of opinion.


Let me say upfront that I am perfectly happy that William and Kate are deciding to tie the knot. They've been together a long time out of choice and seem to be a strong partnership who are very happy together and who have really thought about the responsibilities of marriage. But before you think I've turned into a crazed monarchist with a rom-com attitude, let me highlight why the Royal Wedding™ is chapping my ass...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON'T...


It's never a great week to be a victim of sexual violence in the UK, but this week is particularly awful and shocking...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING...


Something very interesting has been happening in London recently...the stranglehold of the 80s revival seems to be easing and a more 90s look seems to be coming into the shops and street. This is partly refreshing after a decade of ra ra skirts and flouro (as long as satin and chenille don't come back), but also deeply terrifying for someone like me who wore this stuff first time round. This is what it feels like to not be the youth of today anymore...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

AN ILL WIND...


 You'll have to forgive my recent blogging silence, but I've been keeping quiet for fear of being accused of not being ill by another nutbucket like Nadine Dorries...


Thursday, 9 September 2010

BYE BYE EVIL WEED...



It is now September, which means that I have definitely have given up smoking for more than six months. If I sound a bit vague about this it isn't because I don't care, but because in an attempt not to put pressure on myself I didn't actually note the day that I finished my last packet of cigarettes. It was somewhere at the end of January and it wasn't an entirely conscious decision to quit but an attempt to see how long I could go without buying anymore cigarettes...


The first month was pretty tough thanks to it being the 28 days of tedium we call February and the banging headache that accompanied my lack of nicotine. A few weeks without booze made it much easier to break the association of drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other and I was extremely pleased when on my first night out with a drink or two that I didn't fall prey to the demon weed. Apparently after years of drunk dialling Joe Camel, I have grown up and managed to delete his number...

And then almost without trying and without thinking about it, I just ceased to think about smoking. I was spending all my time around non smokers and it was refreshing not to have to always check my bag for the paraphenalia of fags, lighter and mints each time I went out or changed bag to match an outfit. I loved having £20 or 30 a month more in my purse and being able to go out for lunch or a coffee every so often rather than spending my time in the house, only popping outside to the patio for a quick cigarette in my slippers, because I couldn't afford both 'pleasures'.


Over six months after giving up, I have got past the urge to just have 'one little draw' of other people's cigarettes to see if I still I didn't like it. I don't feel like I've forgotten something if my bag just has keys, phone, purse and lipbalm in it. But I do keep forgetting that I used to smoke. It seems as alien to me now as wearing a school uniform everyday, yet I used to do both without thinking. It would no more occur to me to buy a packet of cigarettes right now than I would make the impulse purchase of a pet snake.(Although that might also be down to the fact Camel Lights have changed their packaging and the familiar pale blue packet no longer winks down at me in shops anytime I pop in!)


Oddly though I don't feel the slightest bit healthier for giving up smoking and the only reason my skin looks glowing in the past few months is the repeat prescription of Roaccutane. I smell nicer by default, but other than that I have no physical changes from quitting. I feel slightly cheated by this, but not enough to put me off my path of being smoke free. I've managed the whole summer without a cigarette to scare off the wasps...I think if I can do that, I can do this long term!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

GIVE US A SMILE, LOVE...



My usually cold dead heart was warmed slightly this week to see the issue of street harrassment making so many headlines. I'm not sure I've ever met a woman who hasn't had at least one comment about her looks or body aimed at her by a man who is a total stranger. Street harrassment is so widespread that pracrically the first thing everyone associates building sites with is smutty remarks rather than cement mixers and hard hats. But some people are trying to change this...

Recently the Guardian ran two articles on this subject. Firstly an article in the Bike Blog to highlight the sexist abuse female cyclists in particular get and to promote the new blog 101 Wankers that allows victims of harrassment to photograph the perpetrator and record where it happened on Google Maps. This takes the effective tactic that Hollaback started in New York a few years ago and makes it bike specific. The comments on this article were predictably depressing with many men especially unable to see the difference between an idiot in a car having a go because they are on a bike and abuse that is just because you are a woman.

The clear and concise Rosie Swash followed the bike blog article with one of her own that highlighted the very real and very common abuse and harrassment that women face daily when they have the audacity to travel to and from work, buy groceries or simply go about life like normal members of society. Over a hundred comments showing examples of sexual harrassment from strangers followed. The anger, fear and resentment this situation creates were palpable and for once, very few men interjected to ask why no one cared that someone had cut them up in their car earlier this week. This was a rare moment of female bonding over shared wounds and vunerability and it made me think back on my experiences of street harrassment.

Aside from the time a man in Dublin mistook me for a prostitute while I was standing on a street corner wearing hotpants and I could understand the confusion, each of these experiences has been in its own way life altering. That may seem melodramatic. How can one cat call be life changing? But it's the cumulative effect of those insults, propositions, assaults and questions that has altered the path of my life.

As a flat chested, but extremely confident and fairly flamboyantly dressed teen I have always attracted a lot of male attention in the street, but it has rarely been complimentary. Mostly it was mocking of my looks or informing me that they would make me a woman. Leers and jeers in the street were bearable, but by the time I left Belfast the harrassment had turned to physical assault on a semi regular basis with me being bitten by strange men so often it had ceased to be a notable event. This was accompanied with being slapped, pushed and punched on more than one occasion, usually for daring to ignore their attentions or reject them sexually. But since I grew up in the era of ladettes, around some fearsome drinking exploits and in a city famed for its violent tendencies, I didn't really question this situation despite finding it quite intimidating and at times a real blow to my self confidence.

Things calmed massively when I lived in Brighton with nary a cat call, let alone chunks being taken out of me on a regular basis. I assumed this change was down to living a much less drunken life and living in a slightly less turbulent town, but in all honesty I didn't really question it. I just got used to it very quickly and assumed England was rather more civilised than my hometown. Which meant that when I moved to London a few months later, it didn't even enter my head that it would happen there. Was I in for a shock...

Moving somewhere with a frenetically busy transport system simply created another opportunity for people to manhandle and intimidate women and I soon learned to usually avoid grabby hands and suspicious leaning in packed Tube carriages. And on the one occasion a fellow passenger managed to get his hands down the back of my jeans I happened to have a watermelon in my shopping bag that made a delightful sounds when colliding with his balls. I'm surprised more people don't realise that women carry such heavy handbags at times as a handy weapon!

I also made the most of the nightlife in London and began running the gauntlet of men and their teeth again on a fairly regular basis. On my 23rd birthday on a night in Soho, a total stranger sank his teeth into my neck with such viciousness that I ended up with a lovebite the size of a grapefruit with a set of teethmark bruises in the middle which were interesting to explain to my new uni mates, and somewhat embarrassing to explain to my mum and my boss. It was also the reason my birthday money that year went on a black poloneck that made me look like a spy.

Over the years I encountered many hands, comments and sets of gnashers in clubs, pubs and parties. Luckily pointy toed stilettoes were the shoe du jour at the time as I quickly discovered that bouncers never took the side of the damsel in distress. So common was their inability to step in and help you when you were being pawed, poked or threatened that it came as no surprise that the night I was bitten so badly in the Mother Bar that the injury eventually cost me my job and was so painful at the time that I finally snapped and slapped my attacker in the face, that the bouncers forcibly ejected me into the street in the wee hours, unable to contact my friends. To add insult to (literal) injury, I saw them offering my biter a beer on the house to apologise as I left.

I wasn't surprised by the actions of the bouncers, but I was shocked by the reaction of the others I told about my injury. My boss told me I shouldn't have been out in a bar without my boyfriend, my friends asked what I had done to provoke him and the police actually laughed out loud when I reported being assaulted and then ushered me to the door, damp eyed with mirth and with no intention of doing anything about it. Instead of raging against them, I concentrated on not getting fired and making sure I had a roof over my head.

I had been distracted and was only just questioning the attitudes and reactions to what was a vicious assault with a distinctly sexual overture when I was raped in the kitchen of my house by my flatmate's best friend one night before Christmas. Unsurprisingly people's reactions to my bite foreshadowed their responses to my rape. It just felt shocking to me because my life as I had known it had just imploded round my ears and every felt so raw and different to me in the wake of such violence that it took me a while to see the similarities. The wave of disbelief, victim blaming, minimising the events and sheer ignorance by the police in particular carried me into the amazing shitstorm of my second rape the following August without any chance of regaining control or my feet touching solid ground.

And that feeling of floundering without being able to find a solid surface to rest on continued for years, exacerbated by the insomnia and flashbacks of PTSD, until I began my therapy last year and quickly discovered that those seemingly isolated events of sexual and street harrassment before the rapes had altered my life as much as the more serious assaults. I had developed crippling agoraphobia because while I had been slow to see the similarities in people's responses to the different attacks, my brain had made the leap without prompting and I couldn't see the difference in dangers anymore. A man grabbing my behind or hissing sexual slurs at me in the street could only end in rape for me now.

This fear felt inevitable because I recognised the same feelings of fear, violation, humiliation and being degrading in being watched in the street like prey and actually being raped, making it impossible to separate them in my mind. The fact that the street comments and harrassment seemed to have been near constant in my adult life made me feel that everytime I left the house and saw a man, I was running the very real risk of being raped again.

Agoraphobia was a classic avoidance behaviour, designed to make me feel safer. As was trying not to take the last Tube home, or a late nightbus or walk past a pub at kicking out time or wearing a skirt or dress than exposed any flesh that might catch someone's eye. Weeks of painstaking CBT unravelled these fears, so tightly held for years that I didn't even realise I had them. And once the fears had been exposed, we worked on debunking them, showing that while I did experience unwanted sexual attention in the street, it was much less frequent that I thought and that it had never actually ended in rape.

Therapied up to the hilt, I am slowly regaining my confidence over the past few months. I have worn a skirt and a dress. I have taken nightbuses, gone to late night bars and walked around the market alone. I have also perfected my unapproachable bitch-face to a level where even the pushiest of charity muggers let me walk past unchallenged. Even a leering drunk who looked like Boris Johnson's lovechild who tried to paw my breasts the other week on the Tube was dealt without major incident.

I think I'm ready to stop hiding away and ready to get angry instead. Thrilling as it would be to wield my heavy handbag like a lethal weapon and inflict some pain on the catcallers and harrassers, I shall take the moral high ground instead and lend my support to the various campaigns around to raise awareness of the issue especially amongst the police and hopefully make the streets a less intimdiating place. I can't help but think that for every woman who finds this behaviour an annoyance, there is another like me for whom it feels like a personal reminder of the time they were the victim of a sexual assault. But no matter how any women interpret it, they all deserve the chance to live their lives without harrassment at all...

Monday, 16 August 2010

GET STUFFED...

Reading the papers today, nursing a cup of tea and feeling slightly grumpy on a Monday morning, I stumbled across an article that elicted a heartfelt 'awww'. According to a survey by budget hoteliers Travelodge, a third of British adults still take their teddy to bed each night...

Friday, 6 August 2010

PANIC STATIONS



Just when I thought I'd got a handle on my greatest fear in life™ and stopped freaking out everytime I see a wasp, along comes fear in a new form...an article in the Daily Mail about a massive influx of the little bastards in Britain this year.

I can just about cope with rightwing newspapers that spout thinly veiled bile in the form of badly researched articles. I can almost tolerate vespula vulgaris loitering around all summer. The two together are enough to induce a full scale aneurysm in me.

Although I did manage to look their large and somewhat lurid photos without vomiting, bursting into tears or having to take a Valium even if I didn't much enjoy it. That and the fact I haven't screamed while outside even once this year makes me think that hypnotherapy did wonders!



Wednesday, 4 August 2010

MANY SHADES OF BLUE....

This week, nestled in amongst advice on Breton sweaters and eating outside, is a gently effective article in the Guardian about depression. Without being melodramatic Mark Rice-Oxley recounts his experiences with serious depressive illness and his attempts to recover. It spoke deeply to me.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

LIKE A SHOT...

 I am embarking on yet another new passage in my life and giving up my beloved hormonal birth control...

This may seem like an overly personal thing to post on the internet, but I think blogging about it is the probably the easiest and fairest way to warn you all that I may be going slightly nuts for the next few weeks (or months) so you can take appropriate action involving underground bunkers and tin hats.

So, you ask, if this birth control is beloved, why are you giving it up? The answer to that is that it is not out of choice. After my long summer of Roaccutane last year I had perfect smooth movie star skin. For three whole weeks...before it erupted in an angry oily pustulent mess that even a fourteen year old wouldn't tolerate. When I finally got an appointment with the dermatologist, he was fairly sure the problem was being caused by the progesterone in my Depo Provera injection. The only way to find out was to stop getting my shot.

That dark day dawned this week and I'm not looking forward to doing without my hormones. While hormonal birth control seems to send a lot of women into a downward spiral of mood swings and misery, it has always been a great thing for me. I started taking the Pill at 17 and almost immediately felt calmer and more level generally. Unfortunately the oestrogen in the Pill isn't suitable for me thanks to my pesky gallbladder problems, so about 9 years ago I switched to Depo.

I've never met another woman who actually likes the contraceptive injection. Tales of mental health problems, heavy bleeding and massive weight gain have always accompanied it in conversation. I've had none of those problems and have revelled in the years I haven't needed to bother having a period. If I could continue to take it for the rest of my life I would, but I've been tripped up by my lifelong nemesis in the shape of my complexion. And true to form, I'm desperate enough for good skin that I'll risk being hormone free.

So if in the next few months I turn into a raging raving lunatic with steam coming out my ears, please be nice enough to ignore that fact and compliment me on my lovely complexion instead. That should be enough to slay the hormone-less beast inside me!















Monday, 19 July 2010

A FINE VINTAGE...

 Monday morning dawned with some good news...the Daily Mail has decided at which arbitrary age women are acceptable to them and for the next 8 or so weeks, I fit the bill! Yes, 31 is apparently the age at women have reached their peak appeal.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

TWO IS COMPANY...


 Two years ago, my life was a mess. Not just the kind of mess that you or your best friend notice, but the kind of multi-car pile up that even total strangers can sense is a disaster zone...

Saturday, 12 June 2010

WORLD CUP WEARY...

England are currently playing their opening match in the World Cup against the USA. As you can see from this post, I am not watching it. As a non-English person with a spectacular apathy toward football, tonight (and the next month) holds no allure for me.

Major sporting tournaments like the World Cup always give me pause for thought. All too often they split the UK in its individual countries and force people to re-assess their loyalties to more than just a team.

Born and brought up in Belfast by one Northern Irish and one Scottish parent, I think of myself as Northern Irish first and foremost, alternately describing myself as Irish around people who can't disintinguish the two parts of the island of Ireland. I hold a British passport and feel very British around the subjects of tea, manners and queuing, yet find it very odd to actually describe myself as British to people. I have lived in England for 10 years, made my home here and yet I would pitch a pink fit if anyone called me English...

Monday, 24 May 2010

FEMINIST HULK HAS NOTHING ON ME RIGHT NOW...



Temperatures are rising at my house...not because of this unexpected dalliance with summer, but because the nation's press has got its collective knickers in a twist about the new Lib-Con coalition plans to allow rape defendants anonymity in court before conviction. Listening to the collective handwringing over this piece of legislation is causing me some angst.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

OVER BAR THE SHOUTING...


 After a year of speculation about an election, a month of actual campaigning, one night of results and five days of coalition talks, Britain finally has a new government...and it's one very few people were expecting!

David Cameron's Conservative Party failed to get an overall majority, so they have entered into a coalition with the unlikely bedfellows of Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats. This is the political equivalent of one those cute animal stories where a lion adopts an orphaned owl and they snuggle together adoringly across the species.

In fact watching Dave n' Nick's press conference from the rose garden at Downing Street earlier, I wouldn't have been surprised if they started snuggling up in front of the cameras themselves. It was like the conclusion of one of those rom coms where the protagonists 'hate' each other until they admit they just can't keep their hands off each other. Two former political foes billing and cooing at each other amid the mid-May birdsong.

For someone who has been pretty much glued to the rolling news since polls closed on at 10pm on the 6th, following each crazy twist and turn like a political junkie on a rollercoaster, this giggle-fest was almost the last straw for my weary soul. It took a lot of willpower not to reach for a stiff drink at 2pm to make it all go away.

As someone who has consistently voted for the Lib Dems since 2001 in all elections, even the last London Mayoral Election when they stood the weirdest candidate they could find, I am feeling somewhat discombobulated. My vote for a pro-European party that opposes Trident and supports financial breaks for poorer people had got an old Etonian elected as PM. But it had also allowed the usually sidelined third party to have five Cabinet seats and force a referendum on electoral reform. My feelings on the subject cannot keep up with the pace of change.

Vince Cable finally gets a shot at bringing level-headedness and foresight to the Treasury. This almost makes up for the man child George Osborne getting Chancellor. Cameron also creates a Cabinet almost entirely of elected politicians rather than the large numbers of unelected representatives from the House of Lords Labour had. The Lib Dems manage to get the Tories to agree to increased tax thresholds and Capital Gains tax along with that aforementioned referendum. Maybe this LibCon love in isn't so bad?

And then you realise that Cameron's Cabinet has one solitary woman onboard and she's holding three positions at once. Yes, Theresa May confirms stereotypes of multi-tasking and takes on Home Secretary, Minister for Women and Minister for Equality. This wouldn't be so bad if she didn't have a record as long as her arm for voting against measures of equality, especially on abortion limits and reproductive rights for gays and lesbians. It would seem that the sole woman in the Cabinet hates women.

I hardly have enough political ire left for the fact that certifiable right wing nut job Liam Fox will be Secretary for Defence while William Hague brings his brand of narrow mindedness to being Foreign Secretary. The fact that social conservative Iain Duncan Smith, a man who can barely open a milk carton according to those in the know, will be in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions makes me fear that I will soon be blogging (and begging) from the poorhouse.

I like to think that once the political furore dies down and news specials no longer replace Eastenders at the last minute as political correspondents look shell shocked, I will be able to get my head around all the political upheaval of the past week. I might even been able to consider the whole coalition rationally rather than feeling like I've been punched in the chest politically each time I realise what has just happened. I just wonder if I'll be able to do it before the coalition is over in five years time?

ETA: about 30 seconds after I posted this, Baroness Warsi became the first British Muslim woman to hold a Cabinet position....see what I mean about non stop?





Thursday, 6 May 2010

NERVES OF STEEL

Well, I've done my civic duty, put my Xs in the boxes earlier today and voted in the most important General Election for a decade. Voting ends in a couple hours, so it's more or less over bar the shouting and my apprehension is turning to excitement...

You see, I am a (not so) secret political geek and I enjoy few things more than sitting up all night watching election coverage. It's long been a source of disappointment to me that thanks to the late advent of rolling news coverage I missed out on watching the 2000 George Bush debacle unfold in the wee hours. I've made up for it by watching every bit of election coverage possible since then, even local council results. The latest US Presidential race will be a hard night to beat as I watched it at home while talking to a multitude of interested parties around the world thanks to the internet.

Tonight however I shall be going old school and watching the results in the comfort of my own home with my brother who just happens to be the only person I know who is even more of a political geek than me. We both did A Level politics at the same school in Belfast, taught by a man called Mr Foster who had such an all-encompassing love for the subject that he used to get up at 4am to record specific programmes from the World Service onto cassette tape. His first wife may have left him for such things, but his pupils loved him for it. Classes were hours of debate and involvement that even the sulkiest teen couldn't help but enjoy.

I'll be thinking of Mr Foster tonight as my brother and I open another beer and try not to start a politically charged argument around 2am. But not til I've finished watching Come Dine With Me...

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

TENTERHOOKS...

 

Tomorrow is the Big Day. Britain is finally going to the polls for a General Election after what seems like the longest campaign in the history of the world. Normally I feel a sense of relief at this point because even as a political junkie there is only so much election talk I can take. This time however I am alternating between butterflies in my stomach and a sinking sensation...

This is because both the Conservatives and Labour have a real chance of getting into power and I can't quite decide which is a scarier prospect. A party that ruined the country irreparably in the 80s or a party that ruined the country irreparably in the 00s? A Prime Minister who has only the interests of the rich at heart or a Prime Minister who kow-tows to the bankers no matter what? The horns of this dilemma are big enough to be hung on the wall and shown off.

It may not surprise you to hear that I will be voting for the Lib Dems. I've been voting for them for a while now thanks to a dislike of the Tories that comes from growing up in the 80s and a lingering resentment of Labour's actions over the Iraq War. This time though I'm one of the cool kids thanks to the recent outbreak of Clegg-mania rather than a political oddball. 

I'm not sure the Lib Dems are any better than the Tories or Labour in some ways, but they are different and a change is as good as a rest. I don't expect them to be perfect, but I also think they might manage not to destroy our economy, make the rich even richer and embroil us in an illegal war. I'm willing to give that a go.

None of the parties have spoken to me as a young woman. Especially a single, childless, unemployed woman with health concerns and a feminist mind set. Every policy concerning women concentrates on them being mothers above all else. Tough shit if like all the women in this country you happen to be multi-faceted and capable of more than one thing at once. You don't matter in 2010 in the UK (but then neither do single childless men so maybe I should chalk that one up to equality?)

Women politicians have been all but invisible in this campaign. Admittedly I'm happy to see a less of Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman toeing the party line every time they open their mouth, but it would also be good to have seen women represented by more than Diane Abbott larking about on This Week or Sarah Teather discussing political theme tunes on Newsnight. Although compared to the terrifying lack of black and ethnic minority candidates or representatives, I'm being churlish to complain.

Despite the sudden burst of national enthusiasm for the Lib Dems, I think the rest of the tone of the election campaign sets the scene for the next Parliament. No matter who gets in, there will be much more obfuscating about issues the electorate actually want to discuss, more reliance on how politicians look on TV than how they work with their constituents, 1950s style focus on the leaders' wives, a total lack of discussion about crime and a lot of dithering about electoral reform without any solid policies.

It's a depressing outlook to have on the country you live in, but it's even more depressing to think that it might all get worse come Friday. So make sure you all use your vote tomorrow no matter what and even if we can't salvage the situation, you're at least entitled to bitch about it for the next five years!


Monday, 12 April 2010

OBSESSION...

As I might have mentioned here before I gave up smoking about 4 months ago. I do however still have one incredibly addictive habit that I couldn't give up if my life depended on it. My drug of choice is Carmex...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

YOU BET!


I put a bet on the Grand National today for the first time in my life. I put a fiver on Nina Carberry and Character Building to win this most famous of horse races. I'd love to tell you it's because I'm such a feminist that I like to support my fellow women in their endeavours, but it was really because it was a childhood dream of mine to be the first woman to win the Grand National.

In fact I think I still harbour a slight belief that this will happen despite not having ridden a horse for nigh on 20 years and not being a jockey. I blame it on an over-active imagination and a childhood obsession with the movie (and to a lesser extent the book) National Velvet. Seeing Elizabeth Taylor and The Pie romp home in glorious movie star Technicolor definitely put such a notion firmly in my head. The fact that I must have watched that film about twenty times in childhood simply cemented this slightly bizarre ambition.

Fast forward a few years and other things overtook my childhood obsession with horses and Channel 4 stopped showing this movie every other week. In fact, the last time I saw it was under a pre-med just before having my gallbladder removed and it made absolutely no sense in my doped up stupor and spoiled it slightly for me. But when the National rolls round each year and a female jockey is due to ride, I am always mentally backing her to win even if she's riding the 3 legged Shetland Pony at the back.

Nina Carberry came in a most respectable seventh today. My short lived career as a gambler is over and I'm secretly pleased that someone else hasn't fulfilled my childhood ambition before me yet...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

NEW BEGINNINGS (OR SHEER TERROR...)


This week sees me finishing my PTSD therapy and going out into the real world alone. It's a strange sensation. I do feel much less anxious and traumatised than I did 18 weeks ago, but I'm also oddly nervous. The last 3 years have all been focused toward getting this much needed therapy and the five months of the therapy have been concentrated on working through my trauma; it had never occurred to me until now that I would at some point be living life post-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And I'm not quite sure how to handle it...

I'm not magically cured, but I am much improved on a even a few short months ago. I'm not suffering almost constant flashbacks anymore, I am sleeping quite well even 3 nights a week and I've been given the tools to handle the continuing problems better. For the first time in 5 years, the world seems like a place with possibilities rather than just a succession of challenges to be endured and while I'm delighted by the change of view, I'm also slightly daunted by the sheer amount of opportunity and choice out there.

The past 6 years have been heavy on stress and trauma and rather light on choice and confidence and it's proving surprisingly tricky to remind myself that the second experiences are welcome in my life and here to stay. I still feel strange asserting my desires or choices in anything, even a minor thing like which bar or restaurant to visit. Part of this is having had my feelings trampled over by unsupportive agencies and friends for a long time and part of this is because I have been so enveloped in trauma and pain, I haven't wanted to poke my head outside my shell and assert myself around people I know. This is something I have to work on, but it's hard to know where to begin apart from standing in front of the mirror and telling myself "I'm worth it"...

In between positive affirmations, I also need to find ways to structure my never-ending days to give myself routine and purpose while challenging my remaining agoraphobia. This is made slightly trickier by the fact it can't really cost any money thanks to my restrictive budget. Shopping sprees and endless day trips are not particularly feasible, maybe more long walks, trips to the library and other educational sounding endeavours methinks. I was hoping to expand my social repertoire and my skills set and take up a course one day a week in cookery. Sadly I have been somewhat thwarted at my first hurdle by the fact there are almost no classes that involve cooking for fun during the day in London that don't cost hundreds of pounds. Time for a rethink already!

I'm slightly at a loss for ideas after sitting around in my pyjamas watching Diagnosis Murder for several years, so any suggestions to kickstart my new (hopefully dynamic) life would be gratefully received...

Monday, 8 March 2010

INTERNATIONAL WOMENS' DAY (or excuse my rant...)



That's right, it's the 8th of March again when we all stop for a minute and think about being a woman, rather than the other 364 days of the year where we just get on with being women. I'm interested to see that (here in the UK) it is also Mothers' Day this weekend, meaning that both women-centric days of the year fall in the same week. This piques my interest because if the media is to be believed right now being a woman is synonymous with being a mother these days.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

BOOKWORMS APPLY WITHIN...

Today is World Book Day when readers of the world unite over the joy that books give them. I am definitely one of those people. Books have been a constant source of enjoyment and companionship in my life since I was knee high to a grasshopper and it's a love that shows no sign of abating.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

BE MY VALENTINE?


Today is Valentine's Day, supposedly the most romantic day of the year. I have spent it indoors, full of the cold and trying to avoid the sheer abundance of Valentine's related media and merchandise that seems to be around this year. I don't know if the desperate attempt to sell stuff in a recession or the ever increasing commercialisation of society, but it seems relentless this year.

I am lucky that I don't really care about being single any day of the year and that nobody else seems too bothered about it either. I have escaped the single girl cliches of having a mother desperate to dress up in pastels and wear a big hat or friends who feel sorry for me being on the shelf in my 30s. But for some reason this year, my single status is causing momentarily malaise today.

It might be because being cold-ridden I have missed out of the chance to stuff myself with dim sum in honour of Chinese New Year which also falls today, but I think it's because this is the first year in a while that I have actually been in the market for a date thanks to an online dating profile. And it turns out the men I might be dating look like a much less appealing prospect than ever being alone.

While my date back in November turned out to be a most enjoyable evening of laughter, chat and Belgian beers, it also happened to be with the Least Dynamic Man on Earth™. I suggested the date, organised the date, re-organized the date when he couldn't make it, had to send him directions to the date while sitting waiting for him and had to order the drinks all night and ask for the bill at the end. Putting this down to him being easy going, I was quite keen to see him again. He asked me out again in the last week of November. I told him that would be great and to let me know when was good for him...

He replied in January to say that he wasn't drinking for the next few weeks after Christmas, but that he would be free in a fortnight from then if I fancied a drink. I realised he wasn't just being laid back or polite when he was allowing me to set the pace for the date, he was simply born without a dynamic gland. Barely able to contain my apathy at such a tempting offer, I sent him a message saying I was seeing someone else and left it at that, relieved yet terrified to have decoded why he was single after one date.

The only thing I have been seeing since then is the blur as my head repeatedly hits the desk upon reading another message in my inbox. There was the 28 line text speak 'poem' that read like a stalker's manifesto and several messages complaining that I don't like curry and therefore must be boring, uptight, a prude, not English or a mixture of the above. Then there was the man who was wearing a different polo neck sweater in each of his photos and who wanted to take me to a small island on the Thames to drink coffee and never let me leave him. But I think my favourite was the man who IM'd me the other night to ask if men actually find me attractive despite being so pale? (Although maybe this explains why no one ever replies to my messages...)

I'm not sure how to rectify this situation...change dating site? Develop a selection of cheesy chat up lines? Take up a night class? Batten down the hatches and start adopting feral cats in droves? Drink gin in large quantities? Any and all suggestions gratefully received!



Saturday, 6 February 2010

SMOKE SIGNALS


I have not been blogging much recently, mainly due to the fact I am attempting to give up smoking and every hour of the day is taken up with trying to distract myself from thinking about cigarettes. This seems to have involved going to bed about 8.30 most nights, not leaving much time to blog.


I have been smoking for more years than I would care to remember and it has been a social crutch for me for most of that time. I am not just giving up cigarettes, I am giving up the habits of a lifetime. So far it is going quite well, mainly due to giving up drinking as well to avoid temptation. I have already started to find other people's cigarette smoke quite repulsive and being annoyed by people smoking in the ticket hall at Victoria station. I hope this means I am losing my love for the filthy weed rather than I am turning into one of those frightful born again non smokers, but I apologise in advance if that happens!


I was spurred into giving up smoking by my friend G's amazing acheivement of knocking a 30-a day habit on the head in only a few weeks. How hard could it be to give up my 2 or 3 a day in comparison? I thought about how much money I would save, how I wouldn't have to be a social pariah standing outside in the cold and how much healthier and alive I would feel and encouraged by how stupid I felt standing around shivering in the recent snow, I had my last cigarette just over 3 weeks ago. And promptly developed a headache which has not left me since...


Tired and crotchety, I went to see my doctor this week to see if she could help me shift my permanent headache. She grudgingly gave me some ibuprofen and told me that since I wasn't using nicotine replacement therapy to give up smoking, it wouldn't last and I'd be back on the cigarettes by Easter. Annoyed by her lack of encouragement, but determined to prove her wrong, I have decided to blog about quitting smoking so that everyone who knows me can help me stick to my guns and remind me that I am now a non-smoker or simply shame me into avoiding cigarettes in future! I promise not to bite...

Sunday, 31 January 2010

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS...



Five years ago today my life changed immeasurably for the better when I was given the keys to my brand spanking new flat courtesy of Lambeth Council. I signed my name on the tenancy agreement, waved goodbye to the homeless hostels that been offering me shelter and promptly burst into tears...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

SNOW DAYS



As you have all noticed, it's been absolutely Baltic out there recently and most of Britain has ground to a halt under the snow and ice. Well, I am no different to the rest of the country...

The cold weather combined with my journeying over the festive period means I have been hibernating for the past week or so. It's too cold to go outside and I have a pile of new books from Christmas and some leftover Terry's Chocolate Oranges to occupy me. Normal service will be resumed when it thaws!