Saturday, 31 December 2016

'This Time Next Year...'

Why thank you to Alice Marshall for suggesting I do this lovely tag that's making the rounds in the blogging world; apparently it's inspired by that ITV show which features guests making resolutions a year ago and then we immediately get to see them 1 year on and see what progress they made. Pretty cool concept for a show, I gotta say. I'm excited/terrified to do the same on this blog - although my resolution transformation won't be quite as fast, it'll be a case of posting on 31st December 2017 saying something like 'hey guys, these are the things I wanted to do and these are the things I was actually able to, oops'. That's my prediction, anyway. Let's hope I surprise myself. 

Now I do this kinda thing most years, although maybe not as seriously as I once did back when I was at uni. I am sharing some of my New Year's Resolutions here for all to see, in the hope that a) it'll make me actually complete or at the very least attempt them, and b) it may inspire others, you gorgeous readers, to add some to your list and/or share yours with me, too! 

Yeah, so 2016 was a bit of a shit storm in places. I had some good times in amongst that, though. But I'm ready for changes. 2017, let's have you. 

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016: a year on the blog.

Yeah, so, this year has been...turbulent. That's the word. I would run through some of the shocking headlines, but to be honest I doubt very much that anything is truly *shocking* any more. Some bad shit has gone down. We have a tough future ahead - a future in which some of the greatest pop and comedy icons are absent and some rather questionable authority figures will be pressing all the big buttons. Let's leave it at that. But we got this, guys. For every 1 big bad thing that happens, there has to be at least 10 little good things. 

I went through a lot this year, personally. My relationship of 2 years ended, I got a new job, my medical situation was up in the air as per but compared to previous years it was a breeze...I also read 68 books over the 12 months. Not bad. I am always happy to reflect on recent reads, and recommend titles wherever possible, and you readers are always so lovely about my bookish posts soooo I thought I'd run through my Goodreads 'read' shelf and pull out some highlights – then intersperse them with posts I wrote around that time as well, both personal and bookish. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Where I'm at: severely lacking in happy.

'Unhappy' is perhaps one of the saddest words in existence. And not simply because it means sad, it actually goes one better (or worse) and means not happy. Like, not at all. It doesn't bullshit about that. There is a distinct lack of happiness in the word. It sounds half-baked, half-arsed and underwhelming. It's a disappointment of a word. It's a shrug accompanied by a 'meh'. But it's also quietly devastating. It creeps up on you, as a word, much like the actual unhappiness. It carries weight but will often disguise itself in gentle apathy. 

Yeah, I've been very unhappy recently. But why?, you may ask. That is what I keep asking myself. Why, why why. Why, though?
Well, I have done some searching within myself – and a lot of crying, like serious crying, like unable to stop my bottom lip wobbling, voice pitching and jaw straining like a major emotional gurn fest or something – and I think I have an idea what it could be.
It's a myriad of things. It's rooted in something deep, right in the basement of my mind to the point where it's mistaken as the normal subconscious, sure, but it's also in a...smattering of little things on the higher levels. It's made up of lots of smaller sadnesses. 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Some books I GAVE as Christmas presents!

I blogged before Christmas, advising y'all on books that make good presents. Now that awkward post-Crimbo week that we all secretly love because hey, leftover food and no work (for the lucky folks, that is) is beginning, and I thought I'd share what books I got my family and friends as gifts on the 25th

I swear I'm not showing off (okay, maybe a little, sorry but I worked hard and did good), I just want to share a few more books that I love and now my loved ones are enjoying. I'll also add in specifically why I bought each book, I won't just sell them to you!  

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Much Ado about this play...

It's no secret that I have endless love for the Royal Shakespeare Company. This love has been blooming within me since I first experienced their magic years ago when I studied Drama GCSESince then I've taken every opportunity to see their flawless creations. This year I was fortunate in that I got to see and review every one of their shows at the Barbican Theatre ('Doctor Faustus', 'The Alchemist', 'Cymbeline' and 'King Lear') and the most fantastic 'Much Ado' I ever did see at the Haymarket. I'll be reviewing that in this post, but I must start it by saying thank you RSC, for being so excellent always. 

(Source: my excellent Twitter. Obvs.)

Cool. Now, let's crack on with some reasons you simply must see 'Much Ado About Nothing' by the Royal Shakespeare Company while it's at the Haymarket Theatre, running alongside 'Love's Labours Lost'! 

Friday, 16 December 2016

6 books to give as Christmas presents.

This Christmas, I am mostly giving books. This is something I'd probably do anyway, to be fair, but of course I am that much more inclined to shop that way this year as this will be my first Christmas as a bookseller. BUT please believe me when I say that is not simply down to the sweet discount I get at my place of work – nor is it because I get a delightful amount of book mail. The reason I am giving books is because, in my opinion, there are few things you can give as gifts that are more personal and thoughtful. 

Now, I don't want to tell you what to buy your loved ones for Christmas. I wouldn't. Enough customers at work ask me to do that anyway *rolls eyes forever*. No, I just want to help y'all out and mention a few books that would be perfect gifts – and maybe they should be on your Christmas list! 

1. The Journey, by Francesca Sanna.
(Ages 0-100, tbh)

This book fell into my lap at work, and like so many other picture books I have read recently it is not only stunning to look at but also has the most powerful message within. I really feel that more adults should read picture books; all my friends who are parents will say over and over how much they love reading them to their kids and then how much they have come to mean to them, too. The Journey tells the story of a family of refugees having to flee and escape no matter what. It's not for the faint-hearted. 

This little stunner was published by Flying Eye Books and is endorsed by Amnesty International

2. My Dad Wrote A Porno (The fully annotated edition of Rocky Flintstone's Belinda Blinked) by Jamie Morton, Alice Levine, James Cooper & Rocky Flintstone.
(Ages 18+, because whoa erotica alert)

This podcast is excellent and so goddamn novel. I have come (heh heh) to love the makers and hosts of it so so much. So this book appearing on a table near the till at work got me squealing (hehehe). While I may not buy it myself as I feel I've already read it, having binged on the podcast for weeks now, it is definitely worth a look for you Rocky virgins...! 

3. Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig.
(Ages 16+ perhaps, due to tough subject matter)

Yes, I have blogged about this book approximately 6 billion times, but it recently won the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for non-fiction and I am once again overcome with excitement for it and its magical messages. This book helped me make sense of my muddled brain when it was most buried in darkness. Buy it ASAP – and preferably the paperback, as y'know, I'm totally quoted in it... 

4. I'll Be Home for Christmas, by so many amazing YA authors, like damn, see the full list here!
(Ages 13+, methinks.) 

I have been excited about this book ever since I received it from the lovely folks at Stripes. It's a collaborative effort in aid of Crisis; some of the bestest YA authors (plus 1 fab competition winner!) have each contributed a short story about the idea of home at Christmas time. I know I am very fortunate in that I have a home, and a family, but reading this book made me that much more aware of those who are not in such a lucky position. Whether that's because they've recently moved house due to family bust-ups or deaths, or if they are afraid to confront what awaits them at home, or they simply do not have a place to lay their head each night. This book is all kinds of important and awesome. 

5. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur.
(Ages 16+, because ouch)

This little book of poems broke my heart, then mended it and coated it with something sweet and hopeful. I cannot talk about it enough. I wanna buy it for everyone. It's been a long time since I read such a gorgeous collection of words, that somehow are so immense in such a teeny parcel – they trickle in gently at first, and before long you're in it and you're feeling everything. 

6. Matilda, by Roald Dahl.
(Ages 9+, probs)

Because c'mon, everyone needs some old school magic and a beautiful quirky story to distract us from this mad world and remind us what's important – and how fantastic an imagination really is.

There you have it, 6 perfect reads that are especially ideal to give to others – or ask for yourself – at this festive time of year. 
Please do let me know if you've already read or are planning to get any of these books, and maybe after Christmas we can all discuss what bookish treats we were given! 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Just Some Things #10 : Jack Connell.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works...
I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen entirely at random most of the time – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish.

When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

This post features the wonderful Jack Connell, a dear friend of mine since the early days of uni, when we could be found on our laptops in the depths of St Lizzie's halls; he is currently a learning support assistant at Peter Symonds College as well as a freelance proof reader, in possession of a BA and MA in Creative Writing, and his latest creative project takes flight in January 2017 (link below). 

His prompt was: List 3 people you consider enemies. Why?
And he has chosen to write as Tiresias, his character in the upcoming webseries '314 Olympia Way'.

1) Athena.
It’s appropriate her sigil is the owl, because owls only look smart. I worked at a bird sanctuary in high school, and they were right bastards to train. Their brains spend so much time controlling their optic nerves that you can’t even tell them to fly back. Imagine, all that processing power doing only one thing. With owls, it’s finding prey at night. With Athena, it’s finding new ways to get on my tits.

This isn’t me being catty. Not entirely, anyway. I know a few of her housemates well enough to go drinking socially with them a couple of times, but Athena’s the only one of them that does sports. Her blood is 90% Wetherspoons pitcher. Neither one of us would back down. I ended up - quite literally - blind stinking drunk.

The hangover evolved into a migraine, evolved into a white dwarf right in the centre of my head. I couldn’t see properly for six hours. I had to go defend my thesis and secure my funding the next day. Just about blagged it. Either Athena knew about that (so she’s a malicious harpy) or she didn’t (so she’s an idiot). It doesn’t matter. She’s chosen to roost in my library, and damned if I’m going to make things easy for her. Reap the whirlwind, darling.

2) Hera.
Don’t mean to be shady here, but with Hera, sometimes her enemies and her friends are the same people. I genuinely don’t think she can form a meaningful relationship any other way. Her and Zeus are practically Sid and Nancy, if Sid could shoot lightning out of his arse. Conflict drives her, and brings out the best in her.

I say this as a full-fledged frenemy, and as her student mentor/occasional bit on the side. Some of our best interactions are us sniping at each other over the barricade. If we started a country, throwing shade would be the
national sport. Bonds are made through the caustic fire of her wit. She’s a complete moral vacuum and her boyfriend’s done unspeakable things to my property, but you couldn’t ask for a better frenemy.

3) My stepbrother.
No, a PhD in folklore doesn’t make me a doctor on a “technicality”. It makes me a Doctor. It’s a proper noun for a reason, you shit

Jack's Twitter : Instagram : Blog.

Now, here is my response to the same prompt...

1. Me. 

2. My ex-friends, who all know these things I shared with them in the utmost confidence and comfort, who now have ammo and blackmail material and that terrifies me, tbh. I know they wouldn't use it, I know they wouldn't, they were once lovely friends and kind people, however the former has changed I can only hope the latter has not.

No, wait. In fact, I don't even care that much about what they know and could use against me. It's not even that bad. It's more the
me they knew, her favourite songs and the guys she fancied and what she liked to eat and what she would say in certain situations; the secrets she shared that won't mean much to anyone else but meant a ton to me, and to her friends. I don't's like when we stopped being friends, they took something away. A little sliver of me.

I'll say ex-boyfriends are enemies, to an extent. But ex-friends just as much. They all had some of me invested in them, in their lives. Most of them saw me naked, physically and emotionally. Now, I can only hope they forget.

3. Me.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Happiness.....on a budget.

Now, I won't lie to you guys, I am thrifty. Few things make me happier than saving a few precious pennies. However, it could be argued that I am slightly obsessive about it...

I'll often go out of my way to ensure I take the cheapest option possible. That may mean an extra hour on a train, or going to that cafe a little further down the road just so I can get a stamp on the nearly-full loyalty card...and before I worked at my Waterstones, I'd shop regularly there because of their rewards system and £10 stamp 'n' save cards. 

However, there are some things that I can't not spend a little extra moolah on. For instance, every time I went food shopping at uni (with my £15 max spending limit) I'd always treat myself to a £3.20 pot of Whole Earth crunchy organic peanut butter. I'd also often treat myself to a new notebook or gel pen from Paperchase. And I'd convince myself that taking out £20 at the cash point en route to the pub once a week was justified. Then more recently I found weekly counselling was the best investment imaginable; £35 a week for an hour of talking through problems and then basking in the resulting relief for days and days...that was magical. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

This point leads me into the topic of this post: you need to prioritise your happiness, and part with a little extra money if it helps this excellent cause. 

So here are a few super-affordable ideas if you're looking for some extra light in your day-to-day life...things that always work for me, the thrifty post-grad...

We'll start with the obvious – for me, anyway – a good book. Taking a little cash out of your bank account, and then a little time out of your day, to read (or more like get completely lost in another world) is one thing I personally believe every person should do. It will cost you maybe £7.99 for a new book (or an additional £4 if you indulge in that Waterstones Buy One Get One Half Price deal...just sayin'). 

Next, another very predictable choice if you know me well: a perfectly made coffee. These days coffee can come in many shapes and sizes – and many varying standards of it's worth splashing out an extra couple of quid for a decent brew. Don't go to a chain. C'mon, you're better than that. I've written before about various independent spots I've visited, and how excellent they've been – try something new, go local, support small businesses. Also order something that may be slightly unusual for you – extra cream, a flavour you've never tried, two shots of espresso instead of one! It'll cost you maybe £3? Totally worth that for the taste of excitement – and of course the mad Instagram game a good snap before drinking will get you. 

Optional extra: sweet treats. This is essential for me sometimes as I am a purely black americano drinker, no milk no sugar no nothing, and so I need to get my sugar rush somewhere else. I personally opt for some cake - preferably in my local cafe Beanzz, made by the perfect baker Ms LeticiaBakes

Let's go a little bigger now, okay? A day return. You heard (or, well, read). For me, very few things are more exciting than buying a ticket on impulse and travelling on a train somewhere else for a day. Spending a minimum of 7-8 hours exploring a new town, city, maybe even country (Ms Eurostar, hiya babe) will cost you a bit more than any of my other suggestions, perhaps, but it will be worth it for the adventure and the space. Also, booking in advance – even just 12 hours in advance, I find – you can get a train ticket for half the price, provided you commit to one particular train. 

Next, something a little niche but nonetheless magical, a photo booth. With friends or on your own, it's always cute, fun and the best little boost to cram yourself in an automatic photo booth and let it snap you a few times. My personal favourite is a machine in Brighton that has a hamper of props and hats next to it; every time I visit my favourite little seaside city, I will go out of my way to use this machine. I love capturing who I am that day and how I am feeling about life. Usually the general vibe is 'silly'. I've also had some lovely times being snapped with friends in Berlin – they have so many photo booths out there on the street, and they only cost a Euro or two!

A set of 4 photos in one of these machines (in the UK) will typically cost £3. If it's any more than that, well that machine better have a good set of props or a snazzy DSLR camera. Don't let it rip you off. 

Now I feel it's time for a little Hygge-type injection (for more info on my love of Hygge and my diving into the Danish way of happiness recently, read this post!) - I urge you readers and happiness-seekers to buy yourself a decent scented candle. I recently treated myself to a Kew Gardens 'Wild Fig' pot of gorgeousness and having it burn in my room as I write this is mellowing me right out. Mmmmmm...cannot believe this level of chill only cost me £10. Having said that, I know it's a pricier candle - trust me, you can get amazing ones for half that! 

And finally, the ultimate and most often underrated happy-maker on a budget: a night in
Catch up on your recordings on the box (or get on the Netflix hype, surprisingly affordable for a never-ending source of entertainment tbf), cook yourself dinner - or order a takeaway, but if you're thrifty as I am it may be better to make do with what needs using up in the fridge. Then maybe if you're feeling sluggish take a walk down the see what bags of sweets are in the £1 deal this week! Catch up on emails and texts and maybe some reading before turning in early, and getting some well-earned rest. Then I promise you'll wake up happy, too. 

I hope y'all liked my tips for getting happy (on a budget!) - please do tweet me or comment with any tips of your own. 

(ALL images by me!)

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Specs Factor; L25, R50.

[Text to friend] I really wanna write a blog post about my new glasses. Is that vain af?
[friend's reply] yeah kinda. 
[me again] Imma do it anyway. 

I got glasses. I have had this teeny alien astigmatism ting, which basically means I've been short-sighted, for a very long time now. So yeah, I got glasses. Not a big deal. Except it is. 

(Source: New Girl gifs on GIPHY; Jess is me and I am Jess, tho.)

You wouldn't think I could create an entire blog post containing thoughts, reflections (not just on the lenses, eyyy) and even a slight story arc in it, but I did it. Don't worry, I'll break up the post with some charming glasses gifs, how about that? 

(Is this real? I choose to believe it is. Found, you guessed it, on giphy. God, I love cats.)

You see (haha), so many times I've done that annoying thing with my bespectacled friends and demanded to try on their glasses, just to see how I looked as well as how I looked – but it was when I jokingly tried on my sister's new pink frames that I realised...I need these. Suddenly the TV was 10x clearer from my seat on the sofa. The cakes on GBBO were spotless and glorious, as was Sue Perkins' face. There was no glare! It was like my TV had been dialled down on the shine – in a good way – and like a mega HD situation had presented itself to me. My eyes were not straining, suddenly (even though I never knew they were to begin with).

Then not long after this, I was in Charing Cross station – my second home these days – trying to work out when my next train was. I was stood in front of the Nero Express on one side of the station, looking up at the electronic boards with times and platforms on. I couldn't see a damn thing. No wait, I saw orange lamp lights, blurred and spotty, and when I squinted like an old lady in the rain I could just about make out the times and destinations. I actually said aloud to myself at this point 'shit Grace, you need glasses.'

And yet, I still put it off just a little while longer. Why? Because I didn't feel I could rock the specs. I have all manner of insecurities about my face; it's fat, it's wide, it's oddly shaped (blame the surgery), it's pale, it's spotty etc. etc., and I just figured that glasses would only accentuate it's weirdness and serve only to highlight it. But then...I found the perfect pair. 

(Source: my epic glasses search on GIPHY. I find it slightly hysterical that the tags on this one included #flirt. Guys, this is from a children's film. One of the best children's films of all time. Behave.)

I got all the necessary tests done beforehand. First, I got a free and intensive test at the Brighton Eye Hospital (because tumour, innit) – they put orange drops in my eyes, had me read screens, stuck my head very nicely into a brightly lit dome, everything. And yet, nothing. They even said I had better than 20/20 vision, and a slight lapse in the left eye (because tumour, tho) but my right eye made up for that perfectly. I couldn't help but think, then why can't I read train platform signs?!! 

So I went to an optician for a regular sight test – I'm 23 and have never had one, apparently that's crazy?! – and the dude who checked out my gogglers was an utter angel, so kind; he found my little eye quirks quickly but was still thorough in his quizzing. I picked out my frames the following week, and they have made my face very happy. They are nicely rounded, so they fit with my shield-shaped face, and the perfect cool blue that suits my skin. I swear, they are so perfect that even the cute young optician got excited as she took them out of the packaging and gave them to me to try a final time before taking them home. Then she was also delighted to give me a purple case, as it matched my freshly dyed hair...

...oh yeah, my hair...right. 

(Yeah, you guessed it. Same source. Joseph, you scamp. Love you. x)

Okay, I am aware that by impulsively getting my (currently blue-haired) mama to dye my hair violet the night before I picked the glasses up, I was effectively staging an image rebranding and ughh, sorry guys. I didn't mean to. Honest. (Although I did spend over an hour trying to get the perfect new selfie sorted out...see below. Nailed it) The violet actually came up a little too bright for my liking at first. I worried that I would look like I was trying to be young and fun, maybe like one of my (currently pink-haired) little sister's peers at college. But now, after one wash, it's faded enough that I can deal. It'll fade more over the next week and I think then I'll be happier. What I really desperately want is the silvery-lilac tone throughout, natural yet striking, but turns out that shit is hard to achieve. I'll rock the violet for now, I suppose. Some of my fave YA authors were complimenting it the day after the dyeing, so that was nice. Yet another reason I love them. Cheers, guys.  

(Glasses: cheap as chips at Specsavers. Their Hastings team are incredible, y'all. Also sneaky little pin badge courtesy of sighh designs, and vibrant violet-you're-turning-violet-violet hair dye by La Riche Directions.)

Anyway, yes, this blog post turned out to be a little vain. Oops. Apologies, again. I promise I'm hardly ever like this. In fact, it's been a while since I wrote a post wholly and totally And my life. It's what I first started this blog doing back in 2010 kinda time, but over time other things, e.g. books, theatre and various super-sexy taboos took over a little bit. Which has been awesome fun, and way more interesting than just me me me. But yeah. I wanted to talk about the major life change that is me getting glasses. Deal with it. 

(Sorry) (Will probably stick to the little Facts posts for now, don't panic.)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Recent Reads: books from friends.

One of the things that's happened in the past few years that I am so amazed by and grateful for, is that I have befriended a lot of wonderfully creative humans. Some came into my life while I was at uni, some have appeared since then. All these friends have in some way brought magic to me, and this magic takes many different forms; a bed for the night (steady on), cocktails, writing dates, deep chats, a snazzy new cafe...and books. 

I have friends who are always recommending books, others who will lend me books, and then a select few will write their own books. This Recent Reads post will celebrate these bookish friends who have in some way got me reading all these titles!

Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell.

The book was lent to me by the mighty and excellent Louise Jones; I felt honoured to be trusted with this precious signed copy, and the whole time I was reading it I wouldn't take it anywhere in my handbag lest I risk it getting scuffed or marked. Turns out I needn't have worried, because I left it safely at home on my bed and the bloody cat sat on it, creasing the cover ever so slightly...obvs. Luckily I was forgiven.

It was utterly incredible. It was like nothing I'd ever read before; words were carefully put together and worked in the most wonderful way, characters were so beautiful and genuine I felt their presence in the room and them peering over my shoulder as I read. The events that made up the story were beyond any kind of reality, but I wanted so much to believe them because they were perfect. Katherine Rundell is an enormously awesome writer, and I now cannot wait to read her other novels.

Affliction, by Kasim.

I met this dude at YALC 2016; he was doing his obligatory manning of the front desk, diligently policing the distribution of freebies, and thus had nowhere to run when I approached and trapped him in conversation for a good long hour. Also at the time he was interning at Faber. He now works in the formidable Waterstones Birmingham. Oh, and he has a book big deal.

'Affliction' is the story of Scar and her issues with herself, her friends, her boyfriend and her body...that's me trying to summarise the plot without giving too much away while at the same time desperately wanting to say more and give y'all an idea of just how ingenious and unusual – unusually ingenious/ingeniously unusual – it is. Just read it, guys. Buy the book and read it. Then maybe you'll understand how hard it is to explain it. 

One thing I will say is the whole time reading it, this supernatural novella written in first person from a woman's perspective, not once did I hear my friend's voice. And that was great. That's how you know it's well written. 

My Name is Girl: An Illustrated Guide to the Female Mind, by Nina Cosford.

Okay, so Nina is not my friend. I know, I know. Don't rub it in. However, she does live in Hastings, so we're basically family right?!

'My Name is Girl' was witty, hilarious, and creative af. The illustrations perfectly encapsulated the mad mess of thoughts that run through my head almost daily, and have ever since I became a woman...and some were in there before, too.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne.

I have read this book before, early last year after reading 'The Manifesto on How to be Interesting' and falling hard for Holly's writing style and general power with words. It has taken pride of place within my rainbow ever since – and now it's come back onto my radar because my little sis asked to borrow it recently and has since been reminding me how awesome and important it is.

It's so lovely and funny watching my sis first experiencing the feminist wonders of the Spinster Club, when I have just said my goodbyes to it, having just read...

...And A Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne.

The finale of the Spinster Club series was the best possible ending; problems, conflicts, romances and resolutions all crammed into a teeny novella that I read in one day, on two train journeys in and out of London.

Lottie's trouble with her flatmates at uni was almost uncomfortably close to home; Amber's careful secret keeping hurt quite a bit but I understood her struggle; Evie, as always, had me itching to hug her throughout the book. I will miss these girls, but cannot wait to see who Holly brings into readers' lives next.


So those are just a few of my most recent reads, that came into my life via friends, and you all should read these immediately and, if possible, befriend every person I have mentioned in this post. Right. Go go go! 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Just Some Things #9 : Lorayn Emterby.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works: I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen at random – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish. 

When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

This post features and celebrates the rad Lorayn, writer and traveller extraordinaire. I am so honoured to feature her on the blog. 

Her prompt was: Comfort and she has quite brilliantly combined it with another I gave her: Corpse in the undertaker's window. 

Last Embrace

If you told me a week ago I’d be going back to climbing through windows in the dead of night to get close to you I’d have laughed in your face. If you told me a week ago never again would we walk hand-in-hand among the crisp, orange leaves; under an unforgiving summer sun; soaked to the bone in completely impractical clothing; or wrapped up in oversized scarfs and hats with bobbles on that danced as we walked, I would never have believed you. But, here I am, clambering into the basement in the dark to be your paramour.

I pull my cardigan close as I shiver, take your ice cold hand in mine and will the warmth from my skin to permeate yours. Fourier’s Law (Q = -kA(dT/dx)) says that ‘the time rate of heat transfer through a material is proportional to the negative gradient in the temperature and to the area’. Do you remember telling me that?

We were watching the fireworks in Becket’s Park and it was the first time you held me in public. You assured me it was for ‘scientific reasons’. We both knew it was as scientific as yawning and stretching your way into a hug but we went with it all the same. The cliche of sparkles filling the sky above our heads lost on us as you talked of potassium nitrate and burning metal.

So science tells me if I hold your hand long enough, if I can be warm enough for the both of us, that eventually your hand should begin to heat up too. Maybe then I can pretend you’re still here. And here you will remain. At least for a moment.   

Lorayn's Twitter & Instagram.

Now I'll be responding to one of the same prompts: Comfort. 

   Our eyes were closed. Obviously I couldn't check if yours were, because mine were, but I'm pretty sure. If you'd had your eyes open, you could've easily found my hand. Instead I felt a confused tapping on top of the duvet; your arm had emerged and your fingers were searching for mine, tap tap tap. I didn't assist you in any way. I wanted you to find me. 
   Finally you got there, you got my hand and grabbed at it lazily. Then you held it tight and for a moment I thought you were trying to send me a message, through your fingertips. I could almost hear it, feel it in my veins. 'Good morning, I'm happy you're here.' I replied with a squeeze that roughly translated to 'I'm glad I stayed' and then a rub of the thumb, along your palm, that definitely meant 'so...what now?' 
   Then we both smiled, as our eyes opened. What now, indeed. 

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A bloody red alert.

My period is officially over! Today I woke up with no blood on my night-time pad, and nothing on the just-in-case tampon, either. Thank goodnessing fuck. As soon as I saw the lack of red this morning, I happily cracked open my box of The Pill in my bedside drawer and I popped a 'Wednesday'. I'm too excited for 30 days without that bloody hell, now.

Okay so, did that little string of sentences seem weird? Maybe TMI? Why? Are you not used to hearing these things? I bet if you're an avid reader of blogs, you'll have read something like that before. Also I have so many good blogging pals/heroes who have written about periods in the past year or so (will list 'em below!). It's another taboo that's being pored over and smashed to pieces. And I am delighted.

I've always been quite upfront and open about my Lady Timez. I remember asking friends on the playground at school, 'ermm, wanna come with me to the bathroom?' with suggestive eyebrow wiggles that I felt only young girls got the meaning behind – and then when I got to Year 11 and didn't give any shits I'd just flat out say 'I'm on, who has a pad?' 

Also, at school, I found I got to an age when teachers would always let me go to the loo mid-lesson. I think it was in Year 9, maybe. All us girls were excused – because the teachers, the young brightly-dressed women and even in some cases the stuffier older men, wouldn't want us to be uncomfortable, or y'know, bleed on their plastic chairs (which we all did at one time or another. Ughh). 

Caitlin Moran has said that even aged 40 she still discovers blood in her pants and exclaims 'WHAAAAT, fuck sake!?' like it's a hideous surprise. I do, too. I've come on at the worst possible times (admittedly not as bad as Caitlin, I mean, she came on while sitting on a white sofa and watching Benedict fucking Cumberbatch recite a Sherlock monologue about love that she was saving up in her wank bank). My favourite/worst instance of period was when I was pitching my first novel to an agent at the Curtis Brown Discovery Day. I was wearing a light lilac dress, with just 40 denier tights and a pair of M&S granny pants between me and the padded chair I was sitting on. And y'know what I did? I kept pitching my arse off – as my front bits expelled. I sat up ever so slightly, pulled my light dress out from underneath me (because blood getting on a cheap black padded seat cushion vs blood staining a smart and expensive brainer) and cracked on. Nobody knew. Well, Twitter knew, because I of course tweeted about it from the toilets right after my pitch session was over...

(Not pictured: oozing)

Anyway, back to the point. Periods are considered evil most of the time, but to be honest I just find them irritating. They come along when you're least expecting it and they bugger up your life for a few days. I've known friends to cancel plans with me because they're bed-bound with cramps and don't trust their uterus to behave for long enough to leave the house. I personally have only had proper period pain once, and trust me that was enough. I'll go into that later on...

Also, honestly, how many of my gorgeous female readers have been planning a lovely date night with your other half then BOOM, blood, and the plans are scrapped? Isn't it always the way? I often find I'll finally have something cooking up and getting going (as it were) in the personal department, and then I'll bleed continuously as if my body is screaming with nerves and trying to prevent me falling in love or whatever...
AND guy readers, I'm curious...does the bleeding bug you? I would ask all my guy friends in person and in private, but y'know, it's far more sensible to ask publicly in a post on the internet. That's what I do! 

* Interjection here, period sex is a thing and can actually be well good, like. Here's me talking about it for The Mix, on YouTube for all to see! 
(I showed this to the kids I lectured recently, after talking to them about blogging for 2 hours. It got a good/incredulous response.) *

I was inspired to write this post after seeing Hannah Witton's 'The Hormone Diaries' on YouTube; she has stopped taking her pill for the first time in years to see what happens to her body. I tell you, that is fucking brave. 

I came off my pill once, because I was experiencing symptoms of a brain tumour (+ inflated cyst around the brain tumour) and the neurologist I saw was so sure that my twitches and face slumps and mini-fits were happening because I'd been on the pill for almost 4 years straight and it was starting to mess up my body (after 4 years of blissful harmony with my body tho...?!). I came off my Yasmin and after 2 weeks or wasn't pretty. My body soon realised it wasn't going to get the usual hormone suppression/regulation stuff, it wasn't just a usual week's break, and it got angry. The world fell out of my vag, honestly it was a literal blood bath, I was changing my pad every hour. My lower back and stomach were racked with pain, I was doubled over with it. My skin exploded in spots – a huge plus to my pill, mostly clear skin always! – and my boobs were suddenly aching constantly. My then-boyf would try and pat me on the shoulder or massage me and I'd cross my arms over my chest and shriek 'GET OFF ME YOU HURT EVERYTHING HURTS!' 

Now, I am sharing all this fabulous info with you guys because I feel it's something I should WE SHOULD – be able to share. Okay, there are restrictions, for instance maybe don't talk about your menstrual tendencies on a first date with someone you properly fancy (I guess it could be a good device to get rid of a date you're not that fussed about...) and perhaps keep it to yourself when you come on during a lunch with extended family or in-laws. Just slip away to the loo and take care of it, then tell family members afterwards if you wish. Don't yell, at the dinner table, 'I AM BLEEDING!!', yeah? 

However, with friends and people you definitely trust and think would share their experiences and personal tricks (like how, at 16, I used to tell friends excitedly that wearing a tampon until THE SECOND BEFORE sex meant less or no blood during, pro tip people), go for it. Share share share. Get it said aloud, in conversation, at home or in a public place. 
I personally LOVE being able to text and talk with friends about our periods. I'll throw it into conversation – usually when describing a minor yet emotionally traumatic recent event; 'oh yeah, but I'm on the blob so that could be why I cried for 4.5 hours...' It's guaranteed hilarity and/or sensitivity. So let's talk more. It's a natural thing. Why the fuck don't we talk about it? We talk about pregnancy and babies and (male) wanking (grr) and even a bit more these days about actual sex - so why not this? 

A big moment for me recently was when I actually started ripping out my pads, tearing open a new one and replacing in public toilets. I used to flush the toilet first, or wait until some kind lady would switch on the hand-dryer outside my cubicle. I hated the idea that people knew what I was up to, that I was bleeding and needed to stem the flow with a sanitary towel as all women do tho?! I'm also taking out pads and tampons from my handbag and not making any effort to hide them (but not exactly flaunting them either) as I walk to the toilet. For some reason I always felt like someone seeing me holding a bright pink packet or a yellow plastic tube would change their opinions of me. Wtf? 
-- little note here, can the FHP makers please someday create a wrapper for pads and tampons that actually is SILENT when you open them? Seriously, it can't be that hard. 

Okay, that's me done on this topic, for today anyway. I may have to get on the #livetweetyourperiod hype next month. I know I tend to slip into ranting mode when writing these posts and sometimes that can make the meaning ebb ever so slightly but I so hope y'all stuck it out and read on through the rants. 

This is just the latest in my series of subjects that I wanna chat about! Here are some others... 

And here are some of the aforementioned important blogger pal posts: 

Until next time, folks xoxo 
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