Friday, 29 April 2016


Hi, my name's Gracie.

My TBR pile is the most terrifying thing to wake up to each day, tender stem broccoli is my favourite edible green thing, I've gotten really good at navigating London underground, I get crushes on authors, I drink gin as much as whisky nowadays, Bare Minerals make up saves my face spectacularly every single day, I dream that someday I'll meet Taylor Swift and I'll hug her and ask her how the heck she does life, I really enjoy Berlin architecture, I write so much better when my cat is on my bed with me, I want to live in a nation governed by Caitlin Moran, I need all of the tattoos ASAP, I have realised recently that in my life I am essentially Anne Hathaway's character Andy in The Devil Wears Prada, I eat fake cheese these days, I haven't done one of these posts since I was having radiotherapy; a lot has changed since then, but the silly little facts have stayed the same. 

I do one of these posts every month whenever I remember and have a free few minutes. 


Scanxiety. noun, feeling ; the immense horror and panic after a check-up MRI scan to see if one's organs, limbs (Grace specific: BRAIN) are working correctly and not subject to further treatment and thus more upending of patient's life.
The worry that the scan results, always announced a long time (1 week – 10 days) after, will yield disappointing(/hideously overwhelmingly evil) news. 

Grace's experiences with Scanxiety:
2014, bad. Life-altering. 
2015, bad. Anger-inducing.
2016.............. 'Stable', a.k.a. satisfactory, if vague.

(The term Scanxiety first coined by Grace's hospital bestie G.Wood)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Getting me some Human Love.

First observation at the Newton Faulkner gig on Saturday 23rd April at the De La Warr Pavillion...I didn't see as many couples as I expected. The few I saw were relaxed, drinking beer out of plastic cups and leaning against each other side by side, hands in alternate back pockets. That was most agreeable, even a little cute. If there's one thing I hate it's having to watch a gig through a buzzing cloud of over-affectionate couples tangling tongues...
To be fair, Newton Faulkner is dreamy enough to suit every couple in this world. I wouldn't be surprised if half his songs are 'our song's.
I personally discovered Newton back in my school days, when 'Dream Catch Me' was playing in every motivational PowerPoint presentation about the road ahead post-GCSEs...I fell madly in love with that whole first album, and kept tabs on his later releases as the years went on. 

I saw him live for the first time in my third year of uni, somewhere in Portsmouth, just after 'Studio Zoo' came out. It was the most joyful and enlightening experience – it even took my mind off my dissertation for one whole night! That's how magical and captivating it was. The music that night, and that hug he gave me when we met afterwards. *sighs*

So it excited me like you would not believe when I heard he'd be ending this tour in Bexhill, the lovely seaside town just 15 minutes down the road from me, and in the De La Warr Pavillion – the place where my grandparents met and danced together in 1958. That place is somewhat magical for me and my family.
I also took my home girl Clare along; we had a delicious dinner beforehand at Little Phatisserie in Endwell Road (a total sweet spot for we veggie + dairy free humans) upon arrival we found our perfect spot towards the back against a wall (maximum leanage), then got totally lost in the loveliness of the night.

Newton Faulkner brought us all to life and entertained endlessly with his jokey chillaxed manner between songs. The crowd lapped him, them, up – Newton and his Tobys. Toby Faulkner and Toby Couling, the backing singers and musicians who were really more like a complimentary all-star duo, not just back up. There was such onstage in-sync-ness, you really felt they were a team.

Song highlights included: Shadow Boxing, off the latest album Human Love which was masterfully played on just one guitar but with so many layers; I Need Something my old favourite in which Newton bridged the gap between gentle intimacy and awesome power most perfectly; obviously Dream Catch Me when the whole audience started yelling along filling the room with nostalgic love; Up Up & Away, the happiest new single; Far To Fall, funky as can be; People Should Smile More which was given a slight makeover but is always a classic; and let's not forget Write It On Your Skin, while Newton delivered the ultimate finale in this classic my dad and grandad found me and told me they'd blagged their way in two songs ago – and were loving it!
I was a little dismayed that At The Seams wasn't played, but then relieved as that song never fails to make me weep...

Newton's sound has changed a fair bit over the past decade. It's like he's grown into this enormous energy, had some electric funk injected in recent years to intertwine with the raw perfect honesty, the magnetic vocal range and insane guitar talent (he can do that thing where he plays the guitar by plucking a string and smacking the fret board in various places?! Idk, so awesome). It was refreshing seeing him live again, it didn't just remind me how much I love him (seriously Newton, hello. Let's coffee sometime) but also how much I love live music. How happy it makes me.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Friendships, IRL .

Friendship is a complicated concept. Something I've learned over the years is that there's no one definite definition of friendship – there's a vast spectrum of friendships, plural. All these different definitions are intricately unique and bafflingly complex. 

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to get a ticket to IRL Panel, the legendary event created by blogging superheroes Emma Gannon (@girllostincity) and Laura Jane Williams (@superlativelyLJ). 
The theme for the night and the discussions was FRIENDSHIP. 
Now when I say I was 'lucky enough' to get a ticket, I mean insanely fortunate to have a thoughtful and lovely friend in Ms Hannah Billie Perry who bought two tickets and thought to offer the spare one to me. What a legend she is. A perfect example of a good friendship! 

The panel consisted of obviously Emma and Laura, plus guests Nadin Hadi (writer and consultant on film distribution, writes at Jade Coles (lifelong Londoner, events curator and cultural producer for Soho House, founder of @TheExRev, producer of feminist choir Gaggleand Lucy Sheridan ('The Comparison Girl', speaker and coach who helps people get past the insecurities that come with social media and writes for Grazia, Daily Mail and Hay House)

As if it weren't exciting enough to be in a room with all these brilliant people, at least a third of them were internet friends – people I already knew/loved but hadn't met yet.
The magical Fiona Longmuir (@EscapologistGl), awesome Harriet (@TheScribbleBug) are just a couple of my online besties I got to officially meet and chat with after the panel discussion. 

I also got to meet people whom I'd been mega nervous about even being in the same room as – Daisy Buchanan for one, @NotRollergirl who writes the funniest and most gorgeous things, and is just as vibrant 'in real life' as she is in the blogosphere. She topped up my prosecco and complimented my shoes, nails and rings all at once. I could only respond with slightly gushing over-excited love for her writing and her as a human being. 
I was also beyond psyched to meet Katie, aka Scarphelia, the perf badass blogger who has been an Instagram crush of mine for quite some time now. I left without getting the chance to have a good long natter with her, but oh well, I'm sure we'll be out trawling the coffee shops of Brighton someday soon. 

One of the topics that was brought up in the panel, and then spoken about for quite some time as everyone (including us in the audience) had a story or theory about it, was the 'breaking up' situation with friends. When you realise the friendship isn't working out for you, and need to get the hell out of there. What do you do?
I have had first hand experience of this, quite recently actually, and I was so interested in hearing others' opinions and stories about it. The absolute babe LJ (I have called her that in my head for a while now, I have no idea if she's actually Laura or...?) wrote a blog post about this recently over on Superlatively Rude; how she had a friend who was a toxic presence in her life and one day as she walked over Waterloo Bridge she realised this and more importantly realised she didn't have to put up with it any more. Heck yeah. 

My friendship break-up (it really needs a better name...) was years in the making, and much like LJ it just took me realising I deserved better and I couldn't carry on with that level of toxicity and nastiness taking up space in my mind and slowly but surely poisoning me. I ended things very civilly via text, and as soon as I did I felt a weight lift. I can't believe I didn't do it sooner.
I am currently in a phase of my life when I'm finally starting to make time for me, prioritise myself, and that's great. It's about time. My friends should support me in this, surely. Not have me enslaved, putting them first always and losing sight of myself in their presence. 

I like to think I'm a good friend. I keep in contact fairly consistently, I make plans whenever possible, and I buy the best birthday presents (albeit on a budget, usually). If I get a call in the middle of the night then I'll be on hand to help with whatever is happening, to the best of my ability (that will be a more valuable promise when I get my driving licence back...). I listen and advise, but don't get offended when my tips aren't taken on board. I am pretty good at finding the right backgrounds and light sources for selfies. I can sense when a situation needs a cup of tea, or a glass of wine.
Having said all this, I know I may not be everyone's best fit for a best friend. And that's okay. Different people need different qualities, different personalities they can bounce off or play with. 

I have written a lot of posts in the past about friends and friendships. Here are some: 

Stopping the rambling now and going back to the IRL Panel showed me several times, about various topics, that it's not just me. I am not the only one to feel this way or that way, to have this thing happen or that thing not happen. This event was just what I needed, and you can bet I'll be first in line for the next one. 
Although maybe next time I'll stay overnight at a friend's, so I can linger a little later doing the 'schmoozing' thing, wine in hand, with like-minded people. 

The very first IRL Panel; how I wish I'd been at this one, too!

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Fear Of Missing Out.......!

I am a repeat offender when it comes to the case of bunking off plans. 
My friends and I will arrange to meet up, dine out and paint the town red, we'll all be properly up for it, and by the time the night rolls around I might not be feeling it any more. Or I'll have an invite to a bookish event in the big smoke, but by the time I've planned my journey and worked out timings, plus booked the evening off work, I'm a little less psyched. Sometimes I just want to curl up in bed with mint tea, a juicy episode of How To Get Away With Murder all cued up, and my eternally mocking manuscript open in another tab in case I get some inspiration...

The thing is, I usually go along to these arranged things and have an excellent time! I'm hardly ever disappointed. But at times the main reason I go along to events of any kind in the first place is that I get a nasty influx of.......FOMO!

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), noun/feeling ; the indescribable, unshakable worry that sets in when a THING is happening and one is wondering whether or not to attend the THING. Can sometimes be only motivation for attending.
However, can result in failure to fulfil plans and thus suffer the upset at being left out of friendship moments. Private jokes, Instagram uploads, etc. 

The antidote for FOMO? I have found it's simply a change in acronym...let's entertain the idea of GOMO: Going Out More Often!

This year is my year. I've already said this, and let me tell you that 4 months in I am still on track making 2016 an epic time for myself. This is partly due to my incredible inhuman intake of coffee, and partly down to my stubbornness and determination to achieve my goals that I've had deep within me since I was a petulant 5 year-old...mostly, though, it's my change in attitude and my saying 'F U' to FOMO, and 'oh hey' to GOMO

I first got on this in early March when I did my week's work experience at The Times Magazine; every day I was up at the News Building in London I was meeting a friend for my lunch break, then going out on the town in the evenings for dinner/drinks before heading back to stay with whichever lovely friend was putting me up that night. It was the maddest most whirlwind week, and it inspired me to do what a lot of my generation have started doing and put more of my money towards experiences, not material items. 

My plans for the summer are shaping up nicely. I intend to attend the magical event that everyone in the UKYA community is always raving about, YALC (28th - 31st July). I'm also hoping to take a writers' mini break with my good pal and fellow wannabe author Amy, maybe to rural France or inner city Italy...we shall see! I have a ton of theatre trips booked in with friends, and I'm hoping to continue my lucky streak of catching my all-time favourite musical artists live well into 2017 (so far this year: Joshua Radin, City and Colour, plus Newton Faulkner tomorrow night!). I've got into the habit of taking myself on hot dates recently, too. 
And y'all should know by now how important and magical a good coffee hang out is for me! 

I also attended IRL Panel the other night; the second tide of the event engineered by Emma Gannon (@girllostincity) and Laura Jane Williams (@superlativelyLJ). With a panel of gorgeous genius guests and the most fascinating chat happening about friendships, plus free prosecco, it made me fall in love with live events all over again. I must go to the next one! 

One monthly event that I always anticipate most eagerly and have grown to love enormously is #DrinkYA, organised by the lovely Jim (@YaYeahYeah). This monthly meet-up in central London consists of magical guests (typically book bloggers, publishing pros and authors), excitable chatter, swapping stacks of books and...cocktails. There are always cocktails!
The next #DrinkYA, Tuesday 28th April, is set to be the biggest one yet. With its promised 'The YA Book Prize' theme and star nominee guests, it's no wonder that we are having to properly reserve places for the first time via Eventbrite
Speaking of, highly recommend those guys. If you ever need to create your own event, be sure to check out their event planning software HERE

So, I am slowly but surely getting better at saying YES to events. My diary is filling up fast with amazing things, and I'm well on my way to conquering FOMO once and for all. GOMO is becoming my new motto! 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

You Know Me Well ; a review.

Yes, that's right. I am writing a proper legit REVIEW. Of a new YA due out in June: You Know Me Well, by David Levithan & Nina LaCour. Because I can't not. I had to write about this one. 

I am a die hard David Levithan fan. I'm sure I must have told y'all this before, several times, but he's one of the super star writers who first got me into YA – and this is mostly due to his awesome style but also because he has written SO MANY YA NOVELS.
What's more, his books are wonderfully sexually diverse! Two Boys Kissing is a glorious story about various gay couples and individuals, Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (featured in this blog post) is a classic boy/girl besties situation blown up somewhat by guys they both fancy, and the gorgeous Every Day (plus its follow-up but not sequel Another Day) contains some ambiguous gender matters. 

David Levithan is also the king of literary collaborations. One of his most famous would be Will Grayson, Will Grayson which he wrote with John Green. Also Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is one of his works with Rachel Cohn (the other being the aforementioned Naomi & Ely) which was made into an indie masterpiece of a film starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings.

His latest collab, however, had all of us in the YA fan club jumping up and down with excitement and squealing in anticipation. You Know Me Well is a novel written with the gorgeous Nina LaCour (Hold Still / Everything Leads to You) and alternates between two perspectives, Mark (David) and Kate/Katie (Nina).
The story spans over several days, and tells the tale of two gay teens who are struggling with their respective love interests and trying to figure out what they want in life. Mark is madly in love with his best friend Ryan – I say madly because it really is insane how much he loves him – and Kate/Katie is eternally devoted to a girl she's never met, only heard about...and painted pictures for.

So when @MyKindaBook tweeted saying they had extra proofs to give out to book bloggers, I seized my phone and emailed so quickly and so excitedly that I misspelled the title of the book in the subject line (very awkward faux pas when requesting a proof, I've learned! Oops!).
Thank you for sending it so quickly guys (Bea, you star), and for telling me about #bookpride! Will be getting on that!

Things I loved: that the inclusion of social media sites – particularly Instagram – was done well and not just included for the sake of it, as is the case in several books I've been reading recently. The chemistry between Kate/Katie and Violet – even written down, they were hot together. Mark's hard love for his best friend Ryan, and the gradual progression of sorts with that love (no spoilers!) – I could relate to Mark 100% at times. The importance of friendship – Mark and Kate/Katie are soul mates in a strictly friendly way, and their circles of friends are all unique characters who come across quite vividly.

Favourite sentence(s): 'There was a blind spot in my knowing. But now I'm looking around it. I am knowing him more truthfully.' (David)
'I'm looking at what happens when I let go and trust myself, and the vision of it thrills me.' (Nina)

This book got me out of a reading slump that's been dragging me down for some time now. It's been taking me weeks to get through one book, it's been an effort to pick one up and pay attention to it, and I haven't been sure why. I'm still not sure why. All I know is that this book was the exciting pallet cleanse I needed – it's an easy yet intense read, full of important messages and gorgeous (if na├»ve at times) ideals about love and the overwhelming theme is how crucial and wonderful it can be to be YOU. Which I am all about right now. Another theme – what I picked up on anyway – is that you sometimes have to take control of your life, to work with what you've got and then if you don't like what you've got, then change it. Y'know?

David's writing is constantly blowing me away. I remember being at uni and working part-time behind a bar and when it was properly quiet I'd sit on the dishwasher and take out my copy of Two Boys Kissing (don't tell my managers), and there were moments when one sentence would require a breather after reading it – I'd have to shut the book quickly and take a moment to absorb what had just been said and how beautiful it was...
This book had Levithan on his usual excellent form, with a whole heap of added excellence from LaCour – who was a new voice to me, but now I must read all of her previous works right NOW. 

(UK & US covers)

I finished this on the train into London yesterday morning, just 24 hours after starting it. And this proof copy is now being sent off to the gorgeous Amy, a friend-soul mate type human of mine, and I'm so so excited to be sharing it with her. I was excited when two of my bookish pals Charlie and George commented on my Instagram snap of the cover to say they'd read it and loved it. Already I can feel people are going to get excited and want to share this story with others. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Hospital norms.

It's occurred to me that I have a lot of memories of hospitals, all of them created in the very recent past. I actually realised this when I was sharing and swapping stories with a friend not too long ago - a friend who has had some trying times and health scares, too. We had a lot of things in common, and we both had funny tidbits to swap. 

Then one of my mum's friends commented on my amusing anecdote that I was sharing, said she had no idea this or that I thought I'd share a few things others may find odd. 
These are things I am used to, that others may never have heard of, let alone encountered themselves...

  • 'Have you opened your bowels?' 
    Yes, we are diving right in and starting with one of the most hideous and ridiculous things I am now completely used to hearing. For those who don't know, 'opening the bowels' is a technical way of saying 'pooping'. Nurses would always come around to my bed in the ward and, while doing checks, say very casually 'have you opened your bowels?'
    ...I think I'd genuinely rather hear 'have you pooped?'
    So yes, I am used to hearing these five words. Doesn't make it any less gross, though. It doesn't stop me cringing every damn time I hear it. Especially when my surgeon says it.

  • Name, date of birth, address. Name, address, date. Name?  
    On the ward, I'd be woken every few hours and checked on by the gorgeous nurses (no seriously, they were properly gorgeous. I don't know how they managed to stay so dewy and naturally flawless on their tough, long shifts!?), and they'd ask me to tell them my name, the date that day, and sometimes my address.
    In radiotherapy, every day the radiographer would ask for my name, date of birth, and address. They started saying 'and details, please' or 'questions?' after a while; I'd recite the facts while levering myself onto the bed.

  • 'Sharp scratch!'  
    I'll be sitting there, sleeve rolled up and left forearm presented willingly (that's the one with the best veins, it seems) anticipating the stabbing of the needle for the blood test or cannula insertion. Then the needle-holder will always mutter cheerfully 'sharp scratch!' as the needle goes in. Because a needle going in feels like a sharp scratch according to every attendant, ever.
    I wonder why they feel the need to say that. It's a universal thing, it's said at every hospital I've been to. I suppose it's better than hearing the doc say 'it's going in now'...ooh err. And the harmless upbeat utterance does make it slightly better, I suppose...just slightly. 

  • Sleeping through the beeping.  
    I used to wake with a start whenever I heard anything. Except trains – growing up behind a train station immunised me. I still might wake when a stupid bird starts squawking outside...but a machine, beeping? Nope! The glare of the bright monitors and the noises the machines, all white noise, not an issue at all. 

  • The hospital switchboard. 
    Those miserable bastards. More often than not I will call up and need a transfer to a specific department or human – I'll give an extension number, in the most cheery and polite way, it's usually prefixed with a 'hiya!' and a 'pretty please' can even be thrown in...and I get nothing. Not a thing. Nada. I get a clicking noise and an immediate transfer. Now I won't lie, I find that ridiculously rude. I mean, really. How hard is it to utter a quick 'sure, putting you through!' or even a 'no problem!' when the switchboard person enters the extension code...? I would if I worked in that office! Plus it reassures the callers that they actually are being transferred! Some people may think they've been hung up on or lost connection if they just hear that clicking then they may hang up, and call again! The switchboard folks are really creating more work for themselves, if that happens. 
    Also, sorry but...people who call a hospital, needing an extension, will most likely have had a horrible hard thing happen to them at one time or another. Because they are calling a hospital and need to speak to someone on a particular line. So really they are the people who would most appreciate a nice phone conversation and reassurance. Am I right? Yes, yes I am. Sort it, switchboard. 

Okay, rants over. I think that's it for these funny norms of mine...for now! 
Have I missed anything out? 

Oh, right, one more thing. One more thing I am all too used to in hospitals and general medical atmospheres...waiting. As we speak (or, ermm, as I type) I am waiting on results for a scan. I really, really hate waiting for test/scan/histology results, if I had it my way I'd come out of the MRI and they'd tell me almost immediately if it's all groovy or gone to shit again...but it can't be helped. A hospital is actually a major operation (ha) after all, and I respect that it takes a lot of time for things to get seen to. 
Another thing attached to this would be pushing. No, I don't mean childbirth, no thank you...I mean when you know something is wrong, when you want to be seen by a different doctor or a specialist or a consultant, then push like you've never pushed before and make them all see you. See you for appointments, and see you for who you are. For what you may or may not have. 
Right. That's the ranting and rambling over. 

I know some completely and utterly awesome magical humans who have dealt with the absolute worst situations and struggled (but triumphed) with bad you feel any of my feels? Or maybe something different? Let me know! 

Hopefully, y'know, I won't be getting any fresh new things to add to this list any time soon...I'm pretty much done with hospitals now, folks. I'm quite sick of them.
*badum-bumm tsssshhh!* 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

5 new & exciting reads.

These right here are the most recent additions to my monstrous terrifying TBR pile. I just can't get enough, it seems...each book is special to me for different reasons. The funny thing is, I sought them all out myself. As in, they weren't just automatically sent to me by a publishing house. I was offered two by friends, and accepted excitedly. Another I email-requested all by myself, and the other two I bought the old-fashioned way from a bookshop. 

Needlework, by Deidre Sullivan (@propermiss). 

Ces, a troubled teen girl, longs to be a tattoo artist someday, to 'embroider skin with beautiful images'. Thus she is intensely fascinated by all things artistic, by the history of tattoos and by bodies. The book is written in first person, it's her inner monologue describing her actions and feelings that are attached to various things. This flawless prose is broken up periodically with italicised rolling thoughts, some are musings on her interests and historical facts (e.g. Karo women and the importance of bearing scars in their culture, sailors and the significance of each of their tatts) and some her innermost forbidden excitements.
Here's my favourite one of those so far...

'Anything can grow from people's skin. You can slice out squares of skin to form a mosaic or a tree. Spines become trellises for ivy, stars appear to litter someone's arms. Your ribcage can become a net that heaves with freshly caught fish, open-eyed and gasping.'

When everyone would see my dreadful photos of my To Be Read piles, they'd all suggest which novels to read next – and this was the most recommended one. 90 pages in, I can see why.
I am well and truly drinking it all in. My first reaction was 'oh, shitting hell, whoa'. This book is all kinds of beautiful, if messy and scarring...but messy and scarring in the best possible way.

'The Time In Between: A Memoir of Hunger and Hope', Nancy Tucker. 

Nancy Tucker has been the most brave a person can be and written a memoir about her time with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa & bulimia nervosa). How she always wanted nothing more than to be thin.
The story follows her through her time battling these disorders, and it is told with a dose of dark humour and an astonishing insight that only someone who has suffered with these awful things can truly provide.

I have actually liked the sound of this book since Leena was vlogging about it way back when it was first released last year. I'm so grateful to gorgeous Stevie for sending it my way during her final few weeks at Icon Books!

'Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery', Henry Marsh (@DrHenryMarsh). 

What's it like to be a brain surgeon? One of this country's leading neurosurgeons knows, and he wants to tell us. In this shocking non-fiction Henry, an actual neurosurgeon, gives us the most intimate insights into his experiences in his insanely high-pressure profession.

'If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practised by calm and detached surgeons, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candour, one of the country's leading neurosurgeons reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets and the moments of black humour that characterise a brain surgeon's life.' 

It's taken a very, very long time, but...I am finally ready to read this. For the past two years when really I've had every reason to pick this book up, a vested interest if you will, I just haven't. I haven't been able to – it seems too scary. I've also avoided documentaries and radio programmes about this subject. Now, though, I can do it. And I'm excited to learn.

'Eat, Sweat, Play' Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel). 

Anna Kessel is a sports writer and has taken it upon herself (and gosh, we are most grateful that she has!) to explore and discuss sport and exercise for women. It's become trendy and more of a done thing in recent years, which is fab, but then there are still countless obstacles and restrictions in sport for women. Why?

This was sent to me by Leena, who has been raving about this book online. I was intrigued when I read her Instagram post that said 'I learned a lot and honestly I feel like this book gave me my body back...I owe this author my body'. I am all for body pride and body positivity and body education. I'm not a sporty girl, but I don't think that will matter reading this. Maybe it'll convert me...?!

'Moranifesto', Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran). 

The latest Moran release is the most fantastical (but in no way fantasy, oh no!) set of musings and movements that should lead us to a lovely revolution, all in good time...
Caitlin Moran is firm in her belief that if each human on this planet worked together, and if we all just came up with one idea that could help the state of our community, country or planet, we could make everything right. She also takes the opportunity to look at some concepts and phenomenons and make her comments on them.
Caitlin has started up a YouTube channel to accompany this new book, and on this channel she treats us to readings of excerpts – all done in one take, I believe!

It's no secret that Caitlin is my absolute hero. She has featured in my blog posts numerous times. I see her as a figure of the highest authority already and now she's written this new non-fiction book, I can legitimately call her my chosen leader and/or goddess. She gets my vote.
Oh, I also finally met her recently. After her amazing gig of sorts at the Southbank Centre on International Women's Day. I gushed all over her in every sense of the word, thanked her profusely for all the help she's given me (via Twitter mostly), got my ancient dog-eared copy of How To Be A Woman signed and when she hugged me for the third time I left a bright red lippy kiss on her glorious muppet face. I peaked, right there and then. I'll never do better than that. Ever, in life. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

An open letter to 'the fatality'.

Dear sir/madam, 
The human who got 'hit' by a train in Hildenborough last night, 

For some reason I envisage you as a man. A man in a long mac coat with a wretched briefcase crammed with papers, no doubt all crucial for some matter or another. You have a hat, too. But that may be a little much. I just feel you have a fedora situation going on. To hide your face. You want to hide your face somehow – maybe that would be with a fancy hat as I am picturing, maybe with a snazzy Ascot or a heavy woollen scarf. Maybe you just put your head as far down as you can, your chin touching the top of your chest, those bones hitting each other separated by a just few sheets of mere skin. You're very aware of your bones. Of your jaw, your breast plate and the ribs. Your spine. They can break, you know. You know this. 

You just want to hide your face. Nobody can see you. If they saw you, they might see it. It being the immense sadness that sticks in your mind and has spread throughout every inch of you – it's been steadily spreading for a while now, weeks and months and years. You felt it begin in your brain, as these feelings often do. Just a dark cloud hovering, gathering mass and then settling in one spot. Then the feeling grew within itself, it spawned young, and thus all your innards slowly gave in to it. It was only this morning, when you awoke – perhaps in a comfy bed, beside a partner, with the sun streaming in your window, that you felt it had won. It had finally grasped your heart and turned it to crumbling stone. By the end of your day at work, it was dust.

Oh, if you could hear the people on this train talking now. Talking about you. I'm just in one carriage, on one train, headed home having been delayed by unknown reasons for almost half an hour. I bet you're the hot topic of conversation throughout the rest of this train, and on all the trains following and running parallel to it. All the trains with the tannoy announcements saying they're delayed.
I felt so depleted when I left work, so 'done'. I was happy, I was with friends, but I was empty and in need of home comforts urgently. So learning my train was delayed was almost physically painful. I cursed the trains, the station, and the whole Southeastern line. However, as soon as they made the announcement 'Platform One, all trains to Hastings...apologies for the delays...they are due to someone being hit by a train in Hildenborough...should be here in five minutes...' All my anger at being made late was gone.

I don't, and won't, talk about you the way some commuters might. The ones who accuse you and those who do what you do as 'selfish', 'nightmarish' or just plain 'inconvenient'. The latter being the worst adjective, in my opinion.
I say 'those who do what you do' because, my dear, I don't think you were simply 'hit' by a train. That's the station guard's way of saying you threw yourself in front of that train, as it came in to the station or was just passing through it, you jumped off the platform and the train collided with you mid-air. 'Hit' implies it was an accident. It wasn't. You wanted to do it. You either planned it in advance, or just let the moment take you. Whichever it was, you knew it was going to happen and you made it happen.

No, I couldn't say awful things. I have done in the past, but I have since realised how horrible it is to say that, to do that. To hate you. How could I? You may be the reason I'm late home, the reason so many of us are late home or late to a dinner date or late to a party or late to a chilled evening in with a significant other...but you did this.

I have myself had those thoughts before, when standing on a train platform. Of course I have. I think everyone has, to some degree, if only to think 'oh good lord, I could never do that'. I've considered it but briefly, on a London Underground platform when we could all hear the train rushing through the tunnel and knew its arrival was imminent. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, though, my whole body tensed and I was struck with the most immense and horrible chills. The hot yet freezing sensation surged through my veins and something screamed at me to stay back. My mind – buggered up as it is, trust me my friend – was stopping me. I wouldn't pass the yellow line. I hate that yellow line anyway, I hate people who stand just a fraction beyond it and thus terrify all their fellow platform dwellers just for a moment, because we all think 'shit, will they do that?'
I think as long as your mind and body are afraid of stepping out off the side, onto the tracks, then you won't do it. I hope that's the case, anyway. As long as you get that sudden freezing feeling of ultimate dread, and maybe that frantic clip show of happy moments you've had in your life played to you inside your eyelids, then you'll be safe.
But then there are some like you, you the 'anonymous fatality', who will not care in the slightest and not have any part of their mind or body reach out somehow to stop them as they inch closer and closer to the edge. And that, well that is the most heartbreaking thing about all this.

Sir/madam, I hope oh how I hope that you are in a better place now. That you are happy and among friends. I don't personally believe in Heaven or Hell, but I like to think you are in some beyond atmosphere and you are cared for appropriately there. Maybe the others, your fellow jumpers, are there too and they're all sharing their experiences and regrets or triumphs. Maybe they're making sense of it all.

I wish you all the best, and I wish your friends and family down on my level, here on this planet, all the luck and all the strength dealing and carrying on now. And peace.

Yours sincerely,

The girl on the delayed 18:29 service, in the eighth carriage. x

Friday, 1 April 2016

Getting talking!

For the past year of my life, I have had counselling. I've been seeing a fantastic fully-qualified private counsellor in her home a short drive away for 50 minute sessions of just sitting in a nice little room, a safe space, and talking through the bad stuff. 

Yesterday, it ended. I had my last 50 minutes. The session was a celebration – we had a cuppa and some salted caramel cookies, talked through things as per and agreed happily that it did feel right to end. She gave me a tiny book filled with lovely poetic sayings and I left with the biggest smile on my face. You cannot beat that post-therapy feel; the sense of good clean emptiness almost, immense emotion having been unloaded, it's just blissful. 

I realised yesterday, when we recapped the things I've needed help with over the past year, that I really have been through a lot. And I've come out the other side. I couldn't have done that without this. 

It took me a while to realise counselling was what I needed. For ages I was soldiering on, swallowing feelings and thus prone to periods of intense sadness, or even the odd outburst directed at others. I had the opportunity offered to me numerous times, the concept explained in full and suggestions of contacts given, but I was reluctant for quite some time.
I personally believe this was down to one of my biggest personal problems which is pleasing people. I didn't want to cause any drama or cost anyone anything, I didn't want to draw attention to myself or my dilemmas, and so I kept on ignoring. Not putting myself first.
It must have been maybe the hundredth sad or enraged outburst that occurred when I finally accepted that I needed help. Which, as everyone will tell you repeatedly, is the first and hardest step. I agreed to see this recommended local woman for just the introductory half hour session talking and getting to grips with what can happen. After this half hour, I had a gut instinct that I needed this, that it would help me if only a little.

Turns out, it helped a lot. I've always believed that talking can be a miracle cure for things, it can be all you need (ask any one of my friends and they'll tell you, I am a talker!) but this is different – it's actually sitting, speaking, and being heard by someone new, someone neutral. Someone who is just there for you, and doesn't take anyone else's side. They only care about you and how you feel.
There were a few things to adjust to, for instance whenever a good cry happened (also a miracle cure for most things) there would be no heartfelt hugging, not even any humouring hand-patting. Also you're rarely given an outright solution to a problem, that's not what a counsellor does – you're given a new perspective sometimes, or just a select few supportive words. I was always blown away whenever I'd talk about a problem at length, not seeing a way out of it, and then this woman would simply say a few words along the lines of 'where does that come from, though?'/'have you considered this?'...and it solved everything. 

One more big thing that surprised me was what you talk about. It didn't matter if I had a clear idea of what needed discussing, I would almost always find myself talking about something else. I'd surprise myself bringing something up, or being steered towards something unexpected...and finding it was exactly what needed to be brought up. Y'know?
I soon decided to go along to my sessions with one thing in mind, if that, to mention in conversation. Anything else would come up organically and be completely perfect.

I cannot recommend therapy enough. If you have a problem, if it's an issue you are 100% aware of or maybe you just feel out of sorts or very unhappy and aren't sure why, then look into seeing someone, if only for one session to see how it feels. See if it helps.

I'd see my counsellor once a week typically but due to health happenings and changes in rotas at times it's had to be a case of 'I'll email whenever I'm free, please fit me in' which isn't ideal, really, but it means so much that she's been able to do that for me.
Most people will see their person once a week or once a fortnight maybe, at a set time on a set day. The pattern and reliable routine can be majorly helpful. 

The NHS are getting much better with this – friends of mine have seen therapists or gone to specific support groups that have been arranged and fully funded by the NHS, and said it's been perfect for them. I personally saw someone privately, someone who came recommended.

Counselling has helped me deal with my illness. You see, my illness is not just the actual physical thing that needed operating on a couple of times then zapping with radiation. It's also an array of mental matters that were almost entirely a direct result of the physical thing, with some other lesser causes mixed in. These mental matters needed identifying, and addressing. I was unaware of so much for so long, and I'm so grateful to now see everything for what it is, and to know myself that much better.

Ending this wonderful treatment of sorts felt unusual and did frighten me a little at first...but it also made complete sense. I'm in the best place, now. I'm aware of every issue I have, every nervous tendency and every barrier I put up for myself – and those things aren't gone, no, they're managed. I am in control of them. I see them when they crop up and threaten things and situations, and now I know how to deal with them.

I am happy and comfortable within myself. I really am. I won't lie, it feels really strange and somewhat alien, having been so lost and so sad for so long...but it's pretty damn awesome. 

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