Thursday, November 19, 2015

To You, Who Is Heartbroken

I see you sitting there, with your broken heart and sad little mouth... you look bewildered. I'm sorry you're cross. I'm sorry that someone didn't see in you what I see, but it doesn't mean that great stuff isn't there.

Let your mother tell you a little story to explain how it is... it won't make you feel better, because only chocolate, sleep and shouting will do that, but it'll help you realise this is only the first time you'll be broken, not the last.

Back in the olden days...

Yes, before mummy drank the magic potion that made her 6 foot and blonde, back in the...

Oh, yes, way before Daddy bought Mummy the Taj Mahal, back in the...

Yes poppet, it was just before the population of the UK got so confused and disinterested in politics that they voted in meerkats rather than humans.

Back in the olden days, before music got piped straight into your ears from a satellite by the good people at Bang, Olufsen and Offspring of Unspecified Gender, we used to have to go out and buy music on little discs.

This disc would be put into a machine and it would spin round and round, and music would come out of these big boxes on either side, called speakers. Everyone in the room would hear the music, not just the ears it was aimed at. We used to have parties back then...

Well, a party, my angel, was where you went to meet people... that's how we did dating.

No, it was ever so slightly before Tindr.

No, Mummy and Daddy met before Tindr.

Um, kind of romantic, yes... remind me one day to tell you never to get drunk at the Edinburgh Festival and go home with one of your mates thinking sex wouldn't change anything. You're in grave danger of winding up extremely married.

You could buy music in two different formats.

Singles. And Albums.

A single was just one song, possibly with some back up terrible songs to pad it out a bit. It was cheap to buy and it got you just that one song, with maybe a remix that no one in their right mind would listen to.

An album was a fully thought out collection of songs from that one artist. It was arranged in a specific way, usually, and sometimes had a theme or a story or developed in style through the album or it was sometimes a fairly steady adventure through one genre.

This is what you need to know about people.

Some people in your life will be a single. They will come bursting into your existence and you will want to play them 24 hours a day, sorry 26 hours a day...

We used to have 24, my dear, but no one listened to Scandinavia when they said a shorter work day was more productive.

You will be obsessed with that single. It will be the best thing you've ever heard and you'll play it to everyone you know, staring at them as they listen and hoping they love it as much as you do. They won't.

That one song will encapsulate everything you feel about a time in your life. You'll know it inside out. You'll listen to the other song on the single once or twice, but it doesn't give you that same feeling and you'll try and shut it out of your mind that you don't love other parts as much as the bit you first heard.

Then, the time for that single will be over. You'll get bored of that single and you'll stop listening to it because a new one has come along.

You will be a single to other people's lives too. Some people will come and love you passionately and briefly.

There are tips I can tell you for how to make it less brief and more satisfying but that is for another day.

If you're honest with yourself you will be frustrated that they really only seem interested in that one track of yours. You'll know there are more tracks you have, that you aren't playing because you don't trust that they'll want to hear. But don't be ashamed to want to keep playing that same track over and over again if it keeps them near. Some of us can't stand silence.

They will stop listening to you and you will be, as you are now, broken and wondering if you were rubbish all along and just didn't know.

You are not.

Because here is where the magic happens.

Some people in your life will be an album.
And you will be an album to many.

Some people will be track after track after track of better and better music that you think is endlessly clever, and more intricate and more elaborately developed.

Some people will be undulating tracks that race you, slow you, make you dance, make you think, make you cry, make you laugh and make you want them to be your own work.

You will be that for them.

Some albums will get cleverer every time you listen to them.
Some albums will play quietly in the background and you'll find them so familiar you almost stop hearing them but you feel the chill when they finish and something inferior comes on.

Your father is the best album I've ever heard. He's the music on the dodgems that makes me want to be 15 and on a sugar high, he's the whale music I want to fall asleep to, he's the music over the opening credits on my favourite sitcom. Every time I reach the end of his album and I think perhaps this is the time I'm bored of him, I wait in a few minutes of silence and there's a new hidden track I didn't know about. Every time the album spins I hear a riff or an instrument or a lyric or a note that I hadn't heard before and I can't believe I'd ever missed.

So, this one that you're crying over now, and do keep crying; it's important, you should. This one that has only heard your single, don't worry about them. It's not that you're not an album, you just weren't an album for them. And they not for you.

In 10 years time you and I will sit together and we'll play this person's single and you won't hate it. You will smile fondly and think of this time when this single was everything. You'll think it a perfectly pleasant piece of music that has it's place in your discography. You'll smile at it on the radio but never play it yourself.

Go and find yourself and album.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Peace Porn

In the year 2021 there was a war that blew the heads off too many people. Obviously, not the people who could afford not to have their heads blown off. They were in war bunkers, inside mountains, in submarines and in huge underground excavations beneath their houses.

The war of the year 2021 lasted only 8 months but killed over 50% of the world's population. The ferocity, the scale of the fury and the weaponry development meant that the war could kill quickly, and in huge numbers. Political opinion polls said that people were cross with each other and wanted a government that would do something about it. So governments all over the world did something about each other.

In the year 2021 so many people had died that the world was threatening to stop working. The people in the bunkers and excavations noticed that the dust was mounting up. They noticed that the staff had fewer and fewer grocery bags when they returned from shopping. The staff reported that there were fewer and fewer groceries on the shelves. The shop managers said there were fewer and fewer people to find and make and produce food.

Television advertisers noticed lower revenues from their adverts because there were fewer and fewer people to watch TV and buy things. The television advertisers phoned the producers and said to make reality TV better to draw more people into watching. The producers said reality wasn't worth watching.

The people in the bunkers realised they couldn't make as much money if there were fewer people. Other people in other bunkers realised that if there were only candidates left, they would all vote for themselves. One person in one bunker had run out of toilet roll and didn't want to have to buy that sort of stuff for herself if the staff got killed.

There was a meeting of bunker people where they all agreed that they would have a better chance of staying rich and powerful if the war stopped.

They agreed to stop the war. They signed a treaty which declared there would be no more weaponry, no more defence, no more attack... no more war. All military property and power was signed over to a Global Regulatory Body who watched over everything and put all the guns in a safe. Only water pistols were allowed from that day on.

On the anniversary of Cessation Day the countries decided to each make a gift to each other to show they meant well forevermore. France gave Albania an ornate vase. Kenya gave Hungary the contents of a zoo. The UK gave the USA the concept of free healthcare but they were too suspicious to use it. Thought and care went into the gifts going each way but everyone knew that Pakistan's gift of free hospitality to any Swedish national who came to stay, was the kindest most thoughtful gift of them all.

On the second anniversary of Cessation Day every country wanted to out do Pakistan's thoughtfulness from the previous year. Governments hired their best minds, most strategic thinkers and wackiest inventors to come up with something brilliant they could offer.

The quality of the gifts stepped up as the years went by... Germany presented Bolivia with hover boards (and the required helmets), New Zealand unveiled a new high calorie additive that could be safely added to milk and gave it freely to Ethiopia. The United Kingdom handed back the contents of the British Museum and sold the building, giving the proceeds to Egypt.

As the years went on the rivalry between countries that had once been funnelled into gun barrels was wrapped in crepe paper and passed around the world. Politicians peacocked and media publications competed for national supremacy but they did it with gifts. All the graduates, inventors and engineers who had once orchestrated the most effective shrapnel were refocused onto projects like The Best Fireworks Japan's Ever Seen, Here's How We Shove It to Italy by Inventing a Time Machine and In Your Face Australia - This Is a Rabbit Proof Fence.

In 2024 Denmark freed Nigeria from malaria. Nigeria didn't wait until 2025 to share it's gift with others (it already had some very cool ideas up it's sleeve and didn't want to postpone them until 2026).

In 2027 when flooding and storm damage wrecked much of agricultural Thailand, Jamaica knew it's gift that year would be fixing and reinstating the lives of those broken.

Never before in human history had intelligence, invention and engineering come on so quickly and so vigorously in all directions. Diseases were cured, famines were aided and technology was paraded around for all to see as governments put all their gun money into the competition. No one wanted to show weakness.

Arguments raged, alliances were formed and enemies made. It was much like before, for human nature could not be changed that easily, but it was making something. Not destroying.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hey The Man, Do You Have Any Jobs?

Today I had a meeting with a man about getting a mortgage.

I told the man how much money I had saved and how much I earned and he put all the numbers into a computer and then had a look to see if I could buy a house.

In order to buy a two bedroom flat in the place I live, he said I was almost there but I would probably need to just double the amount I have saved for a deposit, and then double my annual income too. Then I could get the mortgage.

He just cheerfully looked me in the eye and suggested I double my annual income and come back and see him when I'd done that.

I work in an industry where I have been doing gigs for the same amount of money for the last 5 years. In 5 years the cost of fuel, food, warmth and walls has gone up an awful lot... but the amount I get paid to do my job has stayed stock still for most gig, gone down for others and disappeared in a lot of cases.

He looked me in the eye and suggested I just DOUBLE MY ANNUAL INCOME.

This happened in the same week I found out my period is still a fucking luxury and the bacon I'm eating to console myself on my luxurious, velvet clad period is going to give me cancer and by the time all the cancer has really settled in and I'm too poor from wasting all my hard earned dollar on these fucking tampons that I know I should quit but I just fucking can't, there won't be an NHS any more and I'll be sticking money in the meter to watch the BBC while my Coca-Cola catheter pumps me full of a liquid that, thanks to Jamie Oliver, I know contains exactly 23 teaspoons more sugar than it should.

Obviously, the sensible choice would be to stick two fingers up to Andrew Lloyd-Webber and go shit on a cat, get pregnant and then just drive around waving my swollen period free stomach at tampon vendors screaming "THIS IS LUXURY YOU SONS OF BITCHES". But it looks like tax credits are also going to get thrown out the window so the baby that I'm using to avoid paying my blood money is going to be really hungry because I don't earn enough to buy a garage.

Unless I move to the north. I have enough money to buy a 3 bedroom detached house in the north. But I'm not that stupid. I know the North is where the SNP live and they're destabilising the blessed union that that Scottish King created several thousand years ago or something.

Obviously I've read Facebook and I know it's the Tories fault. Evil Tories. I can't believe they managed to invent social inequality, sexual inequality, financial instability, capitalism and a housing crisis in the 6 or so short years since they came to power. I miss the paradise we lived in under Labour. Remember the good old years? Remember when we all used to be happy because of Labour? At least the Tories have the backbone to tell us even bacon has stabbed us in the back. Labour just sat there quietly watching us eat it.

"Go on you fat fucks, eat the bacon. Get the cancer. Then you'll need our NHS and you'll be delighted that we're keeping it and you'll keep voting for us and the Tories will never win. Sure, you'll have cancer, but you'll also have bacon and we'll be in power."

What are the Tories doing? Lots of grubby hand rubbing from what I can tell from vaguely skim reading peoples' statuses. They're selling babies and inventing ebola so that we all die and have to buy limbs from the Chinese. Fucking Tories. If only Jeremy Corbyn wasn't made of bacon and had genuine leadership potential.

The obvious solution is a bacon tampon. Roll it up, stick it in and yes you will technically still be paying tax on the tampon but because of the cancer it's ABSOLUTELY GOING TO GIVE YOU TOMORROW you will, overall, pay less tax because you'll be dead. From the cancer bacon is giving you.

I don't even use tampons. I use a moon cup because it's cheaper, better for the environment and better for my body. Tomorrow I'm going to fill my moon cup with bacon and send it to Andrew Lloyd Webber sellotaped to the back of an angry cat wearing roller-skates with a message saying "I don't fuck with your shit Webber, now you leave us alone." That will show people I'm more than an e-petition or a grumpy status.*

I don't even use tampons. I. don't. even. use. tampons.

That means, even someone as fiscally sensible as me who has been exploiting a loophole in the cruelly unjust tampon tax system that is affecting hard working families such as me, cannot afford to buy a house. That's when you know the system is broken.

* Disclaimer, I literally intend to just write this blog and take no action on any social issues that bother me.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


I shaved my head last week.

Raised £1,000 for a cancer charity and was really pleased with the result. By result, I mean the money... not the look.

All hell has broken loose in my head. I'm seriously beginning to wonder if my hair might have had some tin foil qualities in keeping the ludicrous voices out. Maybe it's not that I'm an anxious wrecking ball of self doubt, maybe it's aliens sending messages down to me from space and my hair was the only thing keeping them away?

That is one of the more shareable thoughts I've had this week. It's been pretty exhausting.

I'm a vain person. I'm a very insecure person. This week I've been dealing with having my own image completely changed, of my own doing, and feeling a bit screwed up about it. Then, on top of that I've been feeling horrendous about mourning my hair when the reason it went was to help people who have probably also lost their hair but for a proper reason that they couldn't control. They didn't choose it. I did, because, I guess, I wanted to be a bit of hero. And now I don't like that the tiny thing I had to do has not gone away once the fanfare died down.

My head is full of voices of people looking at me thinking, "Put your hair back on your head and keep the money then you selfish witch. How have you managed to make my battle with cancer about you?"

My worst fear came true on Monday when a cancer patient on Twitter tweeted to me, "It's not good enough - you've deceived a cancer patient into thinking they'd see a bald woman" (because I didn't do a wet shave, I have a fuzzy once currently) and I think my heart might have actually squeezed itself out of my arse and ears with dismal shame. It transpired he was joking, thank Attenborough, and he said he'd received Macmillan support in the past and thought it a worthy cause. But I think it helped me realise that shame is exactly the right word for how I've felt. Deep, gross, shame at my own immaturity that I couldn't wear this symbol of support for someone without feeling totally chaotic in my own head.

The worst thing about Monday to Wednesday this week was waiting for that first gig on Thursday where I would step out in front of an audience and have a new first impression to deal with. I know my persona when I have my hair... I know how I look in my clothes, I know how I come across, I know when to twiddle my fringe in my fingers to occupy myself when I'm waiting for a punchline to land.

With my shaved head I feel like none of my clothes look the same. I feel like the fact I'm fat is more obvious. I think I look masculine and I'm not used to that. The grey hairs are not hidden anymore and that punches me right in the vanity. But worst of all, and something that is weirdly hard to admit in case it makes it even worse to say it out loud, I am absolutely fucking inside out cold guts feeling petrified that someone will think I've lost my hair because I had cancer myself, and will attribute some sort of bravery or sympathy that I in no way deserve.

I stepped out on Thursday and opened with my usual jokes and then addressed my hair as a secondary subject. The audience were mildly interested and then we carried on with the rest of my set as normal.

The woman in the middle of the front row with the brightly coloured head scarf wrapped all around her head laughed too and my terrified little self-obsessed heart started beating again.

I'm not sure stand-up comedy will ever stop rescuing me. Or maybe, it's the people in the audience being decent people and not like the shitboxes that are the subject of so many FB shares, that rescues me. Gives me faith. Stand up comedy might just be a conduit through which you can generally channel the best people in the world. People chasing the simple high of a laugh and a shared truth are my favourite.

I don't really know what the point of this post is. I certainly don't want sympathy or any kind of "there there, dear" and I hope it doesn't come across as a cry for any of that. It is not and I really don't want it. I just wanted to be honest about how a stupid little thing has pulled me apart a bit, because I don't think you're ever the first to feel weird stuff and the more people put it out there, the more someone else has a chance of finding it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mama Bird

My husband turned 30 at the weekend and he did it in his typically understated way, with no great ceremony and a hell of a hangover. It's a funny thing turning 30 because every time you hit a decade people like to make out like it's a big life event... happily forgetting that we invented the decimal system and made tens important. Hell, we invented counting. Also birthdays.

I asked him if he was feeling nervous about being in his thirties, myself being a spritely 28 and I am feeling secure in the knowledge that the future has never arrived before and therefor I will always be in my twenties.

He said he wasn't and asked me if I thought he should be. A sure sign he's an excellent husband, as I really feel my opinion ought to be sought frequently by many more people than it currently is.

I thought about it, and I decided he shouldn't be. I think at the rate people, societies and generations are changing there is nothing set about what a certain age should mean. Perhaps it's always been thus, but it feels to me like there are so many different avenues to take now that the times we are "supposed" to do anything become less and less set in stone with each passing year.

We got to talking about generations and the fact that we weren't too sure what a generation is. My husband, we'll call him Alan, said that he didn't think generations could be marked other than in a family. I thought even that could be complicated... for example the age gap between my eldest sibling and my youngest is nearly 13 years. The eldest has two children (6 and 3), a dog and a husband... the youngest is just starting his second year at university. Could they be considered two different generations? Certainly they won't be doing the same activities within the same time spans - is that more what a generation is?

Alan thought about it and then came out with something that did make me pull up and wonder a bit. He said, "The thing is, my mum was 22 when she had me. So I really remember her 30th birthday, because I was already 8."

This was something that made me stop and wonder about ages and meanings. Being a woman, particularly one who has just got married, I get asked a lot whether we want to have children. When I say we do but we are going to wait a few years people, mostly older people, look at my stomach and tell me I mustn't leave it too long, as though I might accidentally forget basic biology and try and leave it until I'm 90. I'm not sure I have the energy to play lego with a child all day now, let alone when I'm 90 - please save your concern that I'll leave it too late.

The thing is, I very strongly feel that I would rather mess myself up by missing the boat and not having children at all, than mess a child up by having one too early because I was scared I'd miss my chance. I don't want to have one until it's all I want to do... and at the moment it's not even the second or third thing I want to do.

Alan and I live in a one bedroom flat we can barely afford with jobs that we have to fight daily for and give up any sense of dependable lifestyle or timetable just to keep the rent paid. People seem to think that issues like that will melt away the second I germinate. Perhaps a hormonal compulsion to breed also attracts money from somewhere? I suspect not.

As much as my brain and I are on the same level with where we're going with our lives, one part of me is desperately trying to tug us towards the maternity section. I have noticed a compelling urge to nurture things. I am hopelessly addicted to garden centres and other people's dogs.

Today at the garden centre I bought another 10 litres of compost and two new pots and two bird feeders.

I do not have a garden.

I do not even have a porch.

I have 6 oversized houseplants lined up on a radiator in the front room next to the only window that gets sunlight during the day. They sit their with their Baby Bio, their new pots and their mother's love.

I have hung one bird feeder on a ribbon by the kitchen window, and am currently unsure what to do with the second one because, as I may have mentioned, I do not have a garden and I'm not sure Alan will let me have a bird feeder in the bedroom. Amy Adams he is not.

I suppose this must mean my body wants something to look after. My nephews no longer suffice to keep my raging hormones at bay and even my wee sister's recently purchased Jack Russell puppy is not near enough to whet my appetite.

I suppose now it's bit of a race against time to achieve everything I want to achieve before my brain catches up with my chemicals and we all want a baby. Until then I suppose I will make do with the sight of 30 wild birds a day flying head long into my kitchen window while I recreate the Amazon around Alan in the front room. He's a lucky man.

Friday, September 4, 2015

You Could Be Them, No Not That Them, The Other Them

I've just accidentally got caught up in a Facebook debate about the refugee crisis. I say "accidentally", I mean the following steps happened:

1. I saw something that annoyed me in someone's status.
2. I waded in with the answer and sat back waiting for them to reply with "You're right".
3. 18 other people got involved with even weirder (to me) statements.
4. I spent 30 minutes trying to individually persuade them otherwise like some keyboard based messiah.
5. I wrote on my blog like a true activist.

Something came up, though, that put a lot of things into perfect clarity for me.

Someone in the debate, who was very pro the UK taking more refugees, said something along the lines of "we should and will do loads to help but as usual it'll be us normal people doing it while the rich sit back and do nothing".

My first thought was... "But, compared to these refugees you are insanely rich. Like, crazy rich."

Then I thought, "but he doesn't feel rich because he's in this country where he's in the middle of it all."

Then I thought, "I don't suppose most rich people feel really rich, because they'll always know people with more than them."

Then I thought, no one feels like what they've got is more than they deserve. Everyone believes that the sum of money they've amassed, or the home comforts they've gathered around them, are the very least of what they should have for the hard work they've put in.

Then I thought, well if the "normals" in this country feel a bit put out about having to give up that hard clawed privilege to people who have far less, that explains to me why we're currently fighting for an NHS and basic welfare.

It seems to me that there are quite a lot of people out there with this opinion:

UK Person: I've worked hard for my money and my house, I have earned this through my hard work. I did it in this country and so I don't see why I should be called upon to help people who have not earned the same stuff in this country.

But, doesn't that strike you as extremely similar to this opinion:

UK Person: I've worked hard for my money and my house, I have earned this through my hard work. I did it in this country and so I don't see why I should be called upon to help people who have not earned the same stuff in this country.

The first opinion is someone unsure about whether or not we should be offering so much help to refugees.
The second opinion is someone unsure whether or not we should have a large welfare state.

The problem is, we're very quick to be able to say that the rich have had help becoming and staying the rich:

- Rich parents,
- Best schools,
- Nepotism,
- Financial security should risks fail,

We scoff that that rich don't seem to understand that they're rich because they had everything handed to them to make it SO much easier to stay rich.

But, what we don't see is that we have all had those advantages if we're talking about the global community. We all had relatively rich parents compared to a lot of the world, we have some of the best schools compared to half the world (curse you perfect Scandinavia!)... we are the totally unaware rich in the world stage.

There's a real issue with us believing this media/society/capitalist trope that how successful you've been is a marker of how hard you have tried. Refugees escaping a war that's been raging for 3 years are not doing so because they can't be arsed to get on Monster and get a job like you did.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


I'm shaving my head to raise money for Macmillan research and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Overall, I think raising money for charity is a good thing. I also think these one off events help to garner a little bit more cash from people who already do Direct Debits but will do more with a little reminder like Lenny Henry or the chance for their friend to look like an idiot.

It took me a long time to decide I was going to do it because I was concerned about two things:

1. I'm scared I'll look ugly.

2. I don't like the way doing these "brave" events make it about you.

Two completely contradictory reasons to be nervous about doing a thing. I eventually made my mind up because I was so scared. I wouldn't be scared to run 10k so it didn't feel like a challenge for me. Which made my second reason for doubting all the more prevalant... Is it crass to immitate the symptoms of a disease to help raise money for it? Is it bad to raise money for the seriously ill by running a race and showing off your fitness? Or is it about looking at someone who needs help and saying, "I can't understand what you're going through but I can do this tiny gesture to show I'd share your pain if I could?"

Truth is I don't know. No one would has complained so far, and I trust Macmillan that this campaign has been researched and thought through. Still, the fear is there that somebody out there is battling cancer and seeing my friends posting about "how brave" I am and feeling worse than if I wasn't doing it.

Would we do the same for other diseases?

"Hey, I'm doing a sponsored hop for war veterans!"
"I'm raising money for deforestation, sponsor my house repossession?"

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome... would I sponsor someone for a weekend on the vindaloo?

Ultimately, if it helps, it helps I suppose. I have made sure to put my own money into my sponsorship pot... otherwise I haven't actually given anything. It's too much like an Ice Bucket Challenge otherwise... that thing that raised awareness for ASL or ALS or SLA or whatever it was. You remember, it was great at raising awareness?

But I still feel uneasy. I'm just not sure. It doesn't sit well that there has to be gimmick. If I just started a page that said "I'm raising money for Macmillan" and I wasn't doing anything... would people give? It needs the catalyst for impetus, but perhaps the mimicking is the bit I can't get my head round. Excuse the pun.

My grandmother had cancer; over 10 years she had breast, bowel, skin and bone I think and finally died after fighting the sod for far longer than she should have had to. I don't really know what she'd think of what I was doing. She was a ferocious woman; either heartedly supportive or disdainfully dismissive. My suspicion is that the Grandma in her would override the cancer sufferer and she would probably just be cross that I was ruining my "lovely" hair.

It feels very strange to be doing a "good" thing and be struggling with a guilty conscience about whether it's right. I am so grateful for all the people donating - there have been some startling large amounts coming Macmillan's way.

I also feel awful about how scared I am of doing it. I'm scared about how gigging will be with such an altered appearance and whether I'll still be sexy for my brand new husband. It's the "having a shaved head will be awful" feeling that's keeping me going. Because for the people this money will help, losing their hair is a sign they're getting treated... it's not even in the top ten disasters their body is facing. And if it's all I'm scared of, then I need to stop being so self involved.