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

Skinn'ed

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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Humans Are Weird

Four years ago I was at the Edinburgh Fringe taking part in a wonderful show called Quiz In My Pants. It was in a venue that could only be entered via the sort of dingy alleyway that Edinburgh is famous for. After about six days of doing the show we noticed a truly awful smell in the alleyway, and, after further inspection, we noticed the largest human shit I've ever seen lurking menacingly by the wall opposite the door.

It was distinctively human. It was odious and spiteful in the way that dog poo can never achieve no matter how hard it tries. This human poo sat and brooded opposite the door. The smell of a human poo baking in the summer sun in an alleyway that was already less than fragrant is not to be sniffed at. It was valiantly putrid; obtusely invasive and intensfied as the days continued.

Within a few days it began to crust over and we thought we might recieve a respite from the daily horror of passing it into the venue. It formed a dark, black, Guinness like crust which we hoped would seal the devil inside it. Unfortunately, during the night, something unseen must have crashed into it and broke the protective casing, allowing a new wave of tragedy to rinse our senses.

As the days progressed, the intermittent Edinburgh rain washed the poo. In it's sheltered position in the alleyway, the poo was protected from being washed away but was rinsed into a larger surface area. A liquid smear. Poo soup. Stagnating in the alleyway and putting us off our lives, and punters off our show.

I tell you this, to assure you, that I have seen some disgsuting things in my life and in particular at the Edinburgh Festival. Yesterday, I saw something that trumped it all. Sitting in one of my favourite food spots, I turned to look at the meal and the drinks being provided to the people at the table next to us.

I saw two, fully grown adults, being served traditional fish and chips, along with a beer each, and a pint of milk. A pint of milk each, to drink with their fish and chips and alternate with their beer.

I felt physically sick. The space in my head labelled "Most Rancid Thing You've Ever Seen" switched suddenly from the abnormally large outdoor poo in the alleyway, to a new video clip of a man with a milk moustache putting mushy peas in his mouth and washing it down with some beer. Over and over again the cycle continued... bit of fish, a chip (generously smothered in vinegar) big gulp of milk and a sip of beer.

WHAT KIND OF PSYCHOPATH HAS A PINT OF MILK WITH THEIR DINNER IN A RESTAURANT?

... AND ADDS A BEER?!

Milk is for Coco Pops. Not battered fish.
Milk is for bed times. Not a beer chaser.
Chips are for soaking up alcohol. Not floating in a milky fish soup in your rapidly curdling bellyfull.
Milk is for babies. Not people paying on credit cards.
Beer is for parties and barbecues. Not replacing Kahlua in a tummy cocktail party.
Milk is from cows. Fish is from the sea. Unless you're eating a sea cow, you should not be having milk with it.

I always thought it would be a politician that made me finally give up my faith in people, but, if that was you in that restaurant with that milk and that meal then please know it was you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lullabyebirdy

Sleep time Laura is a dick.

That's what I've learned today. I've been having trouble sleeping up here at the Edinburgh festival. I have anxiety - pens out lads, add it to the list of sexy attributes along with large bum and being the height of a well nourished adolescent. I'd guess it's low level anxiety as I function, generally speaking, most days and try not to make a fuss. But it's the usual; sweaty, shaky, high heart rate, difficulty meeting people's eyes. Yada Yada, nothing I can't handle. Except.

Sleep. Sleep when I'm anxious sucks mighty sweaty butt holes filled with sambucca sand. I can fall asleep with no problem at all. But then I wake up every two hours for seemingly no reason. It's like having an invisible child. I might be world's best practise surrogate parent. Tonight I might attempt just resting a nipple on the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner to see if these night wakes are my body desiring the time to mother something.

Last Fringe I used sleeping tablets; those herbally ones that are associated with owls. As though every person with sleeping issues will see those adverts and think, "Finally, an advert that speaks to me. I can really associate with owls and their difficulties. That is just how I feel."

This year, I hoped not to need to because I am having a really good time andthought I might not be so anxious. Sadly, anxiety is not so based on how you think you're feeling. Well, for me anyway. It seems to me it's more like your body's way of using your functions to say "I know you don't think you're anxious, but screw you, I'm going to behave like we are anyway until you find something to be anxious about."

So, this year, feeling less anxious, I just bought ear plugs to block out extraneous noise and keep me asleep once I've drifted off. It's been working OK. I'd say it had a success rate of Nickleback. Surprisingly decent for something so simple, but has really fallen flat recently.

I woke after a horrible night's sleep dreaming I was trying to contact Watford Travelodge from the Fringe because I'd left my iMac there and needed to pop back and get it,. Two terifying prospects there; losing my iMac, and having to go to Watford Travelodge again. I stayed there a few weeks ago and had to have my room refunded because it smelt so strongly of urine. Hooray!

I woke with both ear plugs missing. First I panicked that I'd somehow managed to absorb them into my ears. I have a friend who lost one of his ear phones only to find out a year later it HAD BEEN IN HIS EAR THE WHOLE TIME. After humming to myself for a bit and switching on the radio to check, I was quite convinced that they weren't in my ears.

I looked over to my bedside table and my ear plugs were there; sitting neatly side by side on the table. Sleep time Laura is clearly enough of a self destructive pleb to have removed the ear plugs quite on purpose and decided to just not enjoy unconsciousness.

How on earth do you deal with your subconscious self sabotaging even your best attempts to be cheerful and zen? Do I strap my arms to the head board tonight? Is that going to make me look like the weirdest S&M afficionado in the house? Would it be worse if there was a weirder one?

Gaffer tape might be the option; to strap the ear plugs into my ears and pray that my comatose fingers are not dextorus enough to remove them so swiftly.

My best guess is to think positive; maybe my dream Laura was actually trying to save me? Maybe she knew that even waking up every two hours for 3 more weeks was better than staying in a dream that involved Watford Travelodge.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Size Eight Feet

I am the proud owner of a pair of sparkly plastic Jellies. They were very cheap and do not absorb water and so I thought they would be absolutely perfect for the Edinburgh Fringe. It rains for a little bit most days in Edinburgh, and then as soon as it finishes the sun comes out and everything is stunning again before the darker rain clouds roll over again. For this reason, I favour the plastic shoe. My feet may well get a good rinse every day, but they are non absorbant and therefore dry rapidly when the sun comes back.

Except, it hasn't rained me the last two days and my feet are still soaking.

From my own rancid, unexpected and totally unwelcome, foot sweat.

I have condemned my tootsies to a mouth of greenhouse living in which they are shrivelling and baking in equal measure. How did I live until the age of 28 never knowing it was possible to get conversation from your toes?

I wouldn't mind, but I spend my entire show panicking that someone is going to notice and call me out as being a gross little bint. Who knew so much liquid could come out of a foot? Aren't they 99% bone? What if it starts flowing out the gaps on the side and I am just trickling a trail of foot liquid behind me as I traipse across the stage?

Of course the other, even less desirable side effect of plastic shoes is that the hairs on your toes and feet get caught on the plastic and you end up giving yourself a mini waxing session every time you break out into a trot.

Yeah yeah, I know women aren't meant to have hairy feet but I DO so there. They are tiny little hobbit things and the hair is much much worse these days because of all the teenage evenings I spent sitting in shaving them into a fine stubble.

Stupid hairy sweaty feet are ruining my vibe.

My clear plastic glittery jelly shoes were meant to help me feel like I was walking on air; not have me hobbling around wincing at the plucking and sploshing through the cider I'm sweating out of my soles.

I'm considering installing some of those feet eating fish in a wonderful mix of 70s iconic platform homage and mid 20Teen fish craze practicalities. I have a feeling they won't last much longer than the introductory few minutes of the show. The poor bastards. That water would have more toxins than the Thames.

I may go looking for more sensible shoes next week. First, however I'm going to see whether all this extra foot sweat helps me to lose any weight while I'm pounding around Edinburgh. I think itd be fun to have weirdly shrunken feet; like one of those voodoo heads but the other end.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fine Gully

In the summer of 2005 I am 18 years old and living in a small village called Norton Fitzwarren in Somerset. I've just finished my A Levels and am waiting for the results in the longest summer of my life. I already know I've passed, and I know that come September I will be moving across the country to Canterbury. I have a terrible haircut but I am 2 stone lighter than I currently am, so, swings and roundabouts.

Looking back I wish I'd been the picture of relaxed teenager that I should have been. The whole world stretched before me, blazing sunshine and not a care in the world that can't be easily solved by either a Horlicks or sambucca.

Unfortunately I am not relaxed. I am pulsing ball of sweaty anxiety. I'm not taking the transition from endless revision to endless time well; I don't know what to do with myself. I'm petrified I've made the wrong choice with my university; should I be going to drama school? Why have I picked somewhere literally on the opposite side of the country?! Oh, I remember, it has five bars and a nightclub on campus. I'm an idiot.

I'm working nights in a bar. I say bar... it's a huge sprawling country pub that has three customers an evening. I can have their drinks poured and ready for them as soon as I hear their tyres in the car park. The pub is a 15 minute cycle away which I do daily with my freshly ironed shirt hanging out of my rucksack so it doesn't get sweaty or crumpled on me.

It's a balmy summer - sunny and hot in that West Country way that is unpredictable and brilliant. Every day with a blue sky cover makes you want to make the most of it. There's no faith it's here to stay.

I don't know what to do with my summer.

With the end of my college days came the end of my therapist who I was seeing through the college. I know I should transfer myself to some other emotional sponge mirror who will help me detangle my panicked thoughts, but it was so easy and anonymous to do through college and I don't quite know how to go about it now I have left.

I don't feel I have any right to be worried or panicked. My friends are on the cusp of results or deciding if they want their second choice universities or worrying that their lack of desire to go to uni at all is a mistake. Some of them have huge issues totally unrelated to our 100 year summer on the edge of departing each other. I have none of these problems. But I am not calm and I'm not sure I'm happy.

I'm lying on the sofa staring at Shipwrecked on T4. My hair is unwashed, my pyjamas are still on and I've discovered that if I lie very, very still and just think about what's on the television then I can get my heart rate to calm down. If I don't move any parts of my body then I can forget I have limbs and I can pretend I'm asleep or dead and it feels a bit number and a bit better.

My Dad comes banging into the room.

"You not dressed yet girly?"

I grunt that I am not. My father doesn't enjoy being grunted at my ungrateful offspring who are being supported by him and enjoying his hospitality. He picks up the remote and shifts the channel across to Channel 4. Lords comes into view. England are being hammered by Australia.

My Dad disappears into the kitchen to make a sandwich. He comes back with a strong black coffee and a corn beef sandwich. He settles into the sofa to watch the cricket. I continue to lie like a slug on the sofa with my arms under my body so there is nothing vulnerable sticking out anywhere.

There is something mesmerising about the cricket. It's boring, and I don't really know what I'm watching, but the commentators are so rhythmical I am audibly hypnotised. The green of the grass and the blue of the sky make me feel calm; like I could be Jane Austen if I only had a bonnet and a notepad. The knock of the ball on bat, the gentle "oohs" of the crowd and bursts of excitement with long spells of gentle tension building. I don't tell my Dad, but I am enjoying it.

He finishes his sandwich and stands up.

"Right, better get on. You want to come with me girly?" My Dad is a builder and I sometimes go to work with him and help out with jobs on the site. My body recoils physically at the thought of moving, tears spring up in my eyes which I beg to go away so my Dad won't see and think he's raised a child who is so stupid she can't even speak without crying.

"No, I'm alright Dad. Maybe tomorrow."

"Ok." he says, and drops the remote by my head; our family's signal that you are now in charge of the channel.

I hear him check his emails, put his boots on and head out to the van. The van leaves. I don't change the channel. I watch the entire day. I watch the rest of the match and am slightly, curiously, disappointed when there is no fifth day.

I can't wait for Edgbaston. I'm so surprised at my desire for it to come. The TV I had been drowning myself in doesn't compare to the calming, soothing influence of the cricket match. The statistics being fired at my exhausted mind, the patter of the bowler, the movement of the fielders and the time to lounge in and wait for the match to bloom; I'd loved it all.

On the eve of day four I am so excited. A feeling other than numb, panicked despair is so novel this summer that I am elated by it. Cricket has become my unlikely heroin; it's gently rocking my cradle and massaging blood into my comatose limbs. I muster up the courage to mention to my Dad that I have been watching it. Saying anything recently has been a problem; everything I hear coming out of my mouth feels idiotic and I fear saying it in case someone presses me for more information and it turns out I don't know what I'm talking about. But I think I want to tell him that I'm not very keen on Ian Bell.

I try it. Leaning against the kitchen cabinets while he fries some bacon for a sandwich. My Dad is always eating sandwiches that summer. He licks the brown sauce off his thumb and nods.

"He's a useful pair of hands in the field, though. It's always nerve wracking as a batsman to know that there's such a good fielder nearby. Makes you nervous."

The next day I've gone to work with my Dad. We're listening to the cricket together on the radio and I'm doing something physical; I'm cleaning up the grouting on the school toilets we're installing. I'm listening to my Dad's opinions on cricket, discovering I hate the sound of an Australian accent saying "Warney" and trying to absorb all these statistics and little gems of information. Cricket seems to me to be about 50% statistics.

We win the Ashes that summer and Channel 4 lose the rights to show it on terrestrial TV. It's a tragedy. I go away to University and everything is alright like it was always going to be.

Cricket stays with me. Cricket becomes a lovely little familiar blanket that I can climb into for days at a time and listen to it washing. It's my sea shore.


Two years ago I'm at the Edinburgh Fringe and struggling. I'm worried about the show I'm in, worried I can't handle the professional jealousy I have for my boyfriend's career and I'm worried I'm not cut out for a career with so little stability. At 5:30pm I settle into a seat in the Pleasance Courtyard and watch Baxter and Blofeld; Memories of Test Match Special and it all disappears for an hour. In their voices and the stories and the gentle inconsequential details of it I am lost and the world readjusts itself to what it is; just silly little details taking a long time to pass into something wonderful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mo' Men, Tus

I couldn't not write about today... I have tried not to, as it is so far from cool it is dry humping the border of narcissism. In 9 months time this blog post will be ignoring calls from my narcissism and pretending it was never there.

What else is this age of personal publishing for, other than to write about today? Why else would I own a malleable shrine to myself on the internet that I invite people to read? If I cannot confess to my own self obsession here, then I don't need to have a blog. I could just think my thoughts and be done with them instead of thinking them and then thinking of them enough to write them down and put them on display.

Today is a day I would like to put in a pensieve, I would like to be able to go back and stand within today and look at myself and see myself right now as I am in my life. Today was a day that I know has meant something in a grand scheme and one that I will look back on, hopefully, as parochial and funny to me that it once gave me so much pleasure.

Today, for the first time, I sat backstage at a gig and listened as people filed in having bought a ticket to see me perform.

Just me.

Their tickets said my name on, they knew I'd be on the bill and they'd chosen my offering as their hour's entertainment.

I was no incidental cog in a line up that could have been anybody; I was the show.

It was, quite honestly, one of the best feelings I've ever had. So satisfying and humbling and exciting to feel a step up in a career I adore.

Bring on tomorrow and the rest of it all.