Summer Apocalypse

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On Friday, Tatty and I found a secret garden of graffiti to frolic in, aided by a kindly skater. He actually kicked in a hidden door for us so we could enter this out of bounds Wonderland.

This place could double for the set of Mad Max: Fury Road and it is spectacular.

I’ll share more on Graffiti Bridge soon, but I just love this snap Tatty took of me while I was ‘working’.

Home

I’ve been inspired by Hayley Margaret of A Stitch to Scratch to take on Photography 101, starting today. Poetry 201 was fun to begin with but I couldn’t keep up and felt a bit silly in the end. I think my future career as a beatnik poet is now firmly on hold. Sorry, world.

Photography 101 looks like lots of fun though and having seen Hayley M mention it on her blog last night, I hopped firmly on the bandwagon too. I’m very original like that.

Today’s theme is Home (and Getting Orientated). This is about taking the concept of what ‘home’ means and running with it, in whichever direction I see fit. The Orientation is more about getting to grips with my equipment (not a euphemism).

Since I am going to simply point and click my trusty Samsung Galaxy S4 whenever the mood takes me, I’m already pretty comfortable. However, there are a few features I’m sure I haven’t explored yet, and this might well be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for!

To the theme!

Home

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I’ve taken the word home and gone quite literal for my first assignment. This is my front door. I’ve always liked it despite it’s slight shabbiness and ugly wiring up the side of the building.

This morning’s light was gorgeous and although there is a subtle filter on this image, I still think it captures the small stab of joy I felt when I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked back up towards that baby blue door.

Home to me is wherever I am with my love. That sounds incredibly cliché but it’s honest. We have a good deal on a nice place now, having had varying degrees of luck with our previous living situations, both together and apart. But I could live anywhere with him, if I had to.

When I think about joy and love and living together, I think of the lyrics in Cell Block Tango from Chicago (stay with me):

So, we started living together.
He’d go to work, he’d come home, I’d
mix him a drink, We’d have dinner.
It was like heaven in two and a half rooms.

Sure, the relationship takes a turn for the worse when she finds out she’s just one of his wives and poisons him with Arsenic but until then, I know exactly how she feels.

Our home is heaven to me, even when the washing up is piled high, there’s nowhere to hang my knickers and I’ve tripped over his shoes for the seventh time that afternoon. But it’s wherever he is.

Photography 101

Sneaker Pimps: Running Like a Girl Review

I would describe myself as a runner who doesn’t run. Like, ever.web-Running-like-a-Girl

For about five minutes I was really going to do it and for about two of them I actually did. But my shins hurt, my arse bounced behind me like an over enthusiastic beach ball and I wasn’t the natural I thought I was going to be.

So I talked about it a lot and then walked instead.

In fairness, walking has done me wonders and I still wake up at 6.30 every morning for three times around the park come (mostly) rain or shine. I also bought a hula hoop and I do that up to twice a day (arse no longer wobbles quite so much).

But I miss the running I never did and in my heart I think there’s something still there. So the other week I bought Running Like A Girl and I read it with enthusiasm.

Alexandra, or ‘Hemmo’ as her running vest would have her known, is quite something. She was a lot like me in that she had the view that she’d be a track star by default, that she’d be a runner and that would be that.

(Where on Earth I would produce a theory like this from, I have no idea).

Her first run didn’t go quite to plan, and neither did the several that followed. She gave up, she reconnected with her chosen sport – and she kept on going.

The book itself, to the untrained eye, might just contain the story of a girl who learnt to run but I find Hemmo inspiring and really like the dynamic she shares with her father and brother. Even her lovely mum cheering her on to finish the London Marathon made me weep a little.

Anybody overcoming what they perceive to be their own shortcomings is okay by me and Hemmo is really likeable. She talks about food, socialising and life like a friend would and I think this is why her notes on running are so useful. She’s a normal girl who can run.

Sure, the detail she goes into when she describes each marathon can be a little repetitive if you’re not that bothered but I read it with a big ‘F**K yeah’ because I wanted her to get through; to run through the pain and the tears and the self doubt.

Everything Hemmo says about running is true. Nearly every able bodied person is capable of it, they just have to want to do it. And she’s honest, which I really dig. She doesn’t shy away from the fact that she stops and starts, that motivation sometimes lapses.

I found myself really relating to the way she talks about not knowing what she is running for (during one of her down times, after a big achievement). I can put this in the context of my relationship with eating well and moving my body; and perhaps this is why it works so well for me.

That said, I celebrated the completion of this book by not going running. I haven’t been at all yet and I finished the notes a week ago.

I will though. Watch me.

NB: When I talked about this with my brother, he knew who Hemmo was. Apparently, she hosted a few early morning runs and gave some talks at one of the festivals they’ve been to. Which is well cool.

And she lives in Brighton (smug face).

Book details:

  • Running Like a Girl
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (16 Jan 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0099558955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099558958
  • Bought paperback (secondhand)

Think Ink

When I was a teenager I wasn’t sure of anything really, but I did have a slightly rebellious streak (that I cultivated to push against an76467164700c60e1c37c733e0cd53e93 imaginary enemy). My lovely mum was pretty cool with most things so I was fighting myself, mostly.

When I was around 14 (in my anecdote I am 14, but I suspect I was actually 16), I convinced my uncle to take me to get a tattoo. We chose a tiny little shop in an alleyway in Hastings Old Town one Saturday and I had absolutely no plans for a design.

I am from a family that you wouldn’t exactly call ‘tattoo friendly’ and before this had never had an older family member with a secret tattoo. If my own grandfather has a fuzzy blue mermaid anywhere about his person then I have never heard of it, much less seen it.

So it was brave of me I think to walk into the buzzing atmosphere of my first tattoo parlour that afternoon. In those days it was easy to fake a birth date on a flimsy piece of paper, no ID was requested and to be fair I don’t think anyone cared all that much.

I pointed to a tiny pink butterfly on the wall and before I knew it I was in the chair, a huge man with a ring through his nose looming towards me with a needle.

I took it well, marvelling at a feeling I had never had before. I know it now to be a flush of adrenaline but my childish heart was just delighted to be doing something so unauthorised. So free.

While he waited, my uncle fell in love with a dream catcher design (or was it a mushroom?) and went back a few weeks later for his own ink. And I’ve been in love with tattoos ever since.

If I didn’t know anything else, I knew right there that one day I would be covered in them if I only had my way.

Today I have quite a few. The artwork on my body varies from very very bad to really great and there are some oddballs in between. People talk about tattoos being a map of events in your life and that is true for me to a certain extent. There’s the 18th birthday present from my high school BFF (shooting stars, ankle), the ill-advised travel tattoos (tiger cub, hip/multiple lotus flowers), the great big Fuck You.

There’s the love token (letter ‘g’, back of neck), the BFF that is no more tattoo (tiny star, behind ear) – and then there are the ones that I just had to have because I like stuff (sugar donut/nail polish bottle/hula hoop). What I have is for me and nobody else, although I do run it past Mr Bee first. It’s not a request for permission per se, just checking in.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people say, how many times they ponder when I will stop or if it will affect my ability to get a job in the future. A big oaf in the Co-op asked me if they were real and then proceeded to tell me how much he hates tattoos. Great customer service, my friend!

It is my body and if I’ve thought it through and want to do it, I will. I’m not as heavily covered as some friends, but have quite a bit more than others. Some of my friends have nothing at all and always make me think of what Ozzy Osbourne once said:

If you want to be —-ing individual, don’t get a tattoo. Every —-er’s got one these days.”

This week, today actually, I am popping in to hang out with my friend and tattooist, Alex, who is going to draw me up an epic piece. I’m at the stage where slapping things on empty space isn’t an option anymore, they have to fit in with existing pieces so that the overall ‘sleeve’ knits together.

I like colour and I love the traditional style, and I’m also a massive girl so everything I have has to have a feminine edge, even my lumberjack is drinking from a fine bone china cup and saucer. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I do know what I like so that’s half the plan sorted, right?

As for my family, well my Mum at least, she came round eventually, electing to have a tattoo to celebrate her 65th birthday. Her son-in-law paid and every time I see it I get a glimpse of the bad ass within. She gets complimented by hipster waitresses and I admire her for doing it because she wanted to.

She’s still not sold on the idea of me being covered but that’s just because I’ll always be her baby girl. She loves them on other people.

So what are your views on tattoos? Do you have them/want them/abhor them?

Ice Ice Baby

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Party pooping in style

This weekend (and before really) social media has been awash with videos of people, first celebrities and now all the people you work with, drink with and spend time with, tossing icy buckets of water over each other. All in the name of charidee, apparently.

A discussion with my beloved this morning as we completed our own version of the ALS ice bucket challenge (walking around the Level while it pissed down) has led me to this post.

I’m not being a spoil sport about this, I want that to be known first and foremost, although I can assure you that I won’t be standing in my communal front yard in a bikini top while Mr Bee flushes me through with cold water (relax, World).

I’m taking a Patrick Stewart stand on this one, which I think is perfect acceptable given that it’s all about the money, rather than how many of us end up soggy.

I agree with anything that raises awareness for a good cause and up until I saw Lily Allen looking fabulous during hers, I didn’t have a clue what the eff was actually going on. In fact, it took this very touching video to make me realise what it was even for, and that was a good few days in.

(Most people haven’t been as clear as they could have been about the reason for doing the challenge but this seems to have rectified itself the more people are doing it).

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and is a motor neurone disease. In the US alone upward of 30,000 people are affected and it claims about 2 in 100,000 lives a year.

Of course Wiki has this is terms of explaining it better but it’s an awful degenerative disease I had no clue about a few days ago. I now have a basic understanding of what it does, all thanks to Cumberbatch in a tight wet tee.

Oh yes!

So, in short I am not poo-pooing those who have partaken in the ALS challenge at all, and unlike some of my less amused friends on Facebook, say, have been enjoying most of the videos. It’s nice to see people you’d never normally expect to be getting involved and also, as I have typed this with a steadfast ‘I am not doing it’ agenda, I’ve started to become even more touched by those who have done it.

My personal reason is that I’d like to be a quieter participant, I might be the silent Queen of the #selfie but I’m not so much of a stand up and be counted extrovert (and I know not all are). Practically, I don’t know where I could do it – the shower perhaps? Plus, Mr Bee thinks I should be concerned that people will think I’m a ‘pussy’ if I am nominated and don’t do it (nobody has yet, thankfully) and on our walk I got all Warrior Woman, ranting about peer pressure at my age, my right to stand as a single person, etc. And now I have come too far to back down.

This is how our arguments tend to go.

Instead, I will be donating to ALS whatever happens and should I be nominated by somebody cruel (it will Mr Bee taking me down with him), I will deal with it my way. Pussy or not, I’ve got this.

It would feel remiss somehow not to mention the King of my Heart in this post. Did you see Tom Hanks’ ALSIBC? I love him so so much!

So, have you been nominated and if so, will you be doing the challenge? Col of The Bohemian Within just has! What are your thoughts?

If you would like to donate to a great cause, you can do so here.

The Only (Riot) Grrrl In The World

robyn2Ever notice how the best songs are the heartbreak anthems? Sometimes not even anthems, some are weepy little poems that still have the power to cut you like a switch blade (hey there Joni).

Even though I hung up my angst a long time ago (does one ever?) and am not currently nursing a sore heart, I still love the fist pumping, imagine myself standing on tables, shouting at all the pigs that ever let me down psalms the best.

As I shuffle reluctantly to work every morning, my iPod bruising my ear canal ever so slightly, I always have to make the final push with a great song in my head, that extra protection against the day ahead.

Now I write all this with the best of intentions but my musical catalog contains an awful lot of Janet Jackson so it’s usually something like What Have You Done For Me Lately? off Control that gets me fighting.

JJ notwithstanding, it’s funny how some lyrics just jump out and elbow you in the ribs, isn’t it? They have the ability to drag you back through time to the exact moment you found yourself standing hesitantly outside a coffee shop after a blazing row with a boy you’d only been seeing for a few Summer months.

You remember your carefully chosen words, and how carelessly he batted them away like fruit flies. You remember how black his eyes became in rage, the chocolate-brown evaporating from them completely, making him look demonic. How you had known right there that this was it, that no matter how lovely his skin felt or how pumped you were that he chose to spent these hazy twilight hours walking around the city with you, it was done.

You recall the tears that you thought would never end, your best friend’s hand on your back and the thought, even in that moment, that you were crying not for this, but for everything bad that had ever happened to every person in the world.

Most of all you remember that it was over because you decided it was; that you weren’t going to take shit any more.

That’s what a heart-break tune will do and it doesn’t matter if you’ve moved on, if you’re happy now. It doesn’t matter if you rarely think of them; those fuckers built you up to be the fabulous person you are today and tribute must be paid, even if it’s angry.

Especially if it’s angry.

So what’s my go to angry anthem? You’ll not be surprised to learn there’s some utter toot in here: Since You’ve Been Gone, Blow Me (One Last Kiss), Dancing On My Own, Raspberry Swirl. Sinead O’Connor’s You Cause As Much Sorrow. Mr Brightside. Harpoon.

Army of Me.

All my loves.

Special mention to Joni’s Case of You which saw me through a wonderful break up (I loved it). Less punch facey sure but just as powerful. (I’m listened to Joni as I tie up the ribbon on this post with a flourish, because she’s the one).

It is true that every girl has a fighter inside, a riot grrrl or a punk, whoever she wants it to be. She may be a soft touch like me, most of the time, but given the right theme tune, that fighter will awaken to stomp the shit out of her memories, free to fight another day.

So what’s your angsty/angry/fighter theme?

Let’s Talk About Sex

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Tip toeing into womanhood

Write about your first sexual experience (via Writing Exercises)

My first sexual encounter wasn’t all that but, as is often the way, I have been left with a great story to add to my box of memories which sees itself rolled out when the vodka is flowing and the tone has been lowered.

Something you might not know about me: I love talking about sex.

People can be very prissy about it but it’s only natural, right? I don’t think I’m a lewd girl without class but I enjoy penis talk and a girthy range of other saucy topics. So sue me.

Like Salt n’ Pepa once said “Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be. How it was, and of course, how it should be” (Let’s Talk About Sex, 1991)

I was a late bloomer. Not for political reasons. I was just terrified of the idea of ‘doing it’ and the male form, and crippled by my own inadequacies as a ‘woman’. My classmates were happily sowing their oats and taking the piss out of all of us Virgins, pondering whether we might actually be ‘lezzas’ and making us all terrified to even glance in the general direction of someone of the same sex.

For about twenty minutes I sat and thought about whether I actually might be into girls but I figured in the end that my fascination with the more exotic of my species was down to the comfort in which they strode about in their own skin. I liked boys anyway and wanted one for myself, if I could only muster the courage to touch one.

I was eighteen when I finally got to the stage where I thought I could shrug off the taboo of still being chaste. By then my friend Lucy and I were going up to London every weekend and going to clubs, being bad girls. We met some boys (I say boys but my boy was 24) and started to spend time with them, sometimes sharing their spare room if we missed the last train home, which we always did.

Through these boys I met Marvin. He was quite the alluring prospect with his tight dreadlocks and beautiful dark skin. I wasn’t all that romantically inclined but he liked me, smelt nice and hey, if it all went wrong I didn’t have to see him again. Tactics, my friends even at that young age.

We arranged to meet and by chance, Lucy had also lined up a date for the night, so we booked into a B&B in South London. We went for drinks then went our separate ways, Lucy to the boudoir with the boy she’d met in the Wimpy, me with Marvellous Marvin.

I lied about my experience, scoffing convincingly when questioned about whether I had had sex before. This perhaps worked against me in the end, since he took no prisoners if you know what I mean.

When the deed was done (hours later), he got up, told me he had to go back to his girlfriend and asked me for cab fare. With a smile that may or may not have contained a gold tooth, he was gone.

I wasn’t even mad. He’d served his purpose and when he asked to see me two weekends later, I ignored the message. All I really remember now of that event is the morning after, walking to the tube with an ache where you’d expect an ache to be after being thrown around all night like a rag doll. It felt like adulthood.

I didn’t have it off again until two years later, and that time I got my little heart shattered.

But that’s another story.

Memoir Madness

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Prompt via Weekly Writing Challenges (4th August 2014)

In this week’s writing challenge, mine your memory and write a memoir.

It is some time in May, maybe later, maybe earlier. I never remember dates. I find myself barefoot in Paradise and, though the sun feels like kitten kisses on my lids, I would give anything to be elsewhere.

I shield my eyes from the scorching sun and wonder not for the first time, or the last if I need more sunblock. If I am honest with myself, which I am trying not to be, I’m an Autumn Girl and beaches aren’t my thing. In fact, sand gets everywhere and there’s not much to do. Drink, basically and play pool while Bob Marley serenades.

Again, if I allow myself to stop and think about it, all his songs about love are just cruel. It will never be me.

I’m here with someone. Someone who scares me for reasons I can’t explain. I would rather be anywhere else with anybody else but I am weary. What if he is right and nobody else will ever want me? Is that even a bad thing? Love is obviously not for me and I was a fool to wish for it.

Take me back to heartbreak and desperation. Take me back to my bedroom floor, the one on which I lay crumpled, crying until I hiccuped. Crying until I had surely used up my lifetime’s quota.

He’s somewhere around but on these heady hot days I try to be where there are people. In a group I can just about handle this. It’s when he tries to touch me that I feel my facade slip. I can’t deal with the truth though because the truth hurts people and demands answers. I don’t have answers and so I’m going to keep on swimming.

I’m at the shop and I see him again. The man from the hill. I see him sometimes and he’s got his dogs with him. They look at me with rheumy eyes while I look at him. He’s tall and thin and looks just like a man who lives on a hill. His name is Mr Ood and he’s legendary, so they say.

I buy my juice and some food for his dogs while I’m there, why not? He’s thankful, even though he doesn’t speak my language. Or maybe he speaks it perfectly.

We go our seperate ways. Later he sends a message down via a village boy. He says he will tattoo me for free because his dogs like me. He’s legendary because he is an artist and was famous once on the Khao San Road.

The man I am with tells me I am stupid to even consider the gift. It’s dangerous and foolish, he says. It might be, I think but then I think, to myself, FUCK YOU. That’s how I find myself on the winding path, walking towards the hill.

When I arrive, I see that the village boy has a giant Koi on his shoulder; beautiful and intricate, almost jumping off his golden skin. “I’ll have that” I tell Mr Ood and I swear he winks.

The pain and all the discomfort than follows is worth it. The big FUCK YOU is so worth it. I will always have this on my skin as a reminder that even when I am down, even when I have no idea what to do, you can’t stop me. You can’t tell me what to do.

Even though I am already tattooed in discreet places, this is the most impulsive thing I have ever done to my body and it feels like nothing I have ever felt before. I don’t know this now, at this time, but I will look back one day and realise, this is where I started to fight back.

Later on, my back to him in bed, as it always is, he says it’s like I am somebody else.

How I wish, I think, as I shut my eyes, happy to feel something for the first time in months. Even if it is only defiance.

Road Tripping

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‘Tis the season for road trips — if time and money were out of the equation, what car-based adventure would you go on? (If you don’t or can’t drive, any land-based journey counts.)

Via The Daily Post (27th July 2014)

Like all predictably cliched girls, one of the items on my bucket list is indeed ‘Go on a Road Trip’. I like the idea of getting in a van or a car and going anywhere the wind takes me. I have been lucky enough in my past to have been part of more than one.

In Australia, my brand new Irish friend and I bought into a battered old station wagon with two Canadian boys and we travelled together for a few months, boogie boards in the back, love beads hanging from the rear view mirror. See? Cliche.

tumblr_n9c6ctxECJ1tu3m8ao1_500I don’t even remember what happened to the car in the end or the boys, although I do remember on the night of my 21st birthday that I threw myself at one of them, the first and last time I ever took the initiative with a guy (sad but true). Later my preferred mode of transport was the trusty Greyhound. Every time I scored a window seat I would imagine I was Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy, off to start a new life.

Now, I have someone I want to see the World with and ironically we’ve not been on holiday abroad for years. This is both for economical reasons and more besides. I’m not worried though, for my love makes me feel as free and as invincible as the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face.

But if I could choose my ideal trip it would, unsurprisingly, be the whole USA/Route 66 experience. Those wide open roads, the skies; nature. I want to live it, breathe it all in.

I want the cabin in the woods, the tent by a stream, “You kids ain’t from around here, are you?” treatment, without the killings, obvs.

I want to turn off my phone, pull out my Polaroid camera, listen to Skynyrd in t-shirt and jeans, no make-up, tangled hair. I want laughter and adventure. Burgers and pancakes. Freckles on my arms.

I want it all.

Yes, I have thought about this a lot and maybe one day I shall have my wish. One day we will take a month off and just drive. Until then, there are mini-trips and bus rides and the countryside.

Adventure is in the heart.