Commute like a total nutter with this one weird tip

Mile End in rush hour is like the next level down from Hell where even Satan refuses to go to; throngs of people armed with what seems like a million suitcases, and armies of commuter clones ready to elbow you out of the way for the benefit of added room for their Starbucks extra-wet skinny soya mocha-latte.

I arrive to the central line platform of Hell at the beginning of rush hour this morning to find the expected crowds are somewhat larger than usual, thanks to a well-timed signal failure.
Figuring I am at the back of a queue of about 500 angry now-late Eastenders, I pop out for a cheeky coffee whilst the queues subside slightly.

30 minutes later, fully caffeinated and ready for some commuter action, I saunter downstairs and wait patiently for the train to arrive on the, now significantly emptier, platform.

The train pulls in — and I am pleasantly surprised to spot a seat available in the middle of a row. Hungry for the touch of that worn, soft, blue fabric that has graced the derrières of thousands of strangers, I gingerly approach, warding off any other seat predators with my best ‘don’t fuck with me’ expression. There aren’t many, so I just look like a mildly disturbed young woman (which is not far from true).
With an expert precision known only to regular Central Line travellers, I twist about and tuck myself into my seaty prize without headbutting the pole. Win.

Immediately, I register a problem. No, it is not the seat itself — which is, it had to be said, just averagely sticky at the edges and only mildly stained.

No, it is a lot worse than that. The large (and by this, I mean tall and broad and with the mean look of someone who could knock a man dead just by tapping his shoulder) businessman next to me has a problem. Which is now my problem too.

This man is a very serious manspreader.
I mean, THE WORST.
Imagine you measured every manspreader in history with a metre stick to mark the distance between the knees: this man would require at least four metre sticks, and is definitely in the upper percentile of gentlemen-whose-legs-are-extremely-wide-apart-when-seated-on-public-transport.
The distance between New York and Beijing would have nothing on this guy; he is virtually running his own airline from knee to knee. Each leg has its own ecosystem.

Initially, feeling that my personal space is being violated by these offending ecosystems, I privately bubble with fury over how selfish and inconsiderate he is being. I find myself getting increasingly angry at the touch of his enormous knee on mine. His patella is doing an excavation to find my hip bone, and it was in every way just as bad as it sounds. It hurts.

Then I have a thought. Why am I just sitting here and letting it happen? Am I not becoming part of the problem if I just sit back, silently infuriated, and allow this kind of behaviour to happen?

London, it was time to make a stand. I do what I’m sure every one of us poor individuals imposed on by these power-high twitheads has always wanted to do, but felt too angry and violated and British about the whole thing to do so.

I TACKLE THE MANSPREADER. HEAD-ON (or leg-on, whatever) in the most passive-aggressive way I can possibly think of.

I widen my legs (luckily I am not wearing a skirt) (actually, so what if I am? I have nothing to hide and that would just add extra drama to my story) and gently nudge my thigh back into his enormous leg — which is no small feat, I tell you.
And because he was just so large and so imposing, just for extra points I push out my elbows. Just slowly, so it isn’t too obvious.

And just like that — war has been declared.

In retaliation, he pushes his knee into mine and the silent battle well and truly begins. I respond by sitting further back in my seat and widening my legs even further. Then everyone else gets off the tube and we’re both still sat there, many other seats now available but still pushing knees. His leg starts shaking so I guess at least he’s putting some effort into it.

This continues for a number of stops. I think about all the empty seats opposite us and dream of a parallel world where I had got on a different carriage and was having a nice, uneventful journey to work. Instead, I am locked in an endless battle of pride and strength with a total stranger, neither of us willing to just give up and move to one of the many, many beautiful empty blue seats around us.
It’s gross; his leg is so firmly wedged into mine that our femurs are basically kissing.

I eventually realise that like true war, this was not going to be won by the troops downstairs. (In fact, my knee is beginning to hurt a bit. And anyway, by this time my legs are so far apart I’m virtually doing the splits. On the Central Line. It’s very uncomfortable.)

No, this needed to be won through charm and diplomacy.

I tap his knee with my finger.
“Do you mind?” I say, edging my knee further into his.

His head snaps up like one ugly balding Jack-in-the-box and he glowers at me furiously. “Yeah, I do actually.”

“Well maybe you could consider how much space you’re taking up.”

He looks incredulous. Oh good, I think. Touched a nerve. Excellent.

And it then descends into everyone’s childhood.
“Maybe YOU should!” He gesticulates at my lap.

I shrug. “You set the example, I’m just imitating it.”

“But you’re on my side of the seat!”

Laughable, because I point out where the line between the two seats should be, were it not for his leg/bottom/existence. (If I could do the emoji face for how I felt right then it would be the squinty grinning face with those little tears of laughter coming from both eyes.) “Actually, see, I’m not,” I reply. “You’ve imposed yourself on both sides around you. That woman to your left has been squashed into the glass. And you’ve actually moved your legs closer since I pointed it out.”

He pauses. “And so what if I am?”
He shoves his knee back into mine. (Mature.)

“Wow. I’m not sure I’ve sat next to someone before with such a total lack of respect for the people around them.”

“And I don’t think I’ve sat next to such a total nutter before. Justify it, so what if I am?”

“Well, I think it could be viewed as sexist if you’re imposing yourself into women’s personal space because you think you can get away with it. I bet you wouldn’t be acting this rudely if I were a large burly man.”

Silence. He looks at me, and it is not a glare, it actually looks like a mixture of embarrassment and horror.

I break the silence.
“You’ve never been pulled up on this before have you.”

Small pause. “No.”

I move my legs back to a normal seating position, and in a voice reserved for only those in which I am EXTREMELY disappointed, I say, “Well, next time be a bit more considerate of those sat next to you.”

The train comes to a stop at the next station.
And wordlessly, he gets off.


Originally written in 2016. Whilst nobody was harmed in the making of this story, some egos may have been.


Pudding.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


1.

 

I saw her lying there, beckoning with one finger

a dark lock of her dark hair carelessly caressing her temple.

I knew what she wanted. I could see. She was hungry, but so was I.

 

She was belly-up, round folds of skin with dark creases

melting into the armchair.

Her jumper hoisted up by its rough fabric, but not tweed

Inexpensive. Patchy in places.

but not her smooth velvety skin. Soft, and gently rolling.

 

She was exposed and alone and I wanted to look away but I was addicted to the plush shirring of her body

I wanted to tell her, but her warm creamy thigh was flashing like a beacon and I can’t tear my eyes away from the freckle that winks as she flexes her leg.

Her eyes, oh her eyes. Melting my core with a complicated deep chocolate streak and the burning green fire iris.

The wicked flames burn something within me; a soft and delicate centre that oozes perverted leering and drips with saliva and wit.

Her eyes are locked onto me and finally

 

yes, just like that

 

but more, I need more

 

she gently leans forwards, and I eagerly lean up towards her to glimpse the gaping neckline as it drops towards me and


2.

 

Once again the unstopping mechanism we call time whiles away my day

and we arrive home exhausted, tumbled through the vacuum packed train that aches and groans across the city.

The smog rolls off me as I roll off my uniform and discard it uncaringly on the floor, where it will lie forlorn until Thursday.

The pause as I unthinkingly do it again. We. That word. That loaded, cruel word.

We were two letters, joined together, only making sense as a couple, a duo. Like us, just two letters, but so warm and tender with intimacy.

I am the single lonely letter, always detached and always flying solo.

My heart reaches out to you with every afflicted limb but I’m torn apart and there is no limb left.

I’m just an echo where there used to be a person and a voice, but now there is just a shadowy reminder that I existed.

 

Stop it.

 

I feel it, I burn with desire but I self-douse with a shower of guilt and fading memories of we, of us

of once two letters, now one.

I am starved of you but learning what it means to be without you.

 

Stop it.

 

Casting my eyes about the room, my amatory senses awaken. I prepared for this. I fucking prepared.

A conquest to be had, an affair to be met and forgotten: my aphrodisiac knight in shining armour, my sick fantasy.

I lick my lips and sink into the forgiving armchair and I forget to judge myself, but I’m judging the sweet divine pudding of my dreams staring back at me.

No longer I, but back to me. Now us, now we. I already have a fork in my hand, and there is no time for flirting. I’m an uncouth, capricious delinquent with no time for manners, I lean forwards, and I cry like a baby as I devour you whole.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’ Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.


My search for the perfect vintage winter coat

Summer in London last year stretched until September, and I managed to kid myself that it was still summer until about mid-October. Realising that the temperatures were plummeting pretty quickly, i reluctantly pulled out my navy trench coat out from the back of the cupboard. But – disaster. It no longer fit me.

I’ve had this problem quite a lot over the past year and a half; thanks to what seems like as-yet undiagnosed medical complications, I lost a significant amount of weight. Most people might wonder why i wouldn’t feel pleased about that, and my answer is two-fold:

  1. I never set out with any aim to lose weight, my diet hasn’t changed, and I made no efforts to change my figure. I have body dysmorphia, and my changing body has made me less able to rely on the ‘safe’ clothes I wear when i have bad days – even my old safe clothes don’t fit now. I no longer know, or trust, my body, and that causes some level of psychological difficulty. Readjusting is hard, when you spend your life pretending you’ve adjusted.
  2. If you’ve shrunk out of all your clothes, replacing everything gets pretty expensive. Literally nothing fits. I have spent so much money on clothes, and I really need to learn how to sew.

I struggled through November and December layering cardigans underneath a denim jacket, or my favourite jacket (a faux leather bolero I bought in my first ever purchase from American retailer Pinup Girl Clothing!) with a couple of scarves and a pair of gloves, but I got to Christmas and I realised it just wasn’t enough. If i wanted to survive until summer, I needed to find myself something warm to wear.

And here the anxiety starts – I love pinup style clothing, but I find shopping a stress, and I hated the idea of trying on hundreds of coats or panic-buying one that didn’t fit. You can’t really hide if a coat doesn’t fit you. I’d already tried on all the coats in M&S and Next, but the only sizes that fitted my waist were a size 6, and they hardly accommodated for my, um, ‘generous’ curves. They also lacked a vintage aesthetic. It struck me that I could have a look around for some coats I liked online, that accentuated the waist and flowed out across the hips, and try and hook one on the Boxing Day sales – it would mean spending less, and perhaps even justifying buying two and then sending them back if they didn’t fit.

Because I am a little sad and take my research VERY seriously, I drew up a list of requirements:

  • It needed pockets. I am so fed up of coats with pretend pockets in them – if you’re not going to bother putting them in, don’t pretend you thought about it!
  • It needed to be warm; I love the Pearl Collectif coat but i felt it might be too long-waisted for my figure. However, I was in love with the cuffs and the lovely faux-fur neckline!
  • It needed buttons at the front, so I can cocoon myself inside it and button away the cold. None of this zip rubbish, and forget coats that don’t even do up at the front! I’m freezing just thinking about them. Brr.
  • It needed to accentuate my tiniest part, my 27.5” waist, with about an inch to move around in so I can layer with jumpers and cardigans.
  • It needed to be generous enough to accommodate both my bust and my hips (37”, and 39” respectively) and preferably skim over my hips.
  • It needed to have enough of a flare in the skirted part to allow me to wear my ploofiest petticoats underneath, and still close over them!
  • Preferably, it needed to be vintage compatible, so it didn’t look out of place with my 1950s wardrobe.

What a list.

I spent some time (okay, about a week) studying size guides, assessing reviews and generally shortlisting, and came across a number of beautiful coats that seemed to fit the bill:


Collectif: ‘Gina’ coat

image of Gina coat

I saw this one on the Collectif site and absolutely fell in love! The leopard-print cuffs are so perfect, and it ticked all the boxes. I wondered about the skirt though; would it be full enough to manage my gorgeously fluffy Malco Modes petticoat? And the sizing tip suggested sizing up if layering – did that mean it ran small, or would I need to size up? So many unknowns…

  • Price: £116.50 (from Collectif)
  • Pros: Warm cuffs, size guide suggests perfect fit
  • Cons: Unsure about the sizing in reality, and whether this coat could tame the petticoats!

Hell Bunny: ‘Isadora’ (was ‘Elvira’) coat

Image of Isadora coat

 

I saw a review by Miss Amy May and instantly wanted to buy this! The addition of a hood is just too cute for words, and then I saw Miss Victory Violet in it and I knew this was a coat I had to track down. Then I saw the price. Eep.

  • Price: £167.99 (from Hell Bunny)
  • Pros: Hood! Fluff! Pockets! Ahhhh!
  • Cons: Bloody hell it’s expensive.

Banned Apparel: ‘Vintage Style Leopard Collar’ coat

Image of Banned Apparel leopard trim coat

I spotted this one on Tiger Milly, and loved the cut of the front. I wondered about the sizing though – and it seemed a little shorter than some of the other coats too. I want all the warmth I can get…

  • Price: £99.99 (from Tiger Milly)
  • Pros: Cheaper than the alternatives, lovely fluffy neckline
  • Cons: Sizing guide wasn’t perfect for me, and might have been a problem for my bust, and it also looked a little shorter than I’d like

 

Just before the sales were announced across most of the vintage retailers, I had a long think (about five minutes) – and I decided to go on an online hunt for an Isadora/Elvira coat. The sizing guide for it seemed to fit my figure best, and I loved the generous swing of the skirt. And that hood!!

Hell Bunny were offering 20% off over the festive period, but I felt this still made it a little dear. Collectif generally hold 50% sales in the first days of the New Year, and I knew the Gina was likely to be up for grabs.

Whilst I was perusing the various sites for a third party seller that had an Isadora/Elvira coat, I actually unexpectedly came across this beauty on eBay:


Hell Bunny: Vivien coat

Image of the Vivien coat

It was in a camel and black colouring, rather than the blue and black that are still available on the Hell Bunny website, and it blew my socks off. Not just because it had the pockets, the fluff, but – it was SO CHEAP! I spotted it on eBay, as new, by a seller who clearly hadn’t realised what a vintage repro diamond they had on their hands.

  • Price: £29(!!!)
  • Pros: A lovely fur collar, two horizontal waist buttons, and deep pockets – with a very generous swing skirt
  • Cons: No hood

To be honest, with no hood being the only real con I could find, I wondered whether such a low price would be a con. Despite worrying about whether it was legit, I felt that this was a deal I could NOT leave behind me! I pressed the ‘buy it now button’ and prayed that it would be the miracle coat I hoped it would be – and if it didn’t fit, I could always pop it back up on eBay. For £29, it seemed worth the risk, and a lot better than the £99 retailing price.

Whilst I waited for my coat to be delivered, the Collectif sale arrived. And I spotted the Gina – down to about £40. There was a worry in my head about there being an issue with the Hell Bunny coat, and I pondered for about an hour with the Gina going in and out of my shopping basket. Then I just took the risk – and figured, I could always return it if there was an issue, right?

Let’s fast forwards to April.

Short story: the Hell Bunny coat is the most perfect coat there has ever been. I’ll do a full review later. And the Gina coat arrived too, and the skirt is less generous as I had thought, but it fits like a glove! So…I kept both. Considering that at full price these would have cost me about £220, and I bought them both for less than £70 (a mere 31% of the original price!) it seems worth it to not have to go through the ho-ha of finding the perfect winter coat for another couple of years!

Longer story: luckily, the size guides for Hell Bunny and Collectif are pretty accurate, if not a little generous, and DEFINITELY follow them if you’re unsure on sizing. The other thing I’ve learned is that vintage repro coats are quite rare to find on eBay, despite finding my wildcard Vivien on there, and I recommend waiting for the Collectif sales to pick up one of their gorgeous pieces at a discounted price, and look out for third party sellers for Hell Bunny. You can sometimes pick up some discounts throughout the year, just after New Year, around Easter, in about August, and around Black Friday in November. Definitely save up, and splash out when it comes to sale time, if you are flexible with the pieces you’d like to buy. I heartily recommend that you have a look at Miss Amy May’s blog too, where she often shares discount codes for items.

So – Vivien and Gina are hanging in my hallway, and I have survived the past four months without dying of frostbite. Hurrah! It’s worth noting that my Hell Bunny coat is incredibly warm, and I always get compliments when I wear it, so if you’re thinking about investing in a coat do have a look at their collection. They’ve also just released a line of gorgeous summery skirts I’ve got my beady eye on – like this orange somerset apples skirt!

What has been your go-to vintage coat to get you through the winter months?

image of my signature

It’s my birthdate anniversary…yet another year bites the dust!

I can only wish that my birthday will be as pink and minty as this gorgeous photograph.

Tomorrow marks the very last day of my 28th year, which has definitely been a year of ups and downs. Some very major downs, but also some pretty good times. So I thought it might be a nice opportunity to think about the past year and what I’ve achieved.

In my head, I am still 25 years old; I still carry a Young Person’s Railcard, I still get annoyed at being asked to show ID at the supermarket when trying to buy a bottle of Malbec (“It’s Malbec for goodness sake! It’s £15! Do you think I’d be buying something so ridiculously expensive if I was still relying on a student loan?! Do you seriously think 20 year olds can afford to buy wine from Waitrose? Do you see any baked beans in amongst the quinoa and chia seeds and gluten-free sourdough? Do you??”), and I still have my whole life ahead of me to figure everything out.

In reality, I’m not 25. I don’t get cheaper rail fares, and I get hit full whack every time I travel (note: this does not hurt any less as years go by. I can’t wait to be old; I am going to travel by public transport ALL THE TIME.). Nowadays, people so rarely ID me, that I am beginning to worry about the lines forming around my eyes and on my forehead. When I do actually get asked for ID, it’s actually a little embarrassing because I can never remember if I remembered to bring any along with me. The last time, I was in Morrison’s buying a small bottle of bourbon because, being very middle class, it was needed in a recipe for Cranachan our host was making for a Burn’s Night dinner party. “ID?” asked the woman. I fumbled for it, and asked brightly: “That’s very kind of you to ask. How young do I look?” She looked at me as if I was completely mad, and said “I don’t know, like, 19?”. And here’s the thing – inside, I did a happy dance. And yes, I know 19 is still over 18, but she thought I might have been an edge case. And I felt COMPLIMENTED, genuinely. She even managed to look a little bit embarrassed when she checked my age, but I didn’t care. It’s actually nice for people to think you look young, and it’s when you’re not a spring chicken anymore you finally appreciate that.

As for having my whole life ahead of me, I read a slightly depressing Wait But Why article that made me wonder whether I should begin to life a bit more of a death anxiety lifestyle.

How petrifying is this?! This is your life in weeks. Every square is one week of your life. Everything you put off for one week is just eating up another one of those little life blocks.

I’m probably a fifth into the red ‘career’ section, and actually, I am doing okay. Mostly because: I like my job. I genuinely do. But I feel a calling for something more creative, and I don’t believe in birthdays being anything more than a chance to look back at the previous year, and plan ahead a bit. Maybe this is a wake-up call for me to do something before I get to the purple section of ‘retirement’ and realise that I wasted time.


Seven positive things I’ve done during my 28th year

  • I removed myself from some toxic relationships. Friends, partners; people that made me feel bad about myself and encouraged negative thought patterns. I’ve removed more friends from Facebook this year than I ever have, and feel so much better for it. I ended a relationship that was bad for the both of us, and am going through the necessary but difficult process of formally ending it; I’ve completed the first step to making a fresh start on my life.
  • I’ve found my style, and it continues to develop. I’ve been experimenting for the past couple of years with retro styling, and have amassed a gorgeous wardrobe of fancy pants 50s style vintage reproduction clothing. This has been huge for me. Not only does finding clothes that fit me give me more confidence, but complete strangers now compliment me on my style, ask me where I buy things from, and tell me that my style “suits me”. I’ve never had this before. I’ve always hidden from the world in poorly-fitting, grungy, eclectic clothing that made me feel awkward.
  • I made space. I adored having a lodger, but after a few years it was time for a clean break. I’ve been on my own, and I’ve discovered how to fill time and space with things that I love. I’m making my spare room into the office of my dreams, and it now has two desks in it; one for writing, and another longer one for crafting and making artwork. I’m learning how to be on my own, and curate my home with the things I like. I’ve made the space to reconnect with myself, and I feel so much better for it.
  • I’ve made my job my own. I run a small software development team, and I love it. This year, I’ve focussed on hiring the right people, and encouraging an atmosphere of healthy work-life balance, and creating gorgeous interfaces that are used by the whole organisation on a daily basis. I’m constantly learning how to be the best manager I can, and I’m trying to improve myself. This past year, I’ve learned how to pick my battles better. I’ve learned how to reframe, rephrase and rethink. I inject as much creativity into my work as possible, and I’m doing my job, on my terms – and in making it mine, I’m tackling the grey cloud of imposter syndrome that sits right above me, and slowly, it’s evaporating away.
  • I’ve made new friends. I absolutely adore the supportive community of pinups and artists on Instagram, and the Etsy resolution alumni on Facebook. People are wonderful, and sometimes you come across creative and wonderful communities of people that are just like you! I’m ever thankful to all these people I’ve befriended over the past year.
  • I am less scared. I am an incredibly private person, but I’m trying to unlearn that. I’ve been sharing more and more about my life, and I am less scared about being open. I share my mental health stories and my daily outfits on Instagram, and I do not feel ashamed or nervous, and I’m not chasing likes. I do it to share. I’m also less scared about what happens when I say ‘no’. I used to think that saying no to things was always the wrong decision as I felt you might miss out on something. Thing is, if you’re choosy about what you say yes to, it means so much more to those things you DO end up doing.
  • I finally got POTS diagnosed. I’ve been fainting a lot ever since I was a kid, and FINALLY I got my diagnosis – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Basically, when I stand up for longer than about five minutes, my heart stops, my blood pressure drops, and I pass out. Cool, huh? The nice thing about a diagnosis is that I can understand why it happens, and take steps to prevent it. And because it’s a diagnosed condition, I have a medical reason to avoid rush hour; if I can’t sit down for a journey longer than ten minutes, then I can’t travel.

Four less positive things that have happened during my 28th year

  • I lost a furry friend. The lovely, hilarious cairn terrier I grew up with finally passed away. He was such a character; incredibly boisterous, very grumpy, and very patient.
  • Family illness. My mum had a heart bypass last year, and there were a few terrifying months for us as a family as she suffered complication after complication. My grandmother was also diagnosed with cancer, and they’re unable to tell us how long she has because they can’t do a biopsy. (To be fair, she is about a million years old.)
  • Gynaecological health problems. I’ve been having health issues of my own, mostly because my body has been weirdly out of sync. At the moment, I’m having full-on periods every two weeks, with acute period pains and bleeding pretty much every.single.day. It has felt like hell. They think it may be endometriosis, which sounds right, but they’re taking their sweet time actually diagnosing me properly.
  • The lows have been really low. I’ve had a few dips this year, sometimes so severe that I can’t physically talk or move. I suffer from a potent cocktail of depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia, and when it gets bad, it gets BAD.

So I guess now that I’ve reflected a bit, I guess I should consider my goals for the next year.

I don’t believe in ‘thirty before thirty’ lists, because life is pressure enough as it is; why add more reasons to make yourself feel like a failure?! However, I do believe in measurable and considered aims. Having a set of goals means I can look back and see what I need to be working harder to do and may even give me an insight into the things that I THINK I want to do, but don’t actually end up doing.


Seven goals for my 29th year

  • Be a better friend. Remember birthdays, remember when the big things happen. And keep better in touch with the people I care about.
  • Read more. I have so many books I want to finish, but I never seem to make the time. It can’t be that difficult to squeeze an extra 20 minutes a day in, can it?
  • Finally set up my Etsy shop. I’ve been considering this for years. I should take the plunge this year and actually sell some of the artwork I spend hours making.
  • Write more. Whether that’s blogging, entering competitions, whatever it is – write more if it. I had two pieces published in February and it would be amazing to get another published before the end of this year.
  • Make the most of mornings. I sometimes get up at 11am and go to bed at past midnight. I actually function better on more sleep, so I think it’s time to address the inner student in me; if I get up early, I can meditate, do yoga and stretches, and eat some breakfast at a leisurely pace. If I don’t, I miss breakfast entirely, and rely on caffeine to propel me through to lunchtime. It’s immature, and I just need to kick myself up the bum and sort out my life like an adult.
  • Drink less caffeine. I drink way too much, and I know it is bad for anxiety sufferers. I’ve been cutting down recently, and now I have mostly decaffeinated. I don’t feel too much different, which suggests that I don’t really need the extra caffeine boost. In case scientific research is correct and caffeine can lengthen your life, I guess one cup a week is a nice compromise, no?
  • Take better care of myself. I recently saw a physiotherapist, which made me realise how much I’ve been avoiding taking care of number one. If I want to make it to old age, I need to be healthier. I should be walking 10k+ steps a day, jogging at least twice a week, and doing something like yoga classes to stretch and keep myself in shape. I know that’s unrealistic if it isn’t a habit though. So, my goal? An average of 10k steps a day, and jogging once a week.

And that’s it! Seem like too little? Too much? What would your seven goals be? I’d love to know!

Anyway, I have far too much cake to be eating, too much gin to be ID’d buying, and the most enormous pile of presents to open (she hopes!). Here’s to a year of fun, success, and chocolate!

image of my signature

Blank Page.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


The blank page.

Blank. Totally, unapologetically blank.

Fingers hovering above the keys, waiting — just waiting — for something brilliant to type. You’d like to type something brilliant. Something meaningful, that people will look at approvingly and think “Yes! This is me!” or frown at whilst internalising a shout of “I disagree!” — or they will be so incredibly moved by the profanity of what you’ve written that they will cry; heavy, choking, nasty tears. Or silent deadly ones that will slide down their face uncontrollably and they’ll hastily wipe away hoping nobody will notice.

The page is still blank.

You are hoping and willing for your brain to conjure up something so beautiful, something so brilliant.

Yet, inevitably, time goes on, and the page is still blank, still empty. You’ve got so much crammed in your head, but nothing wants to come out.


I remember a time when writing was a breeze. When I was seven, I fashioned a ‘night torch pen’, a tiny flashlight tied to a biro, which meant I could stay up until the small hours, scribbling away in one of the many notebooks I had to hand. All sorts of stories would pour out; tales of crazy Mayors, who only dressed in brown and held dinner parties for the local fishermen on a Tuesday, or stories of a cat that thought it was a fondant fancy. Half-written science-fiction novels that started with such vigour but ran out as soon as I realised I knew nothing about aeronautical engineering and that gravity was still a little bit of a puzzle to me. (I still to this day wonder how on earth the Millennium Falcon could come out of hyperspace into the area where Alderaan was supposed to be, and somehow it automatically adjusted for the change in gravity without leaving them splatted against the back of the cabin. I can explain that one to you over a glass of wine if you’d like to discuss further. I am truly a delight at dinner parties.)

I was told off at school frequently for not paying attention — because I was reading ahead, or because I was secretly writing away under the desk. I wrote a 6-part novel when I was 9 about a haunted house, which was based on a school trip we’d been on when I was 7, and I was sent to the headmaster’s office for not working. Instead, he read the entire thing over two hours (okay, 6-part novella, if you will) whilst I sat outside writing in yet another notebook, convinced I was in trouble. Eventually he called me in, told me quietly that I was very talented, and he was happy to read any other stories I’d written.

I started a fantasy thriller when I was 11. I submitted the first chapter — a graphic description of an elf being beheaded by a magician — into a competition for under-14s. It was, perhaps, a bit gory and in hindsight maybe a little more adult that the other entries might have been, but it was good enough to win. I got the impression that it blew most of the other entries completely out of the water. I had the story published, and was given an award, and I was incredibly proud of myself. I continued writing the fantasy thriller — in fact, I even rewrote and completely changed the first chapter. Award-winning or not, I had new ideas I wanted to inject into it. New characters, new approaches. I was buzzing with plotlines and imagined maps of this fantasy world I was creating.

If anyone was destined to spend the rest of their life writing, it was me. But did I? Absolutely not.

I can’t even begin to work out what happened. I was bursting with stories, and then I just seemed to run into some trouble. I wrote poetry and songs at university, and tinkered about with a story — which I wrote a good 75,000 words of. Then about five years ago — I just ran out. It’s like my brain just switched off. Am I an adult now? Was this inevitable? Or have I broken myself, somehow? And if I have, can I ever be repaired?


My fingers tentatively hover over the keys again. I have tried bringing it back, I have really, really tried. I’ve tried notebooks. I used to fill up hundreds of notebooks, with ideas or names or drawings of things that I liked. Now, I have hundreds of notebooks but they reflect what it feels like inside my head. They’re just empty, waiting to be filled, sadly knowing that they never will.

My heart aches slightly as I’m writing this, because I know it to be true. I know it to be the saddest secret I ever have. I still habitually buy notebooks because I know I have the want to fill them, but they just pile up and up and up, and I’m thinking about how much I want to write but how little I have left to say. They will never be filled, and I will never be fulfilled. And that is why I will always be thinking about the blank page. I will always allow my fingers to hover above the keys, as I think about how much I want to say and how I just can’t find the words to write.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.