Thursday, 12 December 2013

This Ain't The Body I Ordered...

I'm fairly body confident. Mostly because I've made a conscious effort in recent years to cultivate a body that I can be confident about. Yes, my weight has crept up on the odd occasion, but as soon as I start to spill out of my size 12 jeans, I tend to switch to non-processed foods and ramp up a fairly strict exercise regime. It started with a wedding dress that didn't really fit and became something of a project; one which left me with a body I could be quite comfortably proud of.
To the point where I have quite a lot of photos of it.
And then I got pregnant.

Pregnancy changes things, of course it does. I was expecting that. I expected a bump and a waddle, but there are all sorts of other changes that I wasn't warned about and, dear reader, it's time for me to share a few of them with you (whether you want me to or not).

Tits. 

Don't get me wrong, I've always had breasts. Good ones. Good ones that I liked to show off. In fact, with some fairly simple searching of the internet (and, indeed, this very blog) you can see them for yourselves in all of their former glory.

However, pregnancy changes things. 


My beautiful boobies suddenly became big, sore and covered in dark veins. My nipples grew in size and turned dark and lumpy. The above picture gives you some idea of how they look nowadays. Not only that, but they've learnt a new trick: lactation. A few days ago, I looked down at my udders (they no longer deserve the name 'breast') and noticed what looked like blocked pores on the teat. Giving them a gentle rub, I apparently awoke the milk-bearing Kracken and they have barely stopped since. I try not to touch them at the moment, but it's pretty difficult to avoid when you have to, you know, wear clothes and things.

Head a little south of the beef burger udders and you reach my belly. 

Well, I was expecting changes here, right? Yes, I was, but there are a few things that you can never quite mentally prepare yourself for. The first is the linea nigra. I knew this would more than likely happen in the later stages of my pregnancy, however it began to appear around the twenty week mark. Not only that, but it appeared to have been drinking before its arrival and set up camp from my bra line to below my belly button, and ever so slightly off centre. The result is a bump that always looks a little bit like it's pointing off to the right. In other words, it looks like my belly button is gazing wistfully into the middle distance.

My belly button has always been deep, and I never truly expected it to 'pop out'. Bless it, it has tried but, due to sheer depth, what it's actually done is fashion itself into a rather fetching cat's anus type affair. With a top over it, it actually looks ok; a lot like an outie. When I lift up my top, it looks like you could use me to store tea towels. 

Head further south still, and you reach another big change: my bottom. And 'big' really is the word here. I've always had a fairly large bottom, but it was the kind of arse that, while large, was smooth and strong enough to crack a nut with. Not so anymore. Suddenly it spills out of my pants with a texture more akin to orange peel than buns of steel. It wobbles when I walk and seemingly farts at will; a bodily function I apparently have no control over anymore. 

It's ok, I know you're all thinking it too.
My pants are now less size 10, more size 14 and even those are unflattering. I'm told it's something to do with water retention, so I have faith that it's nothing to do with the family sized bar of dark chocolate I just consumed. 

Around the corner from my bum, you find yourself at the baby's intended point of exit.

Somewhat naively, I always thought that the changes to your foof happened at the very end of your pregnancy, when the baby uses it to make its grand entrance into the world. I was wrong. The changes began almost immediately, something to do with blood flow to the area. I'm not going to pretend that these changes were altogether unpleasant.

Sadly, I then stopped being able to see it. Ignorance being bliss, I also stopped really thinking about it, although I was vaguely aware that it had been some time since I felt safe about tackling it with a razor; or shaving blind, as it were.

A few days ago, curiosity got the the better of me and I decided to view myself naked in a mirror. There's not really any flowery ways of putting this, so I'm just going to say it: my fanny looks like Rasputin.

Yep. This guy.
I feel like I should probably try and do something about it before I thrust it into the midwife's face, but part of me is tempted to leave it and see if it starts speaking Russian.

So there you go, my body is no longer my own. It's simply a vehicle for this little human to grow in, and I'm acutely aware that it will never be the same again. Somehow, though, it all feels really quite worth it...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Letter to My Son

At least, we think you're a boy. The sonographer seemed pretty sure, but they have to add that these things are never 100% at the end, kind of like a little legal disclaimer. Still, whatever flavour you actually come out as, you're a boy in my head for the time being. You'll also be largely dressed in Batman-themed boy clothes for the first few months, whatever happens.


Of course, we're also fully prepared for your being an alien
I don't really know why I'm writing this letter, apart from the well documented fact that I write about pretty much everything else that goes on in my head. 

I suppose that I want a record of how things were between you and I before you were even aware that I existed. Right now, I'm little more to you than a heartbeat, a handy source of nutrients (ok, sugar) and an occasional poking hand when you're undoubtedly sleeping and a little bit too quiet for my comfort.

You don't know who I am, but I'm your Mum. I've been your Mum for the last 33 weeks and I'll be your Mum for the rest of your life now. I guess I'm sorry about that. There will be times, I'm sure, when you'll wish that I wasn't, but I'm afraid you're somewhat stuck with me. 

There's also someone else you need to meet. You'll probably recognise his voice when you eventually arrive; he's been talking to you through my belly button for several months now. He pokes you too, but you ignore him. He'd hate me for telling you this but it upsets him that you always stop moving the exact second he puts his hand on my belly. Personally, I think you're just comfortable with his hand there. I happen to know that you roll against things that you don't like: the waist band of my work trousers are a particular source of bother for you, by all accounts.

In fact, there's a whole bunch of people out in this world that you know nothing about, all just waiting to meet you and to love you. We don't even know you yet, but we love you more than you'll ever know. 

The truth is: I miss you. You're with me all the time, every second of every day, but I miss you so much that it makes my heart hurt. You feel so unbelievably fragile that part of me is convinced that one day I'm going to wake up and you'll have just disappeared, leaving me with the realisation that, for a short time, I'd held on to something far too good to be true.

And then you move, and I know that you're real. You're really there: growing inside my swollen tummy, and you're mine. You're strong and big and really bloody heavy, and I suddenly know that you're not going anywhere. Not without a fight. I feel that every time you do battle with a slightly too tight waist band or when I try to shift you from under my rib and you push back. You're staying right where you are, and if that means that I have to drive in an almost horizontal position then so be it. 

I'm scared too. Sometimes I get a bit upset, and I know that you probably get some of those hormones, so I'm sorry about that. Just know that it's never because of you that I'm frightened. I'm mostly frightened that I won't be good enough for you. I've spent nearly twenty-nine years being a pretty rubbish human being, and I'm terrified that I'll let you down in every way possible. Luckily, your Daddy is there to pick me up, dust me off and put me back on my feet. He's pretty wonderful. I hope I don't, but if I do ever let you down, know that he will be everything you ever needed and more. In fact, I have no idea what I've done to deserve the two of you: my beautiful boys. Whatever it was, it must have been good!

Anyway, I'm rambling on a bit and you're kicking as if to say "wrap it up, woman". In a few weeks we'll meet. You'll finally know who I am and I'll finally see the little face that I've been dreaming of my entire life. I can't wait. 

I love you and I'll see you really, really soon xx

Saturday, 2 November 2013

On Friendship


If I was to be completely, brutally honest with myself I would have to admit that I'm not a very good friend. Not because I'm evil, with no capacity for love; I'm just not naturally inclined to rely on friendships the way that some people do. I'm an inherently selfish person, who would rather stay at home than go visiting, with the result being that I often prove to be incredibly unreliable. I was even a rubbish friend to Mr Meaney back when that's all that we were. I wasn't there for him half as much as he was there for me.

In other words, I make plans and immediately begin thinking of a way that I can get out of them. I hate actively letting people down, but I find it difficult to force myself out of the house if it's just not something I want to do. Like I said: selfish.

When I see articles in magazines about 'maintaining and relying on female friendships', I always (unfairly) assume that the writer must have something missing from some other part of their lives and go on about my day. I don't know why that is, but I assume it has something to do with having sisters; I already have very close female relationships so I've never felt the need to fill that void. 

A lot of my friends are also male, which leads to a certain amount of complacency. Boys are lazy friends, which suits me just fine. I don't need to be in touch with them regularly for them to know that I'm there. I just need to occasionally invite them over for a beer and make the odd joke about tits and I know I'm not going to be forgotten about.

However, I do love my friends. Despite my apparent reluctance to make any sort of real commitment, I have actually chosen certain people to be part of my life without being the type to actively need them there for any sort of personal gain. So, even though I flake out on plans on a regular basis, I do class my friendships to be pretty special.

I have lost a good many friends in my lifetime, and I've let a lot of them go. There have also been people that I have found myself leaning on just a little too heavily at times and, perhaps not coincidentally, these tend to be the relationships that fizzle out (or, at times, explode with dying star ferocity). These are not the friendships that matter to me and I have never fought for them. Instead, I highly value the people who are in my life on a long term basis who are understanding about my inadequacies.

The friends who stick around are people who know better than to really expect a lot from me. They know that I'll be there for them if they really need me, but who don't expect me to pick up the phone just for a chat. They're people with whom I have common ground, but don't  rely on me to validate their own interests and passions. They're people who choose to have me around without needing me there.

My friends are varied in age, walks of life and experience. I know each of them through wildly different sources and many of them are sole survivors from larger groups that I have gradually distanced myself from; and I love each and every one of them more than they could ever know.

So, I guess what I'm saying is this: my wonderful and weird friends, I'm sorry I'm a bit shit and I'm incredibly grateful that you've stuck around regardless. You rock.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

6 Ways in Which Ordinary People Are Complete Dicks to Pregnant Women

Have you spoken to pregnant woman today? Yes, you say? Well, I'm willing to put money on the fact that you pissed her off. I know, I know, you didn't mean to, but I'm afraid you did. And so, probably, did the ten people who spoke to her before you, because ordinary people are sometimes complete dicks to pregnant women.

There's little I can say that will stop this phenomenon from occurring, but I will try and impart a few tips to the non-gestating that will help in one of life's more tricky social situations. Of course, the only way I can guarantee that you won't upset a pregnant lady is by advising that you avoid talking to them altogether but, should you decide to take the risk, here is a handy list of things that you almost certainly should not do or say. 

1. Bump touching

Just don't do it. Bumps look like they're stuck onto our fronts, but they're not. They are covered in our own skin and nerve endings and are joined quite closely to our genitalia. If invited to, then touch away but otherwise it's a hands off situation.

2. "Wow! You're huge!"

There is never a correct time to tell a woman that she is enormous. To those on the outside she of course looks beautiful and womanly and natural, but she probably started her day with gentle weeping as she tried on the fourth outfit that morning and stuffed her oversized boobs into a too-small bra. And the truth is, pregnancy weight doesn't just appear on your tummy; it also spreads to the bottom, thighs and anywhere else that it's not wanted. When you tell a woman that she's massive, we don't hear: "Your bump is big for XX weeks", we hear: "You absolute whale. I know you're pregnant, but seriously, it's time for a diet".

3. Pregnancy Comparisons

All pregnancies are different. Of course, this doesn't stop people from constantly pointing out how their pregnancy differed to the one that is currently happening to someone else. This always feels a bit like you're being told that you're doing it wrong. If you were full of boundless energy and libido during your pregnancy, with zero mystery aches or causes for concern, then that's fantastic, but try to resist the urge to screw your face up with confusion when your friend tells you she feels like shit. All of the time. She's just going to end up feeling like a failure at reproduction.

4. Criticism of Decisions

If someone wants to find out the gender of their unborn, then let them find out. They have obviously considered the options and decided that this is the best path for them. If it's not for you, then fine, but please don't feel the need the bang on about 'The Last Big Surprise'.

5. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

We live in a society where it's acceptable to tweet a picture of every single meal that you sit down to, or to update the internet in general with distance, speed and time whenever you go for a run, but in which it is an absolute sin to discuss any big life events. More than one facebook update or genuine conversation a week about the upcoming life changer and you're nothing but a baby bore. Sorry folks, but it's on our minds and we don't complain about all of the cat pictures. 

6. "You have no idea what you've let yourself in for."

No, you're probably right, we don't. However, pregnant women are vulnerable, especially when carrying their first, and just a little bit afraid of what the future holds. They are worrying about things like finances, the changes that are going to take place within their relationships and the huge responsibility of keeping a whole other human being alive. Horror stories about childbirth and children who never sleep are not what they need to hear in this rather fragile state. They'll soon find out for themselves anyway, and that's when she'll be knocking on your door asking for help...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Don't Lose the Lads' Mags!


*** Warning: This post contains images of topless men and women. Please do not read if the human body offends you. ***

UK Feminista are currently running a high profile campaign to make it almost impossible for Supermarkets in the UK to sell magazines for men, or 'lads' mags' as they're colloquially known. They claim that the magazines contain images and content that is offensive and degrading to women, and that anyone 'forced' to look at their covers on the shelves are victims of sexual harassment.  It is already necessary for such magazines to be displayed behind plastic covers, on high shelves that children are unable to reach, yet new guidelines state that they should be sold in opaque bags, completely preventing innocent eyes from witnessing the female form against their will and anyone who actually might want to buy the magazine from getting any sort of idea if it contains content that they want to read.

It's rare that I wish to wade into the turbulent waters of feminism because, frankly, I find it all a bit militant and scary. However, on this occasion, I am firmly stating my position as on the side of the men. I have absolutely nothing against magazines marketed solely at a male audience, because we shouldn't expect the majority of men to want to read about Kim Kardashian's post pregnancy diet or about childhood sexual abuse (Chat, I'm looking at you). We have magazines such as Women's Own that are aimed firmly at our gender, yet we're up in arms that the men have an equivalent that contains, shock horror, the things that they're interested in (I apologise for the sweeping generalisations that this article makes, but I'm afraid that is the nature of marketing, and for the purposes of this argument I do have to go with the majorities). So men are interested in breasts, sport and cars? Do they complain that our magazines are awash with nail polish reviews and One Direction? No, of course they don't.

There is also a very valid point being made by others who support my point of view: why are we talking about glamour models as though they are moronic stuffed bikinis, unable to make their own decisions? That is offensive.

However, I've decided to approach my defence from a slightly different direction. I have decided to show that us women are just as bad as men when it comes to our glossy magazines.

I have taken one lads' mag (Nuts) and have compared it extensively to three separate women's weeklies (Closer, Heat and New), and the results certainly made me stop and think about what I'm reading. I hope that it makes supporters of the Lose The Lads' Mags campaign sit up and take notice too, because if we lose Nuts, we really ought to lose them all.



The first thing that I noticed was the cover art. The bikini clad girls on publications like the one I have chosen to study are seen as offensive and over-sexualised, yet I look at the covers of both Closer and Heat and what do I see? Women in bikinis. The only difference that I can see is that the women on the cover of Nuts are posing for their photos, and have probably been paid for the shoots, whilst the women on the other two have been papped whilst trying to enjoy their holidays.

Which leads me neatly onto my next point: Pages of bikini bodies.



In every women's magazine at this time of year, you will find page upon page of celebrities in bikinis. It would appear that Nuts is not that different until, that is, you read the captions accompanying each picture. While Nuts celebrate each individual woman as beautiful, the piece in Closer aims at picking each of displayed bodies apart; analysing which parts need improving or which parts have been 'fixed' since the last bikini season.

In fact, in Closer I found nine separate pieces about other women's bodies and what is right or wrong with them. In Heat I found four, including a very harsh piece about Nicole Richie's breasts and how they've been 'wrecked' by surgery and weight loss. Any guesses as to how many I found in Nuts? That's right, none. Sure, they  talk about women's bodies, but only in an entirely positive, almost worshipping way. So, who is worse? Us or them?

We also have a horrendous trend of articles like this, which delight in making harsh critique of the fashion choices of others:



If we're throwing around accusations of objectifying women, shouldn't we start here?

Both issues of Nuts and Heat feature articles about reality TV stars (Holly Hagan from Geordie Shore in Nuts and Lateysha Grace of The Valleys in Heat), and both pieces feature topless photos. This is where the similarity ends. Whilst Holly is celebrated in Nuts as being a fine example of the female form, the article about Lateysha focuses on what is 'wrong' with her nipples and the surgery that she intends to have to correct them. I can only imagine that the writers and readers of Nuts would see nothing wrong with her nipples at all.



The inimitable Helen Flanagan provided me with another interesting contrast during my research; the blonde bombshell is everywhere at the moment, and this selection of magazines is no different with pieces about her cropping up several times. Whilst Nuts happily celebrates her famous curves and her infamous quirks, Heat magazine has apparently taken it upon themselves to rip her to shreds. Respect for women, it would appear, but only if those women are not Helen Flanagan.



Nuts

Heat

Heat

Of course, it's not just women who are objectified in the very publications devoured by their own gender. We are just as good at salivating over the men folk as they are over us, as the following image shows:



The picture on the left is a gratuitous shot in Nuts of our Helen in her undies , whilst the images to the right are all shots of famous hunks in trunks found in our own publications. In fact, three of the male images were found in one magazine; all completely gratuitous and not one of them complained about by the males of the internet. In fact, as a side note, I have been at several events involving male strippers and similar, and the men concerned are rarely given a chance to discuss their intellectual aptitude  and their hopes and dreams. They're usually far more busy having their torsos and bottoms stroked/licked/bitten.

So, there you have it, I'm off of the fence on this one and my feet are planted firmly on the side of the boys. Let them have their own interests and magazines that support them. The glossies aren't just for us girls, and if we're going to ban publications like Nuts then Closer, New and Heat really ought to go too. After all, if men have to sit around twiddling their thumbs with sod all to read, it's only fair that we join them.



And just to really back up my point, the intelligent, well educated and independent writer of this blog has been known to get her assets out in Bizarre magazine (another of the offending publications) on several occasions, and it has never once occurred to her to be anything other than enormously proud of the fact. 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The First Three Months...


I've got a theory that the first trimester of pregnancy is one of the most terrifying times of any woman's life. For those that have been actively trying for a baby, it's also one of the longest. Thanks to advanced pregnancy testing technology, it is now possible to find out that you're pregnant up to four days before your menstrual period is even due; meaning that you're launched head first into very dodgy territory. 

Back in ye olde dayes, women often had to wait for around two weeks after their missed period before getting a positive result on a home pregnancy test. Often, their period would arrive in this time and they wouldn't realise that they had, in fact, managed to conceive. This is known as a chemical pregnancy (or a very early miscarriage), and it's a very common occurrence. I read somewhere that as many as 70% of conceptions are thought to end this way. That's fine if you haven't been watching your cycle like you've got OCD and peeing on sticks every half an hour.

Added to the abject terror felt every time you go to the toilet ("am I bleeding?!") is the fact that it's no longer acceptable to announce your pregnancy until the end of the first trimester, and you've had your twelve week scan. I completely understand that, it makes a lot of sense. However, it does mean that you're expected to face a genuinely scary time almost on your own. Your husband or partner is just elated that their sperm works (quite rightly) and have little understanding of how fragile this little life inside you feels.

Most people choose to tell their close family and friends, and therefore have a bit of a support network. However there is a standard response, and that is "Well, it's early days yet". This sentence is supposed to keep the pregnant lady grounded until it has been confirmed that everything is ok, but in the hormonally charged brain of the expecting, this phrase roughly translates as: "you could miscarry at any time". Mental? Probably. But true. 

Another one that you hear a lot is that "you're only just pregnant". This one often comes from people who already have children, as though a pregnancy somehow doesn't count until you can see the shape of a foot pushing against your abdomen. Along with Googling symptoms, all of this naturally leads to a sense of very real fear in the hearts of the expectant. 

I'm writing this because the first trimester is something so rarely discussed, and it's important for women to feel that they're not alone in their complete neuroses. By the time the announcement is made, the foetus has been seen bobbing around merrily on an ultrasound and all of the fears of the past few months are forgotten. But, for those going through it, it can be incredibly rough - and I'm not just referring to the type of rough that ends with a head in a toilet; although there's plenty of that too.

It's important to try and stay positive, but it's also worth noting that you're not alone. Especially for women going through their first pregnancy, it's perfectly normal to feel just a tiny bit terrified. 

Remember: it'll all be worth it in the end...


P.S. I'm writing this at seven weeks but, for obvious reasons, it won't be posted for some time. By the time I publish this,  I expect that I'll be wondering what the bloody hell I was worrying about...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Man of Steel and Me

I put it out there on facebook that I hadn't really enjoyed Man of Steel as much as I had expected to, and that short review appeared to be pretty controversial. Many are championing it as the best superhero movie ever made, and I wanted to elaborate more on my issues with the movie so as not to upset any Superman fans.

First things first, I didn't see it in 3D as there were issues with the screen. However, not being an enormous fan of 3D, I can't see that the movie lost anything by being in 2D. 

There is a rule in storytelling that states you should always "show, not tell". It basically means that you shouldn't leave it up to dialogue between characters to explain what it is happening. The first half of Man of Steel is made up almost exclusively of scenes showing two people stood face to face, having serious discussions. With little flow between scenes, these felt stunted and somewhat dull. It was also true that you often wondered how the characters had ended up where they were as scenes were cut together in such a way that showed little progression between them.

When the action finally kicked in, I admit that the effects were sensational. I'm not a fan of CGI, yet it was done beautifully in Man of Steel. However, the fight scenes largely seemed to consist of Superman flying through a series of walls, clinging onto his opponent. This was fine, but after half an hour it became a little predictable and you had to wonder about such wanton destruction by our hero. 

Superman is a difficult character to make interesting. Thanks to his moral integrity and farm boy upbringing, he has always been written as the perfect American hero. The writers of Man of Steel have tried to combat this by including a complex relationship with his Earth father. Unfortunately, this is handled clumsily and, rather than add depth, it makes you want to give Clarke a clip round the ear on occasions. Then, towards the end, Superman faces the ultimate moral dilemma, which felt a bit shoe horned in. Also, his actions are necessary, and so you lose the element of "ooh, did he do the right thing?".

All in all, Man of Steel takes itself very seriously. And that's ok, but it would appear that someone read through the script and decided that there should be a few funny moments. As such, there are three or four attempts at dead pan one liners that don't happen regularly enough to sit anything but awkwardly with the tone of the film. This isn't helped by the repetitive and heavy score, which serves to remind us that, for 143 minutes, there is nothing to laugh about here. Superman should leave the one liners to Tony Stark.

Also, Russell Crowe is in it. Enough said.

There are, of course, good points. As mentioned, the effects are stunning and there is a bearded Henry Cavill without his shirt on. Sadly, although the plot had the potential to be simple to follow yet engaging, my concentration waned after the first 60 minutes of watching people stood around having a chat. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The 'S' word

I understand a little bit about being suicidal.

That sounds terribly dramatic but it isn't; not really. All it means is that I think about killing myself more than I think the average person would. I don't know why; it's just something that I do. It's like a strange little mental blip that I have where, if my brain sits still for too long, it'll flash up unexpectedly. Sometimes - usually once a month - these thoughts spike in regularity and, unfortunately, ferocity. I get overwhelmed by things very easily and it presents itself as an easy, if rather lazy, escape route. You'd probably laugh if I told you some of the circumstances that had set off recent such trains of thought.

I think it's very important, at this point, to emphasize that I am not a suicide risk. Despite stating that my suicidal thoughts peak once a month, I'm not just a crazy pre-menstrual either; increased hormone levels just aggravate a tendency that already exists. Finding myself staring out of high windows and wondering how it would feel to jump is just a part of my life that I've come to accept. 

I believe that I've always thought this way. Or, at least, I have done for as long as I am able to remember. I'm also not entirely sure if I'm sorry about the fact: this little idiosyncrasy has  helped to make me who I am, and I quite like her. I can be very emotional and I'm good at putting myself into other people's shoes; a talent that often leads to spontaneous tears over a situation that few others would notice. I think about the effect that my actions will have on another person, or about how I can prevent someone in my family from feeling upset for even a moment. I don't always succeed and, sadly, sometimes my big mouth does run away from me, but generally speaking I'm a compassionate human being. This is because I know how it feels to hurt.

Again, I want to stress that I'm not hurting as I write this. I'm fine. I'm not planning to throw myself in front of a train any time soon. Or any time at all, for that matter. In fact, despite the sometimes horrifying tangents that my brain goes off on, it can also be surprisingly rational.

The suicide rate in my town seems to be quite high. I don't know if that is the case, or if it just seems that way due the fact that it's a small place and everyone knows everyone else, but we seem to have more than our fair share of suicides. Each time I hear about one of these tragic cases, I feel jealous for a millisecond; resentful of the fact that another individual has had the guts to go through it when I never have. Thankfully, this emotion is quickly replaced by the question: "If they'd waited just a week, a month, would things have gotten more bearable for them?". As far as I can see, the answer is always yes. Things do get better, no matter how desperate they seem at the time.

I employ this question when I need to steady myself: Will it be better by tomorrow? Of course it will; it always is. And I always manage to talk myself down from the metaphorical ledge. I have so much to live for, so many people who love me and who would be devastated if I left them. But, not only that, I'd missing out on so much life that I haven't yet lived. There are things that I'm destined to do that would go undone should I step off of this mortal coil and I simply refuse to let that happen. 

Every time something wonderful happens, I look back and think: "If I'd had the guts before, I'd have missed that" which is as good a reason to go on living as any I can think of. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

"It's So Unfair"

It's a new sideline I have; made easier by the fact that I began writing it at thirteen.

Check it out: http://itssounfair.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Rebellion for Rebellion's Sake

I think I'm getting old. 

The reason for that conclusion is that I've suddenly begun to roll my eyes at the efforts of my generation to 'stick it to The Man'. With every long winded rant I see on social media, I wonder more and more how many people have a true understanding of the economics on which they're commenting. For example, protestations at tax increases are often based around the effect on the individual, and have little consideration of the overall good that such raises can have on the country as a whole.

However, government and the economy aside, I have also seen a number of posts that seem to be inciting rebellion without any real cause. 


The above picture is a particular example of one such post. When I saw it, it made me want to slap my entire generation upside the head.

The generation of which this particular meme speaks is my own; I was born in 1985. However, instead of 'giving 'em hell', I would like to pick apart a couple of the points raised.

Our generation is far from repressed. In fact, we have a level of knowledge available to us that was unknown to those that came before. That is thanks to one incredibly important development of recent years: the internet. Far from trying to repress us, our government allows us full access to anything we could possibly want to know; the only restrictions being on things that are illegal. We also have these little things called blogs, where we are allowed a free stage on which to voice our opinions and thoughts. In fact, if you really had no free speech at all, I wouldn't need to write this piece.

The Government has also recently made a point of raising interest amongst younger voters; filling our heads with as much information about their policies as they can. We are then free to make up our own minds with regards to who we vote for. We do not live in a dictatorship. If we did, you'd know about it.

Education has not been cut off. We are part of a generation in which university degrees have shifted from something held only by the elite, to something available to all social groups. Nearly every person that I know around my age has some form of higher education. I, myself, am currently studying for an English degree through the highly accessible Open University. Thanks to education reforms, higher education is actively encouraged. 

Music hasn't gone anywhere. For every generation there is an abundance of different genres to choose from. If your choice is obscure prog-rock, but the charts are full of ex-Disney stars, that is not through the control of 'The Man'. It is because your choices aren't for everyone, and pop sells. Your choices are still available to you. There is a plethora of radio and music TV channels to choose from; not to mention YouTube and iTunes. Nothing is beyond your reach.

Likewise with television. If you don't like the reality show that you're watching, then switch channels. There are hundreds to choose from. In fact, switch over to National Geographic and remind yourself that education is still something that you can get your hands on.

I'm not sure what the 'brain candy' bit of this text refers to, but I'm assuming that it means drugs; I doubt that Starburst are the problem here. The Government are not feeding you drugs; you're feeding them to yourself. In fact, I'm almost certain that the Government would rather that the resources spent on tackling drug related crime were freed up for other problems.

So to sum up, stop blaming 'The Man' if your life is shit. If you don't know all that you want to know, then learn more. If your education level isn't where you'd like it to be, then go back to school. If you don't like the music that you're listening to, then find something else; likewise with television. In fact, turn your television off if you don't like it; Government officials aren't going to burst into your flat and demand that you switch Made in Chelsea back on. If you don't like what drugs are doing to your brain, then stop taking them. It really is quite simple.

We're only as strong as our weakest link. That's true. But I believe that the weakest links are those sat around, burning incense sticks and waiting for someone to come along and wave a magic wand while the rest of us go out and better ourselves. No one is responsible for how far you can go, but you. Stop fucking complaining and get out there and be the best that you can be. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Iron Lady and The Opinions


It's been two days since it was announced that Margaret Thatcher had died in a Ritz hotel suite following a stroke, and my timelines on various social networking sites are still full of people arguing over whether or not it's OK to celebrate the fact. 

Thatcher's policies were extreme, and many groups of people were affected in completely different ways. From my point of view, my family only ever gained from her policies. Being council tenants, they were given the opportunity to purchase their house at a heavily discounted rate, thus putting them onto the property ladder and leading, not indirectly, to them owning a beautiful, detached house in Cornwall. This has led to my own life moving in directions that I never dreamt possible.

However, I am only too aware that many were affected in negative ways. In a bid to get the country out of debt, Thatcher made extreme changes that led to some people being worse off than they had been before.

There's a certain amount of jumping onto the hatred bandwagon where Margaret Thatcher is concerned, and a lot of people have contempt for her purely because those around them seem to. But for those that have been affected, positively or negatively, who can tell them that they're wrong for their own feelings with regards to her death?

Personally, I think she did some great things and that her death ought to be marked with the respect that she deserves. But I wouldn't dream of arguing with those who grew up in mining villages during the 70's and 80's, and believe that the World is a better place without her in it. 

Whichever side you are looking at it from, Thatcher had an enormous impact on this country and won't be forgotten any time soon. Aside from respect for the woman herself, there needs to also be a certain amount of respect for the opinion of those affected.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Wo-Man Flu

Image from She Knows

I'm one of those really pathetic people when it comes to being ill.  I wish I wasn't.  I wish I was more like my husband, who will get up and carry on with his day in spite of whatever virus is trying to pin him down and kick him in the head.

But no.  Instead I fall apart at the first sign of the sniffles.  In our house, man flu has become woman flu.  And I have it, I have it bad.  I'm having one of those days where I think I'd really rather be dead.  Extreme, you may think, but that's easy for you to say when you're not the one with a top lip constantly covered in snot.

All colds have The Worst Day.  That one day that you can't cope with getting out of bed and attempting to function like a human being.  I thought I'd had The Worst Day on Thursday.  I had spent the entire day sneezing like I'd been snorting pepper, and split my nose open from too much blowing and wiping.  However, as all of the symptoms seemed to be limited to above the neck, I figured I had a simple head cold and that it would pass as suddenly as it had appeared.

I was wrong.  

Everything hurts.  I feel like I've been hit by a fleet of buses and that my head has been filled with barbed wire.  The snot is inexplicable.  I didn't even know it was possible for one nose to create so much mucus.  Where is it all coming from?  My nose is damaged beyond repair and my stomach has decided to join in just for shits and giggles (only, without the giggles).

In short, I feel dreadful.  I'm at work, purely because we have the sort of staffing structure that means one person going sick means headaches for everyone, and I'm nice like that, but I'd really rather be in bed. 

But I bet, any money, that if my husband had the exact same lurgy, he'd sneeze twice and that would be that.  Oh, to be a stronger human being...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

We Need to Talk About Justin

Courtesy of The Superficial

I've always been a little bit indifferent to the phenomenon that is Justin Bieber.  He's a bit too young for me to find attractive and his voice is a little whiny.  Yet, at the same time, I've never been particularly offended by his music.  In fact, I have been known to turn up that one that he did with Nicki Minaj (I'm a fan of her, you understand).

However, with the current swell of young and impressionable fans on social networking sites like Twitter, this 'boy wonder' has become something of a destructive force of nature.  

When you read through Justin's Twitter, it's almost like reading that of a precocious fourteen year old girl, rather than one of a nineteen year old with the World at his feet.  He seems to use this medium as a way of excusing what is, at times, completely irresponsible behaviour.  He is, of course, just a nineteen year old and is doing the things that other nineteen year olds do, but he has to remember that he has legions of young fans looking up to him.

By taking to Twitter to lay blame on others and to make excuses for his behaviour is careless at best.  At worst, it's damaging for those reading.

I'm sure you all heard about the #cutforbieber lunacy that happened a few months back.  From what I could gather, Justin had been photographed smoking weed and fans decided that self harm was the best way to show him their love and support.  The mind boggles.  Yet, at no point it seems, did Justin's management step in to try and limit the damage.

Recently he had his birthday ruined by the press, and simply tweeted 'Worst birthday ever'. Within minutes, there were replies from young girls who were 'crying so hard' that they 'couldn't breathe' because his day had been ruined.  Rational responses aren't at the forefront of a teenagers mind.

Now we have the pop sensation turning up two hours late (although he says forty minutes, I wasn't there so cannot say for sure) for gigs in London, collapsing on stage and attacking members of the paparazzi.  Immediately, Bieber took to Twitter to complain about how hard his life is.  His fans were incensed, the rage palpable.  I have read death threats aimed at the media in general from thirteen year old girls.  That's not right, surely?

I'm sure it is difficult to be in the spotlight in the way that he is, but should we feel too sorry for a man - because he is an adult - that has millions in his bank and everything that his heart could desire?  Added to that, he has an army of devoted fans willing to attack anyone that criticises him and who will consistently defend his increasingly erratic behaviour.

I know we've had hysterical hero worship in the past (who can forget the girls passing out at Michael Jackson concerts?) but with the addition of social media, it's beginning to take a slightly sinister turn.  The love that Bieber's fans already feel is heightened by the glimpses they get into his private life.  They feel that they know him and, as a result, are hell bent on protecting him.

I know he's only human, and that he has every right to express his feelings, but I think that a little self awareness ought to be exercised when watched so obsessively by so many.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Thank You

I've got life by the short and curlies.

Things are going in the exact direction I want them to be going in and, best of all, I feel completely in control.  My aspirations and goals have gathered their own momentum, like a snowball rolling down the proverbial mountain and, for probably the first time in my life, I have complete confidence in what I'm doing.
Confidence.  That's the thing that's making all of this possible, and that confidence comes from the support I receive from my online family.
That's you lot.
The number of messages I have received encouraging me in my efforts has been overwhelming.  The word 'proud' has cropped up more times than I can count and, with every friend that shares their pride in me, I get a stronger sense of assurance in what I'm doing.
I've also received a lot of comments and support from people that I do not know, which is incredibly affirming.  I don't need to convince myself that people are just trying to be nice if they don't know me.  Why would they feel the need to do that?  I don't feel the need for false modesty here, for the first time in my life, I know that I'm good at something.
All of this is thanks to the people who believe in me.  They've - you've - all made me believe in myself, which has begun to lead to exciting things.  My work is being read and things are moving steadily forward in a way that I never thought possible.
You've all played a huge part in making this happen, in making me, and you have my heartfelt gratitude.
Watch this space, team.  I'm going places.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Love Letter

I love my family. 

This is not news.  Most people love their families.  Most people also love my family.  I'm not just being biased here, ask anyone, my family are the nuts.  Ok, so maybe I am being a little biased, but it is generally acknowledged within my group of friends that my family are pretty cool.  My parents get invited on nights out and everyone who meets my Dad desperately wants him to like them.  They're just that awesome.  They've also provided me with the siblings that I'm rather fond of.

We're the type of family who don't talk about feelings too often.  Spontaneous declarations of love are treated with suspicion and caution, with the recipient usually assuming that the other person is drunk.  The fact that I've chosen to express my love for them in such a public way will probably end with them checking me into the Priory, but sometimes you just have to risk these things.


Mum



Beautiful, well put together and with an absolutely filthy sense of humour, my Mum is everything I aspire to be.  She's had more than her fair share of hard knocks in her life, but you'd never know it if you spoke to her.  She has an almost superhuman ability to shrug off the things that would make lesser mortals crumple, and then to get hysterically upset about the fact that the hoovering hasn't been done in over twelve hours.  Her bonkers mix of fierce strength and baffling neuroses is wonderfully endearing whilst, at the same time, being very easy to laugh at.  The gentle ribbing that she is forever victim of is, of course, taken completely in her stride.

I have put my Mum through so much since my teens, and it pains me to think about the hurt that I've caused her, but she has never once wavered in her complete support of me.  She truly believes that I can achieve anything and her pride in all of us is overwhelming.  No matter what we throw at her, or what we take from her, she is always there.  Usually our friend, sometimes our bank, always our rock.

I am, and forever will be, hers.


Dad


This is, to some, a very scary man.  People tend to be a bit afraid of him because he commands respect.  You can't help it.  If you know my Dad, then you care about what he thinks of you.  I'm quite lucky in that he likes me quite a bit, and I therefore have rare access to the teddy bear (or silver back gorilla) within.  

The love I get from my Dad is particularly special in that he didn't even meet me until I was three.  He took me and my older sister on without question and raised us as his own.  This effort was not always received without protest.  He has been subject to all kinds of abuse and drama from us as we've grown up but, like Mum, he has never once wavered in his support. A fan of the tough love approach, he gives us the strength we need to stand on our own two feet whilst being a constant presence for the times that we just can't manage without him.  

He also makes my Mum really, really happy and I will be forever grateful to him for that.

Squeeze


Squeeze is the grown up.  She's the maternal one with the strangely man-like practicality.  She can drive backwards with as much ease as forwards and decorates like a demon.  She's also one of the most caring people I know.  In fact, it's usually Squeeze who gets upset by how few and far between our inter-family declarations of love are.

Squeeze and I fight.  We're both incredibly sensitive and prone to taking things personally yet, no matter what insults are thrown, I know she'll always be there for me when I need her.  Each of us knows to take angry words from the other with a pinch of salt and to wait for the inevitable apology.  Because the apology always comes.  Squeeze and I simply need each other.  I'm largely the most unstable of the clan, with Squeeze coming up a close second and, because of this, each of us has an almost unspoken understanding of how the other works.  We see the things going on beneath the surface that others might miss, and are able to offer a different type of shoulder to cry on.  There are times that Squeeze has let me cry to her for hours about selfish and self absorbed problems, never once judging me for it.

Basically, she lets me go mental when I need to.

Bunny


Bunny is my beautiful freak.  The little weirdo that never fails to make me laugh while, at the same time, making my heart swell with absolute pride and admiration.  

The baby of the group, I somehow managed to ignore her up until her early teens, which is something I will never stop regretting.  She was my little sister, I was a stroppy adolescent and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her.  If I had taken the time to really get to know her I would have found her witty, affectionate and, above all, to have an awful lot in common with me.  Forced together by a move to Cornwall and a lack of outside contact, my relationship with Bun flourished and I now think of her as a best friend, as well as a sister.  

The thing that always amazes me about Bun is her courage.  She acts helpless at times, but there is a lioness like strength inside, born out of pride.  Rather than ask for help, she will take the bad times on her own back with a quiet stoicism that never fails to astonish me.  

If Bun is crying, then you know it's really, really bad.

The Little People

Lola

Brooke and Bells

Bing and Aston

Sway (and John)
So much personality in such little bodies.  Each of these beautiful, tiny people is a complete individual, able to make us laugh, make us cry and, sometimes, make us terrified.  The wonderful fruit of my sisters' incredibly fertile loins!

Looking at these amazing creations makes me so excited about meeting my own children one day.

Thomas

I have to give a special mention to Thomas.  The man who just gives and gives.  I don't think I will ever be able to thank him enough for all the help he has given me over the last twenty eight years.  Whether money or favours, he is always there ready to hand over whatever we ask for, getting very little in return.

And last, but by no means least...


The One


The beginning of my own little family. The one who makes everyday incredible, who gives me strength I didn't know I had and the reason for the smile I wear everyday.

So, I'd just like to say thank you to my family.  You've made me who I am and you continue to amaze me every day.  The little things you do never go unappreciated.  I may not say it very often, but you're the centre of my universe.

I love you all so much xxx