Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Great white dark

     Between the idea
     And the reality
     Between the motion
     And the act
     Falls the shadow

     It happened, as so many things in my life do, as a result of a glass of wine. Curled up on the sofa late one night, laptop on lap, glass of wine in hand… Several hours later, I woke up, smashed glass on floor, laptop on floor. Shit. I mopped up as best I could, checked laptop for signs of damage, heaved a sigh of relief when nothing obvious seemed to be wrong, and took my stupid arse up to bed.

     Next morning, everything seemed fine. But. Two days later, strange streaks of colour began appearing on the screen. Weird splodges of red and orange, like when you rub your eyes too hard. Eeek. Everything still worked fine, but it was becoming impossible to visually verify this. And then, four days after the Stupid Incident Of The Glass In The Night Time… The screen went black. Fuck.

     I panicked a bit, then finally fessed up to Alistair, who shook his head more in sorrow than in anger and applied his tech skills. The screen didn’t appear to be salvageable, so instead, laptop was hooked up to a standalone monitor and all was well. The Girl drew me a picture to put on The Black Screen Of Wine Death, and off I went, merrily tapping away like Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote.

     Then for reasons unknown, a few weeks ago, Alistair decided to cannibalise another non-functioning laptop in the house (trust me, we’ve hammered the crap out of plenty), and managed to transplant that screen onto my laptop A working laptop, mobile once more! Huzzah!

     And… I can’t write on it. For some reason, staring directly at a screen in front of me, instead of one slightly higher up and off to the left terrifies me.

     Thing was, with The Girl’s Ed Balls screensaver, I used to prop my notebook on the Screen Of Death, and type from that, not looking at the screen, but a t my handwritten scrawl instead. And now that tiny adjustment has been made, what I find is that the glaring white page of a word document or new email composition is like a great big bastard, staring me in the face, fists on hips, lips curled contemptuously, saying ‘Yeah? You got something to write? Well, make it good, pal.’ My instinctive reaction is to jut my chin back at it, try staring it out… and then scuttle away, saying ‘NoSir,SorryIBotheredYouWon’tDoThatAgain!’ over my shoulder as I flee.

     It’s completely inhibiting me. Emails I haven’t replied to, idea for things to write about, blogposts, just getting on with so many other things I need to write… All there, in my head. But not making it out of the half life of not being sent. Instead, lurking in the shadows of my mind, there, but not there, flattened, crushed, and intimidated by the great white dark.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The truth about love

     I keep going back to a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. We were in the early stages of getting to know one another, and we talking about how we got together with our respective partners.

     ‘To be honest’ she said ‘I didn’t really fall in love with W until we’d been married for about six months.’

     I kind of goggled a bit. How could you marry someone you weren’t already in love with? But I get it now.

     Love is not the exciting part. Love is not the quivering, trembling, breathless excitement. Love is not the big romantic gesture. Love is not the thoughtful gift. Love is not the twisting, endlessly unfurling rollercoaster of joy, of exhilaration, of bouncing around because the two of you made a private joke in public that no one else will understand. Love is not endlessly fawning over one another to the exclusion of everyone else in your life.

     Love is… love. Putting up with the crap bits. Being steadfast, loyal, true. Love is washing his pants. Love is spending 15 minutes of your time rearranging something for him, something he could have done himself, but you do it to make his life easier. Love is taking an interest. Love is sending stupid jokes, not because they’re funny, but because you want to make him smile and know that you are thinking of him. Love is saying ‘Rant about it to me. There’s nothing I can do, but a rant will make you feel better.’ Love is taking a moment to appreciate all that he has brought into your life. Love is being there, is listening, is putting out a hand to reassure. Love is doing something for no other reason than to make someone else happy.

     Love is not teenage giggling, thinking you’re being clever. Love is not the public display of affection. Love is not announcing to the world just how special someone is. Love is not constant retweets, favourites, likes and shares. Love is not writing self-indulgent bollocks to and about one person. Love is not creating your own world.

     Love is unselfish. Love is forgiving. Love is seeing all the bad parts of him, the bits that drive you absolutely fucking insane, and putting up with them. Love is wanting to smash his fucking face in at times, telling him so, and both of you retreating to different corners for a spot of silent sulking. Love is not treading on eggshells. Love is honesty, however much it hurts. Love is brutal. Love is raw. Love is knowing you cannot live without him, whatever that ends up being. Love is not proud. Love is deep, primal, painful.

     Love is not romance. Love is not lust. Love is not happy happy joy joy. Love is not boastful. Love is not fun. Love is not a gleeful little secret you keep hugged to your chest. Love is not cryptic posts on social media. Love is not a white knuckle ride. Love is not jumping around the room because he paid you a compliment. Love is not a fake reality we create for ourselves because being a grown up is dull, and parenting can be boring.

     Love is every day. Love is mundane. Love is boring. Love is wanting to know how your day went. Love is offering advice on that tosser at work. Love is the rubbish stuff. Love is spending hours making mind-numbing small talk with people you don’t know, because he wanted you to be there. Love is offering support. Love is saying ‘I know things are overwhelming for you right now. I’m stepping back, so you can focus on what you need to get done. Just give me what you can spare.’ Love is enriching, reassuring, strong. Love is unselfish. Love is making no demands, no ultimatums, no footstamping tantrums. Love is knowing that you connect. Love is silence. Love is saying ‘it’s ok’. Love is life changing, but it leaves lives unaltered, untouched, unharmed. Love is pure, direct, unfiltered. Love is honesty.

     I love. And my love sustains, renews, replenishes me. I love him. And if, one day, I and he do cease to be we, I will still love him. As a friend, if nothing more. He makes me a better person, in every way, in every small moment. I don’t need to show it to the world. And he won’t say it, but I know he loves me too. That is what love is.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

You've got a friend

     I have, against all logic, realised that I have become a grown up.

     This doesn’t mean that my house is suddenly tidy, I am responsible with money, and I never swear in front of my children. No. Don’t worry; I haven’t had some kind of fundamental personality transplant. But a great big wrecking ball of realisation has hit me. I am a grown up.

     What the mascara arse has caused this to happen? Very simple. I have realised what friendship is. I had a friend. Correction: I thought I had a friend. I was there for him, and he was there for me, at a time when we both needed someone to talk to. And then things changed, and we were still friends, but not so close. It was fine, no big deal. And then Dad got ill. And it was a very dark time for me. What got me through it were my friends, and an awful lot of people whom I barely know, reaching out, offering me sympathy, kindness, letting me know that they were thinking of me, my sister, Dad, asking if they could help. But my friend? Nothing. I know he knew that Dad was ill. But he offered me nothing.

   It hurt, of course it did. And as things have transpired, I realise now why it was that he ignored my distress. It didn’t fit with his life. Anything boring, dull, mundane doesn’t fit with his life. A white knuckle drunk is always going to be seeking the next thrill. If I can’t provide that, someone else will. That’s not friendship.

     I have some very close friends. Mostly blokes. Alistair, obviously, it goes without saying, is one of them, so we’ll kind of leave him out of this. The others? All older than me, people whom I would never have come across, had it not been for twitter. Complete opposites in personality, although they agree on plenty. And I value those friendships more than I can say, although I’ll have a decent stab at trying to convey what it is they mean to me.

     They are there for me. I am here for them. We argue, we piss each other off, we ignore each other, we get into moods, we see the worst sides of each other in every possible way. But. We are also honest with each other. I can let my guard down with them in a way that I do with very few people in real life (yes, I know, for all that I overshare massively online, in real life I have an exclusion zone a mile wide). We can have drunken late night conversations about all sorts of bollocks, they make me roar laughing, they make me sob like a bloody child at times too. They have been there for me at times when I have felt hurt, alone, scared, and in every possible way confused. I hope, maybe, that I’ve been there for them when they’ve needed someone too. And just through the everyday stuff. When it’s been a shit day. When there’s not really anything massively wrong, but you just want to moan. Or you need someone to be your dancing monkey and make you laugh. Or just to chat, about nothing much really.

     And it has surprised me, because I never thought of myself as being One Of Those Women. You know what I mean. The type of woman who doesn’t have any close female friends (I do, by the way, but for the purposes of this post, I’m leaving them out of this, for which, I am sure, they will be massively relieved). A ‘man’s woman’. You know the bloody type. The simpering, laying a hand on a male forearm to make a point, hair flicking type of woman who makes my teeth itch. Who values herself based on the amount of male attention she can generate. The type of woman who self-deprecates so much that if she fished for compliments any harder would be on the cover of Total Carp magazine every month.

     Bloody hell, that’s not me, is it? Not one of those women, who make you feel dull, grey, ugly, thick and useless, because they are permanently groomed and forever posting photos of themselves looking glamorous? Not one of those women who openly flirt with your other half so openly that you yearn to insert a kebab skewer up their nostril? Not one of those women who say ‘I just get on better with men. Women don’t seem to like me for some reason.’ (Yes, I do have an inner monologue RANT to myself when I come across this). Women who will do anything to get male attention, and approval?

     No. That’s not me. But it has surprised me that of the closest friends I have, the majority are male. Maybe it’s because I’m sweary. Maybe it’s because I’m a history obsessed moo. Maybe it’s because I refuse to be a Mummy Blogger. Or maybe, it’s because social media isn’t about reinforcing your beliefs about yourself, but about expanding your horizons. Because, online, it’s not so important who you are, but about whom you connect with, and about what you say to one another. You don’t necessarily have to have much in common to build a friendship, unlike real life where we tend to become friends with those we encounter through shared experiences, whether it’s work, in the school playground, or at the gym.

     So there’s a lesson there, for me at least. In real life, I’d naturally gravitate towards other women, other mums, thinking that because we superficially have something in common, we’d get on. In fact, the people I’m closest to are nothing like me, and not very much like each other either. But there are things we all have in common. We are grownups. We understand that friendship is reciprocal. We know that adult life is mostly dealing with the rubbish bits, and not about chasing excitement. But the joy that can be found in having a good friend is the greatest comfort I know. And to you guys… you know who you are. Thank you, for being my friend.

Monday, 9 March 2015



  I know I bang on about graffiti a lot. I know, ok? It started a long time ago, and in the last eighteen months, it’s became a habit to notice stuff around me, take a photo of it, then… not really do much else. It’s not just the old graffiti I notice either, although that has more of an emotional pull on me ; it’s the modern stuff too. Norwich is an independently minded city, with a bolshy attitude, and there are conversations and statements happening across the concrete of the fine city all the time.

     A lot of it is tagging, like in most places, which I confess to finding fairly dull and mindless, in itself, although the motivations behind it intrigue me. But quite often, it’s about debate, protest, or leaving a message. This is the part that has really got its claws in me, I suppose. That need to make your voice felt in a way that will last longer than just speech.  Sometimes, it’s a declaration of love

     Sometimes it’s about making a point

     Sometimes, it’s just as simple as saying ‘I am here.’ Right now, right here, right in this moment. As soon as I’ve finished leaving this here, I’ll be gone. But for now, I am here. People feel a need to make their...

     The things that often provoke people into making these is often that they feel marginalised in some way. Disenfranchised, unimportant, not listened to. So they find a way of imprinting themselves onto something solid. Even if they feel they don’t have anything to say, they just leave their name, quite often only their initials, just so their existence won’t go unrecorded.

     But with the rise of social media, a new form of graffiti has emerged - the selfie. Another way of placing ourselves onto people’s walls. Making our presence solid. People do it for all sorts of reasons, but the effect is the same. It might be because you’ve been challenged to put up a no make up selfie.

     It could be because we’re bored and titting about.

     It could be to send to a friend to thank them for paying for you to have your hair cut.

     But one thing I keep noticing, especially on twitter, is that it’s often people who have ‘hidden’ illnesses who post the most selfies. Maybe mental health problems, or chronic fatigue, or for whatever reason, find it hard to leave the house. People who, from the outside, seem fine, when actually life is harder, and it’s more of a struggle to keep up. People who feel overlooked, who feel they’re not listened to, people who feel outside the rest of the population.

     I take quite a few selfies, as you’ve seen. I don’t usually share many. But for some reason, I find it reassuring; to be able to look at a photo of myself and say ‘That’s me. I was there. I am here. I’m still here.’ No matter how I’m feeling when the photo is taken, it’s a record of my existence. It might not have the permanence of scratching my name and date into stone, the semi permanence of spraypainting a wall, or even just scribbling on a poster with a felt tip pen, but it is a marker. The arrow on the map that says ‘You are here’.

     Whether I’m bored

     Or sad

     Or happy.

     I am here.