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Courtesy of Netflix.com
has over 94 million subscribers and nearly 15,000 titles available to watch. Whether you're suggesting "Netflix and Chill" with someone, hibernating for a bit of self-care or just need some background noise there's probably something on there for you to watch.
I've been using Netflix for about 4 years and have watched a fair amount of the shows and movies on there, but there are a handful of them that I return to again and again. So, if you've got a little time to kill and want something to put on, here are my favourite shows and films that are currently available to stream on Netflix!
Let's start with a couple of series on Netflix that I've really enjoyed. They are all on Netflix UK, and most (if not all) are available internationally.
Let's start with a classic, shall we? Peep Show is about the somewhat antagonistic friendship between two flatmates (played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb) who met at uni but have very different ideas about adulthood. Uptight, serious Mark and bohemian sexual deviant, Jez, are the perfect example of odd-couple comedy, though are ultimately both equally hapless in pursuit of love and success.
I've watched Peep Show from start to finish more times than I care to count and can quote it word-perfectly. In fact, my Tinder profile briefly read "Mark Corrigan in the streets, Mark Corrigan in the sheets". Why, yes, I am still single.
When a girls's corpse turns up in a small town, suspicion is immediately thrown at new arrival, Peter Romancek. Peter has his own secrets, but so does eminent local family, the Godfreys. Letha Godfrey claims to be pregnant by an angel, Roman's father died under suspicious circumstances, and who is Shelley?
Right, ok, hear me out because this show is a bit... silly. The acting is sketchy, the scripting can be a little off and the entire premise is utterly daft, BUT if you're into supernatural mysteries with an attractive cast (including a pre-IT Bill Skarsgård) and plenty of WTF moments then it's worth a try.
Basil Fawlty and his wife, Sybill, run a hotel in Torquay with sarcastic chambermaid Polly and incompetent (but well-meaning) waiter, Manuel. He's from Barcelona.
Another British comedy, this is one of the greatest shows ever, in my humble opinion. Granted it's a little dated in places, but Basil Fawlty's snobbery and ineptitude will never not be funny. If you want to try one episode, "Communication Problems" is one of the strongest half-hours of television in history.
In a lively Connecticut hamlet a spunky single mum named Lorelai raises her gifted and talented teenage daughter, Rory. With the support of the townsfolk and the often fractious involvement of Lorelai's wealthy parents, these two young women navigate school, work and relationships.
I'm in the middle of a re-watch of Gilmore Girls now, and I'll be honest, it's a slightly different experience as an adult than it was when I was a teenager. My views on the behaviour of the characters has changed and I'm starting to find Rory very annoying... but overall it's still one of my favourite shows from my adolescence and for that it retains a place in my heart. Oh, and Lane Kim deserved better.
American Horror Story
An anthology show comprising six-and-a-bit seasons to date, American Horror Story tells a new tale in every season. Starting with the disturbing tale of the Harmons' haunted California home and with themes like infidelity, motherhood, disability and feminism, this show has a little something for everybody. Unless you're scared of clowns, in which case give season 5 a hard miss.
I'm the first to admit that some seasons of this show are a little dodgy, but obviously I've watched it all multiple times anyway. I still think it's one of the most inventive shows on television, and the campy bizarreness of the whole thing is part of the fun. If you want to just pick the strongest season, I'd go with the second - AHS: Asylum is definitely the standout.
Other shows I've loved include Stranger Things, The Office, The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh, Horrible Histories, Black Mirror, Call the Midwife, Orange is the New Black, Doctor Foster, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Blackadder, iZombie, Girlboss and Outnumbered
Again, these are all available on Netflix UK (at least at the time I published this post...)
The Invitation (2015)
When Will and his girlfriend are invited to his former home by his ex-wife, he is uncomfortable right from the outset. As the awkward dinner party continues, and strange guests appear at the house, Will starts to wonder if something sinister might be afoot. Does somebody have dark motives, or is Will simply affected by spectres from the past?
To carry on the horror theme for just a second, this film does an excellent job of inducing a creeping sense of dread and paranoia, and the final act rolls out some true gasp-worthy moments. Scary without resorting to torture porn, this is one of the stronger suspenseful films of recent years.
When evil wizard Rasputin is scorned by the Tsar, he makes a deal with the devil to spark a revolution, resulting in the death or exile of the Russian royal family. Princess Anastasia is lost, presumed dead, and her devastated grandmother escapes to Paris. Years later, amnesiac orphan Anya meets conmen Dimitri and Vlad, who convince her that she could be the lost princess, but Rasputin isn't finished yet.
This is probably one of the greatest non-Disney musicals. The songs are beautiful and the animation is stunning. I also really appreciate that the love story is secondary to the personal journey that Anya is on, and her quest to find where she belongs is the crux of the film. If you've never seen it, you should. If you have seen it, watch it again.
Overachiever Regan is unmanageably jealous when her high school friend, Becky, announces her engagement. The wedding reunites Regan with her old friends, promiscuous wild card Gena and ditsy, tactless Katie. The night before the wedding causes a huge amount of damage to the dress, and the three bridesmaids end up on a wild goose chase to set things right before the big day.
The plot might sound frivolous but my favourite thing about this film is how unlikeable the central characters are, while still managing to earn some sympathy with the viewer. The comedy (and plot) have some seriously dark moments, which stop this from being just another wedding movie.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Five friends go to a lake retreat for a weekend, but as night falls the hot youngsters are besieged by bloodthirsty killers. So far, so formulaic. But why do we keep seeing a bunch of office workers organising something big, and why does that guy keep going on about mermaids?
In the same way that Scream subverted the horror genre back in the 90s, Cabin in the Woods takes all the tropes and cliches of the genre and creates an absolute gem of a film. Just scary and silly enough, it's worth a watch even if you're not that into horror.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
A star policeman is sent to a small west country village and starts to suspect that there may be a seething criminal underbelly underneath the veneer of harmless friendliness, and things get a bit... explodey.
One of the Cornetto Trilogy featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this is one of those films that I can watch when I'm in any mood. If I'm grumpy it'll cheer me up. If I'm happy I enjoy the shameless silliness of it. It just makes me laugh. The fact that it was filmed in Wells, where I have been multiple times, kind of adds to the experience.
I hope I've given you some ideas of things to watch, or at the very least reminded you of something you've enjoyed. Happy viewing!
(This post is not sponsored.)
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I wrote a while back about how I used to be racist, and how I grew up and, through my life experiences and because of wonderful people I have met, my worldview drastically changed. Living with white privilege (or any privilege) means constantly adjusting to be the best ally you can be, and I don't always get it right.
What does coffee have to do with being a bad person, you ask? Read on!
Taking a hard look at your own behaviour can be really difficult. Facing up to your own bad habits and mistakes isn't an easy task, but sometimes it's the first step to making improvements to your lifestyle and the way you treat the world around you. I know I don't tread as lightly or live as nobly as I can, or should. So, in the interests of becoming a (slightly) better person, here is a list of reasons that I'm a bad person, and how I plan to better myself.
(Ok, maybe "bad person" is a bit strong, though maybe it isn't. But whether you think these things make me objectively a "bad person" or subjectively "morally wobbly" that's your call.)
1. Using non-cruelty-free makeup
If you asked me how I felt about non-CF makeup I'd say "There's no real excuse for using makeup tested on animals, especially if you call yourself an animal-lover. There are so many options and awesome CF brands, there's no reason to support brands that are complicit in animal abuse." Yet, if you looked in my makeup box or even my handbag you'd find a ton of lipsticks from Rimmel and Maybelline and Urban Decay, which either sell in China (and therefore their products are tested on animals) or are owned by parent companies which do the same. If I think about someone forcing my animals through the torture of cosmetics testing I fill with rage and sadness, so the fact that I've knowingly supported companies that pay for animals to be used in this way actually makes me feel a bit sick.
BUT I've fully committed to only replacing my used makeup/cosmetics/bath and beauty products with cruelty-free, vegan alternatives. I haven't totally settled on whether I'll continue to use CF brands owned by non-CF parent companies, but what I can say is that I won't be buying from brands that sell in China and therefore allow mandatory animal testing of their products. I've already ordered some stuff from Tarte! What's more, when I've finally moved into my own house, I also plan to use CF and vegan cleaning products in my home.
2. Using an ad blocker
This might not sound like a "bad" thing on the surface, but using an ad blocker means that the producers of online media you consume, from news sites to blogs and YouTube videos don't get their ad revenue. Some creators rely on these paychecks to survive, particularly YouTubers. If I think about it, it seems unfair that I'd undercut the earnings of people whose work I enjoy and admire for the sake of saving 30 seconds, or avoiding a banner here and there.
BUT when I can afford it I do contribute to content creators whose work I regularly watch/read via Patreon or other similar schemes, and I plan to get organised so I can whitelist certain sites to allow their ads. I also buy merch that my favourite musicians/YouTubers bring out, and retweet/share sponsored posts that my friends do. In fact, my beautiful new header was done by my blogging friend, Kelly. Check out her work and hire her, she's awesome.
3. Contributing to "fast fashion"
I think it's fair to say I'm not very "trendy". I mean, I'm secure in my sense of style, but my style isn't exactly stylish, if you catch my meaning.
If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me rant recently about how modern life prizes convenience over ethics, and this is very true of the fashion industry. Most of us know that in order to produce large volumes of clothing very cheaply, companies rely on exploitative working environments for their factory labourers. In short, this means sweatshops, pitifully low wages, dangerous working conditions and, in some cases, slave labour and the forced employment of children. If this is something you care about on any level, I highly recommend you do some research - it really is eye-opening. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I put my disgust at the abuse of vulnerable, impoverished workers aside for a cute, cheap item of clothing.
BUT I'm trying really hard not to let consumer culture get the better of me, and to only buy clothes from charity shops or ethical companies. I also want to try my hand at making my own clothes and I want to focus on being more inventive with clothes I already own instead of feeling a constant need to buy new things.
Yes, my beloved car is also part of the problem...
In all fairness, this is not on purpose. I am a fairly new driver, and a generally absent-minded person. Now and again if I'm driving alone, or it's night time, or there are no other cars on the road, I just don't pay as much attention to my speed as I should. This may sound like pretty average behaviour, but really there's no excuse for it, especially when you bear in mind that excessive speed is the 2nd most common cause of car accidents. Every time I get in the car I think to myself "remember your speed" and yet on most journeys I find myself at least a couple of miles over the speed limit.
BUT fixing this bad behaviour is simply a case of paying more attention. Apple's new update even means that the Maps app shows the speed limit of whatever road you're on, which will be a help. Considering how anxious I used to be about driving, careful motoring should be in my nature.
5. Wasting resources
Laziness isn't an excuse, but it is the reason. I leave things plugged in, I leave the tap running while I brush my teeth, I leave the shower running while I condition my hair, I drive when I could feasibly walk or take public transport, I don't use food in my fridge and have to throw it away, I use plastic straws... the list is, to my shame, somewhat endless.
BUT, first things first, I've ordered these reusable straws so I can stop using plastic ones, and plan to take my reuseable coffee cup with me when I go to coffee shops. I will start turning the tap off while I'm actually brushing my teeth or conditioning my hair, and I'll try and be more organised about making food, using food scraps and turning appliances off at the wall when they're not actually in use.
Ok, so maybe doing all of these things just means I'm a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. But I don't have to be a fallible, lazy product of consumer culture. I hope that writing all this down and owning up to it is the first step to making myself accountable and doing a better job.
When I was 19 I dropped out of uni (for the first time... more on that in another post.) My parents said I could come home as long as I found myself a job, which was fair enough, and went back to uni in September, which I did (with disastrous results, but again, more on that another time). I moved back to Wiltshire and started applying for every job I was remotely interested in. My only work experience was volunteering in a charity shop and occasional waitressing at school events, so I wasn't exactly massively qualified, but eventually I got hired as a "Kitchen Assistant" at a local chain café/restaurant. I'm not going to name it, because I don't want a lawsuit on my hands in the unlikely event that they ever read this post. You'll see why.
Anyway, I was hired specifically to cover the early shift, which meant getting there on the very first bus (which took over an hour) assembling sandwiches, stocking displays and helping with breakfasts. The place was horribly understaffed, so even though I was meant to be part-time I was often asked to stay and cover other shifts, which meant I was regularly doing 14 hours shifts, 6 days a week which was not only exhausting but completely illegal. I quit after a month because I got another job offer, but despite my short stint in this role I learned a few things which I thought I'd share.
1. Commercial kitchens aren't as clean as you might think (or hope)
I thought a kitchen where food was prepared for public consumption would be hospital-level clean. I was wrong. It wasn't infested with vermin or anything, but it was definitely scungy around the edges, and the big bags of ingredients weren't as tightly sealed as you'd expect. Other people in the kitchen wore their aprons outside to smoke, which kind of defeats the object of wearing one for hygiene. Granted, this was just one kitchen, but given that it had a 4-star hygiene certificate I shudder to think what standard all other kitchens are at. Also, I once grated my knuckle off while grating apple for one of the cooks and my boss told me to just "pick out the bloody bits and use the rest" which is just gross.
2. Working in a kitchen makes you really hungry... at first
This might sound obvious, but being surrounded by the smell of food does mean your stomach is growling for your entire shift, for the first few days. Then the effects of seeing food in such huge quantities means you start seeing food as just inventory and your appetite sort of vanishes.
3. Poached eggs are really easy to make
They can be tricky little suckers, but once you've cooked 100 or so in a few days you get the hang of it. My best method is to use a deep frying pan, put the water and a splash of vinegar in and stir it until the water is swirling around at a decent pace. Then crack the egg straight into the centre. The motion of the water will keep your poached egg in a tidy little ball. No cling film or silicone moulds for me!
4. Customers ask some really dumb questions
My favourites were "Does your wholewheat toast contain wheat", "Do you have any vegetarian chicken salads" and "I know it's three minutes until you close but you have time to make seven burgers?"
5. People will joke about spitting in your food, but they probably won't
When dealing with the aforementioned stupid customers, or unreasonably picky customers, we all made the odd silly joke about adding, ahem, bodily fluids to their plates, but to my knowledge nobody ever actually did anything untoward.
6. Some dishes are just money down the drain
The biggest mark up is on pasta meals, especially "pasta bake" dishes. The sauce is bought in huge buckets and is mixed up with pre-boiled pasta before being chucked in the microwave with some bulk-bought grated cheese on it. It's your money, you do what you like, but it'll cost you pennies to make exactly the same thing at home, so paying upwards of £7 for it is a bit extravagant.
7. Communication is key
In a kitchen if someone says "That's hot" or "Move", you need to listen. Especially as seasoned waiters and kitchen staff have Targaryen-levels of heat tolerance, so if they say something is hot it'll melt your skin off. In dangerous environments you also learn the perils of lack of communication, like the time I was helping with the washing up and stuck my hand in a massive cooking pot to scrub it and shredded my hand on a smashed glass that the waiter had forgotten to mention. I have a pretty serious phobia of broken glass, so this resulted in a full-blown panic attack. Bad times, my friends. Bad times.
8. Sometimes you have to say "no"
As I mentioned earlier, I was constantly asked to stay way after my shift and work extra days, and MAN was I knackered. I do appreciate that for some people putting your foot down with your boss and turning down overtime isn't necessarily an option, and that's crappy. But if you're working so hard it's making you ill or putting you in danger then you need to put yourself first. In my case I ended up quitting, but maybe if I'd felt more comfortable setting boundaries and only working my allocated hours I might not have been as burned out (and might not have grated my knuckle off...)
9. The right music can have healing powers
If you're going to be in a loud, hot, dangerous room for 14 hours on the trot you need the right playlist to keep yourself going. I've never appreciated music more than I did in that job. Though, a fistful of chocolate chips out of the supply cupboard helped in emergencies...
10. It's ok to quit a job if it's not right for you
Even now that I have a job I'm generally happy with I've always got one eye on job listings. You never know what might be out there, and if another opportunity comes along that's better for you then it's totally ok to chase it. I'd never quit a job before and the nerves and guilt I felt were off the charts. I felt like, by leaving, I was letting everyone down, but ultimately life is too short to turn down better offers. This isn't specific to kitchens, I suppose, but it's important anyway.
So, would I ever work in a commercial kitchen again? Probably not. Was it a wasted experience? Definitely not.
Shakespeare called music "the food of love", but I call it food for the soul. Music has helped me smile when I thought I couldn't, and helped me cry when that was the only thing I could do. It's helped me find new friends and deal with losing lovers. Music is always there when I need it.
When I want to feel like a strong woman...
Throw The Fear - Tom Rosenthal
As I see it, this song is a love letter to daughters, and the lyrics are all about growing up and owning your girlhood as it develops into womanhood, as well as coping with life's setbacks. Tom Rosenthal is one of my favourite musicians anyway, but I listen to this song probably three or four times a week.
Somebody More Like You - Nickel Creek
This song is dripping with sarcasm and perfectly exemplifies the stage of a breakup where you start to loathe your ex for their inadequacies and failures. It's the perfect mix of measured politeness and scathing hatred, and singing it loudly in the car through my hurt tears is sometimes exactly the right remedy.
When I need to smile...
Henrietta - The Fratellis
I have been listening to the Costello Music album for 11 years, which is kind of frightening, but I vivdly remember hearing this song for the first time and being weirdly thrilled by the weird rhythm and raunchy language. Even now, the "Hello!" in the intro puts a whacking great grin on my face, and I can't help but yell/sing along.
When I want to slam the door and shut the world out...
Barfight Revolution - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
Margot and the Nukes are a band I stumbled across while I was going through a particularly horrible bout of insomnia at university, and having listened to one song (As Tall as Cliffs, if I remember rightly) I devoured everything else they'd released. The noisy moodiness of this song is like an audio file made by the worst of my misanthropic, sleep-deprived darkness, and playing it loudly is just what I need on those bad, bad days.
When I want to dance...
Glue - Fickle Friends
I'm not much of a dancer, but the odd jump around my room is called for, and this is one of the tracks I'll choose. It's harmlessly cheerful, and had enough of a beat for me to jiggle around to.
When I need to cry...
Sick of Losing Soulmates - dodie
We all know how it feels to lose a friend or a lover, and this song from Dodie Clark turns that frustrated, hollow despair into a mournful pop-folk number that always helps me get my therapeutic cry face going.
When I need to get pumped...
Crazy = Genius - Panic! At The Disco
This is a song that I generally play right at the beginning of a night time car journey. The energy of the song is usually just enough to sustain me for the rest of a dark drive.
When I'm feeling smitten...
No One Left To Love But Me - Maisie Peters
You know a song is good when it survives an association with someone you've grown to hate. I played this song to a recent ex who turned out to be a cheating, lying coward. You'd think that would taint the song forever, but no. I still love it as much as I did when I first heard it, and next time I feel myself getting twitterpated you bet your ass I'll be listening to this song while blushing and smiling.
When I feel thoughtful...
On My Own - Tessa Violet
Tessa's most recent EP really makes the most of her wistful vocal tone and pensive lyrics, but as much as I love the produced versions, this video is my all-time favourite Tessa track. I listen to her when I need to get in the mood to write, and it always gets my creative writing brain in gear.
When I want to sing in the shower...
The Honeymoon Suite - Creeper
I could easily have put any Creeper song under this category because their Eternity In Your Arms album is one of the shining lights of 2017 for me, but The Honeymoon Suite is actually an earlier track that didn't make it onto the album. When I first heard it I listened to it on repeat and it's a song I never tire of.
What are your favourite songs? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! I'm always looking for new tunes for my rotation.
Recently I found myself sat at Woking station for over an hour waiting for a connection. As Gilmore Girls buffered, I took in my surroundings and my eyes settled on a pretty standard safety sign, which unexpectedly reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost exactly six years ago, sitting in that exact spot. The sign said, "Please keep back from the platform edge. Passing trains cause air turbulence."
"But wait," I hear you cry, "Your blog isn't six years old!" You are quite right, dear readers. This blog most certainly isn't six years old. However, I've been blogging in some guise or other since I was about 12 years old. First of all I used the blog function on Myspace, before starting a succession of blogs on Blogger.com. Some documented my long-term online "relationship" with someone I met through a Harry Potter forum who may or may not have been a total catfish, and one I started right before I left school and kept for the first two years of university. I posted poems and unfinished song lyrics, and odes to boyfriends past. I had a blog dedicated to my doodles and drawings, some of which I'd like to revisit and redraw sometime.
It's funny looking back on these archives of pre-trigger-warning content, written because I felt like writing was my only way of coping. I talk in detail about my depression (at least five years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder), about an event which I now know to be the cause of my PTSD, and about how betrayed I felt when the guy I lost my virginity to fucked another girl on my birthday. I knew nothing about branding or analytics, I didn't really care about page views, bounce rate or adding images to my posts. The only only thing you could call consistent was me starting and ending each post with part of a song lyric, because I was a cool tortured soul.
Blogging, as a while, used to be a form of journaling, a diary you could share. For some I'm sure it still is. It's strange to see how it's evolved into this incredibly complicated and varied industry, for many becoming the main form of media consumption.
As a writer, and a creative, I am fairly secure in the knowledge that my blog will never become my day job, and with the blogging world becoming increasingly competitive I often find myself asking why the hell I do it. Why do I willingly enter myself into this crowded, and occasionally vicious, public forum? Am I desperate to stay relevant? Do I like the sound of my own (digital) voice? Do I even have anything to say?
I'll never be the next big blogger, and that's ok. I guess I'm happy to just be a passing train, and maybe cause a little air turbulence from time to time.
|I tried to do a drawing of Victoria but it was offensively bad.|
When I was in my late teens I had a boyfriend who did stand-up comedy. Throughout our relationship I went with him to numerous gigs and sat dutifully in the audience making sure to laugh at his jokes, whether or not I found them funny (though, to his credit, most of them were). I even forced a giggle at the jokes that were at his own expense and actually made me slightly uncomfortable, like an anecdote which claimed his ex had compared sex with him to being “repeatedly slapped with a pillowcase full of jelly”. I’ll respectfully decline to corroborate this comparison.
Eventually I broached the subject with my then-boyfriend, suggesting that I wanted to try a mix of stand-up and comedy songs, hoping for some pearls of wisdom, or at least a pep talk. I can’t remember exactly what he said word-for-word but it more or less amounted to “people won’t laugh as much because you’re a girl, and that’ll distract them from the jokes, you’ll need to be twice as funny just to catch up.”
Ah, little baby feminist, Elena. You should have left him there and then. Instead I let his sexist, horseshit statement put me off even attempting stand up for at least a year after he said it.
What didn’t remotely help is that shortly after the relationship was officially dead, I almost died too. My lungs were evidently jealous of all the attention my broken heart was getting, so they decided to break too. Not content with having one thing wrong with them at a time, I had suspected blood clots on both (which meant self-injecting with blood thinners, which sucked) as well as pleurisy (where your lung lining is inflamed, causing laboured, painful breathing when your lungs rub on the lining), pleural effusions (where the lung cavity fills with fluid, which is also bloody painful and affects your breathing) and, long term, pleural adhesions on my left lung (where the lung tissue sticks together and gets scarred.) In the diagnosing process the doctors also mentioned scary diagnoses like pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. It was a very bad time.
It didn't take long before I was hooked. Here were some of the great actresses like Julie Walters and Celia Imrie who I recognised from Harry Potter and Bridget Jones, starring gamely alongside this warm, hilarious woman who could make me laugh while she pulled at my heartstrings. Her astute, observant, bittersweet brand of comedy was not only something that made me laugh, it was also reflective of the kind of jokes I wanted to write and had been assured wouldn't be funny. I watched as Victoria Wood put live audiences in stitches with musical comedy, which I had been told wouldn't be accepted. My body was all bent out of shape and I still felt betrayed and heartbroken, but suddenly my faith in my ability to overcome adversity with humour was restored.
There are, of course, other comedians of all genders who have gladdened and inspired me along the way. I quote Shappi Khorsandi on a near-daily basis, and I still have a huge crush on Mae Martin after I saw her at a gig the comedian boyfriend did a slot at. Probably my earliest and most enduring experience with comedy was cassette tapes of Rowan Atkinson, Live in Belfast which I can recite word-for-word.
By my third year of uni I'd been gigging regularly as a singer/guitarist for almost two and a half years, and when a gig at one of the student bar started going terribly due to technical issues, I took the opportunity to joke away the awkwardness. When the microphone stand continually collapsed I quipped, "See, I've been single so long that even inanimate object don't want to be that close to my mouth." People laughed. They laughed quite a lot. At the end of the gig someone asked if they could book me to do a stand-up slot at a benefit for Amnesty International. I seized the moment and agreed, and when I got home that night I wrote my set, including four new songs, in about two hours. I was pumped.
I can't remember my first gig too clearly. I was nervous as all hell and I'd been to enough amateur comedy nights to have an acute fear of the pin-drop silence that follows every bombed punchline. I downed a few whiskeys and took to the stage with my trusty uke, and sang songs about bisexuality, hangovers, self-doubt and the inevitability of drunkenly snogging a bellend on SU nights. To my relief, people laughed. They laughed hard. In fact the girl who had booked me cried with laughter. I was flying.
I did a few gigs, all fairly successful, but once uni was over I lost steam. I was too poor to travel to venues to continue on my streak and eventually depression took over again and I lost motivation for simple things like eating and other basic self-care, let alone schlepping into London for gigs. But that almost wasn't important any more.
My short-lived comedy career was fun. It was empowering. And, ultimately, it proved my ex wrong. I couldn't stop him falling out of love with me, or writing about me on his blog. But I could make a room full of strangers laugh. And that felt way, way better.
|Eyebrow game is strong|
|Myspace mirror selfie|
|Last selfie before I fell asleep|
|The morning after|
|Hungover, in my pjs|
I showed my mum some of the photos from the evening, buoyed up from the confidence boost the evening had given me. She sort of nodded and grimaced while she looked at them and then she said, "But it's not the real you, is it. You can't see your double chin." I tried not to let that comment take any of the wind out of my sails, and I mentioned what my friend had said about my legs. "Your friend must have big legs, then," she said. When I replied that I thought that my legs were proportionally slimmer than my upper body she just declared outright, "You don't have slim legs. You look nice in PICTURES but when we look at you all we see is your double chin." I pointed out that I know I'm photogenic, and that I know I look better in photos than in real life. She said, "I don't want you to have body dysmorphia and think that you look good when you know you need to lose weight." This was the point at which I left the room.
Later she came upstairs and said to me, "I'm sorry... but you don't have slim legs." I told her that apologising by repeating the things she was apologising for was a pretty poor excuse for an apology. She left the room in a strop.
I am too goddamn old to be blogging about hating the way my mother speaks to me.
I know what I look like. I'm very, very aware of how my body looks both in and out of clothes. I know I have stretchmarks in a colour range from angry purple to almost-imperceptible silver across my tummy, thighs, hips and boobs. I know that I have crappy skin on my arms and legs thanks to keratosis pilaris. I could draw you an unsettlingly accurate sketch, from memory alone, of the way my stomach folds at the top of my thighs or the sides of my back, at my waist, which my brothers dubbed "flub lines" when they saw me in a bikini as a teenager. I know I have "thighbrows" when I kneel and a crease in my neck from my double chin. I know I have a flat ass for a fat girl. I know I have a bump in my nose, scars in my eyebrows and on my thighs. And my wrists. And the back of one hand.
My rational, twenty-first century brain tells me that none of those things are something I should be ashamed of or feel forced to change. My liberal, body-positive, accepting, tolerant heart would see any one, all or combination of these things in another person and not judge them. I know that your body size doesn't accurately reflect your health and that BMI is trash. "Fat" is just an adjective.
The fact of the matter is, if someone stabs you with a kitchen knife, you wouldn't call it cooking. If someone uses words as weapons, they hurt. It doesn't matter that I already know when I look like; if someone tells me that they hate or are disgusted by something about my appearance it's still going to sting, regardless of how I initially felt about it.
My relationship with my body is chequered, complicated and incredibly dark in places. I have hated myself and felt such deep despair that I've wanted to hurt and punish myself, and times I've sincerely wanted to disappear or die. There are still things I want to change, and am working on changing. But I have learned from bitter experience that progress that comes from a place of self-love is so much better than progress from self-loathing.
I know I'm fat. I know I disgust and disappoint my mother.
I also know that I can sing pretty well, and write lyrics that people can relate to. I am good at my job, I'm compassionate, and I can make loads of different things, even if it does mean the occasional hot glue gun burn. I also know I can do squats with a 71kg woman sitting on my shoulders. And as someone reminded me on Twitter, if I can lift up an entire human woman, I can lift myself up too.
I don't really know how to end this post. I don't have a punchline or anything revelatory to say. I guess all I can add is that we get one chance at life, and one shot at being remembered. And I'd much rather be remembered as "squishy, but kind".
1. Because Sebastian the crab said "You could go home with all the normal fish and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life." And because Ariel looked sad. By the way, I watched The Little Mermaid for my Zusterschap series "Feminist Film School"!
2. Because I remembered the Center Parcs advert with the morose mummy bear.
3. Because my rabbit died. This is admittedly a rational reason to cry, but I cried so hard I made myself ill, which is less rational.
4. Because I re-read the synopsis of the Oscar Wilde story "The Nightingale and the Rose". Do not read it if you're feeling fragile, okay?
5. Because I started writing a song and I could hear it in my head and it sounded good.
6. Because I heard that J.K. Rowling is releasing The Cursed Child's script as a book.
7. Because I met a really great dog.
8. Because I saw my friend Claire and we shared a long-overdue, very long hug.
9. Because the new Army recruitment advert made me so angry.
10. Because C3-P0 showed up in The Force Awakens. I should point out, I cried five times during The Force Awakens.
11. Because I was still awake at 5am on a Sunday night.
12. Because it was light outside when I left work.
13. Because someone left a comment on my Zusterschap piece about tropes in film which complimented my writing.
14. Because the clouds were really pretty.
15. Because my dad sent an uncharacteristically sweet and gentle message to me after my rabbit Dexter died.
16. Because I told my mum how much I wanted to die last year, but how grateful I am to be alive now.
17. Because the boys in my band said very, very nice things to me and made me feel like I matter. This has happened more than once.
18. Because I sneezed.
19. Because I wrote a little post about how much I love my friends, and how much I value them.
20. Because sometimes my brain tells me everything is hopeless, and I am too tired to argue.
That's not even all of the reasons I've cried so far this year, but it's a pretty decent selection. If you, or someone you know is crying more often, or you're in any way worried about your mental health, please talk to someone. Don't suffer in silence. You deserve better.
If you liked this post, check out my health blog, GREEN ABOUT THE GILLS, for mental health and more!
He needed me for more than just food, water and shelter; Dexter made it clear that he needed my love in a way no other rabbit ever has. Losing him has left a weird hollow feeling in my chest, and I've been crying so hard over the last few days I've actually made myself ill.
I know part of the grieving process is trying to make some sense and meaning out of the lost life, especially when the death was so sudden and unexpected. This is definitely the case here. I want to do something to remember my tiny boy, something good and important. And, after a little thought, I think I know what it is.
I've been toying with going cruelty free with my choice of hair/beauty products and cosmetics for a long time. I've been vegan and vegetarian previously, though I'm currently omnivorous, and I plan to spend this year re-aligning my life to a fully vegetarian diet, if not completely vegan.
While Dexter was never a lab-rabbit, he did experience a lot of suffering in his early life, and if my actions can go even a small way to help prevent animals going through unnecessary pain then it's something I have to do. So, I'm going to start eliminating all non cruelty-free products from my life. So, if anyone had a dupe for MAC's "Men Love Mystery" I'm all ears.
So, in a few months' time if someone asks why I only shop cruelty-free, I'll tell them I'm doing it for Dexter.
(TW: Mental Health, Suicide, Self Harm)
I do what I can to make this blog a positive place, and it's certainly my intention to largely focus on the fun and whimsical aspects of my life. However, something happened recently which reminded me of some less fun stuff, and I felt compelled to talk about it.
For those of you who don't know I have Bipolar Disorder. I'm coping fairly well the bulk of the time. I'm medicated, I'm working on a care plan with my doctors and I'm doing a decent job of exorcising toxic influences from my life. I haven't self-harmed in four months, and it's been a long time since I was unable to go to work due to depression. It's mostly been good. Mostly.
That last two years, in some ways, were really great. In others they were challenging. Very, very challenging. In fact 2014/2015 were nearly the death of me, more than once. That's not a joke or a turn of phrase, I mean it very seriously. On two occasions in the last 15 months my suicidal thoughts almost became more than thoughts. I don't really want or need to get into the details of those hideous days. Misery is a self-nourishing monster, and sometimes we can break the cycle ourselves, and sometimes we can't. I'm in therapy and taking 100mg of quetiapine/seroquel daily, and this goes a long way to helping keep me safe. However, I would like to recognise some of the non-medical things that have stopped me from going to the darkest places in my mind.
This sounds like a cliché, but my band
has been such an incredible outlet. Not just because writing songs about my heartbreaks and depression has helped me make sense of it all, but because I have made amazing friendships with these three boys, and knowing that I get to spend several hours a month making loud noises with them can help me push through dark days, and they're always there when I need them.
My Friends, Both "Real" and "Virtual"
I've been geographically isolated from a lot of my friends since I moved to the countryside, and that's been a challenge. I still see and talk to my uni and school friends when I can, but modern life is tricky and I'm terrible at staying in touch with people. I have kind of found my refuge in social media, especially within the blogging community. It's crazy that even five years ago it was considered a bit unusual and creepy to make friends on the internet, but right now, I don't know what I'd do without my "web friends".
I have so much love for animals in general, but obviously there is a spectacularly special place in my heart for my own pets. I have seven bunnies, a beautiful dog called Buffy and a small tropical fish tank with bala sharks, tetras, minnows and a shrimp called Sid. Not only do they make me happy with their clowning, cuddles and mere presence, but taking care of them provides even my worst days with structure. During those grim periods where I don't want to face the world, I know I have to get up and feed my creatures and make sure all their needs are met.
I have read a number of studies about the psychological benefits of doing creative things. For me, I find a huge sense of pleasure and accomplishment in doing creative projects, regardless of what they are. Even just the activity can help engage me, especially when I'm having a manic episode.
When I can't work up the energy to make things, YouTube can provide a distraction from my mutinying mind. Mindlessly watching playlists doesn't solve or cure anything, but it can give me something to focus on when I'd rather not concentrate on myself, and a little laugh goes a long way.
My family, I think it's fair to say, aren't particularly clued up about mental illness. I went to boarding school when I was eight, and I've spent years hiding my mental struggles and breakdowns, so we're working on our communication. They're going to get involved in my developing care plan, and I'm trying to be more open about what I need. All that aside, being at home has been the best thing for me, especially last year when I hit some really deep lows. Rather than living alone and bunkering in when my depression really hits, having my family around me forces me to function a little better. They don't always get it right, and we all have a lot to learn, but they're trying. And more than that, they're my family. Even just watching TV with my mum or chatting with my brother about trivial stuff can make me feel a bit more normal, and that can help set me back on balance. And as much as we argue and rub each other up the wrong way, a hug from my family can really help on days when only a hug will do.
If you have any concerns about your mental health then please, please get in touch with your GP. It might not be a quick or easy process, but you deserve to have your mental health addressed and taken seriously. Don't suffer in silence.
|This face sums up how I feel about your mean opinions.|
|My Nemesis: The Cupboard of Doom|
Being a blogger, I do fall into the cliché trap of wishing my whole life was a copper and marble minimalist haven, but that's never going to happen. But, on days like this morning where I want to create some semblance of harmony in my boudoir I do follow a couple of simple rules:
|I went to Build-a-Bear and made a bunny. A Star Wars bunny. I'm so on-brand.|