Friday, June 6, 2008

Yours Sincerely

Dear Boss,

This is a hard letter to write but one of necessity. I am handing in my notice and would like to arrange a suitable handover.

It will come as no surprise ,that I have become increasingly unhappy within my work and need to be back in a penniless but creative environment. I have had four good years within the company and have thoroughly enjoyed my time. I believe I have made great progress and developed personally and professionally. I now wish to move on and excel in an environment where it is unacceptable to say ‘back of the net’ or ‘balls in the air’ with a straight face.

Between now and September, I believe I can transfer my role responsibilities between individuals within the department, ensuring my departure has minimal or no impact on the current projects. I feel now is a suitable time to leave a well paid job, what with rising food and fuel costs pushing inflation through the roof. Come to think of it, I might not have a roof as the impending recession leaves me unable to afford mortgage repayments. I will, almost certainly, be broke in six months time, living back with my parents and selling double glazing by a motorway roadside complex.

I can, however, recognise without a shadow of doubt that this is the right thing for me to do. I have not yet formally informed the Director and am asking your advice on the next course of action.

Yours Sincerely


p.s. If anyone ever mentions data migration, mumbles bulls**t management speech and dares to ask me to reflect upon anything, I will not take responsibility for my actions. If certain management in this place develop any emotional intelligence and begin to act with even the slightest level of integrity please let me know, I would love to see that.

Unfortunately I feel I need to remove the p.s. and possibly tone down the sarcasm! But essentially that's it, I'm leaving. I am relieved, scared s**tless but happy! I have no new job, no real plans but unless I force myself into this situation I will continue to rot. And believe me, I will not smell good!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Me, Myself and 'Bush Falls'!

The train carriage pulls up into a picturesque station and judging from recent breakdowns, I fear I am on the outskirts of ‘lalaland’. Inhaling deeply, I step down onto the empty platform. Tugging my suitcase I walk through the ticket office into an idyllic village where life meanders, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of London life. The sun beats down and already the fresh air is blowing away the recently felt April blues. I find a bench, sit, flick absently through the newspaper and wait for the lone village taxi to arrive and take me to a countryside retreat I recently booked myself into.

Relaxing in the sun, scribbling mindlessly in my notepad I have visions of a beautiful cottage surrounded by vast rolling hills, where bird song fills the silence and the stress of city life fades into a memory. People will come to this paradise to relax, detox and perhaps, even meditate. Communal dinners will break the day and the few residents will sit around eating vegetarian food, grown on the land. Recalling adventurous escapades, experienced travelling through exotic lands. The loneliness will ebb away as I find myself again. Oh sod this, I feel like I’m in a frigging Enid Blyton novel!!

Swiftly moving on… A well-dressed woman joins me on the bench. An air of sophistication surrounds her and, not to my surprise, classical music begins to emanate from her hand-bag. I glance over as she opens her Prada bag to retrieve her phone. ‘Cynthia, darling!’ she exclaims in a British aristocracy drool, followed by a brief silence, ‘Nope’ *Long contemplative pause* uh-hah, I know it is amarrzing, but I’m terribly sorrow darling, Monty is in a committee meeting all day and will surely miss Henry’s cricket match’.

My attention is diverted as another elegantly dressed women sits to the other side of me, ‘Yep, yep, I totally understand the predicament, but if Karolina can’t wait till Isabel’s home, then she can not take the Suzuki’, she bellows into her mobile, in an equally upper class tone. Sandwiched between the rich and wealthy I begin to chuckle to myself, do they not know how stereotypically posh they sound? And maybe I am in an Enid Blyton story after all?

Waiting for one of them to mention Fanny and Dick are coming over later for lashings of ginger-beer, both women, as if on cue, glance my way. I realise I am sitting slouched and spread legged, wearing cut-off combat trousers, an off-white vest top and ‘seen better day trainers’. In my ear-wigging I have inadvertently opened the newspaper (yes it’s the Sun) to page three and Melinda’s breasts stare up at us. I can almost hear ‘lesbians, must they be so stereotypical’, being muttered under their breathe as I quickly turn the page and straighten my posture. My embarrassment is thankfully interrupted with the arrival of the taxi.

Twenty minutes later, and a very verbal guided tour by the local driver, we arrive at the remote location where I will spend the next few days. The house and grounds are beautiful; however it quickly becomes apparent my visions of communal dinners, meeting interesting people, tales of exotic places and meditating in the grounds are not going to come to fruition. Why? Because I’m the only person there! Following an incredibly lonely dinner, at a large table set only for one, I head back to my basic, TV-less room to stare sadly at the wall. Wishing I was anywhere but here, and hoping even the taxi driver would come back, I reach for a novel recently recommended by a friend.

‘Bushfalls’ by Jonathan Tropper is a humorous story about a 34 year old man who writes a disparaging novel about his home town. Well that’s the plot, but I read a story about a lost, insecure, lonely man who was scared of being hurt, getting older and allowing himself to be loved. He ultimately has a minor emotional break-down, a consequence of finally facing himself. A friend acts as his therapist, offering blunt, unprofessional but honest advice as the character has a series of panic attacks and random vomiting incidents. I won’t irritatingly ruin the story, but he does begin to let go of the wilfully stored emotions and change the negative self perception of himself. Oh, and his car gets blown up and there’s an enjoyable amount of sex in between.

So why the book review, because I could relate to him and it was very reminiscent of recent experiences; unfortunately, minus the sex! I did take the next few days to relax, read, walk and spend some time with myself to figure out what has been happening in my life and head. Returning to London I felt relaxed, tanned and a couple of pounds lighter, which is always nice. Importantly though, I returned with a strong sense of, once again, being able to cope and this is imperative with the amount of changes that lie ahead. I have to be honest though, I did, at stages, get bored of myself and it would have been ‘amarrzing’ to share a ginger-beer with Fanny and Dick.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mayday, Mayday!

Standing by the drinks machine waiting for my third cup of coffee to percolate its way into my mug, everything suddenly appears a little unbearable and I feel so incredibly tired. In that one moment I have an overwhelming desire to let my legs give way, crumble slowly onto the carpet tiled floor, assume the foetal position and close my eyes. Sanity thankfully perks up and the rational part of my brain takes over and repeats to ‘crazy self’ the words ‘breathe, just breathe’. As if on auto-pilot I turn, leaving the coffee stewing and walk through the doors, down the stairwell, past the busy breakfast canteen and avoiding eye contact with fellow colleagues, I head to the exit.

With just a few more steps before I can leave this, now claustrophobic office behind, palpitations begin pounding against my chest. Gasping for breathe and unsure of whether to burp or faint I unconvincingly reassure ‘crazy self’, ‘just count to ten and you’ll be ok!’. As I stumble out the final secure turnstile doors into the sunlight and adjoining park; ‘Five, six, seven, eight… oh shit’ is my last thought as I bend over and throw up.

Sitting in the park, unattractively smelling of vomit, I can see I need some help. Life is ok, in fact it’s pretty good. There have been a lot of recent changes and developments but surely they are not the cause for this emotional break down? What’s really scaring the shit out of me? And why am I surrounded by an air of desperation? My phone rings and breaks my confused train of thought. ‘Where are you?’ Terribly Posh Tara discreetly whispers ‘you’re late for a meeting and they’re all waiting?’

This is just one of the overly dramatic, humourless April events that I had no intention of writing about. Every week I sit in-front of the laptop, tapping the table, staring at the blank screen, to then procrastinate with unnecessary flat cleaning or decide watching the omnibus of Eastenders is far more critical to my wellbeing. Questioning what is the point of writing if I can not understand or rationalise what the hell is going on in my somewhat screwed up head. The past month has been a series of uncharacteristic panic attacks, hysteria and bi-polar behaviour that would leave Britney appear emotionally centred.

Tara cancelled the meeting, found me blubbering on a park bench and tried to comfort me but to no avail. When I finally returned to my desk, red eyed and fake smiling, I emailed the boss and booked some holiday time. It’s now May and today I leave on a lunchtime train to the countryside where I intend to drink carrot juice, relax and put my life back into perspective. With April over I already feel better. The sun is shining and the recent developments in my life now seem bearable and almost exciting, but that’s another story!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Thinking out loud

I have it all planned. Over the past two weeks occupational decisions have been made, I have researched my options, found the ideal career to pursue and printed off the appropriate application forms. I was almost surprised I had not figured it out before. I have found a job with my name written all over it and no it’s not a wine taster or strip club owner (but actually they could be a good back up plan). My new found career is creative, energetic, people orientated and has nothing to do with data migration or system upgrades. There is just one minor obstacle, in order to actually get the job I am destined to do, I need to go back to school!

Work quickly became bearable and when summoned up north again, I was not overly enthusiastic but decided the time on the train would in itself give me an opportunity to complete the University application form. To really make the trip extra bearable I decided it is time to get off the fence, stop talking about dating and finally ask out a very attractive girl I recently met. She said yes and the date was set. So, now I have a new career path, a date and an insane grin plastered across my face. People ask ‘why so happy?’ followed swiftly by ‘for the love of god please stop singing’ and what do I do? I momentarily stop singing badly and tell everyone and anyone who will listen about my exciting news!

Sitting on the train and after several cups of coffee, I can not procrastinate any longer and the course form is waiting for me to carefully articulate how my personal skills, previous experience and academic interests will support my application. Reading the supporting information, I come across section 7. Payment of fees... arh, OK, before I do anything I need to work out how I can afford to quit my job, closet the Next suits, dye my hair purple and get stoned on a daily basis. After thirty minutes, some figures scribbled on the back of my council tax final demand it’s apparent that if I work everyday from now until September, cut out all luxuries (i.e. food) and double my housemates rent, I still can not afford six months fees and living, let alone two years studying.

Contemplating the fact part-time jobs, loans and holiday work will just about see me through, my phone flashes showing an unknown number. It’s the course convener who I emailed during my research. I make my apologies about the potential lack of reception and begin asking questions. He quickly interrupts and asks about my experience regarding a pre-requisite for the course. To not bore and to summarise the conversation, he explains they will not even look at my application until next year. I calmly argue my case but to no avail. Whilst talking my phone again buzzes but this time alerting me I have a text message. Feeling teary I finish the conversation, read the text and in less than one hundred and fifty characters I am informed, that due to genuine circumstances, my Friday night date is cancelled. Oh bollocks!

My Dad has always been a big sports fan and growing up we were practically banned from asking the question ‘who’s winning?’. Dad would always respond ‘Ssh you’ll jinx it’ as his favourite team let in the winning goal! I often repeat those few words but for some reason I never listen to my own advice. I find if I have a thought or idea, however trivial, then you can guarantee within seconds I will tell the world. Did I jinx all my plans by not keeping quiet? Or are obstacles just an inconvenience masking a positive waiting around the corner?

After a weekend feeling slightly deflated I have now paid my council tax, am revisiting the future career drawing board and have rearranged my date. I of course can not mention any of these plan’s as do not want to jinx anything. But I can say, Stringfellow’s will still employ me so looks like my back up plan will come to fruition!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why the long face?

I am escaping London for the week, leaving on the seven o’clock out of Kings Cross and heading north on an eagerly awaited works trip. I am looking forward to spending time with some different work mates, stay in the country Spa hotel, inhale a good dose of fresh air and take a moment to pause and feel better.

Waking at five is not my favourite way to start the day but within record time I am packed, showered and almost look awake and presentable as the taxi arrives to take me to the tube station. Opening the flat door it quickly becomes apparent that there is one hell of a storm happening. The wind will not allow me to even close the flat door and after a several minute fight, me against the gale forces, the door is firmly locked and I attempt the short walk to the cab.

The walk is comparable to being hosed down with ice water whilst walking through thick treacle and I wonder if the Spa hotel will see the potential money earner in selling a similar intense, detoxifying, fitness experience to the rich. Not feeling very entrepreneurial I only question ‘Why on earth did I not spend another half hour in bed?’ I look more bedraggled than I did when waking and now I really am miserable and ever so slightly damp smelling!

In spite of the dramatic weather there are no delays on the British transport system, and remarkably four hours later I arrive at the northern office. The sun is shining, the air is clean and already my four week miserable mood is beginning to lift. On entering the office a group of us head to a room, plug in our laptops, turn on the projector, arrange the flip charts and pour copious amounts of coffee in preparation for the two day workshop.

Sitting in the board room, reading through the agenda on data migration, suddenly everything makes sense. My bad mood, need for escapism, feeling of discontentment and general wallowing self pity is lifted in a moment of clarity. It is obvious and I am, without a shadow of doubt, doing the wrong job. I am not having a lazy moment wishing I was back in bed or on holiday with friends than be working; this is an overwhelming feeling that I really can not do this soul destroying job for even one more minute.

How did this happen? When did I stop being creative, doing a profession I love, in order to become corporate? Who uses words such as reflection, stabilisation and granularity on a daily basis? I do, and I am almost convincing when it comes to the fine art of speaking bullshit. Work colleagues listen, take advice and I get paid. The past few years have been a good experience but sitting here it is taking every ounce of my being to not stand up, calmly pack away my belongings, walk towards the exit and say ‘Do I look like I give a f**k’ and never return.

Of course I did not but it was a great thought which kept me entertained for the next few days as I sat in the hotel (without the detoxifying spa treatments) pondering my future and career aspirations. I am now back in the London office and have made some occupational decisions. Once I get out of this workshop on the ‘Stabilisation of an IT upgrade’, I’ll ‘reflect’ on those decisions and in the meantime try not to make a dramatic departure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cut out the pauses!

Question: 'If you could remove from life one thing, what would it be? Death? Remorse? Pain?'
Answer: 'No! The great object of life is sensation. Cut out the pauses for only in our most vibrant experiences, be they great joy or great woe, lies real learning!' (Quote: Lord Byron from Trust Byron)

I always loved that quote. Viewing life as an exciting rollercoaster that should be lived to its fullest, leaving no opportunity missed or experience regretted. I don’t have time to stop and why would I when the world has so much to offer? To pause is dull and life is too short to take a break from extreme sensations, isn’t it?

No! To not burn out, physically and mentally, of course we need the pauses in order to stop, reflect and truly learn from the experiences. Unfortunately pauses, due to their very nature, aren’t going to be associated with fun and humour, more boredom with glimpses of profundity. I need to stop, take a breath and find time to figure out what the hell I am doing with my life and understand why I feel so f**king miserable and tired.

Over this week I have the luxury of a works trip so can spend evenings in a hotel on my own and look at what needs to change in order to pull myself out of the hole I have temporarily fallen in to. So to finish this very short blog, which will continue later this week; ‘A bear walks into a bar, looks at the barman and says ‘can I have a pint of…….*2 minutes silently pass*…. Guinness please?’ The barman replies ‘of course, but why the big paws?!’

Look I did say pauses lacked fun and humour! Don’t even get me started on what happened when a crocodile walked into a bar….

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Should have, would have, if only

I have been staring at the same four walls for three days. Within this eight by six foot room the lack of sunlight and glare from the naked bulb is making my eyes sting and I feel incredibly nauseous. Every muscle hurts, my hands are raw and scratched and I am feeling detached. Lost in my thoughts, I am still aware of a faint voice in the background which I think I tuned out hours ago. Tiredness overwhelms and I begin to reflect on the chain of events that escalated out of control and ultimately led to this incarceration.

Since moving into the flat two years ago I have decorated every room, laid the floors, installed the new kitchen and painted over the Toy Story bedroom wallpaper. Over time and with help from friends and family, mainly my Mum, I have a nice, comfortable living space for myself and now housemate. But it’s not quite finished and for months now Mum has been encouraging me to lay a new carpet in my bedroom. Due to stubbornness, I have rebelled and ignored her suggestions even though I know it would look better but it’s my flat I’ll do what I want! Post Christmas, once again carpets were mentioned and in true Mother-Daughter fashion, juvenility took over as I snorted ‘leave me alone’ followed by a flippant, throw away remark…. ‘I’d rather do the bathroom first!’

Big mistake! When DIY is involved my Mum turns into an enthusiastic unpaid property developer and within two weeks I have bought the tiles, temporarily kicked Housemate out and the parents have moved into my tatty carpeted bedroom. In my brightly lit bathroom I stop daydreaming, return to reality, carefully stick the last tiles to the shower wall and realise the faint voice is that of my Mum. She is deliberating whether we should have sealed the tiles, can spirit levels be wrong and is this adhesive suitably water-proof? She is only thinking aloud and doesn’t need a response so I again switch off, begin grouting and think is there anything I ‘should have’ done differently since buying this flat.

Weeks before I moved here my partner and I were having problems and talking about taking a break. During our decision making I went out one night and slept with someone else. I could give reasons, excuses and try to justify my actions but the shameful reality is that I was a coward who was easily flattered and wanted a way out. We did not take a break and I did not take my way out but instead admitted my infidelity, breaking her heart and mine. We still moved in together and naively, no, stupidly, thought we could move on, but judging from what I write about we know it didn’t work out like that.

Should have, would have and if only! Words I can only associate with regret. That was my one regret and for a long time it was all consuming. ‘I should have gone home alone and I would have prevented the pain I'm causing’, ‘If only I had not slept with someone else, maybe we would be working out’ and ‘I should have walked away before it got to this’. Too busy chastising myself and asking for forgiveness, I could not admit we were both in the wrong relationship and regardless of my actions we would still never make it work. I made a huge mistake which I am still ashamed of but I can learn from it, not be a coward and never repeat the performance in any future relationship.

Mum is once again thinking aloud; this time worrying that we should have raised the bath to avoid the millimetre gap that no-one will ever see and if only we hadn’t starting grouting before dinner we could move tiles for reasons unbeknown to me. I ungratefully respond with ‘well there’s not a lot we can do now, is there?’ and visualise, hitting my head against the 'stuck forever and never coming off the wall' tiles in a fit of despair. She is just worrying that the bathroom won’t be perfect and of course it is. Her constant questioning and strive for DIY perfection does have some benefits but is it really worth the feeling of regret in the meantime?

Can we ever be truly content and satisfied with life if constantly questioning how it could have been better? I have banned ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘if only’ from my vocabulary and hopefully I won’t ever regret a part of my life to the extent I have to reinstate them again. Mistakes happen and if we can learn, become wiser and attempt to not repeat history then we should ‘not’ have done anything differently…. Except maybe I 'should have' stopped watching Changing Rooms, thinking ‘I can do that’ and hired a professional tradesman to do the job instead!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Man in the Mirror

When I could first walk and talk I think my family became confused as to whether they had had a son after all. I had no interest in anything related to girls. Not only did I dress like a boy I wanted to be one. It was fun being a boy, you got to wear trousers, climb trees and get messy. Boy’s could pretend to drive Knight-Rider Kit car and wear A-Team pyjamas. More importantly they were not expected to enjoy ballet, play with Barbie and get excited about My Little Pony’s and Care Bears. From an early age Mum gave up trying to put me in dresses; it really was not worth the tantrums and instead of Ballet classes I was enlisted in the local swimming club.

During childhood the urge to actually be male passed but unfortunately the downside of liking David Hasselhoff’s car, having short hair, climbing trees and always sporting grazed knees I was still mistaken for a boy and often referred to by strangers as 'son'. This gender confusion was exacerbated by the fact I looked just like my father but thankfully without the beard and bald head.

I met my best friend Sam when we were eight. We were cast as two gentlemen in a serious period drama school production, somehow related to the teacher’s strikes that were prevalent during the early eighties. We dressed in top hat and tails and unknowingly narrated profound political statements to the parents and school governors. Our mutual love of the spotlights, applause and standing ovations meant we clicked straight away. OK we were on a tiny wooden platform for about ten minutes, forgot our lines and sang atrociously. The following year we were once again under the bright lights as male, ragga-muffin factory children in another politically highbrow production. We had not improved so this was the end of our short lived acting career.

Sam was not overly girly, she was just cool. She started to advise me about fashion, music and how to put makeup on. She taught me the ‘Time Warp' and the infamous 'side stepping around the hand bag' dance whilst listening to Whitney Houston in the privacy of our bedrooms. When Mum encouraged me to buy ‘unusual, different, good fun’ clothes my best friend thankfully discouraged the purchases. Following one disastrous shopping trip Sam couldn’t hide her amusement and blatantly laughed when I turned up wearing Joseph’s Technicolor dream coat. I appreciated the honesty as this prevented a much greater humiliation at school. Saying that, Sam did turn up at a party wearing white stiletto’s, so maybe I should not have been so trusting of her taste!

I grew my hair, hopped down from the trees, stopped fighting and became more aware of my looks. To embrace my new found womanly appearance at ten years old I was taken for my first salon professional hair cut. It was quickly established that years of swimming had left my blonde locks so badly chlorine damage there was only one option. Off came the very fashionable basin haircut leaving nothing more than an inch of hair. Staring back at me from the mirror was a round faced, chubby, younger version of my father that was practically bald!

Growing up, changing becoming conscious of appearance you really do not want to hear how much you look like a man especially if that man is quite stern faced and has the opposite temperament to yourself. Dad still tells dry jokes with a dead pan expression and when he smiles he looks slightly uncomfortable and a little unnatural. My Mum on the other hand is a cross between Mary Poppins and Maria; she even looks like Julie Andrews. She has a beautiful, warm, caring persona that men love, and if she wasn’t so nice, women would be jealous of. Of course, and with no jealously in my tone, my sister looks just like her!

As the years progressed my taste changed from liking Hasselhoff’s car to his Bay Watch lifeguards. Sam and I pinched alcohol from the parent’s cabinet, got hooked on Twin Peaks, cried watching Beaches and talked about boys, OK I talked about Laura Palmer! I became confident in my abilities, personality and lifestyle but still I could never quite get rid of the negative feelings that I looked masculine and like my father.

To this day I sometimes see my reflection and feel uncomfortable in my appearance. I could use clichés such as it’s the person inside that counts or beauty is in the eye of the beholder but that is not helping me, so now I need advice. What I would like to know is how does someone change a perception of themselves decades later? How does one become so comfortable in their skin they feel beautiful without becoming arrogant? I would hate to wake up at sixty, look in the mirror and see a good looking woman who was always there, smiling back and not having appreciated her.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Funny Place

Cyndi Lauper’s ‘time after time’ plays through the Ipod, as I sit on the train dreamily staring out the window reflecting on life and watching London pass by. If I perm my hair, put on gold bangles and aluminous fingerless gloves, to onlookers I could be confused with a star of any soft focussed, melancholy, eighties pop video. It is unusual for me to dwell on the past and even more unusual to hear me listen to ballads, so why now, when life is good and the sun is shining, do I feel incredibly sad?

Staring out the carriage window, my sense of humour abandoned on the platform, I know I am in a funny place and it is time to sort myself out. Accompanied by my small resurrected ‘Greensleeves’ playing violin, this is the moment I have to delve uncomfortably into my past to understand when and why did I become emotionally impenetrable?

I have always considered myself very lucky. I was brought up in a nice environment by a loving family and have never felt the need to complain. From an early age when the shit hit the fan, I brushed myself off, looked on the bright side and optimistically carried on. With a great deal of will power, I locked all negatives thoughts and feelings safely away and what I believed was a positive, healthy approach towards life has resulted in the opposite effect. Something has slowly eaten away inside and I have been on a self destruct mission for about, um… twenty years.

As previously mentioned en route to LalaLand, I experienced numerous deaths as a child. Quick recap, it began with my Grandma at twelve and ended the day before my fifteenth birthday with my Granddad. During this period, Aunty Pat, the eternal spinster, met a man. He was intelligent, kind and a real gentleman who smoked sixty a day. Aunty Pat’s harsh personality mellowed as they fell in love. She genuinely smiled, laughed, empathised with others and listened. A year later he had a heart attack and died instantly. Aunty Pat brushed herself off, got on with life and officially closed the doors. After I experienced death number ten, I think I did the same.

Looking back I realise how little of that period I remember and I have recently discovered my perception of these years is very different to the reality. If you ever asked me did I like high school the answer would be a definite no. I thought I was unassuming, shy and a bit of an outcast. The reality is I was popular, funny and well liked, as my best friend likes to remind me. She knows the fun we had, so why can’t I remember? I think the fact I started to drink, smoke and rebel could have something to do with my lack of clarity.

I did get back on track and successfully finished school before spending the next few years stoned, drinking, clubbing, travelling and enjoying every minute. Relationships were not on my agenda, and really what was the point? I would not live to a ripe old age, people I loved died and god forbid anyone could be truly happy with a significant other. Death was an acceptable and unavoidable part of life so I might as well live day by day and really experience what the world has to offer. It will be no surprise that in my second year of university, Dad in his forties, was diagnosed with having a terminal illness and my reaction was one of normality. As we have watched him slowly but steadily degenerate it has been OK because this is what happens in life.

I know now why I don’t remember much about high school; it was not the rebellion it was because I was too young to cope with the amount of loss. I was not ready to grow up that quickly and until today I have shied away from dealing with anything serious when it involves my own life. If shown genuine concern about my welfare I tend to choke, stutter, tell a joke and run away; unless of course, large quantities of vodka have been involved during the opening up process.

So that is my inner sadness and where it originated. Twenty years later I am learning to admit my grief and finally let it out. It’s not been a pretty sight and I do find it hard to say I am struggling but the amazing eye opener is friends still love me, still support me and don’t shy away from this unusual sight; me crying. Of course life is full of ups and downs and now the sadness is dealt with I can focus on ending my self destruct mission and look forward. Stepping off the train I turn off Cyndi, pick up my sense of humour and feel lighter than I ever have before. For the first time I am excited about my future and the thought of sharing the open, loving and honest me with someone. But more importantly I feel so very relieved I did not alight at LalaLand!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Natural History

When asked by my friends to meet them in the Natural History Museum, I jumped at the chance. I love spending time with them and my two year old Goddaughter. I can bear navigating my way around the hundreds of tourists and squealing children to see the look of excitement on her face in the dinosaur exhibitions. When I say I have a Goddaughter, do not worry, I provide absolutely no religious guidance. It is my job to entertain her with stories, change the odd nappy and watch ‘In the night garden’. I am learning quickly and am now an expert at badly singing the Makka Pakka song, dancing Igglepiggle disco moves and making Pontipine burping noises. Do not even get me started on the Tombliboos, I’m sure they’re part of a government conspiracy to brainwash the next generation into liking Ken Livingstone's stealth taxes!

The following day I am marched against my will to the monthly lesbian mothers and children group. After an Oscar winning guilt trip I was told I would have fun when I got there and they’d really appreciate a couple of hour’s free time. It was easier getting a two year old ready than pulling me kicking and screaming down the road, begging ‘please let me take her to the park, I can cope with that’. I put up a good fight and hung onto the door frame for dear life before being outnumbered and dragged into a social club full of children, organic flapjacks and happy couples.

After several explanations of 'no she’s not mine', 'no, my partner is not here' and 'yes, maybe one day I’d like children', they rubbed salt in my wounds by introducing the guest speaker who was there to talk about civil partnerships. As the children quietly sat occupied with crayons, couples sat in a circle dreamily looking on in pride at their family as I munched flap jacks and clock watched. Mid serious discussion about lesbian law, my Goddaughter decided to play the game I taught her earlier that day and ran into the middle of the circle, growling and pretending to be a man eating dinosaur. Following a cat and mouse chase around the circle I scooped her up and we hurriedly left, fully aware I had just made Britney Spears’ parenting skills look good! As we ran for the park I was not sure whether the traumatic experience left me feeling depressed or optimistic of one day having a family of my own.

Several years ago I had a conversation with a woman who believed by ‘choosing’ to be gay you have lost the right to have children. Slightly taken aback by her attitude I calmly explained I did not choose this way of life or choose to make motherhood difficult. From an early age, I envisaged having a family; there was just no man in the picture only Jodie Foster – how did the whole world, including myself, not know I was gay? Anyway, we discussed society’s reaction to same-sex parenting and the moral dilemma of buying sperm or borrowing it off a friend. Our debate did lead me to question, is it fair to bring a child into the world fatherless, with the likelihood of being bullied and are same sex parents, plain and simply, acting selfishly?

My naivety towards parenting led me to ask friends and colleagues about their thoughts on having children. Stories flooded back about the minefield of emotions experienced with having children. Tearing hair out one moment, as they kick and scream to joy and laughter as they tell you their first knock-knock joke. The sadness as they head off for their first day of school and the pride when they pass their first spelling test. What struck me was the absolute, almost overwhelming love and responsibility friends were experiencing. The understanding that they would never be top of the agenda again and murder would be acceptable if anyone hurt their child.

That aside, there is one thing I do know and that is children are fantastic lady magnets! My trip to the park involved a long conversation with an attractive female by the swings and a lot of smiles and ‘arrhs’ from strangers as we fed the ducks. This got me thinking, do you think my friends will let me take their daughter to Soho? I could sit in a coffee shop, god-daughter on my knee smiling as I ooze an air of calm and control with a side helping of sensitivity and love. When approached I can subtly announce ‘She’s not mine’ followed dreamily by ‘I’m single, I just like spending time with her and it helps her parents out’.

Ok, now for the reality; me, a distressed screaming child and vomit in my hair. I’ve forgotten her food, water and milk. Her nappy needs changing but I can not manoeuvre the pram through the coffee shop and I am so scared she will hurt herself in my care that chatting to ladies is the last thing on my mind. I am contemplating buying a bargain bag of cotton wool and all I want to do is get her home, safe and sound.

On return from the park and thankfully no coffee shop dramatics, I see a man approaching with a baby swaddled to his chest. As he nears I smile in support of parents to realise he has a can of special brew in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I have previously questioned is it selfish for same sex couples to have a child? I can safely say, that at that moment seeing a another poor child about to be dragged up, I realise that to bring a child up loved, safe, without judgement is important and it is irrelevant if it is by two mums.

As my Goddaughter grows up strong, self assured and happy; the bullies won’t bother and society will begin to accept. Every child in the social club was lucky to have two adoring parents and I believe every woman has the right to have a child regardless of sexuality.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Lady ‘A’ finds herself in what she thought a sought after situation. Two years single and ready for a relationship, she wakes one day and finds she has two women in her life. These two women are polar opposites in attitude, looks and lifestyle, but she feels a strong connection to them both. To stay true to female physics, of course within days the situation was getting complicated. So, before she finds herself bed-hopping and calling everyone babe to prevent embarrassing hole digging moments, Lady ‘A’ knows she has to act with integrity and make a decision.

On the one hand there is Lady ‘B’ who is essentially sorted in life; she has issues but ultimately is independent with a strong sense of identity and does not need or want to be rescued by anyone. On the other hand we have Lady ‘C’ who has many fantastic qualities but Kings Cross left luggage is sparse in comparison to the amount of baggage she carries. So who does she choose? Does she choose to rescue and be needed or does she try her luck with independent Lady 'B'? To prevent any confusion she chose Lady ‘C’ leaving ‘B’ bemused, empty-bedded and questioning why this experience feels a little too familiar.

From cave times we have been predisposed for women to be primary care givers and men primary providers. So what happens when the hunter is taken out the equation and you put two care givers together in a relationship? Can two independent strong women, keep their identity and cohabit side by side without driving each other insane before ultimately having a messy break-up around the ‘three year itch’ mark. Or will one naturally, over time, fall into the role of provider whilst the other becomes the carer? Either way when it comes to women you can guarantee all hell will break loose! My god I almost sound bitter! *deep breath and continue in a positive manner*

Why when feeling strong and self-assured would women be attracted to those emotionally challenged? Or are things never quite what they seem and do some women subconsciously search for baggage carriers so they can be distracted from dealing with their own issues? When do we learn we can not rescue others and how do you walk away when waking to find yourself laying next to a screw loose, high maintenance; let’s go on holiday to ‘Lesbo Lalaland’ fruit cake? Good god, I really am having a bitter day! If you consider yourself similar to Lady ‘B’ (as I do), is it ok to admit to feeling vulnerable, in need of some care and not always sorted? After a certain amount of head scratching, confusion and even more bitterness, I was made to look within.

Twenty years ago I lost a lot of family, no not in a park, but through illness. I remember loving my Grandma so much that when she got cancer my tree-climbing, den-building, sea-swimming, tennis-playing; innocent eleven year old world fell apart. Nights alone spent questioning why she was giving in and not fighting this horrible disease or why she was not important enough for divine intervention. Twelve months later and following an admirable heavyweight fight on her behalf, she passed away but this was just the start. For the next few years death sat outside our house eating hob-nobs and playing chess, as he claimed family members one by one. Three years later, a much depreciated family and shares in the local crematorium, my barriers were up and no one was going to cause me that much pain again by leaving!

This was the start of the 'I'm fine era’! Ask any one of my ex's how I am and the response would be 'she's fine'. What they actually meant was 'I'm f**ked if I know, she won't open up to me'. At the beginning of every relationship I am probably a dream girlfriend but as my feelings intensify and I begin to feel vulnerable, guess what? The shutters come down, padlock firmly locked in place and I close up. Until recently I honestly had no idea how much I pushed partners away, frightened at the thought of losing someone close. I am unsure how to move forward, but don’t worry… 'I'm fine'!!!

There is probably a bit of ourselves in all three ladies so my advice is; Lady ‘A’ stand still for a few moments and stop always running to help others first - look after yourself for once. Lady ‘B’ it’s ok to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be rescued sometimes. Lady ‘C’ enlist the services of a professional to help carry some of your baggage, it really does help! Finally for those on the train to Lesbo Lalaland enjoy the ride but for the love of god please get a return fare!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Green Room

At the start of the week, work colleagues, friends and family looked on in amazement as a crazy woman manically flitted from one distraction to the next. My mood fluctuated and ranged from hysterical laughter to sobbing with temporary periods of calm. To compensate for my polar behaviour I acted impulsively and brought a laptop I can not afford nor have the technical expertise and patience to actually use. I chatted on line, engaged in some harmless flirting, acted irrationally and through it all I felt overloaded, out of control and exhausted.

Waiting in anticipation of therapy to discuss these unfamiliar anxious emotions something happened that stopped me going. Following a long, tedious meeting I arrived back at my desk to my phone and mobile flashing with missed calls, messages, emails headed ‘CALL ME’ and scribbled post-it’s from the PA saying ‘call house mate now’. So I thought I should! I am quickly instructed that I have thirty minutes to get home, change and head to the O2 Arena as we were going backstage to meet the Spice Girls. The next thirty minutes are a blur; I remember a lot of running, hair straightening and frantic ironing all accompanied by their greatest hits blaring from the stereo. I met the deadline and soon after we were sitting on the train slightly dishevelled, flustered but very, very excited.

Some background may help at this point. No we were not ‘Radio 1’ or ‘Take A Break’ competition winners; my housemate met Melanie Brown several years ago and they have been friends ever since. Throughout the journey I am given strict instructions to not show him up, be cool but not cocky and for the love of god please don’t dribble. I promise I can adhere to the rules and when met by an artist liaison, given our passes and escorted backstage by security in a very Posh and Beck-esque way, I did not throw up, which I consider cool behaviour!

Following various check points we were escorted into a small intimate Green Room, shown the bar and left to our own devices. Six maybe seven other people mingled about, some sitting on black velvet sofa’s talking quietly. Music played softly and combined with the sultry mood lighting an amphetamine addict would be left feeling drowsy. Security entered and politely asks us to follow him into Mel B’s dressing room. Practising being cool (but not cocky) I decided against the ‘hey Mel, whassup’ approach and instead just said hi and we began chatting. I had to stop myself divulging I bought the movie, had the posters, own the CD’s and a Spice lunch box! I did admit I had already seen the show and asked if there was room for one more in the band. I do not think she took my request seriously.

Heading back to the Green Room we briefly stopped to say hi to Brooklyn and Romeo who asked if they could spray my hair red? Before I could answer Mel intervened and said they had to check with their Mum before spraying strangers red. Back in the Green Room we drank beer, talked, tried desperately to stay awake and I only momentarily stuttered when Geri walked in. On realising the time, Mel left to get changed and we were left bemused and ever so slightly confused as to the surreal ness of the situation. Feeling juvenile and worried no-one would believe me I thought it was best to steal mementos. I filled my bag with flowers, a notepad and would have left with the sequined cushions under my top if not hand slapped by the housemate.

Security once again came in and asked us to follow. This time we were directed to enter a small room occupied by about ten busy looking people, a photographer and the Spice Girls. Sod being cool, my jaw dropped, I dribbled and pulled at my housemates sleeve just to make sure he was there. Mel shouted over for us to join the photo shoot and meet the girls. I enthusiastically pushed past the photographer to find myself wedged between Emma and Geri who could almost make Kylie look tall. Photo’s were taken and being A-list celebrities they know how to pose, whilst I looked like an uncomfortable, giant Sasquatch Spice... great! Saying our goodbyes we left for the Arena and of course the show was great, but I won’t bore you with that again. Four hours later, back at the flat and sitting on a brown leather sofa we wondered if it actually happened.

Twelve months ago I was in a very different Green Room. It was so exclusive only two were allowed to enter and the doorman turned everyone away. Of course it could not survive and eventually shut down to be opened six months ago under new management. It has taken a while to rebuild its reputation but now the green room is full, lively and a nice place to visit. Friends, old and new mingle in light, airy, comfortable surroundings. There is no dress code, guest list or house rules just a friendly doorwoman and a cloakroom attendant. At the weekends Clyde and Keith from Accounts sing cabaret and Britney melodies and housemate has the fortunate task of cleaning. There is only one problem, my Green Room is running at full capacity and getting a little overcrowded.

This week I have taken control of the door, am having fun and realised I am not ready to let anyone else in yet. However, I am currently undergoing refurbishment and thinking of building an extension – after I’ve paid for the laptop! If anyone can be bothered to wait they can chat, maybe a flirt with the doorwoman and at some point space will be made to let more in. What’s occupying your Green Room? Do you need to take control of the door, refurbish and kick out some irritating groupies? If you have a nice space, relaxed and working successfully then maybe take a look at the queue outside. Before letting them in; how about giving a quick frisk, ID check and please make sure they treat your Green Room with respect and don’t pinch the sequined cushions!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Too much excitement!

This week is my week. Within the next few days something is going to happen that will change my life. I can feel electricity flowing through my veins and my eyes have finally been opened to the wonders of the world. I can barely sleep, concentrate and working is pointless. I am too excited for words. Colleagues stare on in astonishment as I hyperactively flit around the office desperately searching for someone to share my enthusiasm with.

The past few years have been interesting to say the least. I have travelled the world, hitchhiked through countries, swam with sharks and nearly been eaten by a rather large crocodile. I have made amazing friends, have loved and lost and can say I have few regrets. But this week is what I have been waiting for; tomorrow I become the proud parent of an Apple Mac laptop!

Please someone help me, I need a life!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Once a week I take an hour long journey across London. The underground in rush hour is always a pleasure and the chance of getting a seat is slim, but us commuters know how to travel. Rain or shine, a bottle of water, ipod and the London Lite is crucial to block out the noise and the stupid sods who leave it until last minute to irritatingly dash through a wall of people squealing ‘Getting off, getting off’. After a couple of changes I glance around, panic as have arrived at my destination, then frantically barge through a wall of people shouting ‘Getting off, getting off!’ Finally out of the station I walk on auto pilot to my final destination, press the buzzer, wait then enter the busy therapy centre.

The waiting room is in itself an experience to savour. It’s small, comfortable and full mainly of women! Most of whom appear to have a large neon sign above their heads flickering the words ‘I’m Gay’. Women, hey! No one makes eye contact and it is amazing how interesting the latest copy of Marie Clare can be during these uncomfortable moments. Next week I may arrive equipped with rainbow flag, ‘my girlfriend thinks I am a lesbian’ t-shirt and dating cv to hand out. At least we know we have something in common.

One by one we are picked off by the various therapists who catch your eye at the door, smile and turn as you follow silently to the pre-booked room. Let’s remember I am not clinically insane, I have not joined Prozac nation and I never have suicidal thoughts. I am just your average woman who has made some mistakes and wants to understand why, in an attempt to not make them again. I think some friends picture me laying on a chaise lounge surrounded by flock wallpaper, oak furniture and psychiatry books. Unravelling my childhood as I stare dreamily at the ceiling, wallowing in self pity with a box of tissues at hand; whilst the therapist closes her eyes and mutters um’s and arhs at appropriate moments.

Now for the reality; I spend an hour sitting on a plastic chair in a cream painted, slightly tatty, basement room with a travelling clock placed on a small IKEA table between me and the therapist. The only similarity is the box of tissues. You know what we talk about, I write about it most weeks but of course some conversations will never be shared! I know very little about my therapist nor do I want to. She is in her mid thirties, has a cat – no not gay- and I am sure she is married but I always forget to look at her wedding finger.

There is something fundamentality safe about having a space to be truly open in. We can have a laugh, I can cry – it would be odd if she did – and she is the one person I can be completely honest with. I pay for her expertise to help discover more about myself, life and human nature. There is no room for lies in this small basement and each time I leave I feel softened, mellowed and I have a little more knowledge. To some this is navel gazing, to me it’s liberating, fascinating and trying to not sound dramatic; life changing. I would certainly recommend it. This week as I barged off the tube I received a call to say I was not going to be an Aunt again and for the very first time I have nothing left to say.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Year of the Rat

There is something reassuring about even numbers! Three’s a crowd, one can be lonely and you should never watch Party of Five – it is too depressing for words! I have a friend, who has to have the television or stereo volume on an even number; I am not obsessively compulsive like her but I am excited about 2008 because 2007 can only be described as odd! There is no point dwelling on the past and last year was not that bad. I have learnt a lot about myself, life and matters of a less serious nature but now it is time to look ahead as we enter the Chinese year of the Rat!

I could think of more pleasant creatures; however, from legend the ‘Rat Year’ is a time of hard work, activity, and making a fresh start. I could have a thousand resolutions but know they will fall by the wayside so I will stick to one and that’s simple; I will do heart racing, muscle aching, fat burning exercise at least twice a week. Smoking, drinking and eating fried food will hopefully be reduced due to the amount of required exercise. I am optimistically looking forward with a clean slate, a slightly matured attitude and although the future is unknown I am keen to see what it brings.

And what better way to start this fruitful new year than coughing, sneezing, migraines, blocked sinuses and a good dose of the flu. Yep, that’s my last seven days and I am not on the road to recovery yet. Sleep deprivation is sending me a little insane. Laying awake hour after hour, sweating out half my body weight – see there’s a positive in everything – and waiting for morning television to begin so I can experience the new year via Fiona Phillips and Eamonn Holmes. I am so used to wheezing I am beginning to believe breathing is overrated and if I am really lucky I may catch the Norovirus and start vomiting, resulting in a little more weight loss. Small violins weakly play ‘Greensleeves’ wherever I go in this sorrowful, self pitying time… sniff!

House bound and stir crazy the internet has become my friend and I may as well take full advantage during this forced work sabbatical. With the Christmas aisles emptied and the Valentines merchandise filling the shelves, in true rat legend my thoughts are turning to a fresh start. I am ready to get back on the bike and have some female fun. It is time to start dating!

Where better to begin but with the plethora of online lesbian dating sites. Profile pre-written as I may panic under pressure; I have established I am a sociable girl-next-door of average weight, tallish, movie loving, theatre going, tennis playing, outdoorsy, drink occasionally -forward slash- socially and am kicking the smoking habit! I look like Sharon Stone’s younger sister and have a GSOH – good sense of humour- for the acronymally challenged like me.

I am all set. Photo is ready to upload and I have a carefully scripted 250 word bumph about myself including a description of my ideal women, who requires more than just a pulse… honest! Then my works laptop decides it is only to be used researching business related subjects and the firewall will not allow me access to any site with the tags; dating, gay or dar. Bizarrely I can subscribe to Extra Marital which has the subheading ‘Want Discreet Extramarital Affair? Register Free & Meet Someone New’. I was bored, curious and of course I did not register! So ultimately, I have no potential dates or even an opportunity for online flirting; just me, a runny nose and now a full symphony orchestra belting out ‘Only the Lonely’.

Before I can even approach women I need to get out of this flat and go to the internet café or buy my own laptop. At least by stepping outdoors I can get dressed in my now baggy sales wardrobe (still sweating!) and potentially meet a nice lady for some harmless flirting. If at a later stage, dating can be combined with some heart racing, muscle aching exercise then bonus! In the meantime I may need to wait for my eyes to stop streaming, get some colour back in my cheeks and shut this bloody orchestra up otherwise I will not be attractive to anyone!