Monday, 6 April 2015

Day 35: Dear Me

Dear Me,
Right, deep breath.
This isn't going to be easy, and you've been putting it off for nearly a week, but it's ok, you've got this.
Promise.
So, firstly, it's not OK. Not really. Not at all in fact. About a week ago, you received one of the two calls that every child dreads, the one that boils down to your Mum being in hospital and it not looking good.
It's not looked good since.
It's not looked good since you sat sobbing on that last train from Paddington, the first train you could get on, wracked with fear and despair and an overwhelming sense of the world being dragged from under you.
It's not looked good since you were first ushered in to that cubicle in A&E, through the ambulance entrance normally not even open to the public, or since the heartbreaking but strangely calming conversation with the organ donor doctor.
It's not looked good since you re-entered that room in ICU, at 6:30am, coming on 24 hours awake, ill-prepared for the next 6 hours of watching the life slowly drain from your own mother's body. But then, I don't think anyone could ever be prepared for that, not really, and neither do you, not really.
You've been scared of writing this, I know. Scared of what it would do, what it would mean, and scared of what it might do to those going to read it who have been going through this too.
But in truth, it has happened, and it is awful, and heartbreaking and devastating, and all those other gut-wrenching adjectives and it is precisely these reasons why you should write about it.
It is because of this writing challenge that your Mum was able to read how much she meant to you, still means to you, a few short weeks ago, on Mothers' Day no less, and to know in no uncertain terms how much you loved and still love her, and how grateful you are to have been blessed with having her as your Mum.
It still hasn't sunk in and it won't for a long time, perhaps it never truly will, but for now, there is a small comfort in knowing that you were able to express those things to her, in your own time and on your own terms, as a qualifier to all those other things you uttered sat by that bed, grasping her hand with all your might, tears streaming down your face.
At the end of the day, that's precisely who this is not about: you. This is about your Mum who raised you, and loved you, and was fiercely proud of your writing and creativity and who would have wanted you to carry on.
So, that's what you must do now, and keep choosing to do every day, in every sense, because she was and still is your Mum, and that is how you were raised.



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 34: What's The Point Of Twitter?


When I was first given this topic on day -2 of this writing challenge I will admit to briefly considering the true, but admittedly rather generic platitudes I could envisage throwing its way: 'Twitter is about community, and togetherness.' etc, etc.

Today, those inverted commas crumbled.

Today I was privileged enough to be in the room at Channel 4 as a group of incredible young people entered in to an impassioned dialogue with MPs and senior Channel 4 staff about what would change #IfWeRanThings.

Privileged enough to not only be in the room, but to be on Twitter capturing, pushing and furthering the conversation happening both among attendees and those outside the room: a frenzied stream of opinion, observation, sheer expectant energy and a whole load of selfies. People not in the room, at their day jobs, at school, somewhere across the country, the other side of the proverbial closed door, engaging with, informing and even just witnessing the conversation, in all its nuanced, fast-paced and damn important glory.

Pretty cool, right?

Today, in that room, the point was made that social media is power, and that young people are so incredibly powerful. Twitter, social media, is a tool for mobilising, uniting, sharing, a tool for seeking, and connecting, and amassing a movement on a global scale in a way that generations before us simply couldn't, in ways they simply didn't have access to. The instant connection, the spread of a message, the force of conviction and the promotion to power in every which sense, right from the traditional to the newly-conventional: we are the most powerful generation there has ever been.

Twitter is part of my job, but it's more than that: there are up to 5 accounts linked to my phone at any one time including my own personal one and I make no secret of the fact that community management and the power of social media for good is something that can often be relied upon to get me out of bed of a morning. (I have a life, honest)

A tweet is an expression of a moment.

I have witnessed first-hand the power of being called out to directly, albeit as a branded identity, in a moment of solitary anguish, and conversely being essentially CC'ed in on celebrations of youth, and of life, and know the vital power of being able to engage with each of those moments, across the whole spectrum, and ensuring that in those moments, those young people feel heard.

Twitter is not a broadcast channel, and to treat it as such belittles both it and its users. All 288 million of us.

Twitter is designed for dialogue, be you brand, band, or bank, and every time you start that conversation there are 288 million people listening, 288 million potential connections.

That may sound daunting, but to me, that says 288 million possibilities.

Yes, Twitter may seem without a point at times, but, when what you see on the platform is entirely curated by you, to that I would counter that you're just not following the right people, and with 288 million possibilities, you really are spoiled for choice. And if you're not following me, @abigailchantal, then quite frankly, on your own head be it.

After all, Twitter is power.



Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 33: Elephants


Eyes lock

A moment's pause, a hitch of breath.
A thud down through the pit of your stomach

Suddenly aware of your tongue, your lips, the moisture in your mouth, the tension of muscles as you slowly swallow for no reason.

A sigh.

Of contentment, of relief: a burden lifting.
No distraction, no gimmicks, just, being.

Recognition.
That gradual, familiar warmth of just, knowing.
See yourself in their reflection, recognise your best mirrored back through increasingly familiar eyes,
Quiet, giddy excitement punctuating the unspoken

The elephant in the room.








Inspired by this from Nick Helm.






Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 32: Dear Future Husband


Dear Future Husband,

Hi :)

Alright, so, nice one Abi, a smiley face potentially not the best first impression, but I'm nervous OK: a life sentence is a pretty big deal, and I was just trying to be polite.

I have so many questions, least of all who you are, where you are, and how we might come to meet, but I guess at this point you may not be able to answer any or all of those either, so like me, they can wait.

I wasn't sure how I was going to organise these thoughts, (yeah, that'll be a recurring theme, and not just in my writing) but there's one thing I think bears addressing straight off here: expectation.

For all I know, future husband, you do not exist. (Is a rhetorical letter a thing?) For all I know, marriage, monogamy and the standard, socially accepted template existence is not in my future and that's OK. A little daunting perhaps, but OK.

This idea that we are all mere halves of a whole, killing time before we cobble together our existence with the boy next door or Dave from accounts seems pretty, well, limiting. I suggested further up this letter that I'm waiting for you to appear, future husband, but that's not strictly true, and as questionable as my track record is with men, I would like to think you're the kind of person who would more than encourage the whole not-waiting thing.

For a while though, I was. For a while I was a person who couldn't quite see her worth as a whole entity, a person dragging her heels and telling herself that things would be better, things would be OK and that life would be so much more, when you, or a pretender to your throne came along.

I'll admit that the idea that having a partner (and thus being deemed worthy of love by someone) was a crucial box to be ticked, held me back for a while, but it occurs to me that while the prospect of sharing a life and of building memories and traditions with someone sounds pretty fucking great, if nothing has come before that, if you've both sat around and told yourself no to the world and all its opportunities and experiences, then, future husband, what the hell is there going to be to talk about?

It occurs to me that in all this the other unhelpful thing is this judgement from others based on the idea that your worth is decided by anyone other than yourself. When people question your lack of a relationship, compare you to peers who've fast-tracked to wedded bliss and family, tell you 'your time will come.'

Well thanks, well-meaning bystander, but what if it doesn't? Let's say I'm staring down the barrel of 60-odd years of no one-person to come home to, no big day, no honeymoon, no fairytale I do. Am I a lost cause because of it? A wasted life? Of course not. Someone not in a relationship, or a marriage, or any kind of partnership is fulfilled, enriched, passionate, and content, just as the family with 2.4 children, maybe even more so, but there's clearly something about society's restrictive narrative that prompts us to pity, to console, to go out of our way to view the situation negatively.

There may well be negative feelings associated with not being in a relationship, but no more so than the ones that can come with long-term partners and family life.

To live is human, not to live either alone, or in tandem. There is no qualifier.

I've got better at not caring though. I could tell you future husband that I simply don't care what other people think now, but that would be a lie, and well, that's not the best thing to base a marriage on, now, is it?
Learning to trust your own judgement, listen to your own reasoning, isn't something that came naturally me, and it still doesn't. Every day I make a choice, and a conscious effort to uphold it, and as with everything, the repeated action in time becomes habit. Maybe by the time we meet I will care even less.

Dear future husband, I hope you are a reader. Not least because a love of books and the written word is a sure sign of a beautiful, intriguing, attractive mind, but also because as your future wife, it's my duty to let you in on a little secret.

As your future wife, there will be times we disagree, times we shout and fight, and times when I inadvertently tail off mid-sentence, or brush away a question.
This is not a test; a hand of cards dealt around a dimly-lit table with the stakes set high at A Happy Ending. Nor is it a game to play, to taunt you or rile you, but instead a part of me that I am simply declaring, right here, right now, cards on the table, long before we have even met.

You see, as a writer, not everything in my head makes it out through my mouth. Often, writing acts as a voice for the thoughts, feelings and questions that, perhaps ironically, I cannot always find the words for, at least not out loud. Often, my subconscious plays out here too, things I am perhaps unaware of or hadn't really realised, or even considered about myself, scattered across seemingly unrelated subjects, like the occasional glowing ember among the ashes of a dying fire.

So dear, future husband I hope you are a reader, because my writing can tell you more about me than I ever could, for better or for worse, and while there won't be a test, my writing is very much a part of me, and the secrets you may inadvertently unearth could well be some of the secrets to our happiness.
That may sound selfish, and indulgent, but future husband, hopefully you don't misunderstand me. Perhaps you, too, are a writer, and I can glean that same kind of unspoken understanding from you, but if not, know that however it is you choose to express things, I'll be listening.

Future husband, apologies that this is a bit of a long one, I mean, especially if you're not a reader, (Be honest, did you even make it this far? And yes, I realise that this is a redundant question if not) but in the words of the girl in Mean Girls who doesn't even go here, I just have a lot of feelings. If you're not appreciative of that reference, wait, who am I kidding, we wouldn't be married if you weren't at least vaguely appreciative of that reference, forget I even said anything.

So I'll sign this off now. Don't feel obliged to respond, but hey, it might be nice...

Until we meet, have fun, and here's to our future adventures, wherever, whenever, and if ever they may be.

Ax



Saturday, 21 March 2015

Day 31: Fate and Fairytale


It's funny when you look back on the choices and circumstances that have led you to a certain point or place and consider the exact chain of events that have resulted in your now day-to-day.
I read a quotation recently that proffered the idea that "There's nowhere you should be other than where you are right now."
Bollocks.
That to me suggests that acceptance is optimal and while that is of course true up to a point, the right amount of restlessness and seeking of a particular kind of enlightenment is both healthy and productive.
The interesting sequences of events for me are those that seem to stray in to the realm of oddly fortuitous serendipity. Those almost inexplicable choices that mysteriously align and seem to lead you down a certain path or towards a certain outcome and eventually cause you to stop and consider the possibility that some kind of 'higher power' or perhaps reasoning might have played a part in where you find yourself.
That feeling of "imagine if I hadn't" that seems to accompany the overwhelming sense that things are almost exactly as they should be, thanks to a series of (un)fortunate events and some sort of cosmic alignment.
I think there's a certain comfort in the idea that every now and again we can take a back seat of sorts and revel in the idea that 'no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should' (Desiderata <3) but while we may well only be a passenger of sorts, it is still up to us to be present and to react in our own best interests and ultimately help fashion our own endings, fate or no fate, fairytale or otherwise.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Day 30: Man buns



The man bun.

A seemingly simple thing. A sweep of hair, a grasp of hands, a twist of the wrist: done.
The archetypal feminine re-purposed to serve the strongest of jawlines, cheekbones and shoulders.

There's just something about them.
I mean, they're almost too majestic for words.

I would love to espouse upon their particular beauty, straddling that ever-decreasing rigid distinction between masculine and feminine: an effortlessly suave and glorious beacon of the ideologically-advanced.

Well, in theory at least.

I would love to espouse, really I would, but I feel that in many respects the man bun speaks for itself, and when it does such a good job it seems only fair to just, well, let it.



See?
Majestic.



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Day 29: Sabotage & Sleep


This is getting boring now.
It's what 3, 4 days in a row where I've found myself this close to the deadline, this much in need of sleep, this desperate for words, just any words.
This isn't creativity, this is sabotage.
Live to work, work to live, there's a fine line between passion and pressure and I'm yet to walk it.
So with 3 minutes to go I've managed to write a tweet about not being able to write, but not actually written anything else in this big, blank box.
I'm wired and distracted and in no way unhappy, just somehow not quite right.
Think I need to stop. (Wait a minute, fill my cup put some liquor in it)
But seriously, I think I need to get out of my head for a bit and back to what it was that I was trying to figure out when I started this whole thing: my creativity and capacity for expression.
I can keep cobbling together these half-efforts which, curiously, feel like they take far more effort than any more substantial 'real' posts, but maybe that's it, maybe I'm stalling for time with these rambling excuses for posts and putting off the kind of writing that may actually stand up to scrutiny.
Or maybe I'm just knackered.
I'll sleep on it and let you know.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Day 28: and counting


So I've just got in from coming inexplicably and hilariously 4th in a St Patrick's Day-themed pub quiz, in honour of my housemate's birthday.
(The quiz was St Patrick's Day themed in honour of St Patrick and his day though, just to be clear)
This is a really bad habit that I've gotten myself in to, finding myself at the last half hour of every day scrabbling around for words and trying to extract some kind of profundity from them.
As much as I can keep telling myself I'm writing, and achieving, and fulfilling my obligation to myself, and that that's ok, at some point soon I won't, and I feel like I'm testing myself to my very limits of what's possible within the specifications of this challenge, with no real or clear indication as to why, or what it is I'm learning from it.
I'm getting really good at cobbling together half-formed, not-fully-executed pieces that serve a fraction of the purpose for which I set myself this challenge, but outside that?
I'll tell myself I'm too busy, but in reality, I'm too something else. What exactly, I'm not sure, but I feel like I'm acting out against myself in some sort of strange internal power play. I mean, I'm writing, but not to any kind of standard, really, because I don't really appear to be letting myself.
So that's me, again.
Teenagers are supposed to go through phases like this, but at 28 days surely my writing should be better: I should know better?
Apparently not, but still, I will keep writing, keep enforcing to myself the fact that it's not simply a case of driving myself to the edge and giving up, but of edging my way back and allowing myself to create and achieve what it was I started out to do: write for 40 days straight.
28 and counting.


Day 27: Learning to be unremarkable


So I've done that thing whereby I've come home intending to go to bed early and fend off anymore illness and promptly fallen asleep without having written anything, only to wake up at 20 to 12 bereft of words, the owner of one considerably befuddled head.
It's now 23:48 and I'm not sure what I can squeeze out of these last 12 minutes that will be in any way worthwhile reading.
I feel this is a recurring theme of this challenge, but I think learning to be unremarkable is just as important-a-step. If I were to only write when consumed by an overly dramatic wash of inspiration, I would be, well, right back where I was before this challenge started: a writer who doesn't write.
We all live our lives with constant expectation of high achievement, whatever that may mean to you, but in reality it's all those mid-points, those not-quites, those near-misses that, statistically speaking inform who we are and what we become.
So, dear reader, this is yet another day of me being unremarkable. I've not failed, but I've not excelled, and by the law of averages, the more days there are like today, the more days there will be of that writerly Nirvana of white-hot inspiration and the right bloody words.
Today is another case of not enough words, in something not even resembling the right order, but there's always tomorrow, and the day after that, and that's fine, because I'm playing the long game.
But first, sleep.



Sunday, 15 March 2015

Day 26: Mums


Mums.

A mother is a funny thing.
We have all had one at one point or another.
Some more than one, some still none to speak of.
Like Mother like Daughter, Mum's the word, and Mother knows best.
I love my Mum, and for her sins my Mum loves me, but this isn't always the case, not for everyone.
It's a huge and unique and significant relationship that sometimes just isn't, just doesn't, just can't, or just won't.
And that's ok too.
See Mums are wonderful things, but sometimes the absence of one breeds even more wonderful things. As daughters, as sons, as children, we build upwards from the roots of our Mums, but when that rooting is unearthed or dislodged in the storm we can still flourish, still blossom and bear fruit, either because or in spite of all that has gone before us.
I know how lucky I am to know my Mother, to have her in my life, and to still be able to retreat home for that most restorative of things, a proper cwtch from Mum, at any time.
I count my blessings that I have a Mum from whom I have learned, and continue to learn, so much about the kind of woman I want to be, and the kind of person I choose to be every day, and a Mum whose strength and dignity in the face of adversity is more inspiring to me than I can ever hope to express, and than she may ever fully know.
So yes, a mother is a funny thing, but today of all days I recognise how privileged and grateful I am to have mine, and the love I have for her is mirrored in the bittersweet joy, reflection and just plain sadness that today yields for so many, because a mother's love is enough to share, and I just simply wasn't raised to be selfish.

Day 25: Still nothing



Again I've gone almost a whole day and not typed anything in this big, blank box in the back end of blogger.
Oh I've written today, yes, I wrote on the train on the way home, but by its very nature the result is a somewhat rambling stream of consciousness, so I'll spare you that.
I realise that in defaulting to these short, consolatory posts at the very last minute of each day I am actually enabling my own insecurities, and masterminding my own staying-small.
There are some incredible topics in my list, feminism, for one, past lives, humour, etc, but by scrabbling together these afterthoughts of the day fewer than 30 minutes before the deadline I can only be selling myself short, surely?
Big, meaty topics such as feminism, such as "What's the point of Twitter?" should excite me, and as things I am so passionate about in day-to-day life they do, but as topics to write about, they are in fact quite terrifying. These more serious subjects, for want of a better word, paralyse me, for fear of writing the "wrong" thing.
For the same reason that I never used to write on the front page of a notebook, messing up is one thing, but in plain view of the internet, of your friends and harshest critics alike, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Perhaps I am subconsciously avoiding my first massively negative response and maybe even keeping myself small in the process. This idea that my time-constrained brain keeps circling, that as more anxious humans we keep ourselves small, is something I've begun to recognise a lot in different aspects of my life and I've realised it plays out literally, figuratively, and both physically and mentally, to different degrees.
But that is no way to live.
So, in the spirit of growth, let's try the alternative and start saying what needs to be said, writing that which, as a writer, cannot go unwritten.

Well, maybe tomorrow.


I'll keep you posted. X

Friday, 13 March 2015

Day 24: That Friday feeling


So it keeps happening that I find myself in the pub on a Friday night not having written anything as the clock approaches Midnight.
Again I remind myself that this challenge was never designed to impede on other experiences but rather enhance them, but at the same time I am beyond glad that this sense of duty and of not breaking this pattern is now instilled in me, and also that I have the kind of people around me who will understand as I turn my attention to my phone for 5 - 10 minutes as I fulfill said creative obligation.
For all my moaning, this forcing myself to write is proving to be the making of me, and I honestly hope that when these 40-or-so days are up that I can continue on this somewhat infectious wave of momentum because honestly, it's really damn fulfilling.
And now, back to the pub.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Day 23: "Some people are heroes. And some people jot down notes."


And some people, sir, do both.

It was tempting today to simply offer a quotation from the master, Terry Pratchett, as a mark of respect, but even without the impossible nature of narrowing it down to a single string of words, I can't help but feel that would be less a tribute, more a disservice to his remarkable talent and capacity for conjuring, and furthermore a slight against his immeasurable inspiration.
I've always loved Terry Pratchett's writing and it must be said that as a judgement of character, a liking for his work in others has served me well thus far.
The sarcasm, the gentle cynicism, the humour, the reality. That unfathomable ability to paint with mere words such vivid and all-encompassing pictures, scenes, thoughts and feelings that it becomes hard to imagine you are anywhere else other than in fact inside his head. Instead, this entire world is being etched on the inside of yours, like gazing up in to a vast, vivid planetarium of light and colour and the kinds of characters no actual human being could ever hope to do justice to, writing in this fantasy world, this reality of his conjuring, so marvellous, so vividly depicted, and so grounded in observations of society as a whole that often it becomes hard to imagine that those 4 elephants and that giant turtle aren't in existence somewhere in the great beyond. That place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Just yesterday I read this piece from Tim Minchin about the talent of others and those incredible, glorious sentences and phrases that as a writer elicit that most frustrating of desires, to have got there first. If I'm honest, that is what Terry Pratchett's work is to me. All of it. Even now I re-read sentences of his and while delighting in the beauty and sheer sorcery of his words, still mourn the fact that that particular alchemy of language will never be mine. That ability to so accurately and poetically depict thoughts, feelings, situations so as to elicit actual unconscious nods in a reader, those knowing smiles, smirks of confirmation, that laugh of recognition. Such is, was, his talent for spearing the human condition, capturing the fallible, imperfect beings that we all are so perfectly and so knowingly: that is what I aspire to.
The master himself wrote that "Dark sarcasm should be taught in schools," and all I can do is agree. Terry Pratchett's legacy offers up that particular blend of honesty, cynicism and charm that prepares you most adequately for the world as it really is: baffling, mystical, and when you're really lucky, as glorious as it is ridiculous.

RIP sir, and thank you.



"I knew the two of you would get on like a house on fire. Screams, flames, people running for safety."

"Rincewind could scream* for mercy in nineteen different languages, and just scream in another forty-four. (*This is important. Inexperienced travelers might think that "Argh!" is universal, but in Betrobi it means 'highly enjoyable' and in Howondaland it means, variously, 'Your wife is a big hippo,' and 'Hello, thinks Mr.Purple Cat.' One particular tribe has a fearsome reputation for cruelty merely because prisoners appear, to them, to be shouting 'Quick! Extra boiling oil!')"

"Vimes' glare ran from face to face, causing most of the squad to do an immediate impression of the Floorboard and Ceiling Inspectors Synchronised Observation Team."

"The camel looked along its nose at Teppic. It's expression made it clear that of all of the riders in all of the world it would least like to ride it, he was right at the top of the list. However, camels look like that at everyone. Camels have a very democratic approach to the human race. They hate every member of it, without making any distinctions for rank or creed."

"It didn't look like the kind of snow that whispers down gently in the pit of the night and in the morning turns the landscape into a glittering wonderland of uncommon and ethereal beauty. It looked like the kind of snow that intends to make the world as bloody cold as possible."

"It was quite impossible to describe.

Here is what it looked like.

It looked like a piano sounds shortly after being dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and it felt Paisley. It smelled like the total eclipse of the moon."


"Oh, them as makes the endings, don't get them."



Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Day 22: The Octopus of Pain



Today I had to make the decision to gather my things, switch off my computer and leave work early.
I was attempting that age-old trick of simply powering through and pretending that there wasn't in fact intense pressure building up somewhere behind my cheekbones, and that it wasn't pushing inwards, upwards and emanating outwards, with increasing intensity, like some kind of octopus of pain.
No sir, no octopus here.
Needless to say, I was fooling no-one, and by the time my vision started wavering, it had become abundantly clear both to me and to the colleagues who, like Weeping Angels in reverse, seemed to be edging further and further away from me with every lethargic blink and sniff, that I should just. go. home.
There's still something tellingly child-like in any response to that situation, having to decide to take that time off, being trusted to know yourself and do the right thing. When we're young, figures of authority ascertain how ill we are, decide to keep us off school, or send us home, and at some point we stop asking, or they just stop telling, and the onus is on us. It's a very vulnerable state to find yourself in when your own body seems to conspire against you, so the regression to childhood and the desire to be taken care of seems a fairly human response. (She says hopefully, wrapped up in bed, shivering pathetically, and snapchatting sickness selfies in search of sympathy like a true millennial) Also, to be fair, far from conspiring against you, your body is actively trying to fight whatever nastiness is on the attack inside you and in actual fact would be massively helped if you just stopped and took heed of what it was making you feel and stopped trying to be a hero. Just another knee-jerk childish reaction from a fallible human, I suppose.
So yes, I'm ill, and staring at a screen isn't exactly helping matters, so in anticipation of the wave of absent parental worry and sympathy coming my way from my two biggest fans I will retire to a more horizontal position to continue my own elaborate game of pass the parcel, where the prize is a slightly sickly 25 year old and the layers keep being gathered up and torn off at seemingly split-second intervals depending on body temperature.
Oh I do know how to have fun.
Just me, and this octopus of pain.

Day 21: Ever wanted to just switch off your brain?


Set yourself a challenge to write every day for 40 days, there's nothing quite like it.

A day without a writing direction, without any kind of useful inspiration, and just starting to type 8 minutes before a new day.

Make that 7.

And now 4.

I need to write something, anything, but my brain is having none of it.
In 3 minutes I will press publish on whatever sits on the screen in front of me, the cursor blinking expectantly, impatiently, the overwhelming sensation of "Is that it?"
Today, it is.

1 minute to go and I still have nothing to say, nothing to make of an entire day, except the increasing heaviness of my eyelids and the feeling of any kind of creativity quietly seeping out in to the atmosphere around me, starving these very fingertips of any kind of inspiration whatsoever.

0

Monday, 9 March 2015

Day 20: Socks


Socks are funny things.
I know people who point-blank refuse to wear matching socks, and one person who will colour co-ordinate his entire outfit right down to them.
Since leaving University I now pair my socks differently to how I used to when living at home, to the way that my parents taught me.
I also now find myself in possession of socks that were not originally mine. Curious remnants of visiting guests, of fleeting friendships, and entire relationships.
Like Dobby the house-elf I've taken these tokens of past lives on to a whole new kind of freedom. I've literally walked away in these memories.
During a break-up or parting of ways you re-distribute larger items, but socks? When they turn up at the bottom of a washing basket 6 months down the line there's precious little point in returning them. Especially the ones with holes in. But what then? Socks are so mundane, so routine an item, that it feels strange to simply dispose of them, but what of this odd little physical reminder of your past that resurfaces every once in a while, or perhaps more regularly, depending on the size of your sock collection?
It's at this point I begin to consider the myriad places I may have left socks in my 25 years, these small, insignificant parts of me scattered across the globe, a dot-to-dot of forgetfulness and momentary distraction.
Of all the legacies to leave on this Earth, socks may be a fairly pointless one, but in its own charmingly universal way, at least it's a start.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Day 19: My Favourite Person


I don't have one.
Or at least, not yet.

The title of favourite person is one not easily-earned, but then nor should it be.

I want my favourite person to be the person I can't wait to spend time with, to shower praise and good things upon, but not be afraid to call them out when they're in the wrong. And vice versa.
A favourite person should be someone you trust, someone who lifts you up but keeps you level, and forces you to consider your own input and impact on the world.
My favourite person needs to be that person that ultimately I want to impress, and make proud, knowing that their opinion is one of very few that really, truly matters.
I want my favourite person to be someone who has my best interests at heart, and who appreciates that I am fallibly human. And vice versa.
I want my favourite person to be a friend, and everything that implies.

In fact, I'm striving to be my own favourite person.

We see many of these qualities in clusters or isolation in the people around us, but in the end, all of these things have to start with us.
It's clichéd, it's cheesy, you may well have stopped reading as your eyes rolled involuntarily upwards across the page, but it's also the truth. There will be times in all our lives when we feel like we might just be the only thing we have, and at those points, we simply have to be enough.
It may not be forever, but life is made just that bit easier knowing you are not in fact alone, and that someone you trust is looking out for you even if it feels in that moment like no-one else is.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Day 18: Breakfast


It's 3:33pm and I am yet to have breakfast.
I can count the number of times I have eaten breakfast in the last month on one hand. Comfortably.
I "get" breakfast and its ever-en-vogue sister brunch, but it simply doesn't factor in my alimentary arsenal.
It being the 'most important meal of the day, perhaps I am missing something, (or just enjoy being contrary) but I never wake up hungry.
If I were, or ever am, hungry at whichever single figure triggers my alarm, I would eat, but as someone who is perennially late anyway, I'm not sure where I would find the time.
Food, drink and mealtimes can form a massive part of a culture. In Spain, for example, the late evening meals preceded by the cornerstone of Spanish life that is tapas and drinks with friends, sees the proper ceremony and habitual, unspoken importance afforded to that beautiful combination of good friends, good food, good booze. Rent is cheap in Madrid, and with good reason: I can't imagine anyone spends any time at home. Instead, they are drawn together as the light fades, in simple celebration of the day, and seemingly of life itself, the warmth of the day diffused somehow more slowly among the huddles of laughter and familiarity, spilling out on to squares and street corners with the overwhelming feeling of there being nowhere else in the world that any one, or anyone, need be.
I get the distinct feeling that in Madrid, no-one does anything alone. From couples, to huge groups of friends crammed noisily around cafe tables, or scattered companionably across any spare space on the ground, Madrid is for lovers, both romantic and platonic.
Perhaps my distrust of breakfast nods to an affinity with Madrileños and their culture of later-in-the-day. There is a sense here that time spent with friends and for yourself is the most important of all, and that anything else has its place, and its function, but that's it. Instead of a feeling of frantically wringing every last minute from the precious hours between work, it feels very much more a case of life, punctuated by work, and not the other way around.
I might just stick around. At least for breakfast.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Day 17: What I would like to spend my next 25 years doing


More.
More of what I love, more of what makes me happy.
More of the things I know and love, and more of the things that I don't. Yet.
More sitting in parks in warm, sunny places with a notebook, pen and the assembled untold stories of the people passing by.
More laughing.
More late nights, more long afternoons, more adventures.
More handwriting letters.
More work that doesn't feel like work.
More letting go.
More time spent with friends.
More trusting my own instinct, and well, more writing.

Bring it on.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Day 16: Accents


Accents are a distinguishing thing.

Patchwork and nuanced they hint at a back story, mottled and daubed with flecks of countries, conversations and circumstances we have known. It's through this inflection and intonation that we map the journeys of others, the rivers of speech patterns carving their way through both home soil and foreign lands.

Exposed to a new city for the first time accents become the gatekeeper to both existence and experience, at once possessing the unique ability to both alienate and ingratiate at any given moment. Schrödinger's acceptance.

Just today, in the space of 7-or-so short hours in Madrid I have found myself in conversation with an Italian-born Madrileño of 7 months who, upon learning we were Welsh and not English, happily regaled us with the story of his time spent in Burryport where none of the locals could understand his decidedly international accent, and quite frankly neither could he theirs. He commented at this point that in contrast he could very clearly understand us, and that we "spoke English very well."

It sounds obvious, but I think it takes a level of foreign language learning to become sympathetic to the plight of the foreign ear battling with the native tongue. You become unconsciously aware of that split-second between words, making sure to allow just enough time for translation and meaning to collide somewhere in the depths of the synapses. Instinctively you learn to look for and recognise that split-second flicker of approval and comprehension that flashes across the eyes and down to the corners of the mouth with a slight nod of the head, signalling for you to carry on the sentence. You become aware of your vocabulary, not so as to dumb down, but simply ensuring that you don't inadvertently default to the kind of linguistic riddles that we have such a bad habit of, like, falling in to.

There is always the argument for speaking as much of a native language as possible when travelling, but it can be a minefield.
Accent, intonation, speed, vocabulary, and even simply your own panicked brain can seem to conspire to leave you standing at the front of a queue of people, open-mouthed and silently floundering as you fail to process fast enough the simple question of whether or not you would like a bag.

Yeah, thanks for that.

Accents can conjure a whole host of emotions. When, far from home, your ear happens upon a familiar lilt, that easiest of conversations, the simplest of interactions, that mere acknowledgement can make all those miles feel that much shorter. Conversely, it can have you sidling down the nearest side street, denying any kind of connection to that most obnoxiously "other."

Accents are to speech as dynamics and articulation are to melody and music: the colour, intensity, and, well, je ne sais quoi that brings the bare bones of language to life.

After all, it's not what you say, it's how you say it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Day 15: Glasses vs. Contact Lenses


I have never worn contact lenses.
I've never really had a desire to.
Some people want to be rid of glasses, of contacts, so completely that they take lasers to their eyes in an effort to permanently negate the need for them.
I on the other hand like wearing glasses. I like the way I look wearing them (let alone the fact that I can actually see what I look like when I wear them)
In the same way that I like make-up, I like being able to fashion a face that I want to present to the world, and my glasses play a part in that.
When I was first prescribed glasses I jumped at the chance. The same happened with braces back in my early teens. In both cases I was not in dire need of their functions, but still I eagerly accepted the offer.
A chance to alter my appearance in a non-invasive way, a chance to change something about myself and to impose some kind of autonomy.
I make no secret of the fact that body image is something I have struggled with massively over the past decade, and well before that too. I get frustrated and at times bored of some of those thought patterns that even now have a tendency to creep back in, so much so that as a compromise I opt to try and change something about myself that is at least somewhat removed from that familiar ache of feeling entirely ill at ease within your own skin. Hair colour, hair cut, piercing, new make-up: small steps to alter the narrative, to nudge the familiar sequence off course. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but we can all attest to the fact that even now it's fun to play dress-up: an escape from all sorts, not just the dark, heavy stuff.
I have left it too late to blog again and as midnight approaches along with the prospect of a 4:30am wake-up call, it's high time I slipped my glasses off the bridge of my nose and allowed my eyes to rest as they seem so intent upon doing. Simple. Chalk that one up as another win for glasses.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Day 14: An empty mind


These are simply words to fill a page, words to fulfill an obligation.
I am the very definition of spent, and it is sheer determination alone guiding my finger touches across this keyboard.
When I set myself this challenge I'd not really comprehended the task I was undertaking. 40 days is a surprisingly long time, and I'm not even halfway there yet.
I am enjoying the routine of writing every day, the inevitable bout of creativity that I can hang the day upon, but on days like today when I'm already mentally 12 sheep down, it is harnessing more brainpower than it should.
There is no point to this post, no meandering narrative or pithy conclusion.
I've hit a temporary wall: not a lack of motivation, but a lack of headspace.
While my brain has emptied of the requisite words to wax lyrical on a given topic, it is only because they have been crowded out by duty and expectation.
The kind of tired that sits either side of the bridge of your nose, bisecting thought, reason and function.
The longer I stare at this screen the less I am convinced that the holes in my head will act as any kind of outlet so instead I will give in to their weight and endeavour to empty my mind to sleep.
Until tomorrow
x


Monday, 2 March 2015

Day 13: The History of the Pub


An experiment.

How I came to be sitting in this pub; a literal history of the people in this pub.

Literally. In an effort to in-absolutely-no-way pass off some of my writing burden I asked the 6 people assembled to write a line on the topic of how they came to be sitting where they are.
In the pub.

1. Once dragged around pubs as a child. Simultaneously "encouraged" to maintain my violin. I appreciate these influences for they have combined so that I can be sitting in this pub with my desk partner and fellow orchestra-ers.

2. Over the hills, further away, around the black ice at the edge of the world, down the bottle and up the barrel.

3. A time honoured tradition of wandering from rehearsal to public house. Tradition became habit and I'm here every week. It's not the impy though.

4. Cheers!

5. Je ne sais pas... J ai suivi la lumiere...

6. Red wine fanatic, what can I say?


It's an interesting thing to think about, how you've come to be sitting somewhere.
It's also interesting to see how people choose to respond to a brief when they have a phone shoved in front of them at the pub and are asked to write a sentence.
I have come to be sitting in this pub due to a series of fortunate events, with a few less-than-fortunate ones along the way.
Life has conspired to make me think about fate and circumstance a lot recently. How the little details of life collide seemingly at random knocking certain things off kilter and surreptitiously sliding others to the forefront of our consciousness.
That one aspect of your life where you can pinpoint the exact decision, one way or the other, that brought you to a certain place, or put you on a certain path. That one person you seem to always see on that one bus you only catch from time to time.
Is it the universe telling us something? Is it fate, or destiny, or some other force of nature compelling us towards certain people, places or things?
Or is it the human condition: the desire for more, the desire to see more, the desire for more from the everyday than we feel we have been assigned.
There's something wonderful in the idea that we're not just clusters of sinew and cells scattering at random across the vast expanse of the universe.
I like serendipity, and circumstance, and the idea that maybe, just maybe, certain things are simply meant to be.
Perhaps sometimes we engineer our own circumstance and find ourselves where we need to be entirely off our own backs, but once in a while it's quite nice to believe in a certain kind of magic.





Sunday, 1 March 2015

Day 12: Sleep





We spend a third of our lives sleeping.

We sleep in, with, and around.

Encouraged by those around us we sleep on it, sleep it off and often lose it altogether.

Sleep is the facilitator of dreams.

The measured, calm overseer indulging the boisterous puppy of dreams.

The facilitator, yes, but in its own right the thing our bodies crave the most at the end of a long day, the thing most notable by its absence and when it evades us.

Physically we cannot fight it. 

The gentle figure who really does know best, calmly, quietly nudging with slow-blinking eyes, nodding heads and increasingly heavy limbs in a measured crescendo towards all-out slumber.

The full stop, new sentence at the end of a day to forget; the semi-colon of excitement and anticipation cascading from one day to the next.

Sleep is the one great leveller: it is its only cure. 

Great men and women; warmongers and thieves. 

Sometimes we should let sleeping dogs lie.

And on that note, to sleep.

Perchance to dream.




Saturday, 28 February 2015

Day 10: Ampersands


I love ampersands.

I can't remember my first encounter with them but they were always this odd, intricate, grown-up looking thing that clearly required a PhD and an overly mature outlook on life to be able to conjure.
Now I've reached the age where friends are stockpiling letters after their names it has become apparent that these things can be mutually exclusive. Phew.

I can however remember owning a pair of ampersand earrings at some point during my last 2 years of school. I can also recall that one went missing, which in hindsight offers up a rather poetic summation of a lot of feelings of general hopelessness at the time and a fear of what the future may hold:
& nothing

They are poetic looking.
Indicative of forward motion both grammatically and physically, their very formation on the page guides you skilfully towards the pregnant blank space where the next word should be, gently nudging you onward in one fluid motion.

I love ampersands so much I intend to have one tattooed somewhere about my person at some point. My only issue is deciding where. When this was suggested as a topic I bargained with myself that I would book an appointment to coincide with the writing of this post, to try and hurry along the decision, but alas. Perhaps before the end of this challenge.

I like the anticipation, the expectation of an ampersand. I like the implied & what? What else? What if? What next? The ampersand implies more, implies bigger and perhaps better, but it also implies inclusion, acceptance and togetherness and all in all, that is a pretty good summary of what I want, and hope to achieve, for myself.

Me, myself & I

Friday, 27 February 2015

Day 9: A New Film That Has Come Out


I have not seen 50 Shades of Grey.
This somewhat negates my discussion of it in relation to the title of this post, but only somewhat.
But we'll get to that.

From what I have read however, the books are really not well-written, which alone is a more than good enough reason not to bankroll it in my eyes, let alone its questionable morals and inaccurate and frankly dangerous portrayal of a relationship that while labelled BDSM actually has all the hallmarks of abuse.
But each to their own.

Many other people have written far more eloquently and authoritatively on the subject than I ever could, but my worry is the now seemingly inextricable link, in the eyes of the general public at least, between the 50 shades hype circus and a surge in an increasingly more mainstream acknowledgement and recognition of female sexuality.

Women enjoy sex.

Have done for years. It's not actually a secret.

Traditionally however, the conversation about women and sex hasn't even been presented for discussion.

So passive was (is?) the role bestowed upon us by the powers-that-be, that women have been branded not sexual simply by omission.

When the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy first began capturing the hearts, minds and wallets of an increasing number of women, (and men) the media at large became the archetypal giggling, shaming schoolboy, condemning so-called frustrated housewives, and pretty much coming right out and laughing at actual, human women for exploring the idea of sexuality and sex and having the gall to do it fairly openly.

 Man, or at least the archetypal male gaze, is catered to with Page Three, openly in national press, on a daily basis. Masses of women dare to seek out, behind the cover of a book no-less, a part of themselves that they have previously been almost actively dissuaded from considering, and the media suddenly seeks to shame and embarrass these perpetrators 'on principle'

 Women feeling freer and more able to embrace their innate sexuality, whatever and however much or indeed little of it there may be, is a certified Good Thing.

I just wish, really, truly wish, that it had been a different, better book as catalyst.

aaaaaaaand now to hark back to the actual title, as promised.

 A new film that has come out that really impressed me was Rocks That Bleed. It's a short film about two brothers, and the rest I will leave you to find out, but trust me when I say that that is part of the beauty of it. The, in this case, curiously hopeful sensation of 'something' is tangible right from the opening sequence, and it is this 'something' this unspoken other that slowly creeps from possibility to realisation as the film progresses, nudging pieces of the puzzle in your direction in an increasingly foreboding and rather beautifully calculated way.

Masterful.

Oh, and also featuring a topless, sweaty Jack Howard. If you're in to that sort of thing.

Which I might be.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 8: Strangers on a Train


There's a guy sat opposite me on the tube, writing in a notebook.

Another one.

I was about to be doing exactly the same thing, but now I don't feel I can.

It might feel like I'm copying. Almost as if when I chose to store my notebook in my bag along with my new writing pen, as I do every day, that I was somehow eavesdropping on this man's thoughts so as to engineer this exact moment of tandem scribbling.

I'm actually quite frustrated because it's 20 to 11 and yet again I need to have written more than I have, or, let's be honest, written.

I intended to utilise this time on the tube to full effect, scribble away to my heart's content, maybe fulfil some romantic notion akin to that which I unsuccessfully tried to pin on my previous tandem train scribbler. AKA my soulmate.

But now, those plans have been scuppered.

Instead, here I sit typing frantically on my phone, which let's be honest simply is not as impressive, or anywhere near as romantic. I mean, I could be texting.

Oh god, I just looked up and there was eye contact.

I now really want to get out my notebook to prove to him definitively that we are kindred spirits, but it's been an awkwardly long time to now suddenly produce a notebook.

I wonder what he's writing.

I mean, people probably assume I'm messaging, or typing a to-do list.

A really freaking long to-do list.

Maybe I look the forgetful type.

Or just really organised.

No, can't be that.

With a notebook and pen there is an assumed gravitas and profundity afforded to that which you scribble.

You've deemed it important enough to mark indelibly on something ergo it must be inspirational/esoteric/really bloody special.

Oh no, he's getting off. And not with me. Just the train. More's the pity.

No wait. The notebook is back open.

Does he know I'm writing, like he is writing?

He must do.

We are kindred after all.

I'm sorry maths man from day 5, it's not you, it's well, this rather beautiful gentleman scribbler currently sat opposite me. Soz.

Wait, he's getting off at my stop. Lord.

False alarm. He simply retired his notebook.

I think he may also have noticed me very nearly miss my stop as I frantically stabbed my thumbs at my phone, the Morse code of "You're writing, I'm writing, you're very attractive" practically boring through my screen.

Maybe he'll write about it.

Maybe Tandem Scribblers could be a new dating service.

Instead of swiping left or right on an uninspiring selection of badly-lit group photos you each write 50-100 words on a subject and vet the results.
The modern-day equivalent of surreptitiously peering over-the-shoulder at the notebook of your future beloved.

Sigh.

And you could use the geotargeting to potentially match with sexy tandem scribblers you happen upon in day-to-day life.
I mean, obviously it's too late for me and the Central Line scribbler, (Note to self: think of a nickname that makes him sound less like a serial killer... or underground-based sex offender) but perhaps it is my destiny to help write the happy endings of other single scribblers across the land.

How poetic.


Tl:dr Don't sexy, creative men get your creative juices flowing. Phwoar.



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 7.



1 week.

I've blogged 7 times in the past week and the experience has been all manner of things: enlightening, draining, really rather tricky.

1 day.

Today.

Today has been, well, a day. Let's leave it at that.

Again I find myself the wrong side of 10pm with words spilling from my fingertips and I start to wonder what it is I'm putting off by not writing things sooner.

The prospect of coming home and haphazardly piecing together the remaining scraps of brain power in pursuit of anything other than what was most easily accessible in my head made my limbs twitch with a heavy, restless unease, so for the sake of my mental health I have postponed today's topic and decided to just write.

I say just.

Every fibre of my being wants to curl up, switch off the light, start again at daybreak. Even as we speak I'm more horizontal than vertical, and with every jump for the outer edges of QWERTY and YUIOP I can feel myself slipping further towards sleep.

If I'm honest, there's no just about it.

When you've placed this expectation on yourself and you have no choice but to deliver, it has this potential to be really, really draining, or at least I think so.

Some people learn to thrive on this feeling; I must have been ill that day.

The whole point of this challenge was to force myself to write, to create, but most importantly, to finish.

There's an apt quotation from prolific wordsmith Scroobius Pip that perfectly illustrates the rut in to which I had so cosily settled.

"These kids love being writers, more than they love writing." - Let 'Em Come

I had become a theoretical writer.

I told people I wrote, I freely volunteered this as a Thing That I Love Doing to friends and strangers alike, but one cannot escape the fact that I just wasn't.

I tried though.

I attempted to justify my pause for creative breath with the meaningless assertion that I could if I wanted to and then simply proceeded not to.

Genius.

I say creative breath, but for me, writing almost doesn't feel creative, especially this stream of consciousness that is essentially the handwritten equivalent of a massive emotional clear-out.

I've said it before, but I write like others tidy, with the express intention of making this space which I inhabit 24 hours a day at least vaguely liveable. Often it works.

When you say creative I picture brush strokes, colour, sound, light; an abstract quality inherent in others, in people labelled as such either by themselves, their role, or society.

I would hesitate to describe myself as a creative person, but I know not why.

Even in my day-to-day, my everyday, my job, I am finding myself gravitating towards the more 'creative' tasks and making my mark on them to boot.

I've often challenged myself that I wouldn't be able to be 'creative' to task, every day, and on given orders.

I've rather spoiled my own argument.

Maybe when the non-creative becomes as draining as you envisaged the creative would be, it's time to swap the passive everyday for the deliberate every day.

Perhaps it's time I embraced my creativity; made a stand for what I apparently believe in, even if I don't quite know or understand it yet.

My name's Abi and I am a creative person.

There, I said it.
And I've not died from the conceited smugness of it all. Yet.

Perhaps it was all in my head.

Perhaps I'm subconsciously keeping myself small.

Perhaps my error has been in not entertaining the idea that creativity manifests itself in a myriad different ways in every single person.

So yes, writing every day is taking its toll, but 1 week down I can admit to feeling a little chuffed and just the teensiest bit proud of myself.

It's just writing, but I've just got on with it, and just let myself create.

Perhaps in 33-or-so days time I will have a clearer understanding of my creative self, this other that I have so far kept separate from my day-to-day, and maybe, just maybe it will get easier.

Maybe I will finally start to reconcile the pressure of everyday with the pressure of every day.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 6: Why I love music


It seems fitting that I should get in from orchestra and have to write a post about why I love music.
Maybe one of these 40 days I will have planned in advance and not be frantically writing at gone 11pm...
Maybe I should revisit a topic a week for 40 weeks once Lent is over, give some of them their due diligence. Might need a break first mind.
I really do though, you know.
Love music.
I know yesterday I was all about the train journeys, but you know trains, they come and go.
My love of music is for life.
It's strange because for years and years I thought I wasn't any good at it (and I still don't, but in case it wasn't abundantly clear already, that's just me) and then I found people I really and truly enjoyed doing it with, and everything sort of fell in to place.
(And if that's not a metaphor fit for any occasion I don't know what is)
Music for me is an escape. That feeling of unity you get playing as an ensemble, that sensation of togetherness that perches, contented and reassuring, on the outer periphery of your consciousness as you play your part in this literal symphony of sound and emotion and humanity.
Admittedly, some rehearsals feel the exact opposite of that. When you're in the midst of a cacophony of distracted brains and tired limbs it can feel the exact opposite of life-affirming, but that's all part of it. That tireless pursuit of the next eureka moment where everything just clicks. (And toots and parps and whatever onomatopoeic word exists for stringed instruments)
Credit where credit is due, this love must be at least in part due to desk partners I have known. Three of my best friends have all started out as desk partners, or at the very least have done their stint, although the fact they have stuck around probably says more about them than it does me. (Tough luck Ed, there's no escape now...)
It's true to say that musicians are a different breed.
I love hearing how people have come to play the instruments they now play, the journey they have been on and where, what and why they have continued playing.
I love that on Monday nights I now congregate in a church in the shadow of St.Paul's cathedral with people that I now see more often than my own parents, who are in my life purely because of a shared love of, and desire to play, music.
I love that on Monday nights you park secondary labels at the door, student, accountant, marketer, architect, and for those few hours we are all simply, musician.
I love listening to music and I love witnessing people with headphones on so overwhelmed by what they're hearing that that joy fights to express itself, feet tapping, fingers drumming, heads nodding, lips mouthing, powerless to resist as the sheer energy of the music forces itself in to physical existence.
I love what music has given me, the people, the places, the experiences, and I love that an appreciation of music of all kinds colours my life.
Because without music, well, it's all just shades of grey. And no-one wants that.





Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 5: Describe a train journey


Day 5: Describe a train journey

I really love train journeys. I mean, really love them, even that one the day/few days before Christmas (delete as applicable) where the world and their 55 wives stage a mass festive exodus and it's breathing room only as far as the eye can see.

Especially that one.

There is something infinitely lovely about a train journey - that bubble of time and space in constant motion, suspended between place and destination - the very definition of a work in progress.

I like the romance of it all.

I like the scrolling horizon, the constantly shifting landscapes; the way you can divert your gaze for a matter of minutes and be presented with a completely different world the next time you glance out of the window.

I like the quiet solitude afforded with just a pair of headphones and a lack of internet. (Alright, sometimes self-imposed lack of internet)

All of that, and the glorious opportunity for unadulterated, unashamed people-watching, without fear of discovery, for what feels like an almost indulgent amount of time.

I like noticing the routines and rituals people have. (Pull-down table, pen, paper and tickets meticulously laid out; coat off, shoes off, snapchat, twitter, snapchat, tumblr)

Being able to eavesdrop on the briefest sliver of people's day-to-day lives, hearing the meandering conversations of everyone from long-lost lovers and old married couples, to new friends, and soon-to-be-enemies.

Hearing one side of a frantic phone conversation, or being privy to the excited anticipation of the plans, people and possibilities at the end of the train track; feeling all-but part of the mandatory group de-brief in the aftermath of a wild weekend.

It may be more accurate to say I love trains because I love the people that use them, but there are far too many exceptions that prove that rule to render it any kind of gospel.

The last train journey I took I tried some free-writing about life, about where I was heading literally, and where I am headed metaphorically but I also turned my gaze on those around me, as often is the case, with a pen in my hand.

Picture the scene: window seat, quarter to 9 on a Friday night, 1h45 in to a 2 hour train journey.
Writing on trains plays beautifully in to my romantic notions, but in reality, the pull-down table slightly too far away I cut an odd figure hunched over my notebook, resting simultaneously on lap and against window.

Don't all rush at once boys.

Please find below a verbatim retelling of some of the resulting contents of my notebook...

"As a side note, I wonder if my writing in a notebook makes people feel nervous, in that same way as when you catch someone holding their phone in such a way that convinces you they couldn't possibly just be swiping through shuffle, or Tinder. Then again, maybe other people aren't as paranoid as I am. Or are they?
The guy who has just sat down next to me is scribbling through some sort of hideously complex-looking mathematical equation. We are tandem scribblers.
I guess he has the right to feel a bit paranoid that I might be writing about him.
Because I am.
There is however also part of me paranoid that he will read over my shoulder, or glance in the reflection of the window I'm sitting against. Maybe life is just a series of differing levels of paranoia. (Insert pithy remark about the unexamined life here)
If this were any kind of rom-com worth its salt, "Maths man" would have been reading over my shoulder this whole time. I would have noticed, and coyly, knowingly, written something appreciative or playfully dismissive about his appearance/demeanor/right earlobe that would prompt an audible reaction or some kind of leaned-in, witty-but-charged retort.
In reality however, such is my contorted position, I couldn't even tell you what he looks like, save for the fact that in the very outer limits of my field of vision he appears to be wearing some kind of leather-esque jacket.
In short, we will soon be wed.
Expect your invitations in the post."

Ooh look, Newport."



Saturday, 21 February 2015

Day 4: Forgiveness


Forgiveness, culpability, remorse.
Ultimately, forgiveness is a positive thing. Its precursor bitterness, however, is the kind of thing that festers. That clenched fist of hurt and anger that rests uneasily somewhere between your ribcage and your belly button, like the drop of fresh ink on parchment, silently bleeds, staining all but the air around it.
The thing I have always struggled with is forgiving people who then use that forgiveness as permission to keep acting in such a way that necessitates you having to keep on forgiving them. The bastards.
How is it possible to reconcile the personal need to let go of the ways in which we've been wronged, with that act of self-preservation, the protecting of yourself from the actions of others? Is it possible?
Maybe that's just life: you give people the tools to hurt you, and then hope they won't.
Where is that balance though, between forgiveness and forgetting? Must you choose to forget certain details in order to forgive? It is surely a skill, that ability to live with the knowledge of how you have been hurt, so exactly, systematically stripping it of its venom, slowly choking it of the oxygen of any kind of feeling towards it and simply sitting with the fact of its existence.
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to forgive ourselves.
We put pressure on ourselves, expect of ourselves and hold ourselves to standards we would never dream of imposing on anyone else, and while to a certain extent these things can be harnessed for good, for betterment, at some point we must simply give ourselves a break. At one time or another I have reached a point at which I have had to forgive myself for my own misplaced forgiveness of others. (A bit meta that one, but go with it.)
It hurts, and then it stops, and then it gets better.
Forgiveness is the catalyst of forward motion, of recovery, and closure.
Without forgiveness we resign ourselves to a life unrelentingly certain that people aren't inherently actually-kind-of-alright given half a chance.
That's not a world I want to live in.
Believe the best in people, and sometimes, just sometimes, they will surprise you.
If they don't?
Well, fuck 'em.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 3: Dreams vs. Reality


Day 3: Dreams vs. Reality

It's 7 minutes past 10, and I'm sat in a bar in Brixton, yet to pen today's post. I want to do justice to the topics so kindly contributed by everyone, but in all honesty I posted the challenge on a whim, expecting to quietly be able to take down the status, barren of suggestions, within about half an hour of spontaneously releasing it upon the world and was more-than-pleasantly surprised when the comments filled up with wonderful, beautiful suggestions.
Today's topic is dreams vs. reality, but in reality, I have been unable to properly prepare for today's post and as is my way, I really want to be able to do each subject justice.
Clearly in a dream scenario I would be the kind of person who was organised enough to be able to prepare stuff in advance, and schedule, plan and prioritise my way through this admittedly self-imposed challenge.
In reality, I am sat in the pub panicking about the fact I've not written anything as my phone battery dies, and genuinely foregoing actual, human interaction in pursuit of just finding some words.
This is not what I intended this challenge to be, but I think the very real, very present feeling that I need to be writing is a good thing, and while this stream of consciousness isn't going to be the most scintillating thing to read, I am still writing, I am still making good on my promise, and I am still going to come back and do this topic justice at some point in the very near future.
So please, enjoy your Friday nights, as I am about to continue doing, and rest assured that in reality, it's ok to be human.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day 2: Make-up


Day 2: Make-up

Make-up hack for literally anyone:
1. Wear some
2. Don't
3. Re-evaluate options 1-2 as often as you see fit

For something I wear every time I leave the house, the topic of make-up leaves me oddly bereft of writing inspiration.

Make-up is one of those strange things that somehow manages to unite, polarise and alienate different sections of the population all in one go.

As a potential wearer of make-up you can expect to be chastised for wearing too much, too little, none, or simply any at all, on any given day of the week. I mean, I love make-up, but it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that the whole culture of beauty comes with its own problematic implications. (I mean seriously, can't we just have nice things? Just once?)

I wear make-up every day, but is it a choice? It's certainly a habit, part of my routine, and has been since my early teens, but unlike putting the orange juice back in the fridge, it's not something I would ever forget to do.

There is a certain version of myself that I prefer to display. It is not my "optimum" state of being, nor does it make me in any way better as a person, but inhabiting it increases my confidence and allows me to achieve, create and generally get shit done on a day to day basis.

I've learned that I have much more to offer the world than any kind of perfected face, (would have been a long-old wait) but if colouring my face and shading in my eyebrows in some small way makes me feel capable of making that call, asking that important question or even just showing up, then who are you to deny someone, anyone, that? Hell, who are you to stop anyone doing anything it takes to make themselves happy? (Ok no, not anything. Common sense please, and just, be nice to each other)

For all its institutionalised ills, day or night, make-up is a fast-track way to present to the world the face of your choosing, even if you choose not to cover a single inch of it in anything at all.
Alright, maybe not always fast-track. Apologies to anyone who has ever had to wait around for me to finish mine. Probably most of you.

But seriously, for a billion-dollar industry that ultimately trades in insecurities you never even knew you had, it sure is a lot of fun.

I pity anyone who has never felt that particular satisfaction of achieving that perfect sweep of liquid eyeliner. First time. On both eyes. In the same, deliberate style.

You know the one.

I can count on precisely one finger the number of times it has actually happened, but it. was. glorious.

Make-up is a skill, a skill that lots of people acquire over years and years of trial, error and practice, and while it's perhaps not a marketable one for your average human, anything that encourages you to take that time for yourself and focus your attention on making yourself feel good, is alright by me.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 1: My Nose.

My name is Abi, and I am a writer who doesn't write.
In an effort to remedy this, an arbitrary period of time that lends itself to a self-imposed writing challenge.
Lent: 40 days; 40 topics suggested by friends.

Day 1: My Nose.

I pierced my nose.

I paid a guy in a shop to shove some metal through my nose and then rang my mother to inform her, who promptly hung up on me.

After she had calmed down, and feeling had returned to the fingers of the friend who had been the catalyst to the stabbing (don't even try and deny it) the sense of accomplishment took over and I relished the feeling of having done something so completely and utterly for myself.

Looking back, I can still feel the rush; that rush of just doing something, this thing that I had been agonising over doing for so damn long. Looking back, I don't think I've done anything quite like it since, which I guess is equal parts sad, and also paving the way for things even more exciting.

However, my delay in bullet-biting adventures has not been through lack of trying.

I have always needed that push, that little reassurance that this thing is The Right Thing, but in this quest for absolute certainty I find myself forced in to this frustrating stalemate of inaction where the only person I have to rally against is, well, myself.

It's not just body modification that causes me to stutter; this internal doubt seems to bleed silently in to pretty much every decision, right down to the seemingly frivolous. It's hard work.

Of course, we're all a little unsure, a little uncertain (aren't we!?)

Guys?

All jokes aside, as was already patently obvious to everyone else, we all have to learn to be our own push.

I'm getting better, in increments, and that little push itself is better than no push at all.

I've acknowledged, but not accepted, the fact that for every reason why, I can often be relied upon to find 25 reasons why not, but on a good day?

On a good day, I get my nose pierced.