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.


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.


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 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.


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!?)


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.