Monday, 30 August 2010

Watching movies with my sister

I think it's fair to say my sister and I have a complicated relationship. She's 4 years younger and has a selection of learning and behavioural problems which make her difficult to relate to and very hard to grow up with.
Occasionally she surprises me, I don't think she's stupid, far from it, sometimes she's much smarter than people give her credit for, and she certainly knows how to twist things to her advantage.
We communicate via old Buffy re-runs. It sounds bizarre, but since she struggles to converse with people and used to have to be prompted to speak on the phone (still not her best communication platform), it's the best we can do at times.
She has the world's shortest fuse, and a tendency to go completely nuts for no real reason at all, and because, unlike me, she struggles to find the right words, tends to lash out physically first. She also does karate, so when she punches, it really hurts.
On Saturday she came home from a week camping in the rain with the Guides (she's a Young Leader), feeling pretty miserable. While she was away my dad was supposed to decorate her room, it hasn't really got very far, so she's been sleeping downstairs on the couch.
Last night, I offered to untangle her hair, and plait it, so it didn't continue to look like a sparrow was living in there. I put on the animated-but-not-really-suitable-for-kids film, 9. I'd bought it on a whim (something I must stop doing) and got to work on the knots, turning it into a smooth, shiny plait. She has gorgeous hair.
Then we watched the rest of the film sat on my bed. Something we never do. We only talked about the film, that's how it works. We communicate about what's happening on the screen in front of us, because she struggles with small-talk, has a limited short term memory so asking her about things is pointless, and doesn't really have a lot to offer. I lent her a book. She was reading it last night.
Today she went out, she's back now and in a grouchy mood, it's weird; the moments where we get along are so few and far between, I should be used to that, but I already miss the girl who sat on my bed in her pjs and dressing gown last night, telling me how much she liked the film and thanking me for brushing her hair.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Storyteller

My Grandad likes to tell stories, stories of people I'll never meet, he shows me photos of them, riding motorbikes, smiling into the camera, shy children and men in uniform. My great-grandmother had a camera, back before everyone carried one, back when they were rare, and she took those little black and white snaps, images of long ago, far away from the town where I was raised. My beloved Nanny, can't remember who the people are, she smiles but doesn't tell me stories. I tell her stories, stories of "remember when?" because there are holes in her memory, part of her has gone away and it took all the stories with it.
One day they'll both be gone, and who will tell me stories then?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What have I got myself into now...

The reading lists for my Masters arrived in my inbox yesterday, and oh boy, are they epic!! I haven't even heard of half of these books, and my lit geek status might be revoked!! I'm not looking forward to hunting these books down, I'm guessing the more obscure ones are going to be a pain even in the age of Amazon. So here I go, off to BookMooch to add them to my wishlist in the vain hope someone out there has a copy they want to send. Otherwise this is probably going to be expensive.
Worse, there's books on some of these lists that I read for my BA, and I got rid of my copies, mostly because they weren't books I could see myself reading again, and now I need them! Oh dear.
I'm excited to have my timetable and these lists, even though they're already causing me problems, it means something is finally happening, something that I've been stressing about for ages.
I have a start date, a schedule, a booklist, now all I need is to start classes and get reading!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A little poem that makes me laugh


I think about dying.
About disease, starvation,
violence, terrorism, war,
the end of the world.

It helps
Keep my mind off things.

Roger McGough

Trashy films

I can be really particular about what I read. Anything with glowing vampires, schoolboy wizards with scars on their foreheads, or mysteries hidden in old artworks no thanks (Stephanie Meyer, J.K Rowling and Dan Brown I'm looking at you, what were your editors thinking? Oh wait, they weren't!) But that's a rant for another day.
Someone pointed out to me the other day, as I quoted Mean Girls, that I don't treat films in the same way. They're right. I originally wanted to do Film Studies with English Lit at uni, I dropped film after attending one class and one screening. I had been put off anyway by the incredibly pretentious film students I'd met at an open day at another uni when I'd been deciding where to go. I have film student friends, for the most part they manage to keep their pretensions to themselves, and some will admit to loving cheesy, trashy or just plain bad films.
Which is where I come in. I love a good (or should that be bad?) trashy, cheesy film. I watched Bride Wars today, it's a terrible film really, but it didn't require any intellectual thought or energy to watch. That's not to say I don't enjoy other types of film, one of my favourite's is Bringing Up Baby, a screwball comedy starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
I also love Japan's Studio Ghibli, some of those are not really aimed at children, and Paris Je'taime which is in French and requires concentration as do all subtitled films. But trashy films are fun, I will watch pretty much anything with a ballet in it, and some of them (*cough* Center Stage *cough*) are incredibly awful as films go, but the dancing can be incredible. I just wish I could move like that.
I grew up watching some pretty dire stuff, the late 90s/early 00's were not great years for film making, especially not for teenagers. But we didn't care then, and I don't think I want to care now. Just as I know that some incredibly bright people read the most ghastly trash, because they don't have to engage with the text and it lets their minds relax (or so they tell themselves, I admit I've read the odd trashy book too), so I will continue to watch terrible films when I just want to be entertained not educated, and when I just don't care about my brain being engaged, and so should you!!
So what trashy, cheesy films is everyone else out there watching??

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Pimpin' my friends*

I'm just going to take a moment to promote a couple of my friends.

Firstly my supremely talented photographer/graphic illustrator extraordinaire friend Tigz. I've known her since primary school, she's a sweetheart and makes incredible art. Her new book, Bitten, based on Snow White is out now and from what I've seen it's awesome. I haven't got a copy yet but I will, to add to her previous work Wonderland. Find links to all her work and other web hangouts here.

Secondly is a new friend, Robin. He's another talented one. Writer, photographer, stylist, and lovely human being. He's written a book (Catching Raindrops) about his life, coming from Austria to London, and his experiences. I've read some of the rough draft, and it's good. It should be available soon (check here for details).

*Not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter!!

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Following on from my last post really.

I think I just need some time to myself, which is hard to get when you're surrounded by people all the time. Don't get me wrong, I love my family, my wonderful friends, but sometimes I feel loneliest and saddest when I'm surrounded. Especially because I don't talk to them about what I'm going through, how I feel. I used to tell my mum, we're close and she's the person I go to for advice. But she has taken to suggesting I see a doctor, even though I know I don't want medication, my mum suggests asking about therapy of some sort, but I have this irrational fear of talking to strangers (irrational because I can stand on a stage, taking part in a speaking competition, which my team won, or take part in a play, or speak up in a lecture hall, but I can't talk about personal things with someone I don't know, and isn't that what blogging is)
Anyway. I don't want medicine, I won't be taking illegal substances (because I disagree with using dangerous, unknown garbage to get out of your head) or drinking myself into a stupor (I'm too much of a control freak to get that drunk) but I will be turning to my paper friends, my books, for support.
Back when I started this blog, I wrote about Kate Bornstein, an author who's one of my literary heroes, she's also an amazing person. She wrote a book called Hello Cruel World: A 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and other Outlaws, which, although I have never contemplated suicide (for a control freak that's the ultimate loss of control) is full of ways to rescue yourself from despair and darkness. I will be re-reading this. I will also dip into my Tamora Pierce collection, a feisty heroine battling the odds will help. As will reading something funny, so either Terry Pratchett or the very silly Pirates! series by Gideon Defoe will be on my bedtime reading this week. If I need to get out of my head, I crawl inside another world, possibly that of Neil Gaiman's Sandman or even Lewis' Narnia, a perennial childhood favourite is Aslan's world.
This is a very long-winded way of saying I'll be ok. I may be feeling sad and small, and completely devoid of any creative spark, but I know my story doesn't end like this, there's too much coming up, there's too much still undone. It's just going to take a while, and maybe a few more mornings spent sat in my pyjamas, but I'll get there. I've done it before, I can do it again. I just need to keep reminding myself of that. It's a cycle, and it's painful, but it'll revolve away soon.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Darkness before dawn

I have suffered from depression since my teens. I have spent a lot of energy pretending everything's fine, that the periods of utter despair, crying for hours on end, and sleeplessness are nothing to worry about. I don't use this as an excuse, mostly because very few people have any idea what's going on. Outwardly I seem fine, I have passed exams, graduated uni, held down jobs all the while feeling like I'm shattered into pieces on the inside.
I don't know what feeling happy really is, there's just this incessant darkness. Sometimes it lessens and I function better then. I used to describe it as 'falling down the rabbithole', because I don't know how else to describe the feeling of approaching sadness, bleakness.
I am not medicated. I don't want drugs to control my emotions, I fear being turned into a blank slate, unable to truly feel anything, and without a shred of creativity left. An automaton.
There are days when getting out of bed is all but impossible, when I break down, when I feel completely numbed.
There are other days, when it is possible to go to work, to go to class, to spend time among people without feeling like I'm suffocating.
From 17 to 21 was possibly the worst time. I skipped a lot of school, didn't too very well in my A Levels, sometimes I'm still amazed I got into uni at all, let alone completed my degree. But I did. Because some part of me really wanted to, to fight back, to be strong, to push the darkness away.
It comes in waves, like right now. I can feel it closing in, feel close to curling up and shutting the world out. Stress encourages it. I'm stressed about my job, I still have no start date, no idea what's going on, no money. I don't know what's going on with my Masters course, there's a paranoid part of me that imagines I didn't actually get in, that I'm the one that's got it all wrong, and the reason nothing (booklists, term dates) has appeared is because I'm not actually expected there in September. The darkness feeds on this stress and worry, it makes it stronger.
I don't ask for sympathy, I know everyone struggles, I know there are people fighting far harder battles than mine. I want to keep fighting though, I don't want to let the darkness wash over me again. It crushes everything in it's path.
If my posting is a little (more) sporadic, it's because I'm trying to deal with these issues, if I can sort out the things making me worry, I'm hoping I can fend off the rest for now. One day I know I'm going to have to decide how I want this to be. I can't live my whole life feeling like this. It holds me back, it's draining, and I'm sick of being tired all the time.
Please bear with me.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


Feeling very uninspired right now. Will hopefully think of something blog-worthy or just random to share soon. Hope everyone has had a good weekend and is feeling refreshed and ready for the new week.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

This is an open letter to my feet

Dear Left and Right,

For the past 23 years you have patiently carried me around, since we started with upright as a baby (I skipped crawling altogether, obnoxious and precocious before I could spell them!), and I have never been particularly grateful. It's your job, so you do it.
I have applied lotion to keep the skin soft, painted my toenails a cheery colour, because toenails are grim. I don't particularly like feet, but I don't hate you guys, even if it seems like that sometimes.
I'm sorry about the shoes that rub, slicing into the soft flesh, causing horrific blisters, and massive amounts of pain, I'm sorry about the flipflops, I know they're not built for walking and they leave you all dirty and with calluses where the strap has rubbed. I'm sorry I like walking miles in whichever impractical shoe I've shoved you in. Hey, at least I'm not constantly in high heels, they're even more painful, remember.
I'm sorry I march up hills and through parks, without stopping for a rest, forgetting that the reason I can't feel my toes is probably a lack of blood supply.
So thank you, battered, bruised and blistered though you are, for carrying me hither and thither, up hill and down dale (even though it's more like down one street and up another). Let's not fall out, you're going to be doing this job forever.

Love Madeleine.

P.S I promise to buy more blister plasters, heel guards and better shoes, really soon, ok.

Calcium supplements vs. Diet Coke

Today I decided I should probably take a calcium supplement. I'm mildly lactose intolerant (milk makes me hurl, but I continue to eat cheese and chocolate because I'm contrary like that), so I can't really handle dairy and I worry about the state of my bones. I also have a mild love of Diet Coke, even though I know it's evil. My mother (a nurse, henceforth the fountain of all medical knowledge) tells me that the aspartame dissolves your bones, and I've seen footage of a tooth dissolving in a glass of coke, so I try not to drink too much of the stuff.
Now I'm wondering how powerful the calcium supplement is (it also contains vitamin D, useful as I don't really belong in the sunshine being the pale freak that I am), and whether it can undo the neglect I have already wrecked on my skeleton and fight the evil chemicals in my cold glass of DC. If so, yay! No osteoporosis for me, if not, that pile of crumbly bones and skin is me.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

One of these days, we'll have it all worked out...

On my noticeboard there's a postcard and it says "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty". It's something I'd like to live up to, that kindness can come in any form and that beauty can be found anywhere is something that speaks to me.
I've been trying to write more, not less, that's what writers do, right. I consider myself a writer, words are what I know best, I can't draw or paint, I'm not musical, but I can give you words, quotes or lines of poetry. One of my favourite lines comes from Carol Ann Duffy's 'Little Red-Cap', "words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head/warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood."* It sums up how I feel about words, the reason I read so obsessively, perhaps, is to collect the words up, keeping them safe for when I need them, to comfort, to advise, to amuse and entertain.
So maybe that's my gift, my senseless act of beauty, to find words and find uses for them, a random act of kindness, when others need those words.
It just might take me a little while to find the words I need, for me.

*From her collection The World's Wife