Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Asking for Help

I'm the first to admit that I don't like asking for help. With anything. I hang onto my independence even when it's slowly killing me. Like right now. I'm struggling. With everything, or at least that's how it feels. So I've started to ask for help. I sent an email to Sane (the mental health charity) to ask for help with my depression, this lack of sleep, crying all the time is horrible. I need to know I can cope.
I'm going to speak to my supervisor about my dissertation. I'm really struggling and all the great ideas I had a while ago just seem stupid and impossible now. I know this is linked to the way I've been feeling in general. But I have to say something before it gets too late.
I also have to go to the bank and see if they can't help me with my overdraft etc. Hopefully the bank manager will be kind and understand. I applied for Jobseeker's Allowance, which will mean going back to the jobcentre that made me so unhappy last year when I had the same problem. However, this time I'm going to make sure I explain why I had such a bad experience, with the terrible attitudes of some of the staff and how completely unhelpful they were. If that doesn't help I'm going to find out how to register a complaint, I could have gone to them months ago, but my previous experience put me off.
Hopefully job-wise things will start to look up soon and I can move on with my life.
What I'm trying to say is, sometimes asking for help, sorting things out and saying "I don't know what to do" is good. At least I think it's a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Review: Beyond Black - Hilary Mantel

Confession, I've had a copy of Hilary Mantel's Booker winner, Wolf Hall lying around for ages, but this is the first book of hers I've read.

Beyond Black tells the story of Alison, medium and psychic. Making the rounds of psychic fairs and conventions with her various colleagues, Alison meets Colette, who decides to become Alison's manager, and make her peculiar talents go further. Alison is haunted by the ghosts of her past, the majority of whom are rather unpleasant and slowly her own forgotten past comes to affect her present.
I quite liked Alison, despite being a complete sceptic, and the brisk way she tried to deal with the dead who kept bothering her. Colette is brittle and not very nice, impossible to feel for, unlike Alison, who I felt quite sorry for when her childhood comes back to, well, haunt her.
It took a little while to get into the book, but once I was I whizzed along, to the conventions and shows, where the psychics gather to be quite rude about their punters after hours, the long car trips the two women take between venues, returning to their home, filled by evil ghosts and menacing nightmares.
This book is quite fun, and not too heavy going, with some quite comic bits. Well written and interesting. I recommend it.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Reading on the move

I may have mentioned before that I've had to devise a list of books that cannot be read in public as I either start laughing or crying, but I'm rarely without a book when travelling about.
I remember being about 10 and going to visit my godmother in Cardiff. She found it very odd that I sat in the car reading my book as we drove around, saying it made her carsick. For me travelling, on a bus, a train, in a car or a plane is the perfect time to get some reading done. Well, it's not like I'm doing anything else. Nowadays I plug my headphones in too, to shut out the noise around me, the people shouting into mobile phones, or just shouting, the kids who won't be quiet, the engine noise and the traffic buzz.
Then I can disconnect from all that and lose myself in a book. This is easier to do if I'm in a car or plane as someone will let me know when I've reached the end point of the journey, on the bus or train, unless I'm going to the end of the line, I need to remember to get off!
On routes I know by heart I can usually sink a little deeper into the words, but I still need to be slightly connected to the world, I find the free newspapers are useful for this, something to read, but not something that requires a lot of focus.
I have also been known to read walking down the street. Which, I know, isn't exactly safe. I tend to do it from the bus stop at the top of my road to my house. I know the path pretty well, having walked it often enough in the nineteen years I've lived here, although I do have to pause in order to cross the main road. Really, it depends what I'm reading, if it's something I'm not too involved in, I put my bookmark in place and pay attention, if I'm really sunk then I just have to hope I don't fall off the pavement!

In which I have not slept properly in ages.

Things are going from bad to worse. I still don't have a job, and therefore have no money. I have bills to pay and it would be nice to be able to go out and do something every once in a while without panicking that I have no money for the train or for anything really.
I keep applying for jobs and praying that someone will decide to hire me. Or at least interview me. So far, nothing.
This is having a knock-on effect on my dissertation, which still remains a few nonsensical sentences and nowhere near the 15000 words I need to have written by the end of next month. It's really not going to happen. I'm too busy stressing over how my life is falling apart.
My dad was in the hospital last week for an operation on his dodgy heart. He almost died. So my mum was very stressed about that, and I was worried for both of them. My dad might drive me a bit nuts at times but I want him around for a bit longer.
I feel like I haven't slept in months. I wake up regularly all night long. I sleep in five minute intervals between lying there panicking about my life. I've been having weird dreams, the other night I dreamt a bee crawled up my nose, it woke me up and I was scared to check whether it was real.
Last night it felt like something had crawled in my ear, I could hear a buzzing like an angry insect right up against my eardrum. It was horrible and I lay there for hours trying to work out if it was real or I'd imagined it. This lack of actual solid sleep is making me more stressed and emotional. I keep crying for no reason (or for very valid reasons) and I can't sleep during the day, too noisy and not dark enough.
I think I need to email my supervisor and explain that I really don't expect my dissertation to be completed on time and see what I have to do to not fail my Masters, I've worked too hard and come too far not to complete it somehow, I just think the deadline is going to be whooshing past without me.
The only things keeping me from tipping over completely into mental breakdown mode is my mum, who's trying to be as supportive as possible and The Boy (if you're reading this, don't, I don't want you to worry). He's being as supportive as he can, considering he has his own worries. Spending time with him allows me to get out of my head a little, I try not to worry about other things when we're together. Sometimes I get a little scared it could all go wrong overnight and I could lose him. I suppose that's perfectly normal. I don't really know.
My friends haven't been as available to me as they were last summer when things were bad. I know they have their own lives and worries, and I understand that. I think I just need to know they're there if I need them. A few friends have been brilliant, one told me about a job at her office and I emailed her boss (fingers crossed he comes back to me), another has been making me laugh on Twitter and I've never met him in real life, others have been making me smile with Facebook status' and silly comments, weird photos and interesting links. Sometimes that's all it takes to make things seem less horrific.
I won a prize, a free cookbook from Innocent Drinks, I entered their competition randomly, and I, who never win anything, won! That should be in the post right now. It's a tiny silver lining on a really dark cloud.
Right, I'm off to try and work out what to say to my dissertation supervisor, fill in another job form or two and have some lunch before I keel over from low blood sugar.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Art, thoughts.

My friend Jo recently wrote an interesting blog post about books, book art and unusual ways of playing with text and presentation. It's made me think. I'm a lit geek, book nerd, whatever you want to call me. I own  a ridiculous number of books, I've read an even more ridiculous number. I love books. I loathe ebooks, the kindle is the devil as far as I'm concerned. There is something about the physicality of books that adds to the pleasure of reading them. The heft, the smell, the texture of the pages. I have issues, I know.
Most of the books I've read have been fairly conventional. The way the text is presented, the narrative structure (whether it starts at the beginning or the middle or even works backwards). I've studied book history, read dozens of books of all different kinds, and continue to be fascinated by them.
A few have done clever things with the text, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski are two that spring to mind. There are definitely others out there.
Then there are those books that are more like art than text, like A Humument by Tom Phillips, which is a Victorian novel reappropriated as art.
Graphic novels often alter the way you expect to be shown things, playing with words and images, blurring the boundaries between text and illustration in a playful, creative way.
Some of the oldest books I own are now more object than text, rendered less than readable by age and decrepidation. I won't let anyone handle my copy of Where The Rainbow Ends by Clifford Mills as it's not only ancient but out of print and therefore irreplacable. It does mean I don't get to read it, the spine has started to give way and is being held together by librarian tape and hope. I like old books, but they tend to be more keepsake than readable text, residing on bookshelves never to be read because I'm too scared to open them. I repair my books, sticking them together with my fingers crossed the tape will be enough until I have to crack out the brown paper and cover them to hold covers and spines together. Maybe I'll make my own cover art.
I also have some lavishly illustrated books, my mother's copy of The Water Babies by Charles Kinsley is gorgeously drawn and rendered in woozy watercolours. I've not seen another copy like it. I'd love to own a copy of the original Tenniel Alice illustrations or Arthur Rackham's Peter Pan watercolours.
I'm out of shelf space so maybe I'll have to start exhibiting my books as art and not literature.

*Pictures from found via Google*

Charles Mozley illustration from the inside cover of The Water Babies
Found via Google

Arthur Rackham - Peter Pan
Found via Google

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

I finally got around to reading this book, winner of The Guardian's Children's Fiction Prize. It's the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy, and takes place on another planet, New World, in a settlement called Prentisstown. There are no women or children left in the town, and Todd is the last boy. There's something called the Noise, which means everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking. Shortly before his birthday, which will make him a man, Todd stumbles on a secret, one which will change his life forever and means he must run.
I quite enjoyed this book, it's written in Todd's voice, complete with misspellings, which adds to the rounded characterisation Ness has created. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it, so without giving anything away... read it. It's fun, clever and well written. If you know any young readers, get them a copy.

Cooking Dinner For One

I cook alone
Something simple, quick
Healthy but not boring
I think of you
I cook too much pasta
The cheese doesn't grate
Where you are now
What you might be doing
One plate, one fork
I sit at the table
I ache for you
I spill pepper and sneeze
Take my dish to the sink
As I wash up I remember
The way you'd sing in the kitchen
It makes me feel lonely
The phone rings
"I love you"
Tomorrow I'll make dinner for two.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Depths of despair

Things have taken a turn for the worst. This time last year was pretty dark and depressing, I really don't need another summer spent miserable and struggling. Things seemed to be on the up, I started my Masters, met The Boy, got a new job. Now it's all a little gloomy. The job ended, I can't seem to get started on the dissertation and I worry that we spend too much time bickering and stressing about money to be happy together.
I have no money. I only have a roof over my head because my parents are letting me live here, at 24 it's a little pathetic, but I have nowhere else to go. I have no job, and I keep applying for things and getting nowhere. In a way even an out and out rejection would be better than keeping on sending things out into the ether and hearing nothing. It's really getting me down.
The dissertation is slowly driving me insane. I can't seem to get anything written. I have no drive to get it done. 15000 words due in just over a month and I have nothing. It's like my brain packed up and left.
The Boy and I have been together for almost a year. It's been wonderful and I'm completely in love with him, but it doesn't  mean we don't have problems. We both have financial worries, uni stress, work concerns. He tells me I can come to him with my problems, but I don't want to burden him with my worries and stresses when he has his own. So he worries more, that I'm not telling him things because I don't trust him or something. He can tell I'm upset by all this stuff, but I keep telling him it isn't a problem when clearly things are.
I could do with some guidance. And a job. A job would really help right now.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Tell me a secret...

I don't have many secrets, a long time ago I decided it was better to be honest and accept the consequences, than keep secrets from others and from myself. Unfortunately most people don't seem to have the same policy. I am pretty happy to answer people's questions, almost an 'ask me anything' policy. There are a few things I'm not willing to share, mostly because they're private, but since at least one other person usually knows them, not exactly secret.
I've been following the Post Secret blog for a while now, and it interests me. People post their secrets to Frank Warren, and he puts up a selection on the website. What originally started as an art project is now this huge phenomenon, with thousands of site visits and several books published all over the world. There are international versions in French and German and so on.
I think it interests me because I could never send anything in. Occasionally I see a postcard on the site and I think 'that used to be my secret' but I stopped bothering with them long ago. I'm not proud of everything in my past, or my present, but I'm trying not to be in denial about it either.
I suppose my secret is, I have no secrets.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

In The Papers

There's been a lot of scandal recently in the news about The News of the World paper, hacking into people's voicemail, it was fairly scandalous anyway, and then it was discovered that they'd hacked into the voicemail of murdered teenager Milly Dowler. Milly lived in the town my grandparents live in, she went to the same school as one of my cousins. Her death was a senseless tragedy. The NOTW hacking into the desperate messages left by her parents and friends is absolutely horrific, as if her parents haven't been through enough. The paper has been shut down and the investigation is ongoing into who authorised these invasions of people's privacy.
Personally I think the people at the top should be held responsible. That means Rebekah Brooks (head of News International, the publisher) and Rupert Murdoch (News Int's owner). Despite their insistence they didn't know anything (Brooks was previously editor of several News Int papers) they must have been aware of something going on that shouldn't have been.
What I found bizarre about the investigation was that it was being done by News Int itself, which makes zero sense. The police are also in trouble over some of this. I'm not precisely sure why, something about them being complicit in some of the carrying on going on at NOTW.
There needs to be greater scrutiny of the press and what means they use to get stories, especially if it's of dubious origins. People should be protected from these serious infringes of their privacy, like Milly Dowler's parents and the victims of the 7/7 bombers. There was no need for anyone to use such illegal and underhand methods. The Dowlers and other victims of this should be left to live their lives in peace.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


This weekend saw Pride take over London once again, in glorious sunshine, with crowds thronging Trafalgar Square and Soho. I went along to hang out with my friends, get covered with stickers and support the gay community. I am not part of it really, although I get called a fag hag (a term I don't much care for), or as my lovely friend Holly termed it 'fagulous', and most of my friends are gay. I support people's right to be who they are, to love whoever they love and the freedom to do so in the knowledge that they are safe and afforded the same rights as everyone else. I'd like gay marriage to be legalised, and for adoption and surrogacy to be made easier so gay couples can raise families if they want. I want people to be able to take part in their community as fully as they want to, or not.
Call me sentimental but I believe in love. Love between people, in all its guises. I love my friends, my city, my family, my boyfriend, my books, all in different ways, but all of it accepted by everyone. Which is how I think things should be, that it's ok to love and be loved.
So if there's a Pride event where you are, go, support love. Support people. Help the world become a better place to live.