Year End. RM2016

And so, once again, it’s here:

The sun has set on December the 31st –  not only the day but the year.

New beginnings; dawning sunrise; fresh prospects

And another 365 days spread out before us.

 

A blank canvas upon which to print our marks, we are told, but

Coupled with embracing the new, is dismissing the old.

 

Waving goodbye to a year which has shared sadness for many of us,

With strange and bewildering world events and unexpected losses

 

But it is easy to forget that time and dates and years are but social constructs, and as we go to bed tonight, and wake up tomorrow in a new year, nothing has changed but our perceptions, and no year is fortuitous or otherwise.

 

2016 has not worn a robe of death and doom,

And the path of the future is untrodden until we tread it.

 

 

But there is nothing wrong with pausing and taking a breath and starting anew;

And telling ourselves that this year will be better, stronger, ours. Me and you.
 

 

The seasons will change, and the coming months coming after.

Will offer us all challenges, surprises, sadness, joy and laughter.

We cannot necessarily control what lies ahead, but we can control the way we face it.

 

So, the last twelve months have contained

Birdsong and dew; sunshine and rain;

Huge moons, bright stars, births, deaths and pain,

 

Laughter and joy watching lovers get wed,

Wiping away tears for what they have said,

 

New friends and chances, lifetime goals,

People embedding into other souls,
 

 

Walks in the sunshine, family and travel.

Feeling numb and impotent, watching fear unravel

 

 

Circumstances dictating no choice

Realisation of possession of a new voice

 

Moons rising, suns setting,

(surely both ways round)

Blissful ears taking in new sound

 

Always feeling that there’s something more

Finding that something worth searching for

Reconnections and losses, inexplicable news

Respect and challenge; opposing views

 

And through it all, the wiping of tears and putting plasters on grazes.

 

And finding joy in something small.

Pleasure in the knowledge that loved ones have happiness

And sharing sad times when grief consumes all.

 

 

I don’t really get involved in the dawning of a new year,

When I know that challenges and chances are always around,

Despite our best attempts to compartmentalise, ration and define.

 

 

Tomorrow is the first of the first, and as I do every year, I will acknowledge it in some small way

Then I’ll just keep living, like it’s another day.

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2016 – The Year of Dreams

2016 is a big year for our family.

Firstly, my darling sister is getting married at the end of January. I know that people get married all of the time – I mean, I’m married, so I did it once –  but this is different because this is MY SISTER. My  baby sister, who despite having her own baby and house and dog, is still my baby sister. And she’s going to get married, and become someone’s* Mrs.

(*OK, so that someone is Garethy, and I’ve known him for nearly ten years, but she’s MY sister.)

Anyway, so that’s happening. And that’s ridiculously big, and I can’t wait and I’m definitely, definitely going to cry. I’m crying a bit now, already.

And then, of course, there’s #Dream2016

I’m sorry about the hashtag in the middle of the blog. I know that’s not really cricket, but you see there’s this woman called Mar, who is like a social media guru, working on this project, and she’s embedded it into me that I must hashtag #Dream2016 at all times. I even do it in texts to my own husband.

#Dream2016, for those who are not regular readers, is a project run by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Yes, the real one.

They are touring Shakespeare’s magnificent play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to commemorate 400 years since the big man died. And, because it’s apparently not hard enough to produce a Shakespeare play on a global level, they have decided to mix a cast of professionals and amateurs. Oh, and tour it.

The pros will play the royals and the fairies, and the amateurs will play “the rude mechanicals.” So in each region of the UK, a different amateur company will play the parts of Bottom and the Mechanicals with the 18-strong professional cast. In summer, we all get to go to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford, and perform there too.

ba-rsc-0054.jpg

Lots of people auditioned, and my theatre company (The Lovelace Theatre Group) were successful. So I’m Bottom. Which is a statement that makes my 6 year old crack up into tears of hysteria every time I say it.

And this week, the start of January 2016, we started proper rehearsals for Dream.

We got the script, we’ve met the pros, and we have a call sheet of rehearsals that is fuller-time than my full-time job, and we are off on this journey of magic, discovery, theatre and wishes-come-true.

Because, even though it was a year ago that we first auditioned, and even though we have known that we were cast since last June, each and every day I still have to pinch myself because I still cannot readily believe it.

This is huge. Playing the part of Bottom for the RSC is a ridiculously big concept. It’s so big, that I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s not even a dream come true, because the very notion of playing this part for the RSC would never have entered my head as a dream – because even dreams have to have some grounding in reality. And this #Dream2016 project is so far beyond any possible hope that I could ever have had, that the words to describe it have not yet been invented. If only there was a playwright or a bard or someone who could help me out here…

So, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. (When I say “a lot” I do mean all the time. I barely can even put together a plate of spaghetti without breaking into a verse of the Ousel Cock) and when I’m flitting between Incredulity and Hysteria, I occasionally pass through Reasoned Assessment, and I realise that actually I AM going to have to put some hours in, and do some research, and rehearse, and practice and get ready for this extraordinary experience the best way I can, to be in the best shape I can be for the performances. I owe it to the RSC, to Lovelace, to everyone who invested in me ever, to my family, and to me. I cannot waste this challenge and chance.

So I’ve been thinking. What, here, is my inspiration? What has shaped me and moulded me to become who I am on the stage?

My love of theatre, like most am drammers, began when I was very young. Progressing from school plays to being a part of a local semi-pro theatre company, and moving onto a bit of TV extra work. When I did my A Levels, one of them was Theatre Studies, and I did really rather well, so I decided to go ahead and do it as a degree. My degree was a bit strange as due to weird financial issues I did two years in Nottingham and a final year in Norwich at the UEA, and my degree ended up being a mixture of Performing Arts, Theatre Studies and English Literature.

I worked at a local theatre company for a little while in the Box Office, and then, as I always say when I look back here, life got in the way. My career path took a weird turn, and for a few years I owned a catering company, and then worked in security and finally as an Information/Intelligence Officer for the police.

Which seems a bit weird even to me. But as I reflect, I believe that this was a good thing for my drama/performance journey, because I missed it terribly. I felt so stifled, creatively. I felt that my talents and passion were underused and stagnant, and that I needed to do something – anything – to provide myself with a creative outlet. So whilst I was doing these very strange security/crime management roles, I founded a theatre company of my own. We were called the Felley Players, and we were nomads with no money, no venue, no resources, no crew and no backing. But we made theatre – and we made it against all the odds. We created a merry band of likeminded individuals (my mother and sister being founder members with me) and we put on some extraordinary productions. We wrote, we managed, we produced, we tech-opped, we marketed, we sold, we directed, we choreographed… there was not a role that we didn’t take on – I even got my working at heights PASMA Scaffold certificate so I could install a lighting rig in the rafters of a local church. We sold out almost every show we ever produced, and we made a lot of money that we kept ploughing back in to ourselves, and over 12 years we grew to being fairly prestigious locally, with an ever-changing, but supremely talented bunch of performers. It was proper local theatre: hands-on, grass roots, loading hand-painted props into the backs of borrowed transit vans, earthy, magnificent, tear-inducing, back-breaking, glorious theatre. And it absolutely taught me everything I know and love about this world.

Because my love of theatre is all-encompassing. I really love directing – that’s where my heart is. And my style is exuberant, off-the-wall, chaotic, bouncy energy, which gets the job done. But I’m also fairly well-versed in the technical field – I’m a seasoned sound and lighting rigger/operator, and I’ve also done many a stint backstage. I like being SM, as I like knowing what’s going on, but I’m also pretty happy painting backdrops, or making eyeballs out of polystyrene foam balls, or superglueing mini rolls to MDF-Framed houses.

It really is the “smell of the grease paint” and the “roar of the crowd” because there is nothing like that backstage world for drama (with a capital AND a lower-case “D”) for a buzz, for adrenaline and for that feeling as you are just about to open the curtains and unleash your work onto an actual crowd of people who have chosen to be there.

TR Stage

The Theatre Royal Stage, Nottingham.

Whilst I was doing the weird day job and the Felley Players, I was also a member of Lovelace Theatre, and got the experience there of working with a group who had a stage and a bar and a box office and a wardrobe department, and who put on high-quality, slick and visually stunning pieces of drama to the local community. Lovelace have always been held in high regard locally, because of their commitment to excellence and their fabulous management of producing great, great shows. The two amateur experiences I had were completely different, but both have contributed immeasurably to my experience and love of the arts.

In 2007 I got the job of my dreams, working in a secondary school as the Creative Arts Manager. Essentially my role is to plan, oversee and run the extra-curricular arts programme (which means all school shows, concerts, exhibitions, performances), to mentor the Year 10, 11, 12 and 13 Drama students with all of their exam performances, and to teach drama to local Primary School students who will one day join my school. I also got to teach the GCSE Music Tech class last year, and managed an external Art Gallery in our local town, which the school owned. I have gone from having no creative arts elements in my life, to having a profusion of them. And I couldn’t be happier!

So this is what has shaped me, and what has influence me and what has led me to this point. This overwhelming love of the theatre, that I had to install in my life in whatever form I could, and which has set me up for a lifetime of continuing with it.

And now, I turn once more to acting. After having been a producer, SM, director and writer for a number of years, being given the huge honour of playing Bottom in AMND is genuinely the part I have always wanted to play. I was Hermia when I did Dream at school when I was 16, but I had a hankering for the comedy part even back then. So I look around for inspiration, and I know that I will do my bit in terms of researching what a weaver did (weave, presumably), and what the commonalities where between 16th century weaving and 20th century post-war weaving. I will study the role of women in the 1940s, and I will gleefully enjoy the text  that Mr S has bequeathed. I will look at famous Bottoms throughout history (steady) and try to envisage Bottom as a woman – as a strong and powerful and steadfast, energetic, gleeful slightly bossy over the top woman.

But mostly, I am recapturing the joy of what I have always felt. I am imagining the smell of the greasepaint, and the buzz of backstage. I can already hear the rustle of sweet wrappers in the audience, and see the the children dressed in fairy wings. I can hear the music, and I can feel the electricity. So if I can get my feisty female Bottom, the hard-handed handy woman with HER sense of glee at performing, to play that through MY sense of utter joy at performing, then I might start to get something going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Reaction to the Paris Attacks

I feel like I need to write a reaction to some comments I have been reading following the devastating terrorist attack in Paris at the weekend.

Not the attack itself; my reaction to that is fairly straightforward.

I just seem to have read so much vitriol, hate, self-righteousness and misplaced judgement, that I want to add my opinion, for whatever reason.

The “close the borders” anti-Islam brigade is one thing. I can ignore them. They’re the same Britain First-sharing pricks I avoid as a matter of routine.

My response is really to people, who seem to have either a sense of real indignation, or just a sense of something more righteous and judgmental, who have criticised people like me, for having a response to the Paris attacks, by calling us out for NOT having a response to similar attacks in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad. Those who call the rest of us “sheeple” rather than “people” because we are allegedly “following the crowd” in our responses. Those who say “Don’t pray for Paris, pray for the world” and, more particularly, those who are angry with us and ask “why do you care about Paris and not the other places”?

It annoys me, because the answer is fairly obvious. It annoys me, because it feels like the accusations are being levied when it is unimportant to do so. It annoys me, because it feels like it’s pushing an agenda, or – even worse – the “accuser” has a sense of superiority over the rest of us. As though their “grief” or response is somehow better than ours, somehow more thought-out and more important, because they’re not just focusing on the West and are truly a citizen of the world. And those of us who changed our Facebook profile pictures to the colours of the Tricolore, are just imbeciles who can’t think for ourselves.

it has made me think a lot, primarily because I agree with the sentiment behind their thoughts, and I questioned myself on whether or not I was being a hypocrite. But I’m not, and I want to defend myself and others who think the way I think about this.

There have been atrocities in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad for time immemorial. I remember my Dad talking to me about Beirut when I was a child, in the late 70s. I’ve grown up watching images on TV of a war-torn Iraq and a bombed Syria.

Just because this is historical and continuous DOES NOT MAKE IT OK. I am not implying that. That’s an entirely separate issue.

My point is that, tragically, news of atrocities in war-torn areas does not make us surprised. It makes us angry and it makes us fear and it makes us despair, but it is not an unusual enough event for us to be surprised and reactionary about each event. And BECAUSE of this (and I am not supporting nor condoning this) these events are not widely reported on in the media.

Paris is different. Paris is in France: our neighbour across the Channel. Paris is a tourist destination and one of the most visited cities in the world. it is a holiday hotspot. It houses landmarks that people want to visit, and is host to one of the world’s most major theme parks. People in Paris are not armed; they are not walking the streets at night watching out for attacks; there is no militia on the streets; children do not routinely carry weapons. Aside from the Charlie Hebdoe attacks earlier on this year, Paris does not have a history of violent conflict. So, of course, this tragic, dreadful event makes us react the way we reacted.

On a personal note, I have been to Paris many times, and plan to go more times. I have not been to Iraq or Syria or any of the other countries cited in these levied accusations. I was in Paris just 6 months ago with my 6 year old son, wandering around the landmarks, going up the Eiffel Tower, eating in Cafes and restaurants – we walked past the Bataclan nightclub.

My husband proposed to me in Paris 18 years ago. It is a city I know and love, and it is close enough to home to feel as though it could have been me or someone I love.

None of this makes the murders and atrocities in Baghdad and Syria and Beirut OK. Of course it doesn’t. Life is not simple, and humans can process more than one piece of information. But this is why I changed my profile picture to the Tricolore for the day. This is why it filled me with shock and despair. This is why the school I work in held a two minute silence today for the victims of the attacks. Not because Parisian life is more important than Iraqi life, but because reactions to these things are personal and borne from individual knowledge.

I read the news, and I have an awareness of what goes on around the world. I have had personal reactions to atrocities all over the place, but if you ask me why I cared about Paris, then the answer is above. This doesn’t make me a sheep or an ignoramus. It makes me a human.

Dreaming?

So, here’s the thing: I am a 42 year old woman living in the middle of the country. I am the Mother of one small child, and the wife of one short-ish man. I work full time in a secondary school, live in a three-bedroomed semi in a former mining area, have a couple of parents, a sister, a dog and I like the cinema, reading, and showing off.

Honestly? You couldn’t get more pedestrian than me!

And I am going to be playing one of Shakespeare’s most iconic roles in one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, in Stratford Upon Avon, with the RSC. The actual Royal Shakespeare Company. And with a professional cast, directing team, design team, crew…you know – with the pros.

Am I dreaming?

I will be! I’ll be Midsummer Night’s Dreaming.

I’ve been writing a blog on behalf of the Lovelace Theatre Group, documenting our exciting journey in the #Dream2016 project, and if you would like to have a read of that, you can find it here:

Lovelace Theatre #Dream2016 Journey

This blog, however, is on my personal page, because it’s less about the reporting and more about the feeling. There are 6 of us from Lovelace Theatre, cast in the East Midlands leg of the Midsummer Night’s Dream tour, and we have been cast as a team, in 6 different roles. All from different walks of life, and all with a part to play; both within the project and in real life.

Group

We were told that we had been given the parts back in early June – so I’ve known for more than four months that in May next year, I will be performing the part of Nick Bottom in the RSC’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on the stage at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, and then again in July at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. I’ve known for four months, but each and every day I still catch my breath as I remember all over again. Because this IS a dream come true. This is something that goes beyond dreaming. A year ago I would NEVER have even considered that there would be a remote possibility of me… remember me? The 42 year old Mum?… me actually performing in an RSC production. And as such a major part.

I even got to be on an RSC video trailer!

That’s me – at 42 seconds

Cam Recording Vid

I try not to bore my friends on Facebook. I mean, they’re all thrilled for me, of course. But even the people who love me the most can only take so much of “tickets are on sale now if you want to come and watch me” status updates.

I try not to bore people in real life. I mean, my husband couldn’t be any prouder, but he’s doing a bloody good job of not glazing over when I ask him AGAIN if he thinks I can handle it and mention AGAIN how excited I am.

I try not to overdo it to myself – but quite honestly, it takes up a lot of my thinking time.

I have a full time job, which is incredibly varied and keeps me very busy, and I’m finding the balancing of that with the balancing of my Dream2016 journey is very challenging. When I’m at work, then I’m at work; I work with teenagers, some of whom really need me to be 100% focused on them. And I am. I spend my days planning, leading, teaching, creating, listening and advising, and I’m very glad that I have such a widespread job which pushes me every day, because it means that I have to keep my work and my life separate. But this also means that when I do leave work and when I’m at home, I switch onto filling my thoughts with the Dream journey. And I’m finding that I never actually switch off from anything any more – not least because I also live with a rather rambunctious 6 year old, who categorically won’t really let me focus on anything other than him. And rightly so.

Pair this with the dog walking (and current constant vet visits for the slightly poorly pooch) and the fact that I do, in fact, also possess a rather patient husband – who also works full time – and between us we have to manage the school runs, trips, parents evening, housework etc. –  and it’s easy to see how it really is just a short push to tip me from the edge of “a bit hectic” into full on “AaaaaghOhMyBloodyGoshI’mCollapsingUnderTheWeightOfItAll” territory.

And the truth is, it hasn’t properly started yet.

Since the start of September, we’ve had two sessions with the RSC on a Google Hangout, where we digitally connected with other groups. Each of these hangouts has produced a task of work and we’ve been meeting a couple of times a week to get those tasks done. We also had the very great fortune to have our RSC director, Kim, come to visit us for a 5 hour acting workshop last week. Kim will be coming again, as will a vocal practitioner and a movement coach.

We have only just started rehearsals for task two, and we have another task to come plus rehearsals. Plus a bonus task.

I also have a song to learn, and will be hooking up with the only other woman on the team who is playing Bottom – Lisa from Canterbury – so that we can support one another through this masculine-dominated role.

This is all going to happen in the next 8 weeks or so.

And in January (when my beautiful sister gets married) and February, we actually start our rehearsals – a couple of evenings a week of set RSC-led time, plus our own rehearsal time, plus I will be heading to London each weekend to do the “Bottom” rehearsals.

I absolutely 100% can’t wait to get started on these rehearsals – the whole experience is utterly magnificent and I cannot believe how fortunate I am to be participating in this rehearsal process.

But when I think about the fact that I am also directing the school play, am coordinating and running rehearsals for a Creative Arts Festival with 5 other schools, am organising the Christmas Carol Concert and am still doing my day job, I realise the magnitude of what I have taken on.

But this is the whole point you see – that people from anywhere and everywhere can bloody well do this – whatever else we have going on in our lives; however tough it becomes in terms of managing things – we can do this. There are going to be people involved in this who have all kinds of crap to deal with – but we will do it. Because we are so incredibly lucky to be given this, we will take it with both hands and embrace it. Even on the busiest days. Because the reward is limitless. And because we owe it to amateur theatre makers everywhere.

I do tend to thrive on action, funnily enough, because you might not think that to look at me! I work well to deadlines, and I enjoy a bit of pressure; I get some good work done when pressed. And I think that the fact that I have inherited a major work ethic from my major workaholic mother, has trained me over the last few years, to get to a place where I can actually juggle all of these balls, and not drop too many of them.

Which is a good thing. Right?

Those of you who have read my blogs before, know that I am fairly opinionated. I guess most people are. But I verbalise my opinions often. I think this is where I need to temper myself over the next few months, as this project is all about the team work. And I am fortunate that I really do love my “band of brothers” whom I am going through this experience with.

We can strop with each other (I had a brief meltdown last week related to an ill dog and the fact that I am going to have to frikken DANCE) and everyone just rallied round me. Others have gone, and will go, through similar things, but we have already found that we are genuinely becoming a real “Family” in the truest sense of the word through this project.

Bec and Jen

I am, in equal measure, excited and terrified. Excited that I get to have these amazing training workshops; excited that I get to play and create fantastic, silly and funny pieces of drama in rehearsals; excited that I get real training from the RSC – not just on Dream, but already on other Shakespeare plays too; excited that The Theatre Royal will be putting up a massive poster WITH MY ACTUAL FACE on it, and promoting us in all of their upcoming literature; excited to work with real actors and directors who earn their living doing this; excited to take a breath and perform. TEN TIMES.

But I am also terrified; terrified that they have made a terrible mistake in casting me and that I’ll mess it up; terrified that I’m going to let my team down; terrified that my family have spent a fortune on tickets, and I won’t do that justice; terrified that I have taken on something that is utterly beyond me; terrified that I’ll love it so so so so much, that I will want it to become my life.

Because that’s the crux of it; I’ve always been into amateur theatre – I’ve always done theatre in my spare time, right from being around 10 years old. I even busted out a Theatre Studies degree. And I direct plays, I write plays, I’m in plays…I impart my wisdom (?) to the next generation, and I help GSCE and A Level Drama students to get through their exams. Theatre is a massive part of my life, and to be given this experience, absolutely validates every second I have pumped into it over the years. If this is the absolute pinnacle of everything I ever do related to theatre, then it is a billion times more amazing than I ever dreamed.

And, you see, I am at a stage in my life where I’m happy with what I’m doing and with the career I am fortunate to have. But what if this IS the door I’ve been waiting for to open? And I don’t  mean in terms of providing an opportunity of a job – I mean in terms of the passion of this project igniting that spark inside me that has been burning on gas mark 3 or 4 for years. What if this experience tells me to take the bull by the horns, and the donkey by the ears, and change paths?

Isn’t that the scariest thing of all?

Photo credits: Jen White

Stage Door

Endometriosis. How I hate thee…

Here’s a challenge I’ve set myself; write a blog about living with endometriosis, and make it funny, inspirational and try not to moan too much about it.

Before I start, I just want to say that I acknowledge that there are lots of people who have medical issues that are far, far worse than my own. This is not a competition in misery (I’m far too laid back to win that one) this is merely a reaction to this stupid, horrible and unfair condition.

For those who don’t know, endometriosis is a gynaecological condition which affects women of child-bearing age. Essentially, bits of stuff that should be inside the womb, are set free by your treacherous body, and make their home outside of the womb, and cause you more pain than you want, by doing so.

But it’s a weird one. Some people have very mild cases of endo, and some experience the other side. And even though it is estimated to affect around 2 million women, diagnosis is tricky because symptoms are similar to a plethora of other things, and because it exhibits so differently in different women. The only definite way to confirm it, is by having minor surgery in a laparoscopy. Which hurts.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 31, and it was a relief to have a name to put to the pain I was experiencing. It’s likely that I had endo for a good ten years before diagnosis, but because symptoms include pain, bleeding, tiredness, pain, discomfort, infertility, pain, exhaustion and pain, very often women are dismissed with a curt “it’s time of the month related” diagnoses and told to take 2 paracetamol and have a duvet day with a hot water bottle.

I spent years assuming that I was just a massive wimp when it came to pain, and that all the other women I knew didn’t seem to let their periods affect them like I did. I remember walking to 6th form when I was about 17, and collapsing on the street with agony. I was bent double on the floor, completely unable to get up. I assumed I was going to die. A kindly motorist stopped, picked me up and drove me home. I went to my (male) GP who informed me that it was just a period pain, and who told my mother that teenage girls are prone to over-dramatizing, in order to get a day off school.

So, I carried on throughout my twenties, experiencing serious pain every month, and putting it down to my general wimpishness. I mainlined cocodamol, made best friends with a hot water bottle, and spent around 3 days of every month crying.

So, when I was diagnosed, the first thing I felt was complete relief. It wasn’t my fault. It did hurt!

So, I joined a couple of societies to get some tips and advice, and share stories. What I found was that lots of women – just like me – had gone years being dismissed. Often by other women. My co-endos have been told to “man-up” (nice), “grow a pair” (nicer) and just get on with it, because all women go through it.

It’s NOT like period pain. It’s just not.

Here are some of the things that endo sufferers go through. Some are my experiences, some are others, some are both, but all are real:

  • Waking up and being unable to put your feet on the floor to support your weight, as you are temporarily paralysed by pain
  • Being unable to go out of the house due to blood clot passing. Frequent and heavy
  • Marking off the dates on your calendar and not making any plans for around 3-5 days every month, because it’s doubtful you’ll be leaving the house
  • Being pathetically thrilled when it starts on a weekend, because you know that you probably won’t have to phone in sick to work. Again.
  • Going to the toilet at 1am, and still being there at around 3:30am. Every night for 4-5 nights. Because it’s the only place you feel you can safely not make a mess, and because your stomach feels strangely relaxed when you’re bent over in a crouching/seated position
  • Crying. Solidly. For hours. Because even though you know it will pass, you also know how much it will hurt before it passes.
  • Feeling pain in your shoulder, kidneys, back, calves, stomach and lower arms. Because these are somehow linked to the lining of your womb. Don’t ask me. I’m not a doctor
  • Not allowing anyone to touch your skin, because it burns
  • Nosebleeds. Frequent nosebleeds
  • Hoping that the dog won’t run off his lead, because the act of raising your voice might make you throw up
  • Throwing up. Suddenly and without feeling sick first. Then feeling sick after.
  • The agonising, doubling-up pain, which can last for days as it comes in waves. Making it untenable to walk, sit, lie or be still comfortably
  • The fear that you will pass out, due to blood loss, anaemia, or just queasiness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Acne
  • Infertility
  • Pain during sex
  • Burning sensations in your stomach
  • Longer and more frequent periods
  • Dizziness
  • Realising that endo can strike twice a month – as you menstruate and as you ovulate. Bonus

For me, I have tried to describe it to my nearest and dearest, as I sit in the corner of a room, with my face pressed against the wall to try and cool me down because I’m burning up. I find the foetal position helps with the cramps, but not the clotting. It feels like someone has reached inside me with a fistful of razor blades and lit matches, with the sole intention of twisting and pulling my insides out of my body. At the same time, someone else is punching me in the kidneys and pressing my forehead on both sides. Nothing works to ease the pain, and so – coupled with the hormones of menstruating as well – I either cry or shout or both, knowing how unreasonable I sound, but being powerless to stop. I can’t read the story of “The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids” where a wolf has several large boulders sewn into its stomach, because that is how I feel for around 5 days of every month; that there are boulders inside me, pushing down, accompanied by a burning, cutting feeling that affects every facet of my body. In bed at night, my body is freezing, but my face burns up, so I cannot get comfortable. I sleep on two towels. I don’t really eat or drink much, because I feel like I’m going to throw it all back up. I often do. There is no cure, so I know that this is going to happen at least 12 times every year. Some months are worse than others but I never know which ones in advance. In the last fifteen months, I have been hospitalised twice.

And then there is the elephant in the room, and the bit that makes my (already boiling) blood boil.

Infertility.

Endometriosis sufferers often have primary or secondary infertility. Me? Full blown infertility, no chance of conceiving. I know. I’ve tried.

Which makes me so angry, because the sole point of sodding periods is that they prepare your uterus to receive a fertilised egg. That is the whole point. So why on earth should there be a condition which makes these periods so painful and debilitating on such a regular basis, and make the sufferer feel the pain far, far worse than most people, and yet have no actual purpose, reason or function, because the uterus in question doesn’t bloody handle the fertilised egg at all. There is no fertilised egg. Pregnancy doesn’t actually occur. Why give endo sufferers shitty horrible painful periods that have absolutely no use or end product?

I do realise that I am pissing into the wind here, by the way. I know there’s not a clinician sitting on a cloud, handing out illnesses and conditions, and consulting medical committees on the best way to screw earthlings over. Although, it would be better if there was, because then there might be a complaints division, and I’m quite good at complaints.

But, no. Endo sufferers are generally left to it. Diagnosis remains unclear for many, and usually only an eventual concession. Even after diagnosis, the treatment still seems to be “invest in a good hot water bottle, and shares in Nurofen, and batten down the hatches” for a (sometimes) pre-determined period of time each month. I say “sometimes” because another jolly symptom can be irregular periods. Which is bloody lovely when you’re trying to conceive. The only relief that can be offered is more laparoscopies, to remove the patches of endometriosis and scar tissue. But this is only temporary, because after it is removed, it is likely to start building up again.

So, it’s a kind of lonely condition. Partly because of the issues with diagnosis, partly because other women have period pains and so the consensus is that it can’t be all that bad, and partly because there is still a taboo when it comes to talking about “wimmin’s ishoos.” People are weirdly coy about the “down there” stuff. I know women who hide tampons in their shopping basket so other people can’t see, and who select checkout cashiers who are mainly older women, as opposed to teenage boys. I’ve seen teenage boys smirk at girls who have sanitary protection in their school bags, and I’ve seen and heard parents whispering about their daughter’s periods as though she’s got a detention. We might as well walk around with someone ringing a bell in front of us shouting “unclean…unclean…”

Periods are a fact of life, and they involve blood and bleeding, clotting and cramps. For some of us they involve an awful lot more, and if I’ve got to go through all of the above every shitting month until Mother Nature decides I’ve paid enough penance for sins I must have committed in a previous life, then I’m damn well not going to shy away from talking about it.

Fellow endo sufferers everywhere…I (very literally) feel your pain.

Now…bring on the menopause (YIPPEE)

You Should Vote. Here’s Why

If you read me a lot, here is my disclaimer. This one isn’t funny.

If you live in the UK, you might have noticed that there is a General Election this week.

I don’t wear my political affiliation on my sleeve; although people who know me may be able to make an educated guess at my allegiances. However, I don’t seek to endorse particular parties, and I have opinions on policies and ideals, rather than parties and leaders. When it comes to election time, I weigh up all of the alternatives and pick the best fit.

I don’t expect other people to tell me who they are voting for either, although obviously many people are loud and proud in their choices. What I do expect, however, is that everyone who is eligible to vote, uses the opportunity to do so. And whilst I think I am fairly balanced and reasonable on most issues, on this one I will judge the shit out of you if you can’t be bothered.

I don’t know all of the reasons why someone wouldn’t vote, and I certainly don’t understand them. I assume that the biggest one is apathy, or a general “can’t be arsed-ness” and I have heard lots of people say things like “I know who’ll get in, so it’s a wasted vote” or “they’re all crap so it doesn’t matter who gets in.”

Here are the reasons why those people are wrong:

Firstly, you don’t know who will get in. You may be able to make a well-judged assessment of the situation, and in some areas of the country, you will no doubt be right. But that is not a reason not to vote. If it is a safe seat for “Party A” and you like “Party A” then bloody vote for them. Because if all of their supporters chose to believe that they would get in anyway and not bother, then they won’t. Will they?

Secondly, if you live in a “Party A” safe seat and you disagree with them – then go and register that opinion.  You may not alter that result, but your vote will be registered and counted within your age group. You may contribute to a surge of opposition voting. The candidate you favour may be favoured by others, and so your vote could contribute towards that candidate being moved to a more winnable seat in the future.  If everyone who felt like you voted, then the “party A” safe seat candidate may win with a much reduced margin, which could potentially give credence to altering our first-past-the-post system,  and make Westminster take notice of  the correlation between %age of the votes and %age of the seats. 

Thirdly, if there is no overall majority, then this time round, the party with the most votes will likely have the better claim on forming a government. And suddenly, your vote looks important.

Fourthly, if ALL the undecided or floating voters voted, we may see that safe seats are not that safe.

Fifthly, only 65% of eligible voters actually voted in the last election. There were over 45, 000, 000 registered voters and around 29,000,000 actual votes. No party achieved the 326 seats required for a majority which is why we ended up with the coalition. Imagine what could have been the outcome if the other 35% of the voting populations had bothered. Over 16 million people.

There are a plethora of online quizzes to take, if you are undecided. You read the policies and then mark which ones you like the best. At the end of the quiz, it will tell you which parties you agreed with. If you want, you could vote for that one!

https://voteforpolicies.org.uk

Don’t be misled by the weird political persona campaign we have going on. In the uk, we vote for the party and policies. In America, they vote for the person. Admittedly an awful lot of emphasis is placed on the current leaders, but to me, this is just celebrity culture at its weirdest. We aren’t voting for personalities, great orators or charming men – we are voting for what they represent. After all, everyone who jubilantly voted for Blair in 1997 didn’t realise that he’d made a deal with his mate Brown to divide the rule. And he didnt do anything illegal either. (In the leadership thing. Not the war thing. That’s a different blog)

And if you are a woman who isn’t voting, then I really have no time for you. In the last General Election over 9 MILLION WOMEN did not vote. I’ll let that sink in. NINE MILLION

It was only 100 years ago that women were deemed too silly, too hormonal and not intelligent enough to vote. It has only been 87 years since  electoral equality has been established. Childcare, domestic violence, the public image of women, the gender pay divide, maternity welfare – all of these issues hugely important to women everywhere, and yet more than 9 million women did not take their hard-fought-for rights to register their opinions. 9.1 million women literally hold the power – they could have changed the result. 

Passionate, eloquent women sacrificed everything so that their daughters’ daughters could have democracy. We owe them this. And women everywhere. We owe them.

You could argue, of course, that it is a democratic right not to vote. And technically you’d be right. But if that’s the case, then go and register your disdain by turning up at the polling booth and spoiling your ballot paper. Because if you don’t, then no one will ever know or care.

If you don’t vote, then you really have no grounds to complain about… Well anything really.  About waiting lists, the NHS, bus services, the state of the roads, the price of petrol, education, the tv licence, tax on tampons, strikes, cuts, nurses wages, child benefit, nursery places…etc…etc…

I recall the last GE. I’d been working all day, and out all evening, and I rocked up at the polling station at about 9:30pm. I walked into a darkened room, peopled with two napping old women and an old guy stirring a cup of cold tea. They all jumped up with a start and brushed off the cobwebs as I presented my polling card. They turned over the sheets of paper with lists of names and addresses on, armed with their ruler and pencil, so they could cross out my name. Apart from my husband’s name (he’d been there earlier) not one other name on that sheet had been crossed off. Or on the two before it.

Apathy rules in my home town, I’m afraid, and in direct correlation, the complain level is through the roof. Don’t be one of those people. Use your vote, whoever you vote for. Use it and be part of democracy.

Unless you’re voting UKIP.*

*joke**

**sort of

Here’s what I think about the Royal Baby

Alright. I’m not a royalist. Nor am I a republican. I vaguely enjoy the pomp and ceremony of pageantry and I enjoy the heritage and history of Britain. I like old buildings, and I think that the monarchy through the ages has contributed towards the rich and fascinating, often bloodthirsty, and sometimes terrifying, story of our ancestry.

It doesn’t really bother me that we still have a royal family. I quite like them, really, and I think that the benefits and privilege that they experience must be offset by the boring, mundane and tedious role that they continually fulfil.


So I cannot understand either extreme of opinion when it comes to this new royal baby. I struggle to have any kind of empathy with those people who camp outside the maternity wing and wave little royal flags at passing cameras. And I think that those people who respond with “another scrounging kid to be raised on taxpayers’ money” are knobbish.

Prince William is an RAF helicopter pilot. He works.

He has access to trust funds left to him by his late mother, and I’m assuming that the Crown Estate contributes towards the familial income. 


You know? The Crown Estate that raises millions of pounds of revenue a year?


I think I read somewhere that the Queen receives around 15% of that revenue to dish out to the rest of the family and that the royal family cost the country less than a pound a year per taxpayer.


Also, both the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge pay substantial taxes on their incomes, not to mention the fact that the Middletons also work and pay taxes. So, if you’re moaning about the Royals being no better than benefits scroungers (an abhorrent term for anybody by the way) may I offer you directions to the grip shop, and suggest you go and get one?


There is the school of thought that suggests the Crown Estate belongs to us all, so why should they reap the benefits..bla….bla….bla… 

It’s tedious. We are all born into something, and we all experience a life which is a combination of work, geography, family, circumstance, judgement and luck. Some are better off than others. That’s life away from communism. What would the anti monarchists have them do? Leave the palace and “get jobs”? And if they didn’t live in those buildings, and employ those people, and run those estates – who would? It would still cost “us” money. Probably more, and these historical buildings could well just turn into dusty relics. At least this way, there is tourist relevance and interest.


And don’t get me started on all this “heir and a spare” crap.

 Firstly, she is a baby. A little girl. Not a “spare” anything.

Secondly, I don’t think there is really any shortage of people in line to the throne. This conspiracy theory bullshit drives me batshit!


Yes, they live in grandeur and opulence. But if it were me,  I couldn’t  imagine anything worse than the entire world following my pregnancy; commenting on my bloated face and cankles and then having a go if I happened to get someone to style my hair nicely; preceding me to my own labour suite; camping outside alongside the full glare of the world’s media; and every tom, dick and prince Harry commenting on what might be going on as I go through an intensely private experience.

Then, having to display my public property baby, to that same onslaught of press and busybody-ness, and having fekkin Kay Burley sticking her dickhead nose in.


I tell you what… Nice one, Kate and Wills. Congrats on your second baby, particularly after an SPD pregnancy. Now, take my 56p with my best wishes, and go and enjoy your little family. I won’t bother you… You won’t bother me… And the world turns.