How to Feel Better

September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Last week, a copybuddy said she was suffering with the old imposter syndrome malarkey. You know it, I’m sure. She asked Twitter for advice to quiet her traitorous mind, and I advised putting on a silk peignoir, smoking a candy pink Sobranie and reciting excellent lines from the silver screen to her reflection in the mirror.

The older I get, the more I find comfort in small things. Is that my life shrinking? I don’t care if it is. I’ve seen enough.

These are my ways to stop feeling like shit:

Make coffee in the stove-top percolator, then drink it from my Wedgwood cup and saucer. In the sunroom, preferably looking out at some rain and listening to it thrum on the roof. Pyjamas or silken robe must be involved.


Check New Arrivals on Zara. I know, how awful. But it’s the truth that I am comforted and cheered by how Zara just GETS me. It’s like looking at the inside of my brain. Moss green velvet, puce silk and tiny glistering beads on a cashmere blend.

Put on a podcast about serial killers and lay down on my soft soft bed. Perhaps a smol dogcat will come and lightly jump onto the covers, pad across to my face for a snoot boop, and then settle down to tangle their claws in my hair.

Drink something with my best friend. It needn’t be alcoholic but it is a totemic symbol, the chalice. It allows us to cup our hands around our subject and pour forth all the twisty stuff we’ve been storing. It’s easier to untangle with your best friend.

Write. It can take an effort, when you feel like a failure, but I always remember I’m pretty OK at life when I write. I also make money when I write so writing in any mood is a good plan.

Have a gin in a gold-rimmed champagne coupe. Stir with a small, glittery plastic spoon I keep solely for the purpose of stirring magic into cocktails. Probably smoke a fag, to be honest. I’ve stopped a thousand tears with a well-timed cigarette.


Play fetch with my boycat. Scrubble his tummy every time he brings back the sodden mouse and say “You such a good bo-oy! You such a good BOY!” I always insist he SITS between throws, which he’s getting very good at. A pure joy.

Instagram. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just Instagram’s algorithm knows me so well? I can go on Discover and see thousands upon thousands of pictures of 1950s dressing rooms, hand-shaped novelty jewellery and cat portraiture. I’m sure it’s terrible for my psyche but it’s an indulgence that never fails to bring me pleasure.

Send my workbuddy a dog to name. Just that: one of us will send a picture of an animal and the other names him. The original sender then usually derides the namer for their choice. “Are you BLIND? His name is obviously BRUISER, you idiot.”

Write down outfits (OK, fine, make full-on mood boards). So soothing. Now I have all my clothes on rails, I can flick through them easy pie. Getting dressed is probably my number one hobby. It brings me so much happiness and totally influences my day.


The Expert Badge

September 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

I was worrying about something on my drive home last night.

They say (who, who is they?) it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.

I was concerned, because I figured there’s no way I’ve spent that many hours copywriting – how could I look my boss in the face and happily collect my salary?

So today, it came up in conversation and I apologised to him for being such a rookie charlatan. And it played on my mind some more. It was time to do the maths.

I work 37.5 hours each week

There are 52 weeks in a year

I get 25 days of holiday plus 5 bank holidays each year, and probably have for my whole career

So I work 1,920 days each year – I’ll take 6 off for that weird flu I get every spring and the odd furbaby emergency

1,914 days a year for 6 years = 11,494 hours

And I freelance too.

Changing With the Leaves

October 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s a new season for me. I’ve decided that I’m reaching the point in my life where I am an adult. A human that is no longer just a morbid collection of childhood hurts, teen angst and treasured disappointments languishing in the dusty trophy cabinet where badness lives.

After so many years of being puppeteered by fear, guilt and a need to change myself, I’m now a collapsed pile of limbs and costume, relieved and resting.

That need to change. I was always trying to improve myself, based on my own bizarre list of personal standards. Not improve; CHANGE. Erase what was there and replace it with something better.

And now I’m not. The work I do now is acceptance. I like who I am. I can put time and effort into buffing up the good ’til it glows, and I can sandpaper the not-so-good to a smoother finish if I fancy a spot of DIY. But I’m not a problem to be overcome. I’m a maze, a puzzle; the whole point of my life – any life, I think – is the adventure of exploration as one figures out the next turn.

I guess this means therapy works. It’s been tricky and not always nice, and it’s taken a lot of mind-bending. A lot of shouldering open stuck doors in the cobwebbed old library I keep upstairs.

There’s books in there I could burn, but I won’t. I’ve sorted them, bundled them – then put them aside. I’ll keep them like old text books from school; they’re how I got here and they taught me everything I know, but I’m not going to build the next 40 years on them.

A big stack of obsolete books. Theories disproved, authors forgotten and covers faded to grey.

Going to Get My Head Shrunk

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Though the NHS has really done a very nice job of keeping me alive and relatively sane, it couldn’t give me any kind of counselling beyond internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As I’ve said before, I find CBT very easy to game – a nasty drive of mine – and therefore nearly useless.

Tonight, I begin with the Christians. My session is at a 1917 tuberculosis sanatorium set up by The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège, for God’s sake. Oh, I’ll have to try to curb that. In my assessment hour, I crossed myself for effect (a prop I often pull out of the box) and was asked not one minute later if I belonged to a local church.

Not going to let that put me off though. A shrink is a shrink is a shrink. I don’t think they’re allowed to let their personal leanings influence their dealings with me.

But I’m afraid. I was so affected by just my assessment that I backed my car into a brick wall. Gently, mind, but I was dead shaken. I don’t have the same guy this time, which I’m glad about because, although he was perfectly nice, I found him unsettling. He did that silent staring thing. I didn’t find it easy to be honest with him.

I’m worried about that bit. There’s literally no human on this planet apart from your therapist that you’re expected to tell the absolute minutest detail of your ugly, twisted life. He’s supposed to not care if what you share is criminal, selfish, jealous, hateful, shaming or frightening. I can only liken it to when you have to wee outside and your body’s like, “Um, no? This is not what we do. I ain’t weeing here, love.” How does one go about letting go?

Phil reckons this analysis I’ve been doing is exactly what’s wrong with me. But that’s another part of my worry: what if there’s not enough wrong with me?

I don’t know how they’re supposed to fix me when I’m fine. I am fine. I’m medicated, aren’t I? Sure, I have nervous habits but generally, I’m happy. So – what are they going to fix?

The Stones

August 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

Human-manipulated stones have always held a huge fascination for me.

The Moai placed on Easter Island by the Rapa Nui. The immense pyramids constructed by ancient engineers. The mysteriously out-of-place bluestones of Stonehenge.

I finally got a look at Stonehenge yesterday. It’s a site I’ve been hungrily learning about for most of my life, seizing on every new theory and watching new digs for truth.

I don’t know what I expected. To be moved? Hard to feel moved when people are waving selfie sticks and catching Pokemon. We didn’t pay the £18.50 to get on a shuttle bus and be driven up to the stones, where you walk in a circle around a little fence and take photos or play on your phone.

We walked a couple of miles across the fields, through the wide, flat land where the National Trust is trying to return agricultural earth to its grassland origins. Stonehenge comes into focus slowly that way. You can barely see the humans crawling over it.

If you don’t pay, you stay back behind the fence – a better view. On the inside, you can’t touch the stones – though I wouldn’t – anyway and your view is obscured by the other people, your thoughts shattered by the other people.

There was a general lack of respect and gravity. For me, Stonehenge is a kind of church. It’s a centre of one of my biggest interests and it also represents the only type of religion I have: thankfulness for the land, I guess.

Away from the crowd, I could appreciate the stones as an interesting piece of history. But I didn’t get my cathedral feeling. Perhaps if I’d been alone, or if I could have got closer. It’s a sad thing. But hey, other people want to experience it too. I just don’t know how many needed to. Do I mean deserved to?


Humans carefully avoided

On a brighter note, the stone circle at Avebury was amazing. It’s huge, entwined with an entire village, and it rises gently up and down terraced banks. Although it has had a lot of reconstruction (like Stonehenge), it escaped total destruction due to some bad human luck and good historical luck.

As is usual, Christianity led people in the vicinity to see the stones as evil because they didn’t conform to anything they understood from the bible. The villagers attempted to remove the stones but in the early 1300s, when they began toppling them and burying them where they fell, a man was crushed (his body staying under the immense stone until its excavation in the 1930s) and then the Black Death arrived, keeping everyone nicely occupied for some time.

Folklore and superstition can be a wonderful thing deep in the country, so the stones were largely allowed to sit quietly until the blessed age of the antiquarian (destructive in his own well-meaning way) came along some 300 years later, and outsiders began to take some interest in the circle.

But Christianity struck again. Puritan nonsense and agricultural land-clearing in the 17th century brought even more defilement to the stones (you can still see the incongruously straight cuts from the method used – heating and rapidly cooling the stone to weaken it before doing some good old smashy smashy). The work of antiquarian William Stukeley and money of politician/archaeologist Sir John Lubbock prevented the final sarsens from disappearing but the site was incredibly damaged. Archaeologists have done their bests though, and as many stones were buried whole where they fell, rather than carted off for building materials, they now stand in the best approximation we have for the site.

Walking among the stones under low, grey clouds was a much more moving experience than seeing Stonehenge. I felt closer to the people who constructed it and I felt closer to the land. I’m sad it was that way around but not surprised. The rain kept most humans away.

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