Terraformed – A Poem

TERRAFORMED

CN: Sexual Assault

It seems like roughly every 5 years a poem writes itself in my head as I cycle home. The last time this happened, when a small boy cat-called me, I posted it here. Strange how both happened while cycling – this one appeared almost in its entirety this evening as took a slightly unusual route home and found myself in the Olympic Park. Some of you from the  late 90s London goth scene may remember the ghost homes.

Terraformed

I stare at the map.
YOU ARE HERE, it says.
I run my finger across the rain-damp dusty surface
Tracing the lines of familiar streets,
Trying to put a pin in my past.

The paths I knew 20 years before
Run into voids
That used to be houses, lawns or caravans;
Some run into vast shining towers
Or gleaming tracks of unnatural coloured ground
That once were voids.

The map obscures as much as it tells.
Is it still there, under the ground?
Under the carefully landscaped wilderness,
Or under a discreet bridge or tennis court?
Do the rows of empty stadium seats gaze down at the spot
where I fell?

Would it help if I could write on the map
Or add a pin: IT WAS HERE
HERE is where I heard a sound
As he stepped out from an overgrown lane.

A step, a pin.
HERE is where I gave my instinct a sharp word
Chiding it for paranoia.

My finger traces the map
Another grey void
HOMES COMING SOON.
I put a pin in the ING.

Was this where the curved path ran
Between the flat red and yellow blocks;
Ghost homes on an artificial toxic hill
Twenty years before “coming soon”

The void stretches upwards
Another step, another pin

Was this where I heard the footsteps
And the ringing pain as tiny blood red heartbeats
Exploded around my eyes
Encasing my head in muffled agony?

Another step, another pin
Was this where I fell?
I don’t remember falling
I remember having fallen and feeling a dense weight on my back
As someone grappled and scrabbled at my jacket
Was it a wolf
Confused by the sheen of my cheap job interview suit
Pawing and clawing to get to the meat of me?
Are there wolves in London?

Would it help if I could put a pin right here
And nod and say yes
I AM HERE
This is where I heard the screaming
I am the epicentre of that unbearable noise
As it draws in on me until I am suffocated
Can a scream make you claustrophobic?

I step back from the map
And interrogate the landscape.
Where there were hills, there are dips
The land swells where it was once flat
And I wonder briefly
If the land is actually a slow moving sea
Rising and falling so imperceptibly
We barely notice the waves
Making our past unintelligible.

I cannot trace it.
I wonder if it would help
To stand on the spot and know
I was here.
Or is it better that the memory is hidden
By the land transformed?

#WeAreAngry

animated gif of Bruce Banner from Avengers Assemble saying "that's my secret cap. I'm always angry"You know that cliché about feminists being angry all the time, having no sense of humour and hating men?

I wonder if, after recent events in the US and #metoo last year, there aren’t an awful lot more people in the world that understand why feminists are so often angry.

As Danielle Muscato responded on twitter to the question “how are women not angry all the time?”

We are.

Continue Reading

Experiences of Women at Gigs & Clubs: co-blog with amodelofcontrol.com

WomenGigsClubs_Co-blog

MusicHarass_03Some time ago, Adam at amodelofcontrol.com got in touch with me as a few recent experiences and conversations had made him realise how little he’d known of the harassment many of his fellow female music fans experienced for the crime of Being Women In Public Spaces. He asked if I would help gather stories from my blog followers to help him write a piece aimed at encouraging other men to understand the scale of the problem, and think about what men can do to help change the culture.

I leaped at the opportunity to help women’s voices be heard – as a former singer in a metal band (yes, the “rockstar” is the one out of four that I managed to achieve, albeit briefly) I’ve faced my (un)fair share of harassment both as a performer and a gig/club goer, and have also experienced the downright soul destroying experience of trying to talk about it only to be shut down; told I am over-reacting, exaggerating, complaining about nothing, not being flattered enough and all the other sorts of things women get told when we talk about the crap that happens to us, apparently because some men can’t treat women as humans deserving of either respect or bodily autonomy.

MusicHarass_08

So we put the call out. More than 100 women responded, and some of the stories were harrowing, to put it  mildly. I was at one point concerned for  Adam’s mental health as I was pretty sure he wasn’t prepared for how awful some of the stories were. Trooper that he is, he read very single one, got very angry and the blog piece grew.

Head on over to amodelofcontrol.com to read the blog, and a list of many of the stories shared with us – but please do be warned that some of the stories may be triggering for PSTD sufferers and/or victims of sexual assault. Both Adam and I offer huge and heartfelt thanks to all the women who took part and shared their stories.

One: The main blog, and stories of women’s experiences at gigs

Two: Stories of women’s experiences at clubs

Three: Stories of women’s experiences as performers

Day By Day By Day – Living with mental ill-health Part 3: PTSD Rituals

day by day 03 PTSD

Other Chapters: Introduction / Part 1 – Work / Part 2 – The Enemy Within

Part3 – Living with PTSD

Earlier parts of this series have focussed on Anxiety and Depression as I live with both; however since an assault I experienced in 2000 I have also suffered from PTSD.

Content note: Please note that as well as coping mechanisms this blog will feature descriptions of my PTSD symptoms and triggers; and thus others who suffer may find some of the content difficult.  Continue Reading

Day by Day by Day – Living with mental ill-health Part 2: Help vs The Enemy Within

day by day 02 help enemy within

Other Chapters: Introduction / Part 1: Work  / Part 3: PTSD Rituals

Part 2: Help vs The Enemy Within

I recently lost a friend who was suffering from severe depression. He was well known, well liked, and the shockwaves from his passing were far-reaching. Many people struggled to understand how someone so full of personality, so loved and admired, and with such a wide social network, could have been lost to us. Many people expressed feelings of guilt or regret that they’d not reached out more while he was still with us. I know from having had a near-fatal depressive breakdown that just because people desperately want to help, and would do anything in their power to help, it doesn’t mean it will make a difference.

For people who haven’t ever been seriously unwell with depression, it’s one of the hardest things to understand, and also one of the hardest to explain;  when you’re actually in the midst of a depressive episode, it’s almost impossible to understand it yourself, let alone put it into words. While I am well enough to express it, I am going to try. I hope it helps, whether you’re struggling yourself or feel like you’re helplessly watching someone else suffer:

Depression has a very particular and insidious effect on our ability to accept help, care, support and love by making us believe that we are absolutely unworthy of that help, care, support or love. Continue Reading

Day by day by day – Living with mental ill-health Part 1: Work

day by day 01 work

Other Chapters: Introduction / Part 2 – Help vs The Enemy Within / Part 3 – PTSD Rituals

Part 1: Work

Work  (which here means “holding down a job which enables me to pay my rent and bills”)  is one of the first things that I wrote down on my list of ideas for this blog series, with my Anxiety and depression affecting my work day in myriad ways.  The bright lights and constant buzzing noise of my open plan office are irritants on good days, migraine inducing on bad ones. Being surrounded by people – particularly in a country where “how are you?” is a standard greeting, with “fine thanks, how are you” the expected response – is a huge challenge on days when I am a slight breeze away from tears or shouting. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to say “fine thanks” when you’re anything other than fine and replying with “pretty dreadful, I’ve cried three times already today  and it’s not even 10am and now I just feel existentially dead and have been having idle fantasies of throwing everyone’s laptops out of the window and setting them on fire using my office chair as kindling. How are you?” is generally frowned upon. Some days I consider surviving the journey to work without having a meltdown is a success; but then I have at least 8 hours of Being A Normal Human In An Office Environment to get through.  Continue Reading

Introduction: Day by day by day – living with mental ill-health

Day by day by day

 

Other Chapters: Part 1 – Work / Part 2 – Help vs The Enemy Within / Part 3 – PTSD Rituals

everdaydepression_parkour

Introduction: Living with mental ill-health

I got up today.

Not only did I get up today, but I showered. I got dressed. In clothes, not just pyjamas. I put on shoes. I even put on some makeup. I washed my hair. And then I brushed my hair. I tied it up.

And then I left the house.

Ok, I didn’t go far, just down to the coffee shop on the corner, where this first paragraph is being typed. I probably won’t stay here long, but that’s not the point. I am up. I am out of bed. I even managed to interact with strangers and I think they believed I was a normal human. Well, apart from the Darth Vader Christmas jumper and the pink hair in Princess Leia buns, but,  y’know. A normal human for a given value of “normal”. I managed to ask for a coffee and didn’t cry in public so it’s all good.

Of course, ‘tis the season for not getting dressed and forgetting to shower and having to google to find out what day it is. Those sleepy limbo days between Christmas and New Year for those whose workplaces or colleges are shut down, or those on holiday, can be like that for many of us. Continue Reading

Creepiness Intensifies

creepi

Someone I am in an online community came up with this phrase: Creepiness Intensifies.  It perfectly expressed a situation that so many of us have experienced in our lives.

It’s when you’re just, you know, going about your normal life and then someone (usually, but I guess not necessarily, a bloke) makes things weird by getting overly personal or unexpectedly sexual.

For example, the last time I ever used Uber:

The driver started asking me personal questions about my love life and then asked did I still “give my ex some sugar”creepi_tweet

**creepiness intensifies**

and then would I give HIM some sugar ho ho only joking I have daughters

**creepiness intensifies**

and then wanted to know why I was going to my destination, how long I would be there and would I be alone

**CREEPINESS INTENSIFIES**

I lied, saying that there’d be loads of people there, ran out of the car as soon as I got there, uninstalled Uber and never used it again.

I have so many similar stories, where a conversation with a stranger has gone down like this, going from ok to odd to creepy to WHY WOULD YOU SAY THIS WHAT THE FUCK to getting my keys in my fist and my phone ready to call the police in the space of a few sentences. I figured other people would too, so I put the call out to see if my hunch was correct. The very first reply was “how much time do you have?”

Here are some of the stories.

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Control and Consent: Feminism and BDSM

bdsm2

 

Many thanks to “Ms Andry” for this week’s guest blog! As you may have guessed from the title, this blog contains adult content. 

I’m tied so tight that my movements are completely restricted. The more I move, the tighter the ropes gets. I am gagged and blindfolded; my senses are completely focused on sound, smell and touch. I’m red from spanking I’ve been punished (for occasional mistakes, back chatting, and to heighten the pleasure of what is to come). I’ve also been instructed that I’m not allowed to orgasm yet, but the pleasure is intense. I’m completely exhausted. But the feelings I am currently experiencing are exquisite and the orgasm I’m about to have will inevitably be glorious.

Submission has been discussed much more widely in the last few years since being popularised in erotic novels. These novels have precipitated a new wave of traditionally “vanilla” couples taking spanking and restraints into the bedroom to “spice up their love life”. But submission is prone to a bad reputation – how can letting yourself be completely dominated, allowing another person to tell you what to do, and allowing physical punishment be a feminist act? The question that frequently gets raised is, “How can being submissive align with feminist ideals?”

Continue Reading

a painful reminder

hangover

hangover2I haven’t written about alcohol for some time. I think this could probably be viewed as a positive – alcohol has ceased to be of an importance in my life to the point that I even need to write about it. People are generally used to the idea that I don’t drink much. There’s rarely any surprise when I ask for a soda and lime. Some people have even come to me for advice on how to have a dry month, or for tips on staying away from booze, which is pretty awesome.

All I ever wanted was to be able to enjoy A Drink without reference to Being Drunk. I wanted to able to have a good time without needing to be drunk, and to have a drink without wanting to have a hundred more drinks. While the former has been hard work, largely due to social anxiety, I am definitely able to achieve the latter.

My guidelines for drinking are simple:

  1. If I want a specific drink, I can have one.
  2. If I need a drink, I can’t have one.
  3. If I have one and it makes me want another, I can’t have it
  4. If there’s nothing alcoholic I particularly want to drink, I have a soft drink
  5. NO SHOTS
  6. If I start feeling drunk, I stop drinking.

These guidelines have worked brilliantly, for the most part.

There was one occasion on holiday with the new Mr RDPP where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, and we ended up stuck in the only bar open in a tiny town in Sicily, the two of us against the world, drinking exciting coloured drinks with umbrellas in and shouting animatedly about politics. I felt fine the next day, probably in part because the drinks were mainly fruit and sugar and in part because the most pressing thing we had to do that day was eat ice cream and swim in the sea.  I suspect this made me a little too blasé about being as mindful as usual of moderation. The guidelines? Well, maybe they kinda slipped a bit.

A few weeks ago I had a weird FUCK IT moment while at a music festival and decided to Get Drunk. I bought a locally made bottle of wine and went at it in a way that would have made 15 year old me proud – swigging out of the bottle and sharing it around and hiding it in a bush while going into a venue to avoid the bag search. It felt like going on hangover1holiday to a past version of myself. It felt seedy and transgressive and fun. Unfortunately the trouble with throwing caution to the wind when you’ve stopped paying attention to the wind direction is that caution can end up blowing right back in your face.

The Hangover started at about 1am. I’d forgotten all about The Hangover. The pounding, stabbing jabbing pain right down though the top of the head straight into the eye socket. The rolling nausea which goes away for just long enough for you to think you’re spared the worst so you do something daring like move or speak and it rushes back in going “HAH”. The way the light burns through your closed eyelids, the way the duvet isn’t even a comfort as it rustles just so damn loudly as you work out whether you’re too hot or too cold, The tiredness, the taste in your mouth like you’ve been licking the floor of a petrol station, the vague sense of dread, the way the inside of your skin feels sort of greasy, and the thin layer of gritty sweat that builds up as you try to go about your day pretending everything is normal.

I used to feel like this all the time. HOW? How did I do it?  I have regular migraines, related to hormones, and they have a similar type of headache/nausea combo, and I can’t do anything at all to prevent those, so why on earth did I voluntarily do something which made me feel this why? It was fun, sure, but had it been fun enough? Probably not. I crawled to the nearest painkiller, swallowed as many as were safe and crawled back into bed again, making pitiful mewling sounds and cursing my horrible decision making skills.

It was a good learning experience though – it was my first hangover in 19 months, and I fully intend it to be my last. I’ve already done the hard work of making sure I can happily enjoy myself without drinking, so the only revision I am making to my guidelines is that they are no longer merely guidance – they are rules.