I have waxed lyrical here before about my wonderful, beautiful and talented friend AZD. She is a true inspiration, a force of pure energy and a joy to have in my life.
Like many of my favourite people (I also say this about my sister), she is like the perfect Trojan horse: she looks like a doe-eyed archetype of very ‘proper’ femininity (like, anyone that pretty *must* be so sweet and innocent, right?) but underestimate her at your peril. Those wide eyes mask a filthy sense of humour, a fierce intellect and a true STAUNCHNESS. I am drawn to people of extremes and contradictions. She’s tiny but my money would always be on her in a fight.
When I was going through a terrible time a few months ago – I hadn’t left the house for days, in fact had barely moved from my kitchen table, hunched and weeping as I smoked endless cigarettes and wondered if I might actually die – it was this girl who turned up on my doorstep. She’s the only person who doesn’t believe me when I say ‘I’m fine’ because she’s been there and she knows what it’s like. She stocked my fridge, poured me a glass of wine and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t allowed another cigarette until I had eaten a whole plateful of the delicious vegetarian shepherd’s pie she had made me (reader, I polished off the lot).
She’s the girl you want on your team in times of crisis – but I wouldn’t want you to think it’s all doom and gloom. We’ve had adventures running around Paris, London and Brighton together, and it’s always a delight even just to hang out quietly at her house – a serene oasis, where there is always homemade cake and usually wine.
She has recently started writing a brilliant blog – which combines her literary and culinary talents with her passion for all-round wellbeing – so we thought it would be fun to interview each other. You can read my ramblings over on her blog, if you like. Here are her answers to my questions; we are both pretty chatty, so it’s a long read. So, pour yourself a cup of green tea – or a gin, this is definitely not your standard wellbeing blog, so you can guarantee that AZD won’t judge either way…
Who is AZD, in one sentence?
A person of extremes with of an overactive mind, a vivid imagination and a restless soul.
Tell us about your new blog…
I’m passionate about health and wellbeing and believe that within us we all have the tools to live a happier life if we focus our energies in the right way. I wanted to start a blog that had this ethos at its core. Something that might inspire people to be the best versions of themselves, to love and nurture themselves as much as they do those around them.
So often, people judge themselves more harshly than they would any other person (yes, that’s me) and this is the biggest barrier to inner peace and contentment. I want to encourage people to look at ways in which they can firstly recognize and then rebalance this – convert negative energy into positive energy.
I think this afflicts women in particular, they are conditioned to put the needs of others before their own – partner, child, pet, whatever. So it’s a reminder to women to take back some of that time and energy and reserve it for themselves. I’m inspired by strong, powerful women so it’s a space to celebrate them, too.
It’s not your classic wellbeing blog – it doesn’t only focus on healthy eating and exercise. It’s about being in touch with all of our needs, passions, desires to live happier lives.
Your blog is a brilliant representation of you, your writing and all of your other interests – is bringing together these passions important to you?
Yes, absolutely. All these things are what make me who I am. And my writing is an extension of myself so it’s a natural symbiosis.
Do you have a specific writing routine or any rituals?
I don’t have any kind of a routine and I find I can’t force it, rather it forces me. I write when I feel compelled to, which is most days but to varying degrees and in different guises. I have several journals on the go at any one time and they usually have different ‘types’ of writing in them or themes.
During tough times the compulsion to write totally takes me over. Following a hard breakup a few years ago I spent almost 24 hours writing non-stop. I wrote myself through the pain; writing is like therapy. Pain is hard to bear but it is fantastic oil for a writer so it always feels worthwhile. No experience is wasted if you can write about it.
I write at all times of day and night and I enjoy the way my writing changes: the clarity of thought I have in the morning, and slower, deeper, more trance-like state that I slip into in the evening. A glass of wine can help. I think Oscar Wilde had a great point when he said: “write drunk, edit sober”.
What are your future plans for the blog, other writing projects, world domination?
I have so many ideas for the blog! I have “self-commissioned” a long list of posts, which grows by the day. I have more ideas than time! I want to interview all the women who inspire me, including Caroline Lucas who I often see wandering around town.
I’ve vaguely started my first novel, which I’m excited to work on. It’s about falling in love and where this leads us; how this affects our identity, what we lose and gain. How the people we meet and love leave an imprint on our lives. I’m fascinated by the human condition. I don’t suppose it will be very good, but it will definitely be cathartic!
As for world domination… if I were a successful autocrat, I would start by introducing the four day working week, obligatory monthly street parties to help build community spirit, free yoga classes to all, free cats/puppies to depressed people, community gardens to produce an abundance of healthy, organic food/wine… stuff like that.
Who are the women that inspire you and why?
My mum inspires me because she has put everything into raising us. She is a proper mum, fantastic in a crisis and as well as giving us love she has she has kept me grounded by being firm and constantly reminding me that there is always someone worse off than me (something I hated as a teenager but now appreciate). It’s because of her that I am as strong as I am. She inspired my love of cooking and encouraged me to be brave in this respect – she rarely cooks from a recipe and relies on her creativity and intuition to create delicious food, something she has passed on.
More generally, I am inspired by women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in. Also, those who subvert gender stereotypes and refuse to conform to the rigid rules of society in terms of what it means to be a woman or to be feminine. I am a bit obsessed with Lena Dunham at the moment.
What is your definition of feminism?
A feminist is someone who believes in and fights for equality among all humans regardless of their gender; and someone who exalts in being female. Being a feminist is acknowledging that you belong to a wider, global body that extends beyond the individual. I love being a woman and given the choice wouldn’t change it. (No not even to experience having an erection or having sex as a man. We still have the upper-hand: multiple orgasms.)
Feminism is as big an issue as it ever was and sexism is still rife – directed at women by men and (sadly) women alike. It just acts at a more subterranean level than it did. However, progress is being made. In the UK, it’s heartening to hear the female voice in politics, with strong women like Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood repping for us at the frontline. Between them, they formed their own mini party in the 2015 general election: the lionesses of politics, one voice, for women. Election night was hailed ‘a historic night for women in Parliament’ and with one in three politicians now female (30% up from 22%), things are definitely picking up. A bleaker reality obviously exists around the globe, but there are small ripples appearing everywhere. This is what makes being a woman and a feminist so exciting: together we stand strong. Like Christina said: ‘Can’t Hold Us Down!’
What is your dream night out?
Good food, champagne, dancing, wonderful girlfriends, beautiful men. Ideally, in a warm climate and the evening would end with dancing and singing in the streets, first under the stars and then to the sound of birdsong. I’m also a fan of skinny-dipping so perhaps I’d throw a beach in there, too.
Have you ever read a book that has changed your life?
Yes. A couple of years ago, when I was going through a bit of a personal crisis I read ‘The Brilliant Life Coach’ by Annie Lionnet. I’d never been anywhere near a self-help book and regarded them with a healthy dose of cynical skepticism. It was desperate times and I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. It gave me the courage to take an honest, objective look at my life and to realize a) that I was deeply unhappy, and b) that only I had the power to change this. I did, and I’m so pleased that it spurred me to do so. It is full of little positive quotes like ‘commit to being all of who you can be’ and ‘your destiny isn’t a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice.’ It was so empowering working through the exercises in my dedicated notebook and I don’t know if I’d be where I am now without it.
Which fictional character would you most like to bring to life?
Oh, easy. Edward Cullen. Twilight. #vampirefetish
What’s a song that’s guaranteed to make you dance?
Pretty much anything by Beyonce or Destiny’s Child. Also, Pharrell ‘Happy’.
Where is the most inspirational place you’ve ever been?
Probably my yoga retreat in Sardinia last September. It was the first time I’d been on retreat, first time I’d holidayed alone and it changed my life as it helped me to establish a daily yoga practice at home. We lived as a community and I met some wonderful people who treated each other with such an easy, open-hearted kindness. We meditated under the stars to the sound of the sea. I can honestly say that I am a different (less stressed) person as a result.
What’s your spirit animal?
I have the Wolf as my spirit animal, which absolutely delights me. The wolf represents intelligence, keen instincts driven by intuition and an appetite for freedom.
What’s your favourite yoga pose?
Headstand, because it has taken me nearly six months to master it and I never thought I’d be able to. Every time I slowly rise up into this pose I am still a little bit surprised and joyous that I can do so. It is incredible the tiny changes that are achieved when you dedicate yourself to yoga. Each time I do it, I’m a little bit more stable and can hold it for a little bit longer or relax a little more. It is wonderfully grounding to take all of the weight off your feet for a few minutes a day. It reminds me what can be achieved when you set your mind to something.
Tell me about your tattoos.
I have two tattoos. The first I had is a tiny heart with a peace sign inside of it, on the inside of my right wrist. I got it to remember someone I’d lost. It reminds me of lasting love and that she is at peace. Also, that although the threat of death is naturally scary to most people, with it comes peace and people live on through the love we hold for them.
The second, which I had more recently, is a geometric ‘third eye’ design, which sits between my heart and my abdomen (basically under my boobs; think Rihanna’s goddess tattoo.) It is a commitment to myself to always listen to, trust and honour my intuition. In other words, listen to my gut when it’s telling me that something isn’t right and I’m not being authentic or honest with myself. It looks a bit like a one-eyed, winged creature and it makes me feel powerful each time I see it.
What would your last supper be?
Easy. A proper Italian pizza and a hot pudding with gelato. I’d probably want a really nice salad on the side, too, with lots of avocado, ripe tomatoes, rocket, basil, and good quality olive oil and balsamic.
What would you like me to ask you that I haven’t already?
Darling, you have done a wonderful job. But I’d like you to ask me to dinner because I miss your face!
AZD, I could not love you more. x