mardi 7 juillet 2020

Lockdown living

It's been so long! I'm still mostly indoors (although this morning I took my flask of coffee and my freshly baked pains aux chocolat to the park with my friend who lives down the road). We sat at opposite ends of a picnic blanket in the walled garden. It was wonderful.

I have a mini trampoline and I am obsessed. OBSESSED.

I turned one year sober and I had a birthday!

I've been working really hard and I am grateful.

I painted my stairs bright pink and decorated my bedroom.

My podcast is now on Apple! Look up 'The Staunch Podcast' and please leave a nice review.

Incidentally, if you have read my book and want to do a nice thing for me, please leave a quick review of it online somewhere. It can just say 'this book is good'. The number of reviews really, really helps, more than it saying anything useful or exciting. Something to do with algorithms.

Having not read a book in the longest time, I have inhaled a couple of books in quick succession: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and Hunger by Roxane Gay. Highly, highly recommend both.

But not as much as I recommend spending half an hour a day on a mini trampoline listening to a bad 90s playlist you have titled 'Gypsies, Trampolines and Thieves'.

My music tastes have become those of a middle-aged man. Been listening to a lot of Don Henley. Hmm.

I have taken up gua sha.

I have been writing just a very tiny little bit.

Tonight I will make two types of curry.

And... I think that's all for now.

mardi 21 avril 2020

Dance memory

Years ago, I spent a year living in a tiny top-floor flat, with a view of treetops from the sitting room window and a very distant view of the sea from the fire escape out the back. The miniature galley kitchen in that flat reminded me of Paris. The sun came in through the window in the afternoons and the ancient cabinets were trimmed in bright egg-yolk yellow. That kitchen was so tiny, the fridge had to be kept out in the hallway at the top of the stairs.

The year in that flat coincided with my temporary obsession with Tracy Anderson. This sounds strange and felt out of character. Tracy Anderson is Gwyneth Paltrow's personal trainer and I am not at all sure that we would be friends in real life (who knows, though?!). She looks like an Olsen twin, or a small woodland creature in very tiny outfits. She says cheerful motivational things - 'Let's have fun! I'm so proud of you!' - in a very flat monotone. There is something very corporate, maybe even robotic, about her. She talks in pseudoscience and fetishises being 'tiny' and 'the dancer's body'.

For some reason, I bought all of her DVDs. In that flat, I did them diligently every single evening.

There is something about Tracy Anderson that I find incredibly relaxing. All of the movements are very repetitive, to the point of being boring. Her choreographed dances seem to have no logic to them whatsoever. Some of the movements are so insane, she reminds me of Kate Bush, even though she is the exact opposite of Kate Bush.

All of her workouts are set to bland electronic music that just fades into the background. I discovered that this could easily be muted and replaced with Sonic Youth. There is something about this combination that works perfectly.

Whenever I hear Lee Ranaldo's solo album 'Between the Times and the Tides', I am instantly transported back to that flat, doing Tracy Anderson dance moves for hours on end on the nasty brown rental-flat carpet, with a view of the trees. Incidentally, Lee Ranaldo was really the underrated member of Sonic Youth.

I've been spending a lot of my lockdown time exercising. Physical movement is currently helpful.

I find repetitive motion very comforting, so I suppose it's natural that I looked up Tracy on YouTube. It's almost like meditating, maybe because I've done it so many times now. Just add the Sonic Youth member of your choice.


vendredi 17 avril 2020

313

As I start writing this, I am 313 days sober. That’s 10 and a bit months. That’s nearly a year. I did not anticipate this. It’s the longest (by a very, very long way) I have been without drinking since I was 14 years old. Actually, I talked to my dad about this the other day, and he thinks it might have been 12 or 13. He might be right.

Originally, I was aiming for 100 days. Then I kept going. I’m currently aiming for the full year. I am still learning new and surprising things about myself and my old relationship with drinking, so – at least until that stops, and maybe beyond – it seems a good idea to keep going.

I wonder if lots of people are accidentally sober at the moment, as usually they only drink when they go out and see people. I am very deliberately sober. A lot of the time, now, I don’t think about it. Then, suddenly, I am hit round the face with a sense-memory: a cold glass of white wine with lunch, a delicious glass of red wine by a fire, a French 75, an icy margarita, a late-night whisky, champagne when it’s free. It passes.

Incidentally, I love(d) free booze more than almost anything in the world. The things I find hardest are still a) catered events; b) long-haul flights. I always joked that the classiest thing in the world would be to go on a business-class flight and not drink the free booze. I guess I’m classy now.

Anyway, I most definitely did not only drink when I went out and saw people. I loved drinking alone almost more than I loved drinking with friends. I loved all kinds of drinking. I was known for it. I was the person who you would call if you were in the mood to get drunk on a Tuesday. I was the one who would always be guaranteed to say ‘let’s get another bottle’.

I do miss it. But I’m better without it, these days. I’m glad not to be hungover. 

It’s good to keep assessing what you miss and what you don’t. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes it’s surprising.

A few weeks before the lockdown started, I realised I was exhausted and I simultaneously realised how much time I used to spend horizontal and unproductive because I was hungover. I would get home from work, get straight into bed, and order enough takeaway food for at least two people. Then I would fall asleep with a film still playing on my laptop. If it was a Saturday, I might only get up in the evening to cook a mixing bowl full of pasta. I do not miss hangovers, but I kind of miss those days. I’m always so upright and productive now. Sounds perverse, which is probably why it took me a while to figure it out. There is something about a hangover that makes you treat yourself as you would a child, because you can only deal with an immediate and very base level of need. ‘Am I hungry? Might I like to get up and have a bath?’ I resolved to recreate those days occasionally, even though I no longer need to.

Sometimes you miss things you shouldn’t miss. Like hangovers. And having an excuse for poor behaviour or an irrational outburst (‘I was just sooooo drunk!’). But mostly, I don’t miss a thing.

I received a message yesterday, out of the blue, from someone I have not seen in a long time. Someone I used to miss a lot. Someone who I associate more than almost anyone else with days and nights of drinking – pink cocktails and white wine and pints of Asahi and even bright green absinthe. Secret boozy lunches, impromptu evenings, missed trains, hungover breakfasts. Never, ever sober.

Admittedly, in my life, this could be quite a few people. But this was the one I once enjoyed drunken arguments and poor decision-making with the very most.

‘I miss you,’ it said.

I used to miss this person so, so much. But when somebody offers you a plate of crumbs and tells you it’s a goddamn feast, you change your phone number and you move on.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past, but it sometimes occurs to me that I do things very differently now. This is not a coincidence.

I gave up smoking. I cut all my hair off. I went back to school. I gave up drinking.

I feel like a different person now.

mercredi 15 avril 2020

Things


  • You can eat dandelions!
  • I am obsessed with attic conversions
  • The Ordinary has actually improved my skin - acid is exciting
  • I love being basic now
  • I think I need to talk to my therapist about my feelings for Don Draper
  • I wonder if the actors who play Don and Joan look as sexy in ordinary modern clothes
  • I want a pink boiler suit
  • I know this sounds self-centred but it's so mind-blowing to think that all the world is still out there!
  • Peanut butter noodles
  • Homemade kimchi on everything
  • The light on the walls at times when you are usually never at home
  • Please leave a nice review of my book somewhere if you can
  • I am looking forward to moving meditation with music at 6pm today (currently keen on any kind of livestream situation)
  • Jet was the best Gladiator
  • I'd really like to be commissioned to write things I would never have thought of writing
  • The roses are starting to bud in the front window
  • At lunchtimes, my kitchen is now officially called the Moon Dust Diner
  • Set up a tent in the sitting room for a holiday at home!
  • I keep thinking a lot lately that what is meant for you will not pass you by
  • I'd like to adapt a book for the screen (any screen)
  • It's hard to knit when the weather is getting warmer
  • Five minutes outside makes a (lucky) difference
  • Oreos are accidentally vegan
  • So is most ready-made pastry - information that, to me, has been nothing short of life-changing

mardi 14 avril 2020

Isolation activities.

Isolation continues. Cosy, scary, sleepy, confusing. I have to admit it's nice to have time on my hands. I realise this is a huge privilege.

I really, really like jam now. I used to think jam was only OK. Apricot is my favourite, but I have now finished the apricot and the blackcurrant is also good.

I am obsessed with Pinterest and all the decorating ideas I have 'for when this is all over'. For some reason, there is currently something comforting about visual fripperies. Especially when I am seemingly incapable even of reading a book at the moment.

I am going to paint my stairs pink. I am going to paint a dull wall bright purple. I am going to go to junk shops and poke about all day long and buy things and paint them. I want to start painting wooden wardrobes and shelves.

The light is nice in corners of my house, at times when I would never usually be there. I feel there is something important to be learned from this.

I have come to the conclusion that gxd has been saving Mad Men up for me at this time. I am obsessed. I dream about it at night and cannot wait for every next episode. Oh, Don Draper. My heart. Oh, also the styling. And everything.

Oh, and I did a podcast! I know that's the last sentence anyone needs to utter, now or at any time, quite frankly. But I promise it's not just me talking. It's not a 'haha, me and my friends are so funny, people would LOVE to listen to us just chat!' type podcast. Because there are more than enough of those, thank you very much.

The STAUNCH Podcast basically consists of interviews with interesting people who are far older and wiser than I am. Featuring stories and life advice and general chat. It was such an enriching experience that I am very grateful for. I honestly think it's a very comforting and reassuring listen. Available now on Anchor and Spotify (other platforms forthcoming), if you'd like to. Let me know what you think!

vendredi 3 avril 2020

Lessons in Isolation

Nobody really needs another hot take on this. But I like to write things down and remember them.

My cancelled book launch seems a long time ago now. However, the book is obviously still available and is the ideal ebook or audio choice at the moment (Cosmo says so, calling it 'a fun and uplifting memoir')! You can also still order via my friends at The Feminist Bookshop if you want to help out a small business.

I am mostly feeling very zen, very lucky and like 'normal' life is now a dim and distant memory.

My attention span seems to be shot and I can barely read. In a way it's quite relaxing. My main leisure pastime at the moment is reading about other people's beauty routines.

Relatedly, I am trying to make isolation feel like a luxe experience, so have developed an elaborate skincare routine and dragged all sorts of treats out from the back of the cupboard (foot exfoliators! pore strips! sparkly nail varnishes!).

I am enjoying the communal feeling of live-streamed events, whether dance classes or gigs. There is something comforting about knowing things are happening in real time.

I now do Joe Wicks PE lesson every morning.

There are tulips coming out in the pots on my little patio. I also do skipping on the patio. This makes me feel very lucky.

I have eaten kitcheree (my nan's old recipe) for my last three meals. I'm pretty happy about this.

I am fantasising about getting all the tattoos when I get out of here, getting my nails done (which I have done maybe twice in my entire life thus far), going on day trips to Hastings and poking through junk shops.

I will almost definitely succumb to the questionable box dye I found in the bathroom cupboard.

I do not think I will have a new book written by the end of this, despite initial optimism.

mardi 10 mars 2020

A few bits about people who are not me.

The Reverend Richard Coles is truly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He was exactly how you would expect/hope him to be. He radiates kindness and warmth, and he is just as interested in people, whether the microphones are switched on or not. This wonderful article really captures a bit of that.

I also recently had the pleasure of chatting to Sally Howard, and I cannot wait to read her new book. It's all about how women in co-habiting heterosexual relationships STILL do the vast majority of the housework, even in partnerships where both partners identify as feminist. Relevant to my interests (and, curiously, to a degree I don't usually admit in public), tbh.

If you're preparing for self-isolation, I would do so by pre-ordering the new book from living legend Holly Bourne.

I'm now embarrassed to admit that I used to be addicted to the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. I haven't looked at it in years now, and my life is much better for it. I'm still surprised when I see friends, colleagues and fellow commuters looking at it, even now when we know the Daily Mail is basically evil, but I do understand we have to get our gossip somewhere. I definitely do. I recommend Lainey Gossip as an ethical way of getting your fix if you are so inclined.

I've unexpectedly become interested in Christian rock (long story) and, particularly, in the singular and unapologetic eccentricities of Joshua S. Porter. This book is not my usual sort of thing but it is fun and interesting.

This is the best film I've seen lately, recommended by my friend Jess. Both of the main actors are great in it, but I was particularly struck by the character of Jake, who seemed like a real-life person I would go out with. He was sensitive and sexy in a goofy way. It made me think about how rare this is to see on film.

I'm a bit obsessed with Cash Carraway. Her brilliant memoir is now out in paperback and you should definitely buy it.

Oh and, because I'm pretty self-absorbed during this final run-up to publication, this was in the Telegraph at the weekend.

Finally, I wrote an essay for my evening class that ended up (unexpectedly) being about this current 'be kind' trend. It's clearly well-intentioned, but feels so hollow and useless. We all already think we are kind; we need to examine our own prejudices and beliefs about who deserves our kindness. We need to think about a much more nuanced understanding of empathy. A few days after I handed it in, Eva Wiseman (incidentally, one of my very favourite journalists), tackled the same subject much better than I could.

vendredi 28 février 2020

What we do.

It's been so long since I have written anything here! However - just for myself - I would like to keep this little diary going.

Since I last checked in, I spent Christmas in Iceland, which was delightful. 2020 has begun in a way that I cannot believe. I keep consciously reminding myself to make the most of it, to enjoy it.

STAUNCH comes out in hardback and audiobook on 19th March. If you are considering reading it at any point, preordering it is a MASSIVE help to writers and I will be eternally grateful (thank you). It's available from all the usual places, but I like to buy books from Hive if ordering online.

I spent two days in a small room in Kilburn with a view of a graveyard, recording the audiobook. I was really nervous and thought reading my weird book out loud in its entirety might feel really uncomfortable. In fact, it was a very positive, fun and quite cathartic experience. This was mostly down to Jack Beattie, the producer, who was a joy and to whom I am very grateful. If the idea of hearing my actual voice for 6 hours and 43 minutes is remotely appealing, the audiobook is also available to preorder!

After that, I went straight to the Roundhouse (where, ridiculously, I had never actually set foot inside before - it's such a lovely venue). To see California's finest beach goths, The Growlers. That was really fun.

From there, I went pretty much straight to the BBC, where (in a real 'what even is this crazy wonderful life?' experience) I was a guest on Radio 4 Saturday Live! I was interviewed about STAUNCH by the lovely Reverend Richard Coles, who was just as delightful in person as you would hope. He is just as interested in people whether the microphones are on or not. I was a guest alongside some really cool people: Zawe Ashton, Amit Patel (and Kika, who made the whole experience extra fun) and a guy called Bob who lives off-grid in a converted bus and kept trying to sneak off to smoke. It was awesome. You can listen on catch-up here!

After that, I went home for a very long sleep. Having had an early morning at the BBC and a lot of coffee, I was home by lunchtime, which felt very surreal!

I ate vegan pancakes on pancake day (the most wonderful time of the year). I did yoga every single day in January.

I am now gearing up for publication time. I am having a launch party at The Feminist Bookshop (the place of dreams) on publication day. There will be (vegan) cake (and vegan gluten-free brownies).

I am still not drinking, almost nine months now. I am in phase 2 of my evening classes.

I have a piece in Red magazine this month (April), as part of their 'family' issue. A bit of another dream come true, really - it's such a lovely magazine with great writers.

With a bit of luck in the current climate, I will be going to Abu Dhabi next week. Then back just in time to launch my book into the world.

I'm booking future holidays, as I might feel depressed when the book is out there and that's it (but I'm not sure I will, this time). I think the key to happiness is having things to look forward to. I know I am very, very lucky to be able to live like this. I haven't always been able to and I appreciate it. As someone who is so focused on the future, these days I also make an effort just to be happy in a quiet moment. It's amazing how much the ordinary can delight me these days. Coffee, cats, a book, clean bedding, gratitude every morning. Again, it hasn't always been so. I am very, very lucky.