All Manner of Things Shall Be Well



So if anybody is wondering I am still alive, still writing, still re-enacting, still making things.

To be fair, at the end of last year and the beginning of this year I had lost my mojo more than a little. The lupus was crappy, I had too many things to do and not enough time to do them in, and – you know that thing where you go it’s never going to get any better and life is going to be a horrible chaos forever? – or that may just be something that the children of alcoholics do, we didn’t cause it and we can’t cure it but before God we’re gonna try like hell to control AALLLL THE THINGS…..

And so I stopped. I stopped writing for about a month, I stopped being a fabric fiend, I stopped planting things and I think probably for a few days right about the depths of midwinter I stopped being hopeful about anything at all.

Well, midwinter passes. (Do I think it’s seasonal? Damn’ right I do.) Things start to thaw out, and the world turns. I read a book, the other day.

That actually is a thing. I read a whole book. That’s not something I’ve wanted to do for months. (I’m currently reading the new Shardlake book and finding it bloody tough going, but it seems from the Amazon reviews that I’m not alone in that, so I may curl up with the much livelier “In This House of Brede” as a lovely comfort read instead. And really, Mr Shardlake, if a book about a woman becoming a nun in the 1960s is more exciting than your current adventure, you want to give yourself a stern talking to…)

I practice gratitude. The two nesting blackbirds currently under my window. Big hugs from my boys (the big one and the little one) The cats – all the cats, even the hideously noisy Obelix aka the Tank, who is built like a Jack Russell Terrier and likes to share the love while you’re having a wee. Sunlight, and growing things, and the ability to create, again.

I’m excited about re-enactment again. I’m excited about textiles again – my lovely man has built me a two-beam loom, I mean, how much better a present can you get than a Roman two-beam loom scratch built? – I’m excited about weaving and Roman cooking and I’m starting to get a little bit excited about writing again.

I’m back, I think. Maybe not all the way back but some of the way back….






The Eye Of the Beholder

You will notice, if you read my blog or follow my Facebook page, that I will do almost anything but post photos of myself.

And, you know, you might think that’s a silly female vanity, the authorial equivalent of “does my bum look big in this?” – an affectation.

And you might also think well, hang on, this lass writes about a romantic lead with a conspicuous facial disfigurement, with a degree of authority. I wonder if that’s significant?

Once upon a time, you see, there was a girl who was pretty, who had perfect porcelain skin. And attracting men was a sport – “the night I pulled ten guys one after another in the Ritz Ballroom”. I didn’t have to be kind, I didn’t have to be thoughtful, I didn’t have to be clever or considerate or thoughtful. I was just – pretty. First thing in the morning, I was pretty in smeared eyeliner. Last thing at night, I was pretty and glamorously raddled.

I was not kind.

I didn’t need to be, because I was pretty. I could have all the attention I craved, just by having big green eyes and a slightly forlorn droop to my mouth and good cheekbones.

I don’t think I ever didn’t get – even if only briefly – a man I wanted. I think it would have done me the world of good if I had. It would have taught me a little humility, I think: that just looking the way I did, did not guarantee me any preferential treatment.

And then one day I wasn’t. All the things I took for granted – that I could go out to a nightclub with a pound in my purse and no cigarettes, in the sure and certain knowledge that someone else would buy my drinks: not bothering to be on time,because the pleasure of my beauty was enough, or to be particularly civil to people I didn’t like – I suddenly had to learn all those things, fast and hard. People had always wanted to be my friend, not for the pleasure of my company, but because of how I looked. Being the friend of the most beautiful girl in the world has its perks. Being the man who dated the most beautiful girl in the world… Well, you get the idea.

And then suddenly this girl who had never had to conform, had never had to learn to please or flatter or charm, had to grow a personality.

Which I did, and it’s not a bad one: it has a certain wry dark humour that it had not previous, a degree of self-mockery that would have outraged that proud beauty.

The irony of rosacea is not lost on me: old age wouldn’t have troubled me – doesn’t trouble me – I still have good bones, and big green eyes and a slightly forlorn droop to my mouth and good cheekbones.

Even a tragic disfiguring scar like Russell’s would have its own ruined glamour.

Instead, it’s spots. Blisters and rawness and a burned-looking redness, patches where the skin is dry and it cracks like plaster next to teenage zits.

Sometimes it looks okay, sometimes I can cover it up with makeup and people don’t think they can pass remarks, no matter how sympathetic, about that girl’s poor face. (Which is not burned, and nor does she have chickenpox.)

Sometimes it gets so miserable and sore that I have to take antibiotics, and it’s itchy and infected and so swollen that those lovely cheekbones I still have disappear.

So – no, there are no photos of me, if I can help it. I don’t mind that I’m not the same beautiful as I was. I’m different- pretty now: I built that new personality quicker than Redrow Homes, and it’s in the charm, now, and the smile and – yeah, it has wrinkles about the eyes and a laugh that can strip paint off walls but what of it? It listens, it’s funny and literate and intelligent and witty and loving.

But you can’t see that in a photo.

Ambition, Madam, Is A Great Man’s Madness

This is kind of a hard post to write, but a friend shared something with me earlier and I think maybe the time has come to step out and say it.

This is me. And I am…not, entirely, wired up right.

Russell, in his wall-eyed thousand yard stare moments, the moments when he is so convinced that the world would be a better place were he not in it: Hollie putting all his weight on a broken wrist to not cry for the loss of his friend, or charging the guns at Edgehill in the hope of ending it all and taking as many of the bastards out with him as he can – they are not just the product of an empathetic author.

I self-harm – I have self-harmed since I was a very little girl, banging my head on radiators because I’d hurt someone and “sorry” wasn’t a big enough word. I self-harm because words are pretty meaningless set beside actions, and sometimes the people you want to hurt don’t deserve the hurting because it’s not their fault they pissed you off. Because sometimes the world is pretty much shit, pretty much all the time, and that can’t be helped. Because sometimes your own hurting is too bloody big to be contained, it is too big and too hurting that you can smile and say, well, never mind, eh?

When I was a teenager – when I wanted to do stuff, when I wanted to be an archivist, when the world was big and exciting – I realised that for reasons that aren’t mine to disclose, I wasn’t going to be allowed to do that. The peas were not going to be allowed to get their heads above sticks. And I very deliberately started to put myself in situations where someone would spare me the active effort of harming myself.

And then none of the things they promised happened, nobody murdered me when I was hitch-hiking, or assaulted me and threw my body into the canal, and I realised that this was what there was and I was stuck with it, and so I made choices – again deliberately – because I wanted to be Just Like Them. I wanted to have what everybody else had. And it made me appallingly unhappy – again, for reasons which are not mine to disclose – no tragic romantic story. only possibly a little mundane one, and the bizarre experience of going to work in choker necklaces to cover a half-hearted attempt at hanging yourself, and weeping on the way to and from work because you didn’t want to go home but you couldn’t bear to be at work either.

And then one day I went to the doctor and he sent me to hospital with a sealed envelope saying “please admit bearer” and that was the point where I thought fuck this: fuck this right off. I can carry on trying to please everyone all the time – don’t notice me. Don’t be angry with me. Don’t make me conspicuous – in a miserable agony, feeling responsible for everyone else, blaming myself for other people’s behaviour.

Or I can run away, and reinvent myself: a new name, a new life, and very,very carefully, the beginning of a new hope.

Well, I’m forty-four now. I am what I am, half nurture and half nature, the mildly fucked-up child of alcoholic parents. I have no idea of spontaneity, and that which I cannot prepare for frightens me. I live on lists, and yet I have a vicious contempt for convention. I’m not a joiner, not a team player, not a socialiser.

And that’s what I am.

So there it is. And it’s not a glamorous story, or a triumph over adversity story, or an inspirational one. It’s just… that’s me, not unbreakable, not quite, but holding. A little tattered, a bit ragged round the edges.But all right. Upright, wi’breeches on.

Not proud of it, not wearing it like my own cloak of zeal, but – it’s all right, you know?

It’s better than the alternative. Being a mad writer is overrated.