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Saturday, 29 November 2014

If You Go





If you go to Kendal, you might meet Anne and Bernard. They're a couple. Anne has the eyes of an owl that are full of tough love and she knows exactly what kind of knee-length skirt she likes to wear. Bernard wears his black polyester trousers high, high up on his waist. In the morning, at breakfast, Bernard will ask you questions about this and that. Afterwards, there might be an early morning silence that lasts for seven or eight seconds. And then Bernard might say, right, I'd better go and help Anne with the toast then. The thing about Anne and Bernard is that once, a man stayed in their house who kept screaming at night and they didn't know what to do about it.


If you go to Carlisle, you might meet Christine. She's got a huge TV in her lounge and she watches Don't Tell the Bride while she does the ironing. When you first meet Christine, you might think she's too tired and angry to talk to you, but that's not true; she's just thinking about her kids, that's all. And as soon as you say, thanks, Christine, she'll make an expression on her face that's embarrassed and teenagery and quite beautiful. The thing about Christine is that the people around her steal her share of the deep breaths and it's not fair.


If you go to Stornoway, you might meet David. David doesn't know where to stand or where to look or who he is. You might mistake his depression for laziness. And you might get cross with him for things like his mumbling voice or his lack of motivation. But then, he might do a really small, human thing. For example, he might want to shake your hand and say sorry with his eyes, and then you'll picture him eating a sandwich on his own and you'll feel the kind of pity for him that you feel towards your parents sometimes. The thing about David is that he's got to remember that what he doesn't do is as much his responsibility as what he does do. 


If you go to Stranraer, you might meet Ellen and Fred. Ellen has a lovely smell and likes a chat and Fred is the kind of person whose kindness makes your neck ache. They live with their son and his laptop. Fred is recovering from a bad accident at work and Ellen can't wait to go to Lanzarote. Their house is surrounded by grey concrete and grey sky, and the grey sea is just down the road. The thing about Ellen and Fred is that they've definitely thought about compensation, but, truth be told, they just don't really want to go down that road for the time being and that's that.


If you go to Greenock, you might meet Georgina. If you ask Georgina one small, polite question, all sorts of things will come out of her mouth in response, and you won't be allowed to move. You might be forgiven for thinking that Georgina's tears are fake, even though you know they're not. It's hard to explain. When Georgina's about, you might become a human shield for the other people in the room. The thing about Georgina, is that she probably needed someone to be a human shield for her once but, for one reason or another, it just didn't work.


If you go to Ullapool, you might meet Fran. You might sit down and make her a cup of tea and ask her about herself. And she'll tell you the peripheral things. And then, she might suddenly think of a piece of music, and one of those silences might happen where everything feels delicate and breakable and breath-held. And you might touch her arm and give it a soft squeeze because you know that she's weeping. And she'll be weeping in a way that only a heartbroken mother can weep. The thing about Fran is that she'll always turn up, no matter how painful it might be.


If you go to Findhorn, you might meet Gerry. You'll meet his wife, too, and Gerry will patronise her and lie to her face in front of you. Gerry thinks he's super chilled and super in touch with nature but he is super neither of these things. Gerry is full of information and facts that are, inadvertently, all about him and how good he is at his job. He thinks that his job is the most important job in Findhorn and that he is the boss of all the jobs around including your job. The thing about Gerry is that he doesn't know what his job is or how to do it.


If you go to Inverness, you might meet Hal. He lives in a house full of notices that he's stenciled himself and stuck to the walls, and there's a tiny water feature in his lounge that makes a batteries-about-to-run-out noise. Hal practices classical guitar and talks to the news and goes to church with a cap on. You might imagine Hal standing in front of the mirror in his room, striking the poses of various super heroes and screaming at his mother and feeling incredibly powerful. You might think that he does all of this before he's even had breakfast. The thing about Hal is that he's been on the verge of breaking through it all and smashing the place up since he was nine years old.


If you go to Hawick, you might meet Iris. You might be told all sorts of things about Iris by other people while Iris is sitting right next to you. And then, you might turn to look at Iris and give her a smile and a wink and she might burst into song. And after that, Iris might be very quiet again. And you might look at her again and think who did you used to be, Iris? And, quite soon after you've realised it's none of your business, Iris might tell you a story about her favourite person. The thing about Iris is that she's learned how to sit with her coat on in a really hot room and not make a fuss.


If you go to Ayr, you might meet James. It's difficult to know how old James is because of his flawless complexion. James looks haunted by pain and racked with guilt. Sometimes, James tells you that he's a bad man and that he deserves to be dead. You can imagine him playing a saxophone on a train in America, but not for money. Or, you can imagine him standing by a window, looking out at the woman he loves finally leaving him for good. The thing about James is that he could crush a man to death with fierce, fierce love and not say sorry about it for years.


If you go to Peterlee, you might meet Kelly. At first, she might look at you a bit funny and, actually, it'll be fair enough, because you might be rearranging things in her bar without asking. Kelly drinks a bit too much and doesn't eat properly. She doesn't ask questions very often but if you talk to her about something you've done, you'll notice that she listens with her eyes, and not a lot of people do that. The thing about Kelly is that when you say goodbye to her after having known her for about an hour, she'll give you one of the most honest and unassuming hugs of your life.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Any Day Now

When Julie is nine years old, it gets to be the winter. And it's the kind of winter where the darkness is all the time, and not just outside. The darkness is everywhere, all around everything, and in the spirit and the bones and the blood of things. All the sounds are dark, all the silences are dark. And it's dark inside Julie, too. And she imagines this darkness inside her and she can picture it and she can feel how big and important it is and she knows that it didn't even start off small. 

And Julie realises that this dark winter is the time she'll die. And so this is what she thinks about every day. And it doesn't go away. And Julie lies in her bed at night, in her dark room during this dark winter and, quite often, she brings her hands up to her face and her hands look frighteningly big. And Julie tells herself that this is happening because her brain is preparing for death by disconnecting from her body. And her body knows it and her brain knows it and Julie knows it. She just absolutely knows it. And she decides not to take deep breaths because she'll jinx it. So she breathes small, shallow breaths that make her lips feel fuzzy.

And Julie doesn't tell anybody apart from God.


And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark, and where car journeys feel like a flu-dream, and the characters in tv cartoons look like they're silent-screaming from a million miles away, Julie finds that she can walk just outside of herself. And while she's doing this, she looks closely at her mother and her brother and her sister, and her teachers and her friends and her non-friends. She looks really closely, even though her body feels far away from all of their bodies. And she doesn't tell anyone that she's going to die but she wants and also doesn't want them to know.

And sometimes, during very quiet indeed times, Julie sees a picture in her own head. And in the picture, there are two things happening at once. And one half of the picture is of herself in the hospital just before the moment of her death, and the other half is of her mother at home thinking about Julie in the hospital just before the moment of her death. And these two halves of the picture flit between each other quite slowly, back and forth and back and forth and Julie feels the feelings of the picture until it's so palpable that she can't bear it anymore. So she snaps herself out of it by doing a jerky movement. But then the picture seeps into her mind again and again and again until somebody interrupts her or until the phone rings.

And Julie doesn't tell anybody, apart from God.

And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark and her body is a cold, delicate temple of symptoms, and where all the things that happen and all the things that are said are definitely an omen, Julie sometimes walks into a room where her mother is crying. And Julie can see the bulging, grief-filled veins on her mother's head, full of stubborn, tenacious blood. And Julie stays very still and quiet and she watches and listens. And she wonders if the blood in those veins on her mother's head is travelling to her heart or away from it. And she thinks about her mother's heart, her actual, real life heart; about what it might feel like to touch that heart, about what the heart might do if Julie shouted at it, about whether or not the heart is going to be ok. And then she hears her own heart, beating in her ears, like a drum wrapped in a dirty blanket. And Julie thinks that she can hear her heart whispering to her, any day now, any day now, any day now.


And Julie remembers to not breathe deeply. Because of jinxing it.

And sometimes, at school, after a whole morning of shallow breathing and prodding at her body to check for clues and thinking about dying in hospital, Julie has to go and sit by the sink with a helper. And when this happens, Julie doesn't want to talk to the helper. So she talks to God instead. Not out loud though. And she's careful not to ask God for too much because she's been told to be careful what you wish for which means omens.


And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark, and her thumbs are cracked and bleeding from nerves, and where visits to the doctor end in sentences like, but, Julie you really don't look like you're dying, Julie dies. Right on her own doorstep. With a cup of milk in her hand. And it's such a surprise. Even though she knew it was going to happen. She just stops breathing. Just like that. Just as she's about to knock on her own front door to be let back in after going over the road to borrow some milk from a neighbour. And after she completely stops breathing, Julie thinks, oh, it's now.

And she doesn't even think about God.

Or anything.

And then some seconds pass.

And then she collapses.

And then it hurts.

And then it's real.

And then it's terrifying.

And then the door opens.

And then, Julie has one of those moments when she feels a new feeling for the first time, even though she's died. But the feeling isn't just one thing, it's an awful amount of things. And a deep, wild sound like a bellow comes out of Julie's mouth from inside her body and the sound is terrific and frightening and has other sounds attached to it. And Julie's arms shake from the vibrations of it all and she's lifted up from the ground and carried in soft arms to a soft chair and laid down gently on her trembling back. And a cool hand is pressed to her face which is a very hot face for someone who's just died, and a pair of strong, friendly thumbs wipe away Julie's sticky tears. And then eight, careful fingers team up with the thumbs to make a pair of grown-up hands, and the hands travel down the back of Julie's little neck to her pointy shoulder blades. And the grown-up hands gently push Julie onto her side. And the sweet smelling arms that the hands belong to wrap themselves around Julie's shivering bones and start to push and pull and push and pull, slowly and without too much fuss. And a sound that says, shhhh comes out of the mouth of this human rocking chair and the slow, tired, heartbroken voice of her mother whispers into Julie's bright red ear, what are we going to do with you, hmmm?

Monday, 26 May 2014

#TORYCORE

It doesn't really matter if this conversation happened or not; that's not the point:



Did you enjoy the show?

Yeah, I really did, I thought it was awesome.

Did it make you angry?

Yeah, it did make me angry. I mean I was angry before and I spent a long time feeling really angry about all these things, and yes, the show brought that up again. But, actually...

What?

I'm not sure how to say it

Go on

Well, I was really moved, too. Like, some of those words were so completely disgusting; that speech about troubled families - it's so fucking violent. But watching the way that it was performed, and looking at Lucy Ellinson's face, especially after the minute of rage for Paul Reekie. It was kind of beautiful, too. And really sad and upsetting. But...

What?

I don't know, I don't know how to say it

Go on

I just can't help thinking that there might be people in this room - people who saw the show - who would say that they thought it was really powerful and necessary but who would also, when pushed, reveal some pretty dubious political views about some things. That's what makes me angry about this stuff. Do you know what I mean?

Really?

Definitely. Do you not think so?

I don't know. I mean most of the people here are artists

So? Tracey Emin's  an artist

Yeah

I'm not necessarily saying that there are people here who are openly right wing. I mean, maybe there are, but that's not the point I'm making; I'm just saying that often, when you get down to the bare bones of stuff, people tend to reveal what they really think, don't they? I mean, I've had lots of conversations with people who have told me that they hate the government and that they identify as left wing and that they're passionate about equality and justice. But then, some of those people, when questioned beyond a certain point, have said stuff about welfare and immigration and women and education and the poor that completely goes against the politics they say that they identify with. And I'm talking about people who call themselves left wing artists. And the worst thing about it is that it doesn't really surprise me. And, yeah, I'm probably being judgemental, and maybe I'm wrong, but one of the things I was thinking when I was watching the show tonight was, I wonder how many people here might just be a bit of a Tory underneath it all. Maybe not people in this particular room, but in rooms like this. You know?

I don't know about that, dude. Do you really think that? In a room full of people like this?

Yeah, I really do. But I also think - and maybe this is arrogant and patronising - that a lot of the time, these views come from a place of genuine ignorance and fear

What do you mean?

Well, I've had quite a few conversations with people who say they identify as left wing but who have then displayed right wing views around immigration, for example, and then it becomes clear, as the conversation has developed, that they literally don't know what they're talking about and their facts are completely wrong and that they're just saying the things they're saying because it seems to make sense in a kind of A to B sort of way. The same goes for conversations about welfare and race and feminism. People are afraid to say, 'actually, I don't know what I think about that' so they just start talking without thinking things through. And I reckon that there will have been people who watched the show tonight who will tell you that they thought it was brilliant but who might, on another day, in a conversation about social policy, tell you that they think the Human Rights Act should be scrapped

I don't know. I think that's pretty negative. It's a pretty negative thing to say about the show as well, no?

Yeah, It is negative. It's really negative. But, the negativity isn't about the show. It's a thing that I think happens a lot in all sorts of contexts. And I think it happens for loads of reasons like propaganda and laziness and the fact that people are easily influenced and scared to challenge and be challenged and all that stuff. But I think one of the main Tory hooks is the language that's used in all the rhetoric; like 'hardworking people' and all the weird stuff they say about 'fairness'. I was talking to one of the performers earlier about that 'problem family speech' and we were talking about how the phrase 'problem family' is just another way of saying 'scum'. And these are people who have nothing; they're completely disenfranchised. That speech was like an act of violence against those people because they can't fight back. And the reason they can't fight back is because they don't have a fucking voice.

I'm getting a drink now.

WATCH VIDEO

Monday, 21 April 2014

Food Banks

It's SUCH A LAUGH having to use a food bank. Here is why:

Your benefits stop for a reason you don't understand. You don't even get a letter about it so you don't find out that this has happened until you realise that you can't get any money out to buy food. So, you decide to go to an advice centre for help.

You walk through the door of the advice centre and wait in the waiting area to talk to the receptionist but the receptionist is really busy trying to help someone in crisis who is screaming so you end up waiting for about an hour. You probably have a little cry.

When it's your turn to talk to the receptionist, you're told that, unfortunately, because the advice centre is so busy, you can't be seen that day and that you should come back the day after tomorrow when there is another drop-in. But, you're also told that, in order to have a good chance of being seen when you next attend, it would be better for you to turn up about an hour before the advice centre opens.

So, the next time you go to the advice centre, you get there at half past eight in the morning and wait outside in the cold and rain feeling a bit  humiliated as people on their way to work stare at you. You have another little cry.

When the advice centre opens at ten o'clock, you get given a slot to see an adviser. But you still have to wait quite a while to be seen because, even though you arrived at the advice centre really early, there were other people who were even earlier than you. Your slot with the adviser is at about half past eleven. You could go and buy yourself a cup of tea while you wait but, actually, you can't do that because you haven't got any money.

The adviser, who's a really nice woman, asks you some questions about your situation. She doesn't ask you for any ID because that's not her job and she's not the police and because why does she need to? You're just a person in a bad situation getting advice from a local advice centre, just like most people who go to advice centres (sometimes people go to advice centres for other reasons, like confusion or just pure loneliness; but people don't really go to advice centres to get free stuff that they're not entitled to, so that's why the people who work in them don't ask for ID. Oh, and because most people tend to just, you know, tell the truth). You answer the woman's questions honestly and thoroughly but some of the things you're asked about are really hard to answer because you feel a bit ashamed. You have another little cry. The nice woman gives you a tissue. 

You tell the woman that your benefits have stopped and she calls the benefits department to try to find out why it's happened. But, when she gets through, she's told that it's all a bit complicated so a manager will call her back within five working days.

The woman tells you that there isn't an answer to your problem right now but that she'll keep in touch with you and let you know as soon as she's heard anything.

You tell the woman that you're worried about how you're going to eat. She says that there's a food bank a few miles down the road. This makes you feel a bit funny because you're not sure that you feel comfortable using one of those. But the woman is really nice to you and tells you that she understands that you might feel a bit weird about it but that you really should use the food bank if you need to because that's what it's there for. And then she gives you a voucher to use when you get there. She also gives you another tissue because you're crying again.

That afternoon, you go to the food bank and get given a few bags of food that should hopefully see you through the week. While you're at the food bank waiting to be seen (it takes a few hours to see someone because it's really busy), you pick up a copy of the Mail on Sunday and read an article about a reporter who went under cover to get food from a food bank. This is what what the article says:

Staff at Nottingham’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau handed out a food bank voucher to an undercover Mail on Sunday reporter entitling him to a generous three days' worth of shopping – without even asking for any identification.
Our reporter Ross Slater ... arrived at the CAB office near the city’s railway station to enquire about food vouchers. After filling out a form giving his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for the visit, the reporter was told to wait for an assessor to interview him.
The woman, called Katherine, who was in her 60s, asked our reporter a series of questions about why the food bank vouchers were needed.
He explained he had been unemployed for a few months and had been caught out by higher than expected winter fuel bills and was strapped for cash and food. He added that his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children to care for. After asking for details of how much Jobseekers’ Allowance was received, the assessor’s questions turned to the dietary requirements of the reporter and his family.
Katherine asked our man  to wait while she found out which food bank would be able to help him and then returned with an official voucher signed by the centre’s manager, Sarah Webber.
From there the reporter  was sent to the Trussell Trust-run food bank at St Philip’s Church in Bulwell, Nottingham, where he presented the voucher to  one of several helpers.
Within minutes he was given four shopping bags bursting with essentials – about £40 worth of groceries.
These included basics such as bread, sugar and pasta, as well as less essential items such chocolate pudding.
After inviting the reporter  to help himself to the soap, toothpaste and hot dog rolls they had spare, the volunteers wished him a Happy Easter and he staggered out of the church with his bags. He later returned the goods.
Last night the Trussell Trust said any distributor found to be providing vouchers to people not in genuine need would receive extra training.

And then, you get quite confused because, apart from the stuff about the wife and kids, the story that the reporter in this article gave about himself is almost exactly the same as yours. And, you don't think you're stupid but you're pretty sure that everything you said about yourself means that you're entitled to a food bank voucher. And you're also pretty sure that the people who work at advice centres are supposed to just believe what their clients tell them because, surely somebody who didn't really need a food bank voucher wouldn't spend three days trying to see an adviser at an advice centre, spend quite a long time filling in forms, walk for five miles to queue up at a food bank and then wait for another two hours to be given a few bags of food that they didn't need? Nobody would do that just for a bit of a jolly, would they?


T H A T     W O U L D     B E     C R A Z Y !

So, you don't really GET what this article is TRYING TO DO.

So, you try to dismiss it. But it's hard to do that because the article has made you feel ashamed, guilty, paranoid, judged and demonised.

But mostly, you just feel hungry, so you put the paper down and pick up your bags of food.

And you thank the people at the food bank very much and start the long walk home.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Eavesdrop #14

A young woman is on a bus, talking on her phone


Hiya

...

Just had a orange for breakfast

...

Yeah, just a orange

...

Well, my diet's quite high in sugar anyway so, I just thought, fruit's supposed to make you feel better, isn't it? So I just thought I'd have a orange instead of other sugary stuff.

...

Yeah

...

But I'm really craving fruit at the moment anyway

...

Yeah, I'm craving it loads. What fruit do you think I should I eat?

...

Yeah

...

Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries

...

What's that other one?

...

No, I haven't heard of that

...

Anyway, I'm really craving fruit, I can't stop thinking about it

...

Bananas?

...

No way

...

I mean, if you forced me to eat one, I probably would but...

...

Yeah

...

Yeah

...

Yeah

...

Robbie told his parents yesterday

...

They were really happy

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Peacocks

Think back

Go on

How old are you?

About eight?

Yeah, about eight

And you're ok, you are

All in all

It's probably the summer

That's why it's still light at 7pm

You've just got out of the car

And there are two peacocks in the car park

The ones with all the coloured feathers

Man ones

You're holding three bags of doughnuts

For the doghnut eating competition

(Where you have to eat a whole doughnut without licking your lips) 

At the youth club for kids in care where your mum works

You're not really supposed to be here

But your mum's boss has turned a blind eye

Because of what your mum's been through recently

Oh, look

There's Samantha

You don't know her yet

She comes to talk to you as soon as she sees you

She tells you she's 14

(Wow, you think)

And that she's been coming here for two years

And that she has Down's Syndrome

And that she's been in 12 foster homes

And that the reason she's been in so many

Is that people can't cope with her

They couldn't cope with me, says Samantha

I have aggression

What kind? You ask

Just the normal kind, she says

Samantha looks at you quite a lot

And you look back at her just as much

She asks you why you're here

And you don't know what to say

Samantha says, are you in care?

And after about five seconds

You shake your head

Samantha holds your hand

And takes you inside

And makes you a Ribena

And she says, you're really kind to me

As she passes it to you

And you win the doughnut eating competition

Even though you cheat



Now

Fast forward about 15 years

You're eating a school dinner

In a school hall

You've just performed a show for some of the kids

Oh, look

There's Amy

You don't know her yet

But she comes to talk to you as soon as she sees you

She tells you that she's 12

And that she's been at this school since September

And that there's a girl on her bus who wants to beat her up

And that she's been in about seven different foster homes

And that she's never met her dad

And that she really liked the show

You ask her what her favourite part of the show was

She says she liked the whole thing

She tells you that the reason she's been in so many foster homes

Is that people can't cope with her

They couldn't cope with me, she says

Because of aggression and anger

She tells you all about it

The words that she uses to describe herself

Are words that she's heard adults using about her

Antisocial

Hyperactive

Attention seeking

Difficulty bonding

Acting out

She tells you that she misses her mum

But that her mum had to give her up

For loads of reasons

And that she only sees her every now and again

She tells you that she's been told she'd be a good social worker

You ask her if that's what she wants to be

And she laughs in your face

And says, no way

And she pulls her tights right up to her waist

And asks you if you can come and do a show every week

She doesn't really look at you when she's speaking to you

But that's ok

You get it

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Lessons

You may have heard the recent story about Lydia Huhne headbutting a taxi driver who was trying to sexually assault her. Ms Huhne was on her way home from a party when the attack took place and managed to fend off the attacker and force him to unlock the doors of the taxi so that she could escape.

Ms Huhne was invited onto Jeremy Vine's show on BBC Radio 2 today to talk about the attack where she described, in detail, what happened to her. After this, Mr Vine asked Ms Huhne the following question:

'So, what's the lesson for you?'

To which Ms Huhne gave this response:

Well, when women are attacked or sexually assaulted, they need to learn lessons afterwards, don't they? Which is obviously why you asked me what my lesson has been, isn't it? So, I think the lesson for me in all of this is that, before this happened to me, I really didn't try hard enough to avoid being raped.

Avoiding being raped is really important because, as a woman, I have a responsibility to make sure that I don't put myself in situations where a rape could happen. And, because this is the 21st Century and we're all a lot more enlightened about sexual violence these days, we all know that rape can happen absolutely anywhere to anybody. So, because rape can happen absolutely anywhere to anybody and because it's my job to avoid being raped, one of the lessons I've learned is that I should probably never do anything ever again. I didn't really understand that before but now I totally do. I think it's really, really important for us to try our best to perpetuate the myth that women are, in part, responsible for an attack like the one that happened to me.

But, I think for me, the main lesson has been that I need to have a very serious think about whether or not to carry on having a vagina. Because, let's face it, it's having a vagina that gets you raped: having a vagina and then the vagina making you do incredibly rape-inducing and vaginary things like going out to celebrate a friend's birthday in a vaginary way and having some glasses of wine but doing it in a way that really shows off the fact that you're thinking with your vagina, and then deciding you want to go home now because your vagina said so and then having the idea to go home in a taxi with a taxi driver who is a man because your vagina is attention seeking. And now, after all this has happened, it's really obvious to me that I if I didn't have a vagina, I would be much less likely to be raped so I'm going to seriously look into not having one any more. I LOVE LESSONS!

That wasn't really Ms Huhne's response but IMAGINE HOW GOOD IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IF IT WAS.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

Oh, Amy...

Hi, Amy Anka! Your recent blog in the Huffington Post about the 15 things women should do to feel more confident was super informative and overly interesting.
Just a few questions / notes. I've reprinted all your points below to make it easier for me to make my points. My notes are in bold, FYI.
1. Remove all of your body hair. Legs, underarms, Brazilian. In fact, you should always keep yourself groomed in this manner. You're a woman, not a man. You'll feel better for it.
Ok. I've removed it all. Now I have four bin bags of body hair. What should I do with it? Shall I take it to a charity shop? Or, shall I buy some fabric and make some tasteful cushions? Or, should I eat it, as part of a cleanse? Also, I'm quite cold. But I definitely feel better for it because, just now, after I removed all my body hair, I went to the shop to buy some pain killers and I got called 'madam' for the first time EVER. Which means I'm a woman, not a man, right? It felt so fucking good. Maybe now I'll be able to make some friends and get a job and form some of my own opinions about stuff, too. THANK YOU AMY.
2. Do your hair. Wash it, style it. Make sure it's coloured if you have roots showing. Or worse yet, greys. If you don't have time, wear a cool hat (my trademark, given my hate for taking a brush to my mane). If you don't have time to wash it, use dry shampoo, or put it in a top knot. Top knots are cool too. It shows off your face and your d├ęcolletage (and stops you from twirling your hair around your finger like an anxious teenager).
Question: am I allowed to use the hair I've removed from my body to cover up my roots? Next question: are any of these hats cool?



3. Put on makeup. Even if it's just a little bit. I find even a little concealer, mascara and lipgloss works wonders. Also, the winged eyeliner look is always a classic when in doubt. It will open up those peepers. And for some reason, red lipstick makes you feel more confident too.
So, there are quite a few things I'm IN DOUBT about at the moment. For example, I have doubts about whether or not I'll be making enough money this year. Also, I have doubts about whether or not I should go away for a week in March. I also have doubts about some eggs I've just eaten. Are you saying that if I adopt the winged eyeliner look, all these doubts will be remedied? And is this look only A CLASSIC when people are in doubt? What happens if people adopt the winged eyeliner look when they're not really in doubt about anything? Do bad things happen? Also, did you get that fact about red lipstick from a science book? I think I love you.
4. Wear jewelry. But not too much. There really is such a thing as too much jewelry. I personally always stick to my diamond crucifix necklace (I've worn a crucifix since my first holy communion when I was around 8 - in fact, it never comes off), a pair of diamond stud earrings, and a gold man style watch. I'm very set in my ways. And simple is always best. Less really is more.
OMG, you are so right about there being such a thing as too much jewelry; I really GET WHAT YOU MEAN BY THAT. Also, I had a first holy communion when I was eight, as well! It was SO FUN. I got FUCKING WASTED. I have a crucifix too but mine is upside down and has a weird vibe and a bit of blood on it. I think we have really similar taste, Amy. We should totally meet up and talk STYLE over a water and some celery. Also, I think it's really cool that you have a watch in the shape of a gold man. WHERE DID YOU GET IT!?
5. Dress up. Wear something that you feel good in. Wear something that shows off your best assets. Have nice toned legs? Wear a cute pair of shorts. A tiny waist? Wear something to accentuate it. And if you're having a fat day? Maxi-dresses all the way. In fact, my favourite go to outfit, is a maxi-dress and a blazer. It never goes out of style.
Oh, it's such a shame that the rest of point 5 didn't get printed because of an editing mistake, isn't it? Because now we don't know how to dress up if we have a really large waist and thick ankles and massive boobs and every day is a 'fat day'. Can you email it over? Ta.
6. Wear a fake tan if you want to appear slimmer. Whilst I am perpetually tanned, given my olive skin and my love of the beach and the outdoors (I actually look like a little native of some remote island in the Pacific), and have actually never had a fake tan done, my friends that have, always look fabulous. It gives you that healthy glow. And appear a few kilos lighter.
Should black people wear fake tan, too? Can you let me know? Also, which remote island in the Pacific do you look native of? I'm only asking because I've just had a quick look at pictures of natives from various Pacific islands and they all look super different. 
7. Wear heels. It makes your legs look better, and makes you walk more femininely. I often try to wear heels, mostly because I am the height of a child, and would be bumping my head on coffee tables if I didn't. If you're not wearing heels, wear a cute pair of flats. But make sure those hooves are pedicured.
Right, so I should definitely wear heels but if I don't wear heels, I should wear not-heels. So, in a nutshell: I should wear shoes. Got it. Also, do you really have HOOVES? Wow. You are so fucking subversive, I can't take it (in a good way).
8. Wear "power knickers". Sounds stupid right? Not really. Surely you have a favourite pair? I have a pair of red knickers that I wear if I'm feeling as though I'm lacking confidence. It's just a placebo effect really, but for some reason, I feel better when I wear them. And like I always say, whatever gets you to where you need to go.
Oh, I get it, so power knickers are literally powered, yes? Because they get you where you need to go? But what happens if you've worn your powered knickers for one day and then you put them in the wash and then the next day you wear some non-powered knickers and then half way through that second day you start to feel lacking in confidence? Do you just have to go with it? Or can non-powered knickers become powered through breathing exercises? Or batteries?
9. Also wear nice underwear regardless. If you're wearing something tight, wear seamless underwear - not NO underwear. And if you have next to no breasts like me, and choose to skip wearing a bra, first make sure your outfit isn't see-through, and for Gods sake, use Hollywood tape.
Don't blaspheme, Amy. It's not lady-like.
10. Paint your fingernails and toenails. And paint them the same colour. Red or black is always a winner. It's timeless and classy. And keep your nails short too. You don't want to be rivalling an extra from a low budget porno with super long talons. And it's unhygienic too come to think of it.
That joke you just made about pornos was MEGALOLS.
11. Wear perfume. Find your signature scent. I have been wearing Issey Miyake for 20 years now. It's my thing. And smells invoke memories. You'll leave a lasting impression.
EVOKE.
12. Moisturise your skin. Not just your face. Your entire body. I have Palmers Cocoa Butter in my bathroom, and I slather myself in it after each shower. You need to take care of your skin. And it will keep it nice and soft too. And again - YOU'RE A WOMAN.
I don't understand the last sentence.
13. Use eye drops. This is my secret. I use them every day. The eyes are the window to your soul. Or so they say. It will whiten them, making you look well rested, and give you that little twinkle to your eyes. Your eye makeup will look better too.
So, you have to use eye drops because eyes are the windows to the soul. And then you said, 'or so they say' which means that the eyes being the windows to the soul hasn't been proven yet. Which means that, actually, ANYWHERE could be the window to the soul. So, what say you to the idea of putting eye drops all over your body until the window to the soul has definitely been found? Let me know if you think that's bad.
14. Make sure you talk. I'm a big talker. I'm highly communicative. Don't let your nerves overcome you and sit there like a mute. But most importantly, listen. A conversation should be like a tennis match.
Match tennis a like be should conversation a. Listen importantly, most but. Mute a like there sit and you overcome nerves your let don't. Communicative highly I'm. Talker big a I'm. Talk you sure make. 
Am I right?
15. And finally, relax. Don't overthink things. Go with the flow. Try not to fidget (I personally have a bad habit of twisting my stud earrings when I'm nervous or shy). Laugh. Be expressive. Show emotion. And most importantly, be yourself.
Okey dokey. So, as long as I have removed all my body hair, made sure that the hair on my head is looking good with no greys and no roots showing (or, if they are, there's a cool hat on my head), I've got make-up, jewelry, clothes and shoes on, as well as a fake tan, I have a pair of battery-powered knickers to hand should I start to feel lacking in confidence, I'm wearing a bra, have painted nails, I smell nice, have smooth skin, I've polished the window to my soul (wherever it may be) and I know how to talk, I can totally relax. And when I've done all of that, I will feel more confident? Because I'll be being myself? You're the greatest. xxx
But, what's weird is this: looking back over the last 15 years or so, I reckon that the times when I haven't really done any of the things you suggest - you know, times when I've just sat about with lovely people, eating jam sandwiches and farting and not washing very much - have been some of the happiest times of my life. So now, after reading your blog, I feel like I don't really understand what anything means. 

Am I in denial?

Might I need to go to an ashram?