Skin

Question: What’s the most annoying thing about having skin? Is it the fact that it is weak and thin, the only thing standing between your innards and the outside world, a horribly breakable membrane? Is it its sensitivity to environmental damage, whether that be cold, central heating, air conditioning, low humidity, excessive humidity, insect bites, gorse bushes, or axe-wielding maniacs?
Does  skin’s weakness to poor diet, food intolerances, and contact allergies get you down? I’m not even starting on the internally generated quirks skin can inflict, from the well known yet remarkably varied and unpredictable reactions to hormonal changes, to auto-immune generated eczema and psoriasis. And there’s a whole catalogue of things that I’m not even medically qualified to mention, although I recommend that anyone curious browses the dermatology section of a medical training textbook sometime. 
 
Annoying skin, while obviously not the worst issue facing humanity, is… annoying. Having a dry flaky face makes me feel less able to face the world. I already have social anxiety, feeling my skin split when I smile doesn’t exactly make social encounters feel mutually rewarding. Eczema makes me itch and then people on public transport back away in case I have fleas. Spots make me feel like an idiot teenager. Wrinkles make me feel like an idiot teenager trapped in the body of an ageing Auntie.
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Me, in the dark, so you can’t see the red flaking skin round my mouth. Cool hat tho.
 
So, in an effort to cure my many, many problems I tried making my own skin stuff. Stuff from shops is all either way too expensive or made of garbage that doesn’t help in any way. And that’s without even starting on the animal testing, plastic packaging, petrochemical byproducts, and so on. Just trying to choose the correct, non-poisonous, effective skincare product is enough to cause a stress-induced breakout. 
 
So the news is that I’m becoming a punchable middle-class hippy cliche making my own skincare line. The good news is that you too can try my stuff. It’s made out of ingredients that I understand, and that are not toxic or massively destructive to the world (as far as is possible while having to negotiate capitalist structures while doing this). I got no illusions of this being an amazing revolutionary act, but it’s my new venture, trying to support positive stuff in the world while unfucking my fucked up skin. Mainly it’s fully reactionary, because fuck looking like I have some kind of face disease and walking around trying to subtly scratch myself under my clothes. 
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The first ever batch of Magical Skin Unfucking Salve. I’m told it smells very pleasant. 
Since I was a kid I’ve loved making potions, and I finally managed to make a useful one. I want to share that joy with the world. I’ve had eczema for years. And I haven’t managed to cure myself, probably because it’s caused by eating dairy, and you can pry my cheese from my cold, dead, horribly blistered hands. But my Unfucking Salve at least gets rid of the pain and inflammation and itching and shame for a while, when steroid creams have long become useless. This may be one of the first practically useful things I have ever created. Sat here now trying to think of any genuinely useful inventions I’ve got to my name, and really drawing a blank. If i can help the increasing legions of people who are annoyed by their skin, cumulatively that could make the world a very slightly better place. And if I can also persuade people to use stuff made out of local, non-carcinogenic, traditionally made ingredients, maybe the environment and humanity will be better off. Of course, burning down Unilever would be more effective, but that would also release a lot of toxins and particulates into the atmosphere, as well as landing me in trouble because ‘arson is illegal’ or some such bullshit. 
So instead of a campaign of pyromania, I’ll now be trying to formulate, alchemize, compound, invent, and whack together, some more beneficial skin stuffs. I’ve got a face cream trialling on myself at the moment, and I’ve had a shockingly low amount of spots so far. Like 2 tiny dots all week, rather than the usual uncountable multitude that outnumbers the very stars. 
In the interests of ethics and scientific enquiry, I’m testing all products on myself, my friends,and my mum. Which is way more ethical than these bunch. For once, I am not the literal worst, and that is quite heartening.
All right, I’m off to research the most environmentally friendly and non-toxic types of lotion containers, because this is my life now. Peace out, and if you have any skincare needs, give me a shout, I could provide you some amazing miraculous snake oil, mates rates, organic, and locally produced.
All I need now is a name for this lil enterprise. Suggestions on a postcard (or in the comments section). Selected winner gets a prize!
Skin

Gratitude List

I fucking hate positive thinking and all that happy pop-psychology become-a-smiling-consumer adjust-yourself-to-a-profoundly-sick-society bullshit.

That brigade seem to have co-opted the concept of gratitude, which kind of sucks, because counting your blessings can be helpful. Especially for people like me, with a very emotion-dependent memory. When I feel bad, my brain only goes to bad things, a never-ending referential wormhole of backwards-looking negativity. So finding something to be grateful for can arrest that spiral.

Today I’ve been feeling like shit, exhausted and coughing, like I’m  an automaton made of lead and my movement mechanisms haven’t been oiled in the last 100 years.

So, here is a gratitude list. Right now, I am grateful for:

  • My room, my own room.
  • My house and my parents and not having to fend for myself in the scary world
  • My brother, who just sent me this and cheered me right up.
  • Babybel.
  • My cool as fuck tarot cards which I’m just getting to know. It’s a journey into a whole new world, and the art there is amazing.
  • I have friends
  • I have a cool Bullet Journal to try organising my life with, and the motivation/capacity to try. I didn’t have that a year ago.
  • Never get bored. So much to do, so much to dream…

 

Ooh, today is my one year anniversary of DBT group! Thank you Facebook memories for reminding me. I can’t believe so much has happened over a year. I’ve met and shared support with amazing people who have become real friends. I think I’ve made progress. If you’d asked me a year ago to make a gratitude list while I was in a mood like this, I’d probably have tried to glass you. You know what, just writing that, I realise that I don’t feel bad anymore. This stupid shit actually works. Anyone reading this who’s kind of on the fence about therapy and trying, because it’s uncool as fuck and also really hard to care when your mental illness is distracting you with how much you hate yourself, you should totally try. As a bitter and cynical person, sometimes you’ve just gotta make an idiot of yourself, do things you think will never work, but do them wholeheartedly, or as heartedly as you can muster, and eventually, something will change. Something you try will have some kind of effect.

I’m not promising miracles, but well…

This was my Card of the Day. http://tarot.ccEverything changes. The wheel always turns.

Gratitude List

2017

Has seen some blessed times, but now I’m sad and sulking for missing my first gig of the year because I’m ill and skint and just not up for doing things. 2016 exhausted me. Had a beautiful time last weekend seeing friends though, drawing on happy memories to drg through. That and plans of better times ahead.

So, here are my plans/goals/wishes for this year:

  • learn to drive
  • cycle regularly
  • more poetry
  • perform at some more places
  • get some performance videos done
  • perform at festivals
  • get my show on the road
  • write a new book of conceptual stuff
  • actualise some visual/video/multimedia creation
  • get some decent boots and walk
  • walk long ways
  • have adventures
  • get strong – lift weights, run, yoga, eat food that isn’t cheese
  • blog and diary and record everything
  • get some proficiency in tarot reading
  • meditation focus
  • graduate from DBT having learned all the skills and able to use them in life
  • carry on helping out at Derbyshire Refugee Soidarity
  • do more Belper stuff
  • get new glasses
  • go foraging
  • get my stupid painful tooth sorted out/stop moaning about the tooth
  • go to more amazing camps and festivals
  • visit many friends, especially the ones I haven’t visited in years
  • learn/revise Basic First Aid
  • learn a few tunes by heart on the tin whistle
  • learn to crochet
  • sell a load of stuff to declutter and fund all this
  • apply for a Masters (finance permitting)
  • don’t drink all the damn time
  • get some independent self sufficiency
  • get some community
  • Edited to add: Run the Tenby Half Marathon again! What am I even doing?! My family talk me into these ridiculous things.

I think  that’s enough to be going on with. I’ve made a start today by putting a couple of things on ebay, and I’ve been keeping organised with a Bullet Journal and to do lists. I know Bullet Journal sounds like an enraging gimmick, but I was doing the basic form for half of last year and found it really helpful,so I’m carrying on. Got no memory in general, so writing it down helps.

Keep your peepers open though folks, maybe some interesting things will happen this year…

2017

Once Again

Today was going to be a list of 2017 goals. Instead, I’ll be reviewing cold and flu remedies, because I’m got some horrible chest cold. I thought I’d escaped the plague epidemics that seemed to ravage the population over the festive season, but apparently not. My immune system held out this long, but it’s now finally given in. I’m sad. Hopefully I can at least help others in the same situation, give you some healing inspiration.

So, here are the remedies I’ve tried.
1. The Gold Standard: Juice of one half lemon. Some slices of ginger. Slices of chilli or dried cayenne flakes. Tbsp honey or other syrupy sweetener. Shove it all in a mug with warm water. 
Makes you feel a lot better. Astringent lemon seems to clear the goo out, chilli clears the sinuses, honey soothes, it’s warm and delicious, you can tweak it to your taste.
For an expert level version, add brandy.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Delicious and healthy. Doesn’t actually cure colds. May dissolve tooth enamel.
2. “Golden Milk”. It was with shame and trepidation that I jumped onto this bandwagon. I can’t remember which specific recipe I used, but a quick Google will throw up hundreds of websites with recipes for this, often touting miraculous (and pretty unsubstantiated) health benefits. Turmeric is genuinely amazing, but it becoming the next fad superfood is annoying. [HIPSTER ALERT] I was into turmeric way before it was cool. Turmeric is cheaper than Savlon and hydrocortisone cream, and is also the basis of my famous instant noodle soup.
Anyway, I made the ‘Golden Milk’. The taste was pleasant but bland, I think I’d need to add more ginger and pepper. It was soothing, I think.  The texture was deeply unpleasant though. Greasy and powdery. But I get that’s what you get when you dump a load of turmeric and cinnamon powder into your drink, and top it off with coconut oil.
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
It did soothe my throat. But it also left a greasy feeling in my mouth from the coconut oil. Maybe I could make it in a less sucky way. Maybe I’ll just make some dhal and eat my turmeric like a normal person.
However, I’m a sucker for magical remedies, so here’s my next plan. This Fire Cider sounds appallingly badass. I’ll keep you posted how that one goes.
3. Tiger Balm I am never without a pot of this stuff. From the sesh to the sickbed, it’ll cure what ails you. Today I’ve been rubbing it on my chest, actually rubbing it around my face when the sinus pain got bad, and it helps. It contains menthol, camphor, cassia, peppermint and cajuput, which is basically all of those ones which burn and make your eyes sting. Which is why my method of applying it to the face is not actually recommended. I don’t want anyone trying to sue me for any subsequent injury.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 
Allows breathing, which is always helpful. You can really feel it opening those nasal passages, and you can also rub it on the aching joints that these illnesses cause for some reason. It’s lost one rating star for its horrible consistency. I got the cheap one, so it’s sticky and greasy, and my chest is breaking out in spots from touching the stuff.
4. Radish
Yes, radish. The juice of radish clears the chest. Hollow out a radish and put sugar in it. Leave overnight, drink the juice that is drawn out.
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Radish juice is surprisingly palatable. My chest feels much less wheezy, but that may also be because of the next product…
5. Avoiding Dairy
Dairy is renowned as a  phlegm causing food. So during a cold or chest infection, it should be skipped.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
HAHAHA you thought I could go one day without cheese?! One single day? Nope. Apparently not.
6. Halls Sugar Free Assorted Citrus Flavour Sweets with Vitamin C
Kind of numb the throat. Contain 450mg Vit C per 100g. If you ate a whole pack, you’d probably get your RDA. You’d probably also feel really sick.
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
They are sweets. I don’t even know why I’m writing this. They do clear your nose a bit, for a pretty short time.
So that’s it for today. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be cured.
Once Again

2016 Review

I made goals a year ago. And then reviewed them on my birthday. There may be a sense of deja vu starting to set in. Spoiler alert: I did not yet become a cyclist, or a journalist. I still can’t knit or play the violin. I have started playing the the penny whistle though. I’m sure the neighbours love it.

So, let’s start with some positives. 2016 was a good year in a lot of ways. I started, and stuck at therapy. DBT seems to be helping. I love the people I share a group with, and the camaraderie we have in learning to live in our lives, and make lives we want to live in. It can be all kinds of hard work and sometimes you find out things about yourself you’d rather not face, but better that than the previous mess. Still a bit of a mess, but… maybe, slowly, I’m getting there. It’s an upward spiral, maybe. A labyrinth, possibly. But despite the wrong turns and confusion (and the odd Minotaur hiding in a dark corner), there does seem to be some kind of change. And a change is as good as a rest, right? I don’t feel so constantly crazy. Though I’m definitely not “cured”, whatever that would mean.

I still help out with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, in the warehouse. Just last night, 40+ people were there, making a heroic and successful effort to load a shipping container full of clothing and other needed supplies for Syria. I don’t feel like this is something to boast about though, more something that I’m honoured to be a part of, even in a small way.

Oh, and I did run that half marathon, and do that abseil for sponsorship money. I also ran a stall at the Padley Festive Fair? which collectively raised over £400 for the Padley Group charity, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in Derby.

I am still living in Derbyshire, and have somewhat made peace with that. So much beautiful countryside, and some really good people doing brilliant social activism and creative works. I’ve been travelling more lately though, mostly within England seeing friends, but to Italy as well for Christmas.

I got a poetry book published, and done something that I never really thought would happen: I’ve developed a certain amount of confidence performing live. I’ve actually got on stage and enjoyed it, rather than just feeling overwhelming dread the whole time. (Although the dread is still there.) This spoken word/reading out loud/actually speaking my words to real live people thing is beautiful. Sharing energy, communicating, that’s powerful. Thank you to City-Zen and Word Wise especially, for hosting such powerful and amazing nights.

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A craptastically blurry pic, but the only one I’ve got of me onstage slaying and that.

I’ve loved and lost and suffered and learned. I’m grateful for the good times. And there were so many good times. Hopefully I’ll learn the right lessons, from the bad times. Twice this year I’ve left a man. Now I’m single and need to be. Not for rancour and isolation. I just need to turn into a real person, before I can be good for someone else. I need to learn my own edges before I blur them into someone else’s reflection.

Friends are love. I’m sorry for neglecting you and missing you and the trials of living scattered across counties, countries, continents.

Thank you all for the good times. We’ve had some adventures.

I’m grateful for my family. I’m back living with my parents. I’m amazed they’ll still have me. I lose count of how many times I’ve come crashing back down to here, to rebuild in this nest. There have been many gatherings and events and meetings, not least the wonderful wedding festival of my cousin. Just, love to the whole enormous crew who I am not going to list and name because we are a sizeable tribe and you don’t want to be here al day.

This year has left me feeling depleted. I’ve known for a while I was running out of energy, burning the candle at both ends, failing to nourish and replenish and all that. There have been some truly horrible times where I didn’t know how I could possibly survive. But, I did. There have been people lost. Real people we knew, not celebrities. Although their families must be suffering the same grief as any, and damn I did love Leonard Cohen. But it’s not at all the same. I’m not going to do a list of loss and trauma and fear. But it’s always there in this life, ocean always wearing away at the sand, chaos always waiting to spin us off into the void. It’s dark out there.

In a wider context, this has been a frightening year. We watched with grief and rage as Syrian children drowned, as Donald Trump was elected, as racist attacks and hate crimes rose as fear and rage seemed to convulse a world spinning wildly between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. What the fuck is going to happen? Who knows? 2016 has been a year where running away to live in the woods has seemed like a more attreactive option than before.

Running on mania, running on fumes, then running out of fumes, running on gritted teeth and coffee and alcohol. Eventually everything crashes. So I go into 2017 with less energy than before, feeling old and foolish, but with optimism that I’ll be able to come back from this.

Nature has nourished me deeply, has been a refuge and saviour and source of deep joy. This is what I plan to delve into more deeply, to return to and explore this year and all the years.

Much love. May 2017 open for you like a flower, and may you learn what you need to, before you are forced to.

As for 2016, I rate it 3/7. 4/7 if it hadn’t killed Carrie Fisher just at the end, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse.

 

 

2016 Review

Christmas Thoughts

I’m in Turin. Church bells ringing midnight, calling in Christmas. I just cracked a cold beer and nestled under the blankets on a sofa-bed that creaks every time I move.

My parents bought me here. Dad is renting this apartment for a short-term work contract. He’ll be moving out in a week or so. They paid for me to come and spend Christmas with them and see Turin before he goes.

This is the first Christmas I’ve had with my parents but no brother. It’s different. No partner in crime.

Turin is beautiful, historic and grand with the joins showing where history and war and modernity have built palaces, torn them down, added and removed bits according to the whims of kings and the visions of architects, the necessities of time and change. Streets are grand avenues wider than anything in London, in this city with a single Metro line. Walking through, you can feel dwarfed by the scale of the huge buildings, rising solid and ornate, ten stories high. That is, until you see the graffiti tags, the stickers on every lowered shutter. I even spotted a few posters for anarchist federation demos plastered in the grand arcades.

It’s history but not a theme park. People live here, really live here. Christmas Eve, and the centre was packed. Last minute shopping, enjoying the Christmas lights. We walked all afternoon, walked for hours just looking in windows and at buildings and statues, at a culture similar but different.

No Christmas traditions this year, apart from eating and drinking too much, and exchanging a couple of gifts. Which is, I guess, the essence of the thing. Gluttony and goodwill, a shout of drunken defiance against the long Winter nights, a warm hug to hold us until the Spring sun thaws our hibernating hearts.

I’m not going to pretend I love this season. Yule, Christmas, Winterval… it’s always been a source of anxiety as well as joy. I know some of you are suffering, while others are loving it. And many more are somewhere inbetween, fighting life’s stresses and darkness to claw out a nest of happiness and ragged tinsel, a drunken sanctuary, a holiday holy day for the holes in hearts and minds.

As I grow older, it becomes clearer how valuable, how absolutely essential it is to take time out to connect with your people, to take a moment away from the usual hurry and distractions of life to say: “You are important. You are loved. Your love gets me through the dark Winters, and I share with you alike, the warmth of my heart.”

So, from Turin, I send you my love.

Merry Christmas, buon Natale, Winter wishes, and may Spring come soon.

 

 

Christmas Thoughts

Just an Update.

I did the abseil.

It wasn’t frightening.

Sponsor me here, if you so feel. It’s for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity.

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I was kind of hungover for abseiling, because the night before was a truly uniquely beautiful night at City-Zen One Mic. So many talented people, and I got up and did a couple of new spoken word bits. People come together to create and talk bollocks and drink and dance and it’s magic. And raised £100 for Rojava Solidarity.

 

Spent the rest of the weekend with family, which was really nice. We all live kind of far apart, so it’s great when we do get together. Stayed up way too late putting the world to rights (and I managed not to get into any terrible political arguments even though my family are not yet woke to the true necessity of anarchism).

 

These things have been good beyond measure. In between times, things have been bad beyond measure. I don’t know if I’m actually losing it. Fuck abseiling, this is the real extreme sport. The mood graph prickles like a porcupine and shoots a facefull of quills into my idiot life. Trying to hold while everything spins. I’m too dizzy to run anywhere. My hands hurt.

My fucking heart hurts.

 

 

Just an Update.