Just give

We all know somebody who is raising money for charity these days, be it a sponsored triathlon, skydive or pie eating world record. It can be overwhelming to constantly receive requests for donations. I get it. But there are reasons you should donate.

1) These people clearly feel so strongly about a cause they are willing to go through pain, dedicated training workouts, losing their social life and risking injury to help others. Anyone who has that amount of compassion and belief in the work of an organisation should be respected and supported in their efforts.

2) They don’t ask for millions. With the wonders of Gift Aid, even a few pounds can raise even more than you give for their cause. A donation of £10 will give their charity £12.50, and this increases with every penny you give. So it’s not even going to cost you as much as they will get. If a person has fifty friends who all donate a couple of pounds, that’s easily over a hundred quid right there. And for charity, one hundred quid can feel like a million dollars.

3) People work hard for their cause because of their backstory. Maybe a family member has cancer, or they are outspoken victims of abuse, or they are a teacher who can see what poverty really does to children. Someone prepared to put in the hours of toil it takes to train for a marathon isn’t doing it on a whim: they have been affected in some way by the cause they are raising awareness for, and your support shows they are not alone. It isn’t only about money: it is about solidarity, about showing someone you care.

4) They are doing this because the people they love can’t do it themselves. Think about all those triathletes competing in support of their mother with breast cancer, or their grandfather with Alzheimer’s. As much as people seem to think raising money for charity is, these days, an ego boost of the highest order, it’s not. They feel helpless to do anything about the things affecting someone they love, so they show their support by finding ways to fund the people who CAN help. Macmillan nurses, research scientists, carers, safe houses – they all need funding and the government doesn’t stretch out its limited funds that far.

5) The government is crap. Services which should be supported by public money – such as research into heart disease, lung disease and all the other major killers of the population – are not, yet they are vital to the discovery of cures (*insert conspiracy theory here about keeping the population to manageable levels*). The government can’t even work out a way to support our mighty-yet-failing NHS; how are they going to cope with all of these major issues? They simply can’t. Charities step in where the government fails – it’s a sad fact. (Some charities, such as Women’s Aid or similar, should be independent of government anyway – but that’s for another post altogether). You might feel angry your tax isn’t going to these causes, or you might feel relieved. Either way, one day you WILL be affected by one of these major issues either directly or indirectly, and when that time comes you’re going to wish there had been more investment in research for a cure.

There are several charities close to my heart. But for now, where I’m asking directly for your support, I post just one link. A lady I’ve never met is taking part in a triathlon in May and her goal is admirable, achievable and downright inspiring. There, I said it, that word that everyone takes with a pinch of salt whenever put into the same sentence as ‘charity’. But I could never run a triathlon. I’d be lucky if I could run for the bus. I salute her ambition. A friend of a friend, she is participating in this run, swim and cycle challenge to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. If you can, donate whatever change you have spare – just like Tesco, Every Little Helps. http://bit.ly/141weLZ

Other charities worth a look to support include:

http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/Home

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx

http://www.nationalbrainappeal.org/

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

http://www.yorkagainstcancer.org.uk/

And there are literally hundreds of others you could help. You might not want to run a marathon, but there are people out there who do – I urge you to find some compassion and give whatever you can, whenever you can. There is always somebody more in need than you are, and one day you might need someone to help you back.

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Why I don’t write

Most people stop writing when they run out of things to say. I am the opposite. I stop writing when my own thoughts overwhelm me, and no manner of to-do lists or diagrams or post-it notes or flashcards or mindmaps will sort out the noise going on.

I don’t stop writing because I can’t write. I stop writing because there is so much to say, I wonder when people will get bored of listening. I want to write about moving house, about health, about dating, about work, about friends, about general life philosophies. But when I sit to write, it all comes out in a jumbled mess. I don’t suffer from writer’s block: I suffer from lexical diarrhoea.

Often it’s been commented that people think I live ‘in my head’ more than the real world. And then they seem surprised when I don’t disagree with them, instead nodding emphatically in the hope that might dislodge one of the many thoughts stuck somewhere in the parietal lobe.

It’s no bad thing, not living in the real world too much. I’m not totally head-bound, I mean, I can make a cup of tea and hold down a job, so am not doing too badly. But just as some people read escapist literature, or watch a film, I just think. I like to wonder ‘what if?’ on ridiculous scales. I like to tell myself that this is how all great literature began. This is, probably, an example of ‘head-living’ that is not so beneficial. I like to stay in my head. Which means the ideas don’t get down on paper. Tolkien may have taken decades, but he damn well wrote all the time.

My life – as most people’s – is full of excuses. But I guess this post is yet one more – simply to reassure you that I’m still here. There are works in progress. But if I let these grand ideas fall out unedited, it might scare the world away. Or probably get me locked in the loony bin, at least.

I guess my entire mind is a work in progress. But for now, there are things to be getting on with. I have a chalkboard to buy, for these post-its, mindmaps, notebooks and alphabetti spaghetti just aren’t cutting it…

You be trippin’…no, really.

I kept hold of this one until I found it funny. At the time, it was mortifying, but now I see the funny side…

So, something they don’t tell you about some chemo drugs is that they can have an effect on your brain. In other words, you be trippin’ balls. It doesn’t always happen, and you might not even notice it if it’s a slight distortion of reality – maybe you think you see a shadow from the corner of your eye or something – but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

The only time this really affected me was on what seemed to be a benign trip to the supermarket. Suddenly, the numbers on the price tags got all jumbled. Then they peeled off the shelf, which preceded to also melt in front of my eyes. Moving to the next aisle, because the sight of liquefying bacon was disturbing me, I realised the entire shop was melting into a river below my feet. Price tags floated by, eggs bobbed along, and I was going to drown.

So I reached for the paddle in front of me. I was standing on a small raft – as you do – and realised I needed to punt to safety. Faces came at me, like three dimensional Dali paintings, and I heard voices. I realised these were people who would also drown if they didn’t come aboard. So I tried to help them. When they didn’t want to come on board, I left them and continued to paddle.

The world eventually solidified again.

I had been punting down the bread aisle with a French loaf. Apparently, it is Not OK to punt your tripping raft down a supermarket aisle with an oversized baguette. What a waste of 80p; I couldn’t even eat the loaf they made me buy, as my attempts at steering to safety had made the loaf mere crumbs.

I only wish I could see the CCTV of these poor supermarket workers trying to ask if I was OK and telling me to put the bread down. I lucked out with the GP surgery being directly opposite the supermarket and someone having the sense to go and grab a doctor – who happened to be the same doctor who has been seeing me regularly because of said medication. The doctor confirmed I wasn’t tripping on anything illegal and I was let free (after purchasing useless bread and the imposing of an unspoken ban on my return for fear of creating a reputation for the supermarket being a crazy magnet).

Next time, I might just take some ecstasy and keep the same doc on speed dial (oh look, unintended pun right there. Gotta love those) to bail me out of my wired trips on the same excuse…yeah….

Kids: Don’t do chemo. It messes with your head.

Getting there

Time for a serious post (yes, I do have it in me). No stories of Tomb Raider fascinations, no props to other bloggers talking about equal marriage.

I’ve been having a bit of a think lately. It hurt, but I pushed through. Sometimes it happens when you face your own mortality, and while through everything I have tried (and I hope mostly succeeded) to remain upbeat, the thoughts can drown out the positive vibes. As I sit here, in bed in a freezing room in London on a bitter February night, struggling to not throw up because the chemo is getting the better of me, I wonder about it all.

More accurately, I wonder about all those people who don’t have someone with them at times like this. I don’t, but that’s because I choose to. I don’t want my loved ones to see me frail, unable to keep food down, too tired to sleep and too bone achingly exhausted to turn over. I can’t even type: this is being written courtesy of the amazing Dragon Naturally Speaking, perfect so my hands don’t hurt any more than they need to. During the daytimes, when I do venture out the house, I am all smiles. There is no point in feeling sorry for myself, because as far as I’m concerned, I will get better, and there’s no point troubling anyone else with these ideas. Of course it’s difficult. Of course the chemo turns my insides into a mangey excuse for a stomach – they should market it as the new chemical peel, sure it’d get rid of wrinkles pretty quickly (and everything else besides. Who needs a nose/eyes/lips/cheeks – skeletal chic will be on the menu, you’ll see…)

I’m lucky enough to have started with a chunky enough frame to not look like a skeleton. But I am buying new clothes with the money I don’t have just to have trousers that stay up without the sumo-hitch every five minutes. I’ve even resorted to wearing braces instead of a belt. People who see me every now and then comment on how well I look – what they mean is I’m finally looking about the right weight for my height. These are the people who think my buzz cut is a style choice. Turns out, half the people in my old office thought the bald look was a style statement – apparently I can pull it off, which is no mean feat.

There are the well intentioned comments, the pitying head-tilts, the eyes darting anywhere but your face when they realise you really aren’t too well. People don’t know how to deal with this, but here’s the thing: neither do I.

I don’t know what to tell people when they ask me how I am. The truth often gets a short reply of ‘Oh….’ because nobody knows what to say. A lie feels morally wrong. The best response is ‘Getting there’. Some days, this is true. Some days, I want to grab them by the collar and shout in their face: does this look OK? Do I look healthy to you? Should my eyes be red, my teeth be yellow? Should my hair be patchy? Do I look like I can stay awake through this social engagement? Can I really get drunk with the rest of you instead of being despairingly tee total? Do you really think I might be able to get over this?

Lucky for them, I don’t do this.

Lucky for me, I don’t do this.

So for anyone who wants to know how I am – and how I guess most people going through chemotherapy might feel from time to time – here you are:

I feel terrible. I want my social life back. I don’t want the majority of my exchanges with human beings to be with the (amazing) Macmillan nurses. I want my most intimate moments to be with someone I at least fancy, if not love, and not with the sixth doctor of the month. I want to be able to eat the food I love without fearing I’ll taste it again when it comes back up. I wish I could have a machine which drew all of my pain out of me and stored it in a little box – even if I had to endure some of that stored pain bit by bit over a long time, that would be preferable to this constant, nagging bone ache that makes you feel hollow and solid all at the same time. I want to be able to sleep the night through. I want to be able to sleep without waking up in soaking sheets from night sweats. I want peace.

I want peace.

The more I think about it, the less I think peace will come. If I get better, sorry – when, I’ll be itching to get out and do the things I always wanted. Go travelling. Publish books. Learn archery. Learn Mandarin (OK this can be done now but have you tried concentrating with a 3-day migraine?). Take a yacht around the Caribbean islands. Move to a country cottage. Get a dog.

If I don’t, the only way peace will come will be when I die. And I don’t want that to be the next time I experience peace. I don’t want all this treatment to be for a painless death. I want all this treatment to mean something. I want to know that I feel like shit because there is something waiting for me afterwards, in this life. In the life I know exists. In the life I can see happening around me. I can hear it even now, the main road under my bedroom window. The window shakes every time a bus goes past. I can hear a toddler chattering away to her mum. I can hear a dog’s claws clacking on the pavement. This is life. I can see this happening and I want even these simple things to be mine. Without fear of pain, without my tendency to faint being an issue.

So many things that I want. And I will have them. Just, not yet.

Obsessions

Being somewhat of a hermit, I’m aware that my social life is…restricted. This is mostly by choice, because people overwhelm me with their fascinating antics and if there are too many people in one place, I don’t know where to look and my brain shuts down.

It is only when talking to my friends (in small groups, on the phone or via my best friend, Skype) that I realise how much other people are also like this. And how it’s the eccentricities of life that make the world turn.

Take obsessions, for example. Everybody has at least one obsession, even if they don’t want to admit it. Mine are numerous, no doubt increased by the amount of time I spend on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love my own company, but I think your brain starts to latch on to things to create a commonality within itself after a while. Just as you might read a book your friend has recommended (I have yet to read ‘Get Out More and Stop Being So Weird’ , Hannah, just as an aside), which you would then discuss with each other, or see a film together, or go to the same party, whatever – I think the brain has a fantastic ability to create this within itself. Hence, obsessions become part of life – they are familiar, they are a subject you could talk to others about if placed in a suitable social situation, but more often than not (in my case, anyway) they are something for my own brain to occupy itself with when the other part of my brain is switched off into fiction-world. (I often have to leave stories brewing in the back of my head for a while before I can write them. They formulate by themselves, but I daren’t check they’re ready for consumption until at least at a simmering boil).

Aside from the obvious of writing, I have a few obsessions. Friends close to me will understand my love of Lord of the Rings stems from an unquestionable desire to be Aragorn, minus the being a man part. This fantasy of rough good-conquers-all heroism directly contradicts my hermit lifestyle – you never know, one day I might save someone’s life by wielding a sword at a goblin, but the likelihood of this ever happening decreases relatively with the amount of time spent away from other human beans.

Tomb Raider has been an obsession of mine since I managed to get TR3 for PC when I was about 12. I started playing it so much, I dreamt of being Lara. OK, I dreamt mostly of exploding Lara as I repeatedly got the ‘all weapons’ and ‘explode Lara’ cheats mixed up, but you get the idea. I haven’t touched the games in years, but on the 5th March nobody, but nobody, will see me for days as the newest installment is released. I like other games, with a soft spot in particular for Prince of Persia, but for some reason Tomb Raider captured my imagination. This is, probably, in no small part due to the fact I discovered Lara Croft around the same time I was discovering that I was a lesbian. In fact, I think it’s Lara’s fault. Damn you, fictional game character for ruining my chances at a ‘normal’ life…

Shoes are a funny obsession. I’m not a girly girl, really – well, I don’t wear makeup most of the time, but I like having my nails look presentable. I don’t own tons of clothes, but this is mostly because I’m a very odd size to fit. I hate shopping, but love that moment when you find a perfect pair of jeans. But shoes. Well, shoes are a special part of my life. I used to be very fat, with size 10 (UK) feet – nowhere really does women’s shoes that big so I mostly lived in men’s trainers. Then two wonderous things happened: firstly, the shoe industry realised women’s feet are getting larger, and in particular Evans really expanded their range to beautiful high heels, practical work shoes, flip flops, you name it. The second was that I lost a ton of weight and dropped a shoe size. Suddenly, the world of shoes opened up to me – more manufacturers were making size 9 shoes, and they fitted me! Lucky for me, though, there are still few and far between when looking at all high street shops (which mostly go up to an 8). This is good, because I would spend every penny I had on shoes I would probably never wear.

I do not understand this obsession.

My brain doesn’t even have a common thread of conversation with itself about shoes. If I overheard people talking about shoes in a coffee shop for more than a quick ‘Oh I like your shoes’ ‘Thanks, they were from Primark‘, I would move seats away from such inane chatter. But I find myself admiring shoes more than I like to admit.

Lucky for you people who are worrying that I’m turning into an actual girl, you should be assured that I obsess over my Dr Martens boots, Batman Converse and DC skate shoes. But still. My latest obsession – in fact, ones I’ve wanted since I was 14 and are probably related to my Tomb Raider obsession now I think about it – are in my possession.

These babies:

Boots

I feel like I ought to get over my hermit lifestyle and visit Egypt, raid a few ancient places, hop to Cambodia to spend time with monks and raid a few other ancient places.

Yep. It’s official. I’ve gone insane.

Other obsessions include:

  • Getting a dog (when I can afford and when I don’t live in a shoebox in a shared house with 9 other people)
  • Writing (obviously)
  • Films (both writing and watching)
  • The paranormal (this is a new one, watch this space)
  • Moving away from London
  • Writing (Honestly, it takes up so much of my headspace I need to put this twice).

That’s about it. That I’ll admit for now, anyway.

So, what are your obsessions? Please tell me I’m not alone…

My #Bigsteppin Valentine

Valentine’s Day is a day of love, and an unfortunate anniversary. I will forever remember how much I love somebody who gave his life too young (24) so he could protect others from harm.

From sticking up for people at school to working with the Samaritans and Shelter, he was always the go-to guy. He loved too much, too strong, and was too protective of those who – sometimes – didn’t even care about him. Nothing could ever keep him down, he’d take the knocks and see it as life experience. He was somebody who steamrollered his way down the street, always going somewhere, doing something – helping someone, protecting someone, and going about it with such humble grace. His altruism and kindness lasted to the end, and he showed me the importance of leading your  life with good intentions, high ambitions and hard work.

I want to say thank you, my friend, for showing me to live true to myself; for reminding me there are always people worse off who need my support; for believing in my capabilities and talents even before they began to show. He taught me perseverance, determination, hardiness, humility  and – above all – a respect for others. Nothing is ever too much of a dream to be held, and every day if you can do one thing to achieve your goals then it has been a good day.

I am blessed: I may be chronically ill, I may be jobless, I may struggle with humanity from time to time. He showed me if you don’t like something, change it: I can seek medical help, I can find ways to make money, and I can learn to get over my occasional misanthropy. I am fortunate to have the privilege to make these changes in my life. I have people who love me, and I have those I love with all of my heart and being, and for that I am grateful. Whatever the problems may be, I am lucky for my life, and every day I live it for you my friend.

My Raw Heart misses you and loves you.

Evelyn

xxxx

The working lesbian

I’ve just read a great short piece at Diva and was reminded of my outing experiences at work…

I was very wary. Especially soon after I’d split from my fiancé – the dreaded ‘What happened?’ question was met with the usual ‘We just wanted different things’, which of course felt like the biggest lie in the world. If anything it was our mutual interests in breasts and all things related that broke the relationship apart. So when at work, in my previous job, I kept quiet. Everyone had known me as straight and it was very odd trying to come out. It wasn’t until two weeks before I left the job that I felt confident enough to say in response to the ‘Up to anything interesting tonight?’ question with a casual ‘Oh, I have a date with Marty”. This of course was followed by the excited ‘Ooooh who’s Marty? Where did you meet him?’.

The look on their faces when I revealed I’d met HER ages ago through mutual friends. We’d always had our flirt on but it wasn’t until I was single and she was single that we both realised the other was a then-still-closeted lesbian.

 

Cue new job. New scenario. By this point, I was more comfortable with who I was. But the reactions of previous colleagues (who went on to ignore me/not pass work to me/have a generally uncomfortable air when I was around for the last fortnight) had made me incredibly cautious about who I came out to.

The decision: don’t label yourself. Don’t actively proclaim your sapphic tendencies, but don’t hide it if asked.

This worked surprisingly well, at first. Nobody gave a damn and all assumed I was straight. Until I met Him. You know who I mean: the one colleague you get on with best. You take lunches together, buy reciprocal drinks on Friday nights, build in-jokes quickly.  Doesn’t help that he (let’s call him Office Boy, or OB) is possibly the most attractive man in the office. I say this with clear unbias. Charming, intelligent, funny and a cheekbone/jawline combination you could shave cheese on. Of course, the gossip started.

Then tensions rose. Turns out if you have a female boss who liked her status as Top Bitch and enjoyed the over-flirts with OB, you can step on toes unwittingly. Gradually, team members found out through mine and OB’s not-so-subtle in-jokes (which was absolutely fine). Top Bitch had a marvellous knack of never listening to anything, whether work related or not, so clearly didn’t pick up on this.

It got to a point when the two of us (Me and OB) were getting into trouble for mistakes that didn’t even happen. Another colleague admitted that Top Bitch had said more than once she thought that OB and I were having a fling (the idea disgusts me; in my mind it would be close to incest). Eventually, I went to HR – I would have gone to Top Bitch but I rather liked my job – and mentioned that this tension was ridiculous because I was a lesbian and clearly therefore wasn’t having a thing with OB. HR immediately spoke to Top Bitch and tensions eased. But it often got awkward in downtime-chat (when Top Bitch and I had established some kind of unspoken mutual agreement to get along) when the team were discussing their partners/dating habits/relationship woes. Each would have their say, with a response from Top Bitch, but it came to my two cents and the conversation got shut down.

It was interesting to me that the rest of the team, all much closer in age to me, were completely accepting. They even liked the novelty of a girl admiring the new girl’s choice of dress more for skirt length than fashion critique, but that I was also a softie when it came to emotional discussions and am a girly girl at heart. But Top Bitch just couldn’t get her head around it, dodging any questions relating to personal life in case it was against some lesbian-specific policy and I was ready to sue her for discrimination.

I refer to a previous post, that it shouldn’t matter to anyone who you are getting your jollies with. But at the same time, it matters to everyone else and life gets a lot simpler without having to juggle the white lies.

Generally, now, I go on the assumption people know. Having a shaved head (through chemo, not choice) helped break down those barriers – but that opens a whole other Pandora’s Box of irritations surrounding stereotypes. I think this blog is long enough – let’s save that one for later…

 

Justifications

I have a confession to make: I’ve been confused. Mayhap it was due to hotboxing menthol vapours under my super kingsize duvet to try and rid myself of this annoying chest infection, but I think that’s just an excuse.

I’ve been pondering on how to follow up my last post. Why it’s the business of nobody except yourself of what your orientation is and, generally, I do agree with this. However, the more I’ve been pondering/high on Vicks, the larger the list of reasons people SHOULD know has become.

For a start, and for the most obvious reasons, it’s incredibly liberating. You can go to gay clubs without fear of people ‘finding out’, your social life may broaden when you start moving in these circles as you meet new people, with common interests. I’m not saying you should be friends with people just because they’re gay, oh no no no – but they will understand the difficulties of being so in what is still a hetero-normative society. The best moments for me came when I started to meet other people with non-straight sexualities – all of my friends (bar two guys, including a school friend who was my first ‘boyfriend’, oh the irony) are straight, which limits dating opportunities as they move in straight circles. I am still the ‘only lesbian in the village’.

Which can be a delightful novelty. I’ve naturally always had more male friends than female friends, just the way it is. Which, when I was younger, obviously meant I was sleeping around with all of them, if you listened to any gossip going. But when I came out, there was a brilliant reaction from my male friends: relief. Suddenly, standard barriers between male/female relationships dropped – no longer did they censor themselves, no longer were they acutely aware of any tactile moments in case they ‘meant something’: playfights, bear hugs, dead legs abounded. They love that they can talk about women with me as if I were a guy – but bringing a female perspective to it. I’ve become a wingman: she’s either going to be interested in them or me, and either way the other friend can big them up to ensure success, safe in the knowledge there’s no competition. Except when it comes to bisexuals, but that’s a whole different ball/nonball game…

I have freedom within myself, to be myself. I used to be annoyed by the gossip, I used to worry what people thought of me, and this is a strong reason I held back from coming out. But then, when I did, I realised it was the false gossip about which boy I was taking home that had bothered me the most precisely because there was no truth in it. I wouldn’t mind so much if there were rumours that I was dating someone like this:

 

 

But alas I am yet to hear of those.

In the end, you should never have to justify yourself to anyone but yourself. But in doing so, you need to realise why you are making justifications for not being yourself to everybody. My relationships with people have massively improved, because I am no longer hiding this huge part of who I am. Some may say orientation isn’t your identity and to an extent I agree. But while there is still a hetero-normative society, where even the state continues to sanction semantic differences in legal unions between straight couples and same-sex couples, there is a need to normalise non-traditional orientations. And to do that, we need to be out of whatever closet/duvet/hermit hole/false relationship we are in. It is not to satisfy others: it is to satisfy yourself.

Christ, leave me alone

I had a very interesting moment recently. I was walking home, avec une tres jollie belle, after a rather successful date. (I say after. We were clearly mid-date, but that’s not for telling here…oh, alright. We had a really hot, steamy…mug of chocolate before I wished her farewell and moseyed to bed on my own). I have to walk past my local church in order to get to my street, and we were wandering past just as an evening ‘session’ had finished at the church. (Not being of institutionalised faith, not sure what this should be called. Mass? Prayer time? Show?).

Now, I wear a very small crucifix around my neck because while I am not of institutionalised faith, I hold hope for a deity and identify most with this shape of talisman. It could be a Wiccan pentagram, an all seeing eye, whatever – it is what comforts me to have as my touchstone and that is my own belief to be held to myself.

I do not expect to be questioned – nay, reprimanded – by members of the church as I walk by. When I say this is a small crucifix, it is precisely that – no more than 4cm tall. You have to look hard for it. An elderly woman and not-so-elderly man were leaving the church, and saw my date and I holding hands.

“Disgusting.” Said she.

We continued on, ignoring the ones who wish not to change with the times (and yet were quite ready to jump into their 4×4, but oh no, technology doesn’t count as ‘changing times’).

“Excuse me, deary. Excuse me.” I was being tugged on the sleeve. I looked down to see the old lady had followed me. “Are you a Christian?” She jabbed at my necklace.

I hate this question, especially from religious types, because it’s a difficult answer to give.

“I don’t believe in organised religion but I hope there is something guarding and guiding me to the be the best person I can be.”

She tutted. She actually tutted.

“You are a disgrace to all things holy.” This was said with accompanying finger-wag.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“No need to apologise to me, you should get inside that church and apologise to God for being such an abomination with this piece of skirt.”

At this point, I could have done one of a few things:

1. Hit her over the head with my handbag, the old lady equivalent to throwing down the gauntlet.

2. Smiled politely, and walked away. (Which is, by the way, the wimp option. Of which I am not).

3. Told her to mind her own business.

What I probably should not have done is this.

I should probably not have launched into a rant about gay marriage, to a woman who clearly could not even comprehend that I would want to even hold hands with another girl in public.

About halfway through, when I was on the point of ‘it’s all about the semantics, really’, the elderly woman starting moaning. As in, actually moaning, like I was tormenting her. Her male companion, who was probably with her as her escort from whatever place of mental peace she usually resided, stepped in.

“Her husband was a vicar.”

“Why does that – ”

“Her son left home not long ago.”

“Again, how – ”

“To be with Pedro.”

Ah.

Turning to the woman, I tried my best I’m-really-sorry-for-you face.  I could have been gracious, understanding. I could have delved into whatever guiding deity I claimed to believe in to find the right words.

But no.

Before I knew it, this came spewing forth:

“Ha. Gutted.”

My hand flew to my mouth, while my date just giggled. (This, dear reader, is why the only hot steamy action was hot chocolate-related. I hate myself for my response which, while entertaining now, was completely wrong and incredibly rude, and was not said to impress or entertain her in any way. Lady, if you’re reading, feel free to call me…in a few years).

I tried to backtrack, to apologise, but it wasn’t working. So I bowed (actually bowed), backed away and left this poor, judgemental and confused old woman to be led away by her sniggering companion. (He too, found this hilarious).

If I see her again (likely, she’s a regular), I’ll be sure to apologise. But it did make me think a lot about the whole gay marriage argument. I realised that my view might not fit entirely with others of my persuasion – because I actually understand the Church’s protection of the sanctity of marriage based on the traditional use of the term.

What I do NOT agree with, is how it currently stands – hetero couples have marriage, same sex couples have civil partnerships, but neither can have the other. I understand the tradition and semantics behind marriage within religion – and consequently the difficulty in having a religious ceremony when (most) religions believe that homosexuality is a sin.

Why not give straight people the option for civil partnerships? Give us ALL some equality by recognising that marriage no longer has to be within a religious context in order to be recognised by the state. I do not believe in organised religion, and one of these reasons is very much because I could not reconcile my orientation with holy scripture; I realise that in order to follow (most) organised faiths I would need to deny much of what is in my very nature. I tried being straight, for a long time, but I have absolutely no interest in men. To deny myself would be denying the essence of being on this earth – to live, to enjoy life and to be free.

At the end of the argument, what it all boils down to is semantics. Marriage is associated with religion – fine, they can keep it. But at least give hetero couples the opportunity to not be locked into a religious contract if they do not wish to do so, and provide us some equality at the same time by making civil partnerships universal. (It should be noted, particularly to non-UK readers, that we DO have ‘civil ceremonies’ for hetero couples, which are non-religious, but as I understand it, the union thereafter is still referred to as a marriage; civil partnerships are not, for the sake of definition by the state).  There is deliberate segregation of hetero and same sex couples by the state by this simple wordplay, and it needs to be resolved.

Otherwise how else am I going to explain to the old lady why Pedro and her son are still living in the States?

‘Buzz’ off

I found myself apologising recently (it happens often). But then I had to go back and think on why I was apologising. Had I done something wrong? Nope. Had I offended someone with my oft-ill thought out views? Nu’uh.

So why was I saying sorry?

I was defending the fact I have really short hair.

Yup.

I was trying to explain to a lady that I am a femme lesbian – I like long hair, paint my nails and wear makeup. I own dresses and am learning how to dress for curves. (Turns out miniskirts are not the way to go when your thighs are the size of most women’s waists…why did nobody tell me this?). But she was insistent on the hair issue – if I was femme, why do I have a buzz cut?

I tried to explain that it all fell out because of medication. But then it became some kind of confessional – I don’t want potential dates to necessarily know I’ve been ill. They don’t need to know that straight off the bat, and when they do there is often the reaction of  ‘Oh. Well… so anyway yeah when I was on this date last week…’ and they slip through my fingers.

I’m not ashamed of being ill. But I don’t see why it should define me. If I want to go out and have a bit of fun, why should I be paranoid about revealing the heavy doses of chemo I’ve been facing? People don’t know how to deal with it, and it becomes awkward. Either they ask lots and lots of questions, turning a potential date into a research session, or they can’t deal with it, make their excuses and leave.

Hello? There’s more to me than chemo, you know.

Song for a friend(s) (OK a letter, but still…)

My dear hearts,

The Big Move is in process: leaving the capital of the UK to go to the other end of the country where I know nobody, because I fell in love with a city. Recent life challenges have taught me to take every opportunity I can. And you my friends have given me nothing but absolute support.

To the girl who has become a library companion despite our differences in religion: telling me you stopped praying for me should have shattered my heart with disappointment. But when you told me it was because you knew I didn’t need your prayers anymore, because this world will fall at my feet and the heavens are willing me on, well. I don’t care what our religious differences are: your words were the best parting gift I could have received.

To my friend I’ve known since preschool, your words are kept private in my soul but I can promise you this: I will take your heart and wrap it in the finest layers of tissue paper to place it in the box marked Fragile. It will be safe with me, and I am honoured to have the knowledge you are with me regardless of where we are in the world.

To my housemates: I couldn’t have stumbled my way through the last year without you. But man am I looking forward to not having to watch football anymore.

To my colleagues: sorry, you’re not rid of me that easily. Benefits of being a writer: you can work from anywhere in the world. Hello, Skype.

To the more than forty people who turned up over the course of my leaving drinks: crawling home at 7am was a new record. It was an amazing send-off and I was truly touched by how many of you came to say goodbye.

To the friend who sent me the lyrics for Song for a Friend by Jason Mraz: all I can do is say them back to you:

Well you’re magic he said
But don’t let it all go to your head
Cuz I bet if you all had it all figured out
Then you’d never get out of bed
No doubt
Of all the things that I’ve read what he wrote me
Is now sounding like the man I was hoping
To be
I keep on keeping it real
Cause it keeps getting easier, he’ll see
He’s the reason that I’m laughing
Even if there’s no one else
He said, you’ve got to love yourself

You say, you shouldn’t mumble when you speak
But keep your tongue up in your cheek
And if you stumble onto something better remember that it’s humble that you seek
You got all the skill you need,
Individuality
You got something
You call it gumption
You call it anything you want
Because when you play the fool now
You’re only fooling everyone else
You’re learning to love yourself

Yes you are

There’s no price to pay
When you give and what you take,
That’s why it’s easy to thank you
You…

Let’s say take a break from the day
And get back to the old garage
Because life’s too short anyway
But at least it’s better than average
As long as you got me
And I got you
You know we’ll got a lot to go around
I’ll be your friend
Your other brother
Another love to come and comfort you
And I’ll keep reminding
If it’s the only thing I ever do
I will always love
I will always love you
Yes you
I will always, always, always, always love
I will always, always love
I will always, always love, love

Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You’ve got to find out for yourself whether or not you’re truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.

To the person who knows who they are: without you, I would not be here. And I promise I’ll do everything I can to show it’s been worth the grind.

And now, for the move. Bring it.

With my forever gratitude at knowing such compassionate beings,

Evelyn

xxx

Social media and writing, part 2

Dear authors,

I am not just interested in your latest book. Please interact with me and others on Twitter without always telling me that you have a latest release. Sometimes, yes, that’s fine. But don’t litter my feed with constant self-promotion.

Cheers,

Evelyn

Having been launched into the world of Twitter, and since my last post about creating an online platform for writers, this has been my number one pet peeve. In fact, it’s more a pet peeve because these people always seem to have tons of followers, while I tirelessly plug away at creating my ‘brand’ – ie personality representation online – and have not so many followers. (If you’re feeling so inclined… @EvelynRoseFict).

This seems backwards to me. I thought the whole point of having an online presence was to create interest not just in your work, but to engage with others in the industry, other people and generally interact. I don’t know anyone who enjoys blatant marketing like that. Do you?

The other reason this has annoyed me is because I’m verging on Twitter addiction. (See Obsessions). But this isn’t quite so bad as an obsession because it’s sociable. That’s what I keep telling myself and that’s the story I’m sticking to thankyoupleaseverymuch.

I am genuinely interested in other writers and what they have to say – even from a purely selfish point of view where I can see if my work really does have a market niche or is already being done by others. The research aspect of online communities is vital; but in doing my research I’d like to speak to more people who are interested in more than just self-promotion. Of course, I speak with exceptions here – there are some great, interactive and engaged writers and forums out there – but come on. How am I going to buy your book when all I know about it is how amazing you think it is?

And now, I realise I have turned full circle (technically 180 degrees but let’s skim over that, numbers aren’t my thing – I’m a writer, daahling). I’ve gone from not understanding the point of social media to realising why it is so important in this technology age: screen out the nutters and bad conversationalists (if you can’t hold an online conversation how have you written a good book?) and welcome in the engaged, intelligent, talented people who are there. Really, they are, I promise. You just have to dredge through the rubbish to find them…