The Runaways

 

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In between panicking about assignment deadlines, trying to be funny at comedy class, and drunk-dancing under the strobes on a Saturday night; I have been reading Cherie Currie’s biography Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.

‘Cherie fucking Currie, the Queen of Hate.

Currie’s book documents the time she spent as the lead singer of the all-girl rock group, The Runaways. The group was fronted by Cherie, with Lita Ford on guitar, Jackie Fox on bass, Sandy West on drums, and the amazing Joan Jett on guitar and vocals. Cherie joined the band when she was fifteen and transformed in to the Cherry Bomb on stage, wearing raucous outfits and promising to ‘have ya, grab ya, ’till you’re sore!’ Together, they proved to the world that girls could rock.

‘There was a point when I realized that you could get away with just about anything so long as you do it with enough conviction.’ 

Neon Angel was adapted for the silver screen in 2010, appearing under the name of The Runaways. The film was directed and co-written by Floria Sigismondi, and starred Dakota Fanning as Cherie, and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. After watching the film, I had two immediate desires:

  1. Join an all girl rock band and become a Cherry Bomb.
  2. Read Cherie Currie’s memoir to see if being a member of The Runaways,really was as wild as the film suggested.

Whilst Sigismondi’s film is faithful to the spirit of Currie’s book, it blends and overlooks some of the more personal aspects of Currie’s biography (which makes sense from a commercial, film-making perspective). Cherie was an identical twin, which is not addressed in the film, and the brutality of The Runaway’s manager, Kim Fowley, was also diluted on the screen. The severe trauma(s) that Cherie Currie experienced are also left on the pages of her biography.

Before she had reached the age of seventeen, Currie had been raped by her sister’s boyfriend, sexually assaulted by several men, and had to terminate a potentially wanted pregnancy. Add to this the pressures of cutting records with a successful rock band, and a heightened exposure to drugs and alcohol; and it’s hard to not regard Currie as a phoenix rising up out of some truly hellish ashes.

‘I realized that I had spent most of my life as a slave to something. I grew up as an emotional slave to the rotten kids in school, to my parent’s bitter fights. Then, after Derek came along, I became a slave to something else: I became a slave to my own hatred and rage. It was on the road with the Runaways that I came to the conclusion that all of that was finally behind me. I was free to do whatever I wanted. I would never be a slave to anything again.’

Below is a clip of Dakota Fanning performing Cherry Bomb in The Runaways film. Read Currie’s book and watch Sigismondi’s film, and prepare to feel the explosion of The Cherry Bomb.

 

**The edition I’m reading/quoting from: Currie, C. (2010), Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, Tony O’Neill (ed.), New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Fifty Shades of Disappointment – Revisited

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To mark the release of the infamous film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, I have re-posted a blog I wrote about my experience of reading E.L James’ novel. I’ve updated the post to include the extra paragraph that featured in the version of the blog I submitted to Belle Jar (and because for a literature student, my grammar is sometimes appalling.)

I will probably crack and go and see the film, because: JAMIE DORNAN. I just want it on record that I really wish everything about Fifty Shades was fifty times better. Here’s my updated rant:

I would like to begin this post by stating that naturally, I admire anyone who has taken the time and energy to produce a novel. I appreciate that it takes an immense amount of courage and bravery to write and publish your own work. It’s something I hope to achieve in the future and the idea of someone picking up my work and ripping it to shreds, breaks my tiny walnut heart. I am about to criticise E.L James erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I now sound like a complete hypocrite (especially as I didn’t finish the book, I only read 178 pages) but rather than just shouting ‘I HATE IT! I HATE IT! I HATE IT!’ I thought I’d explain why I couldn’t finish reading it.

You might be thinking ‘Ugh, Bob is clearly just over-sensitive/easily offended and should get over this mildly pornographic novel’. If you think that, then you clearly don’t know me very well. I am not offended by graphic descriptions of sex in literature – it’s 50% of the reason I love books so much. You can be as filthy as you like in the most intelligent of ways! The library scene in Ian McEwan’s Atonement gives me tingles, Emilé Zola’s Germinal makes me do a sexy shudder, and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is still rocking my world. I was hoping Fifty Shades would provoke a similar reaction.

I’d spoken about the book with friends, and my old school teachers. They had all come to a similar conclusion: that it was terribly written soft porn. Some of them liked it, some of them dismissed it. I wanted to read it out of curiosity, but didn’t want to actually pay for it (just in case it really was complete trash.) Fortunately, I was in a charity shop one day and I saw it on the shelf at the tempting price of 75p. I handed over my pennies to the smirking, yet sympathetic cashier, and hastily left the shop as if I’d just committed a terrible crime. I started reading the next day, and I was generally impressed with the way E.L James established the characters of the young literature student Anastasia Steele, and the intimidating businessman Christian Grey. (Obviously, with the turn of every page I was waiting for some sexy bits, but that didn’t happen until about page 100.) I continued reading and started to become aggravated with James’ persistent repetition of specific phrases. The words ‘holy hell’ appeared before, during, and after every awkward, sex-free encounter Anastasia had with Christian. She also reused the phrase ‘damn my clumsiness!’ too many times to count. I wanted to scream in to the page: ‘I GET IT! SHE’S CLUMSY!’ If James cut half of these phrases the novel would flow smoothly. However, this isn’t what disappointed me the most…

Before they engage in sexual activities, Christian Grey busts out a hefty, sexy contract for Anastasia’s consideration. It states that Christian wants to be ‘the dominant’ and control all aspects of Anastasia’s sex life, therefore making her ‘the submissive’. There’s a very important bit about consent, discretion, physical well-being, and personal limits, but you get the gist, right? Well, the amount of pages James dedicates to the explanation of this ‘contract’ is one of the most excessive, boring things I‘ve ever had to read (and I’ve read Middlemarch.) Her repetition of ‘the dominant’ and the ‘submissive’, nearly caused me to rip the book to shreds. I don’t ever want to see those words in print again (…oops.) However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

The character of Christian Grey is cringe-worthy. From the reviews I’d read and the facebook statuses I’d seen, I assumed he was a Demi-God. Quite frankly, I’m not turned on by his helicopter (the one he physically flies, not the penis trick), his entrepreneurial success, or fundamentally anything he does or says. I don’t like the way he keeps talking to Anastasia’s vagina about its ‘intoxicating smell’, and I especially hate the way he calls her ‘baby’. Don’t even get me started on his ‘sexy’ Red Room (weird/inappropriate allusion to Bluebeard and Jane Eyre there? Another reason why the book infuriates me!) I’m surprised Anastasia didn’t out-right laugh in his face when Christian showed it to her, gave her a sexy contract and said ‘think about it, yeah babe?’ (THAT’S BASICALLY WHAT HE DOES!) However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

I cannot handle the way Anastasia Steele does not call her vagina what it is: A VAGINA! She refers to it as ‘my sex’. James will write graphically about oral and penetrative sex, but she refuses to use the word ‘vagina’? She doesn’t even use a playful word like ‘p***y’, or something blunt like ‘c**t’, she constantly refers to it as ‘my sex’. Perhaps she thinks this displays Anastasia’s consent and ownership over her body? Perhaps it is, actually sexy? Over 70 million copies of the book have been sold, which means other people seem to really enjoy this kind of thing. I appear to be alone in my loathing of this newly coined, vaginal terminology. However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…

Finally, I am about to reveal the real reason that I had to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey. The first time E.L James referenced Thomas Hardy’s tragic nineteenth-century novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I knew I was destined not to reach the finish line. It is Anastasia Steele’s favourite book, it also happens to be one of mine. James uses the novel’s title as a motif; a classic reference that could potentially give her novel a sturdy, credible backbone. I am about to smash that backbone right up. For those who haven’t read Hardy’s novel, seventeen year old Tess Derbyfield is raped by her ‘cousin’ Alec D’Urberville. There are many literary critics who have tried to dismiss this rape by arguing that Tess is a passive, but consenting sexual partner. To summarise: their argument is BULLS**T. It is horrifically clear that Tess does NOT consent to Alec’s advances. She is a seventeen year old girl, completely unaware of how to defend herself in a society where she is deemed a sinner, even though she is the victim of horrific sexual harassment. Tess’s appeal to her Mother after she has been raped surely proves that she was not an active, consensual partner in her encounter with Alec D’Urberville:

‘How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house four months ago. Why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn’t you warn me?’

I feel that James uses references to Hardy’s novel incorrectly, and as poor justification for male dominance and female submission. How does Tess’ story compare to Anastasia’s story? Anastasia is ‘warned’ by Christian’s ‘contract’ about what he would like to do to her. She wholeheartedly admits that she desires him in every way. Not once does Tess admit desire or consent to sex with Alec. Tess is raped, Anastasia is not. I find it baffling that E.L James thought this would be a valid reference for her novel. Even in terms of ‘the dominant’ and ‘the submissive’, it is still a completely misused reference. This is why I had to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

I am open to the idea that James’ novel isn’t supposed to be taken seriously (it is fan fiction based on the characters of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from the super successful Twilight series.) I like to think that readers are potentially more interested in the emotional relationship between Anna and Christian, than the sexual relationship, but I find it disappointing that such a badly written novel with such inappropriate references, has gained such popularity. If like Oscar Wilde famously said, all art is ‘useless’, then Fifty Shades is harmless, but if all art is ‘propaganda’ like George Orwell suggested; what kind of message is James trying to convey? She is exploring elements of female sexuality, which is commendable, but her characters are so unsatisfying (and highly unrealistic – I don’t know any women who managed to climax whilst losing their virginity), I could only read 5-10 pages at a time before the disappointment turned to despair. I’m genuinely confused as to what kind of message this novel sends to women and men, about the role of sex in a relationship? The only thing I can praise is the discussion about consent, but even that was portrayed in the unrealistic medium of a ‘contract’.

I fully accept that it’s not the best idea to judge a book by its first 100 pages (178 to be precise). However, I have researched the plot online and can happily say that I would‘ve gained nothing but another rage-induced headache from continued reading. I also fully accept that I have repeated the phrase ‘However, this still isn’t what disappointed me the most…’ four times, thus committing the same literary sin as E.L. James. Oh well, I doubt she will take offence at this blog post for the following reasons:

  1. I only have about 5 regular readers
  2. She’s one of the best-selling authors in the world, why would she care what one disgruntled reader thinks?
  3. Jamie Dornan is going to make even haters like me sort of want to see the film (DAMN YOU DORNAN, YOU CHARASMATIC BASTARD!)

Belle Jar at The Guardian Student Media Awards 2014

Before I launch in to an explanation of what happened at The Guardian Student Media Awards (still suppressing the urge to scream with joy whenever I say/type that), I would like to explain just how I came to be standing in The Guardian Offices on the 27th of November, with some of the most brilliant women I have ever met.

In July 2013, my friend John sent me a link to a website called Belle Jar. I spent most of the day browsing through the articles on the site, overjoyed that I had found a corner of the internet that I could relate to. Belle Jar declared that its aim as a website was to ‘smash patriarchal norms, one day at a time’, and I decided to be brave and send in an article for the editor’s consideration. I submitted my article ‘Why I need Feminism’, and held my feminist breath. The editor, Louisa, replied saying she would be happy to publish the piece, and invited me to join the informal writing group on Facebook; my tiny walnut heart cracked with joy. At the time, I was just discovering my own voice through the medium of this blog, and through studying feminist criticism as part of my Literature degree, and Belle Jar’s acceptance made me feel more confident about my writing.

Through writing for Belle Jar and sharing the work of the numerous writers that also contribute to the website, I have managed to form a firm, feminist, friendship with Louisa and co-creator Juliette. Our mutual dislike for misogyny has taken us to see incredible women like Malala Yousafzai, Mary Beard, and we have even been to the House of Commons. It is Louisa & Juliette’s originality, effort, and dedication to Belle Jar, that resulted in their nomination for ‘student website of the year’ at The 2014 Guardian Student Media Awards (and Louisa’s last minute entry in to the competition!)

When she received the news that she had been shortlisted, she invited Juliette & I to attend the ceremony with her (I proceeded to type all further communications in Caps Lock, whilst trying not to explode with gratitude and excitement). On the night of the event, we all met at Kings Cross Station to have a pre-awards catch up. The girls greeted me like old friends, and we were escorted to The Guardian Offices by Juliette’s sister, Erika.

I won’t deny that part of the excitement surrounding the ceremony was the knowledge that there would be free alcohol and food. However, the bigger attraction was being involved in an event hosted by The Guardian newspaper. I live in a county that generally promotes looks over books (decorating your vagina with diamantes is a genuine past-time in Essex, according to TOWIE), so attending The Guardian Student Media awards was an absolute privilege for me. It is difficult to express just how much I admire and enjoy the articles I read in this publication. I still find it hard to believe they let me in the building, let alone drain their white wine resources. Louisa and Juliette quickly greeted a few students who they recognised from their own Universities, before we made our way to the front to watch the ceremony. The evening was introduced by Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian. Alan kindly reassured us that we were ‘all winners’ due to our nominations, before handing over to Rick Edwards (T4 presenter/writer) who was charismatic, sharp and devastatingly attractive.

The winners were announced and unfortunately, we were not amongst them. However, Mr Rusbridger’s previous words of wisdom softened the blow, and we decided to use the rest of the evening to our advantage. I use the term ‘we’ loosely, Juliette and Louisa were fantastic networkers; I spent most of the time nodding and grinning, hoping that would mask just how overwhelmed/drunk I was. We managed to speak to one of the judges in charge of the website nominations, and she was extremely accommodating; praising the website and informing us that we were the only website of our kind to be shortlisted. She also pointed us in the direction of two of the writers who work for The Student section of The Guardian, who were really friendly and insightful. I did manage to speak coherently to two other students who had been nominated in the photography category, and we all walked the short distance to the after party at a nearby pub together, and proceeded to drink and chat the night away.

With Louisa & Juliette’s guidance and friendship, I have patched together my disconnected thoughts about feminism, which has ultimately transformed my approach to writing. Thanks to the success of this evening, I will always look to Belle Jar and The Guardian for inspiration and reassurance, (and the GIF below).

Here we are with our Bob cuts and business cards:

BELLE BOBS

(Here is a list of all the winners from the evening too)

The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour – New Dark Arts Exhibit

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‘I solemnly swear that we are up to no good’

When the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour opened in 2012, like thousands of other muggles; I was desperate to go. I got my chance to visit in February 2013, and it was every bit as magical as I expected it to be. Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour is a privilege in itself; but visiting it on a press night, with complimentary drinks and snacks, redefines the word privilege. My journalist friend Rachel allowed me to share this opportunity with her last night. We were there to experience the new ‘Dark Arts’ exhibit.

The experience was all the more exciting for me, as I’ve recently read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for my Open University course in Children’s Literature. Reading J.K Rowling’s first book made my little, walnut heart swell with nostalgic glee, so re-visiting the Warner Brothers Tour became an extra-emotional experience (the free drink probably helped with that too).

Rachel & I were greeted with a glass of complimentary champagne, the sight of Location, Location, Location’s Kirsty Alsopp; and then took our seats in the screening room. We chatted excitedly, even though we knew what to expect as we have both been on the tour before (this was Rachel’s fourth time; try not to hate her). Mid-conversation, Simon Pegg walked in to the room and I immediately lost my trail of thought. I tried to play it cool, but shrank in surprise/embarrassment at his appearance, and promptly text my Mum the news instead. The lights went down, the introductory film was screened and then we were let in to The Great Hall (a novelty that will never wear off).

Along with the other guests, Rachel & I were allowed to roam freely around the sets, taking pictures and enjoying the magical atmosphere. Like moths to a flame (or perhaps more accurately, Harry Potter’s eyes to the Golden Snitch); Rachel & I were drawn to the complimentary bar, which was full of green and orange drinks, smoking like they’d just been poured from a cauldron. Once we discovered that the smoke was actually dry ice, and the concoction was prosecco-based, not poly-juice potion; we knocked them back like Pumpkin juice. Needless to say, this resulted in us being really quite inebriated and therefore laughing like first-years whenever something even remotely exciting/funny happened.

We admired the new Dark Arts exhibit, which included the life-size animatronic of Bathilda Bagshot, suspended above a table that seated Lord Voldemort, The Malfoys, Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. There was also a full scale model of Nagini on the table, hissing away at Bathilda. Rachel & I spent a considerable amount of time circling this exhibit; firstly, pursuing the man who was handling a live python, who turned out to be the real-life Nagini’s owner, and general go-to-guy for Snakes in the Harry Potter films, and secondly; taking full advantage of the bar.

As we circled, we spotted more celebrities. Amanda Holden was there with her children, taking photographs and talking to journalists, and Jake Wood (who is better known as Max Branning from Eastenders) was also there with his family. Mary Berry was also present, but unfortunately, we were too busy indulging in the complimentary snacks to stumble across her; these included mini beef burgers, mozzarella balls, spicy prawns and scotch quail’s eggs. Rachel was also being stalked by one of the numerous Death Eaters, so we decided to break away from the bar, and venture outside to see the familiar sights of Number 4, Privet Drive, Godric’s Hollow, and The Knight Bus.

We continued walking through, encountering Buckbeak and Aragog, amongst hundreds of other fascinating pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia. The tour ended with the spectacular model of Hogwarts; lit-up like a dream, and so intricately detailed, you need at least four hours to inspect it before you look at anything else. We were offered a sobering, complimentary coffee, took our last look at the magnificent turrets, and made our way out through the gift shop, to receive our gift bag of Weasley exploding bonbons, and a notebook bearing the Slytherin crest. Rachel & I said our goodbyes at Euston, and boarded separate trains’ home, both quoting the same line in our prosecco-filled heads: ‘I’m not going home, not really’.

Today, I am drafting up a plan for my University assignment, which will be a discussion about the relationship between instruction and delight in Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. I feel like last night’s delightful experience has provided me with the right instructions to pen this essay; now to stop procrastinating/boasting, and actually do some work. ‘Mischief Managed’.

Disclaimer: I should probably just rename this blog ‘the amazing events my friend Rachel takes me to as her +1’.

The Real Reason I don’t go to Music Festivals…

Music Festivals are the highlight of the year for many people; Glastonbury, Reading, and Bestival, are some of the many events dedicated to good music and a good time. My friends attend at least one of these festivals every year, and always extend the invitation to me.

They promise me a week in an invented wilderness, listening to my favourite bands, dancing like a madman in a field; high on life/summer/alcohol. For someone like me, who loves being at the front for live gigs, is very fond of the vodka-sauce, and a tour-de-force on the dance floor; it sounds like a dream. People look genuinely confused when I tell them I ‘don’t really do Festivals’, then don’t follow it up with an explanation. Well, I am about to explain what turns my festival dream in to a nightmare.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) when I was twelve years old. I don’t talk about it very often, because a) I don’t want to, b) I still don’t know how to effectively explain the condition to people, and c) I feel that patriarchal society doesn’t like it when I, a young woman, have to admit to being human and having bowel movements.

Ulcerative Colitis is a form of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). It is a chronic illness, where the colon and rectum become inflamed. There is no known cause, and no known cure for the condition. It can range from mild to severe. Fortunately, I am a mild case, but I rely on daily medication to keep my symptoms at a manageable level. Symptoms can vary; but when I’m experiencing a relapse, it’s an absolute bastard (accurate use of medical terminology there). If you’re squeamish, I suggest you don’t look at the list of symptoms below:

  • Severe diarrhoea (up to twenty times in the space of 2 hours – sometimes lasts all day)
  • Blood in your faeces (bit of a shocker for the retinas, I must admit)
  • Intense pain in the lower abdomen, before, during and after the bouts of diarrhoea
  • Having a persistently ‘uncertain’ feeling in your gut; so you can’t tell if you need the toilet or not
  • Feeling exhausted and weak
  • Severe loss of appetite (which breaks my heart; dinner’s my favourite thing)

I find it really hard to explain the symptoms effectively; so I’ll also use an analogy I think everyone can relate to. Have you ever experienced ‘the shits’ on a holiday abroad? If so, can you remember how you thought your life was going to fall out of your arsehole, within a matter of moments; and you had no control whatsoever. I imagine your symptoms went away after a week or so; you laughed it off, and went about your normal life again. Well, imagine living with those symptoms on a daily basis, but with ten times the urgency, ten times the pain, and ten times the lack of control; Welcome to Ulcerative Colitis!

When I first became ill with UC at twelve years old; I ended up weighing just 5 stone. I’m not exaggerating when I say my parents thought I was dying; I was refusing to eat because I felt so unwell, and they had to have several strong words with my local GP before I even got a hospital appointment. I missed almost a year of school because I was physically unable to leave the house. It was a rough time, but I don’t really remember too much of it because I was young, and the doctors spoke to my parents about the serious stuff. I just remember gorging on doughnuts when I eventually felt better.

Through medication (a combination of Azathioprine, Mezavant, Hydrocortisone foam and Salofalk foam), sheer determination, and the support of my family and The Royal London Hospital; I have managed to live a pretty brilliant life without Ulcerative Colitis getting in the way. I can do pretty much everything everyone else does, mainly because I’ve got some sweet drugs (all legal) that keep me on track. However, even when things are going well with my condition; I still hesitate about staying over at friends houses, going away on holiday, and going to Music Festivals.

Sure, I might hit lucky and be symptom free on the weekend of Reading/Glastonbury; but I won’t know that until the time has arrived, so spending hundreds of pounds on a ticket months in advance, seems like a huge risk. When I get there, there’s also the camping situation, and of course; the shared toilet facilities. My friends have explained that usually, there won’t be queues for the toilets; but what if there’s a queue on the day where all hell is breaking loose in my bowel; shall I just do as the bears do, and shit in the woods? I don’t know if I’m cut out for that (no judgement if you’ve ever done that btw; when you gotta go, you gotta go!) Also, the pain is pretty unbearable at times, so I really don’t want to be surrounded by hundreds of people when my insides feel like they’re full of lava. If I’m feeling ill; I need privacy, and I’m unlikely to get that if I suddenly feel unwell in the middle of a mosh pit.

It’s not just the physical symptoms though; as with all long-term health conditions; the emotional symptoms are also difficult to deal with. If I suffer a relapse, I am usually prescribed a two month course of steroids. Steroids are a wonder drug in the sense that they solve almost all of my UC symptoms. Emotionally, however, steroids tend to do a number on me. I have never been officially diagnosed with depression; but when I am on steroids, I enter in to a depressive state that is at times, very hard to deal with. I also find my hands shake for no reason; and I feel anxious about the most insignificant of things. I become conscious of a ‘heaviness’ in my head, which never goes away, and I feel compelled to sleep for eternity. On a vain/superficial level, my face puffs up; which, on top of everything else, makes me self conscious and insecure.

Ultimately, steroids are both a friend and a foe to me. Fortunately, I’ve got a brilliant family who know how to help me out when I feel strung out, and once I’ve finished the prescribed course; most of these steroid-induced symptoms go away. If you have been officially diagnosed with depression, please don’t take offense at my self-diagnosis. I believe that my depressive symptoms are a by-product of my physical illness, which makes it easier to deal with. People who suffer with severe depression may not have the benefits of this perspective; and I empathise intensely with anyone who has been through/is going through periods of depression.

So, with regards to going to Music Festivals; whether I’m ill, or symptom-free, I feel the true experience would be marred for me if I was on steroids. I know people take all kinds of drugs at Festivals, and it’s not a big deal; but I can’t function properly on something that’s prescribed to me by a GP. Plus, there’s the possibility of a struggle with security when I turn up to the gates with a bag full of pills, and foams (I am a legal drugs FIEND).

This has been a hefty piece of writing, so I’ll bring it to a close. Ulcerative Colitis is the shitty reason (literally) why I don’t go to Festivals. It’s nothing to do with being a camping snob, or being a boring bastard; it’s all to do with not being able to predict whether or not I will experience a relapse or symptoms on the weekend of the festival. It’s too big a risk; financially and physically. Some of you may be wondering: ‘Why is she sharing this on the internet? It’s a bit personal/gross/unnecessary.’ I have no real reason; I just wanted to talk about it, on the off-chance that it might help someone who also has Ulcerative Colitis. The internet’s a big place; there’s always someone to reach out to!

DISCLAIMER: I want to differentiate between Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Both are complicated conditions; but IBD is generally more severe and much more difficult to control than IBS, which can often be controlled by changes in lifestyle or diet. Changes like this can improve symptoms for sufferers of IBD, but they do not eradicate all symptoms, or cure the disease; the disease is permanent (for now.)

You can donate to IBD research charities here, or just do some more investigating here. Thanks for reading.

My Dad’s Motorcycle, Salon Privé 2014, and a spot on Henry Cole’s TV Programme: The Motorcycle Show (ITV4)

For anyone who is interested in building or riding motorcycles, I highly recommend you watch the most recent episode of The Motorcycle Show on ITV4.

The episode features footage of a very special bike, built by my Dad. He spent over 6 years working on it in his workshop at the end of our garden and since its completion, he’s been invited to showcase his work at numerous bike shows and events. The bike has a Norton frame, with a handbuilt V8 engine.

My Dad’s bike is briefly discussed by Henry Cole in this episode. Henry is at the elite and prestigious Salon Privé British Supercar and Motorcycle Show, and this is where my Dad presented his bike earlier this month.

Here is a picture my brother took of my Dad, with his bike, talking to Henry Cole, at Salon Privé. Look out for the bike in the episode!

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My Dad with Henry Cole, Salon Privé, 2014

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My Dad and his Motorcycle at Salon Privé, 2014

Tackling the Big Stuff: Clothes and Outfit-Repeating

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.”

Virginia Woolf – Orlando

As Woolf points out in the above quotation; clothes are more than just protective, insulating barriers between us and the world; they serve aesthetic and occasional purposes. Some people couldn’t care less what they’re wearing and some people make it their life’s work to influence what everyone else is wearing.

As a young woman, I am acutely aware of the impact clothing can have on my own confidence and the way other people react to me. Here are a few moments in my life when I’ve realised how important – and with the gift of hindsight – how unimportant what I’m wearing is:

When I was eleven years old, my Mum accidentally ordered me a boy’s blazer for the start of my first year at secondary school. She didn’t realise the error and I didn’t either, until one of my friends pointed it out to me in the school playground. The fundamental difference was the ‘butt-flap’ on my blazer and the lack of ‘butt-flap’ on the girls’ blazer my friend was wearing. She found my blazer mishap quite hilarious; and as an eleven year old girl, with great big Dad-style eyebrows and a tiny sense of self-esteem; I was internally mortified.

I spent the first two years of senior school covering my ‘butt-flap’ with my extra-large school bag, praying no-one would notice I’d accidentally come to school dressed as a boy. I feel this incident inspired my later attempt at an androgynous look in my early twenties.

Fast-forward a few years, and my awareness of fashion trends had increased. It was a crime to not wear Nike trainers in P.E, and if your blazer sleeves were not rolled up and your tie wasn’t longer than a millimetre; you were obviously a complete dork. On non-uniform day, If your clothes didn’t have labels; you were likely to fall under the label of ‘nobody’. I bought in to it as much as the next kid. My parents insisted I would grow out of these new clothes within six months, or change my mind about them within three. They were wrong about one thing; I didn’t grow until I hit the age of fifteen, but they were definitely right about the mind-changing (Damn my wise, patient, caring parents).

I remember one particular non-uniform day when I wore my brand new fluffy body-warmer, with matching fur boots, and an older boy walking behind me on the way to class kindly remarked; ‘f*****g hell, did she kill a bear before school or something?’. In hindsight I applaud his creative insult, but at the time I was highly embarrassed. Fur was on trend that season and I thought I looked the bees knees. Perhaps that was the problem – bumble bees are excessively furry.

Another time, I wore a pair of bright pink converse-style shoes during my first week of sixth form, only to have a random year 9 girl exclaim ‘what the f**k is she wearing on her feet?’ as she walked past me in a corridor. At the time, I’d just grown in to a size 8 shoe and was struggling to find footwear to fit my awkward goat feet. This girl’s comment bothered me so much that I stopped wearing the shoes to school. If I could go back; I’d wear the shoes every day and politely remind her I HAVE SIZE 8 FEET THAT CAN AND WILL DO YOU SERIOUS DAMAGE IF YOU INSULT ME AGAIN. (That’s a lie; I’m a lover not a fighter; but sometimes passive aggressive imaginings make me feel better).

More recently, where I work; I was serving a Mother and daughter who were discussing what the daughter’s plans were for that evening. When the Mother suggested the daughter wear her favourite dress, the daughter insisted she couldn’t wear that outfit because on her Facebook profile it would look like she’d worn the same dress two nights in a row. This was a crime she was convinced she could not commit, so she spent an extra £30 on a dress she wasn’t all that crazy about, in order to avoid outfit-repeating.

As a budget queen, student, and owner of a ‘make do and move on’ attitude; I found it difficult to understand why this young girl wouldn’t want to re-wear her favourite dress. I consistently repeat the same outfits, because I know they look good, and more importantly; they make me feel good. Then I remembered how closely people had monitored my clothing choices in the past; and the embarrassing comments they had made about what I was wearing. Perhaps this young girl hadn’t found a way of saying ‘I’ll wear what I like, regardless of what you think’ to anyone yet.

All of these experiences proved to me that the clothes you’re wearing are apparently, the most important thing about you. What you’re wearing is up for public scrutiny at all times; whether it’s your friends at school, a random boy/girl, or your friends on social media; your clothes or your ‘outfit-repeating’ suggests that you’re not dressed in the correct way (whatever that is?).

As I’ve grown, I’ve tried and mostly succeeded in ignoring these kinds of pressures, and slowly found my own style (with the help of some truly excellent clothing outlets like Missguided, Asos & TopShop, as well as raiding charity shops). It wasn’t until recently, however, when I thought about these accumulated experiences; that I suddenly felt the need to justify to myself that it’s okay to resist the pressure to look absolutely-bloody-fabulous every time you walk out of the door to buy some bin-bags. For some, the pressure is external, and for others it’s internal, but it can be overcome.

Ultimately, I take comfort from Virginia Woolf’s words. Yes, clothes do tell us a lot about a person; but they are not the only way to identify with someone. Sometimes they’re a complete enigma, or a disguise; and we should endeavour to live and let live, whatever we’re wearing.

DOCS ON THE ROCKS

Dr. Martens and socks, on the Rocks