The Rift: An Excerpt

So, if you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that I’m working on a novel. I’ve been writing it since November and I’ll be honest, I’ve gone a wee bit stale around the 30k words mark. So in an act of self-indulgence and seeking support, I thought I’d post the first few pages so that, if you lovely readers like it, it might give me a kick up the ass to keep going. Enjoy.

Chapter One

Ellen Was

Two words adorned the page, black ink glistening in the low light. The letters seemed over pronounced, and cut into the thick paper. Written slowly, methodically; a sentence cut off before it could begin. How appropriate.

Ellen was.

Past tense. I’d arrived at the final curve of the S only to find myself winded at the sight of the partial phrase.

Ellen was.

28 years of life and this is what she’d been reduced to. I pointedly looked away from the notebook splayed open on my desk, ignoring both its contents and the fact that the corners of my mouth were forcing themselves down as my throat tightened. I fought stubbornly the urge to cry, before trembling to pick up the pen and try again.

I had not felt grief before. I thought that I had, as each of my grandparents had passed. But they were cold people, if you don’t mind me speaking ill. Not cruel people but, neither were they warm or affectionate.

This was different. A part of me had been torn away, wrenched across a distance too far to comprehend – and yet I still felt connected, tethered to her. The sheer agony of that string of entrails tugged at the wound Ellen had left, leaving me hollow, torn and stung. It was too much too bear. This, I thought. This is real grief.

Ellen had long since been estranged from what little family she had left – and as such, I was the only soul left who would offer a eulogy. It had seemed like a simple task; all I need do was talk about how wonderful a woman she was – and she was a wonderful woman. Yet now, sat in my boarding house bedroom, fountain pen hovering over the diary page, I could not form the words. The emotions I wanted to convey seemed to burst from every inch of me, all fighting for a chance to lay on that paper, but the result overwhelmed me.

The room I rented in the Whitechapel Women’s Boarding House held a single bed, a small and battered table and chair, a sink, and one lonesome bookshelf, atop of which sat the since untouched Bible that my parents had forced on me during their first visit to London five years ago, in 1935. They had declined the funeral invitation; I hadn’t blamed them. London was far too tense since the War broke out nearly a year earlier. We’d not seen any attacks, but we’d heard rumblings and rumours of their imminence.

Ellen’s room was the same as mine, mirrored on the other side of the thin wall, through which I could more often than not hear Bob Crosby or some other Orchestra hissing from her wireless. I’d complain that she had it too loud, that it was disturbing my reading. Without it, the silence screamed louder than any overture could have.

Ellen was.

Ellen was my best friend. My confidant, my platonic soul mate. Far too stubborn, far too superstitious, and not quite as intelligent as she thought she was. She had a sharp tongue and her wit was sharper, still. We’d spent five years living in each others’ pockets, drinking cheap sherry in jazz bars, claiming to be artists and bohemians despite not having an ounce creative talent between us.

Ellen was hilarious, and flippant, and altogether rebellious. Her mother had been a suffragette; even been in prison and gone on hunger strike. She ultimately died from complications of pleurisy, which she’d developed from the force-feeding. Ellen spoke of her often, despite having been just six when she died. Unable to handle raising her alone, her father had sent her to boarding school as soon as she turned eleven. This, she did not speak of often. As far as I knew, she hadn’t spoken to him at all since coming to London some six years later.  

How do you sum up a life, everything it stood for, everything it accomplished, everything it meant, every breath it drew, in a sentence? How do you reduce a human being to ink and paper?

Ellen was.

I heard the door to the shared bathroom finally open and grabbed my tatty wash bag, sprinting to the room in my dressing gown and leaving the eulogy. I habitually raised a hand to knock on Ellen’s door, to let her know she could wash when I was finished. I caught myself mid-knock. Winded again.

The only sensible black suit I had access to was cruelly the one I borrowed from Ellen for functions. Once scrubbed and dressed, I buttoned my coat and walked, alone, to the church yard. 

Ellen’s one remaining family tie, her younger brother Tom, had been the one to plead with her to accept the vaccine, but she remained convinced that it was laced with something; that she’d be making herself vulnerable to poisons and other ailments. She ignored Tom’s pleas. London was straining under the threat of air raids and real life villainy, and here she was, succumbed to a bout of damn influenza.

Tom braved the journey to the capitol, from his home in Kent to mine in Whitechapel, and greeted me with a warm, lingering embrace outside the church.

“Cassidy, thank you so much for arranging this,” he attempted a watery smile.

“Somebody needed to,” I tried not to sound bitter thinking about the pair’s father and how he had ignored my letters.

Once my dear Ellen had been lowered into the cold February earth, entrapped in a cheap unvarnished crate to the accompaniment of a low wounded moan emanating from my throat, Tom offered to buy me a drink. “I know I need one,” he half-smiled, timidly.  

The pub landlady, who had grown used to seeing Ellen and I gossiping most nights, clocked our black clothes and sullen faces, and refused to take any money for our drinks. The short, rosey woman rested her hand on mine and gave me a warm, slightly pitying smile. I avoided her gaze, mumbling a thanks for the sherry and shuffling towards Tom, who was still wrapped up in a grey scarf despite the fireplace in the pub burning a cushioned warmth into the air.

We sat quietly by the window of a tiny, almost empty pub; me facing the muscular but shorter-than-average builder in his ill-fitting suit and incorrectly knotted tie.

“What’re you thinking?” he looked genuinely interested, as though my expression had been one of sudden epiphany.

“I’m not,” I replied. “I just…what do I do now?”

Tom didn’t answer.

My life had revolved around Ellen. I hated my job, I had no husband, I’d run away from Devon and my family six years earlier when, at 23, my father had introduced me to his friend’s son – a 30 year old life insurance salesman to whom I quickly became engaged. I’d seen many girls go the same way – married and in love and then suddenly withdrawn and shy until you’d never see them again. I refused to become that woman, and so the first time Charles hit me was the only time. I stole cash from his sock drawer, packed a bag and headed for London. I found a job in a laundry, a room in a boarding house – and a friend in Ellen. Charles must have loved me at least a little; he never phoned the police about the money. And so my life of daily torment and nightly bourgeois began.

A group of school children passed by the window, blurred by the frosted glass. I followed them absent mindedly with my eyes.

“More and more of them coming back, now,” Tom said, lighting two cigarettes in his mouth before casually handing one to me. I took a long drag. “They reckon the threat was a load of rubbish, now. No Germans are about to bomb London, it’s a load of madness,” he rolled his eyes.

“It certainly looks like they’ve changed their mind at any rate,” I flicked ash into the crystal bowl in front of me. “It’ll be over by the time spring rolls around, that’s what everyone’s saying.” I half-heartedly echoed chat I’d heard from the delivery men in the laundry, unsure whether I believed the words.

The political small-talk distracted me for a moment. I swirled the dregs of the dirty golden liquid in my glass and my stomach let out a groan. It struck me that I hadn’t eaten all day. The nausea I’d attributed to grief perhaps was some percentage of hunger. I took another long drag on the cigarette, hoping to maybe fill up with smoke so that I didn’t have to think about food. I didn’t want to think about how dinner would be served at home in an hour, or how I’d sit in my assigned seat opposite no-one. And so I continued to drink.

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Thoughts On Happiness: A Life Audit

Thanks to @nylontoast for letting me use this INCREDIBLE artwork.

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Disclaimer: depression is an illness. I know this; I’ve been in the grips of it, and when you’re that deep and that hollow, it’s very difficult to get out. Maybe you need medication, or therapy, or time and support, or a mix of all of that. Whatever you need, you go ahead and you do it. This blog is taking another angle, and it might help you too, but it might not, and that’s okay. This blog is looking at general unhappiness, rather than clinical depression. Okay, we on the same page? Good.

It should also go without saying that these are my opinions and experiences – but here I am, saying it.

I firmly believe that we can be in charge of our own happiness in that instance. It’s well known that humans are prone to putting themselves in shit situations and thinking it’s the only option. I know I’ve done it in the past. I can honestly say that I’ve only felt truly happy as a person for about 18 months. But I soon realised that (aside from the bipolar and the anxiety), I was making myself miserable. I undertook a life audit. I changed a lot.

What Makes Us Unhappy?

I took a step back and, one by one, analysed the things that made me miserable. Here’s a handful of what I found:

Work – I hated my job. I thought I hated the commute, but I do that same commute now and it’s no skin off my nose. I was working long hours in a thankless job for no money. I was lucky enough to find something else, where I could flex my creativity and my talents and really feel like I was making a difference. It’s a trap a lot of people fall in to – and for some there isn’t another option, which is always shitty. Your job is the place you spend the most of your time, so of course it impacts what you’re doing. If it is making you miserable, look for something else. You do not have to put up with people who think they’re better than you; you do not have to make money for people who do not respect you; you do not have to waste 40 hours a week on something that bores you; you do not have to settle because it’s easy. You deserve better. Figure out what you want to be doing, and make a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. Sometimes even just having the plan there can help.  Even if you’re not a career person, and you don’t want to be rising through the ranks, and you just want to make money and go home – it’s so important to be working somewhere that isn’t actively detrimental to your mental health.

Money – Live within your means. You do not need expensive things to be happy. More often than not, if you’re buying lots of stuff you can’t afford it’s because a. you’re trying to fix something else by throwing money at it or b. you’re trying to impress other people. Neither one of these things will make you happy.

Toxic Relationships – If someone causes you more upset than happiness, cut them out. It’s that simple. If they’re bad for your health or your self-esteem, fuck ’em. Friends, boyfriends, even family – whatever. They are not worth it. You are important, and you are your priority. If you don’t put you first, no-one else will. In a relationship with someone who makes you chase them? BYE FELICIA. Feel like you need to change yourself to fit in with people? TOODLE AND ALSO OO. You don’t need them. When I realised I’d rather have no-one than be surrounded by assholes, my friendship circle suddenly whittled down to pure motherfucking solid gold. Seriously, my friends are the absolute shit. I cannot stress this enough.

Don’t stick with someone because you’re frightened to be alone. You’re fucking brilliant, you’re all you need. It’s a cliche but god damn is it true.

Confidence – This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, and it’s a tricky one to navigate. I’ve spoken before about how I discovered self-love and body confidence, and how much it changed my life, and I can not overstate it. Take stock of what you love about yourself: your personality, your looks, your talents. Do things that make you feel empowered – for me this is performing and wearing tight clothes on a body I used to hide. Learn to say ‘fuck off’ to the asshole in your head that tells you you’re not good enough. You are not here for long; life is short as shit, so don’t waste any time on hating yourself. It’s not worth it.
If you died tomorrow, would regret not having the ‘perfect beach body’ or would you regret never sunbathing naked? Would you regret eating the calories of a biscoffi krispy kreme, or would you think about all the times you drank good wine with good people and be so happy that you got to experience that genuine connection? At the end of the day, what randoms think of you is not important. You do you.

You Do You – This is my BIGGEST rule. First of all, there is no cookie-cutter person that lives happily ever after. It  doesn’t exist. You might think you need to have the perfect relationship, and go on perfect holidays, and live like the family on a christmas card – and hey, some people do have that and it’s great. But you can be a fucking weirdo and be happy. You can be single and be happy. You can be poor and happy, rich and happy, fat and happy, thin and happy, hair and happy, bald and happy, have 25 cats and be happy (I highly advise that one actually). As long as you’re doing it for YOU.

“You can’t mismatch prints!” – you think it looks good? Fucking mismatch those prints. “Chokers don’t suit you!” – DISAGREE. “OMG I could never go two months without shaving.” – K don’t then, tf does it have to do with me? “Feminists aren’t stay at home mu-” let me stop you right fucking there, we’re all feminists and we can do what we like, move along. Guess what – what other people think does not dictate what will make you happy. What society says you should do is not necessarily indicative of what you should do. You know you better than anyone else knows you so please just DO YOU. Big into throat singing? BELT IT. Want to paint hairy nude dudes? GRAB A GOD DAMN BRUSH YOU BEAUTIFUL WEIRDO. Can you imagine how much more interesting the world would be if everyone just went with their gut?

As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, you damn well do you.

Be Passionate – While we’re on doing you – do it with love. Find something that gives you life and do it. Paint, write, sing, build, dance, programme, clean, organise events, go travelling, watch every film, learn a language – find the thing you love and do it. Because otherwise, what are you wasting your time doing? As I already mentioned – your time is RUNNING OUT, fucking use it.

What makes you happy?

Valentine’s Paradox

First of all – Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s grey and dreary in London but I’m in a smiley love heart kinda mood anyway. You might not be. You might think today is shit. You might think it’s a commercialisation of a, let’s face it, pretty vague holiday.

A Made Up Holiday?

Like most of our traditional celebrations (I’m looking at you, Christmas), it seems to be an amalgam of crossed wires – a pinch of the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, mixed in with a dash of the execution of St Valentine, a priest who married Christian couples in secret (after Emperor Claudius decided everyone should worship Roman Gods instead. You know, for the lolz.)

There’s also speculation that Geoffrey Chaucer just made the whole thing up. There’s actually no record of Valentine’s Day before Chaucer’s poem in 1375 – “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate…”

And why is it widely accepted that we give cards and gifts? Well, a little card manufacturer known as Hallmark clocked onto the day and, in 1913, started mass producing Valentine’s Cards.

So yeah. It’s a pretty made up holiday; its origin is vague at best, and it has definitely been exploited for monetary gain.

Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Celebrate?

So Valentine’s Day is clearly a wee bit made up. You might think that it’s nonsensical to put so much effort into showing someone you love them, when the very day you’re celebrating is a farce. Yes, Valentine’s is largely bollocks. Does that mean you can’t celebrate it anyway?

Nope.

Now this is just my opinion, but- it is my opinion that you can do what you damn well please.

If you have a crush on someone, and you want to use a fabricated day to give you the kick up the ass you need to tell them – you damn well tell them.

If you think that the whole thing is an unjustified waste of time and money, no big – don’t celebrate.

If you’re in love and you like having an excuse to carve some time out of your schedule to shower your SO with affection and presents, fucking go for it. I bet they’ll love it.

If you think you shouldn’t need to be given a day to tell your SO that you love them, that you love them throughout the year – you go ahead and be romantic whenever you damn well want.

If you’re single and you like it that way, you can ignore today altogether – or you can watch and smile and be happy that others are happy.

If you’re single and you don’t like it that way, you can do the same.

If you want to have a palentine’s day, you do it. You want to drink a whole bottle of wine  and watch Bridget Jones? You do it. You want to just live like a regular old Tuesday? Fucking do it.

You do you, boo.

Here are the only danger zones: You should not make other people feel shitty about whether or not they choose to acknowledge the day. You should not feel pressured into celebrating because it’s ‘the done thing’. You should not feel like you’ve somehow failed by not having someone to celebrate a fake holiday with.

But What About Capitalism?

Want to celebrate, but worried about what your complicity will do for “The Man”? 

Well. Corporations hire people. Your money will be paying wages.

Not good enough? 

Make a gift. Cook dinner. Draw a card.

Still not good enough? 

Ok. Only buy from independent retailers. Go to a florist whose fee will pay for their kid’s dance lessons. Buy from a chocolatier that really wants to get into calligraphy but can’t quite afford the pens.

So How Are You Celebrating, Georgia?

Well, generally we don’t bother. Adam’s birthday is tomorrow, so I focus on that.

But this weekend, we saw a couple DVD’s we’d been meaning to buy (My Scientology Movie and Hateful Eight) on 2 for £10. So we bought those with the joint account under the guise of Valentine’s Day.

Then when we woke up, we said “happy valentine’s day” and had a cuddle. And that’s about it for us!

TL;DR: DO WHAT YOU WANT AND DON’T MAKE OTHERS FEEL SHITTY.

The Intersectional F Word

Feminism. It is for everyone. It is important. It shapes who I am.

What is it? How did I discover it? Why is it important? Why must it be intersectional? How does it affect my day-to-day life?

I have several blogs in the pipeline, but it occurs to me that a lot of them are around a similar theme: Feminism. So let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what it means to me.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you’re here, on my blog, you’ve a vague idea of what Feminism is – and you’re more than likely a feminist yourself, judging by this Twitter poll:

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But just really quickly for the people at the back.

FEMINISM = EQUALITY.

Got it? Need to write it down? I’ll wait.

One thing I am told from time to time is that, as a feminist, I am sexist myself. I am pro-women and anti-men. Which is, of course, bullshit. I love men. A lot of my friends are men. I’m even married to one. But I do not love men who hate women. So before I get on to my personal experience with feminism, I have borrowed a quick explanation from FemBotMag:

So why “feminism”? Why not “equalism,” “egalitarianism” or another name with a similar connotation? Feminism is a movement centered on advocating gender equality. Not only does feminism seek to elevate the status of women in society, it seeks to bring justice to people who have been discriminated against in terms of their race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and much more. Seeing that females have suffered from oppression in our patriarchal society, I think it’s okay that one movement is more associated with the oppressed gender, especially considering how it’s one of the only things we have to ourselves. Had males historically suffered the same amount of discrimination at the hands and will of women or from a matriarchy, perhaps the name meninism would be acceptable. However, males, especially white, straight males, have not suffered at the hands of sexism to the degree females have.

Feminism seeks to balance the scales, so to use fem in the ism, is to give females the boost we have been deserving of all this time, but have been consistently denied. Feminism doesn’t just seek to discover equality between all genders, it seeks to give back women everything they were denied; this is why it’s called feminism.

I’m aware this blog could get incredibly lengthy, so I’m going to try and keep it short and sweet.

How Did I Discover Feminism?

I discovered feminism as something I identified with when I was given Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman by my friend Lee-Anne. “It’s about feminism,” she informed me, “but it’s not all man hating and not shaving your armpits. I actually think we might be feminists.”

How right she was. Whilst I’ve always believed that women can do whatever they want, and that we should all be paid the same, and all the stuff that to any normal person seems like logic, I did spend a few years of my late teens as that utter dick who considers herself ‘one of the lads’, and who ‘hates girls’ because they’re ‘so dramatic’. What a prick. This book kick-started my feminist journey and taught me just how much more there is to do.

Why Is It Important?

Feminists aren’t angry lesbians with hairy legs who hate men. We’re men and women with consciences and an awareness of societies’ bias and white male privilege. Yes, we’ve come a long long way, and things are so much better for (at least cis-gendered) women than they were even 20 years ago. BUT. There is still a 23% pay gap. Women hold less than 20% of seats in US Congress, US Senate, US House of Representatives. They hold less than 30% of seats in the House of Commons. (When I first found these stats they were 3 years old, but upon researching further this is still, disappointingly, the case.)

Women are still taught to feel shame when they are raped and sexually assaulted, whilst men such as Brock Turner get off with light sentences because of their ‘bright futures’.

Female Genital Mutilation happens to girls as young as 5 months in 29 countries across the world. 120 countries don’t have law against marital rape.

Because when Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom faced off in the Tory leadership battle, the questions coming up surrounded their family situation; something which never would have happened to a male candidate. (side note, they’re both terrible, but that’s got nothing to do with their vaginas.)

Women are under-represented in the media, in industries, in boardrooms, in comedy. It’s getting better. But we aren’t there yet.

Fuck, a man who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women can still be elected to the most powerful seat in America, I mean fuck.

As Joss Whedon stated when asked why he writes such strong female characters, we need feminism “because you’re still asking me that question.”

And I haven’t even begun to talk about trans women, gay women, black women….

Why Must It Be Intersectional?

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all feminism. We’re in danger of becoming oppressive in our feminism, which sort of defeats the object, no?

My problems as a white, able-bodied, bisexual woman (in a heterosexual marriage, so let’s face it I pass as straight) do not fit one cookie-cutter type of feminism that would also fit those of a black woman, or a trans woman, or a disabled woman. To quote Kimberle Crenshaw, the American professor who coined the term, Intersectionality is:

“The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.”

If we’re talking about equality, we have to look at it from all angles of oppression, and from all angles of inequality. So I’ll end on a quote from writer & comedian, Ava Vidal, which sums it up better than I ever could:

To me the concept is very simple. As a black feminist, I do not condone Chris Brown physically assaulting his (then) girlfriend Rhianna, but I will object if someone describes him as a ‘black b*****d’, as one white woman did to me. It does not mean that I support domestic violence as she then accused me of doing. It means that I, like the majority of black women, don’t support racism.

The main thing ‘intersectionality’ is trying to do, I would say, is to point out that feminism which is overly white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied represents just one type of view – and doesn’t reflect on the experiences of all the multi-layered facets in life that women of all backgrounds face.

To sum up. Intersectional Feminism, or GTFO.

How Does It Affect My Life?

I find myself getting angry more often lately. It’s a smorgasbord of Trumpy Brexitty Moronic Cousiny madness that envelopes me, and gives me the drive to write blogs like this, to knit pink hats with ears, to go to protests and to argue and shout and stamp and wave my arms around and make my little, human sized person BIGGER AND LOUDER AND MORE NOTICED.

Since discovering feminism, I’ve discovered body positivity and overcome years of self-confidence issues. I’ve found new, amazing friends to fight alongside. I’ve changed the why I write both at work and in fiction. But it has destroyed some relationships. It’s made it harder to respect some people. It’s made me disappointed in others. It’s a belief that I subscribe to so strongly, and I feel that – if you’re an ‘anti-feminist’, despite knowing what it stands for, then we really have nothing in common. And that’s been a big realisation.

Tell me your Feminism story in the comments!

Disclaimer: I AM STILL LEARNING, just like the rest of you. I read and research and listen to what others have to say to make sure I’m accurately reflecting my beliefs, and that my beliefs accurately reflect reality. I’m totally open to discussing all of the above, so Tweet me or leave a comment!

You can also join in the live Poll Thread over on Twitter. Tell me about your feminism

A Ghostly Day Out In London!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been a victim of this tragic cycle:

“What shall we do today?”
“I don’t know, what do you fancy?”
“I don’t know, what were you thinking?”
“I’m not sure – what are the options?”
*repeat until it’s too late to leave the house/you are dead*

I live in this cycle. Adam (the husband) and I both work a lot, as well as rehearsing for two (or in his case four) bands and a stage show. So it’s pretty rare that we get a whole day off at the same time; and when we do, we generally spend it buried in a blanket burrito on the sofa. So this exchange sort of ruins the very rare opportunities we have to go out and do things.

However, through some miracle, I managed to pull this day out together a year or so ago. We’re both hella morbid – we’re obsessed with true crime and old abandoned prisons and ‘ghosts*’ and all that shebang. One of our first dates was the woods at midnight to go ghost hunting (read: tell each other spooky stories to see who got freaked out first). So for anyone who’s looking for some tips for a date day in London, read on…

Step One: London Dungeon

This one’s pretty obvious. If you’re going for a morbid day out, you gotta start here. We went shortly after they re-located to Southbank and it was fabulous. If you’ve not been before, it’s essentially a tour around a re-created London, learning about everything grizzly from the Plague to Jack the Ripper. With tour guides who never break character, and mini-rides to boot. A lot of fun.

This year, they’re putting on London Dungeon Lates, so you can go drink gin when the kids aren’t there and get spooked…

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We took Gregory the Executioner to the National Gallery between stops.

Side fact: Adam and I run into a problem a lot at attractions like this. I get the impression that he was a class clown at school, because he likes to play up to the tour guide like some sort of hyper-active child. He’s always desparate to get picked as a volunteer so he can crack wise and get some laughs. It actually works out pretty well when he is picked, we tend to win a lot of free stuff as *whispers* he’s actually pretty funny. On the flip-side, I do not like to be picked. I do the classic avoid-all-eye-contact until the moment has passed because I don’t want to stand in front of the group and put on the thing and do the thing and just no. No thank you. Unfortunately, 9/10 tour guides pick up on this dynamic, ignore Adam, and yank me up front. *shudders*

London Dungeon was also where we picked up Gregory the Executioner (pictured), who then joined us on the rest of our excursion…

Step Two: Lunch…

Okay this one’s not so grizzly. We went to Five Guys. Moving on…

Step Three: The Clink

This one’s not as well known as the London Dungeon, but if you’re interested in true crime and the history of crime in London, definitely check it out. You’ll only be there around an hour as it’s pretty small, but we loved it. Over in Southwark, it’s built on the site of the original Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144. The prison spanned over 600 years and housed “debtors, heretics, drunkards, harlots, and later religious adversaries”. You can get hands-on with the artifacts, read stories of historic prisoners, and even try out some of the torture devices if you are so inclined! Good and grizzly.

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Step Four: London Stone

Okay, it’s time for day-drinking. I’m afraid most all of my day-out guides will include day-drinking…

I should point out that we walked the entire day, rather than getting on the tube – if you do the same I highly advise telling gory stories about the plague victims in the Thames as you cross bridges throughout the day. You can also look up where various plague pits are situated if you feel like being grossed out (there’s definitely one underneath Liverpool Street.)

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Gregory rather enjoyed the selection of cocktails

Named after an historic London relic, The London Stone (which is a Grade-II listed piece of unidentified masonry), London Stone is a gothic pub situated opposite Cannon Street tube station. It’s easy to miss, as it’s just a simple doorway leading down a set of stairs…but it fits perfectly with the theme of the day, which is clear once you’re down there. With a gothic church vibe, the seats are all antique or replica pews, adorned with gargoyles, coffins and chandeliers. The toilets are hidden behind a bookcase for that ‘secret-room’ vibe.

They also offer a 7 Deadly Sins cocktail menu which, if you purchase one of each cocktail, can earn you a free T-Shirt. We both left with free T-Shirts…

Step Five: Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Bus Tours!

This was the booking that set the theme for the day – once we’d spotted this, the rest of the activities blossomed from there. The Ghost Bus Tours bus is a refurbished double-decker, with vintage curtains and lamps and some astoundingly good actors/tour guides. The bus picks you up at 7pm, and drives around supposed haunted sites of London, pointing out locations of torture, murder and executions whilst simultaneously pulling you into a ghost story of your very own…it was definitely the highlight of the day. If you can only do one thing on this list, make it this one.

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A particularly resonating location was the Crossbones Graveyard, which the tour group was ushered off the bus to go and inspect further. If you haven’t heard of the Crossbones Graveyard, it is an unmarked graveyard of what is considered to be in excess of 15,000 people. In the 1800’s, it was a part of one of London’s poorest slums, known then as The Mint. It was used for, among others, sex workers who weren’t considered holy enough to be buried on consecrated land. It was one of the most intense, emotional, and fascinating places I have ever been. To this day it is decorated with flowers and ribbons, creating a shrine to the ‘outcast dead’.

Step Six: Seriously?

If you make it this far, you’re a stronger woman than I. We were knackered. We went home and ordered Chinese food.

Got any tips on fun places to go out in London? Hit me up! @UpAndGeorgia

 

Too Young To Settle Down?

There’s a BBC article floating around at the moment, about how to buy a house before you’re 25. I’m going to start by pointing out that, for financial reasons, if you live in or around London, this is nigh on impossible. The article centres on Manchester, where the couple interviewed are both earning 20k or under, and the house costs about 150k. Bully for them, but down here? No chance.

My dad always says you can afford whatever you want, it’s all a matter of priorities. *Disclaimer: this obviously doesn’t cover poverty, unemployed, unable to work, etc. but you get the point. And my priority is to enjoy my twenties rather than stress over a mortgage. You do what you can, and you do it the way you can, and you do what you want. Whatever, you do you boo, I’m not here to judge. Though if you buy a house dirt cheap I will scowl behind your back but that’s just jealousy.

The thing that struck a nerve with me personally, however, was the amount of comments to the tune of “25 is far too young to settle down!!” and “Imagine being with the person you were with in your 20s for the rest of your life!”

If you know me or have been following me for a while, you’ll know that I am married. I’ve been married for about 18 months, having done the deed on 13th June 2015…when I was…25…

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The thing is, on paper, I’d have agreed with you. 25 is too young to know what you want with your life. But for me, that means – where I want to live eventually. What direction my career will end up going in. Will I shift my focus to music one day? Will I ever write a novel worth publishing? How many kids/dogs/cats/cars do I want? I don’t fucking know. Because all of that is in the future.

Thing is, Adam isn’t in the future. He isn’t some far off thing that I might get one day. He’s here now. And he’s been here a while. This wasn’t some hasty decision, we’d been together 6 years when I finally put on the puffy white dress. And I want him to continue to be as I figure the rest of this shit out. I don’t consider him as ‘settling down’, I consider him as my sidekick, my partner in crime, the dude that I get to come home to after a day of figuring my shit out and go ‘look at this shit I figured out today’, or the dude I can sit with a cup of coffee with before work, like I did this morning, bitching that my life is a god damn mess, I’m shit at everything and I’ll never achieve anything noteworthy. (I’m a delight when I haven’t had my coffee yet). 15894299_10155687465032195_5535570686345391466_n.jpg

The thing is about a good, healthy relationship is (in my opinion) that you don’t have to settle down and stop doing the things you do. He’s just there when I’ve finished doing them, to order pizza with and make up stupid inside jokes with, and to share my car and my house and my cats and my duvet with.

Essentially, if you’ve found the person – and you’re sure you’ve found the person – then why would you ass around? We act like we’re in our twenties, we still do our own thing, hang out with our own people, make our own way. We encourage each other to go play. But we can share it, and get excited about it together, because at the end of the day, if you love someone, you love them. End of.

Also he bought me a giant unicorn, so I have no regrets.

Ruining Chick Flicks by a Feminist Killjoy

Warning: Hey there! I’m a feminist killjoy, and I am here to ruin some films.

How many movies have been ruined for you since you discovered feminism? Lately, I’m noticing a hell of a lot.

This weekend, I had ‘the girls’ over for a movie night. We bundled into a pile of blankets and cushions and giant unicorns, cracked open some leftover Christmas wine and ordered pizza. It was heaven. Except…something in our movie choices was a little off. These were all the so-called ‘chick flicks’ we’d grown up with and loved – but suddenly, through my smash-the-patriarchy lenses, I found myself recoiling every few minutes. Teeth drying moments of “oh, no,” spattered throughout these stories I knew and loved so well.

Despite all of my friends identifying as feminists, I seem to be the most, shall we say, vocal, on certain things. I was shushed repeatedly as I snorted with derision each time a man came to the rescue, or the already-beautiful actress removed her glasses and suddenly became a princess. But it got me thinking. How many of these films we grew up feeling empowered by are actually littered with sexism? And can we still watch them, once that veil has been lifted? Or are we doomed to dump them with Lara Croft in the bin of pre-third wave feminism pop culture?

So, I took a look at a few films and a few common themes. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The “I Want” Song

Any writer or movie enthusiast knows that no story will work without a passionate protagonist; someone with purpose and flame. In musical theatre, this is known as the “I Want” song; the character generally is given a solo to show what means the most to them, and what they’re willing to fight for. So I took a few examples, with the of some Twitter folk, to study what some of these female characters are after, and if its conducive to sexism.

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I’ll start with the heartbreaker, just to set the tone. Bridget Jones’ Diary has been one of my favourite films for as long as I can remember, and despite her career flourishing mid-film, it is blatant to see that her drive is to find a man. She is single, and she laments being single. She is convinced she’ll die alone, and writes about it furiously in her diary. She doesn’t specify what she expects to gain from a relationship; merely that she wants one – and despite the film’s supposed empowering decision to have Renee Zelwegger put on weight for the role in order to seem ‘normal’, the only other real aspiration she shows is that of losing weight. So Bridget is negative about her, quite frankly, banging body, and she feels much better about it when validated by a man. Oh. Shit.

My Best Friend’s Wedding – Julia Roberts’ character is driven, throughout the entire film, by chasing a man.

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Legally Blonde – a film considered by some to be quite empowering based on the supposition that a pretty, peppy, fashion major can also be a bad-ass lawyer – is unfortunately tainted by the fact that she only goes to law school for…you guessed it…a man! Oh. Shit.

The only one of these films I could think of that didn’t have a man at the centre of the I Want, was Miss Congeniality. Sandra Bullock’s Gracie Hart is focussed on her career in the FBI, on catching bad guys and standing by her strict moral code. She’s not fussed what she looks like, she doesn’t care about acting ‘feminine’ to gain approval from her peers. Great, fabulous, I fucking love it. Oh wait, what’s that? The rest of the film is about how that’s not acceptable and she has to change? Oh. Shit.

Apologies and Girl-on-Girl Crime

As Tina Fey says in the immortal Mean Girls, there’s been some girl-on-girl crime here. (I’ve checked, Mean Girls passes the Bechdel test, don’t panic.)

Many of these films are lousy with the pitting of women against each other – jesus, look at Bride Wars! – and slut shaming. And yet when a woman does apologise, it’s to a man!

Let us not forget that this so-called feminist Elle Woods called Vivienne a ‘Frigid Bitch’ simply because she dared to get engaged to her single ex-boyfriend. And while we’re on that, what’s with the whole blondes are the good-guys, brunettes are the bad-guys thing? And don’t even get me started on the whole ‘minorities can only be sidekicks’ thing. Eugh. Have we not seen enough of that? Yes, I realise they sort it out at the end, but not before Vivienne has gone on to slut-shame Elle for what is actually a sexual assault. Oh. Shit.

In Miss Congeniality, there’s Gracie loudly judging all of the contestants of the Miss United States pageant. And why? Because they do care about beauty when she doesn’t. But neither is fucking wrong. We know this, as feminists. We know that the whole idea is to do what you damn well want and not what society wants you to do. This film seriously got my goat, there’s so much wrong with it I can’t even fit it all in this blog. BUT I’LL TRY.

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Oh and a special mention to Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On for apologising to her love interest dude, despite having done shit all wrong, and him just being pissed off because she didn’t immediately fuck him after they did some weird teeth-brushing flirty dance, what? SERIOUSLY WHAT?

The Look & The Gaze

Elle Woods is constantly within the male gaze, throughout the film, even in moments when she’s supposed to be all ‘sisters before misters’. She’s a sex toy, an object, to be pursued by Warner, by her TA, by her professor. She’s eye candy, despite her brains. What message is this sending to audiences?

Coming back to Miss Congeniality (this might be the worst one, seriously guys, watch it again and come back to me). Gracie is considered un-worthy based on her lack of femininity. Her life is portrayed as sad and lonely. When she is forced to go undercover (based on how she looks in a swim suit because that’s how the FBI works), she is scoffed at for not being the ‘ideal’ woman. So who do they get in to ‘fix’ her? A MAN OF COURSE. And who suddenly notices her once she looks nothing like herself? A MAN OF COURSE. UGH THIS FUCKING FILM YOU GUYS.

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I’m diving really deep in to the childhood ruining now, I’m so sorry. But. How could Eric have fallen in love with Ariel when she didn’t even have a voice?! Oh, yeah, boobs. Gotcha.

The Bechdel Test

So, you’re a feminist right? So you’ve probably heard of the Bechdel Test? Here are the 3 rules you need to adhere to in order to pass it:

1 – Are there 2 or more named female characters?
2 – Do they talk to each other?
3 – About something other than a man?

Let’s review a few:

Bridget Jones’ Diary

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1 – There are at least four named female characters.
2 – They certainly do talk to each other…
3 – Ah. Oh dear.

Legally Blonde

1 – There are three named female characters I can think of.
2 – Yep, they talk to each other!
3 – Ah. Even when she’s giving counsel to her client, they’re talking about her husband. Hmm.

The Little Mermaid

1 – Precisely two named female characters
2 – They do talk to each other very briefly
3 – Never mind.

Miss Congeniality, through some fucking miracle, actually does pass the Bechdel test. Proof that it’s not definitive. Yikes.

But you see my point. And trust me once you start checking, you won’t be able to stop.

Does this mean we can’t enjoy them?

This is the main issue, I guess. I took this to twitter, and the general consensus is that the level of sexism has a direct correlation to whether people are willing to watch them now that they’re more clued in. There appears to be a level of sexism that, much like the movies of the 60s and 70s, we are willing to forgive because it was ‘the way of the time.’ But does this feed future productions? Does it hold back progression in feminist cinema? And how can we, in all good conscience, pass these films down to the next generation, our cultural successors, without passing down that subconscious acceptance of those flagrantly wrong attitudes? How do we share something with which we have such a positive connection whilst impeding the negative impact?

 

I think it falls to us to make quite clear anything that is out of date and damaging, and to explain this to the future generations as they discover the films of our youth, so that they don’t fall into the same patriarchal hole.

As for me – I’m finding it harder and harder to enjoy the films that I once loved.

(Except The Little Mermaid, because come on.)

What do you think? Tweet me @UpAndGeorgia or leave a comment!