Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, social media

Inspired by Britney Spears: what happens when it gets toxic.

Baby, give me it
You’re dangerous
I’m loving it

Too high
Can’t come down
Losin’ my head
Spinnin’ ’round and ’round
Do you feel me now?

Oh,
The taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slippin’ under
With a taste of a poison paradise

I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

(Britney Spears, 2013)

Saying ‘social media is toxic’ out loud is about as revelatory as saying the green pasta twirls are the best; everyone knows it. If it wasn’t so faffy (and wasteful) buying a packet of Tricolore and picking out just the green ones, I’d absolutely be bingeing on them as much as I binge on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it. But I’m not. I’m sticking to good old fashioned fusili, because I don’t have the time for that shit and I’m waiting until they just do the right thing and invent entirely green packs of pasta, and also, I’m too busy bingeing on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it.

I work from home on Fridays. Last week was possibly the busiest week in recent memory (and my memory isn’t great because social media keeps killing off my brain cells). On top of my job which that week included organising a press night, I had improv rehearsals, an improv show, a photo shoot, rehearsals for another play and several meetings squished in around that like a tea cosie of added pressure. It was a great week – I like being busy and everything sort of worked and went okay and I look my age and not like a haggard old hypothermic witch in like 75% of the photographs – but it’s been 11 days since I’ve had a day to just ‘be’ and so last night I thought I’d not bother setting an alarm and wake up naturally.

At 7.45pm – because apparently when you turn 28 you become a morning person – for approximately 36 seconds I felt like a goddess. My body and brain was refreshed and my electric blanket was more comforting than a hug from Oprah. Then I picked up my phone and began the morning scroll. 47 minutes later I’m a different woman. I’m stewing over a cup of tea, feeling nauseous, distracted, unmotivated, and, ever so slightly wizened. Excuse my use of ‘wizened,’ it’s just so fun to say.

I spent a few minutes talking to my sister-in-law, who I live with, about how I need to start charging my phone downstairs and investing in an alarm clock, so I can’t tempt myself with all the glories of the online world before I can even properly see out of one eye. I then grabbed my phone and deleted all the apps. I mean, I say all the apps, I kept Whatsapp – because I’m not ready to lose my entire friendship group and I have a lot of long distance relationships to maintain – and I deleted Facebook ages ago because these days it’s about as interesting as a pot of houmous. But I did plonk Twitter and Instagram in the trash and now I’m sitting down to contemplate where to go.

When I think about what I’ve seen on social media this week it’s no wonder I’m ageing prematurely and constantly vomming a small bit in my mouth. On Twitter, before 8am, I’ve seen pigs being tortured, racist Halloween costumes, stories of sexual assault, men telling women they’re shit, women telling men they’re shit and petty, bitchy gossip which is reminiscent of being 14, except in year nine we had MSN so we just said it to people’s faces. On Instagram, I’m seeing people’s holiday snaps, perfect vegan breakfasts, nights out, cocktails, shopping hauls, pumpkin after pumpkin after sodding pumpkin, often shared by people I know – and I’m including myself in this – aren’t actually happy. Not really.

Why are we teasing each other with snapshots of our perfect moments when life isn’t perfect? What are we doing to each other? Why are we playing this game, which we all know isn’t real, to make ourselves feel better for a split-second until we see a picture of someone else in a bikini/drinking a frappuccino/getting a free holiday/getting engaged/having a baby/being more successful than us/buying a house/spending loads of money/being cool and suddenly feel shit again?

When I was on holiday I turned the data on my phone off and started writing a blogpost I never ended up publishing. It was called “vacation: unfiltered” because I got really cliché in Tuscany. Yet again, I’d reached a point where I spent more time looking at Twitter and Instagram than I did breathing, blinking and, judging by the state of my IBS, digesting food. Something had to change. So why not add to the challenges I had already set myself for holiday (get a tan, regular bowel movements, eat ice cream every day) and turn off that free 4G?

Here were some of my entries, about the detox but also compensations for the one photograph of the pool I gave in and uploaded to Instagram, in the form of some holiday truths.

It’s Tuesday as I write, and I haven’t been on Facebook since Friday. I checked Twitter once, because it’s Edinburgh Fringe and I get FOMO, and I gave into temptation and posted a photo of our swimming pool on Instagram, because, let’s face it, us millennials have been bred to brag, and what’s the point of having a swimming pool to yourselves set against a backdrop of Tuscan vineyards if you can’t ignore the view and instead spend 15 minutes showing off to people, most of whom aren’t your friends?

I’ve checked Instagram once and Whatsapp about twice a day – because I’m very attached to my friends, and also there are other ways of bragging.

We have been truly ravaged by mosquitoes. I look like a pepperoni pizza.

Yesterday I got stung between the eyes by a wasp and it’s only thanks to the fact I’m already double-dosing on antihistamines due to my worldwide hay fever together with the fact my body is already covered in red bumps that you can’t tell. 

In fact, I also have spots thanks to sun cream that are worse, far worse, so that’s nice.

I have IBS. The biggest triggers for bloating that can rival a woman who is six months pregnant are dairy and white flour. My diet on holiday has mostly comprised of pizza, pasta, bruschetta, ice cream, yoghurt and extra bread alongside every meal. My attempt at eating vegan regularly has flown so far out the window I THINK it has landed somewhere in the Yorkshire dales. If it’s any consolation I did find vegan Calippos and, if I hadn’t already posted on Facebook that Ed and I are getting married, I would be at the registry office right now, trying to make a Vegan Calippo my life partner.

I think I have three ingrown hairs on my bikini line.

It took us three days to find good food out. It might look picturesque but Tuscany’s main delicacies are wild boar and steak – not ideal for vegetarians.

Our shower only releases one line of water, like when a hose (or penis) dribbles a bit. Washing over half a metre of thick hair is one hell of an adventure.

And, finally, the image I project on social media versus the reality:

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The irony about writing this blog post is I’m entirely reliant on social media to get anyone to read it. So, already, within about an hour of deleting the apps I’m travelling the old-fashioned browser route to satisfy my approval cravings. And I’m reliant on it in other ways too. I’d never have raised over £1000 for my half marathon without Facebook. No one would come and see my shows. I wouldn’t be able to stalk cute babies dressed as characters from Killing Eve. I’d be ignorant of many world events – and equally at risk of staying in my tiny bubble.

But something has to change. Today a particularly vicious, gleeful cycle of bitching on Twitter pushed me over the edge. Me taking a break isn’t going to change anything – but I might actually be able to get some work done today if I stop letting it overwhelm me. It’s not always industry-related. Sometimes it’s an animal cruelty video. Or an Instagram story by someone whose life is cooler than mine. So I guess this is my way of making a promise to myself – to detach from it all – and also, as much as I find it hard to imagine that anyone has read my blog and thought ‘I’m so jealous of that cystitis-fuelled, anxiety-ridden queen of IBS,’ to just compensate for any part I’m playing in that social media game by dismantling it, acknowledging the bullshit, and taking off the filter.

It’s Friday morning. It’s 10am. I’ve done no actual work yet except write this blog. I’m sat in my Harry Potter pyjama bottoms with no bra on. I think I’m allergic to my laundry detergent so I’m regularly itching various parts of my body. I just ate Cornflakes with oat milk – part of my vegan agenda that begins at 8am and ends as soon as I eat chocolate and cheese later in the day. My hands are numb because the house is cold. I’m me.

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, realism

Coming Clean.

I have something to confess to you all.

There is a dress at the bottom of my washing basket that has been there for one year. It’s hand wash only and in twelve months I haven’t found the motivation, inspiration or remotest sense of interest to sort it out.

I hate hand-washing clothes for a number of reasons. It’s time consuming. It’s faffy. I have to go upstairs to use the good sink. It’s boring. But it’s absolutely no excuse, is it? I should be ashamed. On a shame scale I’d say it’s probably worse than forgetting about a satsuma at the bottom of the fruit bowl and only discovering it one month later after it’s grown its own ecosystem, but it’s not as bad as, say, leaving your child in the supermarket and going home to watch Gogglebox?

Either way though, I refuse to be ashamed, because, let’s face it, this entire blog centres around confessions and smashing filters to smithereens and if I really was ashamed of myself, I’d probably be doing something about it, instead of pointedly ignoring said item of clothing and writing about it instead.

I’m taking it as a sign that today is my one-year anniversary of not giving a shit. In the age of clean, I’m embracing the obscene (and rhyming, apparently.) Because the thing is, I know, deep down, I am just the kind of person that cares more about having a choice of cereals in the morning than a choice of presentable clothes.

It isn’t even a time thing. I take a lot of time making cool packed lunches in multi-coloured Tupperware. I spend time straightening my hair so I don’t look like an (albeit anaemic) Aslan. I spend time writing, sitting on my hands so I don’t bite my nails, thinking about the future, thinking about puns, and – I’m self-conscious enough to feel like I have to defend myself here – washing everything else. Because I’m still a clean person. I wash all my other clothes – very regularly. My towels. My face. My hair. (Sadly, even though my loathing for hair washing rivals my loathing for complicated laundry items, I can’t get away with leaving my head at the bottom of the washing basket for a year.)

And the dress isn’t soiled or anything. I don’t think I even sweated that much that evening. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t need to wash it. I probably could have just sprayed it with Febreze and hung it back up. And my laundry basket is this kind of plasticky stand-alone Ikea one, so I don’t think it’s prone to germs or infestations. Basically I don’t think I’m endangering myself or anyone I live with by leaving it in there, getting it out every time I do a normal wash, and putting it back in.

It’s just one of those can’t be bothered adult things that I’ve let get the better of me. Like descaling the kettle. And getting a proper job.

Maybe I’m a late developer. I mean, let’s face it, I still haven’t got boobs. Perhaps when I hit 30 I’ll finally learn how to do it all. How to shave my legs without maiming myself, how to stop all my woolly clothes from going bobbly, how to just hand wash a damn dress. Or maybe, maybe, I’m not responsible enough to do washing. Perhaps I can skip that bit of adult life out. I tried to wash my denim jacket earlier and forgot I’d left a crème egg in the top pocket. It’s now fucked. Truly fucked. And the worst part is, I’d bought the egg as a present for someone. It wasn’t even for me. No part of the situation is fair.

It seems ironic, given London’s illegal levels of pollution, that we seem to be living in a clean age. Instagram grids are flawless, fridges are jam-packed, no, not even with jam, but with spinach and spirulina and self-love (mine is actually full of cheese strings left over from my noughties play). Everyone is living up to this idea of perfection that’s probably inspired partly by Scandinavia and their damn perfect interior décor, partly by Reese Witherspoon, and partly by that person you went to school with on Facebook who you don’t really like, or know anything about anymore, but who posts photos of her baby in immaculate bibs (why does it never dribble)?

But it’s not sustainable, is it? Just like fossil fuels, this mining of Youtube and Instagram and Pinterest for lifestyle inspiration and the perfect bath (if I took a photograph of my bath and put it on Instagram I’d probably get reported for being triggering), means at some point if we haven’t already, we’re all going to end up having a breakdown. Perhaps we all need to take a step back and start leaving more things at the bottom of the laundry bin.

I’m not writing all this in reaction to the clean scene, because honestly, actively ignoring that dress at the bottom of my laundry basket isn’t an act of protest. But it does fit nicely with the theme. I’ve given up chasing perfection and trying to be something I’m not. I spent pretty much all my teenage years trying to escape my own body and be someone else. It resulted in a bad fringe, two months spent trying to be a ballet dancer, and a lot of self-loathing.

I’m happy with who I am now but I don’t take myself seriously enough to start trying to paint an image of perfection online. I barely know how Instagram works, although I did recently discover when posting a podcast, that if you use the hashtag #adultfilm a lot of porn stars start following you so that’s exciting. It’s actually quite hard being an adult and managing to do lots of different things. We don’t get wet break time. We don’t get rewards for doing unpleasant things like tax or epilating. We have to be responsible for our own tax. Not nearly enough of our clothes have pockets in.

So happy anniversary to me. Cheers to being messy. To celebrate, I might do a hand wash tonight, because now I’ve put the dress out into the world I feel like I really ought to do something about it.

Well. At least before I turn 30.

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health

This Valentine’s Day, I choose me.   

As I write this, it’s Sunday and I’m in a strange place. It feels familiar – but like I might not have been there for a long time. It’s warm. I’m under a blanket. I have a mug of Gingerbread Green Tea next to me which makes me a wanker but a happy one because it’s delicious. I’m watching Julie and Julia and wishing with all my heart that Nora Ephron was still alive to write parts for women like this. I’m looking at Airbnbs and one of them has a pet pig and I might have to move in there. It’s cosy. It’s dark outside. I’m alone.

I’m on the sofa.

Guys, seriously. I’m on the actual sofa. Chilling the fuck out. What happened to me?

Is this… is this self-care?

Let’s rewind.

2018 has not got off to the start I was hoping for. Nothing terrible has happened. There are a lot of things to be happy about. I have a job. I have two sharks. I can afford to buy Eat Natural bars. But I’ve not been that happy.

If we can take a moment to remember Anastasia and her famous words, I’m sick and tired, of always being sick and tired. Where are you now girl?

If we want to be specific, lyrically and contextually Anastasia is talking about how sick and tired she is of her boyfriend being a dickhead. Not a great Valentine theme. Eduardo – “my man” – if I dare to claim him, is pretty much my only constant source of inner peace at the moment and that’s not even an innuendo.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent most of this year feeling sick and tired. And I’ve decided enough’s enough. That shit’s gotta change. Which is why it’s pretty monumental that I’m chilling my beans on a corner sofa right now.

There are a lot of great things about working in the arts. You can wear what you like. (Most) people have great personalities. Every now and then you meet Sharon Horgan (yeah I had to bring that up again.) But there’s also a lot of stress. It might be stress about your bank balance. The late nights. The competition. (The sexual harassment and abuses of power.) Or the fact that everyone in the industry seems to have the most perfectly white teeth and by comparison you think your teeth look like you’ve been smoking 40 a day even though the only thing you’ve ever smoked is a sherbet dip dap by accident.

To give you an idea of where I’m at, in the last six days, on top of a job that takes me out the house from 8.30am – 7.30pm, I did a live podcast recording, finished a draft of my new play, rehearsed my current play, started to read a book to report on for a film company because I need the extra £££, sent off a bunch of press and industry emails every day to try and get them to see my show AND had to maintain appearances of sanity and fun and energy and coolness on all social media channels so, you know, people still like me and come to my play. It’s lucky Ed was working away because seeing my boyfriend on top of that, as well as my friends, speaking to my family, cooking meals with vegetables in, not spending too much money and doing the occasional bit of exercise, was IMPOSSIBLE.

Split photo
I mean, don’t get me wrong, seeing our faces and names on a wall makes it ALL worth it.

It’s no surprise, really, despite eating a lot of tomatoes and Berocca and walking to work every day and trying to avoid the underground if possible, that this January I got the flu. And I got sad. And I felt guilty. And it took some wise words from my friend, that I don’t live in a war zone and I have all my limbs, to give me some perspective.

Because I’ve been doing it all wrong. I need to stop saying “I’m really busy, or ill, or tired” out loud or I’ll just let it happen and do nothing about it. My life does not have to be this way but I have made a decision to want it all – all by myself like a grown up (although to be honest – I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a grown-up until I can use the word smorgasbord in a sentence). If I just stuck to having a day job and a social life I would have – in many respects – an absolutely banging life. It could be enough. I could buy WAY MORE than just Eat Natural bars. Everything would continue just fine without me.

So I’ve decided it’s time for me to start having fun again. Because if I’m eternally miserable chasing a dream I should just go and get a well-paid job in the city and start spending lots of dollar in Cos, or something, whatever those people do.

Two weeks ago I went down to four days at work. It’s a horizontal step. My bank balance is frowning, but my soul is happier. I have time… time to dedicate to my own projects without it eking into my weekend so much. Time and breathing space. A little bit of risk and a little bit of pressure to keep me inspired.

I’ve changed my commute – I leave five minutes earlier so I can avoid going underground in the mornings, stay sane, look at the sky and get some work done on one train with a seat without having to get off at Victoria station which I have to say I find more traumatic than the end of The Notebook.

IMG_3118
Anyone else think King’s Cross is a total megababe?

And I have a new resolution. FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT: to be positive, to work hard and to chill the feck out in equal measure.

I will no longer be that person who says “I’m busy, or tired, or stressed, or down” when someone asks how I am. From now on I will say “I’m good, I’m working hard, I’m hungry” (because, sadly, that I always am.) So this Valentine’s Day I’m making an online promise to love myself (not that way) that little bit more. To stop comparing myself to others, or beating myself up for not making it yet, or overdoing it. I’m going to drink more tea, sit on the sofa more, get outside for some fresh air, and floss. Because no matter what, we should always floss.

If you’d like to come and see my show SPLIT, co-written and performed with the brilliant comedian Tamar Broadbent, you can do so HERE. Use the code BESTFRIEND for £5 tickets – it runs from 28 Feb – 04 March 6.15pm as part of Vault Festival. 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, realism, Summer

Boob sweat, bum imprints and surviving the British heatwave.

cocktail photo

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of sun. Or rather, I love that it’s not rain. Rain gets in my shoes, frizzes my hair, fogs up my glasses and drowns my miniature strawberry plant. Rain is not for dancing or romance, like they tell you in the movies. It’s for drenched socks, slippery stairs and soggy newspapers strewn on the streets of London like leaflets for a storm.

Right now though, after I’ve managed about three hours sleep because my room is (and I know this because my radio is a thermometer) over thirty degrees at midnight, I can’t remember the last time it rained. Hydration feels further in the past than dinosaurs. Sun cream and a suffocating tube carriage have blocked out all memories of anything other than sweat.

It calls for an emergency remedy. But this is no time for water, sunglasses and climbing in the freezer. It’s time for a list of the daily dilemmas that impose themselves on us unaccustomed Brits every time the heatwave strikes. This is for everyone trying to be a functioning adult in the heat, as opposed to a millionaire blogger, small baby, or anyone with their own swimming pool. This is for everyone trying to remember a life without crotch sweat. Because we all know the only way you survive change is by stalking the internet for lols, right?

So where are we at?

Well. You’ve sweated so much between your boobs in the last 48 hours you’re about one hour away from wedging a Calippo in the middle of your bra and calling it a day.

You’re on Twitter approximately every 12 minutes missioning through #Britishheatwave hashtags because sarcasm is the only relief.

You’re afraid to sit down anywhere that isn’t the shower because you’ve left an imprint of your bum on every seat in the city and it feels a little bit like unprotected sex.

You have spots in places you never knew possible because it is impossible to stay grease-free in buildings that were made for the Ice Age.

You’ve spent most of your working days trying to overcome your seething jealousy of girls whose make-up stays on their faces, as opposed to seeping down cheeks, onto clothes, so you look like a picture a five year child drew for their school tea towel.

You’re thinking about starting a petition for free sprinklers in all London Underground stations. And free journeys to Antarctica.

No matter how hard you try to sleep on top of the duvet, there’s still a part of you that needs to keep some part of your body under the covers for safety, so you melt in your own predicament.

Sun burn will come for you, whether you like it or not. It will find a way in, like James Bond, and it will leave strange shapes on the underside of your arms and in between your toes, and suddenly you’ll miss your chilblains.

You’re so unbelievably bored of salad but it’s the only food you can eat without feeling like your insides are boiling.

Blow drying your hair has become as unrealistic as paying off your student loan, so you’re wild like Mufasa and hoping no one will notice.

Hayfever’s back. That bastard of a sidekick to any increase in temperature, where sleeping with the window open is a death warrant, and you’re one sneeze away from asking for an induced coma.

Physical contact has become impossible. You try to kiss your partner goodnight and they flinch, roll over and mutter “Are you trying to kill me?” You lie together, but apart, staring into the void, alone in the dark.

But it’s not all bad news. Every sun has a silver lining, right? Right?

For example, my cactus is thriving. It’s literally never looked so good. I swear – in my slightly hallucinatory state this morning – I saw it smile at me. Another brilliant thing about heatwaves – we have a medical reason to eat ice cream on the hour and not wear a bra for the next two months. When you add in the joy of freckles, no need to carry around a coat or umbrella, the fact that we Brits all love to complain about everything anyway, and the valid excuse to go up to dogs you don’t know and give them sips from your water bottle, it might just be the best time of year.

And just like that… as my sunburn from twenty minutes outside at lunchtime fades and I grow accustomed to this new climate, I check the weather app on my phone and see rain is forecast for seven days next week. It was nice while it lasted.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, Theatre

Learning lines and learning limits.

Tamar and Emma Split_with_title_b

It’s Sunday evening on a bank holiday and I’m horizontal on the sofa – or as horizontal as I can be with humidity hair that is now so vertical it’s almost touching the ceiling – learning lines and watching La La Land and wondering if I’ll ever shake off this headache that’s been bothering me for the last two days.

I’m trying to work out whether it’s because I’m really due a cry but am apparently dead inside, because I’m tired and stressed and what feels like ten litres of water a day isn’t enough, because the contraceptive pill is causing some kind of internal bleed in my brain and these are my last 24 hours on earth, or because I’m firing all cylinders and there genuinely isn’t enough space for thought in my skull anymore.

It could be one of the above or all four; either way I’ve picked up my laptop to write a blog post for the first time in a little while because I have to get some thoughts out of my head and onto the internet before I explode.

I’ve abandoned writing anything new recently because I’m rehearsing non-stop and – I don’t know if you’ve heard this before – but there aren’t enough hours in the day. A friend of mine on Friday night took me to one side though, and said he’d hoped to read a new blog while he did a poo and was disappointed to see I hadn’t written one in a while as it’s his favourite thing to read on the toilet, and I feel compelled to write now because it’s genuinely the best compliment anyone’s ever paid me.

So here I am. Wishing I was Emma Stone. Trying to ignore my aching brain. Thinking about re-opening the giant bar of Green and Blacks I shoved in the fridge. Wanting to talk a little bit about what it’s like to burn the candle at both ends in the hope of getting somewhere, sometime soon.

I’m really proud of my play. For anyone who isn’t friends with me on Facebook and who isn’t sick to death of me spamming the internet about it, I’ve co-written it with one of my best friends in the universe, Tamar Broadbent (remember that name) and when we perform it feels like all the good things in life.

It’s funny. It’s happy. Hell it’s short. But you don’t have to be writing Hamlet for it to feel like hard work. Both of us have at least one full-time job and it means trying to create something in lunch hours, or in evenings in my garden because we can’t afford rehearsal space or on the phone on the train without commuters giving you death stares. It takes up a lot of headspace – on top of spending every waking hour thanking God no one can see all the sweat between your boobs in 24 degree heat.

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Sleep vs. rehearsals. 

It is completely worth it – but it doesn’t stop me having this feeling in the back of my head that if we just got to do this, only this, actually spend some proper time making something special, instead of trying to fit it around everything else, it would be so brilliant and I’d never complain again. But alas. Real life is a thing. And I can’t live at home with my parents because they live in the New Forest and quite often donkeys get onto the rail lines and you can’t get to London. I didn’t go to Cambridge – I went to King’s which has a good reputation for law and medicine but the humanities department is severely underfunded and you perform your shows on a sticky floor of a nightclub. Opportunities aren’t knocking on the door – although some Jehovah’s Witnesses did for the first time the other day, so maybe that’s something. I don’t have the money to study again or dedicate myself to writing or workshops. Basically it’s never been an option not to work – constantly – to get by. So where does it leave me?

Well. I’m a bit fragmented because this is the first night in I’ve had in a while and I’m finding it difficult to relax. It doesn’t help that I keep having to go outside because I’m spending all my money on flyers and props so I’m having to bulk-cook vegetable chilli for every meal this week. And the heat of the spice combined with the heat of the air temperature means it’s not cooling down. So I’ve had to put it in the shed and need to keep checking spiders haven’t snuck into the Tupperware.

Living the dream?

Between now and opening my show next weekend, on top of work I’m trying to work out how to build a bed on stage, sell enough tickets for opening night, get enough sleep, not get ill, start my new improvisation course, release a new podcast episode, remember to feed the birds in the garden because I’m home alone all week and if Eduardo comes back and sees I’ve left them to die he might leave me, try and fit an entire set in my car which is approximately the size of a microwave), and try to remember who I am.

Don’t get me wrong. I am so lucky. I feel grateful I can choose to live this strange, stupid life of trying to be an artist in inverted commas. I have parents who support me no matter what and haven’t forced me to go into insurance. A boyfriend who’s helping me build aforementioned bed and who comes to see every show multiple times. Friends. Friends who get it. Who do it too. Or if they don’t – who tell you they’re proud of you in random Whatsapps. To live in a society where I am free to make theatre about thongs and tank tops and first time blow jobs and not be sent to prison. To have the most brilliant writing partner. To have a laptop and all my fingers. To be alive and breathing.

But, and don’t hate me, in the words of Ariel, I want more.

How are you supposed to work out whether the right thing to do is sit back and be satisfied or keep on moving? I love working in a theatre that inspires me, with people who are rays of sunshine, and near some of the most edible bakeries in the world. I can also get away with wearing whatever I like – and for someone whose fashion choices range from toddler on first day of pre-school to a nineties teenager wishing she was in Rent it’s something I will never take for granted. But I still can’t help day-dreaming while I’m on Outlook – about being able to write all the time, or make people laugh for a living, or send emails about my work instead of anyone else’s.

Does that make me a nightmare? A want-it-all? An unrealistic stargazer? Vain? Greedy? And – even worse – if “it’s understandable” and “we believe in you” and “go-get-em” that’s the answer then when is it going to happen? Because I don’t think I can do both forever. I don’t have enough Tupperware and it’s giving me a headache and I’m losing sleep over it and I only have so much confidence and self-esteem to get me there. It’s not just me. I’ve had countless conversations with friends in the business over the last few weeks who are trying to make ends meet, or do another rubbish waitressing job so they can go to auditions in the day, or who are starting to believe that it’s only ever going to be money that gets you places, or who are close to giving up.

But enough of the negativity. My life is not a tragedy (afraid I can’t say the same for my hair.)

Limits are hard to define. They are as blurry as a selfie in a nightclub. As grey as London’s polluted sky. As shady as slim. But I think I’m getting to know mine. When I’m not tired and headachey and nipping out to the shed every five minutes I’m actually positive. This grafting is as much a part of life as “making it.” And potentially it’s the best bit. Right?

Life isn’t just success and money and love and holidays and a really good barbecue. It’s credit card bills and bags under your eyes and judging anyone who says they like running. It’s that awkward feeling of a tampon not quite fitting right. IBS. Mouth ulcers. It’s holding hands and sneezing and falling asleep with a breeze through your window that feels good at night and awful in the morning when the pollen starts seeping into your lungs. It’s choreographing songs in your garden and eating fish fingers. It’s being proud of yourself right before spilling a drink in your bag.

Our play is on next week in Brighton. It’s called Split and it’s about all the best and worst bits of being a teenage girl. It’s set to a noughties soundtrack – like a romantic comedy about that relationship you have with your best friend before you fall in love with someone for real – when you speak all night on the phone and share your deepest secrets and dream of being in a girl band and think ice cream is the answer to everything. Tamar is a queen.

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Being a teenager is all about feeling insecure and imagining a future and having multiple disasters in public and wanting to feel loved and trying to fit in and trying to stand out at the same time. Really it’s not that different from being a twenty-something trying to be a writer. You might know how to kiss better and no one’s making packed lunches for you but life is still both endlessly frustrating and endlessly optimistic.

I’ve been ready to give it my all this year. I still am. But I’ve also wanted to turn my life around in other ways – to be healthy and sane and satisfied. So now I’m going to get my chilli out the shed and go to sleep. Because it’s half ten and god damn I swore to myself I’d learn the last scene and then go to bed early and look the bloody hell what happened.

So to everyone out there trying to make something for themselves. Whether that’s a career, a family or just a really good fry-up. You’re the best and you’re already succeeding. Life is such a mess but I think – because Disney tells us it’s true – that it’ll happen and it’ll all work out. And if it doesn’t – well it’s quite nice to just sit back and watch Ryan Gosling on screen and dream. Happy bank hols.

Tickets for my show here.

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London

Looking backwards, then looking forwards, both hopefully without walking into a lamp post.

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Happy New Year you sexy beasts!

Today I started the year as I mean to go on; with a bowl full of Star Wars cereal and a lack of desire to wash my hair. After a week of friends, family, shortbread bingeing, country air, dog envy, wellies, board games, and refusing to go anywhere without my slippers, I’m back in London and ready to get into the swing of things, big time.

Right now I’m thinking about insuring my gadgets – so clearly this is the year I take over the world and become extremely boring.

I wanted to jump on the reflections and resolutions bandwagon even if it’s just giving myself a pat on the back for grating cheese last year without injuring myself and lining up some exciting goals including getting a better rounders bat. 2016 was a bullshit year for us all and some things are hard to recover from. So it’s lucky we’re all superheroes, hey?

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2016, THE BEST BITS.

  • Starting improvisation classes. It’s all about meeting new friends, playing around and growing in confidence. Plus learning things is SO COOL (said Hermione). Bring on term two.
  • Writing a play with one of my best friends, the one and only Tamar Broadbent (remember her name). We have two shows coming up on January 24 and 27 at The Bunker Theatre so come see please as we don’t have enough grandmas between us to fill 220 seats. (Tickets HERE!)
  • Living in the countryside. Okay, so when I say living in the countryside, really I mean the London/Kent border but in comparison to where I was living before it’s practically the sticks. I love being a 10-minute drive from fields that stretch all the way to the horizon. I might be a city girl in the week, but the weekend is for farms, wellies and fresh air and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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  • Sitting at a table in a hotel and having someone make me a pain au chocolat from scratch.
  • My Macbook has changed my life. I’m dying inside as I type that but having a computer that works without catching fire, doesn’t run out of battery before I’ve opened up a window, and that’s light enough for me to carry into work and write on every day/lunch/commute is the bomb. Apple – you can sponsor me whenevs, babe, you’ve got my number (and everyone’s number you fucking weirdo.)
  • Being in a job I love, with people who are fun and kind, who let me write a staff panto, have an endless snack selection, and which means I can actually pay my rent without having a heart attack is cool. Who knew?

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  • Finding my sharks. Period.
  • On starting my tax return, discovering to my amazement I’ve kept my government gateway password in my oyster card holder for an entire year and it’s the first time I don’t need to call up HMRC to get new log-in details. I think that means I’m now responsible enough to get a dog.
  • The people who make my world go round. Eduardo for being my shark dad and other half, my family for being my core and such fun, and all my friendlings for not complaining about coming to my shows, and generally being the best humans on earth.

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2016, THE OUTTAKES.

  • We all know anxiety is a bitch. And whilst my stress levels are down, butterflies are dormant, general throat swelling and stomach churning is stable, it’s still the bane of my life and the journey isn’t over because I’m still a nightmare hypochondriac. So let’s make 2017 a year of more talking about mental health; it really works.
  • Having a second smear test because of an abnormal result was a real piece of dick, and I’m kind of dreading going back for my annual check-up this month. But how lucky are we for the NHS, and how unusual and innovative a start to the year it is when someone spray paints your cervix, and thank god for wine.
  • No one invites cancer and yet it always turns up to the best parties. Losing someone special this year turned my world upside down, and still catches me mid-breath. But the people you love never really leave you; they are in piano keys, and family, and laughter, and sunshine. So here’s to a year of making the most of every single minute and saying I love you.
  • Losing faith in half the country, and then half of America, and also a lot of humankind has been a strange one for us all to deal with this year. None of us have the answers, and I imagine it’s another year ahead of unease, disappointment, frustration and battles that seem impossible. But I have faith in people, in action, in goodness, in kindness and in working together. Let’s make magic happen.
  • One year later, deep in the depths of winter, my allergies are going nowhere. Pretty sure I’ve single-handedly kept Kleenex in business, that 60% of the water in my body is lemon and honey, and I’ve permanently damaged the insides of my sinuses from nasal spray. Consequently I’m thinking about naming my first born Hayfever.

AND FINALLY, 2017’S RESOLUTIONS, IN BRIEF (BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO MAKE ED WATCH THE SOUND OF MUSIC FOR THE FIRST TIME).

  • I want to be less addicted to my phone. No more stalking Zoella on Twitter and getting annoyed that she spells LOTS with an apostrophe.
  • Exercise has got to make an appearance. My arms feel like playdoh right now and I’d like to have upper body strength for the following hypothetical scenarios; meeting Donald Trump and punching him, riding a whale, and breaking a Terry’s chocolate orange open with my bare hands.
  • More sleep is coming my way and stress is being kicked out the park this year.
  • Taking my bra off earlier in the day is high on the agenda, or perhaps just finding way to discretely not wear one. They are such a pile of shit and I’m having none of it.
  • Laughing as much as possible. Seriously, I want this year to be full of stomach-spasming, side-splitting LOLS.
  • Following on from that I might get an experimental haircut. And also I want to be better at accents. Someone please help me.
  • Instead of trying to be revolutionary and give up lip balm, I just want to make sure I have enough lip balms in every bag, pocket and room in the house so I never hyperventilate when I lose one.
  • I want to give everything I have to creative projects. This year is the year I give it my all. Whether it’s the play, or the podcast, the blog, or getting extremely good at plasticine, I want to have enough faith in myself to grab every opportunity going and make. things. happen.
  • I’d like to do more for charity, join more political protests, read more books, see more films, speak more Spanish, and buy shoes that fit.
  • Finally, I never want to forget the priorities. The people I love to the bottom of my heart, health and happiness, sharks, sleep, protecting the planet, complaining less and acting more, and being kind.
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Can I see my future from here?

Happy New Year all of you. Let’s do this. X

Graduates, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, Theatre

What I’ve learned about money, self-worth and happiness when you’re chasing a dream.

In the same way I’m open about my boobs because they’re small I’m open about my bank balance because it’s smaller. 

I’ve been wanting to write a post on money for a little while now. It tops the list of things most people don’t like talking about (except maybe dandruff?) and people are always so much happier when things are out in the open, right? 

(By the way – I think I might be getting cystitis.)

More specifically I’ve wanted to write about the old money situ when you work in the arts – also known as “where bank balances go to die.” In the least boring way possible though because (just in case you thought it might be) this isn’t the Financial Times. This is for everyone else who imagines “earning a stable income” as finally being able to shop in All Saints without worrying that all the leather tassels are judging you.  

When you tell someone that you’re embarking on a career in theatre you’re not usually short of warnings that it’s going to be really hard (or in the words of my grandparents – “oh no, what a shame, that’s the opposite of medicine.”) What I’ve learned in my four and a bit years out of university and knee-deep into the world of theatre is that if you can’t see the funny side of that time a pot noodle was out of your price range, it is just really sad. 

The only people who get it are people doing the same thing. So hold onto them tight. Like little lobsters with big dreams. 

There have been real ups and real downs for me and admittedly at the lowest points I’ve doubted whether chasing some far-off dream is even crazier than the time I tried to flirt with a man in German when I can’t speak German. It took stepping away from everything to realise it but ultimately theatre is a part of me and I can’t not do it. I cant be happy any other way. There’s no room for compromise. So how to make it work?

Since starting from scratch two years ago, to gain some much-needed perspective, I’ve changed my attitude towards everything. Goals, relationships, finances, avocado, you name it. I’m less stressed, angry, anxious and frustrated than I was at the worst of times and more optimistic and imaginative. Now I find paying my bills on time hilarious and thrilling as opposed to tragic.

Which is why I’m writing about this now, and not a year ago. I’m convinced a good sense of humour is the only way to make sense of everything but it’s taken some time to arrive here. 

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Can I see my future from here?

Everyone has different ways of dealing with money. What we all have in common is shared passion and immense dedication. So this is a high-five to everyone out there trying to make a living from doing what you love – wondering if it should really be as hard as this. And another high-five to everyone who took the sensible route and avoided a humanities degree and lives comfortably in a house with a dog and a high-tech potato masher. You wise owls. 

So – what have I learned?

When you’re self-employed, every day is like a game of Monopoly. But the banker is biased and likes to give 90% of all opportunities to white middle-class men. The real life equivalent of ending up in jail is finding yourself trapped in Pret a Manger drawing up a list of the lengths you’d go to for a salmon sandwich.

But also every day is mufti day and you can wear converses to work – so swings and roundabouts?

The funny thing about theatre is this culture of privilege coming head to head with a very niche culture of being (or just feeling) really poor. You’re meeting people from all sorts of different backgrounds but the funny thing about artists, and to an extent Londoners, is that everyone’s making a living out of pretending so you never know what is real or not. We live in a city full of people complaining about having no money whilst drinking expensive gin at the top of skyscrapers. It’s very confusing and makes it harder to see the parameters, the sign posts of where you’re going and how you’re getting there. 

You must be careful not to get too annoyed at the people who talk of being poor when you know for a fact that their parents bought them a flat in Covent Garden to be “closer to all the opportunities.” Let them do their thing, you do yours. See, poverty is fashionable in the arts – it’s cool to eat cereal for dinner or to dress like you found your clothes in a bin in Lewisham, because it gives you, and your art, integrity. And it will sound better in your autobiography than that time you struggled to park your jet outside the Royal Court. 

Theatre ain’t the place for authenticity. We’re all living in a world of delusion. We might as well join the party. 

The best part of working in the arts is that creativity binds you to other people more than anything else – we’re all in it together. Two summers ago I was working twelve hour days, seven days a week, and still struggled to pay my rent. But so was everyone else. Once we spent an entire week researching for a pub quiz because we needed to win to…well, buy things. We won. In this city, anything is impossible, you just have to think outside the box and have really good general knowledge.

There will always be a low point. If you’re me, there will be several. My time of real crisis – even worse than the time I had to choose whether it was more important to buy tampons or lunch – was when someone told me I’d never get hired as a secret agent because my overdraft shows great irresponsibility. It hurt – not only because my back-up plan if I fail as a writer is to be a spy – but also because I don’t see myself as irresponsible. I’ve never missed a month’s rent. I’ve always watered my cactus. When I was earning £150 a week I never bailed on my friends because of money ever. It’s just very hard to not go into your overdraft when you live in zone two and get paid under minimum wage. Surely a spy should know that? 

More often than not I’ve worked for no money. I worked my way through university because my student loan didn’t cover my rent and interned at every other opportunity – I was hungry, excited, energised, driven. Until I wasn’t. It’s really difficult to find the balance between being determined enough to carry on but also taking time away to consider whether you’re doing things in the best way. But I’ve learned the hardest times are the most useful times because they might just point you in a different direction, a better direction. 

It’s okay to learn how to survive on -£50 a week, to work every day and every night to make it, to live off peanut butter and raw carrots. Providing you are happy, healthy, and have a sense of self-worth. For a long time I convinced myself that working non-stop and earning no money meant that all that grind, dedication, full-blown awareness of what it takes, was the reason I was going to make it. It was self-punishment in a way, for not taking an easy route, and frolicking in the struggle in the hope of the best possible outcome.

Actually what happened though is in the end I fell into a big, messy, anxious, sleepless, hungry puddle and was no use to anyone. It wasn’t the lack of sleep that got me. It wasn’t (in theory) the lack of cash. It was a feeling that I wasn’t worth anything. That my journey wasn’t leading anywhere. That – actually – I should be getting paid enough to live comfortably – after all this time. But by this point I’d lost a fair bit of rationale, probably because you shouldn’t eat too much peanut butter – we all know that – and instead of thinking logically I just left everything and started over. 

It’s taken two years to build myself back up – to have the confidence to work out what I actually want to do in this crazy world, to map out what makes me fulfilled creatively but also to learn that I need some sense of routine and stability to keep me sane. I’ve learned to set my own boundaries now. I know what I need, what I want, what I’m worth. Despite now having a full-time, salaried job in theatre, I’m not yet financially comfortable, because I’m still bailing myself out from my freelance days and also what even is comfortable, except, of course, not being afraid of All Saints?

I have no real savings. If I’ve resisted the urge to buy multiple croissants, one month every now and then there will be a little holiday fund happening. Sometimes people will make you feel guilty about not having a rainy day insurance policy – right now I’m focussing on more important things like just how great it feels to type the word ‘peppermint.’ Whilst I could be persuaded to see a marker of success as being able to afford coconut water – or a car – it’s not top of the list. First I want to stage my play. Nowadays most of my expendable income either goes on nicer toilet roll and shampoo that doesn’t bring me up in a rash. If I’m feeling particularly flush I’ll treat myself to some posh antihistamines. 

There will never not be financial pressure when you’re choosing to make a living from something that only the lucky ones make any decent money from. Living with Ed has changed things – he earns a lot more than me, wants to travel the world with me, and he’s witnessed what it’s like when I fall apart. He’s my support system in the best possible way but our dreams don’t always line up. We want to do a trip to Indonesia next year and so right now I’m juggling in my head how to save for flights that ideally I need to buy tomorrow and how not to die of a tropical disease before I’m famous.

At some point – if I really want to write my own material full-time – I might have to go freelance again. And that’s a scary prospect. Even if it is tax-free. But I’m happy. These days – for the first time in a really long time I’m looking after myself. And it’s paying off. I’d also take sneaking cans of G&T into the stalls over posh cocktails in skyscrapers any day. I’ve learned that to be successful you have to give your all and that’s fine by me. So long as it gives you something back, enough to replenish you. The day it doesn’t – that’s when I’m becoming a spy. Just watch me.