Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Roundabouts.

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Sometimes I think I’m in control of my life. I look at my impressive selection of Tupperware. I regularly buy courgettes. I think about insurance from time to time. And often I feel in control of my life when I’m driving, even if it’s just to the local swimming pool. I feel content, have a purpose. To be honest, I probably enjoy any mode of transport that isn’t the tube, but cars are the best. I can play music out loud, fill the passenger seat with snacks, feel the sun on my right arm and hope I get a lopsided tan.

It must be something to do with the fact I’ve made life decisions that mean I lack stability and a sense of direction in a general way. Sometimes, genuinely, I feel like I’m more likely to win an international snooker championship than ever actually write for a living. Sometimes I’m okay with that. Sometimes I feel happy in the decision I’ve made to chase a seemingly impossible dream and never pay off my student loan. And then other times, I pretend I’m fine and then I have a breakdown at a roundabout for no apparent reason, in the vehicle that’s supposed to represent me at my most sane (a Daihatsu Charade), and realise it’s all got a bit too much.

Recently I lost the plot at a roundabout and realised I’m not superwoman. And I learned that the biggest risk behind being in denial is finding yourself crying in a farm shop car park on the phone to your dad on a Saturday morning. I should have realised, by the level of anxiety the thought of filling my car up at the petrol station on the motorway was causing me, that I wasn’t in a good frame of mind. I should have known, from the fact I woke up, wondered why Ed hadn’t texted me from Scotland to say good night, assumed he’d died and started planning his funeral, that perhaps I wasn’t in the most balanced of moods. Nevertheless, I persisted, and it didn’t go so well.

Of course I’m no longer at the roundabout now, because I drove home, made a cup of tea and called it a day, but I am at a roundabout, permanently it feels, going round in circles, and I don’t know which way to go. I’ve talked before about coming out the other side of a battle with anxiety, dosed up on therapy and ready to rock the universe. And to a degree this is true – most of the time I’m much better than I was before. But right now, it’s not as good as it could be. Part of me wonders if it’s ironic, a twist of fate at work, because in a moment of ambition I signed up for a half marathon to fundraise for Mind UK, and since deciding to try and run 21 kilometres through the city of London in the name of the country’s biggest mental health charity my anxiety has gone through the roof.

One of the most frustrating triggers is a sense of restlessness, boredom or loneliness. It makes me feel like a failure, it makes me panic, it makes me cry. It’s why I don’t spend much time alone in my house. I see plays. I do classes. I run around the park. I see friends. I fill my time with work. But this is complicated because another trigger is exhaustion, doing too much and high levels of stress, and so I often find myself trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little. I suppose this is the reason why I seem to have developed a perpetual fear of making decisions and a rather debilitating sense of potential regret or guilt. I’m constantly over-thinking what I should and shouldn’t do, with my day, with my job, with my life.

I’ve become slightly allergic to people asking me ‘How I am’ and ‘How things are going.’ Something bottles up inside me. Genuinely, I have no words, and this is a scary thing for someone who enjoys words. Succulent. Discombobulated. Refrigerator. I feel like I have nothing to say – or that if I did start to actually try and describe how I feel it would be extremely inappropriate in the theatre green room, or during a smear test. But that’s why I have a blog – to open a lid on things unspoken. The other day on Twitter I saw the description for the 19th century equivalent of “meh”; “flobly-mobly,” which means somewhere between well and not-well, and in need of sunshine.

I am extremely flobly-mobly right now.

I really hoped that I could start referring to ‘my anxiety’ as just ‘anxiety’ – something separate from myself, like ‘crunchy nut cornflakes’ and ‘nuclear war’ but I can’t, because it’s a part of me, like my ability to play on words, and my hair. And just like my hair, sometimes my brain behaves, and sometimes it gets a bit frazzled. My anxiety means I spend a lot of time thinking about cancer. It means stomach butterflies. IBS. Chewing the inside of my mouth every day. Not picking up the phone to unknown numbers. Thinking about getting home before I’ve even gone out. Fearing decision making. Intrusive thoughts. Thinking about cancer some more. Restless nights. Palpitations. Distraction. Procrastination. Dread.

However…

My anxiety makes me a caring person. Empathetic. Forward-thinking. Organised. A good party planner (even if once everyone arrives and has a great time I go upstairs to bed). Without anxiety I doubt I’d have acquired my sense of humour. My cynicism. To be honest, I doubt I’d have such good Tupperware, because I’d probably just chill out about routine and money and just buy lunch out more often. My anxiety makes me hungry – for success, for fulfilment, for crème eggs when I’m feeling really low. My anxiety makes me me – a Wednesday’s child, a good friend, a funny person, a writer.

It’s 6.50am. I set my alarm to go on a morning run.* I’m trying to break through this distaste I have for running first thing in the morning. I once had a terrible experience involving a Park run and hay fever and it put me off. But most half marathons seem to be at the crack of dawn, so I need to somehow get through it. I’m in bed, having a cup of tea, waking up, writing, and then I’ll leave the house. It’s sunny outside. This week, I’m doing me. I’m doing the things that make me happy, and giving myself a pat on the back for just getting through it. Often I fall into the trap of thinking anxiety is a weakness, a failure, a system breakdown of sorts. What I forget when I’m panicking, and remember when I’m calm, is that it makes you strong. It’s not easy getting up and going to work on an average day, let alone when your brain has spent all night telling you you probably have HIV. Sometimes it’s really hard just to get on the damn train.

I am lucky. I live in a world where we are beginning to talk about mental health openly. The sun is shining outside. I have a support system. Freak shakes exist. This is a reminder to myself that I need to get back to operating on a scale of gratefulness, love and joy, and not a scale of fear, pressure and guilt. I’m running this damn half marathon whether I like it or not, and I’m running it for brains, and health, and honesty. So you can expect some more from me on this topic. I’ve shut it off for a while, because sometimes it’s quite nice to think you’re chill all the time and crack on like a normal person. But the door’s wide open again. Because I’m hardly normal. I have two pet sharks. And normal is boring.

*I wrote this blog post yesterday and forgot to post it. I’m not going on a run this morning. I have an 8.30am hospital appointment for a colposcopy. The third year in a row that my smear test has come back abnormal (told you I wasn’t normal.) Don’t want to sound like a preacher’s daughter, but go get your vaginas looked at, mates. It’s not the most fun I have on an annual basis but I’d rather this than, you know, my vagina falling out or something. Book. Your. Smears.

 

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Highlights, waxing and everything in between.

Oh January. You crept up on us all didn’t you? It only seems like yesterday I was moisturising my chafing thighs in the summer heat and suddenly it’s winter and 2018 and all my shoes leak. Over Christmas I was feeling a bit in limbo. It was impossible to actually do any work because there was always brie nearby waiting to be spread onto a cracker but I couldn’t escape a feeling of stress bubbling under my skin at what the New Year might hold, whether it’s selling my show in a city where literally no one cares who you are or my hair dryer exploding.

Then, just like that, it’s the 1st January and suddenly I don’t feel so scared anymore. A little bit because FRIENDS is now on Netflix and the world seems to have righted itself. And a little bit because I only have a dread of things actually happening – once they’ve happened it’s not so alarming. The only exception to that rule is when I tried to wax my own bikini line – I thought it would be terrible and I did in fact end up glueing said wax to myself for two days, surpassing even my own imagined levels of horror.

I know it’s only been one day but I’m loving 2018 already. I’ve spent it eating leftover jelly, hanging out with my favourite humans in the countryside, watching FRIENDS re-runs and thinking of some killer resolutions. But before I get to all that here are just some of my 2017 highlights. Life is a whirlwind – one minute it’s your 21st birthday and you’re being sick on your own shoes in a nightclub and the next minute you’re an actual adult and own an Oyster travel card worth over £2000. So I’m all for sitting still for a moment to take it all in.

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For the first time ever I saved some money and paid off my credit card which when you work in the arts is no mean feat. I completed my improv course and actually performed it live in front of other human beings. I stuck to vegetarianism right up until New Year’s Eve when I forgot and ate jelly babies. I ran my first 10k. I also wrote my first solo play, entered a competition and I got into the final 100 writers (out of 1000) which made me feel slightly better about spending so much of my time dreaming about being the next Sharon Horgan. Then I actually met Sharon Horgan and told her I love her. Tamar and I ended the year how we began, performing Split to a sell-out crowd in Surrey. My podcast  launched an entire season and the next one is on its way. I managed my anxiety better than I ever have before. I got braver at admitting what I want and saying it out loud. I got angrier and started speaking out at things that make me mad. I started to give myself a break – to stop thinking of myself as a failure and be proud of who I am.

And now for this year. I’ve thought long and hard – sort of. I’m quite hungover and still watching FRIENDS in the background. But here we go:

  • Give blood – I chickened out this year and am determined to do it in 2018
  • Run a half marathon – GOD BLOODY HELP US ALL
  • Write something every day – even if it’s just a spectacularly good tweet
  • Use less plastic – no more buying soups out and straws can fuck right off
  • No more snooze button – it’s simply not allowed
  • Be able to do an actual press up by the end of the year – come onnnn Emma
  • Visit three new places – this was fun and I’m doing it again
  • Wear less make up – excluding eyebrows, I need eyebrows
  • Use my phone less – bring on tech-free evenings

So there we are. The good, the bad, and the holy shit balls I just remembered I haven’t done my tax return. WHY GOD WHY.

2017 was a blast really – sure it had its bad bits but given various worldwide events that have happened this year I think I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. I’m heading into the New Year with a whole lot of ambition but also a better sense of self-care (in every area other than bikini waxes that is). It’s all well and good piling on the pressure to make something of my life but at the end of the day, I get to come home every day to a house with its own Oxo cube tin, a pretty epic girl power Lego collection and two sharks. That’s more than enough for me.

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Happy New Year y’all. x

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl, Travel

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #4: Cyprus Diary

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Part of me worries I’m only capable of writing posts about bad things, like losing my dog, or that the thing tampons do from time to time where they sort of dry out inside you and you have to hobble around until you can find a toilet or discrete bush to sort yourself out in. So here’s a happy holiday post for you instead.

I’m not capable of having a glamorous or romantic holiday. My IBS is usually appalling because I lose all willpower when I get into airports and eat between one and seven chocolate croissants for breakfast no matter the time of flight. I never tan successfully, my skin suffers from all the sweat, and let’s not even talk about my humidity hair. So whilst I was queen of relaxation last week for the first time in months, my trip still had a little sparkle of Emma dilemma in for sure.

So last week I gate crashed Ed’s work trip to Cyprus, like the most basic of bitches. Ed works in schools, mostly in places like Northampton and Croydon, so understandably I’ve never felt the urge to join him on his staycations. Every now and then though he gets an international invite. It’s the perfect half time between summer and Christmas, where you’re feeling a bit… dead? Your skin is falling off from all the pollution, your eyes barely stay open because it’s dark constantly, you’re crying out for nap time every hour of the day, and it’s not quite acceptable to get through the day with a six pack of mince pies yet. Time to get away.

Four days. Limassol, Cyprus (I didn’t know where that was either). A lot of ice cream, a few awkward encounters, one flat fish.

Monday

Leaving the house at 6.45am – barely know my own name. Flight is at 11.30am which gives me plenty of time to spritz myself in as many Victoria Secret perfumes as possible. Pret have run out of breakfast pots so I’m angry tweeting them. Going to Nandos instead. Nandos do spicy beans. Who knew?

I spend 4.5 hours editing my play on the plane. Remember this section, because at some point I’m going to be hassling you about it, because it has a wee London run next year.

An entire day has passed by, because Cyprus is two hours ahead, so we’ve landed at 6pm and get to the hotel at 7.30pm. It’s been about 11 hours of travelling door to door, and I’m starting to wonder why I’ve used one of my gold dust holiday days (holiday is rationed at my job more tightly than sugar in a nursery) to travel. But then we have dinner on the beach. In November. There is tzatziki. And courgette fritters. And wine. And everything is okay.

Tuesday

It’s a Tuesday and I’m in Cyprus. Honestly, this never happens. Tuesdays are more stressful than this and nearly always in London. Tuesdays are normally at the very least a full day of work followed by a three hour improvisation class and no time to wash my hair and a peanut butter sandwich for dinner on the bus.

Breakfast is unreal. Made to order pancakes. I could live here. I note you get a lot of weird looks as a woman eating breakfast alone in a hotel. I feel like a cross between Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and a lost exchange student.

There is an unusual amount of kittens in Cyprus.

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I spend the morning reading the new His Dark Materials book by the pool and I’m in seventh heaven. Then I venture out to the supermarket to get some lunch, have some difficulty weighing a tomato in a foreign country, and the cashier asks me where my parents are. I feel vulnerable.

We spend the evening walking about 3-4km to a marina, counting kittens, and eating the most enormous vegetarian mezze platter at a restaurant on the seafront.

On the walk home we can barely move. Ed thinks he’s dying. I’m kind of feeling a Maxibon but even that might be over-doing it. Anyone else have a separate sugar stomach?

Vegetarian food here is really good. I think I’m in love with an aubergine I ate for dinner.

Wednesday

It’s a Wednesday and I’m in Cyprus. Again, this is unusual.

I forgot to mention, I have extremely sore boobs on this trip. I’m prolonging my PMT a bit to try and not bleed in Cyprus, and as a consequence my hormones are eating me from the inside.

Ed has a half day at work, so I take it upon myself to do nothing again, because one of us should right?

I venture into a less psychologically damaging supermarket for lunch.

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I try and discretely eat prawn cocktail quavers in the outside bar without them asking me to buy something from the hotel, because the problem with posh hotels is everything costs money inside and I can’t bill Ed’s work for cocktails. I prep all my research for my podcast recording this week, and I feel pretty on top of the world.

I wonder if travel bloggers get thigh chafage.

We go to the gym when Ed gets back, because it makes sense to try and use it once. Here, the gym is a man’s world. It is full of testosterone and competition and weird stares. I defiantly listen to the Moana soundtrack and try not to break a rib on the weights.

Ed and I make a pact not to over-eat at dinner again and fail.

Thursday

It’s our last day. I’ve never done the whole winter break thing, and I’m sold. It is extremely good for the soul.

Ed has a free day, and we see a flat fish camouflaged in the sand in the sea. We feel like David Attenborough.

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We see an ancient Greek amphitheatre and ruins of old houses and baths in the mountains above the ocean. It makes Bromley look pretty beige.

I make the mistake of checking my work email at the airport and scare myself with the reality of having to be a working woman again tomorrow, and not a super chilled, read-aholic, freckly, wannabe professional gelato taster. I think about having lots of wine on the plane.

Now I’m on the plane. There are a lot of drunk old people. Someone is massaging their wife’s feet across the aisle as she bends over. The people next to me sense my concern and give me a home grown satsuma from their Greek plantation. I think I might have to marry both of them.

Home. Lots of people have asked me the big How Are You question this weekend and for the first time in forever I’ve honestly answered great. I’m relaxed. I’m anxiety-free. I’m nourished (not least because I made about 45 gingerbread men yesterday). I always forget the whole taking time off thing does good for your soul, but I feel like a new woman ready to rock.

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Food, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Recipes

The best VEGGIE meals for BUSY people that are CHEAP and have nothing to do with QUINOA (YUCK).

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Generally I don’t take photos of any food except ice cream because I’ve usually eaten it before I remember – so I have zero pictures of these meals. You’ll have to take my word for it. Here are some strawberries to brighten the page up though.
Never in my life did I think I’d be recommending anything I’ve cooked to a wider public. Cooking is not in my genetic make-up. In my kitchen I can tell you where the ice cream is, and have contributed a pretty brilliant pig-shaped egg timer (or “pig timer”) to the gadgets collection, but my entire life I have preferred eating food to creating it, to supporting others’ endeavours, while I drink gin and entertain them with puns or singing Shania Twain.

Until vegetarianism happened, when suddenly, to avoid anaemia, mouth ulcers, and general boredom, I started experimenting. Also, since being in a full-time job I’ve had enough money to do a colourful food shop, as opposed to eating peanut butter sandwiches most evenings, and a bag of satsumas every now and then to avoid getting ill. I’m excited about them, still, nine months in, and I really think, without being a wanker, that we can’t ignore what we’re being told; that the meat and dairy industry is cruel, unsustainable, and ecologically destructive, and we need to change the way we think about food before it’s too late. (Cymbal crash.)

So. The way my routine works, I spend a lot of evenings out the house and tend to eat on the go, or heat things up at work, so this is mostly a mixture of meals I make in advance regularly, and a couple of dishes I spend more time over, maybe if friends visit or Ed and I are feeling enthusiastic about being grown-ups.

These are all cheap. There is no quinoa, partly because I think it’s seriously over-rated, and also because I keep reading articles about how all these superfoods are great and everything but also really depleting the communities who farm them, and we shouldn’t get too hooked on them or we’ll just start destroying another environment.

These are all also really easy to make. It would be unwise for me to try to complicate things when I get stressed about boiling the kettle most days. That’s why my instructions are less structured and more “as the thought comes to me.” These are hassle free, there are no lentils and berries in there, all the ingredients are easy to get your hands on, and all of them taste good re-heated. Hope you have fun if you cook them and don’t blame me if it goes wrong.

THREE BEAN CHILLI. (Good for re-heating, freezing, bingeing, hosting. The whole lot.)

Obviously I didn’t invent this but it’s a game-changer. Some people out there add quorn mince, but the last I heard they accidentally released a batch of quorn mince that has metal in it.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Various spices
  • 1 red onion
  • Stalks of celery (optional)
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 aubergine
  • Half punnet of mushrooms
  • Diced or grated carrot (optional – sometimes I cba)
  • 2 tins of kidney beans
  • 1 tin of black eyed beans
  • 1 tin of chick peas
  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes

Start with the onion and celery and fry it up in some olive oil. Dice the vegetables and fry them for a little bit too. Add some S&P. Once they’ve softened, add the chopped tomatoes. I usually do one tin at a time depending on how much veg I’m using; sometimes once you put the lid on the pan you don’t need as much because it turns out there’s loads of juice in tomatoes. Who knew? Add the beans (I usually rinse them first; no idea why) and then add as many spices as you want (you’ll have to ask someone else to recommend spices, I forget the names), and stick the lid on. Take it off whenever, I know I should know when, but I don’t, maybe 15 minutes? Dish it up with nachos, or a jacket potato, or rice, or pasta, or in giant gem lettuce dishes if you want zero carbs (I admire you). If you want cheese, or salsa, or any other cool dips, go wild.

COURGETTE, SPINACH, TOMATO AND FETA PESTO PASTA. (Saves in fridge for 3-4 days, fine re-heated, or eat on the day.)

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 courgettes (if you’re batch-making)
  • Half a bag of spinach
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • A block of feta
  • Pasta of your choice (I use gluten free because IBS)

This is the easiest dish in the world to make. Fry up some courgette, handfuls of spinach if you want the iron, cherry tomatoes, the lot. Once your pasta is boiled, drain it and tip it in the pan. Turn off the heat, add some pesto and a block of feta, season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. I live off this. It’s pretty great without feta too if you wanna be a good vegan – maybe chuck some olives instead because salt is life.

RATATOUILLE (re-heat, dish up, freeze, dance with?).

  • Ingredients
  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 courgettes (you see there is a theme developing?)
  • 2 peppers (you can choose the colours)
  • Half a punnet of mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 tinned tomatoes

Everything gets fried in the pan, the tomatoes are added, I usually chuck in some basil and oregano. Tastes better if you leave it in the pan for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. There’s a specific way of cooking aubergine to make it go not-chewy; if I’m feeling organised and mature I’ll put it in a colander with some salt on before I fry it. I think that’s supposed to work. I avoid onion in this one as I’m not a massive fan but feel free. Don’t forget S&P. Serve with jacket potatoes, or it goes well with veggie sausages IMO.

VEGGIE FAJITAS (These are best on the day – but you can definitely reheat the fillings and it is joyful.)

Ingredients

  • 1 mexican spice mix
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 peppers
  • 1 aubergine
  • Half punnet of mushrooms
  • Sweetcorn (optional)

That chilli I mentioned earlier? That goes really well with tacos. Just saying. And if you want to make multiple dishes, veggie fajitas are the way to go. Serve up some sliced peppers, courgette, mushrooms and aubergine fried in any kind of Mexican sachet sauce (seriously, you think I can do a Mexican sauce from scratch?) and serve it in tortilla wraps. These are also absolutely delicious with sweetcorn, lettuce, guacamole, salsa, you name it.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO (this makes you a popular host but you can freeze/re-heat like the others too. When re-heating, add a bit more veg stock so it goes gloopy again.)

This takes longer than your average meal (i.e. toast) so it’s better if you looking to impress, rather than just survive on food.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Veg stock
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 white onion
  • Risotto rice
  • Little bit of white wine

Parmesan (but the vegetarian version – only just found out Parmesan isn’t vegetarian –  mental.)

I think some people like putting sage in this

Butternut squash is hard to chop, so if you have a sledgehammer, great. Otherwise chop it as best you can and stick it in the oven with some olive oil. Then cook a simple risotto; fry some onion on a low heat in the butter, when it’s softened, add the risotto rice and smother it in the buttery onions. Add the wine, and then begin to ladle in the stock, a little bit at a time until it’s all absorbed. Once the stock is gone and your risotto is looking like a risotto, take the squash out the oven and stick it in the pan. It goes all gooey and orange and wonderful. Add the cheese and then you are done, baby. YUM YUM YUM. Definitely drink the rest of the wine.

These are my top dogs for successful vegetarian meals that you could present to other humans, and definitely get a “Wow… I don’t actually miss meat in this” comment. Of course, I don’t survive purely on these wonders. I eat a lot of egg sandwiches with salt and vinegar crisps, marmite on toast, sweet potatoes with cheese and beans. I also love Quorn chicken nuggets, a good veggie pizza, and veggie burgers with halloumi, but I can’t really take credit for any of those. Also falafel. I live for falafel.

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I didn’t make this Pimms ice lolly – but it is vegetarian (OBVIOUSLY) and look, so pretty. 

What I’ve loved most about the whole vegetarian game is the fact you consume so many more vegetables than a meat-based diet. You can feel good about what you’re putting in your body, which is useful when you’re addicted to ice cream in your free time like me. Let me know what you think, I’m curious. Is this useful – or did you know all these recipes already and are just sat there thinking, “alright, Em, jog on”, whilst eating a steak?

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #1

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I thought it could be fun to do a wee diary series on the blog. I’ve never done one before, except (from memory) when I was travelling in Australia and had more interesting things to write about than finding jammy Wagon Wheels on sale in the supermarket and coping with a pretty aggravating shaving rash.

However, right now I’m (once again) at a time in my life where I feel really unsure of what I’m doing and putting a lot of pressure on myself to work that out. Basically, my head is full of dilemmas, big and small. I’ve been preoccupied trying to think of life-changing topics to tackle, stories to write, plays to begin, and instead I’ve lost sight of why I started writing about my life in the first place.

You see, I’m obsessed with real life stories of the most mundane kind. I’d much rather know what each of my friends have for their packed lunches every day than at which point in their lives they are committing to marriage or being responsible for a vegetable patch. It’s all about the little things, the snapshot moments that make you who you are, and form your every day.

Life is so unbelievably silly even at the best of times and perhaps I was put on this earth to overshare, to tell the small stories, because someone has to, as not all of us are holidaying on tropical islands, or buying our first home, or getting books published. Some of us are just tootling on in life slower than a sloth in custard, taking pleasure in taking our bras off at the end of the day, travelling as far as Tesco, or viewing success as not having cystitis for the time being.

So welcome to the first Secret Diary of a Tall Girl blog post; a place where I just write for writing’s sake and stop over-thinking it. You’ll have to excuse the name, I came up with it in a slightly fevered state in the middle of the night earlier this week (this is what happens when your brain can’t switch off). I’ve been completely wiped out with this piece of shit summer virus and I can’t be sure all of the decisions I’m making are the right ones.

Obviously it depends what you classify as tall. I’m taller than most of my girl friends. Taller than a lot of the boys I kissed in my early twenties. Not quite tall enough to wear tall jeans, but too tall to wear normal jeans, so I always have to make the decision to either rock the ankle bashers or roll them up to the point of looking like I’m wearing swimming bands round my ankles. What’s actually funny is that it’s my body that’s abnormally long, not my legs, which makes the average t-shirt a crop, and playsuits eat my crotch.

Anyway. Enough about my torso. This isn’t Cosmopolitan. 

It’s Saturday. I’m writing this from under a blanket on the sofa, binge-watching episodes of Riverdale and feeling a bit guilty about my only real achievement this week being getting to the end of a giant Toblerone I treated myself to from the airport a couple of weekends ago. That whole trying to eat well so you keep fit and don’t get ill goes completely out the window when you get ill anyway. So does exercise. I’m a shadow of my former Couch to 5k-ing self and back to the person who gives herself a pat on the back for walking up the escalator without needing a saline drip.

It’s my sixth day of being ill, and whilst it’s been the absolute pits, I’m not gonna lie, genuinely nothing is going to bring me down today. I’m going to wash my hair, put some deodorant on, get drunk on cough syrup, and make my way to Greenwich because tonight, friends, my dream is coming true.

I’m seeing Celine Dion live.

Despite feeling pretty gross, and the fact that every time I’ve tried to practise my backing vocals to My Heart Will Go On from the sofa this morning I’ve had a coughing fit, really this concert couldn’t have come at a better time.

A funny thing has happened in the last few weeks, where I’ve gone from thriving on how busy work is, and how few hours there are in the day, and seeing how many shows I can squeeze into one week, to feeling like I’ve lost the plot. I cannot begin to describe how obsessively I am biting my nails at the moment. Genuinely, I cannot keep my fingers out of my mouth. I’ve got three weddings in a row starting next week and feel a bit guilty I’ll be throwing confetti with stumpy little unpainted hobbit fingers.

This week I had my improv class show on Monday night and was already coming down with this gem of a wheezy bug. On the way home, despite the show not being a disaster, I fell apart, cried into my train seat, sent my boss an emotional email, and thought about moving to an old world war one shelter in the countryside to take refuge until I hit at least 45.

In retrospect, checking my work emails to make the train journey go faster, and being sad I didn’t have the appetite for a vegetable pasty might have been the catalyst. But either way, it’s made me want to make some changes. After a week at home, I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself, but I think I need to stop taking everything so seriously, so personally. I need to stop comparing myself to other people. And I need to remember I’m not a machine.

So I’m beginning a bit of self-reparation. Evenings in actually do a lot of good, as does sleep, as does television. Before this whole Riverdale malarky I couldn’t remember the last time I watched anything, and it turns out sitting on the sofa drowning in pints of Ribena and American small-town drama is really good for the soul. I’ve learned being the busiest person doesn’t make you anything but tired, hungry and offensively sweaty.

Enter Celine. I’m ready for a night of pure, golden inspiration with a twist of French diva, with one of my favourite people in the world at my side. Sometimes it’s the little things… and sometimes it’s Celine Dion.

See you on the other side. Have a dazzling weekend y’all.

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.

sleep
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.

Splitposter

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.

 

Health, Home, Lifestyle, realism

Holy cow, let’s save the planet.

vegphotoblog

Thought it was about time I wrote another mid-twenties self-discovery post because it’s occurred to me I’m 27 in just over half a year and that’s less fun and more the year lots of famous people die. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk for about a month. I think I overdid it in January with the play; the post-show blues were quite extreme and I’ve spent a lot of February pretending to be more interested in food than writing (which is always half true anyway) and spilling hot drinks on myself.

Procrastination has its upsides though. I raked the garden yesterday. I’ve found a new favourite yoghurt; it comes with a spoon and a peel-off label so you can use the pot for other things afterwards (total revelation). And I’ve given up meat for good.

Now I feel a lot less frazzled than I did at Christmas. I’ve stopped getting ulcers all the time (that was a fun side effect of deciding to go vegetarian) and realised that as long as I can eat food without wanting to scream I’m happy. So because I have a working tongue and the motivation to write, my first post back in the game is about becoming vegetarian in the name of the planet. Because panicking about climate change is one of my biggest dilemmas these days; up there with dry eyes and not having a pug.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to be vegetarian. That was aged 13 when I went to China Town for the first time, saw a load of dead ducks strung up in the window, and felt pretty violated. It didn’t last because at the time I didn’t like any vegetables so I was living off marmite on toast and my iron levels were pretty diabolical. I’ve tried to commit to full-blown vegetarianism again so many times but have always ended up giving in for one reason or another – whether it’s a hog roast at a wedding, a hungover sausage sandwich, or leftover Christmas dinner. Every time though I’ve felt pretty guilty. I’m a huge animal lover – my favourite Saturdays are spent fawning over farm animals and it’s always felt hypocritical then chowing down on a pork pie the next day – no matter how good they are with pickle.

But sometimes things just click. It could be an article someone posts on Facebook, one of Leonardo’s tweets, or watching Cowspiracy. When the timing of that revelation coincides with the beginning of a new year, it just feels like a good chance to do the right thing and not look back.

At the beginning of the year I decided to make 2017 the one that matters. Whether that was getting a creative project off the ground, joining a political party or just making an unforgettable carrot cake. Like the rest of the country I started with my health. I didn’t want to not be able to run 5k without feeling like I need to go on a ventilator. I wanted my insides to match my outsides. No more guilty conscience. First up? Couch to 5k. I’m running (or rather just trying to avoid dog poo in the park) three times a week and doing some pretty appalling yoga in between. Turns out just because you get some snazzy leggings and a new sports bra doesn’t mean you can pull off downward dog without looking like you’re stuck in cement. But progress shall cometh to those who bend with enthusiasm, right?

Next up was giving up meat (Fish is…sort of in progress.) I don’t understand how you can read about the effects of the meat industry on climate change and not at least significantly cut down on your intake. We only get one chance to save the planet and chucking a tin of baked beans in recycling isn’t going to help. If reading about my most successful form of procrastination yet is making you want to learn more, Cowspiracy is a good place to start but it’s pretty stark so be prepared to want to give up steak. Leo’s Before The Flood is also a good education on the planet – although he doesn’t focus so much on the damage meat production causes and I’m not convinced this isn’t because he likes a good burger. He does focus on the global issue at stake though, which by the way is pretty shocking, and invites us to remember we are one of an entire population, some of whom are suffering immensely because of climate change.

It might not seem like much, one twenty-something avoiding writing a play and looking up vegetarian recipes instead, but it’s part of a movement we can all join in the name of change so it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had, is it?

If anyone’s wondering whether it sucks going vegetarian, honestly – for me – not in the slightest. Plus technically, I should say I’m a weekend pescatarian too, because I don’t quite have enough willpower to say no to smoked salmon. Yet. It can make life a bit complicated sometimes for sure, especially because my stomach already can’t cope with wheat either. And I’ve also cut 80% of dairy because I actively care about cows. I’m trying to care about them enough to not eat a whole Terry’s chocolate orange from time to time but sometimes you slip up. We’re all human (except the cows – I’m so sorry.)

The reason I haven’t yet made the jump to total vegan even though I really like vegan slogan t-shirts is because I find it hard enough trying to tie my shoelaces and pay rent every month without finding time to make homemade lentil stews for my packed lunches every day. At the moment it seems too expensive to do it well – and a lot of effort – and half the vegan options seem to include palm oil and DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE ORANGUTANS?

While I’ve got animals on the brain I also want to stop putting them through so much when they’re alive. The problem with working in the arts and spending more money than you make every month is you can’t read an article on cruelty-free make up, examine the contents of your make-up bag or shower and do an overhaul overnight. But I do actively want to avoid brands that test on animals so as things run out I’m going to stop replacing them. It just feels tragic putting on mascara that might have been swabbed on a monkey’s eyeball, you get me?

You might be able to tell I’m becoming a bit OBSESSED with the planet. I mean I’m really nervous about the orangutans. And TBH I’ve been worried about the rainforests since GCSE geography but haven’t done much about it except buy recycled toilet paper when I remember. I feel like I’m getting emotionally attached to trees whenever I leave the house. A huge part of why I now love living deep in the depths of zone five is getting access to actual fresh air. London is so polluted these days in the week I genuinely feel like my skin is turning grey.

And whilst a big part of me is sat on the tube trying to finish my book on Nora Ephron and thinking COME ON SADIQ HURRY UP AND SORT IT OUT there’s another part of me thinking; where have we all gone wrong? Is this really what matters – money and commuting and getting a fashionable rucksack and wanting to succeed and reading whatever shit the Metro’s made up that week and trying not to make eye contact with strangers? The more I’m trying not to choke on the air in the Victoria line tunnels the more I’m worrying that at some point soon it’s all going to end up like Wall-E and everything else will have been pointless anyway.

I’m not a columnist in the Financial Times though. Nor am I a climate change scientist, documentary-maker, politician. I’m a writer – with probably the smallest audience on the internet. So I feel a bit stuck on the ways we can make a difference, ways we can still live life to the fullest but not be total selfish bastards either.

So… I’m taking baby steps in the name of the planet and sharing that with you. It’s a lot of compromising and a little personal sacrifice in the name of the greater good – but to be honest if we all had to turn vegetarian to fight Voldemort we’d do it, wouldn’t we? For me, right now, it’s about veg chilli on jacket potatoes, homemade granola, dark chocolate and quorn nuggets (holy Jesus I’m completely addicted – someone save me). Not so bad really. I think we’ve reached a point where it’s not a good enough excuse to love meat. We simply have to try before it’s too late. We have to talk about it, learn more together, encourage each other and, if necessary, do a little preaching.

So that’s it: raked the garden, found a yoghurt, gave up meat, called my readers to arms. What’s next? I might de-scale the kettle.