Thursday, 31 December 2015

I got Elizabeth Bennett on the Buzzfeed what literary heroine are you aka 2015 - the year that I didn't bow to societal pressure a lot and when I sewed a little.

Hello dearhearts,

 Little ol' me shouting out from the web wilderness on the last day of the year in my little corner of the world.  I've been away so long but you've been in my heart the whole time.    I think we can all be in agreement that my New Year's Objective to blog more often hasn't occurred but hey it won't stop me trying.  I can't believe it's been 6 months since I last wrote and man oh man so much has happened as it always does.  I thought I'd get a few words down before I get the punch going and any hope of sense exits the building.

I took my niece and nephew to see the new Snoopy film on Boxing Day. I forgot how wise Charlie Brown is.

I am going to post more this year and rightly so because 2016 will see me taking off into the wide blue yonder as I journey to Central and South America for 6 months.  I've been thinking about this trip for as long as I can remember.  I'd always plan to go travelling again at some point but after my breakdown 5 years ago I decided I didn't want to run off but instead walk away leaving the door gently ajar.  The last 5 years following my breakdown and my breakup have been so exciting and so unexpected. They've been tough too but that's right because as much as anyone I know the darkness is as important as the light. You can't have one without the other.  Though as I've talked about before I can say I'm honestly happy more than I'm not and I think that's no small achievement.  

Now I'm at the place where I can leave the door gently ajar.  I am as I said more often than not very happy in my life and I have no desire to running screaming from it and in fact quite the opposite but I know that I have wanderlust and every year that goes by that I put the trip off because of this, that and the other means I put other stuff off.  So that's one my New Year's Objectives to be really brave and do the things that I want not what I should be doing.  I ended up seeing a life coach this year, a wonderful person she was too, Liz Goodchild.  I can't recommend her enough. She kicked my ass well and truly and relit my pilot light.  She made me realise so often we can be coasting and don't get me wrong that's great and we all need a bit of neutral now and again but when we get the opportunity to do the things that challenge us that is when we have the chance of being truly happy.  So that's what I'll be doing in late spring when I leave my life here and head first to Cuba.

As ever good old Eleanor gets it.

I'm only human though and as such I'm already thinking about what I'll do when I come back and of course I worry but I know this trip will rejuvenate and refresh me and I hope will give me the gumption to go chase my dreams. I really want to work in radio again and if I'm really brave give comedy a shot but for now it's enough to know that I haven't done what I should (or specifically what society says) do like maybe take another PR contract in London, paint the walls a colour that makes the flat easily lettable, stop making gold clothing or meet a partner because I'm not getting younger hahahaha!  Don't get me wrong I have no problem with people choosing to do this I'm not the authority on anything apart from maybe leopard print, but they're just not the right for me.   This year has been both amazing and ass in varying degrees but one of the things I'm most proud of is my continuing decision to not be told what is good for me.  I know what is bloody for me and also what's bad and yes I do eat too much cheese but we can't be perfect all the time ;)  

Another wise old owl.

When I answered the Buzzfeed quiz and got Elizabeth Bennett I was very happy.  She's always been one of my favourite heroines - full of heart and wit but at the same time with the realisation that she has a lot to learn.  As  a woman myself I think we've come so far in so many ways. I mean even a few decades ago a woman on her own wouldn't be able to take the trip I'm taking.  It would have been considered sheer madness but at halfway to 70 I find society still has a long way to go.  I've found myself at a lot of weddings this year all of, which were lovely.  I adore a good shindig and especially one where two people I love have decided they would like to tell the world how much :) Ooh and don't get me wrong I totally want to fall in love again, I'm good at it but I'll do it in my own sweet time.  But what I don't enjoy and find practically pre-historic are the number of people who feel the need to ask me where my Prince Charming is or advise me to hurry up because they don't want me to go to waste.  Well firstly I leave shoes behind just because that's what happens to me (sometimes drink is involved) and not to find a husband, secondly I think people don't come with a sell by date and thirdly I'm too busy having casual sex. I used that response at my brother's wedding and unsurprisingly it brought an end to the topic and nearly my Mother too come to think of it.  So I guess that's what I'm proudest of this year the unwavering effort o be me even though I know it isn't easy. Oh and my ability to do cat's eye eyeliner on a moving train.

My year in pictures.

Aside from self-discovery this year has been a mixture of the new - first triathlon, first time I road from London to Brighton, being name a happiness ambassador.  The old - 100 years of the WI and chance to celebrate how awesome they are.  The blue  - the tories getting back into power boo!  We're not taking it lying down though and I look forward to being even more vocal in the coming year.  Pig face your days are numbered!  Sewing wise it's not been a mega productive one but I did make a dear friend a silk wedding dress so I feel that covers a few basis.  Although I've not been blogging or able to get to as many meetups as I would have liked this year the sewing community has ever been a constant source of joy and happiness for me and I feel as honoured as ever to be a part of it.  Of course all my triumphs and even for that matter my tragedies of my life wouldn't be what they are without the supporting cast of my family and friends.  Thank you all so much for everything.  I can honestly say I wouldn't be me without you and for that I will be forever grateful.

So as we leave this year I wish you all the very best and please darlings remember if you're ever feeling doubtful know that out there is a tall woman with a beehive and probably wearing leopard print and possibly with just the one shoe cheering you every step of the way.  You are awesome!

Love and light,

Miss Demeanour


Monday, 15 June 2015

Another 5 years gah! AKA what I'm doing about the UK election result

Hey ducks,

Just to give you the heads up there's no sewing in this post and it's of a political nature an I won't be offended if you don't read but I should let you know there will be probably be a lot more politics in my writing going forward. This is because as well as the many other things I am in my life I have discovered I am political.

How are we? I hope at nearly midway through the year your plans and schemes are coming good and that the sun is shining on you.  I'm happy to report in my tiny corner of the world the sun has firmly got his hat on after what has been an interminable winter.

I realise I often start with a little overview of the weather but I like to feel it sets the scene for you and it's a very British thing to do :)

Average British summer scene :)

Now that you've been advised of the meterological forecast for Brighton can I just say a huge, fat, loving, thank you for all your kind words about my post about mental health.  It was truly heart warming to have so many of you get in touch and share your own stories both publicly and privately.  I got very emotional reading your comments it was a beautiful reminder of how amazing people are. 

On that note let me get to what this post is all about, which is people.  It's just over a month now since I woke up and discovered to my horror that a lot of people had decided to vote a conservative government back into power in the UK.  I'd been very buoyed when I arrived at my polling station at 7.30am to find a queue round the block.  I've got suffragettes in my family tree and to see so many people keen to get make their views heard gets me emotional. My Nan always used to say women gave everything they could to give you choice even their lives and by voting you're saying thank you.  It was lovely to see people with their children on the way to school lining up outside and explaining what it was all about.

Through the immediacy of social media it seemed like this was the same story all over our little island.  People were turning up in droves to put crosses in the boxes and see the changes, that desperately needed making, happen.  By the time I got to my dears, the Prestonville Knitters, for stitch and bitch I was positively jubliant we would get the result we were all wanting - David (ham face) Cameron and his cronies out and a healthy mix of labour and green to attone both people and the planet.  Everyone that kept coming into the pub was saying they'd just voted and they couldn't get over the queues.  We felt assured we would get what we wanted.  My twitter timeline trended it, Facebook posted it, the media was awash with it and people in the street were certain it was done.  You can then only imagine my extreme disappointment when I went home at 10pm and turned on to the exit polls with a Tory majority.  My timeline was then awash with people absolutely shocked and horrified.  I decided that I wasn't going to stay up because I didn't want to go to bed crying and was instead going to believe that as is often true that it was all speculation and the next day we would wake up to a brave new world. 
Margaret Mead provides me with some great advice and I leaned on her quotes when I woke up on 8th May to the shocking news the UK had voted a conservative government into majority rule.
I did indeed rise to a brave new world but sadly not the one myself or anyone I know voted for.  Personally, I voted green and specifically for Caroline Lucas.  I think very highly of her as a consituency MP and having been fortunate enough to meet her I think she's also a wonderful human being who is willing to fight hard for all the things that I think matter.  In Brighton we were in the minority in that we were happy with our choices.  Our little city by the sea re-elected the first and only green MP and Hove voted to see get rid of the conservatives and install labour. 
Pictorial proof that my home is an island of sanity in a sea of insanity.  In the midst of the misery Jason Smart declared independence - the People's Republic of Brighton & Hove
It was a little ray of sunshine to have confirmed what I already knew that Brighton may not be where I'm from but it's where I'm meant to be :)  Though despite my own happiness I was heartbroken about the national result.  I was sorry to know that there were so many people who would choose to make things worse for the most worst off in our society.  During the 5 years of coalition rule I have worked in various roles alongside my self-employed work and these have included the NHS and the public sector. I've seen how awful ordinary people's lives are being made under austerity whilst the bankers that caused the financial crisis carry on getting bonuses, cooperations continue to dodge billions of pounds of tax whilst the poorest in society have their benefits cut without consequence and find themselves desperate and reliant on foodbanks or full prey to unscrupulous moneylenders.  It sounds Dickensian but sadly it's the situation in the UK right now.

As I walked into work on 8th May and saw the upset on people's faces I decided that I was going to choose hope over despair and give all I can to making a change.  They can't cut compassion and there's no tax on kindness.
Again I find myself saying I'm not an expert but I, you -  we still have a voice and the power to execute change. I thought what my Nan said about voting and choice and we still have that.  We don't have to make things easy for this government that we didn't choose.  It's a numbers game and there's a few hundred of them and gad knows how many of us. 
Specifically I am and you can:
  • Vote
  • Lobby things I don't agree with at every opportunity
  • Sign petitions that matter
  • Join a union
  • Give what I can to charity
  • Volunteer - I know we all have a great many skills that could be really put to good use
  • Donate to foodbanks
  • Join a political party
  • Get involved with  local community groups who are trying to make a difference
  • Patronise local businesses
  • Talk to my neighbours and improve my community
  • Stop spending money on corporations who are avoiding tax
  • Join the WI (or similar)
  • Support those taking strike action
  • Engage with like minded people
  • Engage with people who don't share my views in a positive mannrer and explain to them why I feel this government isn't good for any of us
  • Attend marches and rallies
  • Be kind and compassionate to those less fortunate than me
  • Never go quietly.
Since the result I've put a good few of these that I wasn't already doing into action.
Yesterday, I was one of 1000 cyclists that attended my local naked bike ride, which is part of National Bike Week  that runs from the 13th - 21st June
The world naked bike rides have been going on for a number of years and their aim is to create a "cleaner, safer, body postive world".  All things I thoroughly support and it also gave me the opportunity to air my political views clearly.  WARNING: There's a little nudity below and I've no desire to offend anyone but if you're not bothered by a touch of nipple then carry on reading :)
TITS NOT TORIES! - We need to get the message across with everything we've got and in my case that includes boobs :)
Yesterday, (14th June) at the bike ride was amazing.  It was so incredible to be surrounded by so many compassionate people that like me believe in their own power to bring about change. 
That's why I'll be attending the the march against austerity organised by the People's Assembly on 20th June at Midday. 
It will be a chance to make our voices heard and to quote Ghandi, "be the change you want to see".  I understand it's not possible for everyone that wants to attend to get there but if you check out the links above there will be something going on local to you.  I've got a huge gob though and I'll be using it to speak up for me, you and all those that can't. 
Right so that's me signing off for my last post of 34.  I promise there will be sewing in the next one because I think sewing in its way is a political act but hey that's a whole other post :)
Love, light and proud to still be Mis-Shapen
Miss D


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Making and mending - a post about mental health.

 This is a line from a Leonard Cohen song - Anthem.  He says it better than I can but then he says most things better than most people and that's why he's Leonard Cohen (thanks to my friend, Aymi for introducing me).  Doesn't mean he's always happy.  That in itself is a good thing in my opinion.

Hello my loves,

Thank you so much for your kind words about my last post and your warm welcome back to the blogosphere.  I am super happy to be writing to you all again.  This post is text heavy and will contain a little bit more about sewing than my last  but mostly about how sewing helped me recover so I won't be offended if you don't read, as this is after all a sewing blog.  Though because I am both writer and editor of this here journal I get to make the rules *boss face*

It's Friday afternoon in Brighton and I'm looking out over the seaside and it looks more mid winter than late spring.  The sky is bullet grey and even the seagulls look a little bit more agro than usual.  I also didn't get a job I went for on Tuesday (the feedback on my interview was really good though so it's just a case of keep knocking on those doors).  However, I feel quite content and I know that means I'm well.  The reason I know this is because when I was a sick a day like today might have made my mind wander to the place where the crap thoughts are that make me feel really shit.  You know the kind of thing - Oh Rehanon you don't know what you're doing. You're kidding yourself.  You shouldn't have done this!  You should have done that! You're too old.  You'll never be happy, blah, blah, blah - bore off!  This still happens but it's normally just a quick cursory visit and I certainly don't set up camp there like I used to.

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on mindfulness and how it can help us.  Along with time, craft, exercise and therapy it helped me.

I've set out to write this post many times but other thoughts (mostly nice ones these days) came into my head or the time wasn't right or I didn't have enough time or I didn't have enough words or even too many :) but that's the thing with mental health there's no time like the present. It's only in the here and now we can do stuff about it.  As it is, in the UK it's Mental Health Awareness Week and I think that's a pretty appropriate time to share my story and raise some awareness.

Before I go any further I just want to highlight the fact that I'm no expert and neither do I claim to be.  I've got no professional training and I know people who had much more difficult experiences than me.  I'm just telling you my story because that's one of the things I think is really important in tackling the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.  I feel like it's so important to be open and to be aware when people are talking to you because that might be the day, that they say, "I just wanted to say I'm not actually fine and I'm struggling and I need a bit of help."  Life is really hard sometimes even when to all intense and purposes it seems like you're just sailing along.  Deep down I think most of us know that but by saying yeah it happened to me and I was able to do something about it and now I'm in much better place is good for all concerned.  So these days I when I see stuff in the media saying you should be this, that or the other I say fuck off the only thing I should be is me.  Counselling taught me that but more on that later.

I've no real idea how many people read my ponderings but I figure if even one person reads it and it encourages them to seek the help or at the very least make them realise that their mental health is nothing to be ashamed of then that's no bad thing.  Shame is in fact the one thing that didn't stop me from writing about my mental health issues.  I actually never felt ashamed, which when I look back makes me wonder why I did leave it so long to get help.  One thing I think it could have been was that for as long as I can remember people have come to me for advice and I guess I thought if people are asking for my help then surely I can't need it myself.  My ex partner though, who is a very good egg and a great friend to this day knew I needed help for a long time and he often told me so. I hasten to add it was in a really lovely non-judgemental way because he wanted what was best for me.  He also picked me up for a long time too and then he finally let me pick myself up and that just made me realise even more how much he cared.  Actually, I had several people very close to me who knew I wasn't well and they all helped me on the road to brighter days and I can never thank them enough.

Looking back on it all I guess I thought I would just get better over time as after all it is meant to be a great healer.   What mattered to me so much at 25 matters so little as I'm one month and two days from 35 but at the time I know I felt completely different.  The other side of the coin is that not all my days were sad.  In the midst of some times where I felt so sad  and everything was going wrong and I just felt so lost, I had moments that when I think about them now make me heady with joy.  That's one of the real shockers about mental illness, really "happy" people suffer.  It's another reason why I wanted to write this post because there were a lot of people that were really shocked when I admitted I'd had a breakdown because I'm considered to be a really positive person.  That's another part of why mental illness can be so tough to deal with.  You even end up arguing with yourself  and then you just try and block the feelings and it only magnifies the pain.  Happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive but when I finally admitted I was ill the sad times were far out weighing the happy times and in my mind I couldn't see that it was ever going to change.

Despite some really low points I managed to get through university and I got my degree and then I walked across Spain.  When I think about it now it was doing that, which kept me going much longer before asking for help.  I think it was then I realised exercise was really important to my mental wellbeing.  After this I pushed on through my late 20s drifting along and feeling less and less in control of the direction of my life.  I just kept going because I thought that's what you did and in hindsight I was clearly scared that if I stopped that's when it would all come tumbling down.  By the time my 30th birthday was coming around I was forced to stop and that's when I did fall all the way down.

The fear of coming apart was far worse than the actual reality.  The reality being that in May 2010 after a series of events that found me back in Brighton a place that makes me happy to this day I finally had the nervous breakdown I'd be running from.  After another night of disturbed sleep I was sitting on my own in a very ordinary office doing a temping job.  As I typed I started wondering whether I was ever going to be doing something I really I loved and telling myself I'd let life pass me by.  This thought pattern took over until I had made myself believe I was never going to be happy again and then I had a full on panic attack.  I was crying my eyes out and I could hardly breathe.  

I managed to get to the toilet and ring one of my close friends.  She was amazing and she told me really calmly I was going to be okay and I just needed to trust her.  Everyone was at a meeting so she told me to go on early lunch and she would meet me outside.  I did what she said because I just couldn't think straight.  I sat with her for an hour crying and apologising for being a state and that I just needed a bit of sleep and I'd be fine. She told me she'd been worried about me for a long time but you can't push people to admit things that they don't want to and you just have to be there when they're ready.  All things I would have said if I was talking to someone else.  She rang my GP and got me an appointment after work.  I went along and I was fortunate to speak with a really kind doctor who listened to me explain about how sad I was feeling and how scared it was making me.  He felt that although I was deeply anxious and really unwell that I didn't need medicine but counselling.

Following my appointment my GP referred me to a mental health clinic in Brighton who are also a charity and I was lucky enough to be seen within a week.  I am beyond grateful for this and another reason why I wanted to write about my experience as sadly this is not true for everyone and mental illness needs to be viewed as equally as any other illness.  I would describe my counsellor as the best kind of aunt you could wish for.  In my first session I said to her I think I'd probably just over reacted and I didn't want to take up her time as I had no idea what I'd speak to her about for an hour every week.  She smiled and said, "well let's just chat about your day and see how we go."  In the end it actually took 3 months for me to bring her to point where I collapsed in the office.  She made me realise  that I wasn't weak and my mind was just really tired of being strong and it just needed a rest.  

In the end I saw Babs on and off for 18 months.  In that time life marched on and I moved to London for work and my relationship with my ex finally finished after 10 years.  I was so scared that I would get sick again but my counsellor made me realise that wasn't going to happen and it was just another hurdle.  She was right and even though I was really sad about us I knew it was for the best and that we were returning to where we started, which was being great friends.  As my head got clearer and I started to realise that I wasn't my thoughts I had more space and in that space I began sewing, I started running again and I slowly started to see that I had a future.

It's now 5 years since my breakdown and I feel really well.  That is I'm happy more often than I'm not :) It may seem an odd thing to say but I wouldn't choose to forgo what happened to me. I just think the wonkiness in my head is as I call it is no different to my weak knee left leg.  Both just require a little extra care and attention to function properly.  I know that eating well, sleeping properly, asking for help when I need it and making time for the things that make me happy like sewing, running, knitting, lying in the hallway with my legs up the wall listening to Pulp and spending time with the people that love me for me. Basically, just being me. Equally, I learned we all just need to keep trying everyday and some days will be extraordinary and others not so much but that's what make life interesting.  Ultimately, though I found out good and bad, light and dark I like who Rehanon is and that seems as a good place as any to end up at nearly halfway to 70 :)

Here are some contact details in case you do want talk to someone.  You really aren't alone and I promise you people really do care.

This is Miss Demeanour signing off and saying no matter what you might think right now I know you're amazing.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Jam & Jersusalem and Beers & Burlesque aka Why I WI

Giving my widest WI smile to commuters on United Nations International Day of Happiness

Hey all,

It's been a while *face of putting it mildly*.  I have missed you and this blog but I'm back behind the keys and the sewing  machine.  I'm not sure whether it's the realisation it's been a year since I waddled into my first day in a new job (was only meant to be 2 weeks has been a year) because I'd run the Virgin London marathon.  Maybe it was the inspiring talk we had from Bikeit Ben from Sustran at my WI meeting a couple of weeks ago or maybe because I wrote "start blogging again" in my passion planner (my attempt to bring organisation into the House of Demeanour) or a possibly a mix of all three. I summise a mixture of all of the above coupled with seeing "write a post" languishing week after week on my ever increasing to do list has galvanised me into action.  It's funny isn't it that when life gets a little unwieldy the casualties are often the things we love doing. 

Wise words as always from Maya. I've got this stuck on my laptop to remind me how much I love writing.
The other nuts thing is that I've written hundreds of posts in my head in the last few months but they've just not managed to make it on screen.  That said I think a good few of them will over the next few weeks as I get back in the saddle so to speak.  For now though it's best to stick with the topic in hand, which is the WI.

It's my calling card!

As those who follow me throughout the social media sphere  and who know me in real life know I'm a member of my local WI, Brighton Belles.  The reason you will have wind of this is because I wax lyrical about it at every given opportunity.  There has been a great many things that have been ace about my 30s so far but joining such a positive, diverse, progressive, kind, community minded and humourous bunch of women is right up there.

A lovely bunch of Brighton Belles
This year the WI celebrates its centenary. There is much cause for celebration because since its beginnings in 1915 as a drive to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War it has been an incredible force for postive change. This alone is a huge part of the reason I'm so proud to say I'm a member.  Here's just a few of the things that this wonderful organisation has made happen:
  • Policewomen - In 1922 the WI passed a resolution to campaign for the reinstatement of women police officers following their disbanding after the war. They lobbied the goverment heavily and gained the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This led to the recruitment of greater numbers of women in the police during WWII and by 1944 over 335 policewomen were employed across Britain.  Women now make up over 25% of the total police force.
  • Equal Pay - The WI passed a resolution calling for 'equal pay for equal work’ in 1943 and campaigned tirelessly for this until 1970 when the Equal Pay Bill was passed.  From 1970 onwards it was illegal to pay men more than women for work of equal value.
  • Environment - In 1954 at the annual conference members were appalled by the state of rubbish and litter across the country and passed a resolution, which went on to form 'The Keep Britain Tidy' group.  This directly led to the passing of the 1958 Litter Act.
  • Family planning - 1974 saw the WI's lobbying of government and mobilising of its county federations lead to family planning services being offered as a normal part of the free NHS.  They continued to lobby for contraception to be made available to all no matter what their age or marital status.
These are just a few of thing things that the WI has made happen in its last 100 years.  Making life better for both women and  society as a whole.  How could I not want to be a part of such a fantastic organisation?  I don't really need other reasons but here are a few anyway:

The WI taught me you can use icecream to make cocktails.
They gave me the chance to make people dance whilst raising money for a great cause.
I get the chance to do ace things like help at a marathon whilst wearing a comedy moustache.
I've gained new interests.  I was told at school that I wasn't arty but the chance to try out a life drawing class with the WI suggested otherswise. I'm no Picasso but I really enjoyed it.
I get to indulge my love of making and eating cake at brilliant events like Pride.

I think what I love most about the WI though is the fact that I get to make friends with really amazing women who believe change is possible.
So there you have it folks in a nutshell that's why I WI.  If you're local to Brighton we meet the second Monday of every month at Donatello's in the Laines from 7pm - 9pm.  We are always looking out for new members and I can say whole heartedly we are all good eggs. Our next meeting is Monday 11th and we'll be raw chocolate tasting.  You'd be crazy not to!
If you're further a field but my ramblings have pricked your interest here is a link to find your nearest WI. I promise you won't regret it.
Well I think that's quite enough from me.  I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favourites, Margaret Mead.  She sums it up well.
Yours fabulously,
Miss D xxx