Tag Archives: writing

Let’s Talk About Sex

Yes, This is me. Face framed by plastic cocks, falling out of a Wendy House at dawn, with a spanking paddle in my hand. I shouldn’t have to explain that this was after a particularly messy hen party, but I will – just in case anyone thinks this photo illustrates an average Saturday night for me…it genuinely does not. Now I shall stop explaining before I protest too much.

It’s an embarrassing photo granted, and one that at the time I insisted be deleted immediately, never to see the breaking light of day, but it wasn’t deleted and I am re-publishing it here because I can. Because in the world I live in I am free to laugh about sex, to talk about sex, to have sex. I am also free not to have sex, to make my own choices, to expect those choices to be respected. I know this world I live in is not perfect, but I am still free to expect equality and fairness and justice, to have my voice heard. There is work left to do, but the UK is one of the best places for women to live right now, and being in this place of privilege I am finally realising it is important for me to speak up, after all we have only progressed this far through communication and education, education, education.

About a year ago I was invited to write for a brand new online erotic journal. It was an idea spawned from the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but the concept behind it was the antithesis of that. We wanted to write real stories about real sex by real women. We all agreed that FSOG, while undeniably popular, was not true enough, was lacking in sensuality, did not reflect our real desires and was too narrow in its exploration of BDSM.

So we started writing. To date we have written seven erotic stories each (some from real experiences, some fantasy) and I have written one op-ed piece exploring the difference between pornography and erotica. This publication is still awaiting approval from the powers that be at Apple but the publishers have rushed through another publication, called Quite Frankly, which will be a high-quality luxury print magazine of erotic images chosen by women for women. It will showcase known and unknown artists, photographers and models and contains interviews with the contributors and also with women who are working in the erotic world. It’s going to be beautiful and brilliant.

Writing about sex and being so honest about it has really opened my eyes to how important it is to normalise our sexual experience, our bodies, our sexuality itself. I fear it is the on-going cloak and dagger approach to sex which is in part responsible for the explosion of hardcore pornography and the sickeningly easy availability of it online. I am so scared for a generation whose first exposure to sex will be this graphic and unrealistic interpretation. No matter how hard the censors try, it is not going to go away so I intend to fight fire with fire and am looking forward to being involved with Quite Frankly – sub-editing and sometimes writing for them too.

The publication is aimed at adults but it’s the kind of thing which might be found by teenage children, in the same way that I found ‘The Joy Of Sex’ (how innocent my first exposure to sex was!) and I would much rather they found Quite Frankly, in addition to any of the stuff they might see on the internet, and that it provoked frank and honest discussions with their parents. I am looking forward to being at least a small part of this movement to find the beauty and the FUN in our sexuality instead of focusing on the fear, control and inequality which gives sex such a bad name.

Issue One launches 1st September, register your interest here: http://www.quitefranklymagazine.com/

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A Fresh Start

A change is as good as a rest, right? It may seem as though I have had a rest from writing of late – and to be fair, I have, at least from the weekly blogging/rant fest you might have become accustomed to last Summer. I’m not entirely sure why this was, but it did coincide with me ‘courting’ again, and I think we can safely say this was a factor.

When I started writing such a personal account of my life, I hadn’t considered how to broach the subject with any potential ‘suitors’. It was difficult because, although I do use a pen-name, I am actually very honest in my day-to-day life so when I met someone last year, I felt as though I was lying by not telling him about, or letting him read, what I was writing. Eventually I ‘fessed up and, amazingly, he was cool with it all – in fact I think it made him like me more because he got an insight into parts of myself which I find hard to express in person. However, another thing I hadn’t considered, and somewhat more importantly, was how to continue writing about my life, and being deeply honest about it, without including him or possibly hurting him with what I was writing… I wasn’t bright enough/didn’t have time to figure it out and so I just stopped.

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But here I am, a couple of ‘suitors’ later, (I really was born too late), and I have decided I can’t let that dictate my writing any more, or else I may never write again. And I need to write. So here we go once more – a brand new website, some brand new writing, plus all the old stuff and the promise of fortnightly blogs from now on.

I am closer to my late thirties than I was last year (weirdly), am still single, still grinding away at the day job, still desperate to live in New York, still splitting my time between Glasgow and London… and still a long way from figuring it all out. However, I am going to continue to try. Whoever I might be kissing…I just can’t promise to share every little detail…

The Drugs Don’t Work

I wish I could remember my twenties. It was only five years ago but there is a haze over that decade which I don’t think will ever come into focus. I remember my university years vividly, those first years away from home, the surge of independence, finally getting to know yourself as a woman not a girl and making grand plans for what to do with your life. However, as soon as I left those safe confines and entered the real world, everything I thought I knew was turned upside down.

I wanted to be a writer, but when I got to London the competition and a lack of confidence in my own ability meant I took the first job I was offered, a Production Secretary role on a popular daytime TV show. I’m a grafter so I quickly moved up and became a Production Manager. As a PM you are in charge of the budget, schedule and therefore, the happiness of the crew and no matter how well you manage these things there is always the old stereotype that you are the one who limits the artistic vision of the director, or ‘the bitch’.

A nagging voice in my head kept telling me that this wasn’t the career I wanted, but I kept telling that voice to shut up – after all, so many people would kill to work in television that I should count myself lucky. To balance my unhappiness at work I made sure I had an outstanding social life. This might be the reason for the haze surrounding my twenties – I drank heavily and started taking cocaine socially too. I liked to get high. I did a lot of things I’m not proud of – such as flashing a boob in exchange for a line of coke and many other (worse) things I can hardly remember. These shenanigans make for amusing stories nowadays but at the time they made me feel not just cheap and ashamed, but completely lost – who the hell was I? I’d lost myself and I didn’t write a word in 12 years.

Towards the end of my twenties I started to behave. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure so needed to be careful, plus it just wasn’t fun any more. But by then, after years of numbing them, I had given up on my writing dreams and accepted that I would be a Production Manager forever. I was working on a good series, but suddenly it relocated and I had to make a decision; move with it, find another job or do something radical.

Doing something radical was the best decision I’ve ever made. I booked myself on a screenwriting course in New York and planned to go travelling afterwards. In the weeks before I left, I have never been more filled with fear and self-doubt. I hammered the booze and had a few coke-fuelled nights to avoid the questions ringing in my head. How was I going to write anything after 12 years of nothing? Was I going to have any ideas? I had no imagination! I desperately wanted to run away from the decision I’d made and return to my safe (but frustrating) existence. When I boarded the plane at Heathrow, these fears finally started to drop away and by the time I landed at JFK, I was already evolving and finally pursuing my dream. The best thing was I hadn’t forgotten how to write and even had some good ideas – my amazing tutor and classmates taught me so much in those two months.

The travelling part of my sabbatical was equally insightful. Driving across the States with my (26 year old) niece, we had no guidebook and no route mapped out. We would drive somewhere we liked the sound of, set up our tent, meet local people and ask them where we should go the next day. All we knew was that we had to end up in California.

Landing back in London, after 7 months on the road, was tough. I was in debt and moved in with my Dad. I get migraines so sometimes use an over the counter painkiller called Solpadeine which is essentially a (very) poor man’s Vicodin. It has just enough codeine in to de-sensitise you from the world, to get you high then make you numb. I started taking it every day. I stopped writing again, my old life started to re-appear.

In those seven months away I had finally started to know who I was, I had found confidence in me, just like Fraulein Maria and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I forced myself to stop relying on the Solpadeine and accepted that if I had to continue working as a Production Manager to pay the bills, I wouldn’t let it define me and I would keep writing. By changing my perspective I am now able to manage a day job and am writing three spec scripts – if I don’t write for a day I feel lost. I’m lucky that I don’t have an addictive personality, but using anything to escape from yourself too often can’t be good – drugs kill ambition – simple as that.

So the only way to truly be ‘you’ is to follow your dreams. Friends who have made similar decisions agree. One has gone from TV to mid-wifery, one from dancer to comedian, others have left high flying jobs to pursue social enterprise, but none of them have ever looked back.

I left for New York 15 months ago and I don’t recognise the old me – cowardly self-medicating to hide from myself. Following my dream has changed my life. There are still many bricks in the wall before I break all the way through to me, but that’s how it should be. After all, life’s about the journey, not the destination and I am certainly enjoying the trip so far – on a natural high from now on, of course.

The Sound of Silence

I have never been afraid of my own company. I prefer the company of others, and I do really annoy myself from time to time, but I enjoy being on my own and over the last couple of years have actively sought out places which will allow me to experience true solitude. However, after two weeks on my own in scorchio Mexico last year, when I nearly sent myself loopdyloo with my own company and intensive self analysis, I decided that maybe solitude wasn’t for me after all and I should welcome the benefits and company of others. It was a surprise then, that over the last few weeks I have found the noise and bustle of London so overwhelming that when I was offered the chance to spend a week, on my own, in Portugal, I jumped at it.

So it was that last weekend I found myself, with my lovely Portuguese friend, his girlfriend and baby, driving to his parent’s unbelievably beautiful beach house in a tiny fishing village. The plan was to spend the weekend together there, hanging out and enjoying the weather, and for them to leave me there on Sunday, alone, to write. I’m currently going through a rare prolific period so was relishing the chance to have some time alone, just to work on the many thoughts racing through my head. By about 4pm on Sunday though, there was only one thought racing through my head. ‘Please leave, go now, no right now, don’t have another cup of coffee, just go, please!’. This was in no way a reflection on my wonderful hosts, who were just that, but with a baby in the room there is always a lot of chatter and when the pregnant sister arrived with a toddler in tow the general hum, especially in a language I can’t understand, increased to bombastic levels. The mental ‘Ingles’ (me) nearly started beating herself in the head with her fists, and speaking about herself in the third person, see? mental. Finally, the time for them to leave arrived. Phew. But the expected sigh of relief didn’t come…as soon as I heard the car door slam, the only thought suddenly racing through my head was ‘don’t go, come back, I’ll make dinner, have a beer with me, I miss you!’ Short of chasing the car down the street and begging them to stay (so not my style), I was left with one option. Be Alone.

I paced through the house several times, completely at a loss as to what to do with myself. I hate to use an overused phrase but in this case it was true, the silence was deafening – every sound was magnified by the silence; the waves of the Atlantic, the pilot light on the gas boiler, the bees in the jasmine flower outside. After an hour or so though I started to relax and sat in the garden, finally enjoying the sounds of silence, and the solitude until it was cut through by the tuneful whistle of an elderly neighbour. I don’t know why but I love a man who can whistle well, sadly it seems to be a dying art. He popped his head over the fence ‘Bom dia’. I smiled – of course it is very hard to achieve true solitude, but in the end I had a wonderful, and productive, week. And a few hilarious conversations in international sign language.

Ay, there’s the rub. How can I be so desperate to move to New York, the busiest, most bustling city of them all and yet be at my most content by the ocean. This is not just a normal life v. holiday conundrum either, it’s a split personality conundrum which has haunted me, and many of my friends, ever since I can remember. All I want to do is party and rebel and go out with the bad boy…no, wait, the opposite of that…I just want to have a cup of tea and go for a walk with a nice man who understands me. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am so desperate to move to New York, but I keep meeting people who live there who say, ‘Oh wait til you’ve been there a couple of years, it’s not that great.’ I want to scream at them and say ‘Do you know how lucky you are?’ But I suppose (in this cliché ridden post I may as well add one more) the grass is always greener on the other side. I just need to chose a side and stick to it, at least for longer than one day.

I am on the verge of accepting a new work contract for 6 months (it is taking slightly longer than I thought to pay off the debts from last year’s sabbatical) so my plans to ‘make it there’ are on hold, but only for a little while. At least the company I am working for have a New York office so will keep pushing for a transfer. I am more determined than ever to make it happen and, hey, Coney Island is only a subway ride away.

She’s Like The Wind

This week, I have mostly been thinking about Patrick Swayze, weird but true. There has been a mantra going round in my head about fear versus love and his character in Donnie Darko (who turned out to be a raging paedo) was obsessed with this idea too – and had this to say about it: ‘You are a fear prisoner’ or something like that.

I’m inclined to disagree and would argue, as Donnie himself did that without fear we would be unable to love, and also to live. I have spent a lot of this week terrified, and I have never felt so alive – not since I went swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico (I was of course very scared then too). Writing about The Demons last week helped to dampen the fear a bit but they have been alive and well in the middle of most nights due to my idiocy in writing about and GETTING PUBLISHED something unbelievably personal and sharing it with friends (there are still people I won’t let read it, you know who you are).

The strange thing is it doesn’t stop there – I have so many stories to tell, some of them even more embarrassing secrets, that I can hardly justify going to sleep because it will waste valuable writing time. When did this happen? 14 months ago I was on a plane to New York in an absolute flap because I was supposed to be turning up for my screenwriting course, which had been planned for a million years, with at least one idea for a screenplay, preferably three. I couldn’t think of a single thought, let alone an idea for a whole film. I hadn’t written anything, except budgets and schedules for 12 years and I had absolutely no doubt that I was going to be a crappy writer – I had no imagination, I had no originality, I had no confidence in me, let alone sunshine or rain! (another Sound of Music reference, sorry). Anyway, a year later and I can’t write the ideas down fast enough – I am still working on that first script which started as a seed of an idea which I probably chose while drunk in Milady’s but grew into this mental romp of a rom com – and a few other hopefully mildly amusing concepts. I still think they are all crap but at least I have the confidence to finally write them down.

I guess what I am saying is even if you think you will be crap at your dreams, don’t give up, even if you’re the only one getting pleasure from it, that’s still better than not doing it. I am inclined to sympathise with 70’s feminists more than Swayze on my earlier point; Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, is going to be my new mantra, or, basically, suck it and see.

One of the things I have been told this week is how brave I am. It is an amazing compliment but I honestly don’t know what it means, I have never felt less brave (apart from maybe when that bug entered our tent while camping in Amarillo) but there is a definite freedom in doing something which makes you so effing scared.

On the day I got the email telling me my article was going to be published soon, I was just walking into the cinema to see new horror movie Silent House. I was a little bit excited by the news, but tried to calm down and get into the film, it was good but I wasn’t really scared, I’d faced much bigger fears recently. Anyway, about 15 minutes in I could hear this really annoying music coming from somewhere – I was certain the man in front of us was listening to ‘Simply The Best’ by Tina Turner and I kept giving him evils to get him to turn it off. It was only when my friend nudged me that I realised it seemed to be coming from my bag, which indeed it was – I’d left my phone on shuffle after I got the news so with a wry smile I shame-facedly turned it off. Sure I was feeling cocky, I was simply the best! But I was also, and will always be, a bit of a nob.

By the way, I have been in Portugal for 3 hours and have already had 3 beers and 3 Marlboro reds – you’ve gotta love Europe. I’m sure the high will dampen soon, but even when I get those much needed rejection letters, I’ll remember and be glad for what Patch said cos at the moment it’s true on a daily basis ‘I’ve had the time of my life.’

Demon Days

Several years ago my friends and I coined a phrase for a condition which, at the time, we believed was unique to us. We called it The Demons. We were in our late 20’s and we had begun to lose our fear of being judged by others so we were overjoyed to finally talk about this condition openly and honestly.

We were all successful, happy women, blessed with good families and good friends and pretty much without a worry in the world. Why, then, did we constantly get distracted and often lie awake at night unable to stop these demons from zooming around our heads. Demons which generally consisted of;

‘I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine, I behaved like a dick’-‘I laughed too hard at my own jokes tonight’-‘I shouldn’t have said that mean thing about that girl’-‘my work is gonna find out I can’t really do my job’-‘I forgot to phone my mum again’-‘I should be doing something worthwhile with my life’-‘I’m never gonna find true love’ and the predominant question nicked from Eliza Doolittle – ‘what is to become of me?’

As you can imagine, it was exhausting! At an age where we should have been in our prime we were more lost than ever and couldn’t stop worrying about where life’s journey was going to take us. I have since found out that we were not alone and this is a common phenomenon. In fact The Demons is a well used phrase…. We were simply participating in this zeitgeist of shared first world problems if you will.

When you are having a demon day you don’t listen to Gorillaz of course, you listen to The Carpenters. I’ve seen grown men cry along to The Carpenters on demon days -I don’t think demons are solely a female issue. However, if you are a woman, you might also listen to Joni Mitchell and right now I wish I had a river I could skate away on – this last week has been the first time in a long time that these familiar demons have peeped their cheeky little heads above the parapet. Why can’t we just be grateful and happy with what we’ve got?

Although I never suffered with the demons as much as some of my friends I had thought I’d banished them forever when I changed the direction of my life last year and started to pursue my dream of becoming a writing rather than fantasising that I would one day get round to doing what I felt I should be doing and save some orphans.

But, a couple of weeks ago, I did what I had promised and sent my first piece of writing off to a website. Instead of the longed for rejection letter I got a note of enthusiasm… we love your piece! We want to publish it this week! You can imagine my surprise and fear and utter shock at this turn of events and I spent a lot of the week either just crying, yelping at strangers in the street with excitement or chewing my hand off in anticipation. When the piece

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didn’t get published these feelings were inevitably accompanied by shrouds of self-doubt and reluctance to believe it would ever happen but I have decided to relax and just be happy that they liked it, THEY LIKED IT! But still the demons persist…

I’m starting to realise that the demons only appear when I engage with real life, when I put myself out there, when I risk criticism or hurt and I am reluctantly accepting that the glory of real life might be worth the demons.

Back when we ‘discovered’ this condition, and we were all suffering from varying degrees of demonization, two of my closest friends tried to run away from the demons by going to northern Spain for a few days. I couldn’t go – I think I was working – but something seemed to happen on that trip and they both came back from it having made decisions about their lives and their futures and in many ways having banished those particular demons forever. They now have other demons to face, but at least they have moved forward and dealt with the first round of demons which were holding them back.

I now need to move forward too…I have done a lot of running away in my time, but mostly to have fun, not to navel gaze, so maybe it’s time I started. I have a couple of weeks off work so I am going to see a dear friend in Portugal who has kindly offered to put me up in his parents beach house for the week. I plan to stare at the sea and hope these demons wash away to make space for new ones, the old ones are getting tired. But I know I mustn’t banish the demons forever, I need to understand them and embrace them for what they are – part of the glorious tapestry of living. Without the doubt and fear they encourage we’d all basically be even bigger self obsessed wankers than we are, and the (first) world would be an even shittier place.

Bring it on you demons! See you on the other side!

Poems In The Key Of Life

When I was 16 I somehow persuaded my parents to allow (and pay for) me to go to New York for the summer. I would be staying with a friend who had lodged in our B&B years earlier when she was a student at Bath University. She now had an incredible apartment on the Upper East Side and she was at work every day so all I had to do with my time was explore.

I have never felt freer or cooler than I did that summer. I spent days wandering, wearing out my green DM boots, tossing my hair from side to side and chain-smoking Lucky Strikes. It was while smoking one of these Lucky Strikes, on the steps of The Met, that I met Willie, the homeless poet of New York. He offered to read me one of his poems for a dollar and give me a bright pink copy of it too… a pretty good deal for a dollar, I thought. But Willie didn’t just read me his poem on that sunny day outside The Met, he performed it, big and bold and ballsy, just for me, just for a dollar. Sadly I lost my pink copy years ago, though I can still remember how it went;

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Let’s love one another
No matter what we be
Let’s love one another
And we’ll allow each other, to be free

Ok it might not be William Shakespeare but it was Willie, the homeless poet of New York and it epitomised the spirit of the city for me. At that moment, I was hooked. I had to find a way to be there by any means.

A few weeks later and I was back in Bath doing A-levels. It might have been the boys and the booze which distracted me from pursuing my dream, but I suspect it was more likely fear – everything else was just an excuse. The Tisch School of the Arts or an ex-poly in Yorkshire? Yep, I chose the safe and easy option.

I am not one for regrets however – hell, Edith said it best, “Je ne regrette rien” and it’s truly been a wonderful life thus far. Indeed, I suspect only now am I ready to squeeze everything out of this nearly 20 year old dream.

So, to the 5 point plan:

  1. Apply to do a Masters. This may also help with the second part of the dream, to be a writer. In fact, to come full circle, The Tisch School would be the perfect place. The only obstacle is of course cash. Could take another 5 years to save up. Time to look into scholarship options.
  2. Get a job. This week I will be emailing everybody I have ever met who might have any connection to New York to see if they can get me a job in my current field – watch out, it could be you!
  3. Go as a tourist for 3 months and just see what happens. This is an attractive option (mostly because it doesn’t involve working or studying) but of course it also involves cash and there is no guarantee that I will find a way to stay longer.
  4. Find an American husband. If you have read my previous blog A Soiled Romance you will know how utterly rubbish I’d be at doing this.
  5. Get immigration to allow me in on the basis that my Father, who was adopted, is certain that his biological father was an American stationed in Dublin, although we have absolutely no proof of this. (Apart from my Dad discovering through a DNA database he has a 3rd cousin in San Francisco – pretty cool huh?) But somehow I don’t think those friendly immigration officers will go for that.

Damn, 2 out of the 5 point action plan are non-starters but it’s still gonna be a busy week… in the meantime, with Willie’s words still ringing in my ears after 20 years I am going to heed them and get out there and spread some love . Namaste.