They were tearing down all the homes in my neck of the woods and I was forced to migrate. There was a lot of flapping and complaint about it but in the end it finally twigged that I would have to flee, so here I am, perching in this new environment.
There aren’t many others like me around, but I’m used to this feeling of solitude. I’d visited a few sites fleetingly and eventually I found a humble place to settle down. It may seem naught but an excavated hole to you, but to me it is home – a quiet space nestled on the outskirts of the city – it’s perfect.
Since being here, I’ve chipped in the same as others and earned my stripes, but I wouldn’t like to tap at doors and stick my beak in too much, so I keep myself to myself. I have a prominent appearance but I’m rarely seen and I mostly go unspotted. Occasionally people will see me and be mindful of me for a short speck of time, but as soon as I’m out of sight, I’m barely a flicker of a thought at the back of their minds.
For all that I like this secluded life, it’s difficult to be valued at the forefront of society when no one can see my crown. My needs are often forgotten and this riddling thought bores into me each day.
Just because I’m usually quiet that doesn’t mean I won’t create noise. It’s important to look at things from all angles before drilling into something, so I am always contemplating.
You believe we are all the same, but some of us are defined as greater, and others lesser. There’s an impending pecking order that seems to hover high above us, a jabbing reminder that we are mere workers and everything we contribute to your world can be snatched away in a pinch. This has always been drummed into us, but now there’s a call for loud, rapid action but it’s compliant and somewhat easier to show the white feather.
I wouldn’t want to risk everything now. It took me so long to find my home here and spread my wings in your society… but perhaps now is the right time. I expect one day I will be threatened, (knock on wood) and forced to move on once again for I am a woodpecker and your hollow, decaying tree is my home.
Known for being a burst of positivity, Marlon Schipper pours a cup of tea and talks about finding happiness, overcoming personal challenges and reveals the story behind her quirky fascination with the portable Dixi loos.
Marlon and I used to work for the same company in Berlin – that was where we met, about four years ago – since then we’ve moved on in different directions but she continues to be a good friend and is the ray of sunshine we all need!
The first thing that strikes you about Marlon when you meet her, is her immediate, bright smile and platinum-blonde waves. You can’t help but reciprocate this warmth and feel comfortable around her.
She sits cross-legged in the armchair opposite me in my cosy, alt-bau flat. We were just talking about the different books we’re reading and I gave her mine to inspect, which she loosely holds in her lap throughout our conversation – a small book of extracts from William Styron’s Darkness Visible.
Our discussions often turn towards mental health and our challenges. Marlon’s candidness is refreshing as she tells me that she wants to focus on marketing herself and her photography but sometimes she struggles with holding herself back. ‘I’m less good at promoting myself and what I’m offering. You know imposter syndrome? That’s definitely a part of it – I know I can do the stuff but sometimes I tell myself I’m not good at that’. We talk about how to overcome this shared feeling of self-doubt, and lack of confidence. There are definitely self-help books and courses out there where you can learn to let go of these fears and embrace your talents but a lot of the time the confidence comes with practice, ‘by doing more [photography & marketing], I already get more confidence’.
Marlon specialises in street photography, family photography and portraiture. As we talk about the familiar lack of self-confidence women so often face, Marlon explains how she wants to use her photography to help other women build confidence. Having professional photos for your LinkedIn profile can be incredibly empowering and this is one of the ways Marlon would like to support women. She knows a lot of people can be insecure and camera-shy, so she doesn’t put any pressure on the outcome of the photos. Some good tips for a photo shoot? ‘I just take some pictures to make them more comfortable with the camera. Don’t rush, just take your time. And laugh! Go out, have a laugh, do a bit of weird stuff’, she shrugs. It’s easy to let down your guard around Marlon and build trust with her. She gives good direction if you’re unsure about how to stand, which way to face or what to do with your arms, but she stresses how important it is to just be yourself, move freely – the lighting and her photography skills will do the rest.
Her personal instagram is a balanced mix of portraiture and street photography, some analogue, some digital. Walking around the city and taking photos of reconstructed buildings or vintage cars has become a form of meditation for Marlon and she enjoys having her camera on her to take a picture as soon as she sees something beautiful. For all that she loves street photography, she finds a deeper connection in pictures with people. ‘I find it very nice when people take pictures of random people. I take pictures with [my friends]. All our views are different, and it’s very inspiring to see what we think works’.
She talks about a pleasant, weekend stroll in the snow with her friends through Görlitzer Park, in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, and how all the families with their children and sleighs brought her happiness. She laughs, ‘I find happiness everywhere!’ – to those who are lucky enough to know Marlon, this comes as no surprise. ‘It is really not hard for me to find (most days). It has a lot to do with my outlook on things.’ She lists examples of things that have made her smile recently: the snow falling; a quirky number plate; the way the sun shines on something; dogs! Of course, not everybody shares Marlon’s luminous outlook but this doesn’t phase her. She’s used to people having different views and not always seeing the beauty in things, the way she does, but she admits she struggles with people who notoriously only see the negative. ‘There’s nothing I can say to help people like that, I just wish they could see a light’.
Arguably, dogs might be the biggest source of Marlon’s happiness. She has a very close connection with dogs and asides from her photography, her priority goal in life is to own a dog – this idea is a key motivation and influences a lot of her life decisions. If Marlon was a dog herself, it would probably be a labrador – always happy and a little clumsy but very loyal and sweet. She has a purity about her, the same way labradors do. Her family golden labrador, Tucker, passed away and in memory of him she has a striking tattoo on her forearm of his name in a bold, black script – all dog owners know that love.
Marlon has always been surrounded by photography. Her dad is a keen photographer and is notably responsible for introducing her to the hobby, although she has developed a totally different style. Growing up in the Netherlands, she would always take photos on her phone when she was out for walks with her dog, but when she moved to Berlin, her family dog stayed behind and she decided to take up photography to keep her occupied. ‘I missed having something to do on my walks. I bought my digital camera for my birthday and I’m still using it.’ Her 30th birthday is coming up shortly and she proudly reflects on how much she’s improved over the last few years since she really started focussing on her hobby and turning it into a business.
Her voice is soft and steady but it grows when she gets particularly excited and animated about her work. She tells me of her proudest moment to date: exhibiting her work in a coffee shop. She met the owner through a friend of a former colleague and he offered her a space to hang her pictures. At the time, she created a collage with a few photos but looking back she would have done it differently – maybe with individual pictures instead, she says this as advice to benefit other photographers, and highlights the importance of trying things and learning from the experience. Nevertheless it was still an exciting opportunity and she beams with pride recalling the moment she stood back and saw her pictures up there on the wall, with her name, “…everyone drinking coffee and my pictures there. Yeah, it was very, very cool!”. She also describes her elation after her first paid photoshoot. ‘Every time I take pictures, I think I hope it’s enough and then when you get positive feedback from the clients it really makes you proud, yes!’, she rattles her fist in the air, celebrating herself and quite rightly so.
At this point she pauses and offers me a cup of tea. I agree and although we’re in my flat, she jumps up to put the kettle on before I even get the chance.
When we settle back in with a pot of tea between us, I ask her if she would consider taking her photography abroad. Of course everyone likes to take photos on their holidays but is this something she is passionate about? ‘I get a lot of inspiration when I’m walking through Berlin, I don’t know that I would get that elsewhere… Maybe different styles of ‘Dixi’s round the world’.
She laughs at this idea but her eyes look up at the ceiling as she genuinely considers the prospect of taking her iconic @DixiStories on tour. Often overlooked by most of us, Marlon never fails to spot a Dixi out on her walks. They’ve become a strong focus of her photography and she has managed to spark excitement and inspiration in others when they pass the portaloos themselves. Trust me, you will see them everywhere.
Being a huge lover of music, Marlon loves festivals and the Dixi loos evoke that uplifting festival feeling: dancing, sunshine, being around people and listening to live music – remember that? Conveniently, Berlin is in a constant state of construction and there are portaloos all over the city. ‘They’re always in a spot where you think they don’t belong […] even when it’s next to an important German building, they’re just floop right there,’ she imitates a Dixi standing stoutly out of place, ‘they’re so cute!’. The idea of these little, blue cabins having some kind of identity and belonging crisis amuses me. She says it’s a growing love, and I can see how they’re symbolic of the internal struggles that resonate with many. ‘Of course they’re not the most pretty thing but actually I really like that about them now. Sometimes they can also be quite lonely, I think it can be quite sad to see them standing there’.
She reflects on that part with pursed lips, but to bring the mood back up she quips, ‘besides all that, they’re quite useful! When I do a photography tour, in the middle of nowhere, it’s nice to see [them] – most are locked though… about 60% are locked’.
Next time you’re out for a walk, keep an eye open for those Dixi loos – Marlon would love to be tagged in your photos, @DixiStories – and if you get caught short, there’s a good 40% chance you’ll be in luck with an open door.
*** Follow Marlon on instagram, @MarlonSchipper. To see more of Marlon’s work, and if you would like to get in touch, please reach out via her website.
All photos in this article were provided by Marlon Schipper.
I don’t think anyone admires Winnie the Pooh’s confidence to casually strut around without pants on until they’ve had to do the shuffly, little foxtrot across the doctor’s office for their annual smear (sorry, I know, it’s up there with ‘moist’, isn’t it?).
This edition of my ‘A Guide To’ series is dedicated to Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. I know it brings a deep shame that we’ve skipped our schmear appointments for years but now that I’ve had several of them, I feel obliged to encourage all my womxn readers to go get their bits and boobs checked!
So if you’re feeling a bit insecure, unsure and a smol bag of nerves, fear not! Aunty Bridge is here to tell you all about it and offer some practical-ish advice to help get your appointment sorted. If you’re not a womxn reading this, bravo! Keep these tips in mind for all your cervix-owner friends… wonderful, I’ve made it sound like a Honda.
Basically HPV is super common, and most of us (men, women, everyone) will have (had) HPV at some point in their life and for the most part it’s all grand, BUT, as there’s usually no symptoms, this is why we have to go for our wee checksies to make sure everything is hunky-dory.
Maybe you’ve already had your HPV vaccinations (good stuff, docs are always delighted to hear that), but it’s still important that you book your test.
Registering and Booking Your Test
I’m the youngest of my friends so I’d heard all about the invitation letter when you turn 21 (in Scotland), summoning you for your check up. Of course we all did our best to ignore the existence of HPV and avoid the summons, and given that tampons, periods, pubic hair, masturbation and all things vaginal are massive taboos, I’m not surprised the letter made us all a bit squeamish.
All the info you need to book your test will be in this letter – probably with a hot pink pamphlet for extra reading – but if you, like me, did your best to avoid the letter, you can still reach out to your local GP and proudly demand a test and they’ll get it sorted for you.
If you happen to live near a sexual health clinic, give them a bell too – you might be able to get an appointment quicker, or it might just be more convenient for you.
You should also be mindful to book the test for a non-menstrual day (2 days before or after should be grand).
In Germany, it’s a little different – they have specialist doctors for everything. As a foreigner over here I haven’t received the letter, but conveniently I had to register with a gynaecologist for the pill and part of the new patient registration is the schmear test – it’s much more superior over here. Maybe I should write a comparison?
Ready, Steady, Go
Now that you’ve set a date in your calendar (congrats), and it’s nearing your appointment, the nerves might be creeping in and I’m not surprised. Here are some things I find quite helpful to minimise risk of embarrassment and/or awkwardness and make the occasion less daunting:
If you’re nervous or worried about any pain or discomfort, talk to the nurse/doctor about it – you can tell them to stop if it doesn’t feel right. They can organise a follow up discussion and find what works for you. Talk to your friends too, talk to yer ma, everyone has different experiences.
If you’re worried about what it looks like down there, have a look yourself! Get all up in there with a handheld mirror, ring-lights, head-torches, whatever you need, and see what the doctor sees. If you think it needs a new hairdo, some moisturiser, whatever it is… awesome, go attend to it! Remember, the doctor has seen literally all kinds of shapes and sizes before, so whether you’re a tidy box or a ham sandwich, it’s all normal, just you do you! …Lest you eat a ham sandwich ever again.
Wear your best knickers – or your worst, they’re gonna be off anyway. Although in the event the nurse goes a bit overboard with the lube, you might want to consider an older pair of pants, like your best period pants. You can also just pop to the loo afterwards and tidy up, or bring a bucket and a mop, it’s no biggie.
Back to clothing, if you don’t fancy that odd draught when you’re Winnie-the-Poohing around the doc’s office with your cute bum hanging out, try opting for a skirt, dress, kilt, or a long T-shirt to keep some modesty.
And you know, womxn fart, and make other involuntary sounds, that’s also a thing – especially when your legs are akimbo and you’re a bit nervous, it happens! If you’re worried though, maybe go easy on the cheese and beans the day before, be smart – plan ahead. Although for other involuntary sounds, sorry I don’t really have any advice for you there – might as well be confident with it I guess.
Once you’re feeling your best self, chuck on some Lizzo, Cardi or Doja and head off to your appointment with confidence and pride that you’re doing this and looking after yourself. How long have you been putting this off for? Doesn’t matter, you’re doing it now, good for you!
Remember to Breathe
Now, It’s probably strange that when I’m in the big, comfy chair with my legs in the stirrups, I think of Ross Geller…
Aright, hear me out, hear me out. There’s an episode of Friends where Ross and his ex-wife’s partner, Susan, attend a ‘Lamaze Class’ (or anti-natal class) together. Ross is sat on the floor, acting as the mum-to-be, and the teacher says ‘alright, mommies, take a nice, deep, cleansing breath… now, imagine your vagina is opening like a flower’. Pretty sound advice really, it does help.
It’s okay if you’re in the chair/on the bed and still a little nervous. Ask the nurse/doc to explain what happens, what sensations to expect, etc. They’ll also 100% pick up on the fact you’re tense and give you some time to settle and relax – maybe the vajayjay grimaces or something, but they always know. Just take a moment to do your Ross Geller breathing. Try it, thank me later.
So you’ve done it! Your first schmear, proud of you! Now we have to make a good habit out of it and stick to our check ups regularly.
In Germany they recommend booking your check up once a year; the UK currently recommends once every 3-5 years (depending on age). It may be the German in me but I think it’s just good sense to go once a year.
It’s pretty difficult to examine your cervix at home in between check-ups, but you can still look after your breasts as you please! I’m always copping a feel (in the shower, in bed, at work… always). I’m not paranoid or on the constant lookout for lumps or anything; the point of checking your breasts regularly is just to familiarise yourself with them and understand how they should normally look and feel – so if in future there’s a change in shape or texture or maybe that lumpy bit feels more tender, you’ll know when to talk about it to your doctor.
(Plus I just really like my boobs).
Recommending to Others
An important (yet unspoken) part of the check up is making sure others go for theirs too. Leave a review for the practice (yes, really) and tell your friends about it, write a blog, go bananas!
If one of your friends has concerns about it, talk to them, share your experience – or better yet, help them book the appointment. Even if they just want to talk to the doctor/ nurse to find out more, that’s already a huge step and you helped do that!
You might find that despite doing everything right, it just wasn’t a good experience, and that’s unlucky. Don’t lose hope though – if you have a bad hairdresser, you leave a crap review find a better one and it’s the same with gynaecologists. If you live in Germany and are blessed with bountiful Frauenarzts, you might want to register at a new practice, but if you’re in the UK at your local GP, you could always ask for a different nurse, it’s all good.
[REMINDER] This doesn’t just apply to other womxn and the smear test; remind the men-folks to check themselves regularly and encourage them to book their prostate exam too.
So off you pop, go call up your doctors or book online – your cervix needs you! You are strong, you are confident and you are taking excellent care of yourself!
Ahead of the UK’s Energy Saving Week (18-24th January 2021), here’s a list of my pet peeves ways to make your work environment a little greener.
Turn-Offs are the new Turn-On
Do you remember all the adverts to turn off home appliances, instead of leaving them on standby? They used to inundate us, reminding us to switch off our devices and save electricity (and money) – that beady, red light was the stuff of nightmares.
We got into a homely habit of switching everything off at the wall and we should bring this habit to the workplace. For sure we’re all excited to run away at 5 o’clock but we need to be mindful of that little standby light before we head home – especially in the lockdown when a). we might not be in the office for another several days, and b). if we’re at home, this contributes to our own electricity bills – households waste £227M a year from leaving appliances on standby – no wonder yer parents got mad eh!
Speaking of parents… I grew up in the South of Scotland where electricity and women’s rights barely exist. When it got cold we were told to put our jumpers on, so we did, and we were grand! The idea of ‘warm clothes’ seems to be lost these days, but basically if your home or office is a little chilly, you can put these extra layers on instead of turning the radiator up to max and it helps reduce energy – amazing!
The monitor uses 33% of a PC’s energy – leaving it on overnight is equal to laser printing 500+ pages.
Leaving your photocopier on overnight wastes enough energy to make 30 cups of tea.
A small department can save over £1,000 each year by ensuring that lights are not left on overnight.
Turning off unneeded lights could remove 171 kg (376 lb) of CO2 emissions per year.
It would take a tree more than a year to absorb the CO2 emitted by one fan left on overnight over the summer.
I think (I hope) we’re all quite good at doing this at home, but somehow in the office it all goes to pot.
My company offered a free lunch once a week and I can’t even fathom the amount of waste: foods, plastics and cardboard all chucked into the same non-biodegradable plastic bin liner… y’know, the food wasn’t even that good. If your company offers a similar programme, try and find a way to encourage separation of rubbish and proper recycling. We stopped the free lunches due to the lockdown but I’m hoping we keep it off the schedule.
I’ll admit, I am terribly lazy at making my own packed lunches, so when I do go to office, I usually end up buying something from the shop, FOR SHAME. I’m working on it though, trying to do the whole ‘make your lunch the night before’ thing, and even if working remotely has been a huge help in reducing my packaging waste, I know I can still do better.
Aside from the lunchtime and schnacktime waste, you can also reduce general office waste: only print documents where necessary; switch to fonts that use less ink; recycle paper; offer reusable coffee mugs; buy recycled stationery… the list is endless!
Switching from Arial to Century Gothic or Ryman Eco uses up to 33% less ink.
Build a Green Team
I recently joined an ‘Employee Resource Group’ (ERG) focussed on the environment and sustainability. This is a great way to get things done together and meet new people from all parts of the company. If you’re interested in starting something like this, try speaking with your manager and/or HR team to help get the message out there – you may find there already is one!
As a team you could suss out what energy tariff your company uses and persuade the important folks to switch to a greener alternative. You could also work on improving systems in the workplace, such as proper recycling or finding sustainable suppliers… there’s so much you could do!
If you are proposing changes, make sure you also present the monetary value to minimise resistance. Pulling the money card will probably help sway the important folks’ decision (hopefully in your favour).
Of course the best way to make your office greener is obviously to introduce luscious, green plants!
Note: If you and your colleagues are working from home, please don’t forget about the plants.
Apparently my good friends at NASA have done a study and found quite a few different plants that are more effective at purifying and detoxing than others.
If you’re interested in more ways to be greener, I can recommend Jen Gale’s ‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide‘ which is chock-full of ideas for work, home and all parts of life.
Now, there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly reminder’, despite what your colleagues may say, so please note this passive-aggressive nudge to turn down the radiators, switch off your monitors, unplug your chargers, turn off the lights (including meeting rooms, kitchens and toilets), separate your rubbish, recycle, build a team, switch tariffs and buy a snake plant. I know it seems like a lot of work, and sometimes it really is, so thank you for being considerate and mindful and always striving to do better. Namaste.
Point of view: You’re my online banking app and you’re once again waking up to my thumbs podging all over the screen as I pour over balances and transactions like Thorin and the Arkenstone…
I suppose I have caught the Dragon Fever during the lockdown but I think money has always fascinated me. I can’t say I’ve ever had a lot of it but I remember spending many a Saturday afternoon tipping out my piggy bank and inspecting all the dross change for hours on end… I’m not much of a Royalist but I liked to group up the 1p and 2p coins by their portrait of the Queen… ah, what a total loser.
Early on in the lockdown, I started to hear rumours of strange, mythical people in their mid-20s getting ready to snap up property with all the money they’ve been saving – I thought that was just a thing you started in your 30s. My ‘savings’ was a childhood piggy bank I brought to Berlin, full of British coppers, how embarrassing.
After that slap in the face, realising that people my age are actually responsible with their money, I decided to see how much I could save during the lockdown.
Honestly, I didn’t expect much because I didn’t really do much pre-lockdown: I wasn’t in Berghain every weekend (lol, imagine); and I’ve never taken advantage of the Burgermeister nearby, so I just assumed all my money was going on weekly food-shops and bills and I just didn’t earn enough to save. Boy, was I wrong! Not to toot my own horn or do the unGerman thing and discuss wages and money (God forbid), but I’m impressed with how much I’ve saved in the space of 9 months. I reckon by May 2021 I’d have the right amount to put down a deposit if I wanted to (on a small house I mean – what city folks would call a ‘shed’).
So if you too would like to buy a garden shed, here’s my finest advice to help save your schmoney:
Review your Spending
Knowing where your money goes will give you an idea of how much you can save and where to make cuts. Especially in a pandemic where we’re mostly paying by card, it should be easy to track each transaction on your online app. Your bank may already have options to categorise each transaction, for example ‘groceries, shopping, family’ etc, and create a chart for you, but you can also manually create a spreadsheet or draw up a list and look at it that way.
Learn to Budget
I love a good budget – it’s also a hilarious autocorrect of my name. There are many different rules of thumb that can help control your spending, for example: your rent should be about 30% of your wage; keep aside 10% of your wage for retirement; if you’re buying a car, check the 20-4-10 concept. For general budgeting, there’s the popular 50-30-20 rule: ‘50% Needs’ (Rent, Bills, Food etc), ‘30% Wants’ (gym, Netflix, travel etc) and ‘20% Savings’ (retirement, rainy days, loan repayment etc).
During the pandemic a lot of ‘Wants’ in the 50-30-20 rule are not fulfilled: gym memberships; travel; bars & restaurants, to name a few. These are all things that can be recategorised into Savings. Personally, I save over 30% of my wages – I know, I lead a very quiet life… but now I can buy a shed, so.
Set up a Realistic and Exciting Goal
Once you’ve reviewed your spending and calculated how much enters/ exits your account, you’ll be able to set up a realistic goal. Whether you want to stick to saving 20%, or more or less, you can now work out what this monthly/annual figure looks like. I’d also make your goal something you’re really passionate about, or a challenge, as you’re more likely to make the contributions. Maybe you want to save £100 a month, or £5,000 by the end of the year, find what works for you – maybe even set a few goals, go wild! …but not too wild.
Maybe you still have your childhood piggy bank, but most online banks will have ‘pockets’ or ‘spaces’ where you can set aside this money. This feature has genuinely revolutionised my budgeting and savings. Depending on your account plan you may be able to create a few for different things: savings, food, new car, bills. Each month you can drop money into the space – or you might be able to set up an automatic transfer each month from your main account to your space… but then you don’t get to enjoy the precious feeling of handling pretendy, digital money and swooping it around your spaces.
As a rule (to control all the savings fun), you should Save First before you spend. So when your money comes in, allocate the amounts to each space to block it off for the month ahead. It kinda sucks watching your main account balance dwindle so quickly but it’s the overall balance that counts. For example, I put 240€ a month (4 x 60€/week) into my ‘Food’ space and use it to reimburse my grocery shopping after each trip to the supermarket.
Note: Some banks will let you set up outgoing payments directly from the space, whereas others can only debit from your main account and then reimburse from a space , so make sure you have the right amount of money in the right place for any upcoming debits.
Use ‘Round Up’ Feature
These days ‘Round Up’ doesn’t just mean a beautiful garden lawn without weeds (but that kind of Roundup would go nicely in my new shed); it also describes the process of saving up the little pennies. Now, given that I used to spend my Saturdays counting coppers, I really should have cottoned on to this sooner because it’s genius! People can save up hundreds without even noticing – pure joy! This feature automatically rounds up spending each time you use your card and pings the spare change into a space. If you spend £3.49 on some questionable wine, your little bank will round it up to £4.00 and put the spare £0.51 into a little space… and that sometimes helps you regret the wine a little less.
Yes, here she goes, off on the eco spraff, BUT, you will absolutely cut spending and save loads if you are more conscious and mindful of what you buy. Do you really need it? How often will you use it? Does it spark joy? Can I repair the one I already have? These are all questions to ask when you’re feeling that retail therapy itch.
This section should be a guide on its own and luckily Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once, has already written an excellent guide (and book) to be more considerate and reduce impulse buys. Maybe you’re a ‘Treater Imp’ and celebrate every occasion with a purchase; if so, try adding it to your basket and going back 24h later when you’re less excited. I used to be a (rather unfortunately named) ‘Faddy Imp’ who gets into a hobby, buys all the stuff and then gets bored after two weeks days, so to limit my spending I should shop second-hand OR give up hobbies altogether and become a sad, little blobfish. Spoiler, it’s the latter…
Well, actually, does saving count as a hobby? The amount of time I spend checking my accounts, I think it should be considered as one. Feel free to join me in this extremely safe and boring hobby – I look forward to next year when we can all compare sheds, or whatever it is you’re working towards. Happy saving!
It’s cruel how you taunt us with so much freedom, laughing as we constantly soar towards it, only to find our paths blocked by a cold, glass barrier. There may be a small crack in this window for us to crawl through, but what we need is for all doors to be wide open.
It only takes one of us, a born leader, to plant the first seed and we all follow. We see your fear as we emerge from the woodwork in waves and droves with often misunderstood intentions, but it’s been happening since the start of time – it shouldn’t be such a sting to see us claiming the sweet nectar you once believed was only yours.
You underestimate our potential and see us as nothing but parasites chewing on the scraps you left behind. We scout out the half-eaten apple you carelessly toss away, and in this we find swarms of opportunity. It’s no picnic but all we really want is our fair share and to be understood as a necessary part in society. For this reason we persist.
Just the sight or sound of us screams a warning. One individual is considered a mere nuisance, but a whole colony of us with a united mission paralyses your society. Our piercing jabs make you flinch in agony as you question your own venomous actions towards us. We have always been here and we know our true purpose; your swats and swipes are futile against us and will only result in your own downfall.
People react differently towards what they perceive as a threat: some choose violence; some turn a blind eye; some educate themselves and begin to understand. Many of us have been beaten and killed at your hands but this is no crime, merely a day-to-day occurrence. It happens. Yet we are unable to shrug it off. We come together and rebuild through these cycles of destruction. You may wait for us to grow tired and disappear but there will always be a new leader, a new Queen, to carry on the cause and secure our future, for we wasps are resilient and strong and know that we belong.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Abba recently so now seems like a good time to introduce myself.
First of all, I wouldn’t normally consider myself an Abba fan, so in the event you’ve found me through some kind of online Abba forum (I’m sure they exist), I’m afraid you may be somewhat disappointed. If you must know, according to Spotify, my top artists are Mahalia and Joy Crookes, followed by the timeless Fleetwood Mac… and also Cardi B, for a balanced lifestyle. Macaroni, anyone?
It should be noted that I lead an extremely boring and antisocial life, so I can’t say the content on this blog will be at all interesting. During the lockdown I’ve learned that I really don’t need much to keep myself entertained – a simple Netflix subscription usually does the trick! I like cooking though and apparently I make an excellent vegan sponge cake, so maybe they will appear on the blog. As a side note, I do eat a lot of vegan food but I wouldn’t call myself vegan or veggie, because occasionally I have a sneaky not-so-plant-based dinner, forgive me Satan.
I’ve been wanting to get round to this blog for such a long time, done writing classes, bought books and scrapped lots of drafts in preparation but finally someone told me what I needed to hear: ‘just get over yourself’, so here I am, all fresh and shiny ready to kickstart the new year with an actual site for my writing. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be up your street but thanks to all the space and time during the lockdown (proud sponsors of this blog), I have found my groove again and it’s time for me to write once more like I did before!
Alright, nothing more to say, no more ace to play! Happy reading!
It’s that time of year again where I see an influx of fad comments like ‘roll on 2021’ and ‘can’t wait for next year’ – not out of excitement, just pure exasperation. People make these comments around this time every year, but this year people have been wishing the days away for the past 9 months and now we’re reaching an exponential rise of post-festive doom and gloom as more and more people jump on the annual groaning bandwagon, ’tis the season! I’m generally known for being miserable but even for me, it’s exhausting being around so much negativity.
Yes, 2020 had its challenges but, dare I say it, I’ve had a great year! I understand this has been a difficult year for a lot of people and it would be callous of me to ignore that. People have lost loved ones, jobs, purpose, self-worth and more – I do see it. Realistically though, the majority of people on my Instagram still have their jobs and family and have it pretty good, but they’re still going to complain about it because it’s an end-of-year pastime – like when people say “I hate Mondays”. Really it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, if you’re anxious to go back to work and dreading your inbox, I doubt ‘Monday’ is the problem, but it’s something we mindlessly say to each other in the lift and I don’t know why.
I’d say I’m quite well-versed in depression and I know that even when you seemingly have it all, you still feel the effects. I don’t want to dismiss or invalidate feelings but for the most part, these bleak comments seem to just be a thing we say at the end of the year as we start looking forward and forgetting all the goodness and growth we experienced earlier on in the year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find it to be all sunshine and lollipops, although being an introvert I did feel cruelly smug. There were a lot of things that I really struggled with during the pandemic. Some were just irritating pet-peeves like the ignoramuses who enter a shop via the designated exit, or wear their masks on their chin – but this type of irritation can be cured by a quick meme share on the ‘gram. Other things that I struggled with were tougher to accept and overcome, like not being there for someone, missing birthdays or feeling trapped and undervalued (and the natural guilt and discomfort for feeling glum in the first place). Of course the recurrent lockdowns and restrictions were arguably the root cause for those feelings, but on the other hand, I also found the lockdown offered a welcome solution.
When my friends were going through a tough time, I felt awful that I couldn’t be there to hug them and/or pour them a wine, but instead I actually had time to call people, which was really nice – even friends I’ve never really thought about calling would call me to check in and tell me about their day and I loved that! We’d find time to chat in the early hours because we didn’t have to get ready to go to the office. We could take long walks in the morning, babbling away to each other, leaving nonsense voice notes, and then collapse back into bed with the work laptop and a cuppa and still have a productive day – sans bra! That’s how I’ll remember the start of the pandemic – snorting with laughter as I walked round the park, talking to a friend a thousand miles away.
The lockdown forced us to think outside the box and reevaluate our consumerism and commercialism to find alternative solutions. There was a call to arms to support small businesses and local stores and I’m delighted that all bar one of my Christmas and birthday gifts to others were sourced either through Etsy or small businesses’ websites, sorry Jeff. I’d been planning mum’s birthday since late 2019 but it all went to pot. It hurt that I couldn’t be there and treat her but I made up for my absence with thoughtful gifts – I organised a local florist to deliver an eco-wreath, and put money behind the till so she could treat herself to beautiful, fresh fish from the local fishmongers (a bit of a weird gift I’ll admit, but she was thrilled). I realise I’m basically saying I replaced myself with fish, so let’s move on…
I almost lost my job due to an unfortunate, ill-timed combination of Brexit and Pandemic. I think had it not been for the lockdown, I probably would’ve just accepted the end of my contract and wombled around lost in the job market, but knowing jobs were scarce made me realise that simply not renewing my contract was not an option. So, after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I was proactive and managed to secure a position in a different area of the company… just like that! That was a difficult time for my little mindbrain but really when I look back I see how my strength, resilience and good old Scottish grit got me through and I’m proud that I fought for myself. I can’t take all the credit – I’m very grateful that I had strong managers to support me – but I did have to do quite a lot of shouting and legwork to get myself there.
As it turned out, the new job wasn’t right for me but after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I had a really honest and open discussion with my manager to address my unhappiness and as a result, (perhaps for the first time in my entire life) I realised what I wanted and that felt really good! I’ve left previous jobs because it wasn’t what I wanted, but it never occurred to me to sit down and work out what I wanted and needed from my job. Having the time and space to think about that was really gratifying. Although I was still working, being away from the office was the much-needed sabbatical that provided a fresh outlook and new perspective.
I’ve spoken to friends and family and we all feel quite guilty about having a good year. We gingerly bring up the taboo subject and mutter a hushed ‘well, actually…’. Perhaps this isn’t something to go out onto the balcony and clap about, but maybe this is the little morale-boost we need now, amidst the doom and gloom, to hear that people have found good in this year.
I know the pandemic hasn’t been good for many, but I do think it’s the sabbatical we all needed. Our environment, economy and society needed a harsh reset and hopefully we’ve all taken something good from this year that we can take forward into next. Dare I say it, with enthusiasm? ‘Roll on 2021’!
Have you always known what you would be when you grew up? I never really had an option. My work means everything to me – it offers focus, provides my daily meals and ensures I have somewhere to rest my head.
As a lost youngster, I was unwillingly swept into this city hubbub but now when I prey upon this bustling, urban jungle, I see my home and I just can’t wait to sink my teeth into each new day. I spy thousands of people below: swarming over the pavements, their cars scuttling down the roads, their bicycles whizzing down the streets, always rushing, rushing, rushing! How I do enjoy the buzz! I’m completely caught up in my frantic lifestyle and the unquenchable thirst for work gives me an overwhelming sense of pride.
Of course, there are times I consider surrendering and escaping for a much-needed rest, but I’m unashamedly sucked into the city frenzy. The endless opportunities and challenges drive me forward and push me to constantly improve. Do you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Yes, yes, the grass could be greener somewhere else, but what if it’s not? Don’t you think it’s better to stay put, bounded by the silky comfort of what I already know? It’s true, there are mounting responsibilities biting down on my shoulders and often I struggle to deal with the pressure. With everything flying around me lately, it’s difficult to find time for my tasks, let alone myself. Alright, I’ll admit I do get somewhat tangled up in those suffocating thoughts but I always try to put a positive spin on things.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I rarely get any acknowledgment for my carefully considered efforts. I know I don’t do my job for attention but a little taste of recognition would be nice. I’m sure you can imagine the depression and despair: toiling over my work, dutifully and precisely tailoring each aspect to meet my perfect expectations, then an audacious stranger decides my work is insignificant and they simply wisp it away with a curt flick of their hand. That’s what bugs me most – the blatant lack of respect.
But, even if nobody else understands, if nobody else will appreciate my work, I still don’t give up. The truth is: I believe in myself; I am important; I am strong; I am proud. Yet, I expect, to you I am nothing but a common spider and my work is just another dusty cobweb in your way.