This I (don’t) know

I don’t know how to be okay with getting older.

I don’t know if I will ever fall in love again.

I don’t know if my family will always be healthy and safe.

I don’t know how to ski, or surf, or snorkel, or ride a bike.

I don’t know how to be more optimistic about the things I can’t control.

I don’t know how to walk in high heels.

I don’t know how to trust the universe.

I don’t know how to live up to their idea of me.

I don’t know if I will be a mother.

I don’t know where I’ll end up.

There’s so much I don’t know.

And I don’t know how to be okay with that.

But I’m trying.

My ABC of important things

My ABC of important things |


A is for abundance. It’s taken me all my years to believe this was something that could flow through my life. I never believed I deserved abundance — not just financial, but in love, work, family or community. I always believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was not good enough to be worthy of good things. Now, after many years of clearing out and questioning every corner of my self and my beliefs, I trust in the possibility of abundance. I only have to look at my nephew to know it is not only possible, but already here.

B is for books. I spent much of my childhood with my nose in a book — it’s one of the few traits I inherited from my father. I spent most of the weekend going through my books, trying to decide which to keep and which to donate — they’ve multiplied like horny rabbits and my small flat cannot hold them all. I flick through the pages and find passages I’ve marked, notes a younger me felt compelled to make as she chewed on new thoughts and theories. My heart gets bigger at the thought of people making their own notes in the book i’ve written — that it then becomes our book.

C is for coffee. Oh bitter mug of brown juice, what would I do without you?

D is for dreams. Sometimes I go to bed still thinking about the dream I had in the morning. Sometimes I’m flying several feet above the ground. Sometimes my unconscious reconstitutes loved ones from the past and we live another night together. Sometimes I go to bed and wish my dreams weren’t so real.

E is for e-courses. Never in a million years would I have thought the internet would provide me with a way to create meaningful work, connect with thousands of souls around the world and also be able to pay my rent. It still blows my mind and I do not take any of this work for granted. (See also: T is for technology)

F is for friendship. My friendships become richer the older I get. “She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” – Toni Morrison, from Beloved

G is for grief. Never forgotten. Never belittled. Always respected. Always grateful.

H is for home. Im such a homebird these days.

I is for independence. Up until the age of 32 I had always been in a romantic relationship. I set up home with my first boyfriend at 18; I didn’t know myself without another standing by my side. The last seven years of total independence have been the best years of my life.

J is for journalling. Or writing-in-my-diary as I’ve always called it. I wrote my first diary entry aged 11 and I haven’t stopped since. Life saving. Life illuminating.

K is for kale. These days I crave kale like I crave chocolate. Specifically the dark mysteries of cavalo nero, steamed or added to soups. Even juiced. Sometimes it pains me that kale is so de riguer these days. I prefer to distance myself from the paleo-fasting-gluten-avoiding-cayenne-pepper-adding crowd. But kale and me, we’re golden.

L is for laughter. My sister is the person who makes me laugh more than anyone else. We’re very close, so I guess it’s inevitable that we’d share a sense of humour — we can make each other laugh even when there’s nothing to laugh about. A few months ago we were sat in her car, parked outside her house — my nephew was asleep in his car seat, and we didn’t want to wake him up just yet, so she turned the engine off and we sat quietly for a while. About five minutes into our quiet time one of her neighbours walked up to the front door to drop a leaflet through the letterbox — she didn’t notice us sat in the car, and as it was the middle of the day she probably wasn’t expecting to see anyone at home. I whispered to my sister that we should beep the horn to make her neighbour jump. And just the thought of that poor unsuspecting woman jumping out of her skin was enough to set us off, and we laughed and snorted and then started wheezing, all the while trying not to wake up my nephew. The more Abby laughed the more I laughed, and the more I laughed the more she laughed. It was one of those ridiculous moments when you’re both tired and hungry, and sitting in a stationary car outside your own house, trying not to wake the baby. We still laugh about it to this day. BEEP!!

M is for mum. The stars aligned when my mum fell pregnant with me. I wasn’t the easiest teenager. In my 20s I was off in the city, doing my own thing. But it’s here, at the end of my 30s, that I truly know how lucky I am to have a mum like mine. I love you, Mum. x

N is for nephew. I just don’t have the words to describe how much I love this little boy.

O is for originality. Everything I do I try to make mine. The very worst thing you could ever accuse me of is plagarism.

P is for photography. I don’t know what my life would be now if I hadn’t picked up a camera again. I had so many plans at art college, so many photography dreams that never came to fruition. But it simply wasn’t the right time. I had to live another decade before I was ready to dive as deeply into my visual world as I have done. I was scared back then — I didn’t believe in myself. Didn’t believe in my fledgling talents. But the passion never went away… it waited inside me, until I was open enough to see again. And then everything changed for the better.

Q is for quiet. I like the peace and quiet of my solitude. As an introverted soul working from home suits me just fine.

R is for Robert Downey Jr. He just keeps getting better and better and better.

S is for sister. There are some pretty shit things I’ve had to endure in my life, but i like to think that it all balances out because I got to be sisters with Abby. So close we could be twins, there is no one in this world who knows me better. She is my everything.

T is for technology. I’m so happy to be living in a time when technology enhances our lives in the way it does. iPhones, laptops, Skype, Instagram, MP3s, True Blood DVDS, email and blogging — how lucky are we?

U is for Unravelling. Of course.

V is for vagina. I’m glad I’m a woman. Despite the PMS and the mood swings, the growing layers of fat around my middle, the competitiveness and the maddening concern over our looks, I’m grateful for my two X chromosomes.

W is for writing. Writing is one of the three great passions in my life (photography and my family the other two) but sometimes, oh boy, I detest it. Writing turns me inside out and shines a light on the darkest dirtiest pieces of me. Writing asks me to be truthful. Writing never lets me get away with anything.

X is for SX-70. In 2008 I found a Polaroid camera in a market stall and the love affair began. It’s a tactile thing as much as an eye thing — i love the feel of my SX-70 camera in my hands, the glassy smoothness of the film. I see the world in squares, now, and for every shot i take i first consider if it would look better on instant film. I dusted off my DSLR for faster memory-catching over Christmas but it felt alien in my hands. I missed the click whirrrr of my SX-70. I learned my lesson.

Y is for yellow. Everytime I wear yellow I feel better. I’ve just ordered a yellow cotton dress — it’s much-needed sartorial medicine to cure the January blues.

Z is for zen. I am not a religious person, but I’m always fiddling with my mala beads when feeling stressed ;-)

* * * * *

What would you include in your ABC of important things? Leave a link to your list if you write one

A slice of reality cake


First of all — wow! I wasn’t expecting so much comment-y kindness, so thank you all so much! You made a (young! I’m still young!) woman in Bath feel very loved over the last 24 hours. And it’s great to know that I’m doing something right :-) So I’ll keep doin’ what i’m doin’ and will try to weave in some more stuff about photography/writing/blogging as I go.

Yay for community!

So there was one comment in particular that made me sit up and take extra notice. Sweet EMC wrote: “I love your photographs and the way you represent your life, both photographically and in words. It sounds, although I’m sure it’s not (just because no-one’s is) almost perfect. And that’s a lovely thing to look at — especially when one is in the mire, as I am and have been for a while, of finding a new life.”

And my second thought, after soaking in the kindness of EMC’s words, was “Oh no! Has this turned into a happy skippy sunshine blog lately where only good things happen?! Because that couldn’t be farther from the truth!”

So in an effort to redress the balance and let you see what is really going on around here, I made two lists: 1. Things that are GOOD. and 2. Things that are SHIT.


Things That Are Good.

1. Noah/family

Everything is put back into perspective within five minutes of being in our Blondie Bear’s company. He is the Nutella on my spoon, the film in my camera and the sunshine of my life. My relationship with my family has never been better — we are enjoying the salad days and it’s really lovely. My sister is my best friend and soul mate. It’s all good.

2. The book(s)

Yep, I can’t deny that the book stuff is good too. It’s been a huge learning curve, and i’m so grateful to even be in the position to learn all this. It also makes me feel extremely vulnerable, but I just tell myself that even if everyone hates it, at least I sat down and did it. A childhood ambition realised.

3. Work/purpose

I work seven days a week which is probably neither healthy nor wise, but work is my sole focus right now. There were many years of unemployment after my love died and it’s remembering that desperately lost time — and the mountain of debt I accrued, that I’m slowly chipping into — that spurs me on today. I’ve found the meaningful work I’m so passionate about and I’m proud to stand on my own two feet because it hasn’t always been this way.

4. Friendship

I have some truly awesome mates, both here and abroad, and I thank the universe for them every day :-)


Things That Are Shit.

1. Love life

I don’t have one. There was that short-lived ill-fated foolish-but-needed flingette I had in January 2008, and a date with The Most Unsuitable Man For Me in September 2008… and that’s it, folks. I’m so single I’m like a nun, but I’m betting nuns probably have more of a love life than I do. In all honesty i haven’t exactly been looking, and working seven days a week from home means I don’t get to mingle with eligible men in the workplace (or anywhere else for that matter). I am really good on my own — I love my own company and love being able to support myself (see no. 3 above) but as I approach the seven-year anniversary of my love passing, i do find myself wondering if I’ll ever bump into Noah’s future uncle. As the next 12 months are booked solid with work commitments I don’t imagine my situation is going to be changing any time soon, which makes me a little sad. I miss morning kisses and breakfast in bed. I miss the companionship (though I don’t miss the bickering and endless laundry that seems to come with a relationship ;-) So when you’re in bed with your loved one tonight, snuggle up extra close and be glad they are there. I wish for that too.

2. Weight/fitness

Even admitting this makes me feel like a cliche, but it is the truth — since I gave up smoking at the end of 2008 my body shape has changed radically. Like, two extra dresses sizes. Like, out-of-breath when I walk up the stairs, wobbly thighs everything, radically. There is nothing in my wardrobe that i wore before I moved to Bath. I know it’s my age, and my sedentary job, and my dislike of exercise and my cigarette-replacement activity (and writing a book — a lot of this is book baby weight) but still, after a lifetime of slimness, I am finding it hard to navigate my new curves. And it’s been getting me down and makes me feel less confident about solving issue no. 1 above. I don’t feel like myself. I’ve lost my minxiness. And I am so bloody tired of feeling bad about this. I eat heathily and well, and the last few months i’ve started to move more, but still it seems that this is the body i’m taking with me into the rest of my life. :-/

3. Hormones

PMS really does make half of my month a freaking misery. I’ve talked about it here before. I’ve blathered about it (probably too much) on Twitter and Facebook. I am sick to death of my hormonal challenges. I’m sick of thinking about it, I’m sick of trying to cure it and i’m mightily sick of enduring it. This issue also affects issues 1 and 2 above. (Hmmm. I’m sensing a theme.)

4. Ageing

This is a relatively new phenomenon that has made itself known over the last six months or so. Basically issues 1 + 2 + 3 = a new obsession with issue 4: feeling the fear of 40. Or — less melodramatically — I’m facing up to the fact that my reproductive years are fast disappearing and if I wanted to give Noah a cousin that’s probably not going to happen. And it’s surprised me to realise I’ve a lot of sadness around this. I was feeling pretty sure I didn’t want children, that I was comfortably ambivalent about it and would be fine if it didn’t happen. And then I became an auntie. And even though my conviction of the hardness and sacrifice of parenting has been confirmed 100% as I watch Noah’s parents, I’m also witnessing the alchemy of family: creating ones own and enlarging the one you were born into. Even through the exhaustion we weave magic with Noah. My heart has been made bigger, and I guess I’m learning that there’s room for more than just me and a future companion in there. But as I count down to my 39th birthday, take stock of my non-existent love life and witness my radically-expanded waistline spilling out of my jeans, I wonder if I missed my chance a few stops back. (That slapping noise you just heard? That’s me slapping myself around the face to GET OVER MYSELF. Bloody PMS. See? It makes me say whiny things)… so I’m trying to make peace with the idea that i don’t know what will happen — there’s no need to panic just yet — while still acknowledging this new tender place inside me. It’s one a lot of women share, no matter their age.

See what fun it is to be in my head? Happy happy joy joy!

Note: I’m not looking for any advice or solutions for my list of shitness, loves. Just venting and sharing and letting you know what’s happening on the other side of the computer screen. Maybe some of you can relate to how I’m feeling.

If you have any slices of reality you wanna get off your chest feel free to share in the comments :-D

The Girl Effect

Last week I had lunch with my friend Megg. Even though we live near each other our work schedules tend to keep us apart, so we dove into our time together, gossiping and laughing as friends tend to do. As we walked back towards the train station we noticed a gaggle of teenage girls ahead of us. They were all dressed similarly — big hair, short skirts, you know the look — and while rolling my eyes I quipped that it must be a nightmare being a teenager these days. That it was bad enough waiting for the home phone to ring back in the 80s, so what must it be like now, when there’s social media measuring your popularity? What if you you have no Facebook friends? What if someone tweets something mean about you? What if embarrasing photos of you end up on the internet? It must be horrible!

Megg and I agreed that growing up in the 80s might have been easier.

But those teenage girls with their over-applied make up and blinged-out smart phones don’t know any different. It’s all just part of the world they’ve grown up in.

There are other girls in the world growing up with a very different set of problems.

Watch this video:


From the Girl Effect donation page: “There are 600 million adolescent girls living in poverty in the developing world. By giving one of these girls a chance, you start the girl effect. When girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive. And if they thrive, everyone around them thrives, too.”

I want all girls to thrive. I want all people to thive. And in my heart of hearts I know it starts with the mothers, daughters, sisters and aunties. So while I’m doing what I can over here in my corner of the privileged Western world, I’m sending money to those who can directly help in the developing world.

Can you help too?

— Bloggers are circling this week to promote the Girl Effect, so add your voice and share here

— Explore the Girl Effect site and get more informed

Donate directly to the Girl Effect

— Donate to specific life-changing programs here

Let’s make a difference xox