It’s taken thirty two years to reach this next point, where personal narrative finally diverges from a very well-worn path. There’s no fear either, which is a surprise. Maybe that’s because, for the first time in fifty years, understanding isn’t a problem. Running yesterday, it was fun. You know, the stuff the rest of the world experiences on a daily basis but was somehow lost in the last twelve months.

Just how off course were you on this particular journey?

The last time a book/s affected me so significantly was The Bridge by Iain Banks back in 1986. Thirty years of literature hasn’t so much passed me by, it’s that I’ve not really ever felt it as much as perhaps was possible. That’s the biggest take-way: not you books, most definitely me. I, the party of the first part, am most definitely the one at fault. It’s not just words either: lots of stuff has been eaten, seen and listened to without the correct level of mindfulness applied. There’s a lot to catch up on.

I tried reading this trilogy last year, but my brain couldn’t cope with it. Having finished the final book, the reasoning for that has become abundantly apparent. The chain of my subconscious, delicate silver, remains knotted and dense. It requires patience plus a needle to unravel. Now we’ve established this is not a five minute task, that there’s a LOT of work to do straightening links, it’s time to get working. It wasn’t just meditation and mindfulness that was required, but my own admission of inability.

Last weekend sorted that out for good.


Weeeeellll, yes and no. I get what’s gotta be done now, even if that’s just broad strokes in some places and being oddly specific in others. Life is no fun unless you live it, bad and good. That’s happening: as we get a bit of momentum up, there’ll be time to tweak the plan. The biggest step forward however is that going back to the way I was will never, ever be an option, because that person no longer exists.

That’s a positive I’ll never get tired of celebrating.


My legs still hurt. I don’t remember that happening for a while, either. This is what happens when you stop worrying about falling off a treadmill at incline and just run on it. It’s also a reminder that doing what you’re told sometimes is not the end of all independent action. Stuff in exercise class is given to you for a reason. Growing is a subtle combination of taking what you need from experiences and then going the extra mile to make it stick.

This was also the result of more weight in squats (bar on your shoulders, squat with it up and down) where the long term aim is to exceed body weight lifted. What happens when I train and up weights is very simple: it exposes muscles that are weakest. In my case I suffer with wrists and ankles, tops of legs and lower back. They need to be stronger, or progress doesn’t happen. That’s why I’m here on a Saturday planning a gym trip later.

I’m also up early preparing to organise the next four weeks of my life to include wring a novel pretty much from scratch. I know it’s doable, NaNoWriMo tells me it is. It’s now how much this matters and how immersed in the world created I can become, and they’re both easy things to do. It will means a reschedule of a few things and organising others around the writing change, but I can do this. Of course I can.

In fact, I’m really looking forward to it :D

Let It Be

If I felt like it, I could posture a state of mild dudgeon from the title of this article. This worthy venture by the Places of Poetry team is not slightly mad, and its uniqueness is not something to be highlighted as folly. Quite the opposite, in fact: if I had my way, this kind of industry and unique use of the online space would be far more common. I’d see welcoming environments where poets could contribute, regardless of age or experience, and all be embraced under the same, literary umbrella.

This is a place where winning is not the point.

My hero’s right: the real point of any artistic endeavour is translating that stuff within you into something more than just the pictures in your head. That means, as a neophyte poet, a couple of choices. I can publish my own stuff on the internet until I’m blue in the face, and hope someone might notice, or try entering the almost constant stream of prizes, awards or events that encourage new writers to take part. The problem is, of course, not everybody can win.

This month, I crossed a magic threshold: 100 poems have been rejected from events as varied as the BBC Proms contest to the Poetry Society’s own flagship quarterly publication. The problem, such as I see it, is knowing how to pitch your work to fit the brief those publishing work or deciding ‘winners’ looks for, and no two judges/editors are the same. Without a decent brief or a clear idea of what an individual enjoys to read, I may as well just stick poems to my wall and throw darts at them to make reasonable choices.

Like David says, you don’t learn truths until a lot later on.


What makes the Places of Poetry so joyous as an exercise was the complete lack of entry restrictions. The brief was beautifully, nay poetically simple: write about a place you love. Unique then becomes a totally apposite description of this project, because 65 people from age I can use a pencil or tablet so I can be a poet to age whatever you want write about the exact same place and they’re all relevant. No longlisting, no shortlisting, no weeks of hanging about hoping you’ll get an email telling you that eventually, a poem stuck.

The only entry criteria is you, in effect: are you prepared to write yourself into a piece of history? Where else can my 24 poems on Southend stand shoulder to shoulder with the work of the Poet Laureate? I didn’t need to pay to do so, and there’s no expectation that somehow, you’ve been specially chosen or this is a particular honour (though I acknowledge the work being done by specific groups in key locations to encourage the writing of poetry celebrating place). This is the most level playing field ever, our country, and we get to make it whatever we want it to be.

End of the Fear 800px

I’ve had a quite interesting journey in the last twelve months: my poems co-incided with mental health counselling, brought me into a far more significant relationship with the town I’ve lived in for over thirty years. I’m also pretty confident my style of poetry means this collection would never be accepted by a publisher looking at current trends and interests. It’s so niche, utterly subjective observation from a poet who is still finding her feet. At 52, I can be a realist about my chances.

However, what the inclusion of these poems has done for me personally I may never be able to accurately quantify. For the six weeks it took to write, photograph and organise the project, I felt more alive than had ever previously been the case, and being mentioned in that article above was just glorious, because I was finally a part of something that mattered. It isn’t always the money and the glory kids, never forget this. Sometimes, you just need to feel you belong.


We need to encourage more people to participate, and yet our entire existence as artists pushes commercial success as a goal. Maybe that’s not the way we move forward on a planet whose obsession with consumerism is driving slow, irreparable destruction into the DNA of every living thing. Perhaps we could, every so often, decide that nobody wins and try and encourage everyone to take part. Projects like this are very simply constructed: you put something in, and then your reward is what presents itself afterwards.

Satisfaction, achievement and belief are far better prizes for those of us who just want to let our voices be heard.

You can find my 24 poems on
Southend on Sea

[Edit: in a tweet on July 20th, Places of Poetry have clarified that their site is curated:  there is an effort made to ensure poems are not just relevant to the locations pinned but suitable for a general audience. These are rules that don’t restrict entry, simply guidelines that ensure the final work is accessible to as many individuals as possible.]

The Rainbow Connection

Today, I am not the same as I was yesterday. It is an odd feeling when this happens, and has only taken place a handful of times in my life: when my kids were born, when I married my husband, when a number of significantly toxic people were expunged from my life. Normally it is an action which causes feeling of profound change, but not yesterday. This came from a realisation I’d not previously ever grasped properly.

Some things will never be mine to own.

Aspiration as a kid is a funny thing: you’re told anything is possible, that you can be whatever you want, but it’s a lie. Finding peace with yourself in those circumstances is a hard ask. I know this from decades of personal experience. Even with the support you need, tools that allow a measure of understanding and manipulation of your circumstances and environment, ability is finite.


You are not cheating death. You are not ever changing certain people’s views on things that they consider wrong, bad or frightening. You will be unable to protect kids from evil in the world, however hard you try. Sometimes, walking away is preferable to trying to make sense of things, or communicate with people… and the list goes on. Some stuff just doesn’t get to be mine. That’s the price paid for understanding yourself.

I would now far rather own this self awareness than ever swap it for a pile of cash or the ability to somehow become hugely successful. I’ve seen what happens with that plot line in other people’s narratives, and it concerns me greatly. Fame is not the panacea many people seem to believe is the case, and yet it appears to stop very few from trying to attain it. It isn’t the state of being known however I think that matters most of all.

It is attention that becomes more important than anything else.


Watching other people live their lives vicariously through social media’s taught a lot of lessons over the last decade or so, but by far the most important one remains that it is no substitute for personal peace. If everything has to be discussed or announced via public dissemination, you really are doing something fundamentally wrong. If your fans are more important than your own existence… nope. Just, no.

As life continues to alter for me, as further events inevitably colour and influence my personal ability to grow and develop, so does the inescapable realisation of inevitability. Some people still don’t get it, and I doubt they never will. Life, as far as they are concerned, just looks and sounds different to your version. However hard they try, inevitably, they will never see what you do. The decision after that is simple.


Is it worth being part of each others’ lives?

Tolerance is the most important lesson anyone ever learns, I now realise. Some people never learn it at all. In those situations, do you just keep trying to make things work, or is it time to change your world for good?

Melody of Love

Putting in the work provides rewards. WHO KNEW?

My Blaze mentality is changing. Red numbers are for other people to fret about. The staff have a poem of mine now, which makes it abundantly clear I didn’t just sign up to this for the physical benefits of exercise. Yes, I’m pushing to improve my attainment and YES that’s utterly happening, but outside the Strength, Combat and Treadmill Zones. You want to give people the experience of being better? They have to do the work.

I’ll be over here, doing just that.


What you can’t see right now and only I can feel is the physical change to ability and stamina. I’m not getting tired lifting stuff. I can run without needing to hold onto the treadmill. However, when exhaustion hits BOY does it do that. This isn’t a problem per se, just means there needs to be some pacing along the way. It’ll happen, I’ve got months to work this shit out. It’s the stuff in-between that now matters more.

The negatives have been a game changer. The other thing you can’t see either is my waistline, that when I look down at the scales in the morning there’s nothing obscuring my feet any more. Waistline is shrinking, stomach flattening, and that alone is worth all the stress and pain. However, the biggest indicator of effort happens when I can’t see it, and that’s just brilliant.


My sleep pattern, pretty much shot since the menopause began, is showing slow signs of recovery. The harder I work, the better it gets. One assumes this is as a result of physical effort requiring more downtime to recover from, and therefore the rest of my body (and brain) benefits from the experience. I was tired this morning, not mentally which is normally the case but in legs that are now moving past maintenance and into summat far more interesting.

I am totally ready for this next step forward.

Golden Brown

Hello July.

I could have come home and started working today but as it happens, going to the Gym was my first choice, so summat major’s changed between last week and this. I know exactly what it is: back muscles are no longer an issue. The long-term, historic pain from lower part of my spine that’s existed since an epidural slipped during Emergency C-Section for Child #1 is no longer bothering me.

Sure, it’s still a niggle, but now there’s back strength that did not exist before. That’s because I’m practising negatives for a couple of key exercises, both of which I cannot do well. Sit ups have always been a problem because of that lower back weakness, and if I want to start doing pull ups any time soon, my push up game needs some serious beefing up. Therefore, I’ve been following a particular plan of action.

I’ll warm up, then it’s off to a mat to do three lots of negative push ups, with three lots of ten negative sit ups in between. My PT will attest that body weight exercises are probably the most important thing you will ever do to build sustainable core strength, but for me it is the shoulder improvements the push ups are highlighting that’s the more useful takeaway.

Where the sit ups help enormously is when running, where what used to be an enormous physical effort is being quietly reduced both in stress and heart-rate. I’m noticing the difference as stamina kicks in too, that what used to be frantic out of breathness reduces slowly to controlled, far less panicky lung balance. We’ll do a comparable bike session this evening to see how much that’s improved in the last month too.


The temptation for many people when trying to improve their physical shape is to go all out and wear themselves out without managing the other elements of a decent exercise regime: proper food and rest. That means that I’m trying my hardest not to snack for the next 31 days, whilst provisioning rest days in a different way. This month, that part of the equation should not be a problem at all.

I’ll be out of the country for one weekend, at a conference for another plus there’s a couple of other occasions when going to the Gym is simply not practical. Out of 31 days, eight are already marked out as booked. So, it’s time to get the planner out and provision what happens between the downtime. I don’t think what I’ve organised is unreasonable, and it’s certainly not out of my comfort zone. I just need to stick to it.

Planning works for the writing, so let’s see if I can stick to it when exercise is introduced into the equation. Now it’s online, I’m accountable and it has to happen.

Let’s see how it goes.

Black and White Town

There’s a meme that is thrown about a lot by people in my part of social media. It utilises a phrase I’ve commanded often over the years. It is an almost stock response in gaming when someone’s having a moment over a particular thing they’ve done, or feature they’ve wanted being introduced. It’s the other person, pissing on your fireworks, that you simply wanna hold a finger up to and say ‘no.’

Let people enjoy stuff.

Except, more and more, this phrase is used to shut out dissent and disagreement. If you don’t let people enjoy their ‘stuff’ you are wrong. There’s a very good reason for this: the disaffected ‘fans’ who asked for Game of Thrones to be re-written, or those who re-edited Star Wars to include less women. There are people out there for whom enjoyment has become dangerously subjective. Because of them, everybody suffers, but not in ways you might immediately assume.

It appears, rather disappointingly, this intolerance is spreading.


Fear is the most destructive thing that will ever control anyone’s life. This is my opinion, based on a lot of very personal, subjective experience. It is NOT a fact. Fear means some won’t vaccinate their kids because they might develop more serious illnesses. Fear makes others believe the World is flat because they cannot cope with any concept larger than this planet’s existence. Attacking people’s race or sexual orientation based on a fear of them being different to what is clearly ‘normal’ … and the list goes on.

Fear is reading someone else’s opinion on the Internet that you know is wrong but you’ve watched someone agree with it who you’re friends with. You have the facts. Science says these things are right, so by disagreeing with such a standpoint, this person needs correcting. Except when you do, they refuse to change their opinion. How can it be that these people are so wilfully stupid? Why won’t they simply stand down and admit I’m right?


Possibly the most important piece of revelation gained from three months of counselling revolves around one intractable truth. If you do something, and someone else objects to it, that’s their problem and not yours. It does not matter how ridiculous that thing is either, if truth be told… until you cross borders of what is laid down as socially acceptable. Killing someone, like it or not, going to cause a reaction. There are limits. Law and statute dictate what is acceptable. These are the rules.

That means people are allowed to ignore science. They can wilfully dispense with facts, and increasingly do to protect what they see as their ‘rights’ as citizens. The consequences of such wilful ignorance are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, and so we watch people pushing the bounds of decency. We watch those who feel they are entitled to their opinion demonise others, become the enemies of so many.

Except, by ignoring science, our planet may have been condemned to extinction.


So, what has all this large scale postulating got to do with the average angry person on Twitter? Well, let’s break it down: you refuse to try and reason with people whose default stance is to threaten you, metaphorically shoving you against a wall with their hand on your neck. Nobody’s prepared any more to risk the ire of a silent but deadly majority, because there’s better things to do. What, like saving the Planet?

You’re not doing anything, but sitting behind screens thinking that if you’re nice to your friends group and occasionally charitable when it’s demanded, someone else will sort all the issues. Let another person do the work, it’s not up to me. I’ll happily argue on the Internet and make money from it, but don’t ask me to give anything back, that’s not how capitalism works. It’s not how my life works.


Newsflash, snowflakes. You’re not just extremists any more, you’re everybody who thinks the world’s problems are someone else’s job to deal with. All you reasonable mid-income people who don’t have to worry about putting food on tables or paying for holidays are just as fucking entitled as the people you refuse to argue with on Social media for bragging rights in your peer groups. We see carefully engineered indignation that the right are to blame. No, they’re just part of a bigger, more insidious disease.

All of you sitting comfortably in middle-class homes confident you’re doing enough? So utterly not true. Nobody’s doing enough. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS LEFT WANTING right now because NOBODY has all the facts. Sure, use the argument that black is white when it suits you, but unless you’re willing to accept the infinite shades of colour real life actually presents, your notion of grey needs some serious work. The next time someone disagrees with you on social media, don’t tell them they’re wrong, ASK THEM WHY.


Arguing with trolls, of course, is a waste of time. Increasingly that’s also the case with well-educated, clearly well-meaning, intelligent individuals that cannot clearly discern the difference between opinion and fact. If you don’t agree, your stance is simply negative and must be ignored. As the well-meaning, middle classes of the Internet continue to persist in their belief that you should never criticise and only praise, all of us are more soundly fucked than we’ve ever been before.

There is a world of difference between if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all and here is my well reasoned argument for disagreeing with you. If a climate denier tries to argue the lack of evidence for climate change, that’s quite simple to deal with on an intellectual level. If they refuse to believe statistics and what’s going on outside their window? Maybe you should be asking them what else they’re afraid of.

When someone objects to a company taking money in a number of ways that you have no objection to, because you have a bested interest in gaining publicity or money from said company, neither side really hold a moral high ground. Both opinions are equally valid, but really what you should both be doing is going outside and doing summat far more constructive than wanking online.

But if you’re not doing this with an audience, who are you really anyway?