Describe your school experience…

Orcombe Point.jpgSkipping rope, eggs, whoopy cushions, scratches, air ambulance.

When I was six years old I was playing with a boy at school and he thought it would be fun to put a skipping rope around my throat and squeeze the ends together until I turned blue.  When I was eight years old another two boys together at school, thought it would be hilarious to swing and throw the handles of the rope at my head, collecting points for how many times they could hit my face. Bonus points when they gave me a nose bleed.

Fourteen years and being pelted with eggs as I walked home from school.  Fifteen years old and the same five girls pelted me with eggs at lunch time because I was sharing a joke with a group of boys.

Years 3 to 6 (Primary school), anyone from the year group screaming ‘here comes whoopy cushion’ whenever I walked past because one teacher mis-pronounced by surname Cosham as Cushion. When that wore thin they changed it to flea bag.

Throughout school, being pinched or scratched by five girls for numerous reasons – I had a nice dress, I had a nice haircut, I got a new pair of shoes, I liked the same band as them, I gave the right answers in class, I was praised by a teacher, I had a boyfriend.

Fifteen years old I was pushed down a steep grass bank on the way to class, consequently dislocating my knee and pelvis. I had to be air lifted to hospital because land ambulance couldn’t get to the field I fell into.  It was just before half term holiday so when I came back to school, several were disappointed that I was not indeed paralysed as per the rumours!

Dance, caramel doughnuts, Prom, Mark, Bubbles…

Having taken dance classes since I was three years old it was no surprise to my parents when I took dance as a GCSE option.  Our Dance teacher Mr Burton was terrific, and encouraging that dance was an outlet for me to express myself when I couldn’t put into words how I felt throughout my time at school.  I was a rare student given a key to the Dance Studio to use at lunch times when I needed to escape or revise for my other exams.

There was a bakery near school that made delicious caramel topped, custard filled doughnuts. These were a particular addiction acquired between Dance exam rehearsals. I still remember how good they tasted and I haven’t found anything close to resembling that recipe.

Mark was the school caretaker, he was kind and funny. My mum worked at my school and introduced us when I had to wait for her to finish work some time. It transpired that my Mum occasionally confided in him what I was facing at school, so when my Mum was not working (she was part time) Mark would let me escape to his office when I needed space to breath. He also had sweets in his pocket that I would sometimes get passed when seeing him between classes. I always appreciated having someone on my side who couldn’t be manipulated by those girls.

Bubbles was a technique I was taught by the school support officer. For a couple of years this technique worked well – whenever abuse was being shouted at me either in class or between classes, I imagined being inside a large thick bubble. It was soundproofed and anything negative would bounce off its side, everything positive would come through the thick walls with a pop.  I successfully used a bubble to blank out any abuse, I still have selective hearing now because I learnt how to shut out all external noise – when I needed to.  It drove those girls nuts that I could ignore them, appear like they hadn’t even spoken, out of frustration that they could no longer push my buttons they turned on my Mum – egging her car or shouting abuse at her as they passed her office.  Unfortunately anybody threatening my parents immediately gets a rise out of me and my reaction tends to be out of control!

Prom, or rather our GCSE Soiree, was a good night. I didn’t have a date and I felt good about it, I went with two friends instead. I had found a nice dress – plain cut and metallic purple. When I arrived several of my male friends were impressed and finally, when those girls made a beeline for me, the boys surrounded me and told them to back off. I had someone to dance with all night and I managed to thank my teachers who were there who had supported me through my darkest days – providing me a way to express myself or some form of respite to escape bullying.  I will always be grateful for what they taught me.

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A time spent within clouds

I have long envied my Dad and my Aunt, when they recount their youth I feel that mine is nothing to write home about. I haven’t had many adventures in comparison, I am not a daredevil, and my dramatic side fixes on a movie quote “A life lived in fear is a life half lived” and I think a lot about the opportunities I have turned down out of fear.

Then I shake myself and realise that I have done things that others maybe wouldn’t. For example moving 300 miles away from home at 20 completely on my own to a place where I didn’t know anybody. The countries I have visited and explored (albeit with my parents, but still…. I have ventured).

But this time I have done something that my Dad hasn’t and is jealous of. While on holiday with said Aunt, I went parasailing.  I was nervous as hell and almost bottled it twice, but after a phone call to my Dad and encouragement from my Aunt I paid the man and got on his boat and into the harness.

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It is difficult to describe the level of enjoyment I experienced, but I will try. I had envisioned being strapped to the parachute and being flung up into the air with a huge amount of G-force pulling me backward until I was dragged behind the boat.  How far wrong could I have been!

I sat on the back of the boat, attached to the parachute there was a tug but I didn’t move, then the man released the winch and I gently rose up off the boat and out over the sea. It really was gentle and completely undramatic.

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Once up there with the clouds I settled into the harness; my bum and gravity teamed up at one point but after a slight shuffle it was quite comfortable suspended there above everything.

Although windy on the boat it was a breeze up there, the sky was so clear apart from the odd puff of cloud floating past. You are aware that you are incredibly high up but at the same time because the sea is so blue beneath your feet, looking down it didn’t feel that high at all.

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I waved to the people on jet skis going beneath me, they waved back (or first); a few people on another passing boat waved and I took a picture. The coastline was incredible, so densely populated.  The mountains in the distance were obscured most of the time by clouds but every now and then they parted to a wonderful clear view of them towering over the city.

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It was incredibly peaceful up there. No drama unfolding, no noise oddly except the whooshing of the chute as the boat changed direction. Time stood still you just couldn’t comprehend how long you were there floating above everything. I was gently winched back in and the boat took us back to the dock, it was over.

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What I learnt that day up in the clouds is to not let my perceived fear hold me back from doing things that have the potential to bring a lot of joy. Keep fear in check and context. Live.

Talk about drugs

What’s your definition of a drug?  What role do they play or have they played in your life?

There is the legal classification of drugs and there is the interpretation of a drug. I consider that a drug includes medication, alcohol, nicotine which are all ‘legal highs’. Hard drugs are those which are illegal such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, acid etc. Basically anything you get on the back streets or at a rave.

I have been spiked before. When I was 19 I was clubbing with a group of friends, I returned from the toilets and someone had brought a round of drinks, I accepted it from my trusted friend and 30 minutes later I was experiencing a not-very-nice trip.  Fortunately I managed to get myself out of the club, phoned my Dad and waited at the taxi rank where there were three police cars and got home safe without too much harm.  The trip was bloody horrible and I gave up drinking heavily on nights out. I am now officially a lightweight!

I have smoked cannabis as a teenager – peer pressure and boyfriend pressure. This is one drug that I think shouldn’t be illegal though. I can see how in small doses it can be medicinal and useful. I consider it much less harmful than other drugs on the street. I believe it could be helpful as a prescription drug – pain relief, stress and depression relief. It works in other countries as a controlled drug similarly to alcohol.

Currently I have turned to herbalism to help control my food intolerance and depression. Regularly visiting my health shop and consulting a professional herbalist. I prefer plant based drugs than synthetic man-made drugs.  I avoid taking pain relief the best I can – not to be a martyr but because I don’t particularly trust them and can aggravate my intolerances.

Talk about friendship and the role it plays in your life

Friendship: It is not like the movies. There are not tight nit groups of gaggling girls who know what the other will say before speaking. There is no rescue in times of need, no matter what and just when you want it. Friendship is like a fairy-tale – you are extremely fortunate if you acquire it and keep it for a lifetime.

Friendship is there when you ask for it during those times of need. It is compromise to fix a convenient time and place to join up together. It comes and it goes as each person grows and evolves. It can let you down while at the same time surprising you. Occasionally it is absent, or there to be rebuilt or to be found.

Friendship is not promised to you, it can be conditional and it can be unforgiving. The trick is to appreciate it when it is present, value them while you can and accept when it is time to move past it.

What are your strategies for staying positive?

Mindfulness meditation. Whether it be three minutes of focusing on my breathing, to guided meditations that take me to different astral planes; mindfulness meditation completely forces my mind to calm down and clear. Making a piece of jewellery works too, the level of concentration required to control beading patterns or looming is effective at making me focus and then wonder where the last hour went.

A daily gratitude journal. I adopted the practice of writing a list of 10 things I am grateful for, when I arrive at work. Starting there makes me approach the day more successfully, more calmly and more objectively. I take things less personally if they happen to be negative. I just go back to my morning list to remind myself of my blessings that day. It is amazing how far reaching that list can be – from clean water to shower in, to having a pen to writing with and friendly colleagues.

Jars. I fill a jar beside my bed with a post it note at the end of every day describing briefly what my favourite part of the day was. It is mostly filled with notes about my dog. I have a Jar of Joy in the living room for post it notes recording those extra special moments, not daily, only the very special moments like the time I went to see Take That live, or finally seeing Judi Dench on stage – in the flesh! I have a third jar at work – the motivation jar. Full of positive quotes to delve into should I hit a slump in my day and need a little boost. It saves a lot of calories compared to a consoling chocolate bar at 3pm!

What are your current writing goals?

I would like to write in such a way that strangers anticipate my next post. Is that too egotistical? I hope not. I admire those who can write in such a way that kicks my imagination into gear or enthuses me so much that I want to visit where they are writing about. I admire those who write so descriptively that it makes me feel like I am standing right there with them. I admire those who write so beautifully it makes me think deeply and take action to make positive changes to the way I live.

I would like to write like that.

If you could create anything what would it be?

If I could create anything it would be a looking glass. Not any average looking glass that reflects our own image back to us, I want to create a looking glass that reflects another place. A two-way mirror if you like. One you look into and see your true self and when you shift a little bit and look past your own reflection, you will see a place beyond. You will see a person you really need to talk to – whether it is someone from your past, or someone who has passed over, or someone in your future. But you will see the person you need right then.

I have tried this little trick already. Staring at my reflection until I can see past myself and then I talk to the person I value most but is no longer in this world. But if I could create anything, it would be a better looking glass to really see her physically and hear her own voice talking back to me. A looking-beyond-glass.