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My Dearest Edinburgh

You have my heart. 

I am never more me, than when I am here. 

But, fuck, you can be hard work sometimes. 

As with all great loves, ours is a tempestuous one. 

The volcano on which Arthur sits may be dormant,  but its lava bubbles in the hearts and minds of your people. 
You are not paved in Gold, Edinburgh, you aren’t even paved in haggis, neeps and tatties, or shortbread and bagpipes, as the tourists are lead to believe.  You are paved with blood, sweat, and tears; with anger, love, beauty and passion. You are paved in friendships, in loving words and hateful curses. Drugs, sex and alcohol are awash in your vains. Yes voters, no voters, no-fucking-idea-voters. 

You are brand new apartment blocks built next to derelict land. You are a World Heritage Site and the Pubic Triangle. To some you are buildings, to some you are friends, to some you are love and to some you are life. 

The Stockbridge Yummy Mummies, the homeless of Princes St, the Hibis and the jambos, and everyone in between can call you home.

You, Edinburgh, are broken promises and the land of dreams. You are the land of Harry Potter and Rebus. 

You are a horror story and a fairytale. 

But I wouldn’t have you any other way. 

Bras may be evil. Just sayin

Say what? Two blogs in one day?! Well, shut the front door, isn’t that a rare treat.

Don’t fear, I’m back to school tomorrow and so normal silence will be resumed.

I am just writing this because I have had an epiphany.

I was looking at my timetable for tomorrow and was starting to experience an anxious feeling creeping up me. My breathing was getting shallow, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my head was all disorientated.

So I took my bra off.

Boobs be free!

I still feel a bit anxious about tomorrow, but at least I can breathe a bit better now.

 

 

Wake-up!

Hello Dear Reader Pals.

Long time, no blog.

I know, I know, I have been pure neglecting you.

Now, don’t be like that, you know I love you.

It’s just I haven’t had the time or brain power to write anything. Time has been running away with me lately. And not just leisurely jogging, its been going at a full pelt, down hill, with the wind at its back. Honestly, if you saw my hair, you’d realise how fast it has been going. I look permanently windswept.

I guess the main influence on my time has been the fact I started a new teaching job a month ago. (Jings, was it only a month ago? It feels like several life times.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this job. I love the kids and adults I work with, I love the chat and the banter, the learning, and the way little people’s brains work. But man! Has this job consumed my life. I leave my house at 7:15am and leave school around 6pm, still with the feeling that I am not ready for the next day. I wake up thinking about the kids, I go to bed thinking about the next day. I even spend most of Saturday morning thinking about them. As I said, consumed.

But today… well today is a wake up call. My little Poppy is in the vets, having a (hopefully) minor operation on her Dew Claw. I dropped her off at 8:45am and will pick her up at 2pm. I can’t face going home to the flat without her, so I’ve been sat in the Costa across the road from the vets, all day. This is maybe extreme behaviour, but I don’t care, this is my wake-up call.

I had lost sight of the life I wanted to shape for us when I left my old job. I need to remember why I took this job. I wanted more time with her, not less. I want to go on adventures with her. I wanted to write, with her by my side. My little furry, mischievous, muse.

This contradiction is causing me to feel a bit anxious at the moment. I want to be both present and appreciative of the now, yet I feel better when I think about the future I have planned and the approaching holidays, because I can spend them writing, with Poppy at my side. I spend so much time working yet am constantly aware of how the time I have with her is slipping through my fingers. I love to write outside, like I am now, and she loves to be outside, sniffing, peeing, and chasing things. I want to do more of that. I want to play with her more and let the joy she brings me flow into my writing, freeing me up from the anxious brain I get when I am a) not with her and b) not writing. I can’t even talk about how I feel when I am c) not writing and not with her.

I want to bring her joy too, see her tail wag round in circles instead of side to side like ‘normal’ dogs. Do you know she smiles when she is happy? It’s true. Last Christmas, when I was taking photos of her for our Christmas card, I overheard tourists saying “That dog is smiling!”.

Most people don’t understand why, or how, I invest so much love and affection in an animal, after all she is ‘just a dog’. I have no words for those people. I could try to convince them, but they will never truly understand, it’s an indescribable feeling of love, devotion and responsibility. Actually I do have some ‘choice’ words for those people who think she’s ‘just a dog’, but this blog would need an age restriction on it, if I was to type them.

Love,

The Crazy Dog Lady.

 

Moniack Mhor

I’ve just returned from what I can honestly proclaim to be The Best Week Of My Life.

It was perfect.

It was inspiring, hard work, honest, and beautiful. I have never laughed so much in my life.

And now I am a different person. I don’t know when it happened, if it was a slow process or happened one moment over breakfast, but I am completely and utterly changed. I don’t remember what or who I was before, I just know that I am no longer them.

What brought about this change? Well the clue is in the title my friends, I went on a writers’ retreat.

“How much can a hippy dippy writers’ retreat really change a person?” I hear you counter.

“A shit load!” Is my reply.

I no longer feel alone. I no longer feel afraid to be me. I no longer feel frightened to write two words for fear of getting it ‘wrong’. I no longer feel as if I am wrong. Or to blame. Or not good enough. Not driven enough. Because you know what? When it came to it, I put my all in to this week. Everything thing I had. Every hope, dream, fear, memory, problem and funny word. It all went in. And I survived. I grew. I changed. People saw me, the real me, and they liked what they saw.

I was a caterpillar, I am now a Painted Lady.

But my metamorphosis is not yet complete.

This is just the beginning.

Below is a silly poem I knocked up this morning, thrown together over breakfast when my heart ached for the beautiful place and people I have just left.

Moniack Mhor

Monaick Mhor has changed us,
It lit something up inside.
Once you’ve found your people,
There is no need to hide.

Being surrounded by all sorts of folk,
With stories in their hearts
We came from all corners of the globe,
It’s traumatic to be apart.

When people like your writing
They clap and make a fuss.
Suddenly the stories you should write,
Well, they become a must.

The scenery was astounding
With rolling hills and glens.
The beauty was an inspiration,
Coursing through our ball point pens.

Jenny and Melvin were more than just tutors,
They were mentors, friends, and kin.
They were open, honest, and vulnerable,
And helped us reach the same within.

Through the week they pushed us,
Worked our fingers to the bone.
We were all in it together,
My heart had found its home.

But now this chapter ends for us,
Aghast our faces do look.
But fear not my dear writer chums,
This is not the end of the book.

Moniack Mhor July 2017

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Gratitude 

Yep, it’s one of those annoying gratitude posts that “mindful people” post all the time.

I’m not mindful.

I’m not zen.

I’m not “full of light”.

I’ve had a shit weekend where I was offered a job I can’t take and then made to feel trapped. All because of money.

So let’s focus on what I do have. It’s meant to make you feel better, right?

Here goes.

I’m grateful for Poppy dog and the fact that she is OK after her recent bout of illness.

I’m grateful for my family, nut jobs that they are.

I’m grateful for my friends, who are there if I need them and wouldn’t see me homeless.

I’m grateful for warmth.

I’m grateful for pajamas.

I’m grateful for books and book stores.

I’m grateful for the help the universe has given me thus far (#abithippydippyiknow)

I’m grateful for music, especially the ginger genius that is Ed Sheran.

I’m grateful for old TV shows and animated movies.

I’m grateful for cups of tea.

I’m grateful for biscuits.

STOP! If you list all the food you are grateful for this will just look like a shopping list. 

Oh… Yer you’re right.

Excellent. Carry on. 

I’m grateful for sunshine and soft breezes.

I’m grateful for the sea.

I’m grateful for my car, Joy.

I’m grateful that I can pay the bills.

I’m grateful for the money I do have.

I’m grateful that I get to live in the beautiful city of Edinburgh.

I’m grateful that my friends trust their kids with me.

I’m grateful that I can write. No matter where I am I can write and it brings me joy.

Hey, look at that. I do feel better.

My So Called Creative Life

I hope you like the title. It’s a wee tip of the hat to anyone over 30 who watched TV during the 90s.

My So Called Life was an American TV show,  staring the very young and brilliant Ms Clare Danes of (now) Homeland fame.

Its main theme was “teen angst” and spent every episode exploring all things “teenager”. This was great, when I was a teenager. Don’t get me wrong, Clare Danes’s life was nothing like me own. The North East of England in the 80’s and 90’s was nothing like LA, surprising at that may seem. But it was…relatable escapism. It had “universal themes”, such as love and family relationships.

I want to pitch an idea to TV land out there, I want a show that deals with Adult Angst! Where is that show? Where is the show that deals with how adulting is hard? There are splitter shows which seem to deal with elements of adulting, such as family life (Outnumbered) or single life (Girls, Sex and the City), but where is the one about how all of it is hard?

family+love+work+bills+expectations+OTHER PEOPLE = hard.

Miranda maybe comes closest to exploring how navigating grown up life is hard, but she’s a wee unique character in herself and her issues seem to stem from the fact that she is…well…Miranda. Plus it’s funny. It deals with angst in a humorous way, which is perhaps the only way to deal with it once you pass 30. There’s nothing enjoyable about watching a woman in her 30s slowly drowning in a vat of wine, whilst sobbing about lost loves. My So Called Life, however, was a drama, the angst wasn’t glossed over, it was meant to be relatable to what young people go though, how it’s “such a hard time”.

Maybe we do need the show where woman drowns in vat of wine sobbing over lost love, because loads of folk in their 30s would relate to that.

I here by give TV land permission take this idea and run with it. You can have it.

You’re welcome.

I just have one stipulation. Once it’s ran for a season, there needs to be a spin off, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a spin off?

The title?

My So Called Creative Life.

Tada!!

“But why,  Jo?” I hear you ask, inquisitively.

Well, Dear Reader Chum, this spin off is needed to help creatives everywhere! My head is,  quite frankly,  mince. My bonce is done in. My brain is fried. My noggin is a bogging. And what has caused this complete mind melt? Not a super hero villain, like in the good ol’ days, nor has it been caused by a Vulcan (#propernerd), no no no. My heid is burst by trying to live a “creative life”.

In my sweet little dream life I live this beautiful creative life. I write, I illustrate, I host writing workshops in my beautiful home with added guest accommodation. I run, I do yoga, I meditate and practice mindfulness, I have dealt with a my money blocks. I’m loved by another creative soul and on windy driech days we make home made soup and bread together. At Christmas all our friends come to visit and we play games and go in long walks. We have lots of dogs but Poppy dog sticks closest to me and silently judges the other pups. Doesn’t it sound lovely?

The reality though, My So Called Creative Life is confusion and slog. I’m slogging away and thinking constantly about slogging at other bits and pieces that need slogged at. It’s not even meaningful slogging. I’m just doing stuff in the hope it gets me to where I want to be, that by sending the messages to the universe that this is what I want then it’ll bring it to me. Poof! Tada! Here I am Jo! Your magical wonderful life! Cooweee!

Maybe I should “trust in the universe” more? I have tried, I’ve got the books to prove it.

I’ve reached a point now where my brain is full and my to-do list is out of control. It’s like I’m on a bus making a shopping list but I’m terrified that I’m going to miss my stop and so I keep looking up and round and then losing the place on my list.

I keep thinking if I could just leave work and work at full time at writing then I’d get somewhere. But er… hello! bills need paying and food needs buying. So I’m stuck.

I feel like I’m swimming against the tide.

I know I’m meant to write. It is the only thing that feels right to me (well apart from the fact that I’m meant to adore and love the pooch, but that’s easy) and I know I want to be fit and healthy and loved and own a home of my own… but I have zero clue on how to connect the dots. How does one make a successful creative life when you are on your own?

I think I’ll just go play with the dog.

Blocked

There is a beautiful predictability about the fact that since I decided to “write properly” I have been riding an incredible wave of writer’s block.

Not this kind of writing. This is an example of the type of conversation I have every day with my dog, the one sided/ stream of consciousness kind.

No, the writing I’m struggling with is the creative kind.

Last year I wrote short story after short story, it was fun, it was easy. I wrote with a free abandon. I didn’t think, the stories just poured out. They weren’t Shakespeare but they were true, funny, harsh, real. I loved it so much that I got butterflies in my tummy when I knew I’d be writing, I was more alive at my keyboard or when scribbling in my notebook than at any other time of day. So, I decided to “take it seriously” and since then all I seem able to do is make notes.

I have ideas. I jot down character descriptions. I scribble plots.

I write nothing. No words come.

It’s pretty shit, if I’m honest.

I know I have stories to tell. I want to write YA fiction but I’m now overwhelmed by the fact that I don’t know how to structure the stories, develop the plot, build character over time. I don’t know how to write any more. So I don’t.

Aaarghh!

“Dear Jo.

Buck up. Grow up. Get on with it.

Love,

Jo”