Tuesday, December 22

Why I have been away

There is no delicate way to say this. Mum's got cancer. The bad sort. The kind you can't operate on, or get rid of. In other words, she is dying.

In the space of just two months I have witnessed my mother deteriorate from a vivacious and witty 56 year old woman into a bumbling, shrivelled shell, utterly dependent on morphine. Mum's gone. She's been replaced by a woman I could never have imagined, not even in my most troubling nightmares. The cancer hit her pancreas, and sat there, leaking silently into her liver, we have no idea for how long.

I'm offended by the cruelty of this disease. How dare it take away my beautiful mother's energy, personality and future?

I want to curl up on her bed and weep into her lap, but she barely knows I'm there. Sometimes I sit there, watching her lapsing in and out of consciousness, and I think 'you are dying'. Then I turn around and I say 'oooh, let's get you some clean pyjamas out, shall we?'.

Sunday, November 1

The Hallowcaust

*awful wallowy post alert*

Arggggh. I am sooo crap. I was invited to a 'do' with some lovely, lovely, interesting people but I just felt to 'nuuurgh' to go. How long until people's patience wears thin? How long until the 'being eaten by my cat' nightmare becomes a reality?

I know that staying here, gnawing my nails and drowning in a mire of doubt is making things worse, but going out and being socially inept can make it all seem ten times worse. I honestly feel like I have nothing of any worth to say to anybody right now. So that's why this post is going to end rather abruptly.

Wednesday, September 9

What's wrong with me.

The above is a statement, not a question. I know exactly what is wrong with me because I received the notes from my previous psychiatric appointment in the post today. And here it is:

Recurrent depressive disorder - currently in remission (ICD10 F33.4)

The notes are pretty bleak.

Miss O'Donnell has a long history of recurrent low mood.
Several times a year she has periods of a few weeks or so where she has moderate depressive symptoms. At this point her sleep, mood, appetite, energy, motivation, concentration and interest in socialising are all affected. She also has clear anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events) at these points.
Ms O'Donnell was a pleasant young Caucasian woman.
Her content was logical and coherent.
She appeared to be euthymic with a bright reative affect.
She was cognitively grossly intact.

And the crunch: "Ms O'Donnell has a long history of periodic recurrent multiple depressive episodes. She has occasional low-grade 'highs' but would by no means qualify for a Bipolar Affective Disorder diagnosis."

So there I have it. In black and white.

As a footnote, I googled ICD10 F33.4 and this is what I found.

F33.4 Recurrent depressive disorder, currently in remission
A. The general criteria for recurrent depressive disorder (F33) have been met in the past.
B. The current state does not meet the criteria for a depressive episode
(F32.-) of any severity, or for any other disorder in F3 (the patient may receive treatment to reduce the risk
of further episodes).


Tuesday, September 8

Waiting for Rose

Waitrose is coming to Crouch End. Finally! Somewhere to go and piss our hard-earned cash into a chiming register on racks of lamb and Yeo Valley milk products. Oh, but hang on... we already have an M&S. And a Budgens with an 'Epicurean Deli'. And an 'Artisan Bakery'. And an Italian deli.

There goes the neighbourhood.

Sunday, August 30


Day 8, and I'm back in the game!

Okay, so it took six days to get my body used to the reduction of Venlafaxine but I feel fine now, so am very pleased that I stuck with it through all the unpleasant sweating, shitting and shivering. It has also given me hope that one day I might be able to be free of this drug entirely, and emerge relatively unscathed out of the other side.

Now I'm not naive enough to believe that there is a cure for my... condition (but wouldn't it be wonderful if I could erase it with some sort of Victorian wonder-tonic?!) but I do feel that I have recovered quite well over the last few years. I am certainly better than I was.

Years ago I was so desperate to be better that I made myself sicker. I woke up every day with the dogged optimism of a child on Christmas morning. Oh please, let today be the day I feel better, I said to myself. I don't know what I was expecting, rainbows and fairy dust, perhaps? All I know now if that this unrealistic expectation of my own ability to let my mind heal itself at it's own pace was preventing me from making any progress with the recovery I so craved. There is no sudden cure. There is no quick fix. It's long and it's tough and it gets worse before it gets better. The day I stopped expecting to feel better IMMEDIATELY was the day I started to recover.

The future looms large, promising unknown ups and downs. There's a very good chance I could relapse and become unwell again. I have just had to accept this as fact and try to carve myself a life that can deal with these issues as they occur.

But it is the confidence of a mental health recovery veteran that I can say that I feel better right now than I have in years.

Thursday, August 27

Day 5

Okay, good news. I slept for a full 7 hours last night and didn't wake up groggy from nightmares about demon children or inescapable cinemas. Nausea is all gone, and seems to have taken my appetite with it. No brain zaps - yet!

*fingers crossed* It is getting better.

Wednesday, August 26

Day 4

Nausea. Nausea. Nausea.

I feel SO sick. I am also having nightmare brain zaps.

Not giving up though, oh no.

Tuesday, August 25


So I'm on Day 3 of the lowered dose and I'm not dead or wishing I was. However my body is definitely asking me 'what the fuck?' and rebelling in a series of irritating ways. The symptom I wasn't expecting is the itching. Last night I was up until about 3am scratching myself raw, and woke to see several long welts where my nails had raked my skin in my sleep. Otherwise I just feel slightly... menopausal. The slightest physical activity provokes hot flushes, migraine-like headaches and overwhelming spells of lethargy.

I refuse to give in, and am persevering with the reduction with a dogged determination. I just wish I felt a little less... sweaty.

Saturday, August 22

Not so manic now...

Had a bit of a lightbulb moment this week, it's still sinking in and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. I had an appointment with a psychiatrist at St Ann's hospital in Tottenham to discuss some of the side-effects of the medication I have been taking and to review my 'condition'.

Since I was a child I've had some instability with mood, my mother picked that up in the first five years of my life. I once refused to speak for a week because a girl at school had died of cancer, and had to be sent out of the room when the news came on because it would send me into a depression. At school I was lively and misbehaved to the point of being accused of suffering from hyperactivity. When I was good I was very, very good, and when I was bad I was horrid. I could be funny and withdrawn within the space of a few hours. I became used to people claiming jocularly "Oh Gem, you're mad!" And reader, I think I started to believe them. At 19 I was nearly institutionalised for a breakdown during the uni summer hols. At 22 it happened again. And so on and so on to the present day...

It's been five years since I was diagnosed by a stony-faced Victorian psychiatrist as suffering from a 'mood disorder' which, I was later told by my GP who had my notes, was type II bipolar disorder. Okay, I thought, fine, at least it has a name now. I took the pills they prescribed me. I got on with it. But increasingly recently when I sat back and took stock of my life since that diagnosis I realised that I have: learned to drive, held down a job for over 3 years, moved to London, passed a post-graduate teaching course and worked as a teacher in a London secondary school. So, as you can imagine, doubts had begun creeping into my mind as to the legitimacy of this diagnosis. This is not meant in any way to disrespect people who suffer from bipolar disorder and have successful and fulfilling lives, I am sure it IS possible, but since the diagnosis I have not had any episodes of depression or heightened mood that were severe or debilitating enough to affect my career or relationships. I have felt down, and I have felt a bit manic, but I have managed to get a grip on my mood and get myself back out there within a few days. I'm not so sure that if I was suffering with bipolar disorder this would be so easy, or even possible. And I think that sufferers of BPD would agree.

So it was this week that I found myself spending an hour in consultation with the psychiatrist, discussing my adventures with my good friends excitement and depression right back from as early as I can remember. Together we read all the notes from reported counselling and psychiatric diagnostic sessions. And at last I heard somebody utter the words I have been thinking over and over for the last three years: "I don't think you have bipolar disorder at all. A mood disorder, yes. Slight instability, yes. But not bipolar."

I will still need to use antidepressants in the near future, but at a reduced dose to help with the side-effect problem. I have been referred for cognitive behavioural therapy to help me cope with the mood swings. In the future there is a distant possibility that I might be able to come off medication completely. I don't know how I feel about that yet.

The only times I have been off antidepressants in the last ten years is when the b.a.d. things have happened. What if they happen again? What if the life that I have spent so long getting back is pulled away from underneath my feet, thrusting me back, head-first into the seemingly endless pit of misery and despair? I need to move forwards. I can't stay as I am. But I am very, very afraid of going backwards.

I've been off and on about 6 different types of anti-depressants since I was 16, but have been taking 150mg of Effexor (Venlafaxine) for the last five or so years. The side-effects are varied and unpleasant and the drug gets a very bad press on the internet with sites like this. I tend not to diss it too much because I've been relatively happy and sane whilst on it. Tomorrow I will take my first reduced-dose tablet at 75mg. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I'm HOPING that it just makes me feel a bit sick, or fluey. I don't know how I'll cope if it makes me confused or depressed.

Should I be happy? I guess so. I wept for joy on the way home, but that quickly gave way to fear and trepidation at the road ahead. I don't feel funny and I don't feel brave. I feel shit scared and isolated. It's a bit lonely out here, in the non-bipolar world.

Sunday, August 16

Greetings from The Edge


I'm currently enjoying a few days in the Fens with my folks. One of the first things I did when I got back was to check my local newspaper, The Fenland Citizen.

What did they expect, giving the ghosts their very own passage, and all?

Stunned by the fact that the paper is 95% free. Who is paying for it, and how?

You can always rely on this paper to provide up-to-the-minute news on the most important stories occurring here below sea-level. My favourite columnist is Ian Watson, a man with a potato face who seems to have his finger on a rather retrospective pulse.

This is one of his columns from February this year. As you can see, he has just discovered The Wonder of the Internet. I love his wide-eyed innocence. It's quite sweet, really.

Friday, August 14

Nick Ferrari am a dikk

I can just about stand the fact that Nick Ferrari walks freely upon this earth. Sometimes, if the mood takes me, I can tolerate his show on LBC. However, recently he fucked with MY industry with a show that contained approx 10% fact and 90% unsupported, bigoted views.

This is the show's blog report on the subject that made my blood boil:

"Children for whom English is their first language are now in a minority in Inner London primary schools, putting extra pressure on education budgets. According to the latest government figures for the 13 inner London boroughs, it's risen to 54 per cent of pupils - and almost 80 in Tower Hamlets. Has this presented an issue in your child's school? Susan Gowen - a primary school worker in Putney – told Nick most youngsters learn English very quickly, but problems arise when their parents don't."


Next year, I will teach an extremely bright top set year 11 class ENGLISH, where approx 70% of the kids go home to households that communicate entirely in a second language, and guess what?! They've all got B and above in every coursework essay so far. And, to top that, 6 kids that are on track for an A* speak English as a foreign language. They are funny, bright and confident young people, and I genuinely feel privileged to work with them every day.

Would they have achieved these grades if they had been slung into some Ferrari-endorsed 'Foreigners' class, or worse, school (probably neatly packaged and labelled 'EAL Target Group' or some shit)? No. Absolutely not. We teach them in English. They talk to each other in English. They learn, because they have to. Over 50 languages are spoken by students in our school. So, if we put them all together in classes where they all spoke the same language they would not learn any of the academic, and more important, social skills that help them blossom (hopefully) into useful members of society. And they'd never learn colloquial English, despite having 'English' lessons every day. Thus providing Nick Ferrari with material to be able to conduct yet more phone-ins about 'Immigrants who don't integrate', or some other vaguely disguised racist bullshit.

Many parents don't speak English because they're at home all day or working with family members who speak the same language as them, NOT because they want to separate themselves from their local community. However, they usually bring a translator to parents evenings and meetings with them, so it's actually very rarely a problem at all for us or their kids. Our school also offers cheap evening classes to parents who want to improve their English.

Last year we had a few new EAL female students arrive into Year 10 from Iraq, two preferred to be placed in the EAL induction class and one chose to enter mainstream classes. Guess which student/s has better grades and more friends? When she first entered my class she was silent, but I could see her watching and watching everything that was happening and by the second term she was contributing and completing all her work in every lesson. This particular class only had three students for whom English was their native language. So did I feel 'overworked' from the 'pressure' of working with these kids? Did I buggery! And any teacher that does, in my opinion, has an unrealistic view of teaching in inner city schools today. Bugger off to some rural church school or something, and have it your way.

How can a school become a community if it is segregated on the basis of language? NUR Nick Ferrari, you am a dikk.

P.S. I have excel spreadsheets to back all this up. Yes, SPREADSHEETS!

Sunday, August 9

Sadness be gone!

We've had a couple of rubbish weeks haven't we? We didn't win the cricket, celebrities keep dying every five minutes and we might all die of swine flu before Christmas.

So I am going to share with you some things that I think are funny. These always make me laugh, even when I am considering my impending death.

"Limpy's got cancer!"

"... King's Lynn"

"Awww, yeah!"

Now you feel better, don't you?

Friday, August 7

New hair for the holidays!

I have time to look almost human in the summer holidays:

I only have 3 more weeks to enjoy it before I become a grey-faced harridan again.

Where has my hair gone?! Answers on a postcard please to 'Where's Gem's Hair?' Competition, PO BOX 63, BBC Pebble Mill, BIRMINGHAM, West Midlands, B5 7QQ.

Monday, May 18


Repeat after me...

Seeing the same underground posters every day makes one a little obsessive. Do I need osteo-vitamins? Have I got chlamydia? Am I happy?

One movie poster is 90% about the film 'Role Models' and 10% about the film Frost/Nixon. I think they've definitely got their ratios muddled up there, especially considering the pullout quote about the former says "Like watching a couple of monkeys throwing poo at each other on Youtube". Has anybody here ever Googled 'poo-throwing monkeys' on Youtube? Even if you have, would you be prepared to PAY up to £15 for a dvd of men doing the same thing (metaphorically)?

This one is burned into my retinas at the moment:


It just makes me think about Marmite Cheese ALL THE TIME.

I will NEVER buy Marmite cheese now, as a result of it's aggressive visual offensive on the way up the escalators in Maida Vale tube station.

I'm thinking of starting a blog with a new stupid underground poster on it every day. But then I'd have to take my
camera everywhere with me. Hmmm.

Sunday, May 17


Christ's eyes.


Last night I rekindled the ancient tradition of celebrating Eurovision with my old uni friends. We do not believe in proper parties, with more than five people, so we watched as a merry trio, filling out scorecards and feasting on onion rings, chips, millionaire shortbread* and cupcakes.

Early on in the night Rob had an excellent idea.

"Zing! Why don't we rename all the songs?"

An excellent idea, which yielded varied results.


Malta became 'Your Mum'
Lithuania became 'Fisting'
Iceland became 'Cold, Dead Eyes' and 'Record Exec Rape-a-thon'
Estonia became 'Fiddle Me This'
France became 'Milf Noir'
Norway became 'Zac Efron is Safe'

Mead was cracked open...

The Ukraine were ROBBED... and the evening ended with us all yelling Wonderstuff songs in Elin's face and mocking her for buying a ticket to see them next week. We were all secretly pleased that we were too young to remember many of their songs properly.

*Why is it called this? It is inexpensive.

Friday, May 15


... from Doctor Who was possibly the worst-conceived and most ill-performed character in the history of British Television. And that is all I have to say about that.

Thursday, May 14

"I'm not a racist, but..."

Sometimes, for fun, I go on Facebook and actively seek and report all racist posts on right-wing discussion groups and forums for fun. I think it's important to know your enemy and, judging by the standard of the posts I have reported, the enemy is ill-informed and illiterate. I'm not naive about the fact that I am actually making very little difference at all, but I do believe that every little helps, and it can't hurt to get a few racists removed from social networking sites every now and then, can it?

The one phrase that predominates on these boards is the title of this post. Surely it's a known cliche by now? I'd have to actually join these groups to challenge these people, but I do like to have imaginary conversations with them in my head.

I'm not a racist but...

No... stop right there. The fact that you have to prefix that sentence with that statement means that you ARE about to say something dubious about people from a different culture to your own.

No, I'm not. I'm not a racist. But...

NO. You ARE a racist, actually. Why else would you feel the need to add that disclaimer before expressing your view?

You won't let me finish. Stop taking away my right to free speech!

Okay. Go on then. Show me how you're NOT a racist.

I'm not a racist, but I would be nervous getting on a tube train with a man holding a copy of the Qur'an.

See? I know I can't really win against these folks. But I do try.

Hold your breath...

... the charger and battery for my new camera have arrived! Charging is taking place in my bedroom as I type. When the light goes GREEN I will immediately dash around my flat taking pictures of all sorts of things and posting them here.

Tuesday, May 12

Hello! Ok! Take a Break!

I've never really mentioned this on here before, because it's a bit embarrassing and makes me sound like an absolute dick. Oh fuck it. I'll just come out and say it. I'm Gemma and I was a celeb-a-holic. It's true, I was actually addicted to fame. My psychiatrist told me! From the age of 13-24 I was utterly obsessed with all celebrities. There are SO many reasons why I ended up following Jason Donovan down a dirty corridor at midnight in Norwich, and why I pursued Ainsley Harriot into a lift in Waterstones bookshop, and why I sat outside King's Lynn Corn Exchange until 3am on a weeknight, warming my hands on the exhaust fumes of the Mansun tour bus. Boredom is the fundamental and most obvious excuse for these escapades. Factor in the knowledge that I was a tool when I was younger; really arrogant and not entirely sane. I was also on and off more psychiatric medication than I can possibly care to recall here. I did not want to be living my life, I wanted to mould myself a false life in the similar way that Katie Price created the monster that is (or was) Jordan.

I held an unshakable and sustained belief that I was destined to live among the bold and the beautiful. This was fuelled by two overestimates on my part:

1. That I would become a celebrity myself, despite having no performing talent whatsoever
2. That if the above didn't work out one would fall in love with me and take me with them on their glamourous journey through celebdom

Yeah, like I said, dick. I would have been happy even with C-list ex-Hollyoaks/Living TV presenter fame. So long as it meant I could go to parties and occasionally feature in the glossies. It didn't help that I grew up in the least glitzy place imaginable; West Norfolk isn't particularly renowned for it's famous inhabitants. We've only got Stephen Fry, who is wonderful, but not very cool when you aspire to grace the pages of Heat magazine, getting drunk in a hot tub with several naked members of NSync.

I was totally obsessed with meeting celebs, any celebs. Much of my university experience was wasted calculating exactly what it would take to rub shoulders with C-listers, and then executing these plans, with varied outcomes. I did actually meet quite a few famous people. But many were douchebags. Some were hilarious. Most were disappointingly normal. And the irony is that even though I revered these people I never felt enriched or fulfilled as a result of meeting them, just anxious and hungry for the next experience to take place. My most active years were 1999-2003, naturally, I had the most time on my hands then, and because this was pre-diagnosis, I was frequently off meds and operating on psychotic autopilot. They were the best of times and the worst of times.

One thing I wasn't, however, was a stalker. I had absolutely no interest in finding out where these poor souls lived, or what their phone numbers were. I certainly didn't want to have any dealings with their families, friends or everyday activities. These things would have made an awfully unsightly tear in the glossy exterior of their media lives (that I devoured so fervently). I wanted them to be idols; gods and goddesses of tabloid gossip pages to venerate above all others. And for a time, some of them were.

Then I had a grand old breakdown at 24(ish) and everything just seemed to fizzle out. I started worrying about getting through the day, instead of getting off with Robbie Williams. I see quite a lot of moderately famous people every day now, because a few live on my road, and in my area of London. I don't report them to my friends unless they're funny and/or remarkable. Now I'm just a boring, one-dimensional husk of a human being, living a life of banal everyday experiences, carting around fuzzy memories tinted with sadness and regret at the stupid life I never had. Nah. Not really. I'm absolutely fine, and definitely more content.

*Right, there are now THREE adverts on this blog and I still have no idea how they got here or how to turn them off. The one of the kid with the cleft palate is particularly stubborn.

**She's gone! Can she read?

Monday, May 11

Nonsense? No. Adsense.

I honestly do not remember adding 'Adsense' to this blog at any time. It's possible I did it whilst hypomanic or smacked off my face on Valium in the recent past, though I usually ban myself from using my laptop when I am either of those things. It's very ugly, isn't it? And a little presumptious. Also, how do they decide what sorts of ads to put there?

However, apparently I've 'earned' 48p from it so far, so that's one unwanted visitor that's sticking around I'm afraid. The only question that remains is how do I get my 48p? Postal order?

P.S. HELLO 128 PEOPLE THAT READ MY BLOG YESTERDAY! Where have you been all my life?

Sunday, May 10


How did these adverts get on my blog? And how do I get them off? Why is there one up there *points up* ???

Meejah types

Very occasionally James gets invited to comedy gigs and parties. Mostly we don't go. Usually I avoid these sorts of occasionas as much as possible, the social anxiety at having to make small talk with people who are mostly a) twats and b) on cocaine makes my hands feel like they are spraying sweat out of every pore. I subsequently spend the rest of the evening wishing I was at home with the cat on my lap drinking Twinings and watching Britain's Next Top Model. But a few weeks ago we got a shiny black envelope containing a VIP invitation to a gig at the O2 arena, and we just couldn't resist it's glossy embossed loveliness.

First off I would like to point out that three hours before setting out for the venue I knew it was a mistake. Good, we have that on the record. When we got to the venue the backstage area had the vibe of a slightly upmarket doctor's waiting room, albeit with a scattering of D-list celebs. Greg Rusedski was there, and that guy Marc Whatsisname who made puppy-eyes at Cerys Matthews on 'I'm a Celeb...' They were okay. I didn't mind them. The people I did mind were the nobodies. The people who work for the agencies, and the newspapers, and the promotors. Seriously, what is wrong with them? I mean, what's the deal here? Is this some sort of joke? How can they be so clueless and survive in a city like London?

Question 1
Why do they talk so loudly? Have their ears become defective from listening to so much bullshit over the years that they have to shout into each other's faces like market traders to make themselves heard?

Question 2
Do they live in a bubble? Or a house like in The Apprentice, or Big Brother, where they all sit around talking shit to each other all day and nodding sagely thinking it's completely reasonable and normal? Check out this overheard conversation:

Salon Selectives Girl 1: 'Who's that guy?' (points to man her mate has just been chatting to)
Salon Selectives Girl 2: 'Oh, he's from Uxbridge. Fwah Fwah Fwah!'
Salon Selectives Girl 1: (bemused) 'What?'
Salon Selectives Girl 2: 'It's hee-larious. I asked him where he was from. You know, like, where are you from? And he misunderstood and said Uxbridge'
Salon Selectives Girl 1: 'Ha ha *snort* Uxbridge. Ha ha *snort*

She asked the man where he was FROM? Geddit? Not from.

Nah. I don't get it.

Oh hang on...

Ah yes. I see what is happening here.

Do I?

God. I am so glad I'm a teacher.

Yes, I know they're networking and making valuable contacts and all that other stuff that helps to put crap on my television and in my glossy magazines, but why aren't any of them normal?

Actually, the man actually answered her question more accurately than she'd wished. How can she take umbridge with that? Women like them make me want to rip out their extensions and curl them round their Hermes-scarf-adorned necks.

Monday, May 4


Just back from Norfolk, stuffed full of mum's white chocolate and raspberry trifle. If God was real he would eat this every day. She uses Swiss roll (SWISS ROLL!) instead of trifle sponge and vodka instead of sherry. AND, as if that weren't enough, she melts white chocolate INTO the custard. I wish I could have taken a photo of its swirly, custardy goodness.

So today I spent £40 on this digital camera. It has over 8 megapixels, which I am told is good. I don't take many photos, as I'm sure you can tell. Any that I do take are usually with my shitty old mobile and come out all grainy and rubbish.

The second the new one arrives I'm going to take a photo of my cat looking mischievous and post it up here.

Saturday, April 18

Easy Street?

A new term begins on Monday, so I am enjoying the remaining days of freedom in the (semi) sunshine doing nothing at all.

One more term until the summer holidays. In theory this should be the easiest term of the bunch; it's the shortest term (five weeks until Half Term, woo!), and at some point my Year 11s will slouch off into the ether, only to return to sit their GCSE exams, leaving me with four free hours a week in my timetable for drinking te... sorry, MARKING DILIGENTLY.

However, it is also the term where the kids get a bit hyper, and things can happen in schools. Things such as abnormally hard paper missiles being thrown across the classroom, and soaring errant flapjacks breaking bus windows.

I have my last observation by the borough on Thursday. If I pass that, and the next half term then I am not only a fully qualified teacher, I will also have successfully passed my induction year. It's a little scary to think that I was typing depressing missives into this very blog three years ago, with little hope of things improving. Now I am a 'professional'. Me! Weird.

Friday, April 17

Apples and Pears

I walked from Oxford Street to London Bridge today. So yeah, er, yay for me.

I also had to brave the Apple store, which can age you 10 years. The Apple store is like a Hoxton installation; cavernous, brilliant white and choc-full of every kind of wanker imaginable. The stairs are made of glass, which means that you can't place your feet properly and have to hold onto the hand-rail like a decrepit pensioner.

The charger on my aged Mac was faulty, and the over-heating had made my laptop shut itself down and go into some sort of laptop coma...

...but the little man with the 'Apple Genius' t-shirt knew how to make it not in a coma anymore. He whisked it out back, leaving me squirming awkwardly at the counter surrounded by angry and frustrated Apple owners, only to return a short while later, cradling my newly resuscitated, geriatric iBook in his feeble, geeky arms.

Everyone else at the 'Genius Bar' had their laptops in special swanky cases, so the sight of mine wrapped (lovingly) in a tatty old Primark tea-towel with Santa on it, and wrapped again (lovingly) in a Budgens bag to keep the rain off must have elicited thoughts such as:

'No wonder hers is fucked'

'Fucking kook'

My enthusiastic response of "IT'S ALIVE!" probably confirmed both of those musings. It's okay though, if I get my way I am never going into that place again. Next time I will bin the laptop and leave the 'Geniuses' to work their magic on somebody else machine.

Friday, February 20


Some middle class kids spend their gap years learning to cope without Sainsbury's and Urban Outfitters amid the impoverished and diseased in places like Ethiopia and Cambodia. This, to me, is a waste of time. I suggest they spend the year working in their local (Gap? No, that would be too obvious) Primark. Not only will they earn money, they will also encounter pretty much the same conditions as they would in these less developed countries.

I am a regular visitor to Primark's flagship store at Marble Arch. The conditions I encounter there are akin to anything you would find on a 'no frills' holidaying experience. Let me count the ways:

Disease - A few months ago I happened to pass a mother in the Lingerie section holding a woven basket out in front of her son while he spewed chunks of McDonalds into it. The vomit oozed through the mesh and spilled onto the floor. This happened while her other FOUR children swung like apes from the shop fittings and ran around with bras on their heads.

Dictatorship - I stopped for a short while in the quieter 'Homeware' section of the store today to review the contents of my shopping basket. I was immediately collared by a bulky store assistant and told that I was not allowed to 'review my purchases in the store' and could only go through the contents of my basket in the designated seating area on the right. I searched the whole floor. There was no designated seating area. Was she messing with my mind or my freedom?

Poor Hygiene - In December I witnessed a woman changing her child's nappy in the store. Not such a problem, nappies need to be changed, I GET that. But she had obviously just stopped mid-purchase and changed it where she stood, which just HAPPENED to be slap bang in the middle of the walkway from Knitwear to Dresses. This forced customers to dance a figure-8 around her with their shopping, the reek of green baby shit stuck firmly in their nostrils for the rest of their shopping experience.

Violence - I once saw a woman twat another woman full on in the face for taking the only size 16-18 swirly tunic on the rack. Do I really need to say more?

Intimidation - You are only allowed to hover in front of a rack or item for a MAXIMUM of 10 seconds. If you overstay your welcome you will be tutted at, abused or even pushed out of the way so that another customer can briefly appraise and seize the vast amounts of STUFF that just cry out to be bought.

Over-crowding - At 9am on a weekday you will not need to worry about this problem. But I imagine that even Bombay has it's quiet times. From 10 until closing expect vast amounts of TRAFFIC. Don't even bother trying to cover your mouth with your hand when you sneeze, you won't be able to raise your elbow. Just let the droplets settle on a nearby garment, which already harbours the germs of the 8 MILLION or so people that file past the racks every 5 MINUTES. I suggest store bosses take inspiration from China and implement a one-child policy to keep the population down. In fact, I think they should do that for all shops. And cafes. And cinemas. Especially cinemas.

Poverty - "Toe protectors for 68p? What are they exactly? FUCK IT, I'LL HAVE THEM ANYWAY!" What can I say? Cheap produces attracts people with little or no money. I reckon you could find some of the UK's poorest people in Primark at any one time. I have even seen homeless people in there buying blankets for £2.

So you say you want to experience 'realness' and really 'get your hands dirty'? Well I say don't bother flying to Bangalore, just get yourself down to your nearest Primark and spend a few hours among the old and the pitiful.

Sunday, February 15

Growing up

Sitting in my parent's front room at 11am this morning, eating chocolate croissants (dropping flakes everywhere and making an almighty mess) and watching Film 2009 while wearing a white head sweat band a la Bjorn Borg I was struck by an epiphany: I am not very grown up.

Being grown up is getting up and having something to do, every day. Whether that's paying your mortgage or wiping your kid's backside. It's not responsibility, I am reasonably responsible. It's having a purpose. I have spent many idle days content with not pursuing any kind of purpose. In fact, I love it.

I used to be petrified of growing up, to the point where it kept me awake at night, but a close friend in her late 30s put my mind at rest by saying "Gemma, the secret is, you never grow up. I haven't."

I still dance around in my front room when nobody else is there. I also eat Party Rings and watch cartoons in the school holidays.

Photographic evidence of sweat band wearage is here.


Thursday, February 12

Hit me with your bloggy stick!

This blog is getting about three times as many hits as it did last month. Who are you? What are you doing here?
Write me a comment and say 'hello'.

Wednesday, February 11


11 years of 'certified' mental illness are bound to have produced some emotional baggage. Mine is guilt.

I've racked up £18,000 of debt. I've let my family and friends down countless times on countless occasions because I've been too unwell to see things through. On more than one occasion my mother has seen me collapsed into a heap on my bedroom floor, sobbing into my rug because I'm too afraid to leave the house. I've been out of work for periods of up to 12 months. I've ignored people who love me because I'm so afraid of hurting them. These are facts. I couldn't help many of them at the time, I know that, but I still carry the guilt.

My guilt is large, angular and blue/black - the sort of package that's really difficult to carry around and makes your hands ache with the effort. I take this with me everywhere I go. It grows and diminishes according to my mood. When I'm really down the guilt becomes a room, and it can take me days of scrambling around inside my own head to find the door.

It can dominate my life. My new counsellor is working at trying to get me to view things at 'face value'. I tend to attach my guilt to other people, thinking that they're punishing me for things I did (or failed to do) in my past. In the session I struggled to work out exactly what she was on about, I thought she was being extraordinarily harsh and judgemental. However, after some pondering what I think she wants me to do is to try not to attach meaning to innocent gestures that I might be interpreting incorrectly anyway. Other people are not punishing me. I am punishing myself by projecting these feelings of inadequacy and failure onto them.

At the moment I'm signed off work sick with a sinus infection. I haven't left the house (except to go to the docs) in 4 days. The doctor told me to stay at home. That, under normal circumstances, should be enough to allow me to stay at home and recover in peace. But I am spending an inordinate amount of time racked with guilt over something I have no control over - thinking that my entire department are cursing me for dropping them in it. They're not. I am cursing myself. See? I can be rational, yet irrational at the same time. A psychiatrist's nightmare.

I'm not quite sure how this all ends really. Life will always throw curveballs and catch me off-guard. I'm going to get ill again in the future, at some point, and shit will no doubt hit the fan in a variety of other ways. What I would love to stop doing is blaming myself for these unseen problems when they do occur. Or perhaps just blame myself a little less.

More pondering is needed, I guess...


Depression/sinus infection - is there any difference?

One has agitated the other and the two have slowly conquered both body and mind. Face feels like a war zone. Brain feels significantly worse. Hauling myself to doctors once more for a sick note, as the meds she has given me have rendered me house-bound.

Everything is so overwhelmingly difficult, that's not self-pity - it's simple fact. It took me 25 minutes to wash my face and drag a t-shirt and jeans on this morning.

I need so much. I need a cup of tea. I need to wash up. I need to do some laundry.

House resembles student digs circa 2002/3.

Friday cannot come soon enough. My lungs need Norfolk air, Home air, to feel well again. I'll suck it up into my wheezy bellows and exhale with a long 'ahhhh'.

Sunday, February 8


I would love to think of some witty, but what I really want to type here is 'ARGGGGH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! THIS IS SO DEPRESSING!'

I've had a migraine since Friday. I have earache. And shoulder ache. It's all because of a wisdom tooth that won't fecking emerge!

I'm not going to school tomorrow. I am going to the dentists and refusing to leave until I am seen.

Just get it out of me!

Friday, February 6


I refuse to call it 'tweeting'.

I have added a Twitter widget to this blog, so now you can see my hourly movements. I'm sure you'll be on the edge of your seats waiting to find out what I ate for breakfast, or what pants I have decided to wear.



I live at the foot of a very steep hill. This is the view from the top of it. Yes, that is the gherkin and the Emirates stadium. Well-spotted.

Normally this hill is nothing but a slight annoyance when carrying heavy bags* of shopping. But today it was the setting for my morning dalliance with death!

A sudden and heavy flurry of snow occurred as I was wending my weary way (my first mistake)to the bus stop. I got on my usual double-decker bus (my second mistake) and suddenly realised that the route up the hill was, essentially, a skating rink covered in a downy-white film of snow. We got about two thirds of the way up. The bus started making funny grinding noises. Passengers began expressing concern. Then we started sliding BACKWARDS down the hill. I sobbed silently into my scarf - hoping that nobody would see me. After a few minutes of sliding and accelerating the bus driver managed to pull over and off-loaded us all before turning off the lights and calling in that he was 'stuck'. A bus on the other side of the hill, coming in the opposite direction, had done the same.

I called the Headteacher and related the incident to him, and his response was simply 'go home'. Now, I'm a good girl who always does as she's told, so I stomped back down the hill. When I got home I resembled a snow-covered yeti.

Death was, perhaps, a long way off. But I was genuinely afraid this morning. Luckily I have had a whole day off work to get over it, eating buns from Sainsbury's.

*I keep making really weird typos like 'backs' instead of 'bags', perhaps I am going the way of Terry Pratchett, sans rubbish books

Thursday, February 5

25 things about me

1. I once wrote a letter to Jim'll Fix It, asking to meet the entire cast of Baywatch (I was 8).
2. The idea of terrapins existing makes me feel sick.
3. My favourite cafe is Hot Pepper Jelly in Crouch End, I favour the waffles with banana and bacon.
4. I am, despite often seeming otherwise, quite a solitary person.
5. When I was 17 I once sat outside the King's Lynn Corn Exchange for 5 hours in the middle of a freezing cold winter night, waiting for Mansun to come out, warming myself on the exhaust fumes from their tour bus. It took me 2 days to thaw out.
6. The person I can't stand the thought of anything happening to is my brother. I would crumble.
7. I listen to Prince, on average, every 3 days.
8. I harbour secret desires to become a pastry chef.
9. Dogs love me.
10. And small children.
11. I am embarrassed by both of the above.
12. I hate being marginalised more than anything.
13. I can't stand Vernon Kay. Or Peter Kay.
14. I hate sleeping in strange beds.
15. I once spent £500 in one go in Topshop.
16. Nobody has ever proposed to me.
17. My sister and I were encouraged to refer to our genitalia as a 'doody' when we were small children.
18. Christmas always makes me really depressed.
19. I have a Moomin themed bathroom, with a Moomin soap dish, a Moomin toothbrush holder, a Moomin hand towel and Moomin pictures.
20. I smoked for about 10 years, until I gave up two years ago. I never told my parents.
21. I had 9 piercings at one point. I got bored and took them all out. Now I only have one.
22. I thought Heath Ledger's Joker was sexy.
23. I use certain songs/tv shows/films as benchmarks when assessing potential suitors, but I never reveal what they are.
24. I sometimes stop and stand in the street, looking up at the London sky and feeling grateful for being alive.
25. I am petrified of ketchup.

Tuesday, February 3


So this week has already yielded two unexpected days off work, and as I spent much of yesterday planning lessons and trying to reacquaint myself with poetry that I studied 10 years ago I decided to give myself a break from all that and make the most of these precious free hours.

So I:
  • went back to bed at 9 and slept until 12.30,
  • caught the bus the quarter mile to Crouch End, and...
  • ate mushrooms and scrambled eggs in a cafe whilst finishing Brideshead Revisited.

Walking home was bordering on treacherous, and I cursed the slush as I snaked my way back on the dried out patches.
Now I am home, on my favourite armchair and refusing to move. I have purchased the necessary ingredients for fairy buns, but have no inclination to assemble them.

Almost looking forward to work tomorrow. It'll be a nice short week.

* this blog does not contain the word s**w at all, unlike every other feckin blog written by me and others in the past week

rule breakage

I went out for breakfast again. Earlier this time. But it was a Snow Day and at that time I'd usually be trying to drum up some enthusiasm for literature in a bunch of apathetic year 11s. I was therefore elated to be elsewhere.

School closed again today. Shame.:-/

Sunday, February 1


I was bored of pink. I'm into blue at the moment.

*snow has started again. SQUEEEEEE!

snow and curtain-twitching

I've been keeping indoors today, like a pensioner, avoiding the cold. I'm praying to all that is unholy for the snow to become relentless overnight and render my school closed tomorrow. I've been sitting by the window willing the flakes to fall bigger, harder and faster. Official school policy on cold weather states that "If there is snow on the ground then please do not send your child to school as we will be closed."

What a fantastic policy!

My hou
se is at the centre of a t-junction, and is therefore excellent for spying on people. I often see Bernard Butler and Stuart from Queer As Folk wandering down the hill in my direction, only to cruelly turn and walk towards the shop. Bloody teases. This is the view as I look out of my front room.

We have some fantastic neighbours who are very like the Klopecks from The Burbs. They are three men: one large, bearded fat man, one wirey, thin hunchback, and a strange guy with a studded leather jacket and a thin, black combover that looks a little like Professor Snape from Harry Potter. They only emerge at night and then it is to stand outside their house a
rguing with each other or playing with their homemade remote control car. Often they have ridiculous mini-dramas over tiny little things which always culminate in the greasy Snape man stomping off in the direction of the offy. I have no idea how these three characters came to live together in the suburban paradise that is Crouch End. Like finds like, I guess.

Their house is in the middle. The paintwork is less white than the surrounding houses.

There may be bodies in the boot of that car. I can't be 100% sure. In the summer holidays I am going to dig in their back garden, break into their basement, and crank up their Victorian furnace before exploding half the street. You're welcome to come along, order pizza and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, January 31


Another wasted day. I spent it sleeping, drowsing and occasionally reading. I am insanely jealous of people who manage to cram their days full of activity, ceaselessly accomplishing from morning until night, before hitting the pillow at a reasonable hour and sleeping peacefully, only to start all over again the next day. Do these people really exist? Surely they do. That's how gyms and rubbish dumps and garden centres stay in business. Is this the model of a normal, functioning adult? If so, I am doomed.

Today I was roused by the sound of the doorbell ringing (three times!) and was forced to stumble downstairs in my mis-matched pyjamas to find out what the hell all the din was about. PJ Harvey tickets, as it turns out. But Jesus, the man made a meal out of handing them over. First there was name confirmation, then there was signage, then he fumbled around with the little silver sticker before rifling through a pile of other junk to look for more letters. In the meantime I was exposed to freezing cold wind blowing an icy gale through my hallway and right down my (bordering on indecent, I later realised) cleavage. I stomped back upstairs, treading on the cat, and back into bed only to be roused again by my sister inviting me to breakfast. Breakfast? People who go out for breakfast are weird. It is much better to have Shreddies or porridge in the comfort of your own home. Then you can hate the world contentedly and nobody is any the wiser. However, there are occasions when it is necessary to show your face to others at breakfast time and then you should simply claim to have had a bad night in defense of your odd behaviour. This is not how I imagine normal, functioning adults to behave. I imagine them to leap out of bed, salute the sun, do thirty-or-so sit-ups whilst drinking a cup of freshly brewed fairtrade coffee, then bounce out of the door to attend a basket weaving class (or similar).

In the 11 hours that I have been awake today I have: read three chapters of Brideshead Revisited, drunk 3 mugs of tea and half-heartedly pushed the hoover around the front room. There is nothing else. I lie. I also ate 3 M&S cookie dunkers and fed the cat. I don't like Homebase, I don't want to learn Indian Head Massage and I can't afford to have my hair done. Is this all there is?

Friday, January 30


Today is payday. Payday frightens me. It is the day when the most money ever goes into my account, only to shoot straight back out again within minutes.

When I was hypomanic I used to fritter my money away on all manner of useless things; I once bought two umbrellas in one go. At university, I spent about 1/2 of my loan on £50 face creams and jeans that I only wore once. When I left and got a job I thought it just meant that I had more to spend. My bank account and credit limit(s) were never-ending fountains of cash, gushing forth pounds to feed my insatiable hunger for ITEMS. I had at least 4 wardrobe's worth of clothes. I also had 40 handbags. And about 30 pairs of shoes. Products were my smack and I gobbled them like Ms Pacman, blissfully unaware of the creepy debt ghosts waiting to ambush me as I rounded a corner.

One day I tried to take money out to pay for a prescription and the magic money machine ate my card. I staggered home and worked out that I was at least £18,000 in debt. Mentally stable, but deeply, heavily and scarily in debt.

So now payday for me is bitter-sweet. After paying my rent and my monthly transfer into my debt management plan I am left with very little to play with. If I feel anything remotely approaching crazy I have to lock myself indoors, or dole myself a tenner and go to Primark. And my face creams only cost £3 nowadays.

Thursday, January 22

I'll throw you in the Timelash!

Boredom makes one do funny things, like have photos taken of oneself with the worst Doctor Who story ever.

And then forget how to turn the image round using one's Mac.

Monday, January 19

Who are...

... the 7 people that viewed my blog today? Come on - own up!


I'm still reeling from innocently browsing the Guardian TV listings and seeing this:

You know reality tv has gone well and truly out of control when Kerry Katona's placenta gets its own fucking fly-on-the-wall show.

Thursday, January 15

Comedy Drug Hell

Think of a comedy name for a mental illness drug. Go on. Spazpills, perhaps? Loopytabs? Tardcaps?

One of the above three is the actual new name for my regular antidepressant drug. Now I am going to go and shoot myself. Goodnight.

Do Google searches and that...