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.

Do Google searches and that...