Wednesday, August 31

Love me, love my Mooncup!

I'm one of many thousands that have scoffed at the Mooncup ads on the backs of doors in health centres and festival loos. "Ha ha ha!" I said, "A plastic egg cup to collect your PERIOD BLOOD! Nyuh nyuh nyuh... GROSS."

That was when I was young.

Now I am thirty and, quite frankly, getting bored of my periods. Sixteen years of paying tax on tampons. And remembering to buy them. BORING. So when I discovered that a close friend used a Mooncup I quizzed her like a Mastermind contestant. So if you're at all curious, below are the questions I asked. And my own answers. Reader, I married it.

How do you get it up there?

Like this:

This is officially called the 'Labial Fold' but to make it more interesting I like to call it 'Rosebud' in a whisper. You can fold it like an 'M' or an 'S' shape, but trust me, this is the best way to make it as small as possible. Unlike tampons (which sit quite high) it only sits about 1-2cm up your vagina, so really it's no more difficult to insert than a non-applicator tampon (which I can't insert, btw). Once it's in it pops open (if you remember the 80s, it's a bit like this), creating a vacuum, and your vag muscles hold it in place. Done.

Can you feel it?
No more than you can a tampon. Unless you don't trim the stem. I did this straight away because I don't relish the idea of sore bits.

Does it leak?
Mine leaked, a tiny, tiny bit, once, when I put it in sleepy as hell and smacked off my tits on co-codamol, at 4am. This was the only time and it was no more than any tampon ever did. Honest.

How do you get it out?
Most internet horror stories about using Mooncups cite this as the most horrific part. But this bit is FUN. It simply involves the art of BEARING DOWN. This just means squeezing your vag muscles, although having a wee will do a similar job. If you've never squeezed your vag muscles before (why wouldn't you? It keeps them taut!) then just have a wee before you try to take it out, the squeezing during the weeing will do half the work for you. You grasp the bottom, and give the base of the Mooncup a little squeeze until you hear a delicious slurping sound (this is the vacuum breaking). Then you just pull it out, keeping it upright the whole time.

Can you pee/poo with it in?
Yes. The fanny vacuum makes it easier to wee and poo with one of these babies in than a tampon, which is basically just floating around in your vag. I could never pee with a tampon in, I'd end up birthing it into the loo halfway through. Ditto number twos. The Mooncup is stuck up there like a plunger, dude, urinate away. If it comes down a bit just give it a gentle push up.

Isn't it GROSS when you empty it?
Underneath, and all around the outside of the Mooncup it is clean and dry. I just want to reiterate this fact: CLEAN AND DRY. Thank the fanny vacuum. It is cleaner than a manky tampon cord. It is cleaner than a sanitary towel. Your hands needn't touch blood at all during the entire process. Yes inside it will contain a small amount of period blood, but to date I have never even hit the 5ml mark, and I thought I had heavy periods. Tip it down the loo. Rinse your Mooncup under the hot tap. Admire how clean it is before inserting it again.

That's it. It's not foul at all. You see no more gore than you do with tampons. So calm down, ladies, and embrace the fanny vac. You'll save over £5 a month!

Sunday, July 10

Why I am fat...

I rarely talk about weight. I watch the debates scrolling before me on Twitter, or in the Guardian, and keep my comments to myself. So this is probably the only post about weight you will ever read by me, and it is about being fat. So for starters I'd like to hammer home that this is about being Fat, not being Thin. 'But people are mean to me because I'm so thin!'. Yes. Sorry about that. 'Thinism is the new Fattism.' Not true. Fatties get it worse. Always have, always will. Complain at me again when Topshop start selling size 20 jeans.

I was a skinny child, like, really skinny. I was a slim teenager. When I was sixteen I woke up one morning with an arse the size of a DFS sofa. When I was twenty-four I suddenly grew two pendulous breasts. I have absolutely no recollection of these features developing on me. Fat snuck up on me, I never saw it coming.

I knew I was getting bigger, my clothes were, so I stopped buying clothes. Problem solved. Then all my clothes got holes in and I had to buy some more. Leggings looked so comfortable, but I refrained from buying any for years because I thought I'd look ridiculous in them, and offend the general public by deigning to wear them out. I grew livid with Topshop for only stocking clothes size 6-16, and then introducing a size 4, but not a size 18. Now I hated my body, and was ashamed of it. Me!

I look at my arm next to a normal person's arm. My arm is fat. It is nearly twice the size. Sometimes I flick it with my finger to see if it hurts like it did when it was thinner. It really doesn't. I have Fat Armour. If I was a pisshead people would feel concern for me, but because I am a carbhead people just think I'm lazy. I don't care, I have my armour, throw cannonballs of prejudice at me and they will just bounce right off.

I need to eat to be able to do my job. There is nothing worse than teaching on an empty stomach. Trust me, if you had to stand in front of a class of thirty eleven-sixteen year olds for five hours a day you'd need some fucking Shreddies inside you too. And a flapjack for elevenses. And a baked potato for lunch, with cheese. Up until recently I haven't had a penny to spare on anything other than food or bills. It costs nine pounds to attend a yoga class in Crouch End. That would buy me lunches for a week. 

"The problem is cake. Stop eating cake" remarks my boyfriend, helpfully. I glance down at his growing sponsored-by-Kronenberg paunch and think 'Okay love, when you stop drinking beer'. He won't, he loves his beer. I LOVE cake. My mum used to bake once a week. Big, hulking rock buns that your teeth would crunch through to reveal a sugary-soft, almost ethereal, core. Victoria sponge with homemade jam, and sugar flowers on the top, looking like a photo from Woman's Weekly. Scones that we'd eat hot, so that the butter we piled on them would drip down our chins as we scoffed them. I swear I once found Jesus in the soft core of a meringue. Mum didn't make these to make us fat. She made these because we were poor, and because she needed to feed us. So yes, I love cake, but who wouldn't after that little prologue? My boyfriend drinks two or three cans of beer a day, I eat, at most, one slice of cake on average every three days. Who has the real PROBLEM here? No, it is not cake.

I forget all the rubbish food I've eaten the second I swallow. I look closely at my diet. I can't see that much wrong with it: breakfast, lunch, tea. Five portions of fruit and veg a day. Water and tea to drink. I am all over that shit. Apples and bananas are my best friends, I see them every day. But this is the shit that counts, this is what I CHOSE to forget, this is what I REALLY digested yesterday: Maltesers (regular bag, I was nearly seduced by the larger bag, and felt smug for rejecting it), Rice Krispie cake, ice cream (plus cone), Coca Cola x 2. The problem is I had to sit down and think really hard before I could remember I ate all that. Somewhere in my brain there is an auto-delete button that I am not in control of.

This is the problem. And yes, I know exactly what it is. The problem is, that in my mind I have not really progressed physically since the age of eighteen (or mentally, but that's another post). I look down at myself. I know It is there, it is just that It is something I choose not to acknowledge; like casually racist remarks made by my nan, or the Sun newspaper. So in my mind I am a size twelve, always have been. How would I know if I wasn't? I don't own a full length mirror. All of my mirrors are less than 30cm long. It is only after a birthday party, or family get-together, and the documentary evidence appears in Facebook albums, that I truly get to look at myself. 'That's never me!' I think, aghast, sneakily untagging myself and hoping the photographer doesn't notice.

People are stupid. They try to give you advice gleaned from too many years of watching Trisha or Vanessa and advise you to admit to the problem. Many people think that once you acknowledge a problem it suddenly floats away into the atmosphere, never to bother you again, like a vanquished demon on Buffy. This is a myth. I owned up to writing 'Bums here please' on a toilet seat at school once, and it made my life hell for at least another two years. I 'owned up' to being mentally ill when I was eighteen and I am still mentally ill now. So truly acknowledging my fatness will not bring me any kind of inner peace, looking into a full length mirror in a dressing room will not reveal any secrets to me, it'll just be boring, and a bit unpleasant.

But I think about my pancreas, glowing inside me like ET's heart and calling cancer cells to it like a mermaid singing to a ship full of sailors. It is a beacon, emitting helplessness, sending out an SOS to my brain. Being overweight causes cancer. So do drinking and smoking and an unhealthy diet. I am going to die of cancer. Or I am going to get diabetes. Or I am going to have a heart attack running up the stairs at work. I might even be found dead with cake in my hair.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am going to try and be a bit less fat from now on. Not because of how I look, but because I am scared of dying. Now excuse me while I run off and do a little cry.

Tuesday, July 5

Why you should have gone on strike.

1. I will lose a day of pay
If you are genuinely concerned about losing a day's salary, the union does offer a hardship fund - simply get in contact with your divisional secretary. In addition, please try using the NUT's pensions calculator which can be found on the NUT homepage. most teachers stand to lose between £150,000-£250,000 if pensions reform goes through. A day's pay is nothing in comparison.
2. Children will lose a day of education
This was not an issue during the recent royal wedding - why is it only important when we are trying to protect our rights?
3. Strikes do not work
There is one course of action which will definitely do nothing and that is if we actually do nothing
4. Striking is unprofessional and damages teachers credibility
This is the argument made by Michael Gove. He followed this statement up by asking parents to step in for teachers to keep schools open - do you suppose he would suggest the same for doctors? The sad fact is that the Government does not place our professionalism very highly - this is why they are open to free schools which could hire untrained staff as teachers.
5. I'm in a non striking union
The only teachers union not on strike is the NASUWT. Membership to the NUT is currently being offered for free so anyone can be part of the strike if they are willing to invest 5 minutes to sign up to our union.
6. Public sector pensions are too high when compared with private sector pensions
Private sector pensions are too low and this argument is backwards. There are plenty of nations with appalling human rights records - surely the government would not suggest reducing our level of human rights to fall in line? The government should be regulating the private sector pensions so those workers get a fair deal. Incidentally the average teacher's pension is £10,000 per year - hardly an excessive amount.
7. Negotiations are still ongoing
This is the line which Westminster council have taken. Having spoken directly to senior union staff who are involved with these negotiations I can tell you that the negotiations have not gone well. This is in fact the reason the unions have called for strike action.
8. I don't want to confront my head
It is not a requirement to name who will be going on strike, you can simply give the numbers to the headteacher. The NAHT is also balloting for strike action and you may find that many heads are more than willing to back your action - Headteachers have the most to lose after all as they have the highest salaries.

Saturday, April 30

When MissGembles met Mr G...

A gang of people are assembled at Pimlico station, waiting to set off for a picnic which I am co-coordinating. On a concrete bench outside I spot a man with a mass of unruly curls and a baguette sticking out of his backpack. "Are you here for the picnic?" I ask.

We walk along the Thames. I teach the man my 'Favourite Hits of the 90s' game. He doesn't know it's a potential suitor test, but he passes with flying colours.

At Battersea Park he produces smoked duck from his backpack, and steals all my crisps. I fall a bit in love.

I'm peddling furiously on a pedalo in a pond. He is sitting on the stern of the boat, swigging wine from a bottle and smoking Marlboro Lights. All the time he is talking and talking about himself, and his life, and his dreams, and I imagine tiny fireworks exploding and dancing around his head. Then we switch places and I start nervously swigging from the wine.

We retreat to a pub where we each drink a pitcher of Pimms and start comparing notes on our likes and dislikes. Nerd alarms ring loudly.

We sit through a show. I don't know how we managed this. I just wanted to maul him.

We end up in another pub. He buys us red wine and we talk about Blake's 7. He offers to show me his box set, and we head back to his flat in Chelsea. He snogs me on the night bus and tells me I am beautiful.



The next day we can't bare to be apart. I float through a hangover in a state of bliss. I go out wearing his jumper, because all my clothes are at my friend's house. I stay another night.

Now he has to get up and go to work. I have to go back to Norfolk and go to work. He tells me to stay in bed and promises to come back and bring lunch before we say goodbye. He brings salad, and smoked mackerel and we kiss again.

Wednesday, April 20

Hints & Tips for the Discerning Mentalist

Don't stay up late.
Be in your bed by 10.30pm, at the latest, even if you're not tired. Once midnight has ticked by the gremlins enter your brain through your ears and gnaw on your mind. You might think you're beating them by choosing to stay up of your own free will, but this is what they want. They want you to get sucked into a crap and depressing film on TCM. Or a Jerry Springer repeat. They want you to stare out of the window at the stars and ponder the futility of your own existence. Do not satisfy the gremlins! Do not feed them after midnight!

Feeding time
When I am depressed I lean towards beige food (bread, biscuits, tea). It usually requires minimal preparation, fills the gaping void in my soul/stomach (same thing) and is bland enough so that I don't want to vomit it back up. But this is wrong. The key to surviving is to eat colourful food.

This is what I really, really wanted to eat yesterday:
- croissant/brioche
- bread roll

This is what I forced myself to eat:
- strawberries
- a pear
- an omelette & salad
- a yoghurt

... and guess what? I had almost picked up by 9pm. Almost. Until I found out Elisabeth Sladen had died and it set me off again.

Choose your entertainment wisely
For example, I can't watch loud things, or stupid things on TV when I am depressed, even though I generally love loud and stupid things. They frighten me. And give me a headache. I can just about manage knitting. And I can read a classic (Austen/James/Eliot). I try to avoid social networking, because it makes me paranoid, but generally fail miserably. Take my advice: stay away from social networking. Nobody wants to look at pictures of their horrible, old classmates' fugly babies, sometimes they can persecute you with their eyes "You have failed at life. Look at me. I am living proof that somebody you hated when you were fourteen is more successful and fulfilled than you".

Go Out
Of course you don't want to go out. Look at the state you're in, who'd want to look at you? What could you possibly offer the universe in your current state of mind? Your face is covered in anxiety spots, and untreated dry patches, and your good clothes are all lying in a spent heap at the end of your bed. Tough. If you work, I'm afraid you're going to have to go. If you're off, stick a big, baggy jumper on and go for a walk. Nobody is going to look at you. Get over yourself. It helps to have a small MISSION. For example, "Today my Mission is to buy some toilet paper from Budgens and go to the Post Office". Then you can get home and say to yourself "Mission Accomplished" which makes you feel nice, and important.

Stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Ask your doctor about it. It's ace.

Of course these techniques won't work for everybody. Depression is the most personal, most self-centred, most eclectic condition of the bunch. But perhaps, just perhaps, some of these scenarios will ring a bell with you. And maybe just feeling that you're not alone will help you recover for a brief second. If that occurs then "Mission Accomplished".

Thursday, April 7


I'm really not going for the sympathy vote today. If anything, I'm going for the opposite. If I read this post on somebody else's blog I'd definitely want to comment something like "You absolute gimp. Pull yourself together."

I'm sick. I've been sick for over a week, and I'm no better than I was seven days ago. My voice is squeaky and cracked, and because I have to teach I am unable to rest it, so it just gets worse, rather than better. My nose is blocked and I can't smell anything. I feel feverish when I wake up in the morning, and drag myself through the school day, only to feel guilty at 3.15pm when I drag myself home again to collapse on the sofa. I can't ring my dad, or my sister, it just hurts. Instead I send them weary texts, or Facebook messages.

James' birthday went largely uncelebrated last weekend, due to the fact that I was unable to get out of bed, so I have stacks of residual guilt about that too.

When I'm at work I am constantly berating myself for only being able to give about 60%, and worry that my colleagues are looking down at me.

I haven't worn any 'nice' clothes or makeup for over a week. I haven't blow-dried my hair, or straightened my fringe. I haven't cooked any meals, or undertaken any kitchen activity greater than heating up a ready meal.

I can't do any more job applications. Just thinking about filling in another form makes me feel like I'm about to cry.

It could be worse. It has been worse. I felt the cold kiss of dread creep across my body as I cradled the telephone receiver after discovering my mother had terminal cancer. I should really pull myself together. I want to. But knowing that I can't is making me feel utterly useless.

Tuesday, March 22

Oh and also...

... I'm turning into a hermit again. Help!

I can't do job applications

I need a new job. If I remain in my current job beyond the summer I will go mad.

Job applications freak me out. I don't know how to sell myself to people I've never met. I feel awkward using flowery words and pretending to be ten times more productive and efficient than I really am. I am so teachered out at the end of the day that I have no words or knowledge left to impart to anybody, and application forms feel like a mental trek.

What I'd really like to do is just brain vomit all over them. If I wrote what was in my heart on these forms it'd probably go like this:

Take me! I'm great! I love teaching and can make a really good cup of tea. Look at all this stuff I've done! (insert list of awesome feats here) See how awesome this makes me? Please give me a job. I want to buy a house. And a dog. 

I could do more. I want to do more. But I don't know how to say it. Blerg.

Sunday, January 2

A Tribute to Mum

Mum died a year ago today. I don't want to make too big a deal of the date thing, but I can't let it pass without remembering her at her best.

So here are four reasons why I continue to miss my Mum every single day; four reasons why nobody that loved her will ever forget her.

She was the BEST cook:

Look at her here on Xmas day. Look at the RANGE on food on the table! This was the last Christmas dinner she ever cooked for me in 2007, she made it to 2010, but was too sick to help with any of the preparations. Rather than remembering that heartbreaking Christmas I'd much rather remember this one, when we were all healthy and happy and together.

She was a great daughter:

This picture of Mum and Nan was taken about five months before her diagnosis. In this picture nobody has any idea of what's to come, and that it why I love it. I am so glad she didn't have to suffer for too long, and that we all got to say goodbye to her before she died.

She was funny as hell:

Mum's misbehaving on a boat ride up the Thames here. On her last night I lay with her and thanked her for the million or so things she'd given me. Her sense of humour is the one I'm most proud of. She got funnier as she got older, God knows what she'd have been like at 70!

She was my best friend:

I adored spending time with Mum. Even at 28 I'd still drag along behind her on trips to the supermarket, just for the pleasure of sharing her company. That's why I can grieve for her so openly; there is no baggage, and no pain, just love and loss and laughter.

We both knew that God and the afterlife were a myth. We both laughed at psychic reading shows on TV. I don't believe she is an angel floating around outside my head, or standing behind me. But I feel her inside every day. Rest in peace, Mummy. Love you.

Do Google searches and that...