Hello, 2020

Don’t know who sacrificed a goat, virgin, or child to a volcano for me, but these first nine days of January have already beat 98% of last year for goodness.

Last year was ridiculously hard, and I was more than happy to see it end. And fortunately I did see it end and didn’t give up. Gods know I nearly did. Several times. Ugh.

This year has been interesting in its infancy. My personal art work started evolving and getting fun towards the end of last year and that has brought an interesting business opportunity my way, which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about in a week or two. For now, know that I’m metaphorically getting bugs in my teeth from smiling so hard as I ride this funky roller coaster.

Good start, 2020. Good, fricking start.

(And yesterday was my birthday and it was pretty good. Winning.)

Life can be better

There’s been a lot of difficult stuff happening, not just recently, but seeming to build like a snowball rolling downhill for the past few years. In no particular order, the past few years have been punctuated with deaths, horrible world events, personal lows (mentally and physically), misunderstandings and communication failures, professional doubts, anxiety, and expenses. All this is enough to stomp even the most optimistic unicorn’s heart into a pile of bloodied glitter and broken spirit.


Life can be better.

Burying the positive things that have happened beneath the dark shadows of the negative stuff is too easy. Almost seductive. Like wandering through a dense forest, it can be difficult to focus on the light struggling to part the trees or that the path has to go through a terrible bog before the clearing. I have spent the better part of the last few years in the worst mental and physical health of my life (except for that pesky cancer thing a bunch of years ago), and lately – through last winter to now – things have felt so very heavy. So heavy that suicidal thoughts have become too frequent, desire for self-harm difficult to ignore. Retreat. Hide.


Life can be better.

I have a good life, in general. I live in a beautiful place. I make enough money to survive (not on my own yet, but as an equal partner). I make art for a living and it is all I’ve ever wanted to do my whole life. I wake up every day near someone who loves me. I just had a delightful, fifteen minute chat with a delivery person in the sunshine. I have some really great stuff I aim to achieve in the very near future (professionally and personally). I have friends. I have a car that keeps running. I have exactly five of ten nails without chips in the polish. I just petted a cat.

So life can be better, but the focus has to be on the better, not the unfortunate. I struggle a lot in this body of mine – my brain isn’t wired to behave, my body is not efficient – but I keep going. I am, perhaps annoyingly so, optimistic and positive. Even now, as I sit here typing this and with several fresh and painful days of tears and depression behind me, I am looking for that light between the treetops.

I am doing the best I can.

Be kind. Be good to each other. Take time to talk. Take time to rest.

Keep going.

Processing the strangest week of my life

What a week. It’s not everyday someone can say they were quoted in a newspaper, let alone pretty much all of them and interviewed for most of the major television stations in the UK.
I have that unsettling – and frankly, unwanted – claim to fame.

Here’s the story, and you might want to get a cup of tea because it’s a long one.

Something I, and several other locals, learned this week is that your seemingly local village appreciation page on Facebook has a wide variety of members, and in our case one is with the BBC. We found that out this week when, on Sunday the 19th of August 2018 I posted an opinion about some new beach signs. Here’s a screen grab of it:

And it went nuts from there… There’s no way this should’ve become news. But, here in the UK, we have a summer holiday season where people are stressed about their kids and cramming in a vacation that will hopefully have good weather and won’t make them broke, the government is on holiday (ridiculous, considering Brexit is looming) and the news media is desperate for UK-interest stories. This is “silly season” and so my opinion about signs became national news.

Sort of.

What started as a discussion on signs (number, size, language, and placement) became a watered down national debate on whether a person can/should/shouldn’t take a stone from a beach. You can imagine how that has played out. Heck, just do a Google News search for some keywords, and read the comments in any of the papers. Twitter has some pretty shouty opinions on this too. And it all stems back to a story within the story told by the parish clerk, Barry Jordan, about a holidaymaker who was seen stuffing the boot of their car with bags of stones from our beach. The individual was tracked down and threatened with a £1000 fine if the stones were not returned. They apparently drove a significant distance to avoid the fine. This angle is far more interesting than my comment on the ugly proliferation of signs, so the media latched onto it like fire on a dry field.

The first interview I did was for The Guardian newspaper. They phoned, I jabbered nervously about the signs, they asked about the stones. They asked for photos. I was completely blown away that this was making news, but the BBC had already put a story online and so the fire was started. The next few days are a blur of ringing phones, emails, interviews, and finally television appearances. All over stones, and some minor mentions of the signs, which, by the 20th (24 hours after my initial Facebook post) had been halved in number as the parish council listened to the village feedback.

I do not regret my initial Facebook post on the matter, and although I too believe in preserving our beach, I have a little softer approach on the topic of a stone or two. Beach combing is a pastime for many and I don’t personally believe the removal of one stone will cause major ecological upset, but I also know that removing one stone times thousands of visitors can add up. I do weekly beach cleans, so if I see someone loading up a rucksack or pram, I do stop to talk to them about the protection act. I’ve never been shouted at or challenged, and people seem genuinely unaware it’s illegal to take stones. For that reason, signs are necessary, of course. But, given that my first job out of design school was at a sign company, I know that they could’ve been better designed and implemented. But none of that matters now as the original point of the story has been lost to people all over the country either shouting about their god-given right to pocket rocks, or defending the earth and its every pebble, or condemning the governing bodies of Britain for telling them what to do and wasting money chasing pebble pinchers. A huge, national argument has sprung up because my village had the nerve to ask for its stones back, and I don’t even disagree with them doing so.

So, I’ve been filmed for ITV, BBC, and then had a live, primetime interview via FaceTime with Sky News. That was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. I spoke to a black screen, only hearing the story before my segment and then the questions from Kay Burley. I had no prep, no idea what they’d ask, and my experience with live tv started there. Having no visual feedback – no facial expressions of the presenter to read – was hugely disconcerting. I tripped over my final words. My friends snapped photos of me on their tvs and said I did great. I’ve watched the ITV and BBC segments. I did my best, but especially with edited segments, the media will still present the story in the way that they think will get the most views and people talking. It has never been about getting my side of the story right.

Thursday arrived and my final appearance was a photo with Barry on the beach for the Bude & Stratton paper. The reporter is someone who has covered our beach clean activities and keen to make sure the story is presented properly. Too little too late, perhaps, and being a local paper is unlikely to make much of a splash, but I am grateful. After the photo was taken around noon, I had a coffee by myself, thought about everything, went home and cried.

I didn’t do much after that because as a person with mental health issues including anxiety, I was absolutely drained. I pottered around the house a little, played video games, cried more, and went to bed. I hadn’t cried all week because I didn’t know if someone would want my photo or me on tv and I couldn’t risk puffy eyes and terrible sinuses. I had a week of crying to catch up on.

Friday arrived and I stayed in bed for most of it. Then I did some yoga. I had my regular video catch up chat with Aaron in Wisconsin, and then went to bed. Today, I’m processing the week in words and preparing to lay low and get back to my version of a normal life.

So why didn’t I say no to any of the interviews? It’s easy to sit back and say “you didn’t have to do any of that” and in a way you are right. But here’s the thing: it didn’t happen to you and it’s impossible to understand the strange current you get swept into when it does. Also, I believe in seeing things through and to not at least try to present the factual basis of the story would have been a failure on my part. I put an opinion out there, it got picked up and twisted, and I’m not a person who backs down, even at the risk of my own mental health. It’s how I’m wired, and so I see things through.

And now, I’m I week behind in my work, regaining my strength after a week I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and trying to get back to a normal life. Perhaps the next time I am in the papers and on tv it will be for my art or some amazing beach clean activity. I do hope so.

Thank you for reading, and special thanks to the people of my village for being amazingly supportive. You’re all pretty wonderful. x

sharing too much since 2003