DEPRESSION.

Depression, to me, is like having your mind replaced by another that is so cold and cruel you become numb. All the devils and demons that used to haunt you and lived under your bed when you were a kid, have crawled and settled in the darkest parts of your head. It deprives you of feeling anything other than a sense of perpetual sadness, you never quite know the source of it despite your Psychiatrist’s efforts to help you find out by drawing a timeline of your life on the back of an old bit of wallpaper.

Depression, you have stolen my confidence, left me feeling worthless of anyone’s affection or adoration. Depression, you call me names, feed me strings of lies all day long that despite the constant stuffing, leaves me starving. You are the internal battle I face every second of every day, the voice behind all the bad decisions I make and never any of the good ones. You convince me that by swapping out the chocolate slabs for carrot sticks, skipping the bread for Ryvita that tastes like cardboard, I’ll like myself more; but I never do. Did I really believe you when you said that making a hole in my upper thigh will help leak the fat out? How foolish I am. Where did I go?

I am standing underneath a floor of glass, screaming and banging to get the attention of the everyone, but no one can hear me. No one knows I’m trapped here. Noting tastes, smells or feels right; everything is bitter, bland, poisoned. I’m unable to think clearly and make decisions but I must make them anyway because life tells me I have too, despite not having any energy or desire. There is this actor, and she is playing me. She must be doing a darn good job because most of the time she has everyone convinced she’s fine, smiling and laughing; she seems to be getting on with life. She takes her happy. little pills, she goes to her lectures and hands her assignments in on time always getting good grades. She even meets up with friends, socialises and goes on nights out where she lets boys who pretend to fancy her take advantage of her desperate desire to be wanted. This person deserves an Oscar because she is so convincing, so utterly deceiving. In truth is the person she is playing just wants to hide away in bed all day and sleep because then everything isn’t real.

Depression is like having tunnel vision, regardless of whatever else is going I your life, everything feels overwhelming for seemingly no reason at all. Then people ask you to explain your feelings, but how do you explain something you don’t understand yourself? I keep heaving down this tunnel on all fours because I can’t see the way in the pitch black. There appears to be no light at the end despite everyone saying there is. I see nothing. Around my ankles as I crawl are weights that weigh ten tonnes and they are so painfully heavy but I have no choice to drag them along with me anyway because I don’t possess the key that unlocks them. I end up just lying down, praying that if I finally allow myself to cry then the tsunami of my tears will drown me.

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CARBON.

It’s colourless yet under the fluorescents of my lamp it gleams every colour imaginable. It’s cut, a common Mazal, is understated but at the same time it’s beauty screams as you. It’s amazing how such a small object can possess such history, involve the craft and hard work of so many individuals just to be able to touch my skin.

Two-hundred-and-fifty tonnes of earth would have been sifted through, hours and hours of hard work, drops and drops of sweat all to produce one single carat. Did that miner have any idea how much joy he would one day bring to someone? How much his hard work and time would be worth, not only just in terms of what it sells for, but also the promise it would one stay stand for? A promise of lifelong unity, eternal love and endless commitment, until death do you part.

It would be perfectly reasonable to presume that it was mined from a rock by a man, because mining is often a masculine labour; in fact, I haven’t ever heard of a female miner. The irony is the man who mined this probably couldn’t even afford to buy one for himself with a salary so low, but I try to push that thought to the back of my mind, letting any anger melt away and enjoying the object in front of me in all its glory.

After extraction, the ring would have journeyed its way across the globe to participate in approximately a six-week long sorting process in Antwerp, Johannesburg or Mumbai. In this circumstance, the rock would have been scrutinised but the sharpest of eyes and inspected by the most critical of judges before being sorted according to its ‘Gem Quality.’ It would have been Cut and Graded before receiving an official certificate that declares her beauty, like the prettiest girl in school winning a crown at prom, letting everyone she is the best. This small piece of A5 tells you how this arrangement of Carbon is worth more than Mum’s Gucci purse, or your Aston Martin and, in some special cases, more than your holiday home your Godmother owns in Mykonos. What it can potentially mean to the individual who wears it though can be priceless, despite the pound sign placed in front of it. What is the result of all of this? The most beautiful of diamonds. I twist my hand so that my palm is facing outwards, enabling me to get a better look at the rock sitting on my index. It’s a little large for my scrawny fingers but nothing that a little clenching can’t fix.

This diamond, my diamond, would have passed through a chain of sellers, all putting their own price on it, all equally mesmerised by its magnificence. Eventually it must have reached a small jeweller hiding away in the quiet town of Dudley called John Hollins Finer Jewellery. Despite my efforts to hunt the place down and its owner, I can only assume it is closed. One day a scruffy-looking lad would have walked in, a factory worker during the Second War and now a postman. He would have saved all his pennies up for this purchase; money like this didn’t just sit in his shallow pockets waiting to be spent. Even with his savings he would not have been able to quite cover the cost, but the jeweller took pity on him and admired his ambition. His heart was warmed by the young man’s love for his to-be-wife and consequently, he sold it to the man for what he could offer alongside the gold chain around his neck that his father gave him on his Twenty-First birthday.

A rather nervous man with a shy temperament, he would have thought about how he was going to go about asking for ages before he did it. She wasn’t into clichés you see, not a lady who would like to have been asked over dinner by finding the ring hidden on a breadstick, nor would she appreciate him going down on one knee on top of an impressive skyscraper. She was sincere, easily embarrassed and preferred less extravagant gestures; for her it was all about the finer details. Perhaps he took her to the local park one day when the weather was nice and as they strolled around the park before he popped the question. Or, maybe they were just sat at home one Sunday afternoon and, he didn’t mean to do it there and then, but there she sat in her chair in the corner reading her book, her glasses perched on her nose, but he just couldn’t help himself.  With the ring in one hand he offered her three beautiful baby girls, a roof over her head, food on the table and his complete and utter adoration until he died.

Of-course I don’t know if this is how my Granddad asked my Grandma to marry him, my Grandma is a very private woman and would never dare share such details. Nonetheless, the hopeless romantic in me likes to imagine that the truth is something similar. Some years later my mum was born, the youngest of three children. She grew up under their wing to be a fine woman. She got a job, moved out and fell head over heels, providing them with their first grandchildren. I received this ring from Grandma on my Eighteenth birthday, eight years after my Granddad died and I have since looked at the ring many a time, never daring to wear it out the house for fear of losing it.

Each time the gem bewitches me, each time it shines different hues, feels a different weight and looks a slightly different shape. For me the ring is priceless, it has no value because you cannot put a price on love. My Granddad promised my Grandma he would love her until his heart stopped beating. I believe that although the machine says it did at precisely 7:05am on the 27th December 2009, if you remain silent long enough, and listen close enough, you can hear his heart beat still beating softly in the ring.

LETTERS FROM HIM.

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Her fingertips guided themselves over his name which he’d signed off the letter with, admiring each cursive vowel and the perfectly dotted i’s. She pressed her nose to the paper, desperate to smell his cologne through the potent ink that to her surprise still lingered. He had not written this letter with any intention of saying goodbye but merely as an ‘I miss you’ during his travels in Kuala Lumper.Writing

He had tried his best he said, to convey the sheer beauty of Malaysia’s capital, though he himself admits that his efforts remained flawed as no words exist that could do justice to the picture that presented itself before him.  He told her of the sky high buildings that seemed to go on endlessly beyond the clouds and how these buildings lit up amber and royal blue as of they were fire and water mingling together. He mocked how Malaysian men and women were even smaller than he had anticipated, perhaps the scale of their surroundings making them appear more like figurines in a doll’s house  rather than people.

There was a picture attached to the top right hand corner which he had taken as he laid beneath The Petronas Twin Towers, dreaming of her and wishing with all his might that she might just all of a sudden appear lying next to him if he could shut his eyes and clench his fists tight enough. The towers reminded him of the two of them; proud, protective, purposeful. The buildings, whilst weak and hardly captivating alone, represented a whole great deal more together. They stood for prestige and independence, power and longevity, but most of all they stood for beauty.

She thought of how his travels we not supposed to have stopped there, underneath those towers. He was due out to Beijing just the next day on his sixth month long mission to ‘find himself.’ He had always wanted to explore Asia, become apart of it’s landscape, learn it’s history, live with it’s people. She had never fully understood why . He claimed it was for his latest novella – background research you know? Nonetheless she remained convinced that this was merely a masquerade for the sense to discover some meaning, some understanding.

A tear fell from her cheek onto the paper, smearing the black ink in which he had written that he promised to be home soon. She wept often about how he must have felt in those final seconds. How fast has his heart been beating? Was his vision made blurry by the saltiness of his own tears? Did he show fear or did he keep a brave face for the mother and child who sat terrified in the seat beside him? Selfishly she had hoped that she was the last thing he had thought about in those final moments. She hoped he had tried to remember the sweet smell of her perfume and the softness of her kiss. She hoped he would miss her quick-wit and delicate touch. She hoped.

The most painful part was not the chill that came from the empty space in the bed next to her, it was not the memories that the photos around the house drowned her in. No, it was not the silence that had been swapped for the childish laughter that had  echoed once within these walls. She longed to be suffocated by the smell of him; a harsh mixture of tobacco and whiskey. She yearned for the warmth of his touch, the comfort of his hum, to hear his voice utter her name. Yet, these were not the most painful parts.

She needed answers most of all. What had happened to the man she loved and why? How? Where did his body lie? Was his resting on the ocean bed or had become part of the earth in ash? Sadly, there were no explanations; no justifications. Only the cruel reminders from the media and the emptiness he had left behind was all that reminded her it was real.

She folded the letter that she had read one thousand times over and over, slipping it back into the envelope and taping it up as if she had never even read it. She kissed the seal delicately and desperately, as if she were kissing him for the final time. By the phone with her laptop on the table top and BBC news coverage of the story on repeat would she remain, waiting for explanations… .

 

 

 

 

MATRILINEALITY IN MOSOU.

I watched this short documentary the other day when it popped up in my YouTube subscription box and boy did I find it fascinating. The combination of the unusual and unheard of topic of Mosou women that the video focuses on, compounded by Broadly’s beautiful and heart-warming filmography  led me to spending two hours reading about Mosou, passing the link on to several friends and family members.

The Mosou community are a small population of around 40,000 people living in more remote Chinese provinces, close to the Tibetan border and high in the Himalayas. Many who know of this place know it as the ‘land where women rule.’ Despite living in a society that focuses a lot more on gender equality than it did years ago, the concept of women being ‘more important’ than men is foreign to me. The society can be described as ‘matriarchal’ but this does little to communicate the complexity of their organisation of their community.

In Mosou women are head of the households, they receive any inheritance, they are the ‘breadwinners’ and the grandmother (Ah Mi) is the most respected and important member of the family. It is the role of the women to provide food and income for the family, usually through farming as their culture is mostly agriculturally-based. Women learn the ways of weaving, how to cook and clean, how to feed and look after livestock. They’re allowed several husbands and participate in Tesese, also known as ‘walking marriages.’ They may have one partner in their lifestyle with whom the have a child, or several companions and children with all of them but them men rarely live in the same house as the women none-the-less . Whilst we Westerners may find this somewhat ‘promiscuous’ the practise is considered the norm within a Mosou society.

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To me, this sexual freedom and dominant position if women in Mosou is completely foreign and bewildering. I have grown up in a society that is still to an extent fighting for gender equality. Whilst by law we are seen as equal, it is not uncommon to still here stories on the news about men being paid ore than women for the same jobs. It is not unheard of for women to be approached at bars and despite saying NO being pursued. It is not considered horrific that in debates at school with boys I am told to “go and make them a sandwich” when they cannot come up with a response. In fact the other day I even got told I “throw like a girl” and It made me confused as to why that was being used to insult me? I am a girl!

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I sometimes wish our society was a little more like that of Mosou and not in the way in which I think women are superior to men, but women are seen as important and respected fro their role in society.

 

 

SWEATSHOP SECRECY.

There is no single way to define what a ‘Sweatshop’ actually is but in general the term can be used to describe a workplace where employees are subjected to unfair treatment and exploitation whether than be low wages, long hours, poor conditions of abuse. Sadly for those working in these environments, the vicious nature of them is very much cyclical. With low wages workers barely have enough money to get by, let alone have enough money to improve their lives. Unfoturnaltly for these people, they remain trapped in this continuous loop of exploitation…

The lack of an official definition of a sweatshop and the desire of the employers to keep them secret, it is increasingly difficult to assess to scale of them. This is further compounded by the fear of workers to lose their jobs if anything about working conditions in these factories caught public attention; after all it is unlikely that workers would be compensated with money or new jobs even if the truth took over the headlines!

Large companies often concentrate these sweatshops in LEDC (Less Economically Developed Countries) where citizens are willing to work forhttp://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm low

rates, long hours in often dangerous surroundings. The 1990’s saw a soar in these factories in Mexico which was followed by poor Asian countries in the 2000’s as companies found these places saturated with those willing to do more, for a lot less.

 

Many employers argue that by opening factories in these poorer areas they’re providing a person with money for them to help alleviate and avoid a life of poverty, however the miniscule hourly rates are not generally enough for individuals to maintain even the poorest quality of life, let a lone a comfortable one or anything beyond that. Green America’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program Director states that  “sweatshop watchdog groups continually find factories that pay illegal wages, lower even than the minimum.” Are the hourly rates really enough when we consider food, drink, sanity, childcare, healthcare, education, bills and mortgages/rent (if they’re fortunate enough to have this!)

Surely it is not unreasonable to ask these large companies, who frequently use sweatshops yet are making such large profits cannot merely raise their hourly rates even a little? Would the average individual not be willing to pay a couple of pounds extra for a pair of shoes had they known that the person on the other hand is getting their fair share. We talk of fair trade for farmers who pick our bananas, chocolate and coffee, we talk of animals rights and how ‘free range’ is SO much better yet we remain ignorant to the goings on behind the items on our back and the poor individuals who work relentlessly to make it. Life would be so much easier if clothes came with ‘sweatshop free’ labels or verification of some sorts like the boxes of Linda McCartney meat-free sausages. Sadly, this is not the case and does not look like it will be for some time and therefore we’re left to do our own research and tune ourselves in to these unrecognised issues.

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After watching a documentary about sweatshops I decided to write this post in hope someone will read it and re-evaluate where they source their clothes from. Albeit I have known on their existence for sometime but remained blind and lacked EFFORT to do anything about it. For this I am ashamed.

It is sad that this topic is not touched upon as often, yet everyone seems aware of it. Would you wear a top knowing it was made by a 14 year old in Jordan who has no time for an education and spend her entire wages (which equate to a few pennies for a 17 hours day work) on food for dinner that night that is not enough to feed her family of 6 and buy her mother’s medicine who is sick with a measly cold that she cannot afford to treat. No? You wouldn’t? But wait, aren’t you already?

I really hope this post opens someone’s eyes to the obvious and next time you shop you really consider where you’re sourcing the item from and how it was made. I’ve recently tried to start ‘smart’ shopping by getting more at charity shops, Ebay, swapping with friends and doing increasing research to forever expand my knowledge on what goes on behind our beloved brand closed doors.

If you want to read more, because I realise I have already written a lot, then I’m going to like some really good sites that break things down simply. I’m also going to link to a website that helps you find what brands are the good guys and which ones get the thumbs down from me. Finally there will be listed below some of my favourite ‘cruelty free’ clothing brands and my favourite documentaries to watch if you’re not a big reader…

http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/learn_hub.cfm

http://www.waronwant.org/sweatshops-china

Are your clothes made in sweatshops?

http://ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/ECA-Brand-List.pdf

MOMA.

On Saturday I went to the Museum of Modern Art Museum in Oxford avec my chum Anna who, being an art teacher in a school in Bristol herself, I thought might enjoy and appreciate a look around the exhibition (also it was free entry and we’re broke!) I’ve been once before but found the project on at the time (that centred around oranges??) rather bizarre and I didn’t ‘get’ it. The itty bitty museum was founded in 1966 and showcases copious amount of interactive and innovative art projects. The museum’s aim is to bring contemporary art to everyone and make it more accessible and enjoyable.

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Currently the museum is showcasing Anne Hardy’s FIELD project which uses a variety of audio, photography and sculptures with the combination of different colours, materials and textures in order to present a variety of ‘landscapes.’ You can read more about the exhibition and the artist herself here.

Not that the bar was set particularly high after the last visit, but this exhibition certainly exceeded expectations and I found it so much more interesting and enjoyable than that revolving around spherical fruit. Provided with a well-explained pamphlet I was actually able to understand the artists intentions behind her work, something that is very rare with exhibitions and I’m often left dumbfounded and headachy in desperate attempts to understand what they truly meant before giving up entirely and left disappointed.

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We had to take our shoes off and walk around this rectangular room covered in bright yellow felt full of weird and quirky sculptures (I confess, I felt a little like the wife in Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper!) Whilst completely baffled at the time and thinking that the swirly material on the floor was spaghetti, all was made clear in the next section. The spaghetti sculptures weren’t in fact a form of pasta but rather models of debris that the artist had swept up post the production of her ‘central’ piece (sadly I didn’t manage to get a good picture of this – sorry!) Alongside the bizarre reincarnations of this dust n shiz echoed odd noises which you find out are what Hardy thought the debris would sound like; I promise it was much cooler but just as mad as it sounds!

The exhibition was bright, fun and defiantly worth a little meander around if you’re in the area because it’s unusual, free and there’s something warming about appreciating and supporting ‘smaller’ and local artists.

MAKING MYSELF MINDFULL.

The human foot has 26 bones, 19 muscles and tendons, 33 joints and 107 ligaments. If we did the recommended 10,000 steps a day that is 185,000 movements just within one foot alone. That’s 350,000 movements in your feet. These movements that allow us to walk don’t even credit the movement require in the bending of our legs or the swinging of our arm.

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I considered this when I was on a walk with my dog the other day; how marvellous my feet are. I focused on the way my toes curl and uncurl with every step in order to grip onto the ground. I listened to the crunching of the leaves beneath my feet, revelling in the satisfaction that the sound bought me. I took note of my breathing and my heart, trying to fathom how my body could hold hundreds of thousands of miles of blood vessels with enough iron to create a 3-inch long nail inside. Our hearts beat between 60-80 beats per minute equating to over 3 billion beats a lifetime. Each beat when you pay attention seems so simple and as if cleverly co-ordinated by a machine but in reality each beat itself if far more complex involving contractions of the aorta and ventricles, AV and semilunar valves all controlled by the admission of an electrical currents between the nodes within the heart.  I spent a good minute of the walk solely homing in on these movements that go unrecognized and equally unappreciated each and every day. The 576 megapixels of my eye (far better than any Canon camera you can buy on Amazon) means I see the leaves dance to the rhythm of the wind and distinguish between 10 million different shades that the seasons provide. I can hear the songs the birds are singing and feel the bark peeling away from the trees towering over me, protecting me from the rain that feels fresh upon my face and is almost sweet to taste. These thoughts that I am thinking as I am walking are involving the signalling of nerve impulses to my brain at the mind-boggling motion of 250 miles per hour.

12111919_1202811039735543_5063788287946590384_n12112039_1202811249735522_950440401550360812_nI’ve been doing this a lot recently; thinking about the tiny and seemingly insignificant but actually vital miracles that I can perform. It is these thoughts that allow me to rationalize things and put situations into perspective when I can feel myself becoming out of touch with reality or overwhelmed by seemingly sizeable issues.  It is somewhat selfish of us to complain about muddy footprints on the floor or the windy weather of winter when every second of every day or bodies are carrying out functions outside of anything we can imagine in order to keep us ALIVE.12193390_1202811636402150_392834087128063760_n

Next time you feel stressed, ungrateful, anxious even, take notice of your senses, appreciate your surroundings and for a moment, just a minuscule moment of your day, appreciate the craftiness of your creation.

THAT TIME I WROTE A POEM.

When decluttering my room the other day in a desperate attempt to pass time and in hope that a cleaner space would improve mental clarity, I came upon my somewhat overflowing ‘memory box.’ Over the past few years I’ve accumulated a huddle of notes, cards, souvenirs and miscellaneous items that have sentimental value and couldn’t bare to part with (but simultaneously didn’t want lying around as clutter is my worst enemy!)

Amongst this bundle of joy was a poem I had written when I was 10 sloppily scribbled in the back pages of a me-to-you notebook which, from the overwhelming number of naked pages, I can assume I wasn’t that fond of.  Once giving the thing a quick read I thought that the 10 year old poet in me wasn’t too shabby and actually produced something rather endearing and amusing. For those reasons, I thought I’d share it contents with you:

10- year old poem

TTFN!