Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
There is no greater sorrow than to recall a time of happiness in misery.
Ib. v. 121 Dante Alighieri 1265 – 1321
Today has been a bad day, the worst I’ve had for several months in fact. The misery has consumed me, totally and completely. I feel gripped by sadness. The boy tries to pull me out of it; he suggests an outing to the park or a drink at our local but I am unmoving in my melancholy. I submerge myself in sadness, powerless to halt the tide of tears streaming river like from my deadened eyes.
Years ago during an episode of depression which had lasted for weeks, my father sat beside me on the bed where I was curled up like a child sobbing and stroking my tear sodden hair, he did his best to comfort me in the only way he knew how. ”You have to fight it darling, you can’t let it get the better of you because every day you lose to it is another day of your life.” Depression is like cancer; it creeps up on us when we least expect it. It strikes without warning, crawling quietly in to your mind to poison each and every thought. It feeds off your bodies resources and before you know it, it matters not that you are top of your class, dating the hottest guy in halls or doing your dream job all you can feel is sadness.
As I am reluctant to depress you all too much with more musings on misery and also in a desperate attempt to remind myself that I have been happy over the course of the last ten years, I decided to take a look through previous diaries and letters of the past for inspiration. I was rather pleased then to come across this surprisingly succinct passage. I actually remembered the feeling of that moment all those years ago and it gave me a little lift, just enough to lull me to sleep while the boy held me tight, soothing me to sleep by stroking my tear sodden hair.
19.1.2000 – 5.00 – Today I have felt truly happy; no false smiles that shelter uncried tears. Just me happy and laughing. Natural and unconscious. No simply going out of my way to impress and make things happen or going out of my way to frown at people and criticise. Note from Editor – this is obviously not something I would usually do, ha hem.
I looked out the window and the sky had turned the most perfect colour a gorgeous reddy, pink and the town had seemed to merge into a beach scene and a presence sort of passed over me and then I felt that everything was perfect.
Elinor O’Neill, 15-years-old
- Today’s dress is another from Hannah Cantrell. I feel bad that I have failed to give it the airing it deserved but the boy was very entertained by it – lots of legs plus magic mushrooms make boy happy.
Today, for the first time, my name has appeared in a byline at the top of a story for which I will be paid. It is very exciting for me but as I fear the story will bore anyone not from the borough I thought I might take this opportunity to publish here the first piece I ever had published. It is a poem, so I hope it will still please those here for the prose. When it appeared in a book of poems: 2001: A Poetry Odyssey, I was hurt. The publishers had added a postscript to the poem which placed it into a context which I was not comfortable with and was had only been happy to reveal through verse. I am leaving their lines aside this time as I want it restored to its natural state. I wrote it when I was 16-years-old so go easy with the slander on this, my former self.
It was half-four in the morning when they told me,
Silly o’clock as we would’ve called it.
I woke up hours later crying from a dream,
A dream where I’d lost you, I woke to the nightmare.
Lying in bed, I felt too numb to cry,
I could hear people speaking downstairs,
But their word couldn’t penetrate through my daze.
I cried teras of selfishness only for me,
You were gone, you’d left me wishing I was still with you.
Words of comfort offered by friends, seemed nothing but cliches,
And those who understood, I pushed away.
Indignant that they dared to compare their hurt to mine,
You were my sister, part of me.
Though confined to bed, I still hoped for a miracle.
But on the fourth day before you left, I broke down,
I hated to do it, to admit to myself and you,
Admit that no act of God was to come.
Elinor O’Neill (16)
St Paul’s RC Comprehensive School, Evington
- Today’s dress is another donation from collections by Hannah Cantrell. It is originally from Topshop and I had to pull it in with a clincher belt at work to make it a look a little more structured. The photos are taken outside in the back garden. I can tell how late this post is because looking out of the window I can see the same daffodils which have now opened up.
The Alps are so beautiful, I wish the boy was here. We have never had the chance to ski together but I know he would love it as much as I do. Today was a bit of a trial. It is horrible falling out with one’s family especially in a far away land where there is no room for escape.
My sister and I skied together today, for whatever reason we have always been a lot quicker to fall in than we are to fall out. My sister is a gem who is extremely forgiving and tolerant, I think it has something to do with being good at yoga. I was so glad she gave the piste another go as she has come on so much over the holiday and I didn’t want her to miss out on the last day to play at being nurse. We never got to ski together when we were children because she had gone off the sport by the time I was old enough to come along. The giants method of teaching is very much the die trying variety which my eldest sister did not take well to.
A couple of years ago however she decided to give it another chance and now she has her confidence back there will be no stopping her. I took her down a red run after I had checked it out to make sure it was suitable and she handled it better than me. I was half asleep after last nights drama and I fell over at least three times on the way down; at one stage my sister had to try and prevent collisions on the roadway as I was giggling too much to get up and had fallen foolishly on the corner of a particularly speedy hairpin bend.
I wish we could have just a little longer out here. It is so peaceful; every morning when I draw back the curtains the view is so fabulous I am convinced I am staring out at a giant scenic picture postcard.
- Today’s dress is from TK Maxx. It probably could have done with some kind of petticoat under it but thanks to difficult-jet’s luggage allowance I am rather short on accessories. The boots are Kurt Geiger and the tights are from Peacocks and though they were a bargain at only a pound they have unfortunately already fallen to bits but at least this means I hav one less thing I need to pack come tomorrow.
Today I fell off the wagon rather dramatically. In my defence I have been doing fairly well; other than a few drinks on a couple of special occasions over the past four weeks I have been surprisingly sober. I can not deny that I haven’t missed the drink; I love the grape and the grain as I do a long overdue conversation with a good friend so being without it has left me feeling a little lonely at times, particularly when my society consists of the suitably sozzled.
Though I had decided to do my best to have a booze free holiday it turns out not drinking in France is nearly as depressing as not smoking. When I tuck into a long lunch with a baby bubble beverage rather than one of their sweet stumpy beers I am looked at like a leper and feel like a right old bore. After all I say to myself I am on holiday and after all surely occupation of a different country means one must adopt their laws and customs. Surely I think by not drinking their delicious vino I am causing unintended offence.
After running through similarly logically sound arguments all day I finally fall well and truly off the wagon during dinner. I manage to convince myself that holidays are technically a special occasion and after all I have cause for celebration and this is the first time I have shared a meal with my family after getting my good news. It may be an excuse and I am perhaps kidding myself but it certainly feels like an occasion. We go to our favourite restaurant in Chamonix. Although The Hotel Eden do some of the most fanatic dishes in the whole of The Alps, their prices are pretty high and although I would love to go to their restaurant until I am employed it is just not realistic. Our favourite restaurant is one of the best value in the whole of Le Praz, a small village just outside of central Chamonix. It is only a five minute stroll from where we stay and their menu has I think stayed the same for the last five years.
It is one of those restaurants where as soon as you walk in you know who the owner is. The family who own it are often eating there themselves when we come in and the television stays on the sports channel for their pleasure. The y have not changed their menu or themselves to accommodate the influx of tourists into their village. We order in our very best French, desperate not to seem like the atypical arrogant anglais who can not be bothered to stretch his tongue to please his hosts. If we make a mistake she kindly corrects us and when there is an issue with translating the puddings she will switch to sign language and indulge us in our guessing games but she will not use the English tongue and for this I admire her. Once when we had fondue there the lady who owns the place along with her sports fanatic husband took pity on our peasant ways and showed us herself how best to coat the futons in the melted pot of cheesy gold.
We usually have the same, a special salad which has a poached egg on top as well as little bits of bacon and croutons drenched in oil. It is delicious and if I was more of a fool I would ask her for the recipe. The salads are followed by steaks, chips and more devilishly dressed salad, I do not want or care to know how many calories I consume in this meal but every squat, sit up or stair climb I have to do to burn it off will be totally worth it. Even I, the ketchup queen, will happily go without red sauce because everything is cooked so well it would seem an insult to injure it by adding one’s own accompaniments.
Tonight, there was just a little bit of tension at the start of the meal and as I have been fearing a repeat of last years family feuding I turned to the drink as a distraction. I find it hard to relax and just be and whether or not it is wrong or healthy having a drink just brings me down a level and loosens me up. I am always on such a tightly wound string it is nice to lose a little control once in a while and as I had told myself earlier that day I am after all on my holidays. Though I did my best to take it easy, technically speaking the tablets I am taking do not exactly advise alcohol. Two glasses of delicious table wine later I was feeling fabulously free and when the owners decided after our drunken debate with a table of Irish men about who would win the rugby the next day we all drank to France’s victory with a liquor from 1946. It totally finished us all and the walk back was hilarious. I am standing in the photos but many did not work as I was swaying ever so slightly.
On the plus side on our return to the apartment rather than falling into the trap of desperately trying to keep the party going I got myself a glass of water, watched a bit of the football until I was forced to admit that all I could see was a red and green blur I slid under the duvet, typed a few words of my blog and slunk into the loveliest sleep I have had in days. I may well have fell off the wagon, but at least I didn’t get hurt.
- Today’s dress is a kaftan borrowed covertly from my mother whilst she was away in Chamonix. Knowing the only way she would find out is if she read the blog I decided to chance it as she should be doing her essay so should certainly not be browsing through her daughters drones. I know it is ridiculous but I wore it with a beret as when in Rome and all. The green jumper was loaned to me, with permission and everything from my older sister. I love it and am thinking of accidentally acquiring it during the course and the panic of our packing. We are sharing a room at the moment and it is great fun. The top is apparently from Asda and the shirt dress is from Marks & Spencer Autograph collection. I think it is meant to be a top. The pictures were taken by my sister’s boyfriend, James Cornish who is quite the amateur photographer and kept doing strange things like practice shots.
Sometimes I can be a total eejot. On Thursday before I headed up to Manchester I had a choice to make which would have a direct impact on my health. For months now I have been having somewhat heated disputes with some of the lovely ladies at Harborough Medical Centre. Many of them seem to struggle with the idea that when one is on a weekly repeat prescription the prescription will be repeated every week. Time after time I have gone down to collect the little green slip to be told that it hasn’t been processed. When I ask why the usual response they give is that they didn’t process it as it had already been done the week before. The whole thing exasperates me as if I miss even a day’s tablet it can leave me in a bit of a pickle. The tablets have a very short life cycle so to go a day without them is dangerous because you can be visited by rather unpleasant side effects which can include nausea, insomnia, increased irritability and of course my personal favourite suicidal thoughts.
It is because I am afraid of these side effects ever returning that I try to make sure I keep on top of my prescriptions. When I discovered earlier this week then that my consultant had forgotten to write me up a prescription for the changes she had made to my tablets I quickly got on the phone to try to ensure it was sorted out before I had to travel up North the next day. Once again the receptionist assured me they could get it ready for the next day provided I rang through to my consultants office to ask them to send the instruction over by fax. After all this faffing about the next day when I called up the surgery to be told the prescription had not been processed I lost it just a little bit especially when she informed me in the most patronising voice possible that she would do what she could but it couldn’t be hurried and after all “haven’t we had this problem before.” Luckily I managed to bite down on my lip before I came out and told her that of course we have had this problem before because you are seemingly incapable of following basic instructions and choose to either lose my prescription or just ignore it as though it were a particularly unpleasant coloured post it note. After nearly drawing blood whilst praying for patience I asked if she might possibly be able to tell me when my medication which I depended on for clarity of thought might be ready. As the answer was as vague as I had come to expect we did not part on the best of terms and after deciding that I was not prepared to put my life on hold every week whilst waiting for a green slip I set off in a tiny temper to Leicester and it wasn’t until today that I remembered I hadn’t taken an anti-depressant for two days and had even missed my mood stabiliser the night before.
I feel particularly idiotic because it is only a few days ago now that I was lecturing a friend who came off her anti depressant without first consulting with her doctor. After booking her two appointments, one with the doctor and one with the hairdresser; she had been so low since she came off them that she couldn’t be bothered to wash her hair; I tried to find out why it was she had gone cold turkey all of a sudden. It turned out that the tablets the doctor had put her on had left her feeling disconnected and as she had been prescribed them by a doctor who was not her own GP she had not felt confident enough to ask him about side effects. I felt so angry because I have been prescribed similar pills in the past without being given any details about probable side effects and when one’s head starts to feel as though it is lined with cotton wool it can be a fairly frightening experience. After she went to the doctors and saw her GP they both decided together that counselling rather than citalopram is the answer. What is annoying about this scenario is that had the doctor in question advised she spoke first to her own personal GP she could have avoided four weeks of fuzzy headedness and the inevitable low which occurs when one comes off of anti depressants suddenly. Talking of which…
I am annoyed at myself for not sorting things out sooner and for not going to the drop in clinic yesterday before the side effects of stopping got going. When I saw my consultant on Monday she decided that in spite of the icky side effects I have experienced with increased tiredness and sickness she still wanted us to increase the dosage to its optimum level; because of this when I came off the stabiliser suddenly as I did yesterday I am left dizzy and feeling as sick as a dog. I manage to pull myself together enough to admit to the boy that I have neglected to keep on top of my tablets and he kindly agrees to come into town with me to act as a buffer against the Saturday traffic. Unfortunately with my heightened sense of smell I notice every unpleasantness in town, be it the smell of sweaty Ugg clad feet or the second-hand smoke which seems to be spat out of every second person we pass. In the end I have to clutch my hand to my mouth and run through the Arndale to the safety of the clinic where a sterile room free of odour awaits. The doctor kindly sorts me out enough drugs for the weekend but I am still sick and end up chewing down a pack of anti nausea tablets to keep my gag reflexes at bay.
I am always thankful that we are blessed in our country with the NHS but there are so many silly rules and regulations for the staff to follow that I often think there is little time left for them to treat the patient. My friend was prescribed her medication in a consultation which lasted less than five minutes, all she needs is someone to talk to and yet there is such a massive waiting list for counselling that she has been advised to seek the services of a free provider or to pay for it herself privately. The underfunding of the mental health services is crazy when one considers that mental illness costs the government a fortune in benefits and statutory sick payments. Surely if more was spent on it in the first place many people would never have to take as much time away from work and may not even need to be treated for such extended periods of time. If doctors had more time to give to their patients or if there were more trained counsellors employed by the NHS I am sure that a lot of people would not even have to turn to tablets as a quick fix. Tablets can help but they are only ever a temporary solution, if the GP neglects to find out the cause of the suffering it may never get solved and as soon as the tablets are gone the black dog will rear its ugly head once again. Saying that if you neglect to take them or come off them unexpectedly you will get a rocky ride so it is best to discuss it with your doctor first. Throwing up and falling over on a Saturday night may be acceptable behaviour in someone who has been on a bender but when you have been free of alcohol for weeks and are suffering because you were too stubborn to wait for your tablets you really only have yourself to blame.
- Today’s dress is on loan from Monica Kenny. Apparently it is meant to be a top but knowing as she does my love of leg revealing dresses she thought it would make quite a nice frock. I am loving the pink tights and care not whether it makes the dress look taccy. The shoes as is often the case are Kurt Geiger and the photo was taken outside in the garden with the use of the tree and our first flower of the year in the boy’s back garden. There was a fox hiding in the brambles behind us but he scampered soon after seeing my scary pink pins. I had a few wardrobe malfunctions whilst doing a gig review at Fuel but luckily I was facing the band and not the audience so casualties were kept to a minimum.
Last night when having dinner with friends we got on to the topic of the boy to discuss my boyfriend, who was also at the meal. I have never been a fan of the term partner, it just seems a little too grown up and ambiguous. Alternatively to refer to him as my boyfriend feels too personal for me and he has said from the start he does not want me using his name for similar reasons. And so I settled on the boy when I started the blog because to me at least it sounded cute and similar to “the one” which if I believed in all that rubbish, I might say he was but I don’t so it just sounds cute and nice.
I am surprised I admit by the amount of male backlash to the term, girls seem to understand it is used affectionately, but male friends and readers, whether seriously or just to play the devils advocate, TE you know who you are, suggest they view it as a derogatory label and one reader even suggested he gave up on the posts because one of them “went all feminist”. A lot of them have a problem with the term because they think it suggests I see him as below me as being under the thumb. They also support their argument with historical about to times gone by when slaves were called boy by the masters in the plantations of the American deep south, which upsets me as I have studied the history and literature of the time and it is a rather upsetting comparison. I had never considered any of these issues so I guess I wanted to know whether any of you my lovely readers have an opinion on whether the boy should be no more. I have come up with several other terms including: The Drummer, GP, Mi-guy, C-dawg (his not mine I assure you) but am open to suggestions and your thoughts. Until I get any particularly strong reaction however I will be sticking with the boy, as both myself and my guy are happy with that and as everyone knows there are only two people who ever know what really goes on in a relationship so if those two are happy it really has no bearing whatever anyone else thinks, unless you are in an open relationship or have a lot of threesome of course.
The dress I am wearing today is from John Rocha, my mother got it for me last year in the Debenham’s sale, and though I first put it to the back of my wardrobe with little thought I have really warmed to it. I wore it to death during my journalism course in Manchester as in a city where rain is the natural forecast it is lovely and bright and the burnt oranges mean you can get away with wearing it in winter and throughout the year. It is one of those dresses which makes one feel feminine and free simultaneously. The colours on it and the pattern is fabulous and the unusual length makes it rather lady-like whilst preventing it getting covered in the tar which coats the jeans and hemlines of every pedestrian in the city. Usually I love wearing it with flip-flops in the summer and patterned black tights and ankle boots in the winter, today though I had only slouchy boots, green shoes or pink tights so I spent most of the day looking like I had an unfortunate affair with the easter bunny and telly tubbies combined.
My greatest memory of wearing this dress was one wonderful day in March last year, which I think will always rate highly in my top hundred memories of all time. Myself and some of my closest friends from my NCTJ course had decided to take a trip to the countryside bringing with us every newspaper on the stand, a couple of blankets and wearing ridiculously unsuitable gear. We took my little red lupo Freddie which was a fabulous car which could usually zip past a Porsche in seconds but with the weight of five people and the press struggled to make the speed limit. Freddie, named so because he looked like a little frog with his cute eyes and ribbit mouth was my first car and though I was devestated when my brother sold it late last year I would not have been here writing this now had I crashed whilst driving the little red one. He may have been zippy but he was nowhere near as boxy as Foxy and could well have crumpled by the third spin.
We went to Lyme Park on the outskirts of Manchester and spent the day walking, frolicking and lazing in the grass reading the papers. One of my friends had a camera and the photos from the day are spectacular and really show how well we were feeling. it was at the beginning of the course and we all felt so full of possibility and delight at finally following our dreams and having met such good friends along the way. We were also joined by one of the girl’s boyfriends; they were in the first flushes of love and I think myself, the other girl and the other guy took pleasure in watching them together as they were so cute and couldn’t keep their hands off each other – play-fighting and cuddling all the day.
The best part of our day was when whilst walking we came across a lake, or possibly it was a reservoir hidden from view by a strong stone wall and some tricky looking barbed wire. Me and my friends climbed over, stripped down to our underwear and went for what was the shortest swim of my life. The water was gorgeous, so clear and ice-cold. It was the kind of experience which shocks all of your senses into acknowledging the beauty and splendour of the world in which we live; even if we had to leave the city to remind ourselves of the beauty of our county. Heading back to the car after I wrapped the dress round me and pulled on a warm cashmere polo-neck thankful to be alive and to have such fantastic friends but shivering nevertheless.