International Men’s Day

Hey guys! Look, you’ve got a day! You’ve had a celebratory day since 1992! Isn’t that something? If you type ‘International Men’s Day‘ into Google (or any other popular search engine), it’s like, right there. As quick and easy as typing the same thing on Twitter on International Women’s Day on March 8th, if not quicker – because you don’t need to add the words, ‘urgh, why haven’t we got a……..’

So, thank you for all that you’ve done: hunting the animals to feed the village, for navigating the high seas to other countries to pillage and maraud and kill and maim and conquer. But at least you took the good stuff and brought it back home. For all the wars – they were fucking awesome. For keeping us troublesome women in hand since time immemorial (because lord knows we need it, with our fangled ideas and opinions and stuff), for being in charge of more or less everything, leaders of armies and of countries, monarchs,

for leading trade and industry and letting us paint pretty pictures back at home and practise needlepoint and sing like a lark for your blokey cigar-smoking, brandy-drinking mates before being sent away with the other wimmin, so you can discuss the serious matters of the day; like politics, sport and our arses, boobs and angelic voices. We loved that, we did. For handing us menial tasks, for finally permitting us the vote, and to have our own bank accounts (1975 Spain: abolition of the permiso marital – which required married women to have their husbands’ consent for nearly all economic activities, including employment, ownership of property and traveling away from home). NINETEEN SEVENTY-FIVE.

For keeping us a secret when we did make groundbreaking discoveries and great steps forward in science and medicine. Limited recognition until more recently. For all the art you brought to the world and were rightfully recognized for, for all the literature you’ve written and rightly been recognized for – of which I am a great fan – but also for allowing us to work under masculine pseudonyms in the early days. I mean come on, who wants to read a book by Elizabeth or look at a painting by Florence. For dominating cinema, politics, education (Cambridge University, UK: the first women students were examined in 1882 but the first attempts to make women full members of the university did not succeed until 1948). NINETEEN FORTY-EIGHT. For bringing us comedy and television and theatre and tech – the performing of and managing of.

You have your special day too, it’s right here, right now. If March 8th sticks in your craw so much, organise a bloody gathering/march/celebration/party/a naked protest – whatever you want. Do it, we’re right behind you. Both literally and metaphorically…… things are changing chaps and we’ve all got to learn to live with the changes, and each other. It’s inevitable and no amount of keyboard warrior action is going to stop progress.

As the old saying goes: ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’….. and you can’t win this one, you can’t beat it. Or us. Because that means continuing to keep us down. And there are laws against that now. As Hillary Rodham Clinton said on 5th September 1995, at the United NationsFourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”

Let us celebrate with you on 19th November. Let us celebrate your achievements, which are boundless. Alongside that, give us a reason to celebrate you listening to us, welcoming us on board and by your side, let us celebrate your embracing of equality as much as your contribution to everything listed above.

We really, really (like really, really) want to do that.

Happy International Men’s Day.

Kisses

AP

xx

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I fell off the…..

date wagon ….. and I feel as guilty as if I’d got back on the crack after successfully completing rehab. It’s like I signed an invisible agreement with the dating police and made a promise to the people I love, that I’d never do it again – and now they’re all ‘very disappointed’ by my actions this week. Curiosity they say, killed the cat – and it has almost killed my recent positive, zen-like self in less than seventy-two hours. Buzz kill central.

I don’t know why I do it. Maybe I expect to log into a dating app, and be greeted by the handsome mush of the man of my dreams surrounded by a golden glow akin to the Ark of the Covenant scene in the Indiana Jones movie (before the face melting begins).

Accompanied by maybe a choir of angels – or at the very least a harp player materialising. That. Has. Not. Happened. Now listen, we all like to put our best face on our profiles, it’s our fluffing of feathers, puffing of chest, beating of drums, our courtship dance. ^hears Sir David Attenborough’s dulcet tones somewhere in the distance^….. But Sunday date looked like a worn-out, perpetually henpecked, heavy-smoking, grey version of his online self; and it made me cross. Now I’ll admit, my profile photos are full-on face full of natural daylight (and matching ‘no make-up’ makeup) – excellent for your best glowy self – fresh out of Sunday morning bed and shower. They are also mostly my ‘good side’. A good night’s sleep and mascara will work wonders for your chops. Also, there’s a photo of me and the sibs arseing around a couple of weeks ago. Natch. But, but – they’re all the last two months. With the exception of the one where I’m absorbing the vibrations of a didgeridoo into my chest. That was last summer. (Kinda liked it.)

Today I have had a really cool date with a doctor of medieval history WITH A BEARD AND TATTOOS, which was sssoooo good, and ssssooooo interesting and sooooo easy – but with no ‘spark’. Sod’s. Fucking. Law. What is the ‘x-factor’? And no, I refuse to ask Simon Cowell. He knows absolutely nothing. Do you know where any of his ‘stars’ are now? Exactly.

So, back on the wagon it is, and further down the road of animal adoption. Although the shine is even wearing off that now, the more I think of the compromises I’ll have to make. I’ve already run out of this rotor of potential dates – after only two. So, roll on Portugal, Germany and Christmas. And let’s see where the new year takes us.

Man? Or dog? Or just me.

Reasons why I don’t have kids #71

They are little fun-stuff-queue-jumpers, and there’s nothing more annoying than that combination……. *harumphs a little*.

Last weekend saw a visit from my brother and sister to celebrate a significant birthday. My sister and I planned and connived and successfully filled a weekend with fun and shenanigans for our brother, which included a visit to CosmoCaixa, for the *Robots exhibition. (Highly recommended if you’re planning a trip to Barcelona in the not too distant future). The museum is fantastic, with or without an installation full of Terminator precursors, and well known for its interactivity. Hence our trip. After saying how heartening it was to see so many children there with their parents or school trips, and **lauding the teenage volunteer who talked us around the communal insect feature; I noted with interest the people who were indeed not there with kids. We were few and far between and also the majority of us without children were loved-up couples – who I had an enormous urge to shove in the piranha tank. Not because they were so in love (well maybe a little bit), but because they were doing most of the love in front of the interesting stuff I was trying to see and read about. ^stands up a states^ ‘I’m Anne, and I’m a geek.’ #sorrynotsorry. Time and a place, people; and in front of the Flooded Forest ain’t it if you want to avoid the wrath of an irritated Pank and value your limbs. But it wasn’t just this, it was the curious glances from parents, seeing/hearing us (me) squeal with joy as the pendulum almost knocked over a pin, and our collective oohs and aaahhhs at the various exhibits around the five floors. Joy and wonder is for adults too, people! It’s a sad state of affairs if you think it strange that adults can enjoy these things without the excuse of taking the kids, to be honest. Okay, yeah granted, I’d be suspicious if an adult turned up to a ball pit, kicked off their shoes and enthusiastically launched themselves in or went to a park and took to the tiny slide or went bonkers on the chicken on a spring (although it has been done. Natch). But come on! The place is amazing and the interactive displays are awesome. Let me have my fun! I paid my ticket price. More curious still were the looks, when it didn’t actually occur to me to get off the things, when groups of small people started gathering. I want to finish whatever it is I’ve started, goddam it. But the disapproval was palpable and my sister and I buckled under the pressure of a dozen hard stares and moved along from the robots with which we were playing pairs and tic tac toe. Albeit reluctantly. I was not hogging the only swing in the park, yaknowwadamsaying?

Forgetting your own fun and not playing with the stuff that’s readily available to play with regardless of age, is my ‘reasons why I don’t have kids’ #71

*I wonder if it’s at all easy to guess our age bracket from the things we planned. Said with tongue firmly in cheek. (For the record: we drank booze too!)

**All joking aside, she was amazing. It’s a fantastic scheme that the museum operates for young people. I felt proud on behalf of her parents! She really knew her stuff and explained everything in her third language, English, for my brother and sister. No mean feat. Wonderful young lady.

The good man refuge

I’m toying with the idea of adopting an animal. I’ve been looking for a few weeks at animal rescue shelters, and all I want is a masía so I can take in the saddest dog in the world, the twelve-year old abuela Frenchie and the one-eyed cat that survived a fire, and all their mates.

But there are just two things stopping me – commitment and responsibility. Natch. As much as I would love an adorable little face greeting me upon my arrival after work, the cost, the tie and the reduced freedom to nip off for a weekend are all freaking me out. Although I have had a dog in the past, it was many moons ago and he lived with my ex-husband in Wales while I was studying in and ripping up London, so it hardly counts. Actually it doesn’t count at all, because add to that that we had a garden and a beach down the road, and it renders the whole ‘I used to have a dog’ thing completely irrelevant. Taking him for a walk consisted of letting him off the leash and watching him run.

It is true that my life here has calmed down considerably over the last two years or so, so there would be no ‘not going home at all for two days after a night out because things got a little crazy and then you met someone hot’, but it still scares the bejeezus out of me that a tiny half hour later than regular feeding time would kill my charge and I’d never be able to live with myself. I did have sole custody of a goldfish once, in Liverpool, that I rescued from a travelling fair. Pale and small and weak, Formby (named after the town I found him in), grew into a spoilt, feisty fish with his own castle. You may scoff – but he had real personality and survived for five whole years. No mean feat for a goldfish (or me keeping something other than myself alive). He swam into his castle to die which is where I found him only after thinking to myself two days later, ‘I haven’t seen Formby for two days’. Considering the tank was less than half a metre long, this was a bit lax on my part and I convinced myself I’d neglected him to death. I cried for days. And there in lies another problem. I’m not very good at goodbyes. Everything dies, so we can love something all their lives and at the end of it, they go to the big animal shelter in the sky. How do you cope with that?

Some people have said to me I should ‘get back in the dating game’, or ‘what you need is a man’. I thought that was supposed to be the other way around. No partner, get cat. And they’ve said it as if it’s as simple as adopting a four-legged friend. If it were, I would have been scrolling through portrait pictures of candidates at the good-men refuge, looking forlornly out of bars towards the sun, running excitedly towards volunteers with balls in their mouths, curled up in their fluffy beds, or peeking curiously over the top of a basket. Reading their sad profiles of how they were abandoned, lived in an industrial park and survived a fall from a balcony, gaining a severe limp in the process. I could go to a decent-chap shelter where they would excitedly run to the pen doors vying for my attention, trying to impress. And the one who wrapped himself around my legs and looked up at me with adoring eyes might have a chance at coming home with me. But unless they had a face as adorable as Domi in the photo above, I considerably doubt any would make my heart melt quite as much.

But of course it’s not that simple to find a partner (especially if you’re currently on the dating wagon), or indeed the courage to take care of something else. So for now, I think I’ll just continue to scroll and concentrate on trying to overcome my fears of commitment in the hope that at some time in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to share my time and energy with something other than myself. At this stage though, it might just have to be another fish.

Daniel Craig and *that* papoose

Right, listen up. Just because some of us don’t have the children, doesn’t mean we don’t likes the children. Some of us. And it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t likes the men who haves the children and especially those that are full on, hands-on doting papis of the children. Case in point, Daniel Craig.

A photo of James Bond carrying his new baby in a papoose last week, prompted that paragon of alpha masculinity Piers Morgan, to call the actor ’emasculated’. What followed quite literally made all my baby-making equipment cry out for a sweep to get up there pronto to clear out the cobwebs, a fire to smoke out the spiders and a squirt of WD40, in order to grind back into action. It doesn’t mean I want one of my own, but it sure as hell means Mr Craig shot up the hotometer by a gazillion in a nanosecond. That’s a lot and it’s fast; in case you’re wondering. And if you think that photo was attractive, I strongly advise you to take a glimpse at the Twitter thread that followed Morgan’s complete and utter nonsense. Ladies and gentlemen – I have never fallen so deeply in love with so many men in so little time – to quote Churchill. Father after father after father posted their photos of themselves with their offspring snuggled into them like some sort of collective paternal siren luring me onto the craggy rocks of motherhood…… Dear Lord alive, for the love of sweet baby Jesus and Holy Mary Mother of God!!! *crosses self*, the minxes.

The attraction of an actively involved father needs no explanation, but I am of course going to, nonetheless. Natch. There is something devastatingly attractive about a man so comfortable and openly loving and caring of his offspring. Something primal, I’m sure, that comes from the very depths of your ancient ancestors’ ovaries that tells you he’s a keeper – not afraid to demonstrate love and affection and a protector. Swoon, swoon and swoon some more. Then there’s also the beauty of dating a father, which is that you get all the good stuff and loveliness and love and affection and the good fun times (I quite literally lost my adult mind with excitement at Port Aventura attraction park last year, with my ex and his kids), and you don’t have all that other stuff. You know…… hhhmmm, what’s it called? *clicks fingers*…. Eerrrmmm, oh yeah, yeah…….. responsibility!

So quite literally everyone’s a winner. Baby – bonds (pardon the pun) with daddy and grows up to have a healthy un-fucked-up relationship with him, hot papi himself – he gets all the sweet loving from everyone (children, own and others’, mums at school and his partner). And ultimately Annie P (insert your name here) who takes home the ultimate prize; a man in touch with his own feelings, happy expressing them and so comfortable in his own masculinity that he’d probably put her in that sling, if she asked him nicely, and not feel ’emasculated’.

A man who is not scared that wearing his baby in public will cause his penis to fall off, well, there ain’t nothing sexier than that.

Reasons why I don’t have kids #70

Oh good Lord – the memories! All the bloody memories….. not just in your head brain. Physical ones too.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday while getting ready for work, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, in which they were talking about decluttering and also creating a personal timeline. The premise of the timeline was to reduce the possible stress of trying to remember certain occasions in your life; by recording when you did the stuff, where you did the stuff, the addresses of where the stuff was done. So, should you suddenly need to remember, say, which year was the summer you had a snog and a fumble with the hottest boy in school, or which date you fell off your bike on the way home from the hotel kitchen job which left a two inch scar on your left knee, or indeed which school toilet cubicle it was that had ‘Panky loves a good spanky ‘ scrawled in twelve inch letters – you would have a handy little reference to consult. The podcast actually referred to filling in an application form that required five previous addresses and her daughter’s volunteer work, but honestly – I think it’s open to interpretation.

Then there was the decluttering, and it led me to think: I live in thirty five square metres, which is full – where the hell would I keep all the stuff of the child/children? I literally love to declutter, I do it two or three times a year. There is no greater satisfaction than plonking a heaving bin bag of clothes onto the counter of a charity shop (except that the reason they are in the bag is my ever increasing arse), or seeing newly revealed and dusted surface space. You may argue that maybe love, good sex, exercise or getting a pay rise is more satisfying, but as I’m not currently experiencing any of those things, I’ll take the former. And as a person who is not particularly fond of looking backwards, reminiscing and who actively elimates whole chunks of time from her head (it is something I’m exploring with my therapist), I’d find it incredibly difficult to find a good enough reason to keep those adorable little babee bootees.

What is wrong with you people!? ‘Sold out’

My mum has a lock of my baby blonde baby hair, for example. Honestly, it only serves to remind me that my hair game was at its strongest when I was one or two. And for all families there’s all the pictures, paintings, scribbles and constructions. The school projects, the text books (are they still a thing?), school reports, record of achievements and certificates from sports days, martial arts belts and music and/or ballet grades. The first shoes, the christening outfit (possibly), the junior school blazer or tie, the class/year photos of every single school year from year dot. Some people, I’m told, even keep that crusty bit of umbilical chord that plops off, (are you actually shitting me?! *boak*). Sometimes this can be found in a box along with milk teeth and that baby hair I was talking about – like some kind of weird voodoo doll preparation kit, for when your offspring inevitably piss you off at around age fourteen.

I’m not overly sentimental, nor am I really one for keepsakes and with that in mind, I know I’d be an epic disappointment when my kids were home for Christmas or some other annual event (once a year with me is more than enough), and decided to recover some old ‘treasures’…… Imagine the reaction to, ‘oh yeah, I ran out of space so had to free some up, I had a big clear out and burned everything on a bonfire in the back and the salvageable stuff has gone to charity. But you’ll be delighted to hear I did keep the human remains – you just never know when those might come in handy.’ *big self-satisfied, cheesy grin*.

Eagerly discarded keepsakes and memories, and not ruling out using voodoo on your own kids is my ‘reasons why I don’t have kids’ #70.

The ghost of (almost) lovers past

Wow! Ain’t nothing makes you feel a million dollars, like an ex-almost-lover from some years ago, getting in touch out of the blue to suss out the sex sitch. Amaright!? *offers hands up for a double high-five*. I’m right, aren’t I?

Yeeeeaaah, not so much. I know I’ve been oozing positive vibes an’ all that, what with my recently-discovered-inner-peace-slightlyevangelical-meditating-sober-hippyness; but seriously, Universe? I woke up yesterday to a message from French Charles Manson (I have very strange taste), telling me he had woken up thinking about me. I’m going to guess that very same waking-upness was in the bed where he sleeps with his girlfriend, in the beautiful country house they’ve renovated over the last couple of years that I haven’t heard from him. Mate, what is that? We went on a date maybe three years ago: ten minutes of tense shiftiness, coffee, then chatting on WhatsApp, another coffee date and then dinner and an invitation home – where he promptly told me he was freaked out because he was actually living with a girlfriend who he hoped would ‘sense he’d almost been unfaithful and up her game’. Evicted. Sharpish. He was lucky his clothes didn’t go over the balcony. You couldn’t make it up. So what’s with the message yesterday, dude? A feeble attempt at flirtatious chat, gave me the idea that he was on a reconnaissance mission. That being: would I be up for it, as he was domestically bored again.

Two words: F*ck. You.

It’s not the first time it’s happened, either. Last year before I moved, I heard from the sculptor after three years. Fascinating (read eccentric) chap, I thought, ‘hell yeah, why not? It’s been three years, be nice to have a catch up, talk about his art and stuff.’ Two beers later he was offering to walk me home (because he’s like, such a gent and stuff), in the broadest of daylight, so I could ‘show him the flat’. Unless I’m mistaken, I understood this to mean ‘my vagina’…….. This big girl didn’t need escorting anywhere. Or a gynae check. Two days later a 2am message awaited me when I woke up, asking if I preferred to have sex with him or go to the cinema. Umm, if I can be perfectly honest with ya here, Dali – neither. A screenshot of his message, a firm but fair appraisal of his too much smoking, charmless sexual prowess from when we dated when I first arrived in Barcelona, and a threat to send the shot of his message to his girlfriend (the MOTHER OF HIS NEW BABY) if I heard from him again – shut him right down.

Seriously, guys. Take some advice from your Aunty Anne, because as much as she may think you’re mostly a bit shabby, she’d like to help a little. Here’s the thing: pretty much admitting boredom is the reason for your unexpected contact, and laziness to not go out and make any kind of effort in finding a new outlet (as misguided as it is), literally scrolling through your old contacts and eliminating the marrieds/newmothers/emigrateds/deads – yeah that, that’s not cool. At all. Oh, and DON’T DO IT IF YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP. How about you make a little effort to keep the relationship alive? There’s a novel idea. And when I say that – it doesn’t mean by almost having sex in order to float other lady pheromones back into your home to give your partner a kick in the ass.

Surprise her, cook her dinner, buy flowers, fill the flat with candles for when she gets home. Or whatever floats both your boats. (Ponies/diamonds optional depending on budget). Re-seduce her. Maintaining or rekindling relationship passion is not solely down to your other half. And idly scrolling through your ‘little black WhatsApp contacts‘ until you find one you dated twice a gazillion years ago, who is still alive and still single – well, well that’s just plain offensive.

Anne Pank:

Alive –

Single –

Desperate – on your way you ignorant, lazy pig. *smiles, curtsies*

(Oh, and no need to thank me for the advice: you are very welcome.)

AP xx

Reasons why it might have been cool to have kids #1

Alright, alright…… settle down! Don’t get excited/panic, Hell hath not frozeneth over (unlike my ovaries), but you might have to pull up a chair and have some smelling salts to hand. Right. I have not had a radical change of heart in any way shape or form but, I have recently found myself agreeing with the late, great soothsayer Whitney Houston that – I believe the children are indeed, our future…….

No, really.

These last two years have been a real eye-opener for me, as I have quietly come to accept (with some objection) that I am indeed, a bona fide adult. And with that, I see myself observing what young people are saying and doing around the world, from the perspective of a grown-up, using words like ‘the kids’ and ‘yoof’, with no air apostrophes in sight. I also realise that I could have given birth to any one of them, and without even being a gymslip mum. I could have, like, a twenty-five year old or something! Me! *makes immediate appointment to have one of those cryotherapy session thingies*. I’ve watched in admiration as they have organised rallies, demonstrations and protests, and formed pressure groups and campaign movements across the globe – speaking out confidently, speaking up and taking charge of their own futures and destinies. And I’ve wished I could catapult myself back to that age so that I could join them. They are rabble-rousers, trouble-makers, making the kind of ‘good trouble’ Congressman John Lewis advocated in 2016. Failing the appearance of Marty and Doc to whisk me back to my childhood, I’ve also thought that it might have been pretty cool to see any child I might have had, grow up to be politically engaged and rebelling all over the bloody place. I mean, can you even begin to imagine how proud you would be if you’d helped make Malala, Emma Gonzales, the founders of Our Future Our Choice, the young people who fight for education and freedom and challenge politicians daily in the street, on their marches and in the media? They are survivors and fighters, they are mighty and I am in awe of every single one of them.

What I had was Spitting Image, a year as head girl (which I took very seriously as a student representative of my high school), student representative in my second year of university, marching against student loans, an impatience to cast my first vote and rebellious streak; that narrowly avoided taking a former employer to tribunal for unfair dismissal. Mediation solved our problem before it got out of hand. Long story short, the employer in question was an old high street stalwart. *crosses self* RIP. A friend and I gave the required six week’s notice of our finishing time on a forthcoming Christmas eve, as was laid out in the contract. Our branch manager dismissed it and told us we would work late – we left at our own time anyway when the day arrived. On leaving, the manager said, “your contract states that you will do anything I say.” Eeerrrmmm, it really didn’t and this was like a red rag to a bull. Would he speak to older employees like this? Would he speak to male employees like this? Probably not and definitely not. But a sixteen and seventeen year old girl were easy to push around, or so he thought. First thing we asked ourselves once we were outside, was, ‘Shit! Does it say that?’ And then we went to the pub. As a consequence we were summoned to the office the following week and sacked on the spot for gross insubordination. Gross insubordination? Moi? Wasn’t this for murder or theft? Not two gobby girls standing their ground, surely? We got our heads together, read the contract in detail and decided the only course of action was to write to important people, from the top down. So we started with the chairman and CEO, obvs. Then regional managers then our own branch manager to inform him that we had written to the others about him. He. Was. Not. Best. Pleased. Over a three week period, we were interviewed by various people, individually, together and with the boss. And were finally reinstated. D accepted and handed in her notice immediately and I stayed for a month more, just to see his face every day as I arrived cheerily, to stock up the soft toys and St. Valentine display. Then I went too. Ok listen, it was only a part-time shop job, but to us it was pretty big to fight for our rights. And with no legal and/or adult help, it was a bit scary.

This is in no way, shape or form a comparison to our fighters today, but illustrates a certain pig-headedness that I’m sure, would have inevitably trickled down to offspring and most definitely would have been encouraged (but only outside the home, natch). Schools, social circles, work, university, politics – hell, I’d probably be right there with them on the frontline. Much to their chagrin, I’m certain. Poor kids, all they’d probably want was a bog standard pushy, stage-school mum…… aaahhh. So, these brave young people, confident young people, socially conscious young people – they are growing in number and growing in power. They refuse to be shut down or put in the corner and I admire them so much for it. They really have been the most uplifting and positive thing to come from the horrors of the last couple of years, and the unique voice that gives me a glimmer of hope for a better future. It might have been pretty cool to raise a rabble-rouser. There are no guarantees of course and they could have grown up to be ‘horse on ladder‘ at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest – it’s the luck of the draw. But, I would like to think that my bolshy influence might have rubbed off a little and certainly my active encouragement and support.

And that is why Generation Z activists are my ‘reasons why it might have been cool to have kids’ #1.

*drink it in people, it may never happen again.

Haaaaa….lle…lujah!

I’m founding my own church. Can I get an AMEN! Who’s in? *claps, whoops and cheers*. I am so on board with the flowing robes and kitsch iconography. I might even consider growing a beard (not such a stretch given current crazy hormones), and wearing a top knot, a la Russell ‘born again’ Brand. But probably a turban will be my headgear of choice. Honestly, I’ve been looking for a way to lever those bad boys into my wardrobe for a while now and what better and easier way, than to form a new cult. Amaright?! ‘Wwhhooaa there Pank, what’s going on?’ I hear you ask…… Well, here’s the thing. It’s been an interesting and challenging year, but little by little I’ve started to understand the value of self-care. What a revelation! There is absolutely no shame in taking time out, a step back, asking for help – whether the problem be physical or emotional. Who knew? And really it’s me I am convincing here; as a woman who slept upright in a chair for three nights for fear of dying in her horizontal sleep rather than call an ambulance, finally discovering she had pneumonia – it’s a lesson I could really have used, decades ago. That was back in Liverpool.

So, almost a year ago I started to have fairly regular sessions with a psychotherapist. I also stopped drinking three months ago, certainly in the vast quantities that had become run of the mill, (now strictly one, strictly in company and strictly only on very special occasions), and around that same time I stopped dating and took up meditation. That last habit has been the biggest revelation. How did I ever live without it?! Sorry Dad, I take it all back. And yes, I do feel better for it. For all of it. Hooray! It’s the first question people ask when they discover I drink little and practise meditation. Well, when I say discover what I mean is, when I SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS AT THE VERY FIRST AVAILABLE OPPORTUNITY (crowbarring) DURING ANY CONVERSATION. Oh good God, NO! *grabs face in style of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone*, I’m one of ‘them’ now. I am part of that lactose/gluten intolerant/vegan/ex-smoker-cum-new-non-smoker tell-everyone-at-the-drop-of-a-hat gang…….. God bless (and help) my friends. I love you all and I’m sorry in advance – but I am going to be advocating all of the above for the foreseeable future.

Preach.

As a young child growing up in Australia I dallied with meditation a little, due to my father’s obsession with the Maharishi and the Beatles’ reinvention. I was encouraged to meditate for twenty minutes when he did and jeez was I bored. Around this stage of my life, see also: Uri Geller, pyramid power, Arthur C. Clark’s Mysterious World, etc. etc. After he went away (my dad, not Arthur) on a five day banana-eating, steaming, fasting, meditation retreat, he came back full of the joys of finding a higher plane, (and I suspect, the possibility of creating a child genius). I’m only glad it wasn’t me he put into the balsa wood and plastic pyramid he built on the patio, to accelerate my growth; just some tomato plants. They bore fruit so yes – they were tomato plants. No bigger than normal, draw your own conclusions about that pyramid schiz…….. And if you really want to mess up the cutlery, dad – you focus, FOCUS! on bending the head off the fork. Back then, it was pretty baffling. I was only five or six.

It was a couple of years ago that I first decided to nip up the coast on the last weekend before work kicked in, full throttle. Just me and my book. You know I like my own company – maybe a little too much sometimes – so any opportunity to disconnect even more, and I am there quicker than you can utter, Usain Bolt. Here in Catalonia it’s their national day on the eleventh of September, so we have a long weekend and I took the opportunity to escape again. The little town of Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava, is pretty, has a rich history and a Hollywood connection (Ava Gardner fell in love with it, while filming Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in 1950). It is gentle and quiet and perfect for re-grouping. A smattering of restaurants and bars, and a medieval walled town up which is the perfect walk and vantage point to take in the views, and breathe. It has a very special feeling for me. So in the absence of enough funds for a month long Bali spiritual escape with the Strength Temple (swoon) – I’m happy to treat it as my own personal retreat and it’s always very welcome. Armed again with only a book, Ruby Wax – How to Be Human and a notepad, I swore off social media for the entire weekend. And the detox was complete. Literally everyone should do it! Do it. Do it. Do it! Do all of it and do it now! The not drinking the not getting hung up on relationships, the shrink, the solo time, the regular meditation……. DO IT! And therein lies my evangelical preacher. Think of me as a modern day Billy Graham: without God, the penis and millions of followers and dollars.

It’s been so very peaceful. Social media seems to have stopped being the fun place we all joined for and has become such an angry, buzzing hive of bile and anger, that we should give it a wide berth now and again; as we would if we ran into the real thing. No-one in their right mind would stick their hand, or worse their face, anywhere near a real hive of angry wasps, so why this metaphorical one. Looking at Twitter sometimes feels like being stung a thousand times in the eyeballs – and we’re doing it by choice. And I know, I know, I am the worst perpetrator; this Brexit stupidity has been the end of me. A very real fear of losing my lovely life, just won’t let me permit an idiot regurgitating campaign sound bites onto my timeline, go without a couple of links to fact-checked government documents, to set them straight. And the hateful Wotsit over the water and the armchair activists’ talk of ‘rising up’ and ‘there will be consequences’ and ‘taking up arms’……. apart from being mildly amusing for approximately fifteen seconds – ultimately it’s all so. bloody. exhausting.

So, after my breath of fresh Tossa air I’ve vowed to take a step back, to take a regular day out every week and simply stay away from the book of face, Twitter et al and have an hourly digital detox everyday before bed, and keep on the human reconnection trail. This last year has been a great big, long-drawn out exercise in finding my feet again. I don’t plan to quit my new habits any time soon, they’re great, I love them, they’re now an integral part of how I keep it all together. And they’ve dropped very nicely into the spaces left by the more self-destructive ones I’ve cast off along the way over this last year. I’ve written about it before, but I will say it again (and again and again, probably): Autumn has always been my favourite time of year for its feeling of new beginnings, and this year is no different. It may just be that little bit more peaceful too.

Now fire up the organ, Jean, while I pop on me golden robes and you people over there, you get your hands in the air – we got us some songs to sing and some praise to give! Oh LORDY! Come on! *grabs microphone, struts across stage, does the claw hand at random people in the congregation, casting out demons*. See you in the newly formed church of Pank? No?

Okay then………..

ps. I may stay here forever. Ssssssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, they’ll never notice.

Seven years, no itch

So summer is done and dusted, almost…. That said, I’m still sweating my bean off and doing a little happy dance every time there’s a storm forecast. When it doesn’t arrive, I suddenly find religion and start simultaneously cursing/praying to God to send a hint of a breeze and a shower. Most of my time at home is still spent starkers with all the windows open and a fan. There’s a beautiful image for you. Don’t say I never give you anything! But sadly that home time is less now I’m back to work. All the yays, (insert unamused face emoji here). And you know what that means – Christmas is just around the corner. Aaarrggghhhhhh….. stop it, stop it, STOP. IT!

This summer has been different. I haven’t been to the beach at all. Wwwhhhaaaatttt?!?!!Once known for crossing the road into the midday sun, going to the beach between morning and evening school shifts and every other available opportunity every day, and using the lowest spf that it’s possible to use that isn’t actually cooking oil – dark, shady, damp places are now my favoured location. Yeaaaaah, it’s just me and the mushrooms. That my alcohol consumption is now at a bare minimum too (in three months I’ve had half a dozen- max, which in the past would have been an average brunch consumption), said boozy brunches, lunches and dinners and day drinking/parties/festivals/film nights/end of the week/beginning of the weekend drinks, haven’t happened either. If I wasn’t me, I’d be absolutely sure I’d been possessed or inhabited by an alien; I barely recognise myself. Also, knowing that summer has always been the time of year that affects me most, emotionally – for as long as I can remember, I have sunk pretty low during August – I wrote myself a list of life admin to complete, and another of house projects to solve and bought a load of canvases and materials. Keep distracted, keep busy. Getting my papers and documents in order for March has been a priority, obviously. Organising long-overdue house obligations, changing names, making appointments, organising correspondence, little DIY jobs yada, yada, yada. Most of the time, the idea of the thing is worse than the actual doing of the thing. This tactic of keeping out of trouble and as occupied as possible seems to have worked…. as I finished my summer tasks, I started back to work. Which I think has nipped in the bud, the creeping blues I could feel approaching as I smugly crossed off my last to-do item.

Barcelona in August is both wonderful (literally everyone heads to their beach or mountain houses, so it’s deserted), and horrendous (heat, humidity, heat, humidity and HEAT AND HUMIDITY). But I could not love it more. Today I have been in Barcelona exactly seven years, and I remember arriving here as if it were yesterday. I had collarbones then! Stressed, unhappy and with the tiniest glimmer of hope that I could make it work. That changed so quickly though (not the hope bit), when I knew this is where I wanted to be – I can’t imagine being any place else. The change of flat last November and making it really feel like mine during August this year, has cemented that. I recognise now, that that was the missing puzzle piece, (tiny dog not withstanding). Barcelona is the place that feels most like home, it’s the place I call home – it is home.

Moltes gracies Barcelona, t’estimo molt.