Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Plus Size War

Over the past week or so there has been a lot in the media about those of us who are 'plus size'. There has been debate about whether 'plus size' models make good role models for girls and young women; social media has been ablaze with 'plus size' women proclaiming their pride in who they are and with 'fat shaming' of these same women; bloggers have been writing about how hard it is to accept themselves and how they have finally learned to love themselves just the way they are; a radio interview with a 'plus size' model turned nasty, bullying and left the interviewee in tears. It's certainly been eventful!

I've been thinking about this subject myself over the last week. Some of the women I chat to on Twitter have been sharing their thoughts and experiences which has inspired me to do the same.

I am 'plus size' - I put it in quotation marks because I'm not sure if it's a term I want to use but it seems appropriate as it's the one which has been used most during the recent debate. There are many other terms I could have used but let's stick with 'plus size', it's probably the kindest. I have been 'plus size' for most of my adult life and I've learned to live with it. That in itself is revealing - as a 'plus size' woman my size is something to be endured and put up with. I don't feel able to celebrate who I am because of what I am. Life as a 'plus size' woman can be a challenge. I have to think about what I'm going to do carefully - clothes are chosen because they cover the parts of my body that I am ashamed of; there are certain places I avoid going to because I feel uncomfortable being there; there are activities that I don't do because I am too self conscious of how I would look and be perceived.

Looking back over my life I realise that there have been times when I've missed out because of being 'plus size'. I feel that I have put my life on hold at times because it's easier than putting myself out there and risking the judgement of others. And let's not kid ourselves that they don't judge; I certainly judge myself very harshly so I'm under no illusion that others don't do the same to me.

I'm acutely aware at all times that I don't look the way the world thinks I should nor, if I'm honest the way I wish I looked. An example from recent times; I went to a college reunion and was looking forward to catching up with old friends. I had bought two new outfits for the occasion and spent an hour showering, doing my hair and makeup and choosing an outfit to wear. I looked in the mirror after all my preparation and I hated what I saw. I didn't want to be the fat, old woman I saw in the mirror and I didn't want to leave my hotel room and face the world. A self indulgent bout of crying later and I pulled myself together and went to the reunion. But for a short while I felt very sorry for myself, very unhappy and very aware that I don't fit the norms of society.   

I have been horrified at the deeply personal things which have been said about 'plus size' women. If the same things were said about a person with a disability or disfigurement there would be an outcry. But it seems that 'plus size' women are fair game. And it is mainly about women; none of the debate over the last week has touched on the lives of 'plus size' men. The bullying of Callie Thorpe by a radio interviewer on Three Counties Radio was a prime example. She was constantly told that her size was her own fault because she was lazy and greedy. She tried to explain that there were many and varied reasons why women were different sizes but the interviewer just kept shouting her down. I was impressed she kept her calm for as long as she did; I don't think I would have!

So I've decided to try really hard to embrace the woman I am, all of her. It's time to live my life, all of it. It'll be a challenge as I'm so used to doing my best to hide away - I'm so good at it that there isn't even a picture of me on my Twitter page, I've used one of my cats (she is very beautiful though!) My first challenge is to get a picture of myself on Twitter, to finally embrace who I am and acknowledge that the 'plus size' me is an OK girl and she can be seen and heard.   

Friday, 24 April 2015

Word of the Week

After not joining in for a couple of weeks - no one word seemed to sum up my week - I've managed to think of something for the week just gone and that word is ...

Last week was a wishy washy mess. It, and by extension me, lacked focus. My writing lacked focus and I got little done.  I have been missing The Prompt which has taken a break - come back Sara all is forgiven! I didn't realise how useful I have found Sara's prompt to get me thinking and writing. The scary story I am writing has stalled - I think I know what I want to do with the main character but I'm unsure how to get there. I have intended to re-read something I have written before, looking at picking it up again or adapting it into something useful but I've not done that either.
A few weeks ago I started a bullet journal. I was excited to see how useful I would find it after reading/watching loads of people raving about them online. I could see how people with really busy and packed lives would find a bullet journal useful but I thought that my life was too slow paced and frankly boring for it to be of much use. So without really intending to I stopped bullet journalling this week. And guess what? I've had an unfocused, less productive week! Lesson learned and the bullet journal will be back next week, focusing my time and intentions.   

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Prompt - Travel

I wrote this a while ago but thought I'd share it again to fit in with The Prompt. Technically it's less about the travelling than the destination but I think it counts, so there!  

My favourite place on the planet is Florence which I have been lucky enough to visit on two occasions.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I love about it but I’ll try to explain why it means so much to me.

Arriving in Florence isn’t as straight forward as arriving in many major cities.  There is an airport there but most flights arrive in Pisa, 43 miles away.  The easiest way to make the trip is by train.  Pisa airport is typical of modern airports – large, glass and metal, impersonal.  On exiting through huge sliding glass doors you find yourself on the platform of the train station which is a dead-end and looks from a previous time.  There is a machine to dispense tickets and a few benches to perch on while waiting.    

The train journey takes about an hour and the train rumbles sedately through a series of villages and towns on the way to Florence.   Cascina,  Pontedera, Empoli.  At each station a variety of people get on and off – students from the universities of Pisa and Florence, business people returning home, groups of shoppers laden with bags from markets and designer boutiques and, of course travellers like us heading to Florence.  As we pull in to each station I get a small thrill knowing that we are getting closer to our destination and that magical moment when I see the sign saying Firenze on the platform.

Santa Maria Novella station is a contrast to Pisa station.  It is a large bustling station with multiple platforms, booming announcements in rapid Italian and crowds of people rushing to their destination.  On exiting you are in the wonderful city of Florence – well, perhaps not the most wonderful part but Florence nonetheless.

I don’t know the area of Santa Maria Novella well, we tend to rush through it on our way to central Florence butt here is a rather magnificent black and white fascaded church there which I will have to visit one day, especially as it has frescos by one of my favourite Renaissance artists, Filippino Lippi. 

We have been lucky enough to stay close to the Duomo on both our visits.  This masterpiece of Renaissance architecture dominates the city; there are few places in Florence where you can’t get a glimpse of Brunelleschi’s dome.  You can climb the dome and get a fantastic view across Florence – I admit that I haven’t done this but my husband has and the photographs are stunning.  I prefer to wander round the Duomo drinking in the wonderful works of art by Uccello, Donatello, Della Robbia, and Zuccaro.

Florence is a wonderful place for art lovers.  It’s practically impossible to turn a corner without bumping into a beautiful vista, a gorgeous sculpture or some stunning architecture.  I particularly love the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine.  It has the most stunning frescos by Masaccio and Lippi depicting Biblical scenes.  Now religious imagery isn’t for everyone and there is a lot of it in Florence but these frescos are truly wonderful.  The depiction of pain and loss on the faces of Adam and Eve on being expelled from the Garden of Eden is breathtaking.  The colours on these frescos, which are over 600 years old, are bright and vibrant and the faces are beautifully painted, obviously using contemporaries of the artists as models.  I often wonder how the model felt about being painted as St Peter or Jesus.

There are too many sights in Florence for me to write about here.  It is truly a stunning city which I plan to visit many more times in the future and I still won’t scratch its surface.  Now, where did I put the guide book to plan my next trip?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

What I'm Writing

So happy to see Maddy back after an eventful (and hopefully fun!) Easter break.

I've been doing ok with my writing. There is an on-going 'scary' story which is up to three episodes so far. I've also got two short story competitions to write for this month - one is a free form story so I need to think of a plotline; the other is inspired by my home town, Birmingham, and I've got a childhood  memory which I think I can mould into a half decent story.

I've also got a story stored on my hard drive which I want to re-read and revive. It's about two years since I last looked at it and I want to assess if it's worth saving or if its time has passed. I hope the former because I was rather fond of it when I started it.

Do pop across to read my scary story - I've got to work out what to do with poor Tom next. He's already been through a lot; should I torture him some more or give him a happy ending? Who knows!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Scary story part 3

This is a continuation of the story I've been sharing through The Prompt over the last two weekends. This week's writing prompt didn't seem to fit with the story so I'm including it separately here for those who are following Tom's dilemma. Hope you enjoy and please do comment if you do (or even if you don't!)

The tiny letters flickered before Tom's eyes, commanding his attention. As he breathed in and out the flames guttered slightly in the breeze. They appeared suspended in mid-air, not attached to anything like the wick of a candle. Cautiously he reached out and felt the heat from the flame on his fingertips. They were definitely actual, physical flames and not a trick of his imagination. He passed his hand around, below and above them. There seemed to be nothing providing the fuel for the flames. Tom knew from his scientific schooling that a flame needs fuel, oxygen and an ignition source yet these flames appeared to be burning without any source of fuel. Also, they had 'popped' into existence without any visible means of ignition - one moment they weren't there, the next they were.

Slowly Tom stepped back from the flaming letters. He needed time to think about this. What was happening to him was impossible according to all the physical laws of the universe, yet he was living through this bizarre experience. This morning he'd got up, caught the train, worked, eaten lunch, travelled home, all perfectly normal. A day like any other day. Then that tapping noise, whatever that had been, had changed everything. He'd investigated the noise which had led him to enter the lounge and get shut in the dark. Now he was staring at some burning letters which were spelling out the word 'HELP'. But who, or what, wanted help?

Something had changed. Tom was aware that the room was different but couldn't immediately put his finger on what it was. The darkness was till all encompassing, the letters flickered in front of his eyes, still seemingly floating in the air as if by ...
The drumming had stopped! Tom was suddenly struck by an enveloping silence. For the first time he was acutely aware of his breathing. It sounded shallow and ragged, causing the flaming letters to pulsate gently. He made a conscious effort to slow and deepen his breathing, aware that at any moment he could tip over into a panic attack. As his breathing deepened Tom strained his ears for the slightest sound but there was nothing, only the sounds he was making.

When had the drumming stopped? Was it at the same time that the letters had appeared? Were these things connected? Tom had no idea. He had been so drawn to the visual stimulus of the letters that he'd ceased to notice the drumming. Now that it was gone and he was conscious of this fact the silence seemed overwhelming. It felt as if it were sucking everything out of the room. Tom felt briefly lightheaded and thought he might faint but thankfully this quickly passed. He concentrated on looking at the letters and his brief panic passed.
'Let's look at this logically' he thought. 'Today was a normal, boring day. Nothing extraordinary happened. Then there was an weird tapping, which became a drumming. I followed it into my normal, boring lounge and now I'm standing in the darkness, staring at some burning letters, unable to find my way out of the room.'

He sighed, the flames flickered and Tom's shoulders slumped. There was no point trying to apply logic to this, there was nothing logical about what was happening and no logical solution presented itself to him. He had no idea what had happened or how to get himself out of whatever it was he was in. Tom suddenly slumped to the floor as if the puppeteer had cut all his strings. He put he head in his hands, all energy seemingly sucked out of him.

Tom sat like this for a while, no energy, no impetus to do anything. The situation was hopeless. If he couldn't work out what was happening to him what chance did he have of getting out of it? For the first time in his life Tom felt real despair. He was alone in the dark, surrounded by silence, with no idea what to do. He couldn't help himself and there was no one out there to help him. Time was passing and he had no idea how long he'd been in this space, wherever it was. It certainly didn't feel like his lounge anymore. Slowly Tom raised his head and opened his eyes. He was stunned to see the letters before his face. They had been in front of his eyes when he'd been standing and they were still in front of his eyes when sitting. They were commanding his attention, demanding to be noticed. Tom closed his eyes, counted to ten and opened them. The letters were still there. He repeated this twice, each time  counting higher but the result was the same; the flaming letters flickered gently before his eyes.

Tom stood up gingerly, aware that without being able to orientate himself it would be easy to stumble and fall. The letters rose with him, staying directly before his eyes at all times. Tom experimented with them, turning round, standing on tiptoes, ducking down until he was squatting on his haunches but the effect was always the same. The letters stayed in his eye line, demanding to be looked at.

Tom understood that whatever 'HELP' meant it was something to do with him. His attention was being held by this word and he was obviously supposed to do something, to react in some way to it. That much was obvious by the fact that he couldn't escape from it unless he shut his eyes. And to be honest, even with his eyes closed he could see a shadow of the word on the inside of his eyelids. There was to be no escape, he had to do something. The word was commanding him to act, demanding something of him.

Tom took a deep breath as he tried to decide what to do. Someone or something wanted, needed help. But who? And what? He had no idea. So where should he start? He knew from recent experience that if he started walking he would get nowhere. So that seemed pointless. There was no sound to guide him and nothing apart from the word to look at. He was totally lost as to what his next move should be. Then it occurred to Tom that the only option open to him as to break the silence. Maybe he needed to open the lines of communication? He was reluctant to do this without knowing who or what he would be communicating with but he had no other option. He'd tried everything else.

What should he say? Without too much thought Tom nearly blurted out 'Hello' but something stopped him. That didn't feel like the right word for this particular situation. Then he knew what he should say. He stilled his mind, tried to calm his breathing and whispered 'Help' into the darkness. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Prompt - Procrastination

It was inevitable that when I read the word procrastination I'd struggle to think of anything to write!

I have spent several days worrying about what I can write, defining the word over and over, thinking of interesting plots that refuse to fit with the prompt at all.

Needless to say I put off writing anything in relation to this prompt, thereby procrastinating all week!

This is getting serious as I'm so forgetful some times that if I add procrastination into the mix I may never write anything again.

I'm toying with the idea of bullet journaling to get me properly organised - then I won't procrastinate again.

Tomorrow I intend to publish the next instalment of my scary story - which I've put off doing by prevaricating all week!