People I Love - Ben Brown

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

It's pissing down with rain by Old Street Station on a Thursday morning, I'm cold and edging dangerously close to furious.
"More late boys!" I rattle fists at no one but myself with a sad damp scarf draped over my head.
The miserable distance fades from unpromising to enthusiastic futures.
Louis, Ben and Steve pace with sure direction towards me, mob handed with point and shoot cameras and coffee cups.
This is the first time I meet Ben Brown.
I suffocate under his charm as we all trudge towards the Indian Embassy in the dregs of nowhere and I find a quickening smile echo throughout my cheeks slicing the stress of a five hour wait for visas.
A small encounter with potential to be nothing more than a work fuelled greet extended its arms into the embrace of the beginning of a very poignant and fulfilled friendship. 

Ben has seen me through a totally bizarre part of my adolescence. He met me when I was cocksure and loud and watched it melt and mould it's way into being a little bit lost and apologetically young. In the middle of last year we found ourselves in the endless and formless ocean sharing a kayak, a tactful ploy by me as alone I'd have been eaten alive even by the dullest wave and we paddled sun beaten and content. 

I continued once out of the boat to nip at his heels whenever distance allowed and ensured dinners and adventures and chats like the sea saddled speeches we'd had would always prevail. Since, he's picked me off bikes in the midst of panic attacks and listened to my monotonous drone of first world issues as though I really matter and I leave wanting to hit myself knowing I ever looked at him begrudgingly for leaving me in the rain that one East London morning.

Bens talent baffles me, I write with no intention of sounding as though I'm about to embark on a parody of one of his old school reports, but it truly does.
It follows him around like an excited nagging child, this thing that begs to be fed and answered to, to be challenged and paraded. Somehow, he manages to harness it in so many tangible ways that he transforms it modestly into gold medals and daily videos and stunning visuals beyond what I know.
Try as I might, I've still not been able to kidnap it.

It's not very often people happen to you, but Ben very much happened to me. 
He happened to be a voice I didn't know I needed and a hand I wanted to grip, he happened all at once and suddenly even from miles away to be someone I happen to have as a big brother forever. Relatively, whether he likes it or not.

Writing this almost feels like a premature wedding speech or a big birthday amorous announcement, but having had him home back in London where I can squish his face and steal his coat and ask him umpteen questions about nothing in particular over several sherbet dibdabs, I just feel like it's right to do it. 
He's filled my life with laughter, unwavering advice and introduced me to people like his beautiful girlfriend Nicole who I also admire and adore from across the pond.
There are few people I know who I could spend eight hours walking around a flower show and find some sort of ludicrous Pimm's fuelled adventure with.

I bloody love the stupid sod and I think if there's anything he's taught me so prolifically is that there is no time like this very second to do things. 
So I'm doing a thing, a public appreciation, a friendly awakening and a heartfelt shout to all those who have a Ben in their lives to say "hey man, you're pretty special." 
because if they put up with you as much as he does with me, inspire you furiously and make you feel worth something a little more than you are, they bloody well deserve it. 

Mindful Chef

Discussing my eating habits online is something that I err on the caution of in the same way I always feel a little strange about talking on the topic of beauty products. 
Whilst emotional and physical flavours roll off of my tongue with perhaps too much ease, they are although empirical to me something I feel are useful to relate to.
 I am overtly aware that the other two are very much tailored to both my own individual lifestyle and financial budget.

Eating healthily and cooking are things that I've always had a great interest in, but I'm not always as proactive with them as I like.
In short, cooking healthy, organic food is often incredibly expensive and time consuming to construct interesting.
One parade around Whole Foods and I'd struggle to find 3 conscious meals that don't cost more than the insurance of the bottom square of Taylor Swift's calf. 
I found Mindful Chef within their first week of business, two perfectly regular looking twenty somethings promising that they could deliver a box of enough fresh, organic ingredients and recipes to my front door for three meals in under £25.
I near close had a fit. I wanted in. 
I was tainted with a little scepticism, but I dropped them an email asking if I could see what the fuss was about and thank guacamole I was so far from disappointed I've been incredibly excited to share this discovery with you. 

It's not a new concept, but this foodie venture feels a lot more honest and the price is genuinely unbeatable.
Adrian is relatively adverse to the kitchen (sorry love!) so I armed myself with the box and headed to his to give it the proper idiot proof test.
Even he managed to follow one of the cards with not so much as a steam burn on his wrists.
Everything is already measured out for you, there is no waste or lonely avocado halves to leave in your fridge for past eternity and all of the packaging is sustainable. 
They also offer three sorts - Paleo, Vegan or Gluten Free. 
Having experienced an ill spell a few months back from introducing a vegan lifestyle into my own, I opted for GF. 

Mindful Chef for me is a huge game changer, I had no idea that it was possible to fill my body with all of the good stuff Gwyneth Paltrow style and not have a Gwyneth Paltrow style budget. 
It also felt so good to have control in the kitchen, know exactly what it was that I was fuelling myself with and feel excited about cooking up something more adventurous than a stir fry. 
Solid job guys, look at that smile. Bloody delicious.
You'll definitely be seeing my name on your orders list once a week.

Love Labels & Kentucky Fried Chicken

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The actor has been back in town and what a treat.
Spangled nights of outgrown hair and KFC family meal deals in the back of four AM Ubers, climbing statues in rowdy east London bars and thrown on Hunter boots for riverside retreats had returned for the last six weeks and the sudden nonchalance of not caring for labels has left me giddy with adolescence.
We are a strange breed, so desperate always to fulfil a charm with a name and often that is what strips it of its potential poetic nature of being young and dumb.

"You just do what you want, don't you?" He smiles half dazed, coyly on the arm of my sofa.
I twiddle my hair around fore and index finger and knock back my head giggling as though a super8 camera has been propped in the corner and this moment will one day be footage in a self indulgent montage of me feeling sexy.
I stop for a moment, clicking off the aesthetic pull of the character I am playing and relish in the idea that I am sat with greasy fingers and an awkward spot in the middle of my left eyebrow and feeling a sort of 'fuck-off' sexy I always assumed was only attainable for the Agent Provocateur wearing tanned late 20-somethings.
Here I am, with dry knees from acrylic Falke friction and a bitter fur of red wine on my front teeth, absolutely owning how I feel with no need nor want for the validation of a commitment.
Contented without conscience.
He uncurls his sleeping socks from under the sofa and wobbles around half-drunk in an attempt to put them back on (thank god, feet are gross) and I think back to how my six month ago self would've been so perturbed by this situation.
Is he in love with me? Is this a mistake? Am I going to get hurt? What the hell am I doing not coating this eyeball sized spot in my eyebrow with concealer?
These usual grievances squashed underfoot as he slams his down on the floor as he loses balance.

I see a friend for dinner the next week and listen to him gush about how in love he is, recalling sweet moments that he is so used to being met with my eyes souring into tiny creases and uncomfortable "That's nice, I'm really happy for you."'s (which is universal code for "Why can't I have that? You're so grown up and in love and I'm jealous and hate you.").
He asks about my current situation and as I swill the handle of my fork around as though I'm about to whack a hammer in court and say something vaguely poignant, I hear the echo of the actor in the forefront of my brain and grin -
"I'm just doing what I want and I didn't know I wanted it."
Whilst a part of my anal life scheduling wants to tally it down to another boy that didn't want to fall in love with me, I take solace in striking it forward as a new boy who made me love myself, and that, is a label I didn't know I could write.

I live for surprises. Throwing surprises, receiving surprises, I just want to be a bundle of unanticipated energy floating around forever.
My darling mum sits on the other end of the unpredictable spectrum and likes to know exactly what's what and where it sits and what it's called.
She's a boss at excel spreadsheets and tucked in bed sheets and for that reason we often lock horns.
I get it, ain't nobody got time for someone else's dirty socks (she sees a lot of mine, mostly peaking from under the sofa.) 
In the fluster of its irony, I felt like there was no one I knew who needed a surprise more so than her and whilst she'd have been just as chuffed with a bunch of petrol station daff's and a bar of Aero for Mothers Day, I wanted to do a little bit more.
Being the impulsive sod (loving daughter) that I am, I bloody well did.
Packing two small cases with day dresses and silk-lined blazers, I got her to meet me at Kings Cross station and placed her passport in her palms and as her eyes brimmed with elated tears she instantly screamed "Paris!!" which then quickly followed with "LET'S GET CHAMPAGNE!" 
(and I wonder where I get it from...)

We twirled and skipped through everything that was on offer, eating each moment with hungry eyes and giggling souls.
I was filled with the utmost childlike glee checking both of us in and out of a fancy hotel and signing for breakfast in the morning when for the last twenty years that's always been her job for me.
Suddenly I was a real life grown up with my own real life grown up best friend and it was wonderful.

The charm that has written years of Parisian poetry is intoxicating, with its architecture that articulates a time I feel London's busy song has almost forgotten we brushed off the chill and dived deep into the romanticism of a city that would no longer live between the pages of a book for us.
All we wished for was to get lost amidst it all and we did a pretty splendid job.
I at no point had a clue where I was.

I booked us into the W Opera, because whilst I wanted her to crave the same serendipitous spontaneity that I was running towards, I wanted to know at least two things were guaranteed - a bloody good cocktail and a beautiful bed to rest flurried feet in.
Bang on  breakfast and a feast of trinkets, we returned after a day of exploration to sit amongst the clean and the colour and give Pierre on the door a wink.
(He was genuinely called Pierre and how I wish he'd taken up my offer to come back to London with us../me.)
Drawing open the shutters we looked right onto L'Opera, if we really had wanted, we could have stayed put in our little Parisian paradise and still felt equally as acquainted and in love with the city.
My trust and love for W was settled alongside with the room service cheque the next morning and I felt like an overbearing girlfriend latching onto the big old door begging not to leave.
Leicester Square, your french sibling is now my new best friend.

Whilst I know she is always proud me, I really felt I could immerse her into one of the exciting parts of my job and treat her to something she wholly deserved.
The strongest woman I know with the most infuriating beauty grinned more so than I'd seen her in months and now every jovial "Bonjour! Comment allez vous?" exchanged on the phone is embroidered with beautiful memories.
I know the stories you often have to re read on my blog aren't usually favourable moments for you to look back on, so this one is for you to enjoy. Love you then, love you still, always have and always will. More. X

Suicide and Me

Thursday, 12 March 2015

"That's interesting, I thought people with bipolar were the sort to attempt suicide." 
Brushing a beer-foamed moustache from his upper lip, an acquaintance of a friend professed to me in a pub three weeks ago. 
Sidled on a bar side, I imagine him hanging an imaginary patronising white coat over his shoulder. 
He does not go to bed rearranging his doctorate certificates above his bed, he's probably never cried in front of his mum, he does not know me, he does however hope I'll respond "oh yes." When he inevitably and eventually asks me if I can draw comparisons towards myself and Stephen Fry.
"Sorry?" I slump, biting the red wine remnants off of my lip and the rest of the skin on it nervously.
"You just don't seem the type."
I pat the pads of my finger around my glass. Eyes pointed at my feet, frowned.
"You're too confident and happy for that shit, you know?"
I wonder how I can satisfy his cliche perception, clawing at what it is that he thinks I am purely from a label.
What would Stephen Fry do?

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time off school ill. 
At the time, I knew something hurt or something didnt feel right, but I wasn't sure what. 
My stomach knotted and my head pulsed, a virus that kids contract by any other name or symptomised issue and Id plead desperately to have the day off. 
More often than not after tear tempered fits, my parents would let me have it.
I was- ill . I did feel strange and uneasy, as though I could vomit on queue the same way boys of my age were chanting "Pull my finger! see what happens!" And farting on demand. At any given point if I let myself I knew I could pass out cold or  throw up the three plates of mash potato Id asked for dinner.
Sometimes, I'd eat baked beans on penne pasta out of the pan at 2am and then throw it up hours later. 
I felt hollow, I wanted to cement this strange hole closed and I did so with food. I imagine now this is the relationship I have with wine. 

In those days off Id mostly watch loose women and stare blankly at Facebooks old, tired interface. It was an easy release, much less demanding than maths or history, and under the blanket on my sofa i felt safe. Each day would pass and every morning much later than I should've woken Id utter a 'still not well' from beneath the duvet, eyes peaking uncomfortably over and Id be left. 
It was usually the third day in that I'd stare forcefully at the window pane of my sitting room and feel alive. Convulsing with ideas and repulsed that I'd missed educating myself in the same way others were. I suddenly felt as though I could take over the world, be whoever I wanted, do more than my peers and was halting that by not attending.
Id go back to school and follow a similar routine, for years.
Even earlier than this memory, I remember watching Project Runway, believing I could win it at 11 years old and buying a sewing machine and forcing myself to make outfits for parties in under 5 hours with the remenants of a curtain. 
Later, id find myself in a shower after a phonecall, mind racing and, at the time, jovially forcing the thought 'you're like Jesus.' Stepping out of the shower and realising for those few seconds I genuinely believed it. I was high off of whatever my blood was nourishing me with, narcissistic and a bloated ego from a natural chemical drip plugged into my brain.
Then, a boy would break up with me, I'd throw my head over the bath to wash my hair to go to his best friends party, my friend listening to me sobbing through the echo of her hairdryer.
My nose blocked with snot that smelt of his cologne. I down a litre of vodka that night and make it out alive but experience depression in its extreme for the first time at fifteen. 

I struggle, I pace, I cry in lessons uncontrollably, I score scissor marks down my finger tips so I can't write my GCSEs and write letters to examiners instead of actually writing the paper I know I am competent enough to write. I feel ashamed. (I have withheld tears writing this until now)  I feel failed. I am embarrassed by what I have become but I assume I'm just hormonal. Mostly, because That is what three different doctors have told me. 
Six weeks later, at a party at my own house, I panic. I walk upstairs to see my friends and I don't recognise anyone. 
I know, everyone. 
They are all just faces and voices, potentially mocking me, and it is overwhelming.
Feeling anxious, I sit in the downstairs bathroom and have my first panic attack. Recovering, I am devastated. Devastated that it has happened and devastated that the short breathed paranoia has stopped. 
Reaching for the bottle hidden beneath the toilet basin, I drink half a cupful of bleach and pass out beside it. 
I vomit, I cry, I call a boy I have quickly convinced myself I am 'now in love with' who is just also a boy and sit out in the snow and cry some more until I pack my bags and move to my friends house for three days. 

Since then, I have felt this way countless times. I have acted on it six times. Sometimes in a full attempt and others to seek attention. Mostly, seventh pill in on an attempted overdose I see sanity for the first time in months and stop. In those episodes, I can't see my family. I can't see my friends and I can't see those who love me. They are invisible to me and I am invisible to myself.

I write this whilst I'm in a job I couldn't have dreamed of. I write this with family who love me beyond my worth, with friends who rely on me. 
I write this as an individual who deep down knows they have a lot to give to the world and would never let the perception of a mental illness get in the way proffesionally or personally. 
But, I am still a human being.
My body refuses to tell anyone that I know cares about me that this is going on in my head, but now I call a doctor. She's not pressured with emotional connection to save me, she won't go home and cry that I'm sad but she knows that I am a human being who needs help and that's what she does. This doesn't make my family or friends redundant, but it's not their job to superglue fragile pieces back together.
I just need their reassurance. 

Last week I attended the funeral of a family member who took her own life. 
I have spent these seven days reflecting on her beauty, her importance and her love- regardless of how long I felt them. She imparted emotions that so many of us are yet to feel or are yet to appreciate we have. 

Through devastation and loss, through grief and through pain and compassion, I look to her for telling me unspoken that my life is worth living. That people care. That I have as much time as I grant myself. 
That I will be conscious of my thoughts if not for myself but for the beautiful baby she has left with us in this world that might also need this message one day. 

What you have done is not selfish, what you have done is not indulgent, what you have done makes me strive to be a stronger person that wish I could've been whilst you were here.
Rest in peace. 

I am as much my own little girl as I am my own grown woman

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Bread bloated and Dalmatian skinned, with one hand I prod my thick fleshy thighs and reminisce back to the paradisal evenings where I could feed my exam pressures with two chicken mayo McDonald's burgers and still weigh no more than the six textbooks I should've been consuming instead. 

I scrape the societal camouflage I had hastily painted over my uneven cheeks with a foundation tinged flannel and watch each shade of orange and pink in their wet gradients pour down the sink. 

Raw faced and soot black under eyed, I pull grimaces at myself and pressure black heads with gnawed at finger nails. I am stressed. 

I try with determined will to change my habits almost upon the instant that I see this strange reflection. 
I still look young, no crows feet or strayed hairs, excess-oil waxing a pubescent sheen across the bridge of my nose- but you can nearly spot the indentations of a forty year old woman pressing to get out from within my tired glazed eyes, the youthful embers dimming. 
The fire now just a reflection of the passion in others, like two oval ashtrays upside down in the dishwasher. 


A month goes past with rapid spirit, chasing my heels that pace with a lash of unconvincing energy and I realise that this forty year old woman, with her punishing office anxieties could be harnessed into someone much kinder.

Lassoed by my heart strings, I pull her close and teach her how to be my mother.
An internal guardian to remind me to brush my teeth, change my socks, finish my peas and to tell me-

You're doing alright kid, stop beating yourself up.

I hold my own hand and learn the importance of believing that you have a duty to not feel alone with yourself.
That I am as much my own little girl as I am my own grown woman and I soon feel fortified again. 

A Relationship With Anxiety

Monday, 23 February 2015

Rushing my hand over old receipts and prickly house keys in my coat pocket, I clutch and curve my palms over an inhaler. 
Its shape, awkward and bulky, protrudes out of the cracks between each finger and whilst it's not yet uncapped in my mouth, its weight serves a soothing semantic objective. 
The monotonous daily drill of life had suddenly started to become terrifying. No seats on the tube? Panic stricken. Ten minutes late for a meeting? All consumed. 
Silly things, like getting a fork stuck in the dishwasher forced me crashing down on my knees and the bleak belligerent head of anxiety sucked all of the air from my lungs and demanded thousands of short breathed shut downs. 

I am on the stairs at a party and unanticipatedly I am drowning, deep sea flailing in the puddles under my eyes, clutching my heart like a life buoy that won't float me upwards but is instead rock weighted. I realise I must look nothing short of an overemotional prick off the back of no resolute reasoning or tangible slap to the face but still, a friend stays up with me until five in the morning telling his dark exchanges by way of making me feel normal and the hyperventilating subsides with the rise of a stronger emotional connection. 
It's frenetic unhallowed nature entangled in a warming trust exercise. 

As it robs me day by day of an extra hour asleep, the pangs burrow deeper and irritation grows thicker through the curved fleshy tubes in my body. I ache, I digress, I allow it to be and trudge through it a little more worn. My fingers starred with discomfort, pain shooting like confetti cannons from the base of each digit.

This is customary, a sequence I find sadist companionship in, it hurts with its volatile grasp but it is also laden with excuse cards as to why I'm not always top of my game. 
We've battled against each other for so long that I'm almost just as scared of being free as I am of the suffering it etches out.
It is only now, inhaler in hand, propranolol resting on my tongue and mantra echoing staccato in my head that I realise I don't need it. 

For so long it has shadowed each morning and taken the minutes in each meeting, a second head growing from my shoulder and speaking for me. Cutting the chords I am now desperately trying to set myself free and whilst it is testing in its unpredictable nature, I feel stronger than I ever knew. 

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