On being a bit of a weirdo.

My arms hurt.

My arms hurt because I’ve scratched them to pieces. I didn’t mean to. It’s an involuntary reaction to the bit where my mind reaches its limit. I stop wanting to be me. I stop wanting to have air to breathe and a room to hide in and I stop wanting skin.

What happened today? The same as every other – nothing. There was no tipping point, no straw laden with the weight of straw already past. It just builds up and up and up, sometimes over days, sometimes over hours, and then it throws itself. It’s a sudden downpour when you’re two miles from home and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. It’s a blow from behind in a dark alley when your music’s too loud to hear them coming. It’s when your insides decide they want to be your outsides.

I have an anxiety disorder and I like to pretend that I don’t. This in itself is a problem because it means that when I’m happy, I forget how to handle the sad and when I’m sad I forget that it will pass. It will pass. It has to. It has every other time before.

These are the things I am scared of, in no particular order: the inside, the outside, the day, the night, myself, everybody else, losing people, meeting people, knowing people, loving people, people in general, not succeeding, not trying, not knowing what to try, spiders, walking into shops, walking out of shops, crossing roads, going to work, not going to work, being scared, people knowing that I’m scared, the being scared not stopping, the being scared not starting, peas, the world, life, existence, non-existence, the beginning of things, the end of things, middles, my thighs, the doorbell, the phone ringing, having to talk to people, not having anyone to talk to, everything the world has ever managed to string together ever. Except for maybe cats.

I am not scared every day and the days on which I’m scared, I’m mostly normal. I am not scared every day and I think that makes it worse sometimes. When I’m not scared I’m… I’m me. I’m happy and I’m in love with everything the world has got to offer and I make friends with animals in the street and I say hello to trees and I want to cradle the world in the palm of my hand and make everything that’s ever hurt anyone just that little bit better. When I’m not scared I’m me and a while ago I was fortunate enough to realise that that is a great thing to be. I am more me than anyone else could ever be and I am proud of the fact that sometimes I gallop. Like, around the house. Not on a horse. I’ve not got a horse. Yet.

So, when I’m not scared I’m me and having the relationship I do with myself (fascination, abject horror, pride, amusement… mostly chagrin) means that when I am not me, things are tricky. When I want to pull my skin off and crawl under the bed and pretend that the Sophie who lives here doesn’t exist… it hurts. It damn hurts.

I have digressed. It is my speciality.

I wanted to write down what it feels like when anxiety attacks but the moment it passes – the exact moment – I just forget. I know that it feels like there are gaping holes in my body and it doesn’t matter how I put myself, I can’t cover them up. I know that a raging stag beats into my chest over and over until the blood and my still beating heart are speared upon his antlers for the world to see. There’s definitely a lot of not being able to breathe, too.

I wanted to write it down so that the individuals who receive messages from me when I’m like that have some idea of my thought patterns. There are only four of them currently in my life who have received a message mid-panic and I’m not sure if all of them know. Some of them definitely do. One of them is often there to hold my hand and pretend he can’t see the snot. I wanted to write it down but now that I’m here I’m not sure that there are words. It is simply as if your mind has turned against your body and your body is acting in self-defence; trying to repel the rotten thing from within it in as dramatic a way as possible. There are usually tears (I like to think this is my brain leaking*) and quite often muttered words and, really, I probably just look like a complete nutter. Which is why I try my best to do it behind closed doors. Sainsbury’s is probably not the place (although when I try to reach that top shelf…).

I wanted to write it down and I sat here with my body still tense but it’s gone. I ache. I am still scared. I am extremely lonely. I need a cuddle and somebody to put me to bed, perhaps read me a story. I need to quit my job and run away to an island with hills and trees and puffins. I need freedom and fresh air and a fudge business. Until then, I guess I’ll just be stuck waiting for the next one and then forgetting how they feel, letting myself lapse back into the world of ‘just existing’ until the rain starts to fall again and my thoughts get bored of living somewhere underneath that dense bit of tissue you normal folk like to call a brain.

 

 

 

 

*I don’t. I added that for even more dramatic effect.

Listening to Dad.

On the mornings I drag myself out of bed at 5.30 (yeah, yeah ok, 5.45… 50. SHUT UP.) my lovely Dad drives me to the train station on his way to work. And every morning, just before I fall out of the car and stumble my way to the platform, he says two words to me. In fact, they are the same two words he says to me most days – whether I’m glaring at him grumpily from the passenger seat, heading back to work eight hours after I’ve arrived home, or popping to the supermarket or going to the doctor. At 6.45 this morning, as I untangled my bag from the seatbelt and tried to get my foot to fit into my trainer (I am the very epitome of a ‘morning person’), my Dad turned to me and said ‘have fun’.

As with most mornings he received a derisive snort and a less than cheery goodbye wave but, once I’d arranged myself into a fairly neat pile of human, clothes and book, his words came back to me. I tend to think that when he says these words he’s being ironic, sarcastic, some other word ending in –ic that describes his attitude to the world perfectly. But… what if he’s not? What if my Dad – the quiet, moody old chap that I spend my life arguing with over things that don’t matter – is trying to tell me something?

My Dad is a funny combination of someone who finished their education at 12 and has produced three (ok, two plus me) fairly intelligent children whilst spending his life torn between struggling for the simple things and ignoring the fact that he is – like his littlest child – an emphatic thinker. We tend to ignore that side of him because that’s what he wants us to do. He’ll sit and stew over bits of life that we wouldn’t even have stopped to think about and then tell us to ignore him. But this time, I think I might take him up on his suggestion.

Maybe it is just a blasé comment, a routine phrase from when I was small(er) and skipped off with my Mum to do exciting things while he went to work and was under paid for doing too much. Or maybe he’s giving me the best piece of advice I’ll ever get.

Today I put a smile on my face and ignored the fact the train made me 25 minutes late into work. I laughed, I joked and – after being released from my prison cell two hours early (see, smiles work!) I dumped my shopping bags against a fence and sat on a swing. We don’t get another chance at life. If work gets you down tomorrow, laugh. It doesn’t matter. Leave it at the office and walk in your front door without the frown. If you’ve too much studying and the essays are piling up, take a good hard look at what you’re doing and appreciate the fact that it was all your choice and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get somewhere. But most of all, folks, have a little fun with your day, with your week, with your life. What else have we got at 6.45 when the trains are delayed and the tickets are too expensive and we know that once we get to work we’re just going to end up being interrupted every ten minutes by someone whose dog has peed on your nice, clean floor?

And you never even know who pushed you.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Hannah scooped up a handful of peanuts and dropped them one by one into her mouth. She cast him a scathing look as she crunched them, sighing as he blew smoke across the garden and returning to her chiding as soon as her mouthful was gone. “You can’t expect falling in love to be easy. It’s shit. Really shit. Remember all those times you got too drunk to stand and fell down the steps outside some club or another? Sometimes you fell awkwardly and the bruises stuck for a week, the next time you landed softly and laughed for half an hour? Well, that’s what falling in love is like. Doesn’t matter how grand the steps are or what dive they lead away from, the fall feels the same until you land. Landing is the scariest thing because that’s when you get to see if there’s anyone waiting to pick you up and kiss you better.”

Jack stubbed his cigarette out against the cracked side of the ashtray and poked at the ashes with the burnt out end. He nodded solemnly but didn’t bother to raise his head. She knew he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about but when it came to love that was probably the whole point.

Things I do instead of doing the things I should be doing.

Everyone claims to be a procrastinator when it comes to one thing or another. Similarly, everyone can claim to be better than me at this thing or that. But the two do not go hand in hand. When it comes to procrastinating, I am a goddess. Hera, Demeter, dear darling Hebe, you have absolutely nothing on Sophie.

Today, I have been avoiding an essay. An end-of-module-2000-word-pick-the-philosophy-option-because-you’re-a-masochist essay. I was avoiding it yesterday, too. And the day before. But it’s ok, I have made a plan and that plan is the key to all future success. Should I act upon the plan, I will have a fully functioning essay. Should I continue along the rocky path I am currently climbing I will have sore feet and a brain full of mush.

So, how does the goddess of procrastination spend her time? Well…

Looking at pictures of kittens on the interwebs:

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Technically, these kittens are not from the internet.

When you stick a computer in front of a Crazy Cat Lady, she will use it to find kittens. Thankfully, I already know lots of kittens (pop over to Catcuddles, my second home, if you would like to find out how) but I also know a lot of people who know a lot of kittens so Facebook is the most dangerous place in the world.

Making my stuffed tapir watch Crappy American TV:

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Not Peter

I have a stuffed tapir called Peter (that’s not him, his face is less fuzzy). I also have an obsession with American TV shows that make my brain cry. I do not cope well with scary things, or any things, but Peter’s bloody good at that. Peter’s favourite show is Fringe, because he likes the fact that one of the characters is named after him. It upsets him that aforementioned character does not have a white band around his middle but he gets over it eventually. He was really sad when Charlie died though. REALLY SAD.

Learning things and listing them:

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Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas…

I have never been to America but I can write every state alphabetically in less than 2 minutes. With their capitals. I can do the 92 football league clubs in just over 5 and I once made it my job to learn every Crayola crayon colour in the box. I like remembering things, ok?

Listening to the Pokemon theme song/s on repeat:

Psyduck was always my favourite…

I found this. I have to admit that some of them are utterly depressing – the Pokemon theme was not designed for a lesser known American indie band (don’t get me wrong, I love lesser known American indie bands. I’m such an, er, hipster?). However, I managed to dance to the whole 10 minutes. I then listened to them more quietly later on so that the boyfriend didn’t realise I was doing it again.

These things, really, are nothing. They are the things that any ordinary human being would do were they faced with an essay and less than a week to complete it. They are the things that tie me to the rest of the world and allow me to understand humanity. They bring the goddess of procrastination one step closer to the realms of Earth.

Making a paper charmander, turning my hamster into a Rastafarian and creating pictures featuring large stones (based on popular ‘songs’) are the things that differentiate me from mere people and allow me to call myself a goddess.

Dean

Rastahamster

Party rock is outside the house tonight.

You are very welcome.

Today, I stalked a cat. (Some parts of this tale may be exaggerated)

“This is going to sound a bit mad but…”
I stood in the pet shop – looking six, feeling senile – shuffling my feet and hoping that the person waiting to buy their bird seed had wandered off to look at dog collars. The woman behind the counter smiled – encouraging, patronising, silently terrified – and I asked myself why this always happened to me.

I had been rushing to the train station after the boyfriend but with legs that are rival only to a dwarf hamster I wasn’t getting very far. I sent him away, forsaking my own happiness so that he wasn’t late for work (psht, work. Watching football and eating food isn’t work, I tell you). A woman on crutches with lead weights around her ankles zoomed past me and I sulked. Across the road, between the cemetery and Iceland (our high street is a place of dreams), a cat appeared. I like cats but by this point I had sunk to my knees and was dragging my useless body along the ground with my fingernails. People passed by – both myself and the cat – without so much as a second glance.

I got up in the end. You know what Lewis Carroll said about believing six impossible things before breakfast ? Well, that makes it my duty to do at least one highly unlikely thing before lunch. So, I stood and put one tiny, broken foot in front of the other. I lifted my face to the sky and- wait. A cat? A cat! I scampered off down the street, eyes peeled, cat-dar flaring, until I located her. She had crossed the road and was munching on some large, yellow daisy-like conundrums placed precariously on the curb outside of the flower shop. I sidled up to her and waved. She looked at me, stuck her tail in the air and chirruped a hello. We were friends. My job was complete.

Something in the back of my mind was yelling at me. I thought perhaps my weak knees were about to give way so I sidestepped the high street cat to prevent any fatalities. The high street cat. The cat in the high street. I like cats.

The cat looked at me and I looked at the cat (for if you gaze long into cats’ eyes then the cats’ eyes will gaze back into you). “You’re not supposed to be here,” I told her. She knew. They always know. They just never care. People passed by, shopping bags rustling in the breeze, mullets reflecting the sun’s attempt at light, discarded cigarettes and nappies wafting down towards the main road. I edged away from the flower shop (I didn’t want to catch hayfever), the cat edged with me. “Now cat,” I said, “listen here. You’re very pretty and you have a lovely little mew and your tiny white paws are oh so cute but YOU DON’T LIVE IN THE HIGH STREET!” She raised a whisker at me and dashed across the road.

I had a choice. I could pick up my bruised, aching legs and carry my brave body to the supermarket to spend my £7.50 or I could rush across the road and check that she wasn’t going to place a bet. She was obviously underage and I couldn’t risk her becoming a gambler; friends don’t let friends gamble their catnip away. You’re right, of course I didn’t have a choice. Before I knew it I was in an alley behind some shops and she was rolling around on her back with her belly in the air. Hussy. Her, not me. I was an innocent bystander, no rolling for me. Bad legs, remember? By this point we were quite far from anything that could have pretended to be residential and she had collected her thoughts and was skipping off towards The Busiest Road in the Town.

I stood there for a while, wondering why (unlike other people) I didn’t have a car with a cat basket permanently inside, just in case such a scenario should occur. I changed my thoughts a little and wondered why (like everyone else in the town) I hadn’t just walked past the cat and ignored the fact that she was tottering down the street like a little lost thing. She sat there, looking lost, watching the cars on the road zooshing by. She looked at me over her little tabby shoulder – forlorn and lonely.

I went to the pet shop. “This is going to sound mad but has anyone mentioned a missing cat? A tabby and white one who has suicidal urges?” They hadn’t. She said she’d ask the baker which I must admit sounded madder than even something I’d come out with. I smiled (grimaced) and left. The cat was sitting underneath a car when I returned, all sorry eyes and starving stomach. Great.

I went to the supermarket. Where else was I going to go? I spent my £7.50 and trudged back to the alley. I hadn’t bought her a present, I should have done but I am not a lady and neither was she. She was nowhere to be seen. A part of me panicked and ran to the road, the other part high-fived itself and skipped home. The final part got on its hands and knees and peered right into the depths of the dirty car’s shadow.
“Mew!” AHA. She scrambled out, looking decidedly less starved, stray and distressed than I remembered. “MEW!”

We stood together for a while; me with shopping bags leaning against my feet and cat hair on my clothes, her leaning against my shopping bags with cat hair on her everything. People passed by. They walked quickly, for some reason, and didn’t look back until they had reached the end of the path. I checked the time. “I could have been home an hour ago, Miss Cat,” I told her. She looked at me, knowingly – of course I couldn’t. I’d have stopped 16 times to talk to stubborn shapes pressed into bushes or concreted on driveways. I like cats.

In the end, she got bored. She walked back to the street and went to the church. I told her that they no longer worshipped Bastet in these parts but she had found a child and was snuffling it with her nose. Hussy.

I was, of course, concerned. This is Kent and Kent is well known for its delightful members of society, its lush green lands and it’s status as The Garden of England. And that, dear people, is all a very big misunderstanding. She darted across the pavement in front of a merry band of Paul’s Boutique-wearing thieves. They glared at her, rolled up their sleeves. One spat on the floor and conjured a Staffy from his over-sized pockets. His girlfriend pulled apart her fake eyelashes and wiped her fake tan from her forehead in the hope of getting a better look. Fortunately, an old newspaper was blown across the pavement and they scurried after it, all thoughts of her lost with the emergence of hope at discovering the residue grease from some old fish and chips.

Anyway, it turned out that the cat lived in a flat above one of the shops. She crossed the road, headed down an alley so damp and dark that I didn’t imagine anyone had entered it for years (except me, stalking the cat) and skipped over some fences. I imagine she would have thanked me for my concern, had she been anything but a cat. It was all over so quickly that I stood there for a while, mulling over the idea of climbing after her to demand a refund of my time. She would have just pretended not to know me and wrapped herself around someone else’s legs. Hussy. I picked up my bags, scuffed my poor little feet against the ground and headed for home.

On my way I met a cat. He sat nestled into the overgrown grass of his garden, watching the world go by. We are old friends. I once opened a packet of cat sweets that I’d bought for my own cat and shared them with him, because it was raining and his eyes were sad. He raised his head and surveyed me in the way only cats can do. I went to lift my arm, to wave madly and tell him the details of my day. When he looked at me with those knowing eyes I sighed and changed my mind. I went home. I sat down, ate a brownie and wondered where my life had gone wrong. Or right.

I like cats. Had I mentioned that?

Unfortunately, I didn’t think I’d need a camera for ‘cat-snapping’ on a quick trip to the supermarket. I should have known!

 

The art of comfort reading.

This evening I made chocolate double fudge brownies. They’re rather gooey, rather fattening and rather tasty.

I am not one for glamour. I’m far more interested in having chocolate smeared across my face, cat fur on my clothes and a wooden spoon coated in cake mix. 80% of the time, I am wearing a football shirt and I own one pair of shoes. ONE. I believe in squishy hips, make-up free faces and comfort. I’m big on comfort.

And, for me, one of the best ways to find comfort is with a good book. You’ve heard of comfort eating, I’m sure. You’ve participated in comfort eating and I’m not going to let you deny it. But comfort reading? Now that’s a whole new level of satisfaction.

See, I need to be honest with you about something. I haven’t read War and Peace. I haven’t even touched Doctor Zhivago. And Middlemarch? Well, that made it to my bookshelf at least*. I have tried many times to make a list of books that I must read; unfortunately by the time I’ve written down the ones on my bookshelf that haven’t yet been touched my pen has been drained of ink and my soul is leaking out of my ear. One of the reasons – and I must emphasise the one there – is that I am a comfort reader. I firmly believe that the only way to read is for yourself and that often involves picking up a well-loved book and stepping into a world that you know so well you could rewrite it yourself. Word. for. word.
So here are my ultimate comfort books. They are for me, not you, so I couldn’t give a small rodent’s rear end if you agree with them or not. You will though, because I have impeccable taste in everything. Especially brownies.

(I had to change my plan for this. I’d written approx. 9000 words on the first two books and my fingers are slowly starting to disappear. They’re not very long anyway so I’m just going to pack it in and write a couple of sentences. You’re welcome.)

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Although Colin Firth is a big part of the P&P experience, no television screen can encompass the absolute hilarity and wonder of this book. Lizzy is the single greatest character to have ever traipsed her muddy petticoats across a page and writing my A Level essay on the comic perspective of this novel was the sole reason I ever bothered to get an education in the first place.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

I like swords, I like magic and I like a good old con artist. And Locke Lamora is an artist of the very best kind. Every single time I get so caught up in Lynch’s world that I forget what’s going to happen and end up waving the blasted thing around like it’s on fire. I could talk all day about this book but I would be wasting my time. Just go and buy it, for your own sakes.

Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

I don’t really delve into YA books anymore. In fact, I sort of skipped that stage and went straight from Hairy Maclairy to Tess of the D’Urbervilles. But I make exceptions for books that bring books to life. And for Dustfinger.

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever had to put up with me for longer than 5 minutes. I belong in Wonderland. I am probably Tweedledoo, the long lost sister of the Tweedle-twins. I would like to be the crazy woman sitting on the hill surrounded by a dozen empty-bodied grins. The Cheshire Cat Collector. That sounds about right. Besides, anywhere that has a cake to make you grow taller is the place for me.

One Hundred Love Sonnets – Pablo Neruda

This is a secret. The Christmas before last, after much hinting and coughing in the right direction, the lovely boyfriend handed this to me. That’s not the secret bit. What he doesn’t know is that sometimes, when the clouds are hanging around the bedroom door, poking their ugly grey heads in and staring at me, I sneak this off the shelf and read a few. Or even just one. Pablo Neruda was a genius and every word he dotted across the page is utterly beautiful.

The Girl With Glass Feet – Ali Shaw

This is just utterly, utterly beautiful. From the cover to the silver pages, and of course the words inside. Of all the books on this list, this is the one I’d have loved to have written.

Mog – Judith Kerr

One day I will tell the world about my picture book obsession. Until then, I will leave you with Mog. I don’t know if my love for cats or books came first but whichever it was, Mog left me with no choice in the matter. I can’t be in a bookshop without finding the children’s section simply to wave at Mog. If every child had this book read to them once a week, the world would be a much better place.

* I need to point out that I dabble in the classics more than the evidence suggests. Not enough for someone who is supposed to be studying English Lit but that’s because people keep writing books I have to read. Totally not my fault.

Too much time and too many legs.

So, Phwoffy, why have you decided to start a blog?

Well, you see sir, I don’t like talking to very many people and the people I do talk to get a little bit sick of my voice.

 

There is a spider crossing my ceiling, waving a spindly leg at me from high above and mocking my fear. He knows the size difference and he’s well aware that I could chase him from his lair, never to return again. He also knows that I am a coward and that the thought of something with an immeasurably large number of legs (eight! EIGHT! I can’t count that high!) getting caught in my hair is one of a number of things that makes me want to cry.

Other things that may induce crying include, but are most certainly not limited to: the smell of burnt toast, sore throats, not having enough chocolate to make brownies, cats with sad faces, cats with happy faces who once had sad faces, lost things, found things, lonely things, REALLY HAPPY THINGS, cheese that’s gone off and has made the cheese box wet, folded over pages!!!!, odd socks, over-minty toothpaste, baby iguanas.
(Some of these things may not be entirely true but I dare you to question them.)

The spider has moved to the wall. I believe it is going to break into one of the hamster cages and take a rodent hostage. I will not be able to fight and will have to hand over every penny I possess. I don’t know how far Highway Spider will get on £2.50.

When I remember that this blog exists and am not too busy lamenting the fact that I have nothing to write about, I will most definitely be mentioning the following things:

 
Four-leggers. Despite my aversion to insecticos, anything with four or less legs is most welcome in my life. Most of the creatures on the planet that I like have more legs than me. I am a crazy cat woman and I do spend my time travelling over an hour to clean out litter trays for free. I have a big, yummy tabby cat called Giz and he’s better than everyone. I know this because he told me.

- Books. I have an obsession with the written word that goes beyond the phrase ‘bookworm’. I like to see the way words are formed and I like to eat them with my eyes. I’m slowly working my way through an Open University degree in English Lit so that may pop up but mostly I’ll be talking about Jane Austen, Eastern European fiction, children’s picture books and swords. Give me a sprinkling of magic, a stabby knife and a page of words I am too polite to type here and I’m a happy little one.

- Football. I don’t watch as much as I used to because my total income is somewhere around the £0 mark, but it’s not one of those things that goes away. I am a Gillingham fan and, yes, for what it’s worth I do realise that means my life is void of any hope or joy.

- Food. I like food. Especially cakes. Chocolate ones. And I could not give a rat’s bottom that the copious amounts of baked goods I make are not good for my waistline. Why would I want a waist when I can have a cookie?

I can’t think of any other information that is vital to the continuation of the earth.
The spider is back on the ceiling and is taunting me. He slithers towards my head, spins on his EIGHT heels and slithers away. He watches me from his seventy zillion gabillion eyes and he waits. The war has only just started and, like all the others, it will continue until someone comes to save me and my stuffed tapir.

Please.

Tell them I’m waiting.

 

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