"We cannot hate ourselves into versions of ourselves we can love".
What a quote that is. It truly resonates with me as I realise this is something I've been doing most of my life.
I cannot recall how or when my mental health issues began, only that I can't really remember a time that the black dog wasn't following me in the sinister creeping way that it does. I didn't suffer childhood trauma (although I was bullied at school); I have a very loving family, a wonderful and supportive partner and great friends. To all intents and purposes, I should be a very happy and contented individual. But that is not how depression works, it's isn't how mental health conditions work. Depression doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you're young, old, black, white, straight, gay, bi, trans or anything in between. It is a sucking void, a black cloud, a parasite.
Society is all too quick to use the terms 'depression', 'anxiety', 'OCD' and 'bipolar' in such flippant ways. I hear people saying "oh my god, I'm so stressed and anxious" or "ugh, I'm so depressed", or "I'm totally OCD about xyz" or even "she's, like, totally bipolar" when its clear that they might just be feeling a little overwhelmed or a bit down, like things a certain way, or, for want of a better word, a bit eccentric. I'm not saying these feelings aren't valid, but what I am saying is that using those terms is both disrespectful and irresponsible. Overuse of these terms begins to render them meaningless.
You might be thinking to yourself, "what does this girl know?" Well, I'll tell you, this girl does know. This girl knows the crushing weight of depression and the overwhelming feeling of constant worry that something horrendous is about to happen; that churning feeling in your stomach and the dropping of your heart to the floor every few seconds. But you'll see me walking down the street and have no idea that I used to be heavily medicated for my mental health, had 6 weeks off work due to a minor breakdown, and have contemplated suicide more often than would be considered 'normal' (and don't even get me started on the term 'normal'!).
I'm not writing this for your sympathy; I don't need you to say "oh poor girl with her clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder"; I don't need to hear you say "oh I would never have pegged you as someone who had depression" and I definitely don't need to hear you say "can't you just cheer up?". I'm writing this to give you an education and to ask you to be kind. Be respectful of the language you use each day and be respectful of other people. You don't know what a person you see on the street might be going through, so a smile or just a random act of kindness can be the most welcome thing (to anyone, not just someone who might be suffering at that moment). And above all, be kind to all of those people who are currently trying to hate themselves into a version of themselves they can love.
Please show your support for World Mental Health day by sharing this post and by choosing kindness even if it's just for this one day.
Stay Hep, Cats
John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle. Also known as Monty Python's Flying Circus.
When I first saw Python, I assumed these hilarious and intelligent men were all really great friends, but this is not the case. Cleese and Chapman met the first time after a Footlights audition; both reeling from embarrassment, went for coffee together. John recalls that he really didn't like Graham at all, but that soon after that they began writing together and that dislike was forgotten. Though I'm not sure it was forgotten forever. Cleese eventually quit the Monty Python team, leaving the remaining 5 to complete the fourth and final series without him. Terry Jones and Michael Palin didn't like Terry Gilliam at all the first time they met him - this is actually one of my favourite stories about their meeting - Gilliam had worked with Cleese previously, and when Gilliam asked Cleese to introduce him to anyone (anyone being the operative word!) in TV, Cleese obliged. Gilliam walked into a meeting with the rest of the Python boys wearing a full-length Afghan coat putting Jones and Palin's noses out of joint. Idle, on the other hand, saw something in Gilliam (and his coat) that he instantly warmed to.
This sketch is actually (allegedly) the reason that we call email and internet rubbish, 'spam'. I for one pretty much know the Dead Parrot sketch backwards, forwards and inside out.
In 1974 after 5 years and 4 series, the Pythons called it a day. They did, however, go on to make their amazingly brilliant films; Holy Grail in 1975, Life of Brian in 1979, and The Meaning of Life in 1983. All of them continued to work with each other in various ways, be it in movies such as Time Bandits, A Fish Called Wanda, Jabberwocky, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen or Brazil (some of these amongst my favourite films of all time) or with writing commitments.
Sadly, a mere 6 years after The Meaning of Life came out, Graham Chapman passed away (died, went to meet his maker, was no more, ceased to be, became a late Chapman) from cancer. Graham really didn't cope well with the life of a Python or with life in general. He finally came out when he was 25, much to the surprise of his fellow Python members (not because they had an issue with him being gay, but because he was always the more rugged one; smoked a pipe, played rugby, climbed trees and mountains etc.), and was an alcoholic. Being a "jovial drunk" (as Barry Cryer described him) it took a very long time for his illness to be discovered. It was, finally, when they were looking for a missing script and Palin, looking in the small suitcase Chapman (or Gray as he was affectionately known) used to carry, found not only the script, but a very LARGE amount of vodka. Chapman told Michael Parkinson, during a 1980 television interview that he was drinking 4 pints of gin a day. He decided to sober up following the making of the Holy Grail and went cold turkey.
The Pythons became incredibly popular among the rich and famous; apparently, Paul McCartney would cease recording in order that he could watch, and a fair amount of the budget for Monty Python and the Holy Grail was provided by Pink Floyd, Genesis and Led Zepellin. Elvis Presley apparently loved the movie so much that he could quote the entire movie back to front. He even used the immortal line "it's just a flesh wound" once when he broke his finger.
I could wax lyrical about the Python lads for days on end; I truly love them all and I'm forever grateful for them because of all the joy and laughter they have and will continue to provide, not just to me, but to others. I hope to be able to introduce my niece and nephew to them when they're older and I hope they give them the same mirth and merriment.
So, yes, I want the Pythons at my dinner party. I want to hear more about their relationship; love, hatred, indifference. I want to hear about Michael Palin's trips around the world, I want to talk to Terry Gilliam about art and his movies which I adore, I want to sing and play the guitar with Eric Idle, I want to force John Cleese to do a silly walk and do one of his amazing screamy rants, and I want Terry Jones to do his hilarious striptease with nipple and arse tassels. If Graham Chapman could spend a bit of time too, I'd like him to just stop the whole conversation whilst dressed as a Colonel because it was all just too silly.
I'll leave you with a YouTube video of a small compilation of sketches and I'm off to eat a wafer-thin mint and tell my dog that he's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy.
Stay Hep, Cats
Earlier this week, I asked on social media if any of you would be interested in tutorials etc. You seemed pretty keen, and I posted a little Instagram story of how I do my every day make up. A lot of you watched (thank you!), so I thought I would post it here so you can look at it properly without the clock ticking!
I will try to put together a timelapse style video of this also to post in the near future so you can see exactly how I apply everything.
I start with a cleansed and moisturised face (I am in the process of putting together a post about the products I use, so stay tuned for that!), and once I've done my hair ready for the day, I start my make up. Don't ask me why I do it like this, I just do...
Now the 'face' is done, I can move on to the eyes, so next up is brows. If you all thought I was naturally ginger, you would sadly be mistaken. I, therefore, need to create the illusion that my hair and eyebrows are actually the same colour... Enter, Bleach London Louder Powder. I'd been looking for the perfect shade of orange to use on my brows forever and then happened upon this on a lunchtime wander around Superdrug. It was like choirs of angels were singing and all was suddenly right with the world. It is very highly pigmented, so, like everything else, a little goes a long way. I apply it using a small angled brush. It's joyous.
Once my lips are on, I feel completely put together (or as put together as one can) and can go to work feeling like I have one less thing to worry about!
So there we have it, my every day make up. It takes about 10-15 minutes to do it all (depending on how distracted I am in the morning either by social media, Duolingo [I'm using it to learn French at the moment] or the dog!) so all pretty straightforward. I hope this was enjoyable and informative, and if anyone gets the band reference from the title, you get a gold star!
Stay Hep, Cats
I guess you could say this time around you get a twofer.
I'll come clean, here. I have something of an unusual mind. The things that interest and fascinate me are not necessarily the things one would either expect nor are things one should discuss in polite society. I like old stuff, and dead stuff (I mean, come on, taxidermy is really freaking cool, right?!) and have a strange fascination with the macabre. Crime TV shows and movies are always my first choice.
Given this 'admission', I will announce my next guests.
Edmund Reid and Frederick George Abberline
These names might sound familiar to some of you, and be utterly alien to others. But, the name that connects these two men, and a name you will definitely all know is Jack the Ripper.
Frederick Abberline was Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Police in 1888. A clockmaker before joining the Met, he was seconded to Whitechapel from Scotland Yard after the murder of Mary Ann Nichols. Despite being described as looking like 'a bank manager', his knowledge of the east end made him an integral part of the Ripper investigation.
Before his retirement from the Met in 1892, he received 84 commendations and awards. He subsequently worked as a private investigator and was part of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency of the United States for 12 years.
Inspector Abberline had some forward-thinking ideas when it came to the Ripper case, even considering that the murders could have been committed by a woman. This is certainly something that would rarely have been considered in the 1800s, and whilst there are many instances of female serial killers, it is usually less likely that serial murders are committed by women. His prime suspect was George Chapman (whose real name was Severin Antoniovich Klosowski), who was convicted of poisoning several women in the the late 1890s early 1900s. Although known as the Borough Poisoner, he was amongst the suspects in the Whitechapel murders. Not my prime suspect, however.
Frederick died in 1929 at the age of 86, followed a few months later by his wife, Emma. They never had children, but by all accounts had a happy life together.
Edmund Reid was a Detective Inspector based in Scotland Yard. He was tasked with organising J Division's CID Department in Bethnal Green in 1886, which led him to becoming the Local Inspector and head of CID's H Division in Whitechapel in 1888. He was in charge of the investigations of the murders of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram before Inspector Abberline was seconded back to Whitechapel to co-ordinate the hunt for The Ripper.
D.I. Reid also had some interesting theories regarding who Jack the Ripper was. He postulated that the murders were committed by a local drunk who had no recollection of his crimes.
In an interview in 1912 for Lloyd's Weekly News he said: "The whole of the murders were done after the public-houses were closed; the victims were all of the same class, the lowest of the low, and living within a quarter of a mile of each other; all were murdered within half a mile area; all were killed in the same manner. That is all we know for certain. My opinion is that the perpetrator of the crimes was a man who was in the habit of using a certain public-house, and of remaining there until closing time. Leaving with the rest of the customers, with what soldiers call 'a touch of delirium triangle,' he would leave with one of the women. My belief is that he would in some dark corner attack her with the knife and cut her up. Having satisfied his maniacal blood-lust he would go away home, and the next day know nothing about it."
He believed that the Ripper had no surgical skill, and that the knife used was blunt. He didn't think that body parts were missing either (which we know was not true as Mary Ann Nichols' uterus was removed during/after her murder).
After retiring from the police, he became a publican and then a private investigator. Reid died in 1917 at the age of 71, having only remarried earlier that year.
The more I researched both Abberline and Reid, the more I found myself thinking about their characters in the amazing series Ripper Street. Reid being played by Matthew MacFadyen and Abberline by Clive Russell. In the show, Reid is intelligent and forward thinking, compassionate and dogged; whilst Abberline seems hard and battle weary. They don't seem to like each other, and it feels as though Abberline is maliciously trying to drag Reid down and make him fail. Looking at the theories they actually had in reality about the Ripper, it would seem that it was Abberline who was the compassionate forward-thinking man and Reid the more angry and battle-scarred.
I would love to have them both at the table to discuss their theories and gauge their relationship with each other. Did they get on? Was there a mutual respect or some sort of jealousy? Did Reid resent having Abberline be seconded in whilst he was heading up the department and murder investigations? Did Abberline resent being dragged back into the East End? I would love to ask them about the more recent theories about who the Ripper was, and whether they think with the investigative techniques we have now they could have actually caught Jack. I would love to discuss my favourite Ripper-related book with them (Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer) and find out if they think that the evidence contained within is as compelling as I do.
Whilst the gruesome deaths of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly are not strictly dinner party conversation, the Whitechapel murders are infamous and such a huge part of London history that I think one could be forgiven for discussing the more taboo whilst dining.
What are your thoughts? Would you come to dinner if Frederick and Edmund were invited?
Stay Hep, Cats
Despite getting increasingly frustrated, angry and bored of her antics towards the end of her career, my love for her didn't wane, and, even increased after her sad and untimely death. She had a soul that nobody of this era will ever be able to truly understand, she was, very possibly, born in the wrong time.
I can relate to some of the hardships she went through as a child and young adult, but, unlike Amy, I had a very solid family. My parents loved me and wanted me, and whilst I have suffered (and still do) my fair share of mental health problems, I at least, am still here. Still surviving.
I hear new things in Amy's songs every time I hear them; nuances in the way she sings, hidden messages in her lyrics. I feel that as I get a little older I understand her pain in different ways.
I would love to have Amy for dinner because I would like to talk to her about her life experiences and try to get her to open up about how it felt to be her. This incredibly talented, unassuming young woman, who was used and abused by so many people in her life, her father included. I would love to ask her what she planned to do next, would she have continued to make music if she hadn't left this mortal coil and joined the '27 club'? Would she have married Reg Traviss? Would she have ended up going back to Blake Fielder-Civil?
I want to believe that she would have got fully drug-free and found lasting love, but then again, I'm an old romantic. I have to wonder if she had settled down, would any new music she produced be as emotive as the tracks we know and love? There are so many questions I would like to ask her, but to be frank (see what I did there), I would just want to hear her sing.
So, what do you think? Would you have Amy Winehouse over for dinner?
Stay Hep, Cats