Valentines Day…Love it or hate it that bad boy is going nowhere.

Before I start waffling on about the beauty of Valentines Day, how it ignites and fuels the love struck but reminds the unlucky in love that life does indeed suck; that for one day and one day only, you are allowed to wallow in your own self pity and isolated despair, because remember…you are the only person on the planet that feels your level of broken hearted turmoil…

Did I just do exactly what I said was not going to do?  Well, whatever you feel about Valentines Day, it’s all relative and it’s all valid.  Not convinced?  Let me tell you a story.

I spent thirty-one years surrounded by people who worshipped the very concept of Valentines Day.  I didn’t.  Year after year the concept of that day became increasingly difficult to navigate and if I managed to come out of the other side somewhat unscathed, it was an improvement on the previous year.

From birth (I guess), I believed that it was the guy who was supposed to express his affection for the girl.  I believed that if a boy sent me a Valentines card with a terrible…

“Roses are red…”

…poem inside, then it was the real thing.

All the way through primary school the same kids were kissing the same kids regardless of the fact they probably couldn’t actually spell the word “Valentines”.

The girls got roses, the boys got a Wispa chocolate bar and I got…well, nothing.

Taking in to consideration my chronic constipation was in action from a very young age, I got my first spot on my chin when I was ten and back in the 80’s kids didn’t really mess around with concealer like they seem to these days, so there was no disguising the monstrous volcano that went from red to yellow to just plain gross!  So I understood why a boy didn’t want to send me a card or write me a poem.

In 1993 when I started high school, that’s when the fun really started.  I got more constipation so I got more acne.  I know it sounds strange and I only gained this knowledge just before I had surgery and got my stoma in 2017.  When you poo you’re getting rid of all the toxins and bad bacteria that your body needs to get rid of.  If you can’t poo, those toxins have to go somewhere, so for me; they came out in my face!  This was no good for a teenage girl my friends, no good at all.

In my high school years when my friends were experimenting with make-up and clothes and were allowed to go into town shopping on a Saturday afternoon; I was in my bedroom, ploughing through my homework with my cassette player next to me listening to Kula Shaker and Ocean Colour Scene.  As soon as my homework was done I pulled out my notebook and took inspiration from those voices and the lyrics in the songs they were singing to make a world with words that only I had access to.  A world where I could create the same characters in school that I spent every single day with and I could choose to take away their Valentines cards, their chocolates and their roses and just give them…


As every year passed it became more and more imperative that you had to kiss a boy! You had to have a boy want to kiss you and every single year, neither of those things happened.

I became the gopher.  The friend people would send to another group of friends to break the news that one person fancied the other and they wanted to go out with them.  To this day I still don’t know where they wanted to go out to, it’s a mystery.

It was a known fact, that some of the people I went to school with were the lucky recipients of multiple Valentine’s Day paraphernalia but I was always empty handed.  I was the girl who never wrote a card and was never the recipient of one but every year people would ask me…

“How many Valentines cards did you get Katerini?”

I started off by hanging my spotty head in shame and saying very quietly…


I remember one year I had a triangle of acne spots on my forehead with one sitting extremely uncomfortably in the space between my eyebrows and a boy laughed and said…

“I’m not surprised, Cyclops.”

I don’t know exactly where that boy is now but I’m pretty certain he’s not a comedian.

I lived my life through music.  I believed that listening to one song first thing in the morning as I put my school uniform, on would dictate how I lived the hours of my day until I could take it off again. 

I must have been about fourteen when I discovered a band called Ruth.  They did one album, Harrison, I was madly in love with the lead singer, of course, and when I heard their song “Valentines Day” where the latter of the lyrics were…


“Stay out of my way, on Valentines Day.

Stay out of my way, and you’ll be okay…”

Well, it became my anthem.  Every year I would play that song and throughout the day I would sing those words in my head, strongly believing that the more I sang them, the more I believed them to be true.

I was bullied pretty much all year round, not just on this sacred day and I had to work out a version of self-protection that would make other people smile and keep the bullies at arm’s length.

14th February 1994…

“How many Valentines cards did you get Katerini?”

“Oh the ship’s not come in yet.  There were too many to load on to it so it’s due tomorrow along with all of my flowers and chocolates.”

Happy Valentines Day Katerini

Believe it or not that bought me freedom from the bullies, some of them didn’t know what to do with it to such an extent they backed off and I had the rest of the day to work out what to say next year.

From that moment on I used my creative mind to come up with the most ridiculous romantic scenarios as I could in the hope that people would think I didn’t care about the 14th February.

14th February 1995

“Oh, Crispian’s on tour at the minute with his band, Kula Shaker.  He called me last night and said he’s got me a card and a present but the post in Japan is really slow.”

Crispian Mills

14th February 1996

“Crispian’s on tour again.  He called me last night and asked my mum if I can go on tour and he’ll pay for everything because he really likes me.”

14th February 1997

“Yeah me and Crisp split, we’re still friends but I’ve got a new boyfriend now.  His name’s Scott James, he’s the lead singer in The Montrose Avenue.”

Scott James

14th February 1998

“Simon (lead singer from Ocean Colour Scene) sent me something in the post but it’s still on the way.  It’s coming by carrier pigeon but he said it’s really special.”

Simon Fowler

Silly stories made me feel better.  They made life feel easier, as if there was another world out there for me, an alternative existence where I was accepted as myself by the most creative and alternative people.

As I got older it was more difficult to pass those humorous stories off and I just looked strange.  I became a twenty-something trying to put myself in a world that didn’t exist.  I became the twenty-something whose mental illness spiralled when on the 14th February my letter box produced nothing but a hospital appointment or a writer’s magazine containing articles on how to write a successful love story!

I went through all of my teens with no sign of a love poem.  Even in my twenties the very short-lived relationships I had didn’t fall on Valentines Day so there were no chocolates and definitely no flowers on my doorstep.

I spent so long grieving over why I wasn’t the recipient of a ginormous heart shaped red card and a box of cheap chocolates that I never actually asked myself what Valentines Day looked like for me?  What did I want?  Did I want chocolates?  Did I want rose petals and candles?  Was I prepared for someone to write a writer a poem?  Could I even write one myself when I still struggle with the definition of a Limerick never mind harbour the ability to create one. 

The truth is, I had no idea what I wanted because I’d always been so focused on the things I didn’t have. 

When I met Matt I was thirty-one.  I’d given up on Valentines anything so ten years ago when he asked what I wanted to do for Valentines Day I said…

“All I really want is a card, because I’ve never had one.”

Two spring chickens

Well, I got my card, and I got chocolates that he still points out I didn’t eat, but in my defence, I can’t eat something that is in the shape of a heart and says “I love you” on it.  If I ate that, there’s no evidence of that ever being true.

Ten years later, every year I get my card.  Every year I get a little present. And every year people ask…

“What did you do for Valentines Day Katerini?”

And every year I say…

“Not much, I just wanted a card.”

This year I had a really rotten start to the week.  For three and a half months I have managed to swerve a Diversion Colitis flare up.  I have been able to serve up a Christmas dinner, do three presentations and make the journey up to Dundee without it getting a look in.  Until now…

Diversion Colitis is a nasty infection in your colon that around 90% of people who have an Ostomy and keep their colon will be the lucky sufferers of.  It’s a grim process and I cannot express how painful this one has been, but I’ll try.

It’s been agony.  To the point where the pain made me vomit, and I haven’t been sick for seven years so this was not a pleasant experience.  At one point I was lying on my bathroom floor, wiping my vomit-stained mouth with coconut scented toilet paper thinking…

“I’m never eating another Peparami ever again.”

And also…

“This might need a trip to A&E…but I have no idea how to move from my bathroom floor.”

Rest assured people, there was no visit to A&E this time, it was a close call but we managed to swerve that too.

I had three days in bed and went back to work on Valentines Day.  To cheer me up Matt gave me my Valentines card the night before.  Now Matt’s known in his family for his inappropriate card choosing skills and he’s not cottoned on to the fact that when he laughs at the cards he buys, he laughs alone.  Ten years ago I said to him…

“If you ever get me a stupid card, we’re done.”

Ten years later that threat still stands, and I have not received a stupid card.

Valentines Day night I had to go to Manchester to co-facilitate the Bipolar group, because just like romance, Bipolar can be unpredictable.  I felt rubbish, all I’d eaten in twenty-four hours was a chicken Cup a Soup and a tin of chocolate Nurishment, but, while being stuck in traffic with mum I got a text message from Matt that said…

“Keep yourself free Friday night.  I’ve booked that wrestling thing you fancied.”

Okay, so hold that thought…

As a teen, I was a lot of things.  I was a geek, a nerd, a swot, an indie kid, a music lover, an actress, and a writer.  I was not a wrestler.  But… I did like watching it.  I liked watching the crazy characters dressed in anything from spandex and tutu’s to chains and hooded capes. 

I would watch WWE and WWF and make up the stories of who those characters were and how they came to be fighting in a ring.  I even created my own wrestling club where I was the ringleader and the peacekeeper of all involved.  My members were troubled kids who needed guidance and I was the only person who could give it.  Sorry reader, but it never made it to the page.

I had never heard of Bolton Town Wrestling until Matt spotted a poster outside his work and joked about taking me.  Little did he know that he’d married a wrestling fan!  I am just so full of surprises!

At work I opened up every single conversation I had with people with the words…

“Ask me what I got for Valentines Day.”

“What did you get for Valentines Day?”


“Tickets for what?”


To say people were a little bit surprised is an understatement.  A couple of people even said…

“Oh I’m so sorry.  Why would your husband take you somewhere like that for Valentines Day?”

Imagine those expressions when I told them it was the best Valentines present that I have ever had.  Seriously, Bolton Town Wrestling!  Guys! I am forty-one years old, where were you when I was fourteen?!

Bolton Town Wrestling – Love Hurts

I smiled as soon as we walked through the doors of the recreation centre.  There were families, there were couples, there were community groups, a raffle!  There was a merchandise stall and massive ring in the centre of the room, Tyson Fury eat your heart out mate, Bolton Town Wrestling is where it’s at!

I am not a violent person, for me it’s about the stories.  It’s about the atmosphere, it’s about a group of people forgetting who they are for a few minutes and becoming someone else entirely and making people smile.

As I watched the people bouncing around the ring covered in face paint wearing tiny shorts, I finally realised what Valentines Day looks like for me.

It’s not about chocolates and rose petals.  I don’t want a posh meal in a snazzy restaurant.  I don’t need violins or teddy bears holding heart shaped “I love you” pillows.

No thank you…

I want a card, that goes without saying.  I want to be in a room with the person I love looking at something that makes us both smile. I want to laugh, and I want to close my eyes at night and feel grateful for someone who knows me and does something for me that no matter how big or small it might be, they do that thing because they are happy and proud to be with me, not just because they feel they have to.  That’s what I want and I am thankful that this is what I have.

Okay so I may not be gorgeous, but at least I’m not a Cyclops anymore…

I have never been normal and even now, at the age of forty-one I am still discovering who I am and realising that there is no shame in being different.  There is nothing wrong with liking music no one else does.  It doesn’t matter if you have to make up stories to keep yourself safe because trust me…

Valentines Day 2024 may not have been your average Valentines Day, but…

…some things are worth the wait…

Reading time: 13 min

It’s right about now that I’m supposed to say…

“…happy new year!”

So there, I said it. 

And what better way to start off 2023 than with a potentially depressing blog? 

I know I’m supposed to list all the resolutions I’ve made and announce my declaration of how I’m going to change and therefore save the world this year, however I stopped making new year’s resolutions about ten years ago when I realised I wasn’t actually fulfilling them.  Talk is cheap my friends.

So, I am not starting the new year off as I wish to continue.  This blog is just a… let’s say… a reflection, of something that happened last week. 

Get a beverage guys and lets see what I have to say for myself…

May be an image of 2 people

Allow me to begin…

It was Wednesday 21st December 2022 when I phoned mum and said…

“Mum, I need to go into town after work and do some Christmas shopping.  People are buying me presents and I haven’t got one to give them back.”

At 2:30pm mum picked me up from work and we ventured into Bolton where there are zilcho shops but, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Like 90% of this country’s population I went to Primark to get my friend a present I knew she would love and I was just standing in the queue that was as per usual fifty miles long, more windy than a successful snake on a 1990’s mobile phone game – ask your parents kids, they’ll know what I mean – and I was just messaging my friend in Belgium about the postcard he sent that now resides on my ever growing “Wall of Happiness” at work.

The Wall of Happiness

I was minding my own business with my phone in one hand, expertly tapping away, my other hand holding said present and to my left I saw the definition of a…

“…chavtastic family…”

…with what seemed like fifty dishevelled kids, one prospective powerless grandparent and a lone ranger parent with a mouth like a toilet equally as powerless, trying to regain some form of control over her disobedient herd by hurling relentless colourful language at them which only fuelled them into further mischievous antics.

From the corner of my bystander eye, I saw one kid throwing the mother of all tantrums, another one running around like a frenzied T-rex on crack, a third persistently smacking the oblivious grand parent in the leg and a girl throwing a round pink ball at the display of Christmas trinkets no one needs but always buys because it’s under a quid and potentially useful, in some way.

I turned back to my phone, I finished my message and I was just about to submit my four letter word on Wordfeud when I spotted a small figure in front of me which I thought nothing of until I saw a pink thing drawing closer, heading straight for my face, then…


Something solid smacked me right in the mush, my top lip.  All I said was…


The pink thing landed in my arm and rested there like the victim of a horrible trauma and as I placed it on a shelf next to me and noticed it was a bath bomb I automatically thought…

See the source image

“That’s gonna leave a mark.”

When I looked up again the bath bomb thrower looked at me and quickly ran away, vanishing into thin air and everyone else around me said absolutely nothing.  No one asked if I was okay so maybe no one saw anything, maybe it’s not that big of a deal? But then my tongue did a bit of investigating of my top lip and straightaway it found a slit on the inside of my mouth followed by the undeniable taste of blood.  I pressed a tissue to my lip and sure enough there was a red patch and I thought…


It was already beginning to swell and the first thing I wondered was…

“…how the hell am I going to hide a burst lip now that we don’t wear masks at work anymore?”

Not only that but how big was this fat lip going to be?  I’m no oil painting anyway and a burst lip was not going to go in my favour!

I had no one with me and the unsavoury family had disappeared.  I asked the family behind me if they saw what happened, but they looked down to the floor and denied all knowledge.

With my lip still bleeding I took my place at the counter still pressing the bloody tissue to my lip and I said to the girl behind the plastic Covid screen…

“A kid just threw a bath bomb at my face.”

And she said…


Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal?  But as I turned away holding my paper Primark bag, my lip still bleeding, I felt the emotion creeping in.  So I did what any grown up, independent 40 year old woman would do and I retrieved my phone from my coat pocket with my shaking hand and I called…


Mum raced around the corner like a bat out of Hell – sorry, once a Meat Loaf fan, always a Meat Loaf fan.  The first thing she did was examine my face stating that it didn’t look as bad as it probably felt and then she apologised for not being there to protect me and fight my corner. 

Straight away I thought, I’m 40.  My mum should not be needing to protect me, but lip was still bleeding and at this point, in the presence of my superhero mum, I cried.

I felt like a child again.  Like a teenager who was hounded by horrible insensitive and nasty bullies who thrived on the misery they inflicted on their unfortunate victims… on me.

I was humiliated! Humiliated by a five-year-old tearaway and I couldn’t do a single thing about it and I couldn’t help but wonder…

“Why me? Again, why me?”

Out of all the people in that ever-growing Primark queue, why did that child single me out?  What made me deserve having a bath bomb thrown at my face?  What did I do?

Is it because I look a certain way?  It is because I look like this on holiday and not a supermodel.

I have no words for myself

Is it because my hair is turning grey and I don’t do a single thing to change it? Or is because I love looking at the toys in IKEA and picking out what I might buy if I had a kid of my own?

May be an image of 2 people and people standing

Am I reading too much into it?  Could a small child really be that calculated?  Or was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Regardless of the answer to any of those ponderings, it doesn’t change the fact that it takes just one tiny thing to bring a whole truck load of stinking rubbish to the surface and as I sit at my kitchen table, an adult, with a job and a husband and a cat we treat like a toddler, I question…

“Why do I feel fourteen again?”

Caked in self-pity because I am a ball of powerless energy that cannot change what strangers choose to see.

You might say…

“It was just a little girl.”

And that’s right, she was just a little girl; but at this point this goes far deeper than a small child acting out with no moral code.  For me that bath bomb wasn’t a bath bomb.  It was a protractor, a ruler, a 300 paged science textbook; it was the rock that a boy I liked threw at my face because I was too repulsive to even acknowledge.  It was every name I have ever been called by anyone who hated the way I look, the way I talk, my likes, my dislikes… my beliefs.  It was the undo-er of all things to come undone and I can’t help but think that even though we move on from our past, we never really come to terms with it; maybe we just bury it for a while.

In 2023 I am supposed to find a moral to this story.  A ray of hope somewhere; something that kicks off the new year with that positive mental attitude people are constantly harping on about…

So how about this?

The biggest lesson I have learnt so far, is that the journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance is not a short one.  It is long, drawn out and painful and enlightening all at the same time and even though I will never look at a bath bomb in the same light, ever again; I am grateful that it was the inside of my lip that burst.  I am thankful that the swelling and the bruise were only slight and cleared up within in a couple of days and I am relieved it was only my lip that was burst so my eyes and my teeth are still intact.

Even though my 40-year-old pride took as much of a battering as my lip, I have learnt that burying our bad memories isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes we need to remember what we have been through so that we understand why we have the strength we have. 

I may not want to recall the feelings of protractors and rocks flying at my face or the names I was called back in the day; but now I know, in order to remember why I am who I have become, I need to remember how I got there and it is not because…

…of bath bombs and breakables…

Reading time: 8 min

I had a little blog break.  I’ve been busying myself with my fictional project and turning my cat’s life into the life of an Instagram and Facebook superstar.

I also acquired Covid for the very first time which has left me isolating like a hermit but giving me the option of whether to wear a bra or not. I have immersed myself into countless hours of terrible television and hot sweats in the midst of this ridiculous heat wave…

…since when did this country do summer???

God dammit!

When the little red line came up on my covid test last week I wondered how I would spend my five days of isolation.  The first two days I was more or less bed ridden anyway but when the cold sweats and the aches that made even my eyeballs ache disappeared; I did wonder how I would spend the rest of my time.

So, I cleaned the house.  Then I packed my suitcase for my holiday in October, and now, seven days into isolation – because three covid tests later, it’s still in there playing footsie with my lungs – I have watched nearly three seasons of 90210 on Amazon Prime, one too many benefits documentaries on YouTube, far too many crime drama’s on ITV and BBC and today I pimped a notebook with fairies from a sticker collection my friend gave me for my fortieth birthday back in June.

Pimped my notebook

Tonight I decided to eat my dinner in my back yard; the sun had more or less disappeared and even though there was no breeze I wasn’t about to break a sweat.  So I sat on my garden furniture, put my feet up and popped my headphones on and listened to City and Colour while Winifred pottered about the yard around my feet chasing flies she couldn’t catch. 

I’ve spent this last week on my own for about 99% of the time – don’t get me wrong Matt is in the house but he’s negative so we’re trying to keep it that way. 

Believe it or not I haven’t done much thinking, until today.  When I did the third test I phoned mum and I whinged and I whined and I complained and I kept saying…

“I’m fed up.”

“I’ve had enough.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“It’s like furlough all over again but without the redundancy.”

“I haven’t had a hug for a week!!!”

That was the biggest one for me.  Not having a hug.  Because I love a hug.  A hug is comfort, it’s validation, it’s congratulation and it’s something that says…

…everything will be just fine.

Tonight, as I sat outside in my back yard, watching Winifred have a chat with the gnomes, I had an epiphany.

The girl loves an audience

I acknowledge I have more than the potential to be a drama queen and today I fulfilled that potential.  This morning my complaints were all about me.  I’ve been stuck in the house, I couldn’t to go work, I’ve had to cancel on friends, I couldn’t co-facilitate the Bipolar support group, I haven’t seen my mum properly in days! All of that is valid and true and I do believe I have a right to be fed up…

…but only to a point. 

In the midst of my whinging and whining I forgot Covid-19’s rap sheet and I forgot about the last two years.  I forgot that people have lost their jobs and their livelihoods.  People lost their homes…

…they lost their lives! 

So I reminded myself how horrible 2020 was for the entire world; but this time I put myself in someone else’s shoes and told myself that I was lucky I lived with someone.  I was lucky that I got to spend those seven months on furlough with my elderly cat because at the time I didn’t know those would be the final months that we would have together…

…if a cat could be a soulmate, I swear that Milly was mine.

No photo description available.
Milly 2000 – 2020

I reminded myself that despite redundancy I came out better off with a better job than I thought I would ever have and despite my reluctance to turn forty I have, when I know of others my age who haven’t made it.

Most of all I looked at myself – well, I looked at my slippers – and I said…

“What exactly has Covid done to me?”

Apart from the isolation all I have to show from the actual illness itself is a croaky voice and a cough that only occurs when I talk – some might not necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

Whenever I get that negative result I know I’m walking away from Covid with nothing sinister.  I still have my taste and smell – Mum had it back in October and she still can’t smell my bag when I empty it in her toilet.  Now that is bad! 

I may have a heavy chest right now but I’m not struggling to breathe.  The cold I had lasted twenty-four hours, the skin on my fingers and eyeballs isn’t sensitive anymore and the aches are long gone.  If Covid comes back to bite me then I’ll hold up my hands I’ll say it was worse than I thought but at this point I’m one of the lucky ones…

I haven’t had a hug for a week; but I know I’ll get one soon…

Reading time: 4 min
2000 and 2021

I once wrote a poem, twenty-something years ago and I called it “Shadows on Llandudno Beach” it was my only poem because when I showed it to someone they said…

“…it’s terrible.”

Surprisingly I wasn’t completely devastated by their criticism and this was simply down to the fact that I disagreed. 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and whilst my poem may well have been “terrible” I worked hard with those words and like everything I write, it came from my soul so to me those words were beautiful and that’s all there is to it. 

When I was eighteen, I applied to go to university in Bangor.  They had a creative writing degree that I desperately wanted to be part of but in a nutshell, it didn’t work out and I went to York St John instead. 

I remember mum driving me and my brother all the way to Bangor to see what the town was like and after that she said…

“Let’s go to Llandudno on the way back.”

I remember we parked the car and as soon as I opened the door the sea wind hit my face and all I could hear were the seagulls diving in all directions and the water washing over the rocks at the bottom of the beach.

That day in 1999 I ate chips, I had an ice cream and I got pooped on by a seagull which really annoyed me because I was wearing a brown suede jacket and it was my favourite.  But I also fell in love with Llandudno and I told myself that one day, when I was old and grey and a successful author I would open up my own B&B and I would live there surrounded by the wind and water and poopy seagulls and I would be happy.

In the summer of 2000 after our A level results and we were just a few weeks away from the next chapter of our lives my friend and I decided to have a day out.  She’d never been to Llandudno and I missed it so we took a little coach ride from Bolton to Llandudno and there was no mistaking it, we were the youngest people on there, we were surrounded by beige army but it didn’t matter because we knew where we wanted to be.

That day was perfect.  We walked along the pier, ate chips, drank tea in an old fashioned tea shop, we shared a bag of candy floss and we walked along the beach and picked out rocks.  My friend was an artist so we dug out some of the larger rocks and made holes so our bums were more comfortable and she sketched the landscape while I wrote…

“…Shadows on Llandudno Beach.”

That poem was about my grandma.  Whatever I wrote my grandma always read it and she always said she loved my words and one day I would be just like Danielle Steele – credit where it’s due, Ms Steele is a highly successful author so I was never going to deny that compliment.  My grandma died in 1998 and everything I wrote after she died was for her, every short story had her presence in it, the smells, the taste the sounds were all related to the parts of her that I missed. 

My literary inspiration…

In 2000 on Llandudno beach as I was looking out at the sea in front of me I knew I was about to take on a whole new life experience and I had to somehow put my pain on the shelf and move forward. 

That one poem was my goodbye to my pain and a hello to a better life.

Back in 2000 camera phones and selfies were unheard of.  I don’t even think I had a mobile phone at that point, all I had was a Nikon camera with a winding film barrel that had a maximum of thirty pictures and you needed a degree in engineering to load it successfully.

We had no idea how to do a selfie so to document our trip we took turns in taking pictures of each other on the pier and on the beach and even then this was the height of excellency because some of our other friends didn’t even have a camera.

When I flick through the remaining pictures I have of that trip there’s one of me standing awkwardly on the pier.  I look at my eighteen-year-old self, thinner, better hair, better eyesight, no stoma and completely unaware of anything to do with any kind of mental illness.  I remember thinking how grown up I was, I was on a day trip with my friend and I was about to move away from home to university and that was the best thing because I could escape from all the difficult bits in my life at home and move forward.  I knew I was running away; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.  I thought that taking myself out of an equation was the answer to all of my problems, kind of like closing your eyes and saying…

“…if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.”

I had no idea what was laid out ahead of me.  I had no idea that the pain in my writing was going to get a hundred times more painful and I was completely unaware that if you start running from one thing, you have to run faster to get away from the next.

That day in 2000 the only thing important to me was finding a music shop I had been to the year before and how could I eat my chips without getting pooped by a seagull again?

I started my new job last year at the end of September and in that time I’ve only had a few days off here and there.  I’ve always said I don’t like having time off if I’m not going anywhere.  A holiday to me is not sitting at home, it’s leaving the town and going to a new one.  It’s leaving the god damn country and your feet getting lost in sand; it’s talking to someone in a different language and telling them you have no idea what they’re saying…

Well, we can’t really do that at the moment can we?  We can’t just pack a bag and hop on an Easy Jet flight and sit and drink Sangria in the sun and not worry about checking the pockets of our coats for the million masks we seem to be accumulating.  I was holding out in hope that circumstances would change and this would be allowed so I could book two weeks off work and head into the sunshine but I’m still waiting for that.

I didn’t realise that not having any considerable time off work would cause any problems.  Things were difficult at work for a lot of people but I maintained the fact that I was not affected by anything that was going on…

“…strong as an ox me.”

I forgot that stress takes all forms and actually I was bothered by other factors and it wasn’t until the last minute when I found myself on the phone to my psychiatrist and he’s dishing out Zopiclone – to help me sleep because I seem to have forgotten how to do it – that I realised I needed to take some time out and practice that…


…thing the world seems to have adopted. 

I’ve ever been one for self-care, I’ve always looked at it as a bit of a hippy dippy mindfulness drivelly idea and gone down the…

“…suck it up and just get on with it…”

…route but…well I’m wrong aren’t I?  Yes I am.  We all need a bit of self-care and mine took the form of…

…an overnight trip to Llandudno with Mum.

I’ve never known what actual self-care is supposed to look like.  I know it’s things like…

  • Going for a walk
  • Pampering yourself
  • Being in touch with your friends and family
  • Maybe it’s being by yourself
  • Eating but not overeating
  • Exercise
  • Watching TV
  • Being away from social media

I’ve reached the point now where “sucking it up” isn’t working and I have just less than a week off work to bring myself up from the hole that my unconscious seems to be digging. 

So when we arrived in Llandudno, the wind whipped my hair around my face and the air smelt salty with just a hint of seaweed and the beach famously littered with rocks and stones, I knew instantly what my kind of self-care was going to look like.

Our hotel The Marine, was on the front of the promenade, it looked grand but the inside reminded me of that song by The Eagles, Hotel California…

“…you can check out any time you like,

but you can never leave…”

It was worn, beaten, the breakfast was misleading and the shower filled up with water so high around my feet that it was like a paddling pool in there before I could slide the door open and escape.

We were on the second floor and we had a seagull pay us a visit on the windowsill, we named him Seymour.  We trawled the length of the beach looking for interesting stones to add to a collection that is growing in number but lacking in purpose.  I found a crab shell and popped it on the end of my finger and made it say…


…to mum.  On the pier we looked at all the weird and wonderful stalls of complete trash but….what is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

Say hello Mr Crab…

I took a picture of the infamous Zoltar and realised that unless you’ve watched the 1988 film “Big” you will never understand the fascination. 

We sat down on a bench and looked at the queue going into the amusement arcade and then we tried to spot the exact point that I stood in twenty-one years ago so I could recreate the moment and the memory.

The new picture tells a thousand stories.  In 2021 I have less hair and what I do have is skipping being grey and just turning white.  I have varifocals now, an ostomy bag, Bipolar Disorder, crap kidneys, a dodgy Thyroid and a whole heap of life experiences I could have lived without.  Standing in that spot reminded me that this had once been my happy place, this was where I was really free.

For our evening meal we went for a Chinese, I googled…

“…best Chinese in Llandudno”

…a restaurant popped up and it made no indication that we needed to book so we just rocked up – like you never do these days – and requested a table.  The nice lady dressed in a skimpy black number and black patent leather knee high boots and barked at us…

“Will you be done by seven o clock?!”

It was ten past six so we nodded and suddenly she whips out a thermometer shaped like a pistol and points it at my forehead like a highly trained assassin in a Bond film and shoots… my temperature is fine, I am allowed to eat.

I was allowed to eat but I should have been less adventurous and more predictable because instead of ordering my usual chicken curry or the satay chicken I went for the Char Siu Pork.  I didn’t know what this was, I thought it was the contents of a Char Siu Bao but I was wrong.  It tasted like chopped pork in gravy on a bed of bean sprouts I can even touch because Wilomena will kill me!

Char Siu Pork…

So when the lady asked how was my Char Siu Pork I freaked out a little bit because I’ve never been asked specifically if my specific meal was good or not?  And I just thought…

“…is this a test?  What do I say?”

…I could have said, I should have said…

“…yeah yeah it was great.  It tasted just like a marinated pig in bucket of beef Bisto…”

But I told her it was nice, it was lovely.  It wasn’t lovely, but what was lovely was having a walk through the town while the entire United Kingdom was getting ready for one single football match.  We passed by an antiques shop that had three monkeys dressed as spacemen, a nail bar with my best friend’s name on the front so I took a picture for her because she’s about to have a baby and she can’t really move. 

Then I turned around there was a giant statue of Alice in Wonderland but she looked incredibly constipated because at the back of her she had a gigantic house stuck up her bottom!

A different kind of constipated.

That night I slept the whole night through, no sleeping tablet, no distraction, I just slept (right after Love Island). 

It turns out, my kind of self-care is sea air, picking up rocks and eating pork soaked in gravy.

Found one!

My kind of self-care is laughter, texting a friend in the ad-break of Love Island and writing my never ending story on a slightly lumpy bed with a seagull tapping his beak at the window.

My kind of self-care is a change of scenery and going back to Llandudno reminded me of the person I was.  The little eighteen-year-old who was already unhappy but had no idea how bad things were going to get. 

When I sat on the beach looking out at the sea again, twenty-one years later, wiser than I could ever have imagined, I didn’t need to write anything; all I needed to do was get rid of the troublesome things that have been filtering in recently.

So I’m practicing self-care, by getting rid of the…

…shadows on Llandudno beach…

Dedicated to Doris Mullineux. My biggest literary fan, I hope this makes you proud xxx

Reading time: 12 min
My face says it all…

The other day someone had an iffy tummy – I can’t drop names because they would never forgive me for outing their unpredictable bowel movements but please note, it wasn’t me…

When I checked to see if Anonymous person was feeling better I said…

“…you’ve got such a funny tum.  What’s going on in there?”

They replied with…


I have to admit, despite having a degree in English literature and linguistics my vocabulary is not as extensive as it probably should be because I am not the shiniest button in the sewing tin, so shamefully I had to look up the definition of “turmoil” which is:

A state of great commotion, confusion, or disturbance; tumult; agitation; disquiet: mental turmoil caused by difficult decisions.”

Now before you all jump ship and close your browsers, this is not an English lesson.  I could never subject you to that especially when I’ve spent all of my writing life breaking every grammar and punctuation rule in the book.  I don’t care if my writing reads wrong because I don’t use my commas and my semicolons appropriately.  I know it annoys the hell out of every single literary expert but you know what?  I like starting a sentence with “but” and “and” because I’m not at school anymore and no one can stop me.  And if my writing reads wrong it’s because I’m writing the way I would speak in a conversation not the way a GCSE English textbook tells me I should.

At university I remember studying the poems of e.e. cummings.  While I was never any good at interpreting his poetry I was fascinated by the fact that he refused to use capital letters in his work.  I didn’t really care what he wrote about or how ground-breaking his words were, I just remember wishing that I had the balls to do something as revolutionary and exciting as he did and have the means to get away with it.

Breaking the rules of the written word.

I don’t know why but I kept thinking about the word turmoil and I tried to think of things in my life that relate to it.

For example, if turmoil is having to make difficult decisions then last weekend when I had to choose between a Bakewell tart or half a raspberry cheesecake it was really difficult because, what if I ate one but still wanted the other?  Would the waistband of my jeans still be slightly slack or would I have to take a trip to H&M for a larger size?

Half a cheesecake and a Bakewell tart

On Monday I looked out of the window when I was getting ready for work, the sky was a bit grey and even though my weather app said it was going to be a dry day, I wasn’t 100% convinced.  The difficult decision was, do I wear boots in case it rains so my feet don’t get wet?  Or do I risk it for a biscuit and wear the new Converse Matt bought me for my birthday?  I also wanted to wear my denim jacket but I worried about it not being warm enough; I get cranky when I’m cold and that’s not fun for anyone.

When I’m deciding what to cook for tea I sometimes look at my freezer and I see the three bags of stir-fry veg calling my name…

“…eat meeeeee.  Eat meeeee Kateriiiinnnniiiii!”

Do I do what they’re telling me and bung a bunch of frozen veg in the pan?  Or do I remind myself that Wilomena does not digest healthy ingredients and I should look in the mirror at the remnants of the fibre induced acne and remind myself of the repercussions of what fibre does to my face.

Back in 2015 before I got married, I remember sitting in the examination room with the surgeon.  She asked me if I had children and did I plan to because the operation could affect that possibility.  I’d been in pain and misery for far too long a time for me to consider what she was saying so I chose Wilomena over children.  Whilst this might be a tumultuous decision for most, I didn’t register it at the time.

A few weeks ago I was in a bad mood.  I went into Bolton for a mooch and popped into Hotel Chocolat.  Usually I’d buy a bar of dairy milk but I was feeling a bit rich so I went into the most expensive chocolate shop in the town and spent, probably 10 – 15 minutes looking at chocolate that I probably wouldn’t like and probably wasn’t worth the amount on the price tag.  But there was an offer on and it was £10 for 3x strips of 6 truffles and the hardest part was deciding which to buy because what if I bought one of them and it wasn’t very nice because then I’d have wished I’d bought a different one?

The dictionary says turmoil is…

a state of great commotion…

…but what’s the definition of commotion?  Sometimes I make a playlist on my Ipod and I have to have a song on there a certain amount of times otherwise I get agitated if I don’t hear it. 

When I’m writing a novel I picture it running like a film and I pick out songs that would appear on the soundtrack so I listen to them as loud as they will go so that nothing but the action between my characters creeps into my head.

When Matt plays stupid shooting games on his Xbox I have to leave the room because the awful noise of guns makes me panic and I don’t understand what the appeal is.

I can’t stand at a concert because the thought of getting embroiled into a mass of drunken moshers is not my idea of fun anymore.

I’m dreading the work’s night out on the 24th July because I’m terrified that I will turn back into STA Kat who was boring and lifeless and never went on any nights out because I couldn’t relate my sense of fun to the people I was with.  So do I step back and just stick to who I am on the ward or do I take the plunge and make an attempt at stopping history from repeating itself? 

If I make my life out to be an illusion, will that work well for me?

Maybe turmoil doesn’t have to be to the letter of what the dictionary says.  Maybe turmoil can be defined in all sorts of different ways.  Turmoil can be the toss-up between a cheesecake and a Bakewell tart.  It could be making a life changing decision where someone always loses.  Maybe turmoil is swapping one loud noise for another so that peace can be restored?

When you look at the definition of Turmoil we’re given an abundance of other words that all have their own meaning attached to them…







If those words are the definition of “turmoil” then in my own personal dictionary, all the word turmoil amounts to is…life.

Because in life we’re faced with tough decisions that dictate how we live in the future.  We’re surrounded by people who try our patience and we allow them to mould us into shapes we never wanted to be. 

We find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control.  I would never choose to be “mentally ill”, that choice was taken out of my hands. 

I take medication that has botched up my thyroid and corrupted my kidneys because I value my sanity too much to risk losing it.

Some days are a blessing, some days the only thing I have to worry about is which pair of Converse to put on my feet. 

Sorrento, somewhere in the sky…

Just like I always say, we are all different and one person’s turmoil will always be different to that of another’s. For some it might be chipping a newly applied gel nail at the start of a night out. Or it could be debating on whether it’s safe enough to donate a kidney to a loved one.

Sometimes the best part of the day is sweating over the small stuff because it’s a break from dealing with something bigger…

And as I’m writing this my washing machine is on the go.  I’ve just looked at the weather app on my phone, it’s 19 degrees and mostly cloudy but when I look out of the window the sun is shining…

British weather…

…should I hang out my washing?  Or should I keep it in doors?

…now that’s turmoil.

Dedicated to the person who had the iffy tummy….

Reading time: 7 min
May be an image of 1 person and smiling
Non-alcoholic birthday drink from about three years ago

Birthdays… I flippin hate them.  I stopped having birthdays when I turned twenty-nine because didn’t want to turn thirty.  As soon as I hit twenty-nine I automatically spent the next 365 days panicking about turning thirty because in 2011 I looked at my life and I was disappointed. 

I was single – but so was Josh Groban so there was still hope.  I lived at home with my mum -which truthfully I didn’t mind because I was fed, watered and cared for and that is not a crime.  I also had a job that was more like hole in the head than it was rewarding (again, I’m really sorry to the guys I used to work with, I mean no offence), so life wasn’t exactly bleak but it was less than promising.

16th June 2013

In 2011 I scraped by when it came to self-love, it was more like self-loathe, self-pity and just get on with life because nothing was going to change anytime soon.  I didn’t realise at that point that I was the one responsible for making those changes and there was no magic fairy who was going to swoop in and make me confident, successful and beautiful; it might have worked out for Cinderella but in the real world we’re not as fortunate, so for 365 days before I hit the thirty mark I looked in the mirror and thought…

“…oh god, we’re one step closer to the end of the line.”

Just thinking about the change in digits filled me with dread. 

By now if you’re a regular to my blog you’ll gather that life has been somewhat unkind and while most of it I probably couldn’t change there were aspects where I wish I’d owned some “brave girl pants” and given life the finger and just said…

“Back off bad stuff…don’t rain on my parade!”

In hindsight I wish I could have done that, but hindsight is one of those things that I believe only comes with age.  I look back and I know that I had to turn thirty in order to learn this lesson.

When I was a kid I had a party every year.  I was lucky, I had all my friends over and my mum put a spread on, she made party bags and everyone went home feeling happy and fulfilled.  Every year I looked forward to the cards, the cake and the presents – Don’t lie to yourself, everyone loves getting a present!  But when I turned sixteen I sat my GCSE history exam.  At eighteen it was my Communication Studies exam and at twenty-one I was depressed as hell, on the verge of a Bipolar diagnosis and pretending to ride the waves of normality when there was nothing normal inside my head. 

As time has gone by birthdays have just become less important.  They’ve become something I want to avoid rather than address because every year I’d feel the beady eyes of those more successful than me and they would comment and say…

“Have you not got a boyfriend yet?”

“Are you still working at that place?”

“Do you not think you should be moving out by now?”

Comments are comments but those who make them who are reading this bear in mind, they burn because every time you question my social circumstances based solely on my age it makes me embarrassed to be me. 

I had friends who didn’t invite me to their hen do’s and wedding celebrations because, how can you introduce this person you know who has a mental illness, a poxy job and no one to love her, to your friends and family when this is not a pity party and this person is pitiful. 

I stopped celebrating my birthdays with friends because I didn’t think anyone would want to celebrate it with me; I concentrated so much on the negative side of my age that I never saw anything worth celebrating.

The only thing with birthdays is, you can’t escape them.  You can’t hide because somewhere, someone in the crevices of the life you wish you didn’t lead, knows the date you were born and…


You’re reminded who you are.  I blame social media.  It’s littered with positive birthday wishes and photographic evidence of pure joy that turn into poison arrows thrown directly at your aching heart.   

So when I hit the big 3-0 I took the day off work to avoid the attention because the idea of being in an office full of people who were confident, popular and birthday savvy made my head sweat and gave me heart palpitations.  

The only thing I wanted to do was sit in a darkened room, watch Smallville on DVD and pretend I was going to marry Michael Rosenbaum because he was also single and I’ve got a thing for bald men.

Image result for lex luthor smallville
Sorry, not sorry

I’ve never been mature, I think I’ve always had a young head on my shoulders and living at home I didn’t have the responsibilities that other thirty year olds had.  Because of this I looked at all the photographs of joy on Facebook and I felt like I was being left behind.  My friends had partners and children, they were buying houses and getting career promotions and while I feigned my support of their wholesome milestones, I wanted to crawl into the packet of millionaire shortbread I was eating and die a fattening death.

But I had a friend who wouldn’t let it slide and in the end I was glad she didn’t.  Janice is a big birthday celebrator and she took me out to lunch, we ate a ridiculous amount of food and I felt loved.  I didn’t for one second feel inadequate about having a rubbish job or not having a boyfriend; I was just someone eating a tuna melt panini and a Mediterranean salad.

My Mediterranean salad

Every milestone birthday people say…

“…life starts at…




…but all I can say is, which is it?  Or is this just to make the unfortunate feel better because they haven’t achieved what they wanted to achieve in life and if we give them another decade to have a bash at it they might just manage it? 

I don’t know…

…what I do know is, I never really started living until I turned thirty-one – thirty is a blur, I have absolutely no idea what happened within that twelve months.  Thirty-one was the year the cloud of emotional doom faded.  I met Matt (admittedly we met because I was having a Bipolar episode and a friend convinced me was a good idea) and I started to feel that bit more comfortable in my own skin and I read Electroboy by my friend Andy Berhman.

For years I’ve felt like I’ve missed out on all of my twenties because I was always ill.  I was up and down and all around, I was in and out of hospital, over medicated and trying to cheat the beast by messing around with my mood stabilisers.  I didn’t think it was possible to take control of a mental illness. 

Andy is also a big birthday celebrator, I could never understand why but I realised through talking to him over emails and letters; that when you’re dealt a really rubbish hand of cards, instead of looking at what you haven’t got, you have to look at what you do have because sometimes; we’re just lucky to even be alive at all.

For his birthday I sent him a rock I picked up from a beach in Croatia

I’d like to say I put this into play and that since the age of thirty-one I’ve become a massive birthday celebrator, but that would be a lie…

I think I got more comfortable with birthdays up to about the age of thirty-six because when you hit this one, you’re closer to forty than you are to your youth and those old friends harbouring social expectations on your lifestyle make a return and pass judgement on the things you still haven’t got and still haven’t done.

Looking back I would love to tell my younger self that…

…it’s perfectly okay to not have a boyfriend, because boys smell!

…it doesn’t matter if you have a rubbish job, the point is you have one!


…make the most of living with your parents because trust me, the second you buy a house you’re gonna be as poor as hell, so enjoy having some pennies in your bank account because they won’t be there for very long!

To this day I don’t do birthdays, I would rather it slip under the radar and just get on with life and wait for it to pass me by and yesterday’s 39th year was no different.

For this one I didn’t bother to take the day off.  In my new job I actually wanted to be at work, I didn’t see the point in taking a day off for a six hour shift.  I had planned to keep schtum but I let it slip to one person and by the end of my working day I left with a bunch of flowers and a card signed by all the patients and the staff.  I might have wanted to my day to pass by unnoticed but in the end I was happy for the attention and their genuine appreciation of me.

My work family

These days I find birthdays hard to deal with because I look in the mirror and I see things are different; my hands have changed, my hair is growing white instead of grey, I dress like I’m still a student and my lack of maturity is an alien being inside my head. 

Where once I believed I was being left behind by my peers, I now feel like I’m waving goodbye to my youth and I will never get that back…


…life is journey.  It takes us on different paths and none of them are ever the same because people are not the same.  I am slowly learning – very very slowly – that we still have to live life even if we feel like we can’t and maybe birthdays shouldn’t be about getting older, maybe Andy is right, they shouldn’t be about what we have and haven’t got…


…I should put a different spin on my birthdays and celebrate the real meaning behind them because birthdays are about being born.  They’re about becoming a person; so maybe my next birthday should be about being lucky enough to have a life and to surviving it so far?

This is what I will try to remember, because now I’ve got…

…364 days until I’m 40…

Dedicated to everyone who reminds me that birthdays are a good thing.

Reading time: 9 min

Today’s blog is not about having a mental illness or about public speaking off the back of it.  This blog is about the little bits and pieces that make me Kat, the things that I hope people like about me and I like to think when they laugh at those things, they are laughing with me, not at me; so if you are laughing at me, go away.  This is not for you and I’m not being rude but I don’t want you here.  Sorry, not sorry.

When I was a kid I watched the film “Babe”, it was about a piglet who became a sheep dog(pig) and after seeing this all I wanted was a pet piglet.  Unfortunately, with a dog and cat already being in the household it was a profound “no” when I asked my parents if I could have one.  So instead of an actual pig, my family bought me endless pig related items, pencils, pencil cases, pig ornaments, notebooks, mugs and anything Disney that had Piglet plastered all over it.  This went on for quite some time until the obsession faded and something else took its place.

In 1993 the film “Cool Runnings” hit the big screen and I remember sitting in the cinema with my sweets from the corner shop because even in the 90’s you had to have a money tree growing in your back yard if you wanted to eat at the cinema.

I don’t know what it was about that film but the whole thing just filled me with joy.  Yes it was a film about a Jamaican Bobsled team and it was hard to relate to the specifics but, I saw something deeper.  To me it was a film about being different and tackling discrimination.  It was about hope and ambition and never giving up.  More than anything though, it was about believing in luck, so when Sanka pulled out his lucky egg my first thought was…

“I gotta get me a lucky egg!”

I asked mum to make me a hardboiled egg and I painted it with felt tip pens and I took that egg everywhere I went because I truly believed that if kissing an egg could bring Sanka good luck, then it would do the same for me. 

But one day it accidentally fell out of my pocket and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Not only was I devastated that I’d lost my lucky egg but a few days later when I opened the door of my mum’s car, a hideous rotten egg smell invaded our noses and it was pretty clear where my lucky egg had disappeared to.  But I kid you not, twenty-eight years later I still love eggs.  In charity shops and gift shops I look at the marble eggs and I admire their beauty and sometimes I wonder if I gave them a little smooch would my luck change? 

Years ago my dad worked abroad and whenever he came back he brought me a gift.  It was notebooks or a T-shirt, once he even brought a chocolate camel made from camel’s milk, that was an experience. The best thing he ever bought me was a porcelain egg, I think it was a birthday present.  Now my dad never ever remembered any of our birthday’s, he remembered his own, obviously, he never forgot that; so when he gave me a really posh looking box and this beautiful egg was inside lying on a bed of silk I have to say I was surprised, but I was grateful and I was touched and I thought…

“…maybe he does actually love me.  Maybe he might even know me.”

I never asked him and I will never know where that egg came from.  Was it a present for one of his many women and they didn’t want it?  Was it something just lying around the house and he thought…

“…crap I’ve forgotten her birthday again.  I’ll just give the egg.”

I don’t know, but that egg is the only thing I have that my dad ever bought me and no matter where it came from I will always treasure it because I like to think it’s special.  I tell myself that maybe he went shopping after work especially to buy me a birthday present, maybe he saw it and maybe he thought…

“Katerini likes eggs.  She might like this one.”

I don’t care where it came from…

Everyone who knows me knows that I like to name things.  Whether the object has eyes or not I will give it a name and a personality.  If I cook a chicken I sometimes I call it Pete or Gerald and I pat it like a pet before it goes into the oven, not that I put my pets in the oven, I don’t I swear!

If I have plants in my house I usually name those too.  I have tiny spider plant in my kitchen called Sindy, I have a succulent on my bookshelf that my friend made for me and I named it Jeff.

When another friend bought me a Venus fly trap for my birthday, the first thing he said was…

“What are you going to call this one?”

I said…


When my friend Jan retired from Band I picked a rock from a beach and decorated it with eyes, I gave it a feather boa and in her card I explained that the rock was a drag queen named Radovanka.  I know it’s bizarre and what 30 something year old decorates a rock and gives it a personality?  But no matter how childlike it might have appeared, I know Jan will have appreciated the gesture and it will remind her of me because this is just the kind of thing that I do.

I love the art of drag.  I love the idea that a person can transform themselves from one thing to another and you can be so far from your usual self that no one would recognise the original. 

I love that drag queens are completely uninhibited and I admire their daring nature.  I worship their cheek and their beauty and the work that goes into creating something so incredibly beautiful.

When I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race I sometimes wish I was brave enough to be a more flamboyant and braver version of myself.  I wish I could wear sequins and high heels and have a mass of hair extensions; but it doesn’t matter because people have embraced my obsession with the uniqueness of drag queens and now I have books, mugs and memories that tell me my friends accept my fascination because they accept me.

I love music.  It’s probably the one thing that I couldn’t live without.  I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument and I don’t dance – unless you count happy dancing in your head as dancing? But I don’t think you have to be musical to appreciate a good tune. 

When I was a kid I would sit with my head phones on and play one of my many Meat Loaf cassettes on my Walkman and I would sing along with the lyrics straight from the leaflet and I would look for meaning in the words.  I never found any in Wasted Youth but for me the title was enough.

When I was at high school I was in love with Crispian Mills from Kula Shaker and besotted with Simon Fowler from Ocean Colour Scene.  In the mid-90s Indie music was all the rage and I thought if I bought every album, every single and every magazine they were in I would be one step closer to meeting them and them falling in love with me.  Let’s face it, my teenage years were clouded by bullies at school and something similar at home so is it any wonder I wanted Crispian and Simon to save me? 

At the weekend I would get up early to see them on T4 and I secretly stayed up late for Later with Jools Holland.  I taped every Top of the Pops, every TFI Friday and every televised festival they were ever on and I watched the video so many times the tape snapped and it was game over for Simon Fowler at Glastonbury 1996.

I had a couple of books solely written about the journey of those bands through the years.  When Kula Shaker won a Brit award I sat with bated breath and waited for Crispian to say something profound and inspiring…

He said…

“Be subversive and prosper.”

I had absolutely no idea what either of those words meant but I vowed that I would do it!

Inside the Ocean Colour Scene book the very last sentence was a quote by Simon Fowler…

He said…

“If you stick with something you believe in, then things just happen to you.  Simple as that.”

Simon Fowler

I wrote that quote on a piece of paper and I stuck it in my tin pencil case so that when I was at school I had some form of future to believe in. 

I never met Crispian or Simon but I named two of my goldfish after them and I guess that’s as far as I will ever get.

In 2011 I found a random Josh Groban album on my iPod.  I was on my way to my very first Psychology therapy session and on the train I was freaking out…until I heard Josh sing “You Raise Me Up”.

That night I downloaded every album, every single and every video he’d had ever done on to my iPod and I ordered all of his CD’s so that I could add those to my collection too.  I also fell in love with the guy and I believed we’d get married and I would take my cat and we would move to New York and we would live happily with Josh and his dog Sweeney.

Pack your bags Mills…

(I was single, bite me)

I learnt every word to all of my favourite songs and whenever I was stressed or I needed a distraction or even if I needed to focus my mind; I would sing the words to Awake, Changing Colours and Hidden Away.

Some think it’s funny or a bit pathetic and I guess it is because by this time I was thirty.  But when you’re in hospital and you have no phone, no iPod and no access to the things that save you; then you can thank your lucky stars that you remember the words to those songs because they’re the only thing that will get you though a stint in a psychiatric ward.

When it comes to Josh it’s not actually doom and gloom.  I’ve seen the guy perform four times and I won’t stop there.  I remember when I first started listening to his music my mum was probably getting a little concerned or bored of my obsession and she said…

“You know you’ll never meet him.”

I said…

“Yeah I know.”

In 2013 my friend got the three of us tickets to his All That Echoes tour and we were sat four rows from the front of the stage and I sat on an aisle seat ready to grab my man.  It was a week after my 31st birthday so I made a sign on an A3 piece of paper stolen from work (sorry STA, sorry not sorry) and I wrote…

“It’s my birthday, please sing Awake”

Can you imagine how my heart felt when he saw that sign and we had some form of conversation that I have no recollection of because I all I could think was…

“I just met Josh Groban.”

Josh Groban All That Echoes tour Manchester Apollo 2013

Now people send me clips of him singing on the Muppets and my friend made me a birthday card that was addressed to…

“The Future Mrs Groban.”

Mum once emailed Sunday Brunch when he was a guest and asked if he could say hello to me through the camera.

There’s nothing wrong with having a dream or an obsession, if it gets you through life then who is anyone to take that away?

Last week at work someone said…

“You’re so creative, I’d love to have your brain..”

Straight away I thought…

“You wouldn’t!  90% of the time I don’t want it.”

A few days later someone said…

“Oh Kat I love how your brain works.”

I thought…


I don’t know if it’s the environment or the people I work with or maybe it’s just me being me that’s made the difference, but the more I display my little eccentricities the more I realise people actually like me and whoever my Secret Santa was, they got me down to a tee.  They bought me a really pretty mug that sits in my hand like a bowl and they bought me a really funky lunch box because they’d seen a worn out looking one sitting on my desk and they thought it needed replacing.  I’d been in the job three months and people could already tell what kind of person I was…a tea drinking lunch eater.

A couple of weeks ago I was telling a friend I didn’t know what to write about in my blog and he said…


I thought…

“Bit random.”

My friend has known me for twenty-two years and he knows my love for ice cream.  He knows that on holiday it is not only an essential part of the experience but an essential part of my diet.  A holiday is not a holiday if I don’t have at least one ice cream a day because I love sitting by the pool on a hot day eating a Croatian cornetto and I love going out after my evening meal having saved enough room in my belly for three scoops of Italy’s best Gelato.

I’ve been to Venice four times, possibly five – I can never remember – and as soon as we hit St Mark’s Square, after hiding from the pigeons and taking pictures of the bands playing at the most expensive café’s in the country, I head straight for the gelato place on the corner and I always have one scoop of chocolate and one scoop of stracciatella and then me and mum will sit by a wall and we say…

“I love this place.”

Don’t say it…we know.

I am sometimes clumsy, I fall over all the time.  Once I was in Wales and I was climbing a hill up some stairs that were basically rocks in grass.  I was licking my cookies and cream ice cream and failed to pay attention to the main task in hand and I tripped.  On my way down to the ground all I could see was my cornet heading for the floor and my internal voice crying…

“Nooooooo, not my iiiiiccceee creeeaaaam…”

I remember pulling myself up, looking at my splattered ice cream on the grass, like a dead body in a crime scene and the cornet in my hand that was in perfect condition but empty.

In that fall I managed to slice my finger, graze one knee and bruise the other and as my mum wrapped a tissue around my bleeding finger I just looked at the ground and said…

“…my ice cream…”

My mum is an angel, and she gave me her ice cream to make up for mine…I was twenty-nine. 

Having a stoma sometimes limits the kind of food you can eat.  I have a fibre intolerance so anything fruit or vegetable is either a no go or I have to doctor it.  If I want a grape, I have to peel it.  If I want an apple then I peel that too.  Carrots have to be mashed or raw and anything green usually looks at me and says…

“You’re having a laugh aren’t you?  Do you want to end up in hospital?”

I love oranges, I love satsumas and sometimes I can get away with eating them but Wilomena does not like anything with a skin on it so my best option is to eat tinned fruit.

At work I like to crack open a tin of mandarins and pour them into my mug along with the juice and eat them with a spoon.  Don’t knock it, this is the only way I can get my five a day while sparing Wilomena a trip to A&E.  When I got my new mug from Santa someone said…

“Is it big enough for your mandarins?”

In life sometimes the only route to happiness is to listen to what we want along the way.  For me it’s having a soundtrack to life.  Having songs on my iPod that mean something so whenever I feel down or out of touch with reality, I have a reminder that life does have the potential to be good.

These days I don’t need a lucky egg. 


I used to believe that luck was just another version of the impossible but maybe it’s not.  I don’t believe that I met Josh Groban purely based on luck.  I met him because I was determined enough to try and its since that moment that I realise Simon Fowler was right…if you stick with something you believe in things really do just happen.

Everything in this blog are the things that make me me.  Not weird, not quirky, not strange.  These are the things that make people think…

“Kat would like that.”

“That’s very Kat”

“Kat, I thought of you when I saw this.”

I’m known for wearing scarves and jumpers.  I’m known for naming things that can’t breathe or see and I’m known for making the best out of a bad situation, so I live life the only way I know how…

…with one scoop of gelato and a tin of mandarins.

There’s too many people to mention in this one so this is dedicated to everyone who loves me for being me and allows me to be just that.

Reading time: 15 min

By writing this blog I am either going to be a massive hypocrite or it will be a monumental action in the movement of the game of life. 

We all play the game, we’re all pieces on a chessboard; we all move the marker on Ludo and we all fight for that one special piece when it comes to Monopoly – for me it was the dog, I don’t know about anyone else.

Whatever your chosen piece for a boardgame the rules are the same…

Win win win!

Don’t try and lie, it’s true, no one enters a game to come last, no one wants to lose, we all want to come first and stare at the people behind us from the finish line and feel even just a miniscule of satisfaction so that we can tell ourselves…

“…this time, we did not fail.

No one ever says…

“Well done for coming last.”

They always say…

“You tried your best.”

But if we’re honest with ourselves, what we really hear is…

“You tried your best…BUT IT WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH WAS IT???”

I’m not being mean, it’s just my version of reality and if you disagree with me that’s absolutely fine.  I am not naïve enough to think that what I’m saying is the truth because it might not be; it might just be my own opinion but to some extent, it is just as valid as yours.

Today I didn’t intend on writing anything.  I was going to have a weekend off from blog writing because all I’ve said this week is…

“I’m running out of material.”

But am I?  Who knows?  I’ll let the reader be the judge of that one.

In just over a year I’m going to be forty – god it kills me every time I say that, simply because anyone who has known me for over ten years, will know that when I hit twenty-nine I freaked the hell out! I spent an entire twelve months panicking about turning thirty.  I kid you not it was awful, I was awful!

For me, becoming thirty was worse than any episode Bernard had to throw at me.  It was worse than hospital, it was worse than losing all of my friends to an illness that I had no control over.  It was worse than being left on the single’s table at a friend’s wedding and being told you didn’t make the cut for bridesmaid because your self harm scars would look ugly on the photos (yeah I’m not joking, that did actually happen).

When I looked at my life I was ashamed, I was embarrassed.  All of my friends were in a much better position that I was.  Better jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, they owned their own houses, they drove a nice car – they could actually drive! They had kids or were having kids or were in a position to have kids.  I had none of that that.  I was stuck in a job I wasn’t much good at, even though a monkey could do it for the same amount of peanuts – my old colleagues will agree with me, it wasn’t rocket science, again, I’m not being mean.

Everyone else had everything you’re supposed to have by the time you reach that milestone of turning thirty.  I stuck out like a poor unfortunate thumb…

Mentally ill, single, rubbish job, can’t drive, lives with her mum.

The epitome of failure in the eyes of the successful.

When I was about twenty-seven I went to the theatre with a friend.  I was working part time in a kid’s clothes shop.  We went to see Billy Elliot.  Going to the theatre always sparks of my creative side.  Once I wanted to be on the stage, then to the side of the stage and then, to have anything to do with the stage would have been lovely.  But for me, at that time I was a simple shop assistant; my friend on the other hand had a super high-profile occupation, she wasn’t a surgeon, but she changed lives. 

We were driving back from the theatre and we were talking about how good the show was and I made the mistake of saying how I wished I could be part of something that incredible.  I remember her response as clear as day…

“You’ve got no excuse to just be working part time.  You haven’t been ‘ill’ for a while now and you’ve got the time on your hands to be doing something more worthwhile, you say you’re a writer so you should be doing something with your writing.”

I remember instantly thinking – after “ouch”…

“Well that’s your birthday present gone from twenty to a tenner!”

I know some people reading this will agree with her, she was my friend telling me how it is and there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s friendship!  Well, a word in your ear…

Do you think the unfortunate haven’t heard that before?  Do you think we haven’t said that kind of thing to ourselves?  Trust me, when you feel like a failure compared to everyone else, that kind of thing is part of everyday living, it’s like brushing your teeth, it’s like flossing, pouring the milk on your cereal, tying your shoelaces on your way to your mediocre job…it’s a way of life!

Now let’s get real, the world has been throwing milestones at us long before we turn thirty.  From birth your baby is supposed to crawl by a certain time, walk by a particular age and be speaking full sentences before you’ve even thought about introducing them to the potty and if your kid doesn’t do these things, your kid isn’t half as good as the kid four doors down with the parents who have a jacuzzi in their back garden.  Don’t lie mums, I know you’ve all read those “how to” books.

The truth is, there is always someone telling us that by a certain point in your life you should be doing a certain something.

When I was sixteen I was getting ready to leave school, I was putting my record of achievement together and probably going through some form of depression at the same but the biggest thing of all was every day I would look in the mirror and I would feel panic.  I panicked because in my eyes I was sixteen and I hadn’t done anything worth shouting about.  When I looked at the contents of my record of achievement I didn’t see anything.  No Nobel Peace Prize.  No Man Booker Prize.  No Medal of Honour or Outstanding Contribution to Music Award.  Vice form rep was as close as I was ever going to get to any kind of societal recognition.  And just so you know, I was robbed of head form rep, the guy my form voted in never even went to the meetings, he was too busy smoking by the bins!

Trophy Cups 100's at Up To 50% OFF Gold & Silver Engraved - Trophy Finder

I’m not going to list my every failed attempt at a milestone, god that really would be depressing and I’m trying to turn the frown on this blog upside down, remember, this is not a space for self-pity because public self-pity is a request for admiration and ego-boosting and that’s just not what this is about. 

Today, this is me saying I’m having a bad day.  I’m grumpy.  I’m moody, I’m short tempered and I’m just fed up, I’m not going to lie. 

Today I am fed up because I have a massive spot on my face that I can’t get rid of!  I’ve tried every acne trick in the flippin book and nothing is working…

(NB – not asking for tips, trust me I’ve been fighting off mini mountains since I was ten years old)

I’m fed up because I miss my cat.  When everything else in the world was rubbish she was the one constant thing who never passed judgement.  And today, when I really need her fluffy tail in my face and her little head pressed against my chest like she was trying to listen to my heart, she’s not here.

Milly – I miss you

I’m fed up of lockdown.  I just want to go to M&S and have a bacon butty and a cup of tea with my mum. 

I’m fed up because I want to go to the bakery round the corner and get a Bakewell tart and not feel like I’m committing a crime because its not really an essential item. 

Behold, the Bakewell Tart

I’m fed up because apparently I look like I’m in my twenties, and don’t get me wrong I am grateful for that, believe me, I am.  Every night when I wash my face I look in the mirror and I am happy that I don’t have crows feet yet but when I looked in the mirror this morning I swear to god I could see a wrinkle right near my mouth!

I’m fed up because when everyone was turning thirty I felt like I was being left behind but now that I’m facing forty, I feel like I’m being forced to leave my youth behind and I’m just not ready to do that.

They say age is just a number.  They’re right, it is just a number. 


  1. How many boys did you kiss before you were 12?
  2. How many GCSE’s did you get?
  3. How many A-levels did you pass?
  4. How many driving lessons did it take for you to get your green ‘L’s?
  5. How many times has your heart been broken?
  6. How many bedrooms has your house got?
  7. How many kids have you got?

How many times are you going to torture yourself with the answers that come up to the expectations of our everyday society? 

Because that’s all it is, it’s everyone else’s view on how we should live our lives.  We put pressure on ourselves to match up to that expectation, whether it’s what we want or not.  We still strive for it in someway and we burn ourselves with self-pity because we forget the things we’ve done and the things we’ve achieved in terms of our own lives.

I look at my thirties and I wish I’d done all of the things I have when I was in my twenties.  I wish I’d met Matt earlier so I could get married young.  I wish I had been quicker to learn how to manage Bernard so that I wouldn’t have spent my twenties trying to lead a life of apparent normality.  I wish I had been a speaker sooner and had the ability to believe in myself so that sometimes life wasn’t so hard.  Sometimes I just wish things were different. 

Having said that, I also know that what we have is never enough.  If I could drive I would love a baby blue Fiat 500.  But who’s to say that once I got my Fiat 500 I wouldn’t then want a BMW?  Then a Mercedes? Then a Porsche?

I wish…

I’ve got a four bedroomed house but I’d love a bigger back yard. 

I’m in a job I couldn’t be happier in but I want more money in my pay packet.

I’ve got hair on my head but I wish it was thicker.

I’ve got a decent laptop but now I want a better one.

I’ve got a stoma but there’s something wrong with it so I want a new one.

Truth is, we always want more.  We always want something better than what we already have.  We’re never happy with just our lot and that’s just human nature. 

We compare ourselves to others because…

“Keeping up with the Jones’s”

…is drilled into us from birth. 

Today I was writing the fiction story that I started last year.  I will never do anything with it because it’s just for me.  It’s my release and something that has kept my head above the water for months.  As I was writing it I could feel those burning, hot water, things they call tears trying to push their way through my eye sockets and I realised that I was thinking of the things that I can’t control.  I found my brain inflicting self-hatred, reminding me that I will never be normal and I will never have the things others have so easily.  I may get what I want, but it will always be a battle because life has always been a battle.

And then I thought…

“Stop it.  Stop comparing yourself to others.”

…because I am not “others”, and would I even want to be?  Would I really, honestly want to be someone that I am not?

On Wednesday at work, I was having a natter with a colleague and we were discussing how people spend their lives comparing themselves to others.  Suddenly I realised that as humans, we spend so long comparing the things we have and haven’t achieved that we forget to actually bask in the glory of the things we have.  She then quoted, probably one of the most wise and profound things that I have ever heard…

Comparison is the thief of joy – Devi Venkatesan
Theodore Roosevelt

I can’t help wishing I’d heard that when I was thirty, then things might have been different.  My friend printed that quote and it now takes pride of place on the wall facing my desk.

Today I had to remind myself of this quote and of the conversation we had because she made me realise that, although I may not have achieved all of the items on the world’s invisible achievement checklist, I have done some things others will never do.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about what we have because we’re too busy trying to better them.  How can we appreciate what we have if we don’t even acknowledge how great it is to ourselves?  

Now before I end this, I am under no illusion that this little epiphany might not last.  I might post this and read it a week later and think…


…delusion and illusion are part of life and I know when we think we see things clearly it’s often a moment in passing but, in preparation for that moment of self-doubt I want to tell myself and anyone else who has made it to the end of this blog…

You are an individual, you are not the same as anyone else and nor should you strive to be…because my friend…

…there is no comparison.

Dedicated to my friend at work, you turn my frown upside down, even if this piece doesn’t reflect that; thank you for making things clearer…

Reading time: 13 min
Do I really need to expand?

Last night my friend sent me a message to ask how the next blog is coming along because he was looking forward to reading it…and then said…

“no pressure”

I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging for years and when I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go, I had no idea how well or how badly it could go down. 

Last weekend after writing all about life on a psychiatric ward I said thank you to my parents-in-law for all their support with this venture.  I am massively grateful to them for their acceptance and for never being embarrassed by the fact their daughter-in-law airs her dirty laundry on the internet for all to see.  I know many other people would be thinking if I was to share anything in public then they would rather it be make-up tips on YouTube.

I’ve always felt like a really boring person who hasn’t achieved much or seen much.  I have said this countless times about people thinking I was a peculiar child, an alternative teenager and just plain weird as an adult (and you can take Bernard out of this equation, he does not get credit for any part of this blog) but this isn’t the space for pity because I’m not feeling sorry for myself right now. 

I keep pointing out that I’m weird, but the question is…


What’s your definition of weird?  How do you measure it?  Who even decides what is acceptable behaviour in the world and what isn’t?  Well I can’t answer any of those questions, but I can tell you a little bit about me and maybe by the end of this piece, you can tell me what you think.

When I was a child I was given a packet of jelly babies but where most people would eat them, I didn’t; I played with them.  I mean come on, they have arms, legs and a face, they’re practically people so I treated them the same way I would my dolls. 

Jelly Babies | United Sweets of America

To me that’s common sense, it’s up to you what you make of it.  This is the whole point of this piece; its about opinion, its about how we interpret the behaviour of others and how we categorise it.  To me those jelly babies were no longer just a packet of sweets, they were people they were characters, but it was the people around me who decided if tucking them into a Sylvanian Families bed in their imaginary house was weird or not.

Growing up we had a dog, Stavros.  I remember taking him for walks with my mum and brother, there was a field at the back of our house that was a dumping ground for old bikes and broken wood and one particular day I found an abandoned Christmas tree.  On the spot, I adopted this tree and I named him “Presents”.  At the end of every walk I would hide this tree in a safe place so that on my return we would be reunited.  I have no idea how long I kept this going but it was a considerable amount of time and I do remember the day we took the dog for a walk and Presents was gone.  I searched high and low for that dead, flaky, old Christmas tree and I was devastated when I came to realise that Presents was no more.  Now I’m not 100% sure that what I’ve written here is the absolute truth but this is what I remember and as I write this I am cringing so badly I can feel my spine clicking.  I imagine my family were mortified to have a child and a sibling who had an attachment to a dead tree but at the end of the day I wasn’t hurting anyone.  The only person who was hurt by Presents’ disappearance was me. 

When should you take down your Christmas tree, lights and decorations? How  to store decorations and what you should do with your tree - Irish Mirror  Online
RIP Presents

I had an imaginary friend, Rupert.  I told people he was based on Rupert the Bear, but what my family never knew was the Rupert in my head wasn’t a bear at all.  He was a boy who was the same age as me, a boy who understood me and liked playing house with jelly babies. 

I convinced everyone around me that Rupert the bear was my imaginary friend because that way I would appear less weird because the bear was an existing character created by a real person and that made having an imaginary friend much more acceptable.  Doing it this way meant that I could keep my version of Rupert private; I wouldn’t get frowned upon because I was just a creative child who liked Rupert the Bear, but on the flip side I was doing myself an injustice.  By dulling down my imaginary friend to keep him safe made me feel…

“People will think I am the worst storyteller.  I can’t even make up my own imaginary friend…”

…but having that secrecy and privacy with my friend Rupert fuelled my imagination and when I look back on my creative life since that time, I really do believe that it gave me the ability to create the characters I’ve written into so many of my stories over the years.  Is that weird?  Or is it clever?

I think anyone who has known me for any amount of time would say that I have a complex mind (again, nothing to do with Bernard).  It’s easy to say I’m an “over thinker” but I think that puts a negative spin on it and over thinking is not necessarily a bad thing.  Neither is curiosity.

I think I’ve used this before but it’s a good example so just go with it…

When Americans hail a taxi in the street they shout…


…yet in conversation they call them cabs.  Why not just shout…


When people kiss why do we close our eyes?  Surely we like the person we’re kissing so why don’t we open our eyes to look at them?

Why do we rely on magazines and the media to tell us what we should be wearing?  It’s all very well picking out oversized shoulder pad boyfriend jackets, folk inspired coats and fringing on bags but who gave who the power to say that’s what we should be wearing.  And if it is what we should be wearing, then why are there so many different styles of clothing for the non-fashionistas to wear?

Who convinced the world that One Direction were the best boyband to grace the X-Factor – because they didn’t even win.

Who came up with the idea that weddings need to have a theme and a colour scheme because I made a point that my half of my wedding was not going to follow that pattern.  I had knitted flowers and multi-coloured chair covers.  Everyone had a knitted buttonhole as they entered the room.  I sent my bridesmaids down the aisle first and all four of them had different dresses of their own choice because every single one of them is a completely different person with different personalities and to put them in the same dress would be asking them to change just for me.  One of my bridesmaids has tattoos and she asked me if I wanted her to cover them for the photos.   I said…

“No, because it would be like telling you to cover part of your soul.”

The Girls

I had a drag queen perform at my wedding; she was beautiful but over 50% of my guests left the room because they didn’t approve.  I thrust my friend into the limelight and asked her to do a reading, she said…

“What should I read?”

I said…

“Whatever you want, make something up…”

And she wrote the most beautiful speech I could have asked for.

For my witness to sign the certificate I didn’t ask any of my bridesmaids, I asked a male friend (by the book it’s always a female) who I’ve known for twenty years and I wanted him to be part of my day. 

Breaking the rules

All of this might seem weird, but is it?  That day I wanted everyone who had given up their time to see me get married to enjoy the day.  I wanted them to feel relaxed and look around them and think…

“Yep, this is definitely Kat, and Matt, but mostly Kat”

Who does it hurt not to play by the rules?

At primary school a teacher told us the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.  I remember being horrified that Mary was having a child by another man and I wanted to know why Joseph wasn’t really ticked off with his wife for cheating on him and then spinning this tall tale that she had been chosen to have a special baby with an invisible man.  I could see she was completely dumbfounded by my question and I do kind of feel sorry for her because what on earth do you say to an eight year old kid when no one knows the answer?  But you can’t tell these stories and expect everyone to just accept them; not when some of them are so incredibly spectacular.

Mary, Joseph and God

On holiday in Greece one year, I stood in the sea and willed it to part for me like it had for Moses; I would stare intensely at rocks searching for ten new commandments so I would be famous.  I wanted to be a nun because I liked the outfit and I would prance around the house in my dad’s dressing gown because it was black, I would wear a white pillow case over my head and I’d pretend I was married to God because from a really young age I never saw a future with a man because I was too strange. 

At secondary school when we had to start thinking about our future and our careers I remember going to the careers room; which was a tiny old thing buried in the basement of the school and I would always whisper because it felt like a library.  There was a book like a catalogue with a list of careers for us to choose from and I remember saying to the careers officer…

“I don’t need the book, I already know what I want to be; I want to be a psychiatrist.”

Ironic really isn’t it?  That about 6 years after this I found myself sitting in front of a psychiatrist instead of actually being one.

Prior to this I wanted to be a podiatrist so in year 10 I did a week of my work experience following around a podiatrist.  I saw an unbelievable amount of feet.  They were crooked, bony, crusty and a few of them whiffed a bit, but it didn’t matter, because I didn’t plan on looking after the feet of the average Joe, nah, my sights were set on the guys in the bands I loved.

Crispian Mills
Simon Fowler
James Mudriczki
Scott James

I self-medicated with their music.  I read whatever I wanted into the lyrics of their songs and I convinced myself that because they were standing on stage an awful lot, they would require help to look after their feet. 

I dreamt that they would take me on tour with them as their personal podiatrist and I didn’t for one single second think that this wasn’t possible. My friends laughed, my family smiled through gritted teeth at another one of my hair brained ideas but I just wanted to make a difference, why was that so hard to accept?

In 2002 I did my first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, man I love that place, I loved it so much I did two more of them.  During my first one I’d written a play and I walked around the city with a copy of it in my bag.  I watched play after play after play and I was totally transfixed with the atmosphere in the city and I somehow told myself that a director would find me and find my play and want to cast it, direct it and make it soar above all of the hundreds of plays that had taken months and years to perfect, but mine would be so well received because of its powerful message and it would win the prestigious Fringe 1st award. 

Gilded Balloon Box Office Assistant 2002

Well it’s obvious that didn’t happen because I was too shy to show it to anyone.  I was surrounded by talented people who were beautiful and gifted and I was just a box office assistant who got star struck when Alan Davies walked in with Paul Merton and bought tickets for a drag show whose best asset was the micro pig she brought on stage at the end; but truthfully?  That was the best job I’ve ever had. For the first time ever people didn’t think I was strange and if they did they didn’t mind.

As I’ve got older and next year I will be the dreaded 40, I can look at myself and I think…

“Yep, I can see why people think I’m weird.”

You can blame the bipolar but I was strange long before Bernard came along, I mean look at me; I’ve given my mental illness a name!  I refer to my stoma as her and she!  I give inanimate objects personalities and last year the most exciting thing about getting house insurance was getting a limited edition Meerkat toy that I won’t share with any of my nieces or nephews (sorry guys).

When a child names their favourite toy we think it’s cute.  My niece has names for all of her toys and I guarantee if they weren’t named we would find that strange; but, as far as I’m aware as we grow older we we’re never told at any point to stop doing that?  So if you don’t name the plants in your garden or the bike that you ride to work every day, then maybe it’s you who’s the weird one; have you ever thought about it that way?

Life should not be dictated by the clothes we wear and we should be allowed to ask questions regardless of it raising an eyebrow over every religious belief we’ve had since the dawn of time because everyone wants the world to make sense somehow – even if it means challenging something sacred. 

Kids should be allowed to have imaginary friends and not be judged, that imaginary friend is salvation, they’re company, they’re a loyal companion.  That fictionalised creation is a sign of creative intelligence and you’ll never know why they’ve been created because you will never hear them speak.

When I did my speaker training Richard McCann called me quirky.  I’d never been called that before. I guess it’s a more acceptable term for weird and I say in all of my presentations that I embrace my quirky side and I am not shy of being a bit strange these days because I have never tried to change, so I ask myself, why change the term?

Throughout my teens when I thought it was a bad thing to be different and weird was something no one should ever flaunt, I would wonder what was it about me that made me stand out from other kids?  Why didn’t I just eat the jelly babies?  Why didn’t I break the branches off the dead Christmas tree and throw them for the dog to fetch?

Perhaps it’s because…

  • I wanted to be a nun because I liked the outfit.
  • I practically plagiarized my imaginary friend to keep my imagination safe.
  • I wanted to be a podiatrist so I could perve on the feet of singers.
  • And I thought if the sea could part of Moses, then the sea could part for me.
Magical Moses

That’s just the beginning.  This is just a taster of who I used to be and who I still and I am not hurt if people think I’m a weirdo because does it really matter?  Does it not make me who I am and prove that I am not defined by Bernard because most of this happened before Bernard ever made an appearance.

I will hold my hand up right now and I will say I am thankful for my over thinking, overactive and over imaginative imagination because if there is one thing that’s for certain…

…that, is what makes me weird…

Dedicated to my parents-in-law, for being proud of me when they don’t have to.

Reading time: 14 min
The doorway to a different world

For years I believed you could only truly be a writer if your work was published.  Whether you spend ten minutes on a poem or dedicate ten years to writing that one novel everyone is supposed to have within them – the work only pays off if the end result is on a shelf in Waterstones.

The minute I learned how to use the alphabet I knew I wanted to be a writer.  All the way through primary school I was writing stories taken from the characters I was reading about in the books I loved.  I was the funky kid in The Babysitters Club, I was just like Jo in Little Women, I was Kat instead of Katie in What Katie Did and I wanted to be Darrell in the Mallory Towers books because boarding school looked so much more exciting than the school I was at.

High school was a mine field of actions and emotions and it was at this point that I realised just how different I was from the other kids. My life at home was different, I didn’t understand myself, I didn’t understand the world and I read a hell of a lot of Point Horror books.  I was inspired by the writers who could incorporate the lives of kids at college with romance and at the same time make stalking and the supernatural cool.

At the age of eleven I stopped writing about fluffy clouds and rainbows and making everything in the world appear pretty and I brought out the big guns and I wrote my first novel, The College Fears.  Was it as bad as it sounds? Oh yes, it was terrible, but I dedicated my life to that story and I wholeheartedly believed that I was going to be discovered and thrown into the writing limelight and I would be the next big thing before I turned thirteen!

The College Fears

The College Fears was the culmination of a group of kids embarking on a brand-new journey at university, discovering new friendships and being completely independent, no family, no ties to their past, just the freedom to be who they wanted to be.

In 1993 I was beginning to realise that my mind was a messed-up circuit board where nothing was connected the way it should be.  I struggled with body image and the perception of who I wanted to be compared to who I really was.  I couldn’t make sense of anything so I threw all that I had into that one story.  I gave my characters the biggest egos, the worst luck in love, I made them beautiful on the outside but hideous within.  I made them tactile, I gave them eating disorders, I made them appear a whole lot older than they actually were.  They were everything I wasn’t but everything I wanted to be.

When I finished my first novel I was proud.  I felt I had achieved something big.  Who else had spent every night, every weekend thrashing out words and sentences?  I would send myself to sleep at night by creating conversations between my characters.  When I did this I wasn’t in my own head anymore, I was somewhere else, with other people; I was every single character I had created and I was the bees knees! In the real world I was anything but cool but in my head I was a successful writer, wise beyond her years with an advanced and complicated rare talent.

In 1994 I started to write my second novel.  I called it Life.  It was about a girl who went to university and she was addicted to suicide.  She’d tried to kill herself thirteen times in five years.  That poor girl, I gave her hell in that story.  I gave her misery and self-loathing, I gave her scars and an internal battle that she could never make sense of and never shake off.  But I also made her beautiful.  I made her appealing to boys, I made her intelligent and successful.  I made her popular and I gave her a singing voice any X-Factor contestant would crawl across hot coals to have come out of their oesophagus.  But hell, that poor girl was tortured, she was miserable.


When I look back at my early writing I can tell you straight off why my stories were written the way they were.  I was miserable and tortured and struggling but every word I wrote was a release from all of that.  On a blank piece of paper I could be whoever I wanted to be, I could do whatever the hell I liked and no one could stop me.  That’s the power of the written word, you can dress it up and dress it down and it doesn’t matter what the end product looks like because you can call it art!

As the years went by I swam in writing circles with real writers who were published and successful and they saw the world from angles that I never even knew were possible.  I loved those people, I still love those people with all of my heart and even though I didn’t fully fit in; I was accepted as a human being and when I was with those people, listening to them read, watching them sign their work I would sit in awe and think,

“That, is what I want. That is who I want to be.”

They taught me everything I needed to know at that time, how to be a critic, how to deliver your best work, how to get a backbone because the writing world was just as tough as the real one. 

I once wrote a screenplay about a man whose entire family hated the fact that he was a writer. I was sixteen and obsessed with the book Trainspotting and by the end of watching the film I already believed Danny Boyle was going to direct my masterpiece with Robert Carlyle cast as the lead role.  I pictured myself at the BAFTAs, the Oscars, I’d pick out a dress from Hello magazine and when I went to bed at night, I’d fall asleep to the sound of my acceptance speech for Best Screenplay.


Growing up I kept a diary.  It was the usual angsty teenage…

“I hate the world but I love this boy in my English class…”

…kind of stuff and my brother would joke about breaking into the locked tin I kept it in and reading all my deepest darkest secrets but really, my real secrets, my true diary was in the stories I wrote.

I confessed my undying love for the kid in Year 10 English by aging him and making him rescue a girl with no true friends in her life.  I took out my anger on the bullies that wouldn’t give me a break by creating a twenty-something year old character called Doug Fairchild and I made every other word a hideous swear word. I made him a violent moron with a conscience that didn’t make an appearance until the last page of the book.  I killed off pointless adult figures because in fiction it was so easy to do.  I gave girls eating disorders because it was easier to carry off than doing it myself.  I made my characters stars!  I made them humble singers, guitar geniuses, famous, adventurous and admirable and I full on believed that every story, every character, every single page I covered with my barely legible handwriting was going to be printed!  It was going to be real!  As far as I was concerned, every written word that fell from my pen to the page, made me a true writer in every sense of the word.

But it’s like public speaking.  In the eyes of the world unless you’re charging a fee to be heard, you’re not really a speaker.  Unless your work is printed, you’re not really a writer.

Last year in lockdown I had time on my hands and a room in my house that was a disaster zone.  I was spending hours editing a novel that I wrote twenty years ago and my mind was consumed by the ridiculous amount of notebooks that were littered with ideas, plots and synopsis. 

(Bear in mind this was smack bang in the middle of a massively prolonged and never-ending Bipolar episode so I had a lot of energy and an incredibly obsessive imagination)

At the time I couldn’t read books.  I tried everything from Jilly Cooper to Bret Easton Ellis and everything in between but the only thing I wanted to read was my own work.  My overactive Bernard the Bipolar brain convinced me the best thing to do with my furloughed time was to build myself a library.  

The disaster zone

It took me three whole days.  I lifted, I carried, I sorted and I got a chance to look at 38 years of an unstoppable imagination that I never gave enough credit. 

My library

I looked at the two novels I wrote back in the 90’s and the reams of short stories and countless other novels I had forgotten I’d ever written because they were the backing singers to something bigger.  I picked up the tattered notebooks I used to carry with me before mobile phones had memos.  I relived the memories of where those initial ideas came from and for the first time, instead of giving myself a hard time over what should have been and my lack of effort to get my work published, I actually shrugged my shoulders and I thought,

“This not about being published.  This is how I stayed alive.”

Before phones had memos

Standing on the shelves in my “office” are notebooks and folders that contain my own version of therapy.  I have hundreds of stories and pieces that contained my sadness and exposed my madness.  I have countless pages that are just daft scenarios I created simply to exercise my imagination.  They were childish expressions of a life I wanted but one I knew I would never live. 

So does it really matter that I’m not on a shelf in Waterstones?  Does it matter that the only eyes that will ever see my work are my own?  It might be a shame with some things but trust me, most of that stuff should probably never have left the pen in the first place.  I am not always consistent, I may not be very good.  I’m probably lazy and sometimes I have far too many ideas I want to write and these days I hardly ever finish the stories I start. 

I once had a vision of a life full of artsy friends and intelligent conversation and cultured weekends but really?  Let’s be honest now, I’m a kid from Bolton who got a raw deal and the only escape I had was to dream of a life where I wasn’t me and the most gratifying part of it was that I could make the lives of others miserable without hurting anyone real.

I am not what I thought I would become.  I haven’t grown into the writer I longed to be but now, when I look at my shelves I don’t see failure; I actually see someone who achieved something because I have more than just a couple of books, I have many books; I have my very own library.

The collection

Being a writer is not about being in print.  Being a writer is about having an imagination, its about putting the alphabet together, it’s about sentences, setting a scene, creating characters and becoming so immersed in something that it takes away the pain of what’s really going on in the world and making it that little bit easier to live with. 

When people tell me…

“I didn’t know what to get you, so I just got you a notebook.”

How is that not the most perfect present?  For Christmas Matt bought me a Paperchase voucher.  The other day he asked me what I’d bought and I said…

“A shit tonne of pens.”

…because being a writer is about enjoyment, it’s about opening a new notebook and trying not to cross out any words so your first page looks perfect.  It’s about clicking your new rollerball pen and setting it to work or flicking off that weird gluey ball at the tip of a fresh gel pen and watching the ink slide across the paper.  Writing is about working all day and riding the bus home reading what you wrote the night before.  It’s about sitting on the floor by the fire when is flippin freezing outside and writing about somewhere hot.  It’s about shoving a bunch of characters in a coffee shop with no social distancing rules, no masks and no Covid app asking you to track and trace where you’ve been; they can just drink coffee and if you’re really creative they can have a party without the rule of six!

I have never pretended to be something I am not.  My fiction is dreadful. I know it is!  With my hand on my heart I declare it now that I am no J.K Rowling and I wouldn’t want to be.  I am not Shakespeare, heck, I couldn’t handle the public attention.  I don’t know the difference between a novel and a novella, I barely know the difference between a noun and a verb and the worst part of it all?  Doing a degree in English literature has completely ruined my love for literature!  Now I can’t open a book without trying to see where the Oedipus Complex fits in to a Mills and Boon or if the concept of the Menage a Trois fits in with a teen fiction book I picked up in a charity shop. 

In the last two years I have educated myself on my writing.  My writing isn’t about publication…

(Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to turn Penguin away if they come knocking at my door…)

…it’s about survival, it’s about escapism, it always has been.  I’ve learnt that I can do whatever the hell I want with words because it doesn’t matter, they’re mine and I take ownership of everything that doesn’t make sense because at the time of writing it, I knew exactly what I meant. 

Sometimes the best advice has come from a character of my own creation and maybe this is the only way I can learn to take my own advice? 

Being Bipolar sucks.  Sometimes having a stoma is really annoying, but the worst thing that could ever happen to me is my imagination being taken away.  How would I keep myself entertained?  What would I spend my money on?  WHSmith’s would go out of business if it wasn’t for me buying Pukka pads and gel pens.  My friends and family would have to think of something else to buy me, God help them with that one.  What would I do with the shelves in my office? I’d have to read books again.  What would I do on holiday? Part of my whole holiday experience is tramping round the shops looking for cool notebooks with lines in them.

I’ve taught myself that a finished story doesn’t have to be finished.  You can resurrect your characters and give them a makeover. You can backtrack, move forward, there doesn’t have to be a realistic timeline because its all fiction, time doesn’t exist.

Resurrected characters

I don’t care that I’m not in print.  My terrible fiction gives me air, it’s my release, it’s a distraction from a world that everyone wants to get away from.  It’s not real life and that’s the beauty of being a writer, that ability to transport yourself from one place to another without leaving your house.

That’s writing…

…that’s the writer in me.

Dedicated to Milly. I wasn’t sure I could pull a blog off without you, but now that it’s written, this is for you. Be a good girl xx

Reading time: 13 min

How do I sum up something in the briefest of ways without taking up too much of your time but also having the space to give you a big enough impression of what my younger years were like?

I hate to dwell on my younger years.  I don’t like to give my childhood too much “air time” because it’s not something I can change.  What is it they say on Love Island?

“It is what it is.”

I don’t want my childhood to define me, but the trouble with growing up is, whether we like it or not, it’s shapes us.  It moulds us into the adults that we become.  We go from impressionable children to grown up humans who have choices…do we become the worst version of ourselves?  Or do we become the best?

I grew up in a sociologically approved nuclear family; two children, and two parents.  We appeared to the outside world to be the perfect family.  My parents were hard working , my Mum was an Assistant Head Teacher at a secondary school in a unit for hearing impaired children. My Dad started out as a mechanic and I knew from a very young age how hard he worked because his hands and fingernails were always black with oil and grease that no amount of scrubbing could ever clear.

My Dad was rarely in the family home and my younger brother and I were always told that he was “driving”.  This meant that he was out doing long haul driving trips from one end of the country to the other in forklift trucks and he would be gone for days…but I never missed him.  Whenever he was off on one of his “driving” trips it was a relief because it was respite because he ran our house like a military camp. 

The first thing I ever did wrong was be born a girl.  In Greek families the first born is expected to be born a boy, I never got to understand the reasons why but whatever they were I had already disappointed him before I even had the chance to learn how to talk.

I grew up with so many rules and regulations that I didn’t realise until I was around 14 or 15 that my friends and my peers didn’t have the same rules in their families.  When my dad came home from work we had to be at the bottom of the stairs ready to greet him with our best Greek before he was able to put his key in the door…

“Kalispera Baba…”

We had one of three responses…

  1. “Spera!”
  2. “Disappear!”
  3. “Bedroom inspection 10 minutes.”

Number 3 was the worst.  1 and 2 meant we could retreat back to our bedrooms, out of sight out of mind and out of trouble.  Three was problematic.  Bedroom inspection meant we had to blitz our quarters to his satisfaction and specifications and not one of those things was easily obtainable.

The bed had to be poker straight, no lumps in the sheet and the duvet had to be tucked in at all the corners. The bin had to be empty because if it wasn’t he would empty the contents on our beds.  He’d run his fingers along every surface looking for dust and if he found it he would wipe it on our clothes.  He would check our school bags for drugs and cigarettes and threaten us with strip searches. He would favour one bedroom over the other and whoever was deemed failure in that moment had look at the other person’s success and learn from them because they were better. But neither me or my brother were ever better in that moment, we were just lucky.

We were never physically abused but the verbal torment was difficult to live with.  I was a constant disappointment, I was ugly, I walked funny; my brother was naturally clever and bright.  He was popular at school and slotted into society like a well-oiled machine.  I may have been jealous of my brother growing up but I never resented him.  He was my ally.  He was the one who after the humiliation would knock on my bedroom door and say,

“Do you want to borrow my Roxette tape?”

Everything in the Spathis family household came down to three things, money, appearances and control.  To the outside world we had to look like the perfect family and we were lucky to be in it because we had food on the table, clothes on our back and a month long holiday every summer to Greece.  Did I want any of that? Not really.  I just wanted to be loved.  I wanted my Dad to love me.  Looking back I put too much effort in to trying to please and impress someone who couldn’t be pleased or impressed.

My dad made a constant point that money was an important part of life, it was the most important part of life.  When I got my first part time job at the age of 16 I had to offer my Dad my £17.50 as a gesture and a contribution to the household because I was earning now.  He didn’t take it but the lesson I had to learn was that I owed him.

Everything in life comes at a cost and I was quick to learn that enjoyment sometimes costs a little bit too much. My mum and I love the band James.  Their song “Sit Down” is an anthem of my younger years and every time it comes on the radio I can still hear my mum singing along in the car as she drove us to school. 

When James announced their tour in 1999 the band were at the top of their game and tickets were like gold dust but with the pay from my Saturday job I could afford to go so my Mum and I forked out for two tickets. 

Miraculously we had decent seats but it wouldn’t have mattered, just being in the same room as Tim Booth back then was an honour and a moment to remember forever.

The following morning my mum made a fry up.  Bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and toast.  I’ve never been a big breakfast eater and meal times were always stressful at home but I’d been witness to one of the best concerts in my own little history so I had a big smile on my face as I cut into my bacon rasher.

My dad asked how much the tickets were, back then concerts were reasonably priced we’d paid around £30 for each ticket.  He asked how much the carpark had cost, I remember it was £5.  I’d bought a t-shirt, how much was that? I think it was £15.  I remember the mood changing at the breakfast table.  He picked at everything, he was angry we’d spent so much money on something so trivial.  He left the table in a temper and I stared down at my plate with a bit of bacon and cold scrambled egg remaining.  I lost my appetite because I felt guilty.  I’d wasted money and I had nothing to show for it that was of any use to anyone else, I had been selfish.

I scraped the last bit of my breakfast into the bin.  Just as the last bit of my half-eaten bacon rasher was falling into the dustbin abyss my Dad walked back into the room…now I was wasting food.


I fished out as much of the scrambled mush and the wet bacon rasher that I could salvage.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I had to eat the food that had been in the bin.  His words are not relevant because I know how he felt as he stared down at me crying into my dirty breakfast.  Disappointment, hatred, disgust.

All the way up until that point I had tolerated him because I had to.  But this, this was the final straw.  The feelings of disappointment, hatred and disgust were mutual.  I wanted out of the Spathis household. 

As a child I had begged my mum to send me to boarding school so I could escape.  I wanted to be like Pat and Isabel in The Twins at St Clares or like Darrell Rivers in Mallory Towers but the difference was I would never complain the way they did in the books.  Boarding school sounded perfect but my only option was to work my backside off and go to university.  Leave and just go.  Get the hell out and live life the way I never could if I stayed at home.

It’s funny really, reflecting on all of this; because as I said, he really wasn’t around that much.  My Dad was a Grade A adulterer.  God knows how but he had women falling at his feet left right and centre.  I’m guessing he probably made some of them feel like he could save them, I’m not sure what from but I’m certain in most cases he destroyed them.

I caught him once.  He had a guy working for him who went to prison, my Dad promised this unfortunate soul that we would watch over his family while he rotted in a cell wearing a prison issued tracksuit.  It was only when I saw my Dad with my 13-year-old eyes as he put his arms around the waist of his co-workers wife that something in me said “nah, that’s not right.”  I’d seen Saved by the Bell, I’d watched Zack and Kelly get it on and it looked a lot like what was going on in front of me and it was wrong! So wrong. 

I talked to my Mum about what I’d witnessed and it was downhill from there. When my dad knew what I’d seen he called me a liar. I was making up stories, I was poison, evil and it was another three years before he admitted that what I’d seen was the truth.

My parents split up twice, once when I was really young and the second time I was 16.  When they got back together the first time I remember my Grandma asking me if I was glad my Dad was coming home, I said yes, but I meant no.  She didn’t know what it was like at home but I wanted her to be happy.

The second split was only supposed to be a temporary thing.  He threw us out of the family home, me, my brother and my mum.  He went on holiday with the woman he’d lied about three years before and told us we had three weeks to find somewhere else to live and move out.  If we didn’t he said we’d just have to deal with it when he brought someone back after a night out. 

It was three months before we found a beaten-up cottage that had more problems than you can imagine.  What was intended to be temporary turned into 17 years.

Call it what you will, unfair, cruel, downright unbelievable, but even when the walls were literally falling down around us, at least the three of us were finally safe.  We were safe from his hatred and his immediate cruelty but he still controlled us, my Mum in particular, for a further 18-19 years until she was in a strong enough place to divorce him; and now he is nothing.

If I ever say anything to people about my life growing up, some ask…

“Why didn’t your Mum do anything?”

I used to ask myself the same thing.  In the moments where it counted, when we were waiting to be told we could eat, when he told me I was a waste of a person, when he picked at how I dressed, when I got B’ s instead of A’s, when I just existed and he didn’t like it, why didn’t she tell him to stop?

Because she couldn’t.  Because it wasn’t possible. Because she had it worse out of all of us and I didn’t know that until now.

My mum sometimes says she hopes I can forgive her.  But there’s nothing to forgive.  In the end she rescued us and she took us to a safer place where we could be who we wanted to be.  My brother could experiment with his hair and order a takeaway every Friday night with his friends.  I could invite my friends over and we’d sit and listen to music and talk about the boys we liked at 6th from.  I could write stories and I could buy whatever I wanted with my £17.50 and not have to hide it.  We could live without the fear of being judged or ridiculed and what’s more is, she continues to rescue us every single day; financially, physically and emotionally. 

My Mum is my best friend, she’s my oracle; she knows me better than I know myself.  She’s the strongest woman I have ever known and I forget about the things she’s been through because she always looks ahead. Even when she doesn’t feel like it she works hard at life to make it better for everyone else. I would never have achieved any of the things I have if it wasn’t for Mum. 

She feeds us, pays for the broken toilet, takes in parcels and is a sponge for the trials and tribulations of adult and working life.  She is the first person to take a stand when the mental health system bails on me and everyone around us and I know when she reads this she’ll be thinking, “Kat, I really wish you hadn’t done this” and my answer to that is, “suck it up Glenny, because it’s the truth.”

Every story has a hero.  My mum is mine…

Reading time: 12 min

School days, they’re just the best days of your life aren’t they? I mean who doesn’t love getting up at stupid o clock, donning on a uniform that even though it makes you look the same as everyone else in the entire school you still get judged because your tie is too long or too short or you’ve got the fat end showing instead of the thin end because that’s more fashionable and that’s what the cool kids do. 

Who doesn’t love walking through those gates knowing you’re facing a day full of lessons you either hate or just don’t understand?  Your teachers terrify you, have you done your homework?  Is it good enough?  Have you got the right books with you?  Have you remembered your PE kit?  You better hope so because if you haven’t you know you’re gonna be wearing that mismatched kit from the lost and found that 100% guaranteed has not seen a washing machine in its lifetime!

Who doesn’t love walking into your form room where 50% of your classmates hate you and the other 50% just don’t get you? 

Who doesn’t love waking up with dread knowing the next 5-6 hours are going to be spent dodging paper objects being thrown at your head? Paper objects that soon turn into pens, protractors and rulers because you’re not providing a good enough reaction? 

Who doesn’t love being called…
“Big nose”
“Specky four eyes”
“Pizza face”
“F***ing weirdo”
“Slow coach”

…Those are to name just a few of the endearing and heartfelt (I’m sure) comments my ears were privy to hearing on a relentless daily basis.

Who doesn’t love all of that?

Yeah, your school days are the best aren’t they?  I mean, I look back on mine all the time and think “I’d love to go back and go through it all again?

School was awful! From 1993 to 1998 I was all of the things I’ve just listed.  I was all of those things because the bullies made me believe that they were true. 

I couldn’t help some of it, I mean realistically there’s not much I could have done about the size of my nose, I tried to cover it with my hand so people weren’t exposed to the obvious horror that it caused but it made breathing difficult and in woodwork it wasn’t exactly practical when I was trying to saw through a plank of wood.  There wasn’t a great deal I could do about my skin either, I was a teenager, I had acne and no matter what the doctor prescribed I still had acne, so I apologise that it made my face look like a pepperoni pizza! 

I’m sorry I was such a slow coach but I was not a sporty kid and PE was most definitely not my bag so if I came last in the 100 metre hurdle race at sports day, take it up with my legs because clearly my legs and my brain were not on the same team. 

From age 12 I needed glasses, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise me needing to see the blackboard was so offensive to so many people; I’m sorry they made me look like a geek.  I’m sorry for being in the bottom class in Maths and I’m sorry I was in the top set for English but I missed the memo on how this would mould me in to being a thicko and a swot all at the same time!

I’m sorry that because I didn’t want to wear Kappa jackets and Spray Way coats and my trainers were Puma and not Nike this made me a hippy and as for being a minger, well, it is not my fault that no one fancied me; lads of class 93 – 98 that’s on you, I am not taking the fall for that one. You may have called me frigid but maybe it was a blessing in disguise that no one wanted to jump my 11-16 year old bones because when I look back at the photos none of you were exactly Crispian Mills material.

But there is one thing I will not apologise for… I will not apologise for being a “F***ing weirdo” because why should I? I didn’t think I was a weirdo, I thought I was just me. 

I know I asked too many questions about how the world started and did people really exist?  How did we know if we were really alive and how could we prove it because pinching yourself was just a matter of opinion.  I wanted to know how different religions formed and why didn’t everyone just believe in the same thing because at the end of the day we all live in the same world (that’s if the world really existed). 

I know I may have had an inability to see the things that were contributing to the allocation of this label, but from the age of 11 my subconscious must have made a decision that no matter how “weird” I appeared to be to the outside world or how difficult my school days were, my determination to be who I was would not waiver.  

I had a friend who refused to shave her legs when every other girl in school was shaving their’s, because of this she gained the title of “Gorilla Girl.”  She was bullied constantly and every person on the corridor would shout this obscenity at her but she never reacted.  I once asked her if it bothered her and she said…

“They’re just jealous”

But once she said…

“It’s getting boring now.”

So I asked her why didn’t she just shave her legs and then it would all stop?  My friend turned to me and she said…

Why don’t you get a Kappa jacket and wear better trainers”

She had a point because I was not prepared to change anything about myself for the benefit of anyone else, so why should she?

When it comes to bullies there’s always one thing that I’ve never been able to understand and that’s…


Why do they do it? What could they possibly gain from making somebody else’s life miserable?  Why is it funny to make someone cry?  How is it okay to hurt them? Who makes the decision to throw a wooden ruler or a plastic protractor at someone’s face and as for hitting someone over the head with a 300 page science book, how is that sidesplittingly hilarious?  I didn’t find it funny when it was done to me and I certainly didn’t think it was okay when I saw it happen to someone else.

When you eventually pluck up the courage to talk to someone about the bullies you get the standard response.  They are…

  • Unhappy in their own lives
  • Bored
  • They’re being bullied by the bullies themselves
  • If its boys then they must fancy you
  • If its girls then they’re jealous

To me not one of those explanations are ever true.  Using these excuses gives reason for completely unacceptable behaviour.  If any of the bullies who made my school days a living hell were unhappy that is not my fault and does not excuse the misery they inflicted on me or anyone else.

Making excuses for bullies puts blame on the victim. 

“Don’t rise to it.”
“Just ignore them.”
“When you leave school none of this will matter.”

But it does matter because it stays with you.  I left school 22 years ago and I have never forgotten the names I was called; I’ve never forgotten the feeling of a wooden ruler being thrown at my head. 

When I was 14 I reluctantly went to a school disco because my group of friends convinced me that it was a good opportunity to tell a boy that I liked him.  He laughed hysterically and must have been so utterly horrified at the prospect of someone like me thinking he was worth looking at that the next day he threw a stone at my face and grazed my jaw.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, they’re clever as well as stupid, they’re hard done by and they’re privileged.  Bullies can be our best friend, they can be our bosses and they can be our family.  There is no cap on the age range of a bully, there’s no valid reason for their behaviour and there’s no excuse for their actions. 

As a victim I blamed myself for the treatment I received.  People tell me I could have changed and then my teenage years might not have been so hard but changing isn’t as easy as people think it is. 

If I changed my appearance for someone else then I would never have been able to accept myself.  I would never have been comfortable with who I was because every time I looked at myself I would have wondered who was staring back at me.

Yes I asked far too many questions for anyone to be able to answer and while I wondered if I really existed in the world, I knew when I looked in the mirror that I was just a girl who liked reading books and listening to Indie music and that wasn’t really a bad thing to be.

Twenty-two years later Facebook is a field of social envy.  People make friend requests all over the show because they want to show others what they’ve got, their money, their houses, their kids.  They want to show others how much they’ve achieved and how they’re probably still the same person they always were back in the old days.  Maybe I’m no different.  As I write this piece I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder how far it will go, who will see it and think…

“…damn, we gave her a rough ride…”

I have nothing flashy to show in the years that have passed and I make a point of refusing friend requests from the people who made my life miserable.  I didn’t want to be friends with them in the 90’s so why would I want to be friends with the now? 

The last twenty-two years have given me mountain after mountain to climb, I have loved, I have lost and at times I have been a complete stranger to myself.  There were times when I wondered if I would make it, if I even wanted to make it at all but in a way I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.  Facebook is a minefield of gossip and rumours and its only through the friend requests that I have accepted that I’ve heard about the people who didn’t make it.  Some of the people who made my life miserable are either dead or in prison and I wonder if the ones who are still around are sorry.  I’ve always tried to be a better person and I can’t help but think it’s a shame that those individuals couldn’t do the same for themselves.

The saying goes…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

In all honesty whoever made that up has never been bullied.  It’s easy to say but it doesn’t take away the pain of someone’s hatred.

I don’t have the answers to tackling bullies and if anyone asked me how to deal with one I’m not sure I would be able to give them the right kind of advice because I’m not sure I even dealt with mine in the right way.

So to all the bullies out there, past and present, get a grip! Look at who you are and ask yourself if it’s worth it? How will torturing someone enrich your life? Is making the girl/boy with the braces cry something to be proud of? Are you truly happy when you throw something at someone’s face? And if that person doesn’t make it, if you’re responsible for that person feeling unable to carry on because they don’t meet your ridiculous expectations, can you live with yourself?

I am not denying that for the majority of my life I have struggled with the concept of who I am and who I will become.  I have always found it difficult to be happy with myself when the rest of the world looks so different to my own.  I wonder on a daily basis if I am good enough.  Have I done enough for my job?  For my friends?  Am I good enough for my family? Am I good enough for me?

I was bullied at school and at home I never met the expectations that my Dad laid out like a contract…

“If you look pretty and achieve the highest grades I will love you, but even then it will never be enough.”

In just the last few days I’ve learnt that you will always meet people who don’t like you and in return you might not like them but we’re all human and sometimes we just don’t gel.  Even adults say mean things, they might not throw rulers or stones at your face but those sniping comments will still hurt, but always remember…

Sticks and stones have the potential to break our bones but when it comes to names it’s what you do with them that makes the difference…

Reading time: 11 min

In 1998 I was at 6th form college trying my best at my A Levels and wondering if I was in over my head with the subjects I’d picked…

  1. English Literature and Language, I thought it was the best of both worlds, but I hated the books we had to read.
  2. Communication Studies, to this day I have no understanding of what that subject was about.  I remember watching clips of The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and having to tell my tutor how many different camera angles there were in one shot. I also remember words being thrown around like syntax (first time I heard that I thought my tutor was asking for Tampax) and societal dynamics.
  3. Sociology…. I was an idiot for picking this and an idiot for sticking with it.  I should have dropped that subject like a hot potato in the first 3 seconds of entering the classroom.  What was I thinking?

Anyway, regardless of the subjects any of us chose that was not the most important part of being a 6th former.  Nor was the fact that we had all chosen to go on to the next stage of our educational lives.  Sixth form was seen as either a steppingstone to going to university or it was buying time.  It gave everyone two years to gain a better idea of what they wanted in life and more importantly what they didn’t want.

It was also a massive fashion parade! Bear in mind we’d all spent five years in a school uniform having had only the odd “own clothes day” sprinkled here and there.  Own clothes days always put the fear of god into me because those were the days when the bullies had free reign of humiliating the less fortunate in the fashion world. 

I remember in year 8 my Mum bought me a red and blue woollen jumper with a heart on it and I loved it.  Not only had she taken the time to buy me a present but she’d picked something that I liked and wore with pride. 

Did the mean kids like it?  Hell no! 

Was I glad to put my uniform on the next day? Yes

Was I sad because people made me ashamed of my jumper? Too right I was sad.

In year 10 I was completely and madly in love with Crispian Mills, the lead singer and guitarist from the indie band Kula Shaker.  I was going to marry him, he was going to rescue me from all of my familial torture and he was my ticket to self and social acceptance. 

Crispian was famous for wearing the most outlandish and extravagant trousers and the fact that he didn’t care what people thought was incomprehensible to me and I idolised his confidence.  When I watched him performing he always wore these crazy wide flares and they were never a plain colour, they were always bright, embroidered or striped!  I wanted to have his confidence.  I wanted to not give a flying banana what anyone thought about me and my clothes because I was something, I was something good and I was someone special.

When own ‘clothes day’ came around in 1997 I bought a pair of pink and purple striped trousers from C&A and I had Crispian Mills’s face printed on to a white t-shirt and I walked through those school doors like a flaming hot Rockstar.  I was cool, I was confident and I was showing everyone that I didn’t care because Crispian Mills was an inspiration and I had gained my brave girl pants from watching his carefree persona. 

Did my confidence last?  No

Did I wear those pants again? Never

Did I wear the t-shirt again? Of course I did.  I gave up on the will to be adventurous, I didn’t give up my on my heart.

In 1998, the summer before I started 6th form I remember half dreading half celebrating the notion of being able to wear what I wanted.  I was now the one who was in control of what I wore and how I carried myself.  I had my first ever Saturday job so I had the money to buy the clothes I wanted and feel good doing it because surely, by now we’d sifted through the dregs of educational morons and the chavs and bullies were no longer in the vicinity?

That may have been the case but it became pretty obvious that you don’t have to be a bully to disapprove of what someone is wearing and you don’t have to say it to someone’s face in order to hurt them.  Chinese whispers can spread like wildfire in a very short space of time and I learnt pretty quickly that I was most definitely not buying the right clothes from the right places.  Marks and Spencer’s was not the place for a sixteen year old girl to buy fashionable tops from and BHS is an instant no no for all things trouser.  It was hopeless.  My excitement over 6th form being the place for a new start and a new beginning for my personal fashion was the opposite of what I’d hoped for.  

On one particular day and I was sat in the refectory with my friends talking about boys (we were always talking about boys) and the door opened; three girls walked in.  It was like a scene from the film Mean Girls only Mean Girls hadn’t even been born at this point. 

It was “the plastics” walking in fully made up, wearing the clothes that were a combination of the Spice Girls, All Saints and B*Witched.  They just floated into the room with their perfect hair and perfect nails and flawless skin and every single head in the room turned and I just thought…

“If this is what I’m up against, I give up.”

I gave up because the girl in the middle of the Charlie’s Angels-esque trio had snogged a boy I had the biggest crush on and I couldn’t compete with perfection.  I looked down at my BHS jeans and the jumper I’d kept from year 8 because it miraculously still fit and I thought to myself ‘Crispian Mills will come for you, any second now he’ll walk into the refectory in front of all of these people and he’ll barge past the perfect plastics and he’ll take your hand and he’ll say…’

“You look beautiful and you’re perfect as you are.  Now let’s get out of here because we’ve got a tour to do and the bus is waiting outside.”

A girl can dream.

In 2000 I bagged my place at university.  From the day I got the confirmation I started shopping.  This was definitely a new beginning.  I was going somewhere where no one knew who I was or where I came from and I was determined to make the most of the opportunity to wear whatever I wanted.  I didn’t care where I shopped or what people would think because this was my time to shine, I was at university and were no chavs and no bullies and no perfect plastics.  I would be surrounded by funky people wearing flares and fun jumpers…

…so how it ended up being worse than school and worse than 6th from combined I have no idea! 

My housemates tried to change my views on my clothes…. 

  1. Less jeans, more skirts.
  2. Fewer t-shirts, more blouses with low cut buttons. 
  3. No trainers, kitten heels instead. 

Was this me? No

Did I do what they said? Hell no! 

Did it depress me that my friends wanted to change me because I didn’t look the way they wanted me to?  Of course it did.

It hurts when people don’t like the way you look.  It’s the first thing we’re judged on but when it comes to clothes it’s the one thing we can easily change. 

I could have changed everything about me, I could have made life so much easier for myself but I didn’t.  Even when I came back to uni after a weekend at home and I found every single item in my entire wardrobe had been taken and replaced by an array of clothes belonging to my housemates, I still did nothing to change my appearance.  Some might say they did this as an act of love in an effort to make me look more aesthetically pleasing; but the truth is, they broke my heart.  This was the one thing that cemented the fact that I was just not good enough, simply because of how I dressed.

In 2009 I got a job at full time job in an office. 

Did I feel like I fitted in there, clothes-wise? Nah. 

I wore jeans every day, I wore jumpers and stupid t-shirts and trainers and I bought boots from Boundary Mill and if anyone made a suggestion or a comment, positive or negative I let it go over my head because at this point I just didn’t care.  Maybe it was the fact that there was nothing I could be bothered doing in order to change myself and if I didn’t feel right in what I was wearing then that was on me.

In the office I was everyone’s friend, there wasn’t one single person I didn’t speak to but when it came to nights out, I steered well clear.  In the 11 years that I was there I can count on one hand how many out of office celebrations I went on, this wasn’t actually a clothes related thing, this was a personality thing, my personality.

It was the same story every time, leave the office and I turn to an invisible pumpkin.  I wasn’t fun, I wasn’t interesting, I was the last person people wanted to talk to and don’t get me wrong this wasn’t just with work people, this was life in general; hen do’s, birthdays, leaving parties, just being in a group of people where there’s a celebratory atmosphere something in me just gets lost.  It’s never a conscious thing and it’s never anyone else’s fault but I’m always aware of it.  When I’m sitting in a bar surrounded by people who can drink and dance and party like real rock stars because they are they are wearing the right clothes, their confidence is a reminder of everything that I am not. 

It’s 2020 now and it’s been a really rubbish year!  My god, can it get any worse? Probably.  The best part of 2020 was being made redundant.  I’m sorry it really was, I wanted to leave my job for about three years and I just never made the move to see it through. I was lazy and it was convenient but I made some really good friends there and I have a lot of great memories from being at that desk but even before the redundancies were made official I knew there was no way I wanted to save my job.  Instead I pulled my finger out and I got down to it and I found myself new job in a place that after just 10 minutes of being there it had already captured my heart.

When I asked my manager what the dress code was I prayed for an old lady type blouse and a below the knee skirt with “practical” shoes.  I don’t know why, I’m a ward clerk in a hospital and that’s all I’d ever seen so when she said there was no uniform I was genuinely disappointed. 

Did I know what the hell to wear?  No I did not! 

Not a flippin clue.  So I bought smart pants, dresses, tops and jumpers with pretend shirt collars poking out; but on my first day I got an inkling that something here was different.  I wore smart pants and a jumper.  On my second day I tested out a dress with my Dr Marten boots and you know what?  People commented, people said nice things.  So I tried a different dress, a different top, different boots, I dressed things up, I dressed them down and now, every day when I walk through the door with a different scarf or a different dress with a different cardigan someone says that they like my outfit.

I don’t know what the deal is here, maybe at this stage I really don’t care or maybe this was the clean slate I’ve always wanted.  Maybe at this point in my life, having been through the things I have, having done the things I’ve done; perhaps I really have found my brave girl pants…

…or maybe it’s just that I’m finally comfortable being in my own skin and I have nothing to prove to anyone through the way I dress.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never changed the contents of my wardrobe to satisfy others.

As we go through life we change, our likes and dislikes evolve, we move from one place to another, school, college, university; we change jobs and we wear the clothes that we think are appropriate.  We dress up and we dress down for every occasion, whether it’s an interview or a Christmas party we wear what feels right… 

…but one thing remains constant and that’s the fact that we are all just human beings, we’re all different and you can’t dress that up or down because you shouldn’t have to.  The only thing we can do with who we are is be comfortable with it, maybe even happy…

…and that’s half the battle.

Reading time: 11 min