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[BLOG} Leonie Says "Screw You!" To Anxiety!

Let us start with a few pertinent facts. Factettes, if you will.

My name is Leonie. I am 36 years old. My main schtick is this comedy facade but behind the facade, there's a different me. I have had panic attacks since I was 13. I have been dealing with Agoraphobia since I was 15 and have been taking medication for anxiety since 1996.

I know; 15 years of a daily dose of happy juice. 15 years of being a bit dopey, a bit forgetful. I've still had panic attacks despite the drugs, but they seem to help me cope.

Well after twenty odd years; anxiety has become rather old. I have reached a stage where I find myself feeling exasperated when it rears it's head.

It goes something like this. I'm probably out and about. Perhaps having coffee with friends, travelling on a train or a bus somewhere alone; just trying to get a bit of enjoyment out of my days. When someone comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder.

ANXIETY: Eyup kid, me again!

ME: Oh God. You. What do you want?

ANXIETY: Just thought I'd drop by and remind you that I'm never far away.

ME: No, you're never far away, are you? You always seem to appear when I'm feeling a little out on a limb, at the "swinging between the trees, in mid-air and reaching for the next branch when I've let go of the last" moment, when I'm at most vulnerable and struggling to trust in myself to cope.

ANXIETY: Blimey, you've really sussed this out, haven't you?

ME: I've spent enough years in the house, thinking about it. Feeling crushed at my own lack of nerve when I could've been out and about, riding the wave and giving myself the potential to be enjoying myself. When I've had a lack of faith in myself so profound that I've struggled to leave the house to go to the shops. Where I've nearly had to crawl through the streets because you've made me feel so terrified where other people are just able to do these things without a second thought. You remember 2002, don't you?

ANXIETY: Oh yes, I was around a lot that year. You kept me very busy.

ME: You've made me feel the cold rush of adrenaline that other people experience on rollercoasters, when I've just been going down to the shops, or that morning on the bus to Bury; you remember that well, don't you? It wasn't that long ago. I felt so bad that my teeth hurt, my head hurt, I had the taste of aluminium in my throat. I felt utterly dreadful. You enjoyed that, didn't you?

ANXIETY: I was doing my job properly, what more can I say?

ME: I'm so tired of your shit; you know I am. I've been putting up with you for a bloody long time and now I choose to fight you. I've learnt a lot in these years, you see. I've learnt how to dismiss you when I feel you try to slip your arm around my shoulder; how to throw your arm off me. I've learnt how to recentre myself; I've learnt how to distract myself from your attempts to control me. Screw you, Anxiety.

ANXIETY: Yeah right.

ME: I'm not gonna let you win, anymore. I am not gonna let you win!!



I'm going into this thing defiant, positive and determined to fight it, whenever it rears it's head. I will not let it win. I've had a mantra for many year, which I keep close to my heart at all times from now on.

I - WILL - PREVAIL!!

I used to be quite private about my writing.

I wouldn't let anyone read it when I was a teenager, furtively scribbling Mary-Sue stories in my bedroom to liven up my disappointing little life. I'm still astonished I got a D for Home Economics GCSE as I spent large sections of those lessons writing my own fiction. The teacher never noticed: I was hunched over an A4 pad scribbling furiously, so how could she have known?

Rob, Nicola, Zoe and Roy knew, though. I wonder if they remember?

"I don't remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman. For me, writing is like being gay. You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away." MARK HADDON


Eventually I shared a few things I was actually quite proud of. Sent out a few things and for a while, had the ear of an editorial assistant at Anchor Books.

And then came the "Seven Worlds" Project. What started as a few randomly placed paragraphs of whimsy tossed off on a bored February evening soon developed into a very personal writing voice. And then the whole idea of seven novels about the end of the world came to me; old characters, new characters, borrowed characters (well, not many) and the odd blue one too.

I brought back Meg and Bren from the early '90's. Phil from the Agoraphobia Jungle project written about '98/'99. I'd been playing with another set of characters in the summer of 2002 who also found their niche in the seven novels. Some of my short stories found their feet in my universe. Plot developments suggested more characters. I wrote four drafts of World One, one draft of World Two, a substantial fragment for World Three and odds and ends for the other four.

World One has been read by quite a few people who seemed to enjoy it. Only one other person has read World Two. Slowly it dawned on me that I didn't have enough material for seven novels but I had ample for one novel. So I gave in, in April 2009 and began to weave it all together.

"It is a delicious thing to write, whether well or badly...to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating." GUSTAVE FLAUBERT


And this is what I am working on now, draft two of "Seven Worlds Will Collide" is complete and now I'm polishing and editing it. I've been finding discrepancies to be ironed out and my Beloved is being my beta reader; I've lived with this project since around 2004 that I'm not explaining myself, well enough. These concepts are grouped around my heart in much the way of a nest; I've lost track and toenails of what needs re-explaining. Not everyone's read World One.

And they're not about to, either!

I'm very excited about it. I know the writing style is rough and raw but under the clamour of roughness and rawness is something quite lively, wriggling to get out. And I hope that, when it's ready to emerge and stretch its wings... I hope that someone in the publishing industry will love it in the same way that I do. I want this one to see the light of day and the inside of the circle of the world of big publishing.

And I hope I don't live to regret it...

City Centre living is not for the faint of heart, dear friends.

I was awoken quite rudely by the performance of the Ritual of the Happy Slappy Fish Dance across the road, this very a.m. This is a frequent occurrence in this neck of the woods; regularly at 6:45am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. We have yet to snap photographic evidence of the Ritual in progress as the proponents of this activity have long gone by the time I can drag myself out of bed and point a camera through the net curtains.

At any rate; this week my body chose to start growing a small poisonous planet which felt the size of Neptune on a Wednesday night. Yes indeed, dear friends. The planet was much maligned and misunderstood; intent on bringing the Empire of Me down, its poison was infiltrating my system and roundly KICKING MY ARSE. I was on my knees, MY KNEES!!1! by bedtime Wednesday.

However! Antibiotics are my friend and by Thursday morning, I was kicking back and defeated this dreaded foe with a hot shower and a "bit of encouragement" offered by two careful index fingers and a set of gritted teeth.

Feeling much more forcing, I can now warmly anticipate a glamorous night out on Saturday night decked in Jasper Conran and set off with a pair of black heels; my faculties intact and my honour defended.

And you know; it is remarkable the wonders worked by a mere lick of paint: two brilliant yellow lines all around my house. And I listen to the crash of an industrial strength bin lorry (0530hrs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday!) and marvel at City Centre living, in the shadow of the Ship of the Fens, and hope and pray to whoever or whatever's up there (Agnostic, donchaknow) that I might meet the morning light without my bum falling off.

And that, dear friends, is another Friday Flight of Fancy. We must do this more often. You bring the munchies and I'll bring the noise...

Clegg is not one of those names that would foster caution in a Middle East dictator, is it. They probably think he's Peter Sallis. And if you were expecting three old men in a bathtub bombing down the road towards you, would you be scared? Me either.

Anyway.

Have just seen the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker sitting at a table talking to Fen folk in the Market Square. He had a Dalek and a Cyberman in tow. I made a sharp exit, let me tell you!

Oh good Lord no - I wasn't bothered by the Dalek or the Cyberman. No, it was Colin Baker who scared me - he seems to have accumulated rather a lot of weight and is beginning to resemble Jabba the Hutt. I thought it wise to skip away before I was forced at blaster-point into a bronze bikini and chained to his chair.

Oh trust me. Ely does NOT need to see me in a bronze bikini. Not until I lose at least another stone and my flesh doesn't wobble so much. I really don't want to be responsible for the old men of the Island having massive coronaries at the sight of my pasty body and the huge mole in the middle of my back.

(I call him Franklin. We reside in harmony, providing I keep him out of the sun. I show him to a GP, every so often. I'm very proud.)

My good friend @JustFiz has just spoken of how much she likes the idea of the old Doctors hanging out in coffee shops with a retired cyberman or two. I have to say that I'm very partial to this idea myself and hope #6 has invited #4 and #5 for afternoon tea at Peacocks, the delightfully chinzty tearooms down by the river.

(I recommend their delicious home made cakes. Particularly the coffee cake which is truly divine.)

I hope they give #7, what we term "the arsehole"*, though. We don't really entertain Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who in this house - it was all very very poor, by that stage.

(No offence, Sly. It wasn't your fault but those are our rules!)

Well, I'm off to finish the Waitrose jellybabies (wrong Baker, Leonie!) and cuddle up to Big Al Reynolds' Chasm City. This has been Leonie's Friday Flights of Fancy, and don't forget to drop a few coppers in the hat as it goes round!




* My terms may be uncertain, but I hope that their's are not!
It is singularly good and right to have a purpose, in this Earth-bound life.
Not merely to exist; drudging out the days in a job so dull you might just end up pulling your toenails out with your teeth.

No. It is good to have a purpose, a higher calling in this life. Something about helping people. Somehow related to what you can do for the world. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." etc. etc.

You planet needs you, you know.

Your fellow man needs you.

There is, more than likely, something you as a human being alive today can do that no-one else can do, at this time. Be it not for me to point you in the right direction and t'would be churlish for a body to assume as much.
"We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars."

It could well be a better world if more of us lifted our eyes up from the bottom of our half empty pint-pots and looked into the great dark beyond, and marvelled at the infinity that lies in all directions from this Earth...

[BLOG] The Lost Post...

Wait a minute.

There's a post in here, somewhere.

*feels around inside head, pats pockets and checks soles of shoes*

It can't be far away. Maybe it's out sailing on the high seas, splicing the mainbrace and setting the Captain off in a leaky boat for six months. Maybe it's with that cache of missing socks that disappear between going into the washing machine, and coming out again. Maybe it's down the back of the fridge, cos that's always the last place you look.

A wise man, when asked what he was doing hangin round like a Monkey, said that everybody has gotta be somewhere. And similarly, this missing post can't be lost forever. Surely it will turn up if we keep looking hard enough? Maybe if I reach my hand down the back of the sofa, it'll tickle my fingertips and I'll be able to whip it out quick like George Michael in a Californian convenience?

(*sharp intake of breath* Yeah I know, that was CRUDE! But apt, all the same.)

Wait! I saw it! It dashed past like a scared jackrabbit! There it goes, back again!

*puts hand out and grabs the post by the ear and slaps it on the screen*

There. I knew it was around here somewhere!

[BLOG] Sylvia Plath Is No Fun Anymore

I'm tipsy from lunchtime Pimm's and feel like subverting some Sylvia Plath poetry.

I'm in a bad mood and it hurts like hell.
I do it exceptionally well. Like an art I suppose, a bottle with a giant fart
sat on your coffee table, a buzzing, buzzing conversation piece
"What's that they ask?"
And I reply: "It's just my bad mood" and they lift up the bell jar
and crack open the bottle.
it smells sceptical like rotten egg
And...

That was from her existentialist period, when she got a sense of humour and started writing toilet gags instead.

I used to revere Sylvia Plath, when I was an earnest seventeen year-old, in the full-bloom of my "I hate men and I'm a feminist" era. I even did the whole hating Ted Hughes bit. Ted Hughes still seems like an a-hole to me, but he's dead now, and so's Sylvia, with her uptight flowery poetry (bless her).

I must admit, I still rather like her poem about cutting the tip of her finger off with a kitchen knife. That was radical. "With a flap like a hat" or something. If only she'd channelled her poetry into that kind of surrealist humour, she might be alive today, dancing gleefully on Hughes' grave with a bottle of gin and a hand grenade. How about that, eh? What a delicious image. Ted Hughes would still be dead though. And why would Ted Hughes still be dead? Because I say so. And what I say goes.

Epilogue: Oh yeah, anyone who wants to argue about me being disrespectful about Sylvia Plath as she was being one of the greatest writers of our age, you'll find me in a pile of rags in the corner, singing bad songs about cabbages and things. But I won't be in the mood to argue, you'll just have to singalong until I start being slightly less tipsy again.

Be advised: there is still three-quarters of a jug of Pimm's winking enticingly at me, so it may be some time...

At Last - The Sanctity of Comedy

To me, there has always been something almost Holy about Comedy. Something to be revered in the art of bringing hilarity and amusement to the masses. To achieve utter absurdity would be like attaining a state of Nirvana. The sound of one man laughing. If a tree chuckles in the forest at a joke it heard 5000 years ago, and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Points to ponder indeed. There are always endless questions to ask in every religion and Comedy is certainly no different to the next religion that ambles along the corridor whistling Any Old Iron. For example: who is Comedy's Messiah? And who it's Antichrist? Who are it's Prophets? And who are the Romans anyway? If Bill Hicks was Comedy's Messiah, then was the Cancer that killed him, the Romans? Can I be one of it's prophets? Am I putting myself on too high a plinth to be admired for my absurdity? Can I only fall?

And so I was thinking of starting an order of absurdist nuns. Does anyone want to join me? You'd wear a nun's habit but you'd have a Whoopee cushion tucked into your belt and an arrow through your head. And you'd carry a copy of Tragically I Was An Only Twin by Peter Cook under your arm at all times. You'd utter at least one knock knock joke an hour and you'd commit every Goon Show to memory. You'd go on daily retreat to meditate on such matters as "Who was funnier, The Goons or The Pythons?" and "Why does Les Dennis think he's funny?". You'd bring gentle hilarity to the sick and elderly, bring light into the lives of the saddened and dulled.

And would that it be so, and not just an idle thought passing through the wilderbeast of my aimless mind.

For long ago, I decided to dedicate my life to Comedy, when all other avenues of dedication seemed pointless and wasteful. Comedy is the one and only calling that I have ever heard, it is my vocation. Maybe it will be a long and lonely path I will tread in the pursuit of Comedy, torn with sadness and depression like it was for Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan... but one day... one day when I knock on the Pearly Gates to see if they'll let me in, well St Peter will either grin, throw one of my quotes at me and let me in, or kick my irreverent arse off the cloud and send me hurtling down to Hell.

Surely that's the final absurdity? No it's not. This is the final absurdity, right here and right now. And it is this: a bag of porridge.

END!

When people hear that I'm writing a novel, they want details. Quite often, they ask to read it.

I surprise myself by being cagey about giving too much away. I think I might even be embarrassed to be drawing attention to something I've kept largely to myself for a long time; then admitted to, to a small group of trusted friends some years further along the line.

I tend to say something like "Oh, it's in a similar vein to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" and attempt to divert the subject, there and then. Sometimes people are more persistent and want to actually read it now and I have to tell them, it's not ready yet. It's far from ready but not far from Esher.

So, this morsel is to whet the appetite of those interested. Not much given away (what is, in these times of recession?) but it certainly gives a decent insight into the tone of the piece.

I never saw it as the start but Martians didn’t land in Woking in 1898 and terrorise the planet like a bad case of the clap as HG Wells would have had you believe.
But oddly enough (and evenly to some, honest punter) they did happen to land in the car park when everyone was in the Brewer’s Arms, that long lamented Friday night in May. On that fevered night in question in the Brewer’s Arms just off the Moseley Road, local skiffle ensemble The Fanatics were having a session and all the Johnny-Come-Latelys had squirmed out of the woodwork in their carpet slippers and crewcuts and were shuffling back and forth, cutting a few mediocre rugs on the floor of the snug, and a few choice ones too.
But only until Stan the Landlord found out…

It's the second oldest piece in the novel, dating back to 2002. The only piece older than that, comes from the mid nineties although I'm not entirely sure exactly when. I've been raking this old thing over in earnest since August 2004; my original vision was seven volumes long. Too little material for seven volumes, too much for one = one volume, cruelly slashed down. Most of the characters have been knocking around since around 2004/2005, a few for much longer and one very very recent indeed. One character has been excised entirely in this draft but still taps at the inside of my skull and might surface in a later project.

The whole thing is rolling along quite nicely. The second draft is really coming along in leaps and bounds - at last word count at the end of Chapter 13 (just checked) is 32357 words. I have 30 chapters left to write and am hoping that the whole wordage comes in at 100k+. I'm certainly on course to summit that Everest.

And, a final word. I'm not wrong when I say it's in the vein of Hitchhiker's. It's not the same, though. It's my own world that I move in when I sit dreamy-eyed, chin on hand at a table in Starbucks with a cooling mug of tea and the crumbs from someone else's biscuit stuck to my elbow.

And maybe one day, you'll get to move in that world too...

You know it’s bad when I start quoting John Donne.

Not in reference to anyone in particular but the moment I see a comment about not caring about someone’s death, I immediately start quoting “No Man Is An Island”. Y’know the one.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

I first posted this after Michael Jackson died, a time which was filled with far nastier sentiments than now in the aftermath of Amy Winehouse’s passing. The sick jokes seem milder, this time. More people seem sympathetic to poor darling ill-fated Amy. I’m loathe to use the word tragic in relation to her because a bold, expansive character with a voice like a savvy wisecracking Motown Diva soaked in vodka and fags could never be described in a word I personally perceive as passive.

Modern life is HARD for all of us. We all deal with in our own ways, we all have coping mechanisms and we all lean on a variety of crutches. Some of which are more self-destructive than others. Life as a celebrity, as a paparazzi target and as the target of vile rumour and mistruth must be horrendous at times. You probably don’t have the first clue who to trust, who to cling to when the rain comes in. Help is probably out there; I wouldn’t know, I haven’t touched that water as my anxiety drugs are prescription. But the first step against addiction is that you’ve got to want help with all your heart and being. And you’ve got to have hope. You’ve got to be able to look to the future with teeth gritted and utter determination to leave the bad behind. Who knows what Amy was thinking and feeling, other than those nearest and dearest to her. I certainly don't and wouldn't presume to do so.

Most particularly “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” be they Amy Winehouse or the Norwegian victims of the atrocity this last week. We all have to die, yes we do, but we should all be able to reach a grand old age and die peacefully with our loved ones around us. And we should all feel terribly sad whenever anyone far too young dies well before their time. A dear, beloved good man who I loved with all my heart died of Cancer at 26 and he was angry - he didn’t want to die. He still had so much life to live. The victims of the Oslo shooting and bombing still had so much life to live and it was stolen away by a man seemingly addled with his perceptions of his extremist beliefs. Amy Winehouse died alone at home, possibly intentionally and possibly not - either way, it’s wrong. People do die before their time, this is true, Life, LIFE is cruel. Life is an utter bastard. It takes good people away, it burdens the talented and allows mad men to kill the innocent. Life, LIFE!! DO YOU HEAR ME!! DO YOU HEAR ME!! You screw with us! Good people die young, and cheats and hacks prosper, and hearts and minds stay closed. You are cruel and you can be capricious.

If we could all just open our hearts and minds, and lift up our fellow man, hold him up, support him, don’t let him be isolated, bring him gently into our fold...

Then Amy Winehouse might still be with us and those Norwegian teenagers might still be enjoying their weekend camp.

I feel that very keenly and wish everyone else did, too.

But y’know; it’s up to you. My dear friend C and I have, this morning agreed to differ on the subject of Amy Winehouse but our friendship has remained intact. Because we acknowledge and understand that love and friendship is more important than arguing over something we don’t agree on. We’ve respected and defended each other’s right to our opinions. I think there’s not much in friendship greater than that.

So, if you’ll indulge me; love and acceptance and kindness and friendship, my dear beloveds. We’re all in this together! We’ve only got one life - let’s make it the best we can, for each other.