Some words about grief.

cancer, death, grief, multiple myeloma, writing

This Saturday will be two years since my dad died.

I feel compelled to write, although I am struggling to. It isn’t easy I guess.

Death is inevitable, part of our nature, and accepted as such. But it is so weird. It is the surrealist thing I have ever experienced, and also, the realist.  Me, my mum and my brother were with dad when he died. I still cannot comprehend what happened in that moment, where one minute there was a life, and the next it was gone. He was gone.

There was a body. It wasn’t my father.

If you have experienced death, seen it, you may know what I mean. But, it is not for me to say, no two experiences are the same. I cannot know what my mum or my brother experienced in those minutes. Nor them I. All I know, is it was the single most present moment of my entire life.

Writing about death is fairly easy I think. There is death in many great works of literature (and not so great). Death is explored and represented in the creative arts. It is written about in religious texts, and biological text books. It is almost, popular.

Writing about grief is not so easy. Grief is the ugly aftermath. It is not heroic, tragic or romantic. It is brutal, it is complex, it is forever.

It is also unpredictable.

In the days that followed my dads death, I danced. It was an uncontrollable urge. I would listen to music, usually through my headphones, mostly house or RnB and I would dance in my flat. Sometimes it was manic, sometimes it was weary, sometimes it was for hours at a time. It was weird. I tried not to judge it.

Grief can be private. I consider myself a very open person, those that know me would probably agree, those that really know me would definitely vouch for my honesty, particularly when it comes to my feelings. I am not afraid to feel or be vulnerable. Though this grief, this loss, is so huge, so completely incomprehensible at times, I can’t share it. I find myself locked in, unable to open up, even with my closet friends. Wanting to protect it. It is disabling and because of this, it is isolating.

My dad was sick for 11 years with a rare type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. I had always imagined that when he died me and my family would pull together and be comforted in the shared devastation. There were moments of this, but I wasn’t prepared for how alone I would feel. We had lost the same man, but we had all lost a unique relationship, we were not experiencing the same loss, and we were not using the same coping mechanisms. In the immediate days after, my brother panelled the hallway and built a shed from scratch. Mum was either oddly hyper and chatty, or wailing. I went in to myself, unable to be around either of them. It was really hard to connect. We were all grieving in different, and at times conflicting ways. Moving around each other in a fog. Trying to keep breathing. I lost friends. I’ll never really know which ones left and which ones I pushed away.

The reason I write this, is not to make a social comment on how society conditions us to deal with (not deal with) grief, or get angry about the blatant disrespect of the 5 days compassionate leave policy (five days ffs). Nor is it to offer advice or a positive message, if you’re grieving, I can’t ease the pain. But I can hope that someone reads this, and finds even a small part of their experience reflected back. And that they might find comfort in that. I found a description of grief online last year, written by an anonymous writer. He likened the experience to that of a shipwreck with everlasting waves. It resonated with me strongly, you can read it here.

I have learnt so much in these two years. It has been the weirdest, saddest, most destructive, most progressive, ugly, beautiful journey. I have wanted to heal the world, I have wanted to end it. I have been lost, and found. And lost again, and found again.

I understand love greater. And my own strength.

Perhaps it isn’t so hard to write about grief after all. Perhaps.

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(Dad writing. Corbieres, France, 2012)

*I would just like to acknowledge those people who held me. Brought me food. Sent care packages, sent flowers, sent emails, sent texts. Called. Kept calling. Still call. Took me on walks. Made me join the gym. Made me go to the gym. Danced with me. Cried with me. Listened. Thank you.

“BANKSKY AND BIEBER”

Raves and Waves

Human beings are weird. I know I’m supposed to say that we’re ‘complex’ and ‘beautiful’ etc etc and we are, we really are, but I just spent my 7th annual weekend at Lovebox festival and on reflection, that was a lot of human beings in one place being pretty weird. Myself included.

Homo Sapiens evolved from apes, or at least we shared an ancestor 6 million years back, or some genetic similarities to a chimp, or something (while reading this please bare in mind I was at Lovebox. And today is Wednesday. WEDNESDAY) and although we can be solitary creatures there is definitely a pack mentality within the human species akin to that of the animal kingdom.

This thought crosses my mind from time to time but usually when I’m out raving and especially when I’m raving at a festival.

On the Friday afternoon, I stopped for a minute and watched as hundreds of people threw their bodies about to beats and rhythms all in their own individual way, but as part of a heaving dirty mass, some as part of a pack, and I thought to myself – this is proper weird.

Then Skepta came on and my focus went entirely from my head in to my body. I had a skanking tantrum. For 2 minutes and 33 seconds, it was an absolute SHUTDOWN.

I love to dance.

Not with the same obsessive commitment of a ballerina or member of Diversity, I mean, who’s got the time? But as the most freeing expression of my body. I fucking love having a skank. Especially with my mates.

Here’s some animals that also love a skank.

And here’s some that like to get on it too.

I digress.

Having re-grouped after a toilet/bar break, my pack moved with instinctual purpose through the herd of shufflers emptying canisters of Nitrous oxide in to their lungs and joined other packs similarly migrating from the Big Top tent to the main stage to watch the headline act. Here the dusty planes of Vicky Park became a landscape of ravers, euphoric in unison, as Rudimental rampaged on stage and taught us that Love ain’t just a word and that as a generation we truly had ‘had enough’.

Those words carried a heavier weight the following day.

Saturday was a struggle. The dust was thicker. The air aggressive. The queues were a fucking joke and Snoop played his ‘house’ tunes (he also played I Love Rock n Roll. Why the fuck did Snoop play I Love Rock n Roll? Unless… did he play it?).

The whole day felt like chasing for something you’re never quite sure you caught in the end.

As well as chasing the friends all day who’s messages you get on the following Monday – “Right of the sound stage in the spot for Annie where are you?!!!”

I was right there too ffs. Balloon deflation.

We arrive back home with the realisation that the night is going to be so much longer than wanted sinking in. My tired body slumped on the sofa. My voice dry and raspy. My mind going a hundred miles per hour. It’s 11.30pm. I blow my nose. The tissue is black with dust. If I’d had any moisture left in my body. I would have cried.

We talk about everything and nothing while flicking through the music channels. My best mate decides she has to play cards. There are no cards in the house. She spends the best part of the following hour making a complete set out of primary coloured card. It was both torturous and mesmerising to watch. Almost as torturous as the repeatative ‘we should do the washing up’ conversation post Born n Bred festival. Which also took place during a game of cards.

(After extensive discussion. We did the washing up).

I force myself to eat a ham and pineapple pizza, that despite taking what I was certain at the time was over an hour in the oven is somehow well underdone. I hope in vain that ingesting carbohydrate will somehow reverse the inevitability of the ever looming Sunday ahead.

At approx 2am, after an extended game of black jack I retire to the bedroom by myself and listen to Justin Bieber on my phone. At this moment in my life, I honestly feel that Justin Bieber is the appropriate choice of music. I listen to four of his songs on repeat. It’s a jarring loop but I don’t feel I have the power to do anything about the situation once I’m in it. At about 3am my friend’s sister comes in.

“Anna, it’s time to stop listening to Justin Bieber”.

Yes, yes it is. I rejoin the living room.

My best mate is lying on the floor with her arms outstretched.

“I promise you, the length from the end of one arm to the other is the exact measurement of your body from head to toe”

It actually is.

At what time my dusty head hit the pillow for sleep I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it was light outside, and that we had watched a documentary on Banksy in New York. The only thing I can tell you about it is that one of the Americans kept pronouncing it ‘Banksky’. More jarring than Bieber.

BANKSKY

The following day we lay broken on sofas and under bedding watching Nev and Max uncover a Catfish of a three year relationship that turns out to be the girl’s best friend’s baby daddy. Rah.

Human beings.

Complex? Yes.

Beautiful? Not always.

Weird? For sure.

SKITS, SCRIPTS AND SHITS.

BANJACKS AND PERVIS, DOITLIVE, Film and TV, LA, Los Angeles, nyfa

5 years ago today I met my best mate Claudia. (well actually, it was yesterday but I just stayed up till 1am making gifs for this post) We stood opposite each other in line at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. 5 hours later, we were tucked up in bed in the Burbank Ikea showroom. The first of many beds we would share over the years. I can’t actually fully put in to words the journey of eternal glory that we have been on since that day. Instead here’s a condensed version through visual expression. A montage if you like, because quite frankly, everyone loves a montage. First things first. We were adorable.

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#milkshakedates

We ate club sandwiches every day

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And watched the sun set on Venice Beach

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Leonard Nimoy’s son was our tutor

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Seriously

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(Image credit: capoutoftime.tumblr.com)

Oh yeah, and WE WERE HELLER GANGSTA.

THIS WAS OUR WHIP #SEBRING 

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THIS WAS LUNCH #CLUBSANDWICH

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THIS WAS OUR BEST MATE DANNY “MACHETE” TREJO

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WE WENT TO VEGAS…

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AND LEFT 12 HOURS LATER. COS WE JUST ROLLED LIKE THAT 19352_271630506021_5886413_n

WE MET PAC (Disclaimer: This is not the real Tupac Shakur. This guy was a postman)

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WE TUCKED OUR NAPKINS IN OUR SHIRTS

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COS WE JUST MOBIN’ LIKE THAT

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WE DROPPED IT LOW EVERY TIME J COLE “WORK OUT” CAME ON

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WE ROLLED WITH PACO

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WE ROLLED TANDEM

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ON EVERYTHING

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LIKE A COUPLE OF “VENICE CHEAPSKATES”  WE SAW THE LAKERS

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WE INSTAGRAMMED THE SHIT OUT OF THESE KIGUS WITH A FILTER 398519_573257871654_400244322_n

WE STARTED SOME SERIOUS FIRE IN THE BOOTH

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WE ATE MORE CLUB SANDWICHES. THIS TIME FULL OF EMOTION Image-1-7

WE RE-UNITED IN HACKNEY AND DICKED ABOUT WITH PIGS FEET

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AN SPAT ON LONDON FIELDS IN VINTAGE FURS

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AND WROTE A CHRISTMAS HIT “PISSY CHRISSY”

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WE CREATED “BANJACKS AND PERVIS”

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AND OUR COMPANY “DO IT LIVE

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WE RE-UNITED AGAIN IN SYDNEY. #PORKYS

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AND WE WROTE A COMEDY TV PILOT CALLED “DEAD BROKE”

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AND WE FILMED IT. ILLEGALLY. BECAUSE GANGSTA.

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IN THE NEVADA DESERT. COMPLETELY NAKED. BECAUSE GANGSTA. 523174_580142988824_1152791179_n

WE WORE THESE SHIRTS. BECAUSE GANGSTA.

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AND SUNG THE SHIT OUT OF R. KELLY. BECAUSE BUMP N GRIND.

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WE LIVED BY THE MANTRA #WWGD. BECAUSE GINUWINE.

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CLAUD’S MUM HAD ACTUAL CONCERNS THAT WE HAD ACTUALLY BECOME GANG BANGERS.  YOU CAN READ ALL ABOUT IT ON CLAUD’S BLOG HERE TO BE FAIR, SHE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO WORRY. COS ONLY A TRUE GANGSTA WOULD DO THIS

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OH AND IF YOU LOT ARE WONDERING WHY THE ‘SHITS’? ONLY TRUE FRIENDS WHATSAPP EACH OTHER THEIR MORNING DUMP. #PILEHIGHCLUB

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YOU CHANGED MY LIFE C-UNIT. #gosapinjeforlife

Ain’t about that casual life

Jobs n ting

Several things in life can be casual. Clothing, relationships, your attitude towards politics or Sushi.

The most casual thing in mine has been my work history, and when I mean casual, I’m not talking about the ease and simplicity of it, I’m talking about the contract. I have spent my entire working life on a ‘casual contract’. In fact, my phone contract has been the only piece of paper I have ever signed with any real commitment of time to it, and even that took me a few years to build up enough credit history to have it in my name. I also didn’t have an actual signature until I was 21 and realised that any bastard could forge my basic seal of authenticity. That, however, is all about change, or so I hope. Two major things are about to take place:

1: I am going to exchange on a flat. I will have a mortgage. I will own a home. Prang.

2: I now have a ‘proper’ job for which I am set to receive my full time contract.

Big movements out here.

One issue however, is that my arrogant manager is attempting to lord over me for a further three months by extending my probation. Purely because he thinks I’m some kind of mug who will take the fall for his mistakes.

Am I a mug though?

No.

I have appealed (even though the company I work for doesn’t have an ‘official’ appeal process for me, the lowly worker) and am fighting to get my newly improved signature down on paper not only cos if I lose this job I risk losing the home I have spent a year of being gazumpt to find, but also because, to be blunt, I am not fucking having it.

Now I could rant about this moron for days but he gets enough air-time as it is. Instead, I’m gonna do a run down of my top 10 (there’s actually 11. Don’t clock the double 8) casual jobs so you can get a casual picture of the casual journey I have been on since I was 17. Illustrated by my casual sketches.

1: Casually ran the guest list with my mate Sarah for Fresh n Funky club night even though we were underage (China Whites, Funky Buddha, Ten Room. Back when raving in the West was the best)

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2: Casual worker for childcare agency. Casually hated this.

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3: Casual bar staff for Gastro pub with my casual mate Selena.

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4: Casual front of house usher at a theatre. Casually promoted to casual supervisor.

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5: Casual exams invigilator. At the college where I casually sat my A Levels. IMG_9700-2

6: Casual call centre for a casual ticket company.

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7: Casual ‘casual’ for said ticket company working various casual jobs including front of house, reception and despatch. For a casual 6 years on and off.

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8: Casually removed paperclips and rubber bands from documents heading for the shredder. In a windowless basement. For £6.95 per hour. With my casual mate Dave. For a casual two months.

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8: Casually drove a flower delivery van for a casual two weeks. That turned in to a casual two years.

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9: Casually developed and ran a music therapy workshop for young people. Casually loved this. Which casually lead me to number 10 (on my list).

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10: Casually currently managing a project for at risk young people and NEETS. Casually not casual.

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So, here I am, on the cusp of becoming a non-casual employee, after a casual 13 years of being ‘casual’.

There really is a lot riding on the next few weeks…

How am I feeling??

Casual.

Notting Hill Carnival? Nah.

Raves and Waves, Tupac Shakur

Today is the first time in about 11 years that I haven’t donned a whistle and hauled my arse on the East London Line (Silverlink. If you know you know) to the streets of West London for Carnival. Now, I love to rinse at Rinse, then duty wine my way from Goodtimes, passed 4Play and down to NTS as much as the next twenty-something bound for that inevitable piss squat in Horniman Pleasance but, oh wait, I’m 30. Yeah. I’m not in it anymore.

I’m ashamed to admit that since my first time at Carnival, when I was about 14 and tagged along with my brother and his mates, it has become a lot less about the cultural unity and good vibes for me and more about getting absolutely off my face and searching out a sound system playing Garage for the whole day. I haven’t even seen the parade since 1999.

Like I said, shameful.

Last year I made the mistake of rockin up solo at about 4.30pm on the Sunday, stone sober and so hungry I could have happily feasted on the mounds of chicken scraps in the gutter. I probably would have, if I’d been half as wavey as I should have been to cope with the heaving mass of sweaty, aggie, twisted up party people I was now shoulder to shoulder with.

I bought myself a can of Red Stripe from a guy with only three visible teeth. £4. Fuming. Queued for a good 35 minutes at Soul Kitchen for Jerk Chicken and Rice. No fried dumpling left. Livid. Then perched on the edge of a curb to eat whilst desperately trying to contact my mate Amy, who, having moved to Kensal Rise that year had started the party off right at about 11am and was now in it, deep in it. We eventually did get hold of each other on the phone but by this time she was being penned in by the high-vise army and I was being penned out. Good times.

I left Amy assuming I would probably never find her again, ever, and wandered down towards NTS through the hoards in the hope that I would be able to locate my mate Jessi from her text instructions.

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Miraculously, I found her. She was also deep in it. That one can balanced against the meal had put me no where near the level I needed to be on to catch up, but at least Jessi had rum punch to share. We made a B-line for Horniman, and, the inevitable piss squat. Then linked up with a couple other characters, birthday boy and florist Augustus Bloom and my good pal and actress Chiara Wilde. We sat on the grass, drank, smoked, and generally dicked about for an hour or so to the intermittent rhythm of balloon canisters being emptied. At about 7pm things were winding down to a messy holt so we headed back to Kensal Rise, stopping at St Johns cook out for more food. Gus got absolutely mugged for some tasteless Jollof. He blamed me.

Crammed on a carriage of horn blowers all heading back East I suddenly realised, I was now in it. The rest of the night is a hazy mash up of embarrassingly overtly-sexual grinding to Ginuwine Pony at Alibi (a total fucking anthem for me, reasons to be revealed in a later post) and a Tequila fuelled teary argument with a pointless ex that ended, as inevitably as the Horniman piss squat, wet and in public when it should’ve been behind closed doors. Or better yet. Not at all.

I woke up the next morning and put my head directly down the toilet until about 3pm.

I swore I had gone to my last Carnival.

At least this year I hadn’t lost my big toe nail as I did in 2009 and 2011.

Don’t get me wrong. I have had some wicked times there over the years, and even though my tolerance for, well, most things has got considerably lower since turning 30 I literally tore Glastonbury apart this year, so I do still like a party.

See. Here I am at Arcadia. Quite simply. Loving life.

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(Photo by Amy. Yeah, we found each other again)

Anyway, I’m still in my pyjamas, having spent the entire day watching Tupac films and YouTube interviews around the conspiracy theories of his death. By the way, Pac, if you’re chillin in Cuba, holla atcha girl.

When I told someone a few days ago I was gonna give Carnival a miss this year they said “Really? Are you crazy?”

Well you know what

There’s still tomorrow tho…