50 Shades of Grey; it’s not all black and white

I hope you won’t judge me too much for having read 50 Shades of Grey. In my defence, it came into work; and curiosity got the better of me. That’s the problem with me, anything reportedly really shit, and I want to have a look for myself. 

So I read the book, primarily, as mentioned, to see for myself, if it was really all that awful. In many respects, it was, but in others, it actually wasn’t. 

Controversial opinion I know. What’s that? A female saying it was problematic but also not so bad? It can’t be! The thing is, if the judge of a good read is in a book you can’t put down, then this is arguably a good read. I found it compelling, interesting, and I wanted to know what happened next. I would like, (heavens forfend) to read the remainder of the trilogy to see how the story unfolds. 

Is Anastasia a wet blanket? At times, yes. Is Christian a freakishly controlling man? Also yes. Is there however, more to it than that? Yes. I only wish I had to hand, a copy of the book that I might provide quotes to back this up. Wikipedia must suffice. 

Let us begin with the most common opinion expressed in this book, that the relationship is “abusive” (quotation marks mine). I cannot begin to imagine the parameters of what one might call a “normal” versus “abusive” sub/dom relationship. It’s not an area I have any experience or indeed interest in for myself. So i’m going to have to take an educated guess at what google has shown up.

So, in the very beginning of the book, long before anything happens Grey tries to effectively warn Anastasia off, despite the fact it is made abundantly clear he fancies the proverbial pants off of her. Even after this, he isn’t exactly coy about his being a little less than “normal”, for want of a better term. Eventually he does reveal all, and there is talk of contracts. A quick google for sample sub/dom contracts reveals that the one detailed in the book is, whilst perhaps quite detailed, not overtly odd or unusual in it’s requests. He is also very sensitive to her being new to the idea, as is detailed over and over in him saying “we could maybe try it and if you don’t like it i’ll stop?” or things to this effect. We must also remember that these are two consenting adults, and if this is what they want to do (were they non-fictional) then there would be precisely nothing stopping them.

“But no!” the feminist lobby cry, “he’s pushing her into it”. To them I suggest, reading the text. And I mean actually reading it and taking in the words, not reading what you want it to mean. As far as I could see, he gave her nothing but clauses to get out. Yes, she became upset, but she could’ve chosen to walk away or terminate contact at any time. And CHOSE not to. I’m sure many people would argue that this is often a hall mark of an abusive relationship; they would be right. But the way that this normally works is with the abuser making the victim feel too trapped to leave, like they are worthless or somehow in the wrong. At no point does Anastasia ever appear to express such feelings, it is more that she is confused by Christian. She fancies him, but would find things so much easier if it was a regular relationship. She is in short, being a typical young woman. Panicking that her boyfriend doesn’t really love her and being otherwise jealous. 

It should also be noted, that the compromise within the book is two way. Yes, she agrees to try a BDSM relationship for him, but he does bend to her requests for “more” as it is often referred to, ie the trappings of a proper relationship. How much this is explored in later books I don’t know, but the synopsis’ suggest that it will all have a happy ending.

Another point to address briefly is this, there are complaints that it’s “unrealistic” for her to go from virginal to sex mad in such a brief space of time. Let me try to elaborate on why this is bollocks without revealing too much of my own sex life and horrifying you all. An ex once said to me, (and i’m paraphrasing) that having good sex as your first time made you want lots of it, and bad sex made you wonder what all the fuss was about. We can see from the writing that Anastasia has “good sex” so therefore wants lots of it, no problems there. The other point bought up is how one can go from practically asexual to spread eagled so fast. I won’t go into detail, let me just say that it happens.  

I’m not going to argue it’s not quite badly written. There’s lots of “down there” and “I bit my lip” but if you imagine this is being narrated by a sexually inexperienced 22 year old girl, suddenly the language makes much more sense. It fits with the character, who yes, is a bit of a wet blanket and at times I did want to give her a slap around the face. It does work tonally and linguistically, even if it’s not a staggering work of literary genius. 

Finally, all this book is, all it really is, is wish fulfilment. I don’t care what you personally thing, for some people; the idea of being found attractive by a handsome and rich man is appealing. He is the dark and tortured soul that you, by proxy of Anastasia get to fix and to love. If it didn’t have the BDSM element it’d just be another chick lit, or a Mills and Boon and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. This is the thing, it’s not a great book. I just don’t feel it’s as bad as people have been trying to make out either. 

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Oh Edinburgh My Edinburgh

Oh Edinburgh, my Edinburgh.


I’ve been back a couple of weeks now, and i’ve appeared out of the pit of general exhaustion the fringe invariably causes. I’ve wondered around the house drinking wine with a podcast on in place of being in a pub with friends, i’ve slept too much, eaten weirdly and talked to the cat. And so we’re on the up now. It’s been a good, if utterly bonkers month. I can blame only a house move for why it’s taken me so long to post this retrospective of the fringe. 


There aren’t many places that no-one bats an eyelid at you for walking around in a dress, fishnets and trainers, especially if trailing two yellow balloons full of glitter. I am aware this stunt performing nature annoys many; hell i’m one of them. But at the same time I like that you can do that between shows perhaps for a reason no-more complex than laziness; and that it’s ok.


As ever, with the fringe, i’ve smoked, drank and talked too much. Slept too little, worked an insane amount for someone who normally gigs a few nights a week at most. I’ve lost my voice, gained it again, shared a bed with my cast and crew and crawled into the top bunk of my hostel as the sun is coming up gone 6. I’ve had intense discussions about glasses, baked beans and people we would sleep with if our respective gender and sexual preferences matched. 


I’ve kissed and cuddled, partied in an underpass and thought I was going to be sick in the middle of a show. 


I’ve run out of clean clothes, climbed a small mountain, made friends with strangers and gotten rained on again and again.


It’s been a wonderful month; now I’ve just got to edge back into real life. Thank you Edinburgh.

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Dress Up In You

It is a truth, universally acknowledged that being young involves angst. I don’t mean a child, being a child is brilliant, but from the ages of about 13 to 30 most people seem to spend quite a bit of time worrying. Most particularly worrying about clothes. 

As a teenager, you get to try on identities. I spent a few years as a goth, brightened up again, emerged out into the phenomenal boredom of being broke and then ambled off in a more interesting direction again. I think most people would describe my current sense of style as “erm?”.

I worry though, that i’m boring. I feel that the day I go around constantly in plain tops and cardigans with sensible shoes and a mid length bob will be the death of me. (Figuratively speaking). I’m not particularly a fashonista, I like looking at the pretty pictures. Kingdom of Style is a personal favourite, but i’m not that fussed. 

Often, I wear stompy boots. Nothing makes an outfit interesting more rapidly. 

I don’t think it helps that i haven’t bought new clothes in a while, it’s easy to feel bored when you’ve been wearing the same things constantly for a few years. But maybe that’s just me again. Who knows? 

This blog from Timoni got me thinking, as did The Uniform Project. Both of these are interesting ideas, I agree with the idea of basic outfits. I’ve got a few “go-to” type combinations. Stripey teeshirt and jeans, purple dress with leopard print cardi, floral dress with under shirt. But I don’t really have enough of a “uniform” per-say to settle into one thing. Plus, I actually quite enjoy thinking about clothes and what i’m going to wear. 

Who am I going to be today? Am I going to be that cool bohemian girl on the train whom you sort of admire for the ballsy clashing colours even though technicially she’s dressed like a twat? Maybe i’m going to be sleek and grown up in smart jeans and a blazer. Perhaps i’ll be casual and practical in jeans and a teeshirt. I like playing with that. It’s like power dressing but for daily life. Wear what makes you feel like you can take over the world. Or perhaps you’d rather just snuggle up into that jumper that feels like a cuddle and protect yourself from the outside world? 

Clothes are brilliant like that. 

I think that’s what those 17 years are spent learning. That you don’t have to permanently dress in one style if you don’t want to. You can be smart one day, boring the next or outlandish the day after that if you want. Or you don’t have to. 

Some people learn this faster. They are the kind of people who joke about being old before their time, but not in a bad way. The people whom are complimented on their maturity and conversational skills. Some people don’t, but that’s okay too. They’re fun, they’re living their lives, being the age they should be. Some people just don’t care. I envy those people. 


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How to Look After Your Techie

As it’s now June the Edinburgh Preview season is upon us and the Edinburgh Fringe itself is fast approaching; naturally my thoughts turned to this particularly non-lucrative element of my work, as do the entire (comedy) world’s. So here it is, the blog that absolutely no-one has been clamouring for. The techie’s inside guide to getting the best out of your techie this Fringe.

First, some quick do’s and don’ts:

Do buy your techie a drink. This is a good way to make them like you. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic, it can be a coffee, a coke or a stiff whiskey. This is also a good way to judge your techie. One who refuses alcohol pre-show is more likely to be taking their work a little more seriously.

–  Do be upfront about money. You’re both going to be broke and embarrassed about it, that’s the way these things work. £10 is a reasonable amount to offer for a fringe show, but if you can afford more you’re likely to be a popular person on the (tech) circuit. It is acceptable to offer less if you’ve only got 2 sound cues too. 

– Don’t worry about bonuses. Techie’s work to the same standards of professionalism regardless, it’s not like a flyerer who has lost their spark mid month and needs a boost to make them get out there in the rain. That said, if you get to the end and decide that you would like to offer a bonus, then do. Everyone likes an unexpected surprise, and if you’re already broke money is a nice surprise. Sweets, cake or booze are also acceptable. 

– Don’t be a dick. This person can easily make or break your show. Be at least civil and they’ll be more inclined to turn up promptly and do their job to the best of their abilities. This also goes for mistakes, they do happen; being angry doesn’t help. Most audiences will accept this.

– Do socialise a little with your techie. You don’t have to hang out with them every night, although if you’re getting on well then that’s cool. It’s nice to feel like a fellow human; invite them out to a drink. If you can get into somewhere fancy take them there, make them feel special. Obviously not everyone clicks, but lots of techies and their performers become friends, or partnerships. A techie who feels appreciated is more likely to help you out in a pinch, work for little or no money, and generally help you out. 

– Don’t use your ipod for the music cues. Really, for the love of all that is holy please don’t. It’s just about useable for intro and outro music, and it might do the job when you’re gigging normally, but if you’re wanting any kind of nuance it’s really not that hard to pop the tracks onto a blank CD, or email them over before so your techie can do that. It saves missed cues or a sweaty finger leading to an incorrect or incomplete cue. That said, any ipod with a click wheel is okay ish, it’s the touch screen bastards that are problematic. 

– Do just let them help you. If your techie is happy to cart things around and fetch a glass of water from the bar so you can have a last minute run through in your head; then say thank you and enjoy the extra few minutes this gets you. Techie’s may be highly skilled professionals but they also spend most of their lives carting PA systems and cases around the place. If there’s something they can’t do they’ll ask for help. Trust in that. I personally have ambled around Fitzrovia with a P.A. balanced on my hip.

And now for some general advice:

– If possible, try to have some a script or cue list ready. I don’t care if it’s “really easy” I want the cue written on a piece of paper, I don’t care if it’s on the back of my hand. A pre-prepared script is a wonderful thing. Even if you don’t necessarily stick to it, it will allow your techie to roughly follow where in the show you are and prepare for a cue. This leads to a slicker performance and no sudden blast of music because you’ve hit a cue when they weren’t ready.

– Some performers like to buy their techie a present to say thanks at the end of a long hard Edinburgh slog. If you’re good at gauging people, or at presents, well done! If not, the following are some ideas. Booze probably won’t go amiss, a nice bottle of wine can always be regifted to a friend, thus saving the techie valuable money. Alternately, a new sharpie/roll of tape (gaffer, electrical or masking) is a thoughtful little nod. Why not make them a mix tape of house music? Also handy!

– Your techie may become injured, try not to worry. Most techie’s are used to the injuries that come along with the job. Sprained wrists, broken toes and bruised calves are normal. Your techie will probably continue to work, perhaps with a limp or only using one hand, until such time as they are able to assess the damage. Do not worry. This is normal. You may see your techie repair themselves with tape. This is also normal. Gaffertape makes an excellent stand in brace if in a hurry. If your techie shows you how one of your prop boxes has caused little bruises that look like track marks on their arms, do not be alarmed. Techies like to trade injury stories. They are merely showing you this part of techie culture.


By following these guide lines, you should find yourself with a techie who is reasonably friendly and enjoyable to work with. You may also receive cake; and make a new friend. 

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To my 20’s

It may surprise some of you to learn that within the past couple of weeks I have just turned 20. I don’t think it’s that I look all that old, but that I have the air of someone older. At least that’s what people have told me. Someone who met me only briefly the other day pegged me at 18 facially, so that made a nice change. 

I feel like 20 is a good age to be. Balancing on the cusp of real adulthood, in the way that 18 is not quite the same. Legally yes you are an adult, lots of people move out at 18 and go to university, I was one of them, but 20 is different.

I saw in my 20th Birthday in a tiny town in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Machynlleth. (It’s pronounced mac-hun-clef) As birthday’s go, it’s been one of the better ones, good friends, good cider and I ate a cinnamon pastry for my tea. I saw some comedy, I generally very much enjoyed myself, and woke up feeling surprisingly chirpy the next day all things considered. 

A few days later, I got out my little note book and wrote plans, 1 year, 5 years and 10. The further away they get the vaguer they become. From the very concrete 1 year – Get that tattoo, via the 5 year  – Be able to go on holiday to the 10 year simply just – Children ?. I know better than to plan too far ahead, I could be hit by a bus or drop dead of a cerebral aneurism tomorrow. That’s not pessimism that’s life; i’ve seen it happen. 2 girls I went to school with died of natural causes (more or less) and they were only young. 16 and 20. But none the less I like to make plans. I plan as though I will be around in 10 years to have children, but equally I don’t slog away at something I hate because I would hate to die sad and unfulfilled. 

I have decided mainly to dedicate my 20’s to new experiences as much as possible. There are lots of things i’ve never done; some of them more achievable than others. I’ve never seen Sliding Doors, never been to Spain and never been to a pride day. I would like to think that, within the bounds of possibility I’ll get to my thirties and have made something of my relative youth. 

If you can’t do stupid things when you’re young, when can you? Equally, if you can’t spend a Sunday reading Dostoyevsky and painting your nails, or knitting socks, or having a hot bath or going for a walk, when can you? 

20’s, I want to enjoy you, the preceding decade has been perhaps quite rubbish. I was fairly cheerful up until the age of 10, at which point puberty followed depression followed more and more horrible shit. I intend for the 20’s to be my time. I want to be happy, do silly things, have stupid hair cuts and stay up too late. 

20’s. I am coming for you. 

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nip/tuck snip/cut

Funny thing, a short and pleasant walk over the fields on your way out to the pub somehow becomes insurmountable when you’ve had a couple of pints. Especially if you’ve hauled yourself up a mountain and back that day.*

Jokingly, I remarked to the small human, “can I swap my body for a new one from the neck down?” This lead into a typically sideways small human conversation about the difficulty of such an endeavour, but it did make me think. What would I do if I could remould my body?

I’m fairly happy with it as it is, I should note, admittedly it’s not perfect and it sometimes crunches in odd places but it’s okay. This is all of course, purely hypothetical.

First up, sweeping changes. I think i’d ideally be about 2 inches shorter, so I didn’t struggle so much finding jeans to fit. I’d also probably pop down a cup and back size, again taking me into the “regular” rather than specialist range. 

What about the rest of me? 

I rather like my face as it is, although I’d like it if it was less inclined to go pink at the slightest provocation. I’d also quite like naturally whiter teeth. If I were a celebrity i’d smooth out the scars too, but I don’t mind those. I would however, get rid of the psoriasis. And maybe make my hair less unruly. I suppose I could fix my eyesight too, but I quite like my glasses.

Moving down to the torso, I could straighten my shoulders out. I have approximately the worlds most sloping shoulders, people don’t seem to notice til I point it out, and then you suddenly realise that the top of my torso is almost triangular in appearance. This causes issues with bag, bra and vest top straps, all of which are inclined to slide off my shoulders, leading me to be constantly hitching them up. Staying there i’ve got a big rib cage, culminating in flared bottom ribs. If I suck my stomach in you can see them poking out, so I’d have that all a little smaller and more regular I suppose.

I should count my blessings here, that unlike my mum and her Dad I wasn’t born with a spare shoulder blade in my chest. Mind you she also had a twisted spine so I guess I got lucky there.

I’m not fussed about my arms, but I do have the tiny wrists and hands of a child. To put it this way, my hands on their own are small, but compared to my wrists they look massive, like great paddles. That gives you some idea of how crappy and small my wrists are. Also I’ve broken and sprained them so they ache from time to time, that’s not cool.

Carrying on down, obviously a flatter stomach would be nice, but if I was that fussed i’d exercise more. Certainly slightly narrower hips would be nice, again for reasons of fitting into things.

I’d sure as hell have smaller thighs. Preferably with a tiny gap in the middle so that my jeans stop wearing out in the crotch after a few months.

If we’re really going for it, can my feet be about a size wider so I fit regular shoes? Also without the dropped arches so i don’t need to wear the supporting soles please. 

It’s a slippery slope, once you start thinking about it isn’t it? Lots of these things could probably be achieved with masses of expensive cosmetic surgery, other bits, like my hands, i’m just stuck with. I don’t mind. 

What it made me wonder more is what other people would do? Imagine you had a free rein to completely redesign your body, free of pain and free of charge. What would you do?

*Most of the way up at least, we didn’t quite make the summit because I wasn’t sure I could make it back down again if we carried on.

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Zen and the Art of Roller Derby

I’ve been wanting to post something about the glorious sport that is roller derby for a while, and today, the first day i’ve been able to put my pants on normally, seemed a good day. I should clarify, the pants issue was following a derby based injury, but i’ll come back to that. 

For those not “in the know” roller derby is a contact sport, played on roller skates, most often by all female teams. Some have compared it to Rugby but on skates, and others have gotten angry with this description. Unless you’ve seen the film Whip It! I’d say it’s a good descriptor. In the same way that one might (to use a comedy analogy) say Tim Minchin is a bit like Bill Bailey, one could say Roller Derby is a bit like rugby. On anything other than a surface level, they are of course completely different entities, but to bring the casual observer into your world you need a frame of reference for them. Something they may have seen on TV. Thus, Rugby is to Roller Derby as Bailey is to Minchin.

Stepping away from this, potentially hate inducing territory, the basic rules of roller derby are thus, and are quite simple. 

-Two teams of 5 people. One Jammer, who may score points, one Pivot who effectively “captains” her team on track and can become the jammer. Three Blockers, who, as the name implies, block. 

-This is played on a large oval track, I don’t know the exact dimensions, but it’s a similar shape to a running track, you’re not allowed outside of the boundaries, that’s a penalty. You skate anti-clockwise.

– Points are scored by the “Jammer” for ever member of the opposing team she passes. 

-The aim of the game is to get your jammer through the “pack” of people as often as possible, whilst hindering the other teams jammer in order to score points.

– This is done by placing yourself in the way, and by hitting them. There is a strict set of rules governing “legal” hits so that people aren’t badly hurt in theory, but as with any sport injuries can happen.

– These games are played in 2 minute “jams” which are stretched across an hour, usually with an interval. 

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but for the casual observer it’s really that simple. Score points by sending X player around the ring, knock down anyone who tries to stop you. 

For a more cohesive explanation, go here.

So that’s Roller Derby, a stupid, glorious, DIY sort of sport that I finally started to have a go at back in February of this year. I’ve been looking on form afar since watching Whip It back in about June of 2011, although I was aware of the sport via a friend for far longer. Unsettled plans and much moving back and forth meant I didn’t get my arse in gear until several months later, and then a fault in the message chain meant I didn’t make it to my first practice with Central City Roller Girls until a long time after that, but I did it. 

I’m sure i’m biased, but CCR have been a great bunch of guys to start my skating with. The coaches are good skaters, but also good teachers, the important thing really. They’ve also proved to be bloody strong, although more on that later. 

I came away from my first practice, bruised, aching, soaked in sweat and exhausted. But I was exhilarated too. I felt amazing, this is those happy hormones people have been telling me about! And so I quickly threw myself into skating as often as possible, shelling out money I didn’t really have for bits of second hand gear and such like. I didn’t have to. In this respect CCR are particularly good for the beginner, as well as having a constant intake, rather than set times, they also have full kit to hire for free, for as long as you need it. I didn’t really intend to buy my own gear, I just ahh, slipped. 

I graduated from the shallow pool to the main fresh meat pool, and then, on my first day skating with the bigger girls disaster struck. A niggling pain in my groin became quite a nasty pain in my groin which as soon as I stopped and took stock of it became an “oh dear god I can’t cope this is the most painful thing i’ve ever experienced and I can’t walk” pain. It was at this point that Twist had to carry me off the track because the act of crossing it to sit on a bench with an ice pack would’ve taken hours. 

Luckily, as I crawled, and I mean crawled, on my hands and knees, the least painful way to move, towards the door, I got rescued. They were laying out mats for the gym users after wards, so a few of the other girls commandeered a trolly and wheeled me to the door, where another team mate kindly drove me all the way home. I spent a week on crutches, and 2 weeks off skates, returned to skates for about another 2 weeks and then was told off by the GP so i’ve been back off them for about a month. 

I can finally put on my pants properly. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is when you can’t lift either leg unless lying down. I’m assured it looks quite comical though.

There is more to roller derby than this though. It sounds corny, but skating gave me my life back. I’ve been wallowing in and out of the pits of depression for over a year now, something which generally only lifted when I had a purpose. For example in Edinburgh. It was stressful as hell, but I felt great. I also saw people, did things and felt like someone needed me. Funnily enough, roller derby gives me the same thing. Twice a week, I go out to see people. I work hard, we enjoy ourselves, we socialise and we ask after each other. Whilst i’ve been off people have enquired after me, have helped me out with things and generally been really great. 

The exercise is good too. I’ve gained nearly 4 lbs, but dropped again around the waist according to independent reports. 

More importantly, i’ve got more energy. My bedroom is almost always quite neat and tidy now, and I don’t begrudge getting off my arse and off the internet to do things around the house. Fortunately for my Dad, this new energy has also attacked the house as a whole. Years of dust have been removed, carpets hoovered and sinks cleaned. 

I feel like i’ve got my Zen back. I used to ride every weekend, but after that ceased to be fun, the companionship and the camaraderie went and shortly after so did my confidence, not to mention my self confidence.

Roller derby is rebuilding me from the ground up. And i’m not afraid to make a fool of myself in the process. 


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