Week 3: Settling in…

Well, week 3 was a lot more successful! I am finding my place at work, meeting lots of new people and socialising more. I am learning to live by myself properly, and keeping myself busy in the evenings.

Work is definitely improving; I’m being given more responsibility, and have signed up to various training courses to hone my writing and design skills. I find myself constantly busy, and can generally figure out things to do even when I haven’t been given a direct task. There are constant free biscuits, cake and chocolate being brought in, which is great for motivation, but not so great for my skin or waistline!

I have met some more really nice people who I can get along with, eat lunch with and chat with on a younger person’s level. I even went for drinks on Friday night with some work friends, so definitely feel like I am settling in properly now.

My elite pole course at Pole Fit London is incredible; I am being taught by Hannah Rose Keynes right now, who is the current UK Elite Champion. She’s crazy! The people there are super funny and supportive, I already feel like part of the family.

As I continue to learn dance hall and afrobeats at Ignition, I am discovering a different side to my body and abilities. I am loosening up, and find that it helps me to remain chilled in everyday situations. I am generally a lot less stressed than I normally would be because of it.

I also competed in Midlands Pole Championships. I was proud of how I did, considering my lack of preparation in advance, and the video and pictures look great! I am happy now to train not for competitions, but for my own personal goals, such as strength, flexibility and specific tricks.

Overall, it has been a good week. I look forward to this weekend, since my boyfriend is coming to visit (FINALLY), and we’ve got loads planned. I can’t wait!!

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Week 2 in London

I went into week 2 with a much refreshed mindset, ready to throw myself into work, dance and start making friends at work. I have to say, it’s ultimately paid off!

Work has been interesting, with lots to research and write. I’ve even been given some on-going tasks and editorial jobs to do, so I am getting a lot out of it. I have signed up for a refresher course on InDesign, and am ready to start my NCTJ Level 4 Diploma in Magazine Journalism. I feel like I’m taking the first real steps towards my career as an editor.

I have attended 3.5 hours of dance classes, 2.5 hours dance hall, and an hour afrobeats. I have fully enjoyed learning some routines and letting myself go for a few hours a week. It’s also improving my stamina massively! I’m doing this at Ignition Dance on Brixton Hill for just £8 an hour, or £14 for two.

As for making friends, I have made an active effort to talk to more people my age at work, which is paying off, as I have been invited out next weekend.

I am back in Loughborough this weekend, and will be competing at the Midlands Pole Championships in Semi-Pro in Nottingham tomorrow, so wish me luck!

Week 1 in London

Last week was one of the toughest of my life. I was suddenly alone in London, my housemates very busy most days and evenings. I started my job which took longer than expected to settle into. I tried out some dance classes which were the highlight of my week, and I felt homesick for Loughborough. So I booked a train ticket and went back for the weekend.

Being in London on your own for the first time is very daunting. My house was cold, I couldn’t find the heating system, and my WiFi connection was terrible. I went to Curry’s PC World and got myself a WiFi extender for £30 which works a dream.

Starting work, I felt very positive. I met my manager who gave me a brief tour of the building, and enjoyed seeing a friend for lunch. However, there was a lack of stuff for me to do. For the initial three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), I was largely left to my own devices because the print for the magazine was due out on Thursday and they were behind in their work plan. Therefore, I downloaded an e-book to keep myself busy.

On Friday, I had a real induction, where I was told what they wanted me to do while I was there. Luckily, this improved things because my manager was very accommodating to my personal goals and my general lack of interest in becoming a journalist.  I was given editorial tasks, and promised one on one time with the layout designer so I could put into practice my InDesign skills.

That afternoon, the company offered after-work drinks from 5pm which was fun, and I met some new people and started making friends. That same night, I was back in Loughborough. I couldn’t wait to see my boyfriend, and celebrate his birthday with him. And, since I’m going back again this weekend for the Midlands Pole Championship, I won’t spend a weekend officially on my own in London till next weekend!

Moving to London: Day 2

Do you like fish markets? If so, Brixton is definitely the place for you! There is a fish market, a butchers and a vegetable stall on every corner. Which is amazing, as I love food.

I’m halfway through my second day in London, my parents have officially gone and left me, and so far I am not hating Brixton. I have managed to buy a full sized mirror for £10, and navigate myself without getting lost for two hours, wahey!  Although London is busier than most other parts of England, it is no scarier, nor less friendly. Everywhere is buzzing all day and night which makes for a lively atmosphere. It is the perfect place for graduates, and younger adults (under 40) who wish to live the fast life.

My Tesco order arrived last night in the time slot, so no complaints thus far. The street food looks amazing, and I’m sure I will be trying lots of it in the weeks to come! I now need to figure out how all the appliances work in the kitchen, and potentially try to cook something halfway edible. Updates will follow…

Moving to London: Part One

The road to success is long and complicated. It takes you down paths you never dreamt you would go down, and on unforgettable journeys. You must remember when you are on these journeys that even at the worst of times, everything happens for a reason as a good friend has drilled into me over the years. Even when life could not get any worse, yet manages to hit you with yet another horrible event, there is a reason for it, and you will understand why that happened one day, just not today.

As I sit here in my bedroom in my first house in London, I feel excited about my future journey. I intend to be successful, and to achieve that, I am surrounding myself with successful people. I have moved in with two lovely French girls in  Brixton who have made me feel extremely welcome, and are willing to show me around a little and socialise with me. This is very important when moving to London, or any big city. You will feel lonely here. You will get upset because somebody else is having a better night out than you, and you will miss home and your family like mad. So choose a house with nice people who you think you will get along with, as it will increase your chance of happiness and success. Both these girls are freelancers who still manage to pay Brixton rental prices, which sounds pretty successful to me.

So far, I have managed to move in with my parents’ help, go for dinner with them, and sit down for a drink with my new housemates. I have been invited out by several people, and I am looking forward to starting my new job on Tuesday. It might not sound like a lot, but this is a very nerve-wracking and overwhelming experience, so I intend to live every minute to the fullest, and enjoy myself as much as possible.

The First Time I Killed a Man…

The first time I killed a man, I was seventeen. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big step compared to what I had already done, but it’s harder to kill a man. They’re generally larger (especially next to me), but more than that, they are willing to do almost anything to protect their own lives. And they won’t even consider the implications for the people who care about them like women will, they’re just selfish. They think they have so much to offer the world, when really, anyone could do whatever it is they think makes them so special. Men are more successful because they believe they are worth everything, when in reality, they are worth nothing; while women are so self-deprecating. You can see the cogs turning in a woman’s mind when you kill her; she’s wondering what she did wrong, and why karma is coming to bite her. She will believe vehemently that this is God’s will, and that she will only live if she deserves to. Men, on the other hand, see no reason for anybody to want to kill them. I remember when one man asked me if his wife sent him, which amused me. What had he done to his wife? This man was not chosen. He didn’t do anything wrong. He simply sat next to me on a train.

I had been minding my own business, on the way to see my then-boyfriend in Bolton, just a forty-minute journey from Preston, when he chose to squeeze into the seat next to me. The train was rather busy, but what irked me to begin with was the fact that he had clearly sought out an empty seat with no assigned ticket, which meant he might have not purchased one. He proceeded to pull things out of his old, brown travelling bag, with a handle torn on the left side, and mended with duct tape. He drew out a book, some sandwiches, his reading glasses and a bottle of diet coke. He set himself up a nice little station, taking over half of my table space which I considered rude, forcing his elbows in front of me, the left sleeve of his lilac shirt brushing my arm every few moments. He looked to be in his sixties, clearly was not retired, dressed in smart shirt and trousers, silver round bifocals encircling his small eyes, encased by puffy skin brought on from years of gluttony. His skin was pale and blotchy, and with a bald patch covering the majority of his round, pudgy head, he was not looking too good.

He began by opening his book, 5 People You Meet in Heaven, which he held down with his elbows as he grappled his sandwich out of its packet. He had selected a New York Deli, which had some combination of beef and maybe horseradish sauce and ate it with his mouth wide open. I caught a glimpse of some yellowing teeth as I scrambled for my headphones. Having severe Misophonia does not help in public situations like these. Blasting Blake Shelton into my ear drums, I had to take a minute and relax my brain, scooting closer to the window, hoping that it would envelop me so I wouldn’t have to be in such proximity to somebody with such a lack of compassion for those around him. I relaxed, and picked up my clearly superior novel, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, avoiding breathing in his general direction as the smell of his food was hard to swallow. I had recently painted my nails, so brought a hand under my nose and sniffed the cool, chemical odour, allowing it to reach my cilia so I couldn’t smell anything but, as I took in the words on the page. I decided I needed to create some space for myself and assert some authority since his shirt sleeve kept inching closer, lightly skimming me, making me want to physically peel his skin back to view the veins hidden below. That was when the urge started to creep up on me. Kill him. He appeared to be moving; maybe this was his stop, or he had decided to find a less intrusive position in which to seat himself. Alas, he merely crushed the sandwich packet into his bag and drew out a new packet. To my disgust, it was sushi.

I believe I am a tolerant person. I put in headphones to avoid people’s loud eating habits, I attempt to sit by myself in most public situations so as not to annoy anybody else. If somebody sits next to me, I allow them their own space. I am not particularly selfish in this regard. But I had seen none of those people; in fact, I’d never seen anybody choose to eat fish on a train. It is simply disrespectful. There are fewer smells more pungent than sushi on a train in April. Sushi on a train in August perhaps. Cow dung. But on this particular day, I was faced with this situation. I wasn’t moving; this was my seat, I had paid for it, and if anything, he should move. I tried to breathe my nail polish past the fishy stench currently being devoured by my neighbour to no avail. He slurped his diet coke so loud my headphones couldn’t conceal it and by then, it wasn’t a choice. It was a need. I needed to kill this man. Nobody would mind if I was late. My boyfriend would wait for me.

The man departed the train about twenty-five minutes into the journey, at Blackrod, a rural area inhabited by old people’s homes and nurseries. I followed him off. I mimicked his slow, pathetic plod to the lift. What a lazy idiot. A lift murder would be too obvious. I had to think quickly; although this was a quiet station, it could fill up on a day like this. I raced up the stairs, narrowly skimming him on his way over the bridge to the second lift, and down the stairs to assert the area I was in. The platform he was heading towards had just two people waiting, both absent-mindedly scrolling through their phones, paying no real attention to the outside world. He headed toward the waiting room. God, this man really was a drone. He wouldn’t even sit outside on such a beautiful day. I followed him in and realised he was heading for the toilet. I caught the door, and slipped in behind him. He entered a stall and was in there a good three minutes, fifty-two seconds. Enough time for me to sort out my weapon of choice. The second he exited the stall, I whacked him in the neck with my stiletto, making the smallest of grazes on his puffy white neck, but shocked him enough to send him stumbling backwards, so I could deliver a kick to his gut, leaving him sprawled, half in the stall. I hurriedly tugged his overweight body further into the stall, bolting the door behind me. I took a moment to relish in securing my victim, leaning close in to his neck to smell the rusty moisture oozing from the wound. I decided to kill him in the style of Levi Bellfield, ‘The Bus Stop Stalker’. A fatal blow to the head using a heavy, sharp ended weapon, assumed to be a hammer. This method would be messy if you didn’t understand human anatomy. But it was rather simple. My stiletto heel in the lower right of the back of his head, and there would be minimal splatter, and it would be over quickly. I made a mental note to sterilise that heel before heading out that night.

Why? Why Not?

A short story, by Sophie Eminson.

The low evening sun looked particularly striking that night, shining over the central plains as I sat in my car drinking a cold beer. I thought about the quarry I had visited today as I stared over the multi-coloured land. It was breath-taking. This pinnacle I had discovered on Tuesday evening was the perfect place to reside for a few days; nobody’s eyes on me, no cameras or camping grounds nearby. It was ideal. As was my life travelling through Singapore, perhaps leading to Bali, or New Zealand. It didn’t matter. I was going somewhere for no reason with nobody watching. I rolled my neck, feeling the cracks and caught sight of myself in the wing mirror. I looked content, hair ruffled and chin sprouting brown fur, skin glowing beige. The rugged adventurer.

On my way down the mountain that very morning in my jeep, I passed some younger adventurers speeding uphill on their Vespas. They looked like they were going to have a fun day, as was I. I had jumped into that stunning quarry, Little Guilin, and had found the waters toasty, like bathwater you just want to immerse yourself in for hours. I had lain there, staring into the spring sky surrounded by trees overflowing into the waters, green, hazel, and brown smiling down on me, welcoming me to their sanctuary. I breathed in the fresh scent of lemongrass, which grew in the surrounding fields.

My serenity was interrupted by a coach-load of teenagers, who started dive bombing from all angles, disrupting my peace. I had just been considering the beauty of the sky’s reflection in the clear water when the first ripple interrupted my train of thought, belly flopping my poetic inspiration into the depths of the quarry. Instead of getting angry, I chose to swim. Swimming alone was my favourite activity, especially in water so warm you felt you might drift asleep at any moment. I caught sight of one of the boys clambering up the side of the quarry, his bare feet like smooth marble against the dark rubble. He reached a pique, dusted off his khaki swim shorts and hollered “HIDUP IMPIAN” as he dived from the edge, entering the water with ease sending a lighter ripple. I had floated onto my back, watching the boys ascend one by one and dive when I noticed a girl being assisted up to the edge. She looked a little uncertain, but clearly did not want to miss out. She was visibly shaking, damp blonde hair vibrating down her pale spine. She turned to descend down the side of the quarry, but the queue of boys prevented her from leaving. She closed her eyes, drew a deep breath then looked straight at me, staring deep into my eyes it seemed, although we had half a quarry’s distance between us. A few of the boys had brought a big beach ball, and narrowly skimmed my head as they threw it from one side of the quarry to the other, but our eye contact didn’t waiver. Her blue eyes were drawing me in, intriguing me, pleading with me to help her. I closed my eyes. I wasn’t here for romance.

That night, back on the mountain top, overlooking the greenery of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, I thought about those eyes. They reflected such helplessness, wanting something I could not give. That thought brought back a rather vivid memory. Six months ago, I had been in Olu Deniz, a tourist resort in Turkey. My friend, Hassan and I took a boat ride over to the Turtle Bay at sunset one evening. The water was reflecting gentle peachy hues that Thursday, and all felt right somehow. I guess I’m somewhat of an idealist dreamer. We pulled up to the shore, admiring the turtles roaming the beach, before joining them in the soft white sands for a quiet evening. The turtles were friendly, approaching us and allowing us to handle them. Their shells resembled a mosaic, the varying shades of grey and brown glowing radiantly as the sun lowered over them.

“Doug, over here, come quick!” Hassan called. I abandoned my belongings among a bale to attend to the panic I heard in my friend’s voice. I made my way over to him, sand gathering in my sandals scratching and tickling my feet as the turtles began to merge towards one another slowly, methodically. I saw right away why Hassan had called me over; the turtle cradled in his arms was bleeding from its nose. Concern growing, I inspected further to discover what looked like a wooden rod jammed up the turtle’s nose. “Well, I certainly didn’t think your expertise would be needed around here,” Hassan exclaimed. “It’s a litter-free beach!” I nodded my agreement. He was referring to my eight years as a veterinary nurse in my twenties. I grimaced, considering the rebellious and careless nature of the many travellers and tourists who may visit this beach. “Although, it could just be some wood fallen from a tree branch”, he hypothesised. I tilted my head sideways. It was always possible, but that didn’t matter. I ordered him to retrieve my bag with my emergency supplies I carried with me at all times. Looking into this small creature’s eyes, I saw that same helpless look I had seen countless times before. The one which said ‘I don’t know you, but I need you’. The look which says they trust you desperately because they have no other choice. That day would not be the last time he saw that look, and neither would that day at the quarry.

***

Petra had fallen in love once. He was tanned with dark brown hair, almost black, and deep brown eyes. With her fair complexion, and white-blonde hair, they had made a striking couple. He had been attracted to her deep-set cheek bones and full lips, which gave Petra a distinguished air, making her look older than she was. She missed him now sometimes when she was alone, which is why she became accustomed to latching onto random groups of travellers; most often students. The day of Petra’s trip to Little Guilin Quarry, she had joined a group of American boys who were like totally dying to jump into the magic waters they had heard rumours about. It sounded like fun, she supposed. Her limited experience included canyoning, and deep sea diving in Australia. It would be another thing to tick off the bucket list. Yes, she was twenty-three, had a bucket list, and still had a lot to tick off. After the events of last year, Petra knew too well that it was never too soon to get on with life.

She recalled the explosion, the falling building, the sirens, the screams. The smell of gas still struck her pungently when she thought about it. She remembered seeing her friend, Ana’s mess of red hair spilling out of her head like fire before noticing that she was physically crushed beneath piles of concrete on the corner of Higham Street. Petra suddenly felt as though eels had invaded her stomach; there was nothing she could do. She was not strong enough or brave enough. Ana looked longingly into Petra’s eyes, and in that moment Petra saw the helplessness of an individual who knew their fate and only wished she could do something to help. That look in was one Petra vowed she would never forget.

The events of her trip to the quarry were nowhere near as terrifying, or life threatening, but they would always remain in her memory for she had experienced a similar helpless fear. They travelled there by coach one Friday morning in late March, disturbing one man’s peaceful day as he laid there in the water staring into the sky as the sun rose above his head. The boys, of course did not notice and started jumping in and splashing each other, disrupting the moss and sticks which milled around the water’s edge, reluctantly pushing them further into the quarry. Some of the boys were climbing up the sides, so Petra decided to join them, since this was partially what she came for. On her way, she started to get an all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach like she was about to do something she wasn’t supposed to. The humidity in the air pressing against her cheeks made her shiver rather than warm her body. She tried to turn back several times, but the boys pushed her further up until she reached the highest possible point. Standing on the edge, she looked down at the peaceful man as he lay on his back, staring up at her. She was trying to get his attention with her eyes to help her get down, when she noticed that he had rather kind eyes, and the rest of the quarry melted away for a moment and it felt as though they were standing face to face. He must not have felt it though, because he closed his eyes.

How Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ Could Shape Today’s Society.

Today, I have read an incredible non-fiction, short book by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

This book is, in its most basic form, a modern-day explanation of feminism. In her fifteen points, Adichie explains how gender roles are constructed from day one. Not only does this include how adults talk to young girls, or how their clothes are separated, but it explains the difference in how parents speak to their baby girls compared with boys. This aspect focuses slightly more on the parenting side, as she is explaining to her sister how to raise her daughter feminist, however it is important to consider these things, and interesting to know in case you need anecdotes for feminist debates.

One of the best things about the way Adichie writes is that she is completely unapologetic. She sees no need to shroud the truth of what she is saying; she has a point, and she makes it, if you do not like it, take it up with her. This is the way girls and boys alike should be raised. They should be given all the possible information to make the best decisions possible about the ways they behave. Girls should know from being young, that being bossy is not a bad thing, and that for a man, they are being authoritative and taking control. Therefore, bossiness should be encouraged in all children, as long as they are not rude. These lessons are so important, and a lot of people still do not understand them. ‘Acting like a girl’, for example, still seems to imply that we are expected to cross our legs, fold our hands, and smile and nod politely. Adichie addresses the concerns surrounding these things, and shares anecdotes of people who have been forced to act girlier in order to conform to society’s expectations.

Overall, Adichie’s book addresses some topics which everybody should understand, or at least people who class themselves as ‘feminists’. Her section discussing ‘Feminism Lite’ is interesting to see how many people try to justify themselves as feminists when they are not fighting for equality. She discusses how to speak to your daughter about sex in a way which makes sure they understand that sex is not just for men. Finally, she speaks about the social norms which all boil down to gender roles, such as taking your husband’s name upon marriage. Her anecdotes are put into context within her own cultures; America and Nigeria, and it is interesting to see how similar their viewpoints are on these topics, while they may like to think otherwise. I would recommend this book to anybody who does not quite understand feminism, and how it works, or as a way to explain it to an older or younger family member. It definitely lends itself to female and male readers alike, and truly represents the true nature of feminism; equality for all.

Do Not Blame My Sport for Things Men Do…

I have seen posts like the one I am about to write for years, but never have I understood, empathised with or fully felt the way they have until now. Until I read what the London Abused Women’s Centre had to say about pole fitness/dancing. They have withdrawn their support for Take Back the Night, an event by the Women’s Events Committee because there is going to be a pole fitness display included.

Within multiple statements made on their very public Facebook page, they have posted the following statements and images:

Their official statement on withdrawing:

http://www.am980.ca/2016/09/12/lawc-take-back-the-night/

They have also stolen an image from Body and Pole without asking permission to create the following meme:

lawc

Not only is this illegal as it is copyright and the owners at Body and Pole are working hard to get this taken down, but it is also highly degrading to any woman who chooses to pole dance and makes suggestions that if they were to be abused by a man, that it would be their own fault for normalising it through pole dancing/fitness.

The first thing I have to say is that when I started pole dancing, I called it pole fitness, didn’t tell many people I was doing it and only started posting pictures privately because I was 18 and didn’t know how people would react. However, I started getting good and wanting to show off and share my achievements, so I did. I have received one negative comment which was not abusive, but merely slightly weird and kind of humorous. I know people who have been slut-shamed, called prostitutes and treated incredibly badly for doing their chosen sport. I have one thing to say about this: call me a circus freak, a failed gymnast/dancer or whatever you choose, but never call me a slut. I hate this word and it has taken me a long time to realise why. I hate the word ‘slut’ because it is a word used by men and women alike to put down another woman for what she chooses to do with her life. I hate the idea that a woman would put down another woman for doing something out of anything other than jealousy. We all say things we don’t mean from time to time, in the heat of the moment out of jealousy or shock. But more often than not, these things are not perpetuated, we apologise and move on with our lives and never even think this way again.

The LAWC have made this statement, that pole dancing women normalise men’s violence against women, and they have stood by it multiple times. I can see and understand that some of their women have had bad experiences in the stripping and sex industries from men forcing them onto a pole against their will and beating them up for doing it wrong, however this has nothing to do with the pole itself. The men chose a pole and sexualised it. They put women in underwear on a pole and made it into the known and accepted image of a pole dancer. However, firemen use poles in their practise, hence the fireman’s pole at the park, the Indians danced on it in their traditional Mallakamb dance and the Chinese used it for feats of incredible strength and power. It is not about the pole. It is about what people do with it.

Men’s violence against women simply cannot be normalised by women taking a pole fitness class at a respected studio where no men are even present, and if they are, it’s because they are joining in themselves. This is because men can be violent towards anybody at any time for any number of reasons, but mostly it is because they choose to. This is not exclusive to men; women can be violent just because they choose to also, anybody can, I am simply referring to what is said in the picture above. Any man can attend a strip club, a pole dancing competition or pole fitness lesson and go home and not think about it until the next time they see it. They can think about it, they can think sexually about it and still choose to do nothing. Or they can decide that they can have their way with a woman just because she danced on a pole in his view. Or they can decide that they can have their way with a random woman on the street wearing nothing revealing after not watching any form of “trigger”. All of these come down to the same conclusion: if a man abuses a woman in any way, it was his choice. They can blame it on a short skirt or a pole, but at the end of the day, they wanted to do something so they did it, not taking into account how it would make the woman feel.

I hope LAWC read this, and if they do, this is for them:

You, at London Abused Women’s Centre have made me feel like I cannot come to you now if ever I need your services. I feel that I will be judged for pole dancing and, just like the many women on the street get asked ‘what were you wearing?’ by police, I would fear that you would ask if the abuser had seen me on a pole. You may be withdrawing your support for reasons related to some of the people you help having had bad experiences with pole dancing and exotic arts, but just consider what this says to strippers and pole dancers alike who choose to do what they do and get abused regardless of whether they do it or not. It says that you do not support pole dancers, or the pole fitness industry and, while you may not have meant for it to come across this way, this is how it has come across.

If I ever get abused, don’t you dare suggest it was my fault because I pole dance.

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