Being me, often involves deeply embarrassing things happening. Flashing my bum to 50% of the class in year 10 R.E aside, today has possibly yielded the cringiest moment of all time. It may not sound that cringe-y to you, but if you could just humour me for a bit, maybe close your eyes and get in the zone, you might feel a small percentage of the intense embarrassment I am still experiencing two-and-a-half hours later.
Picture this: It is a grey day, the sun is attempting to poke through the clouds and not being very successful. A short-legged labrador is pulling a small tubby woman wearing 90s style leggings (me) on the lead to get across the road, through the car park and onto the grass, any grass so he could begin the arduous performance ritual of finding the most suitable patch on which to grace with a poo. Walking in the opposite direction is our usual postman, who I shall call Wayne, for I shamefully do not know his name. It’s too late now, I’ll never know.
Digby normally barks at Wayne, and Wayne has come to accept it as a part of life. In fact, he accepts it so much that he missed it this morning when it didn’t happen.
To a concentrating Digby, intent on reaching his final destination:
‘I don’t get a bark today then!’
Despite having really tiny legs and a ferocious bark, Digby is essentially a crowd pleaser, and I maintain that he would recite the entire works of Shakespeare if he thought he’d get a gravy bone at the end.
‘Woof’ Digby replied, quietly but dutifully. I’d give it a solid 8/10 as far as barks go.
Wayne smiled at me, and I smiled back.
‘You got a tiny bit!’ I said.
Here it is, here’s the kicker. Wayne misheard me, and he thought I said something along the lines of ‘What’s the time?’ or ‘Have you got the time?’ so he looked at his watch and said ‘It’s 10 past 10!’.
Instead of clarifying what I said, I squeaked ‘cheers!’ and Digby and I both scuttled off as fast as our collective six little legs could carry us.
The most mortifying thing about this, isn’t that I pretended that I said it, it’s that whatever he thought I said it definitely didn’t end in please. SO not only did I pretend I wanted to know the time after leaving the house not thirty seconds before indicating that we don’t own any clocks/ I don’t know how to use the iPhone THAT WAS IN MY HAND to tell the time, Wayne the postman must think I’m really rude, demanding he tell me what the time is.
Anyway, I’ve started packing moving boxes, now to break it to Mum, Dad, and Laura that I’ve just used their credit card to put a deposit on a house, and book us all flights to New Zealand. Tonight.
It’s taken a year, but this is probably the hardest, most necessary thing I’ve ever had to write.
I know a lot of you who follow this blog don’t know me in real life, so to fill you in… a year ago yesterday, my friend Ericka passed away after a brutal boxing match with cancer. The horrible bastard didn’t win by noble means, it cheated and took her from us by breaking all the rules. Asshole.
Ericka was a force of nature, hilarious, northern, kind, fierce, lovely, brilliant, and made me feel welcome into her home when I was a shy 12 year-old by near-enough immediately ordering me to put the kettle on. We were instant friends. There were also times when she was a voice of reason when I occasionally fell out with my own mum and dad, listening to me whinge, never being scared to tell me when I was the one being the dick. I even fell out with her briefly a few times; like the time she laughed until she was nearly sick at a clay teapot I’d made in art. It was supposed to be a monkey holding a banana, but she convinced herself it was a Star Wars Ewok holding his willy. I concede at the age of 22, that it is exactly what it looks like. I didn’t let a little thing like truth get in the way of my sulking at the time, though.
There’s so much I could say about Ericka, and so many stories to tell. However a massive, selfish part of me wants to keep them private and only talk about them with her family and friends, because they’re mine. Weird isn’t it? I’ve shared some pretty personal stuff on this blog over the years, but here’s where I clam up.
Something I need to add though, is that Ericka is my best friend Toni’s mum. And only a few days after we said goodbye and then got very, very sozzled, Toni and her little brother had to move away to separate places – both a sizeable distance away from me.
In short, this year has sucked huge, hairy, mammoths’ toes.
Don’t get me wrong, amazing things have happened and I have felt genuine happiness, but I’m not being sidetracked by those today I’m afraid or I’ll never get this out.
It’s a cliche isn’t it, when people talk about forcing themselves to be happy on the outside but feeling like utter darkness on the inside, but for me it’s true. This past year has been my final year at Bournemouth Uni doing my degree. I’ve worked so hard at it, but I haven’t exactly excelled academically. With my dissertation that I’ve just handed in, I hit the minimum word count and then bound it and did a shot of rum to help me sleep before handing it in the next day and mentally screaming ‘GOOD BLOODY RIDDANCE’ the whole time. It should have been the piece of work I’m proudest of, and instead I just couldn’t wait to get rid of it. My saving grace has been creative writing. I’ve consistently got firsts for that, and I’m hoping that will bring my dissertation grade up a little bit, but whatever I don’t really mind. I’m being kind to myself for once, and not critical – as long as I get my degree, and I get to wear a silly hat and smile and have a great day with my friends, that’s all one really needs.
Anyway, I’ve literally just finished my last assignment as I write this. Since handing in my dissertation I’ve been asked about jobs and the future and stuff, but right now in all honesty the last year is catching up with me a little bit. It had to at some point. Whilst I was working, I could be 100% focussed on essays and uni and I could almost pretend that Toni and Ericka and Little Man still lived two minutes away from me, but I was just too busy to see them. Now I’m not busy. Now I’ve got the time to draw and paint and read and write and make clothes and learn guitar but it doesn’t allow me the luxury of pretending.
Sometimes time is awful. It’s not like I’m consistently under a black cloud, but the reality of the situation has really hit me. I’ve had a few nightmares which have led to me having only two or three hours sleep. Ericka is gone, Toni and Little Man do not live up the road from me anymore. It’s a running thing between Toni and I, that when times get tough we want to build a fort and live in it doing colouring in, watching Disney, and eating chocolate. We have been known to actually do this. I have to make big grown-up decisions about life, and I don’t feel like a grown-up at all. I want to build a fort. I don’t want to look for a job- not because I’m lazy and afraid of work, but because I have no idea what I’m doing apart from wanting to make words. The underlying carpet of education which has been there since I was 5, has been quickly pulled from under my feet and I feel a bit like a rabbit in headlights who occasionally remembers events of the last year and feels sad.
Facebook is a godsend. Me and Toni talk all the time. We send each other silly pictures and daft stuff, and pictures of our pets, as well as serious stuff that comes up. But it just isn’t quite the same at getting a McDonalds and sitting on the beach with it at 11pm, chatting about life, the universe, and what to do next which is what I need.
So that’s it really, this isn’t a neatly resolved blog post that follows the ‘what did I learn from this?’ pattern, or with a funny ending. There isn’t one. It’s not a particularly sad ending either, this isn’t a cry for help, it’s just a collection of my thoughts to explain my writing absence. I have done a tiny bit of writing, though. We had to write a short story as part of this final University module, and I was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2015. I didn’t win Most Promising Student, but the lecturer who put my short story forward for consideration to be part of the short list stopped me and said how brilliant he thought the story was. That reminded me that other people think I’m pretty good at words-ing, and that maybe if I could articulate (sort-of) how I’m feeling, I can start to recover a bit, and continue to do the thing I temporarily forgot that I do best – write.
So yes, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself… but I want to do at least one blog post a week from now. Please hold me to it.
Please can you all gather round and listen for a second? I have an important issue to discuss. It’s a little bit bizarre, but hear me out.
How cool would it be, if instead of cars, trains, and buses, we all travelled around in cow-drawn carriages?
In a brief discussion earlier, my friend Louise had this to say on the matter:
they’d sit down and refuse to move if it rained, they’d be pretty useless
This is true, and a good point well made but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
Today’s society mooooves (no I will not apologise, sit back down.) so fast, and everyone is living on the hoof (…sit.) in a constant rush to get – where exactly? I think we could take some standard life tips from cows in general actually. No bad could come of it if we all spent more time chomping on green veg and having mothers’ meetings in fields, but I digress.
Yes, maybe cow-drawn carriages might have some trouble getting to their destinations at specified times, or even at all, but this might train us all in the art of patience, and provide many people who need it (including myself) with the lesson that not everything in life is easy to control. So everyone would be chilled out, relaxing, and waiting for the loveable beasts to move at whatever speed they so wish.
It would also be great for people who insist on consuming alcohol before driving despite the well documented risks. A cow-drawn carriage will do what it wants regardless as to whether or not your blood is 95% gin.
Despite the fact that everyone’s transport would poo wherever it so wished, would make a lot of noise, would blend in somewhat with zebra crossings, and would probably contribute to global warming with excessive farting, just think about the one time out of ten thousand when your cow carriage gets you to work in the right place at the right time.
Imagine yourself disembarking, slo-moing along to an epic guitar solo, winking at everyone, and strutting into the office with swagger unrivalled by none, and you tell me that this isn’t a fantastic idea.
What’s that? Why yes I do have a presentation, digital story, two essays, and a practice dissertation proposal to be working on for uni.
What started out as a simple research mission for my novel, has turned in to a bit of a ‘but why is the world this way?’ post, and the only thing I can possibly do is write about it.
I should just say, I have absolutely no problem with online dating whatsoever. It’s as good a place as any when it comes to meeting people, and I know several lucky souls who’ve met their significant others by searching ‘within 50 miles’ of their hometowns. Great! Wonderful! Beaut! Fantastic!
But whilst scrolling merrily through both male and female profiles on Plenty of Fish to get some ideas for Eliza – my main character who’s struggling to fill in her own profile- these are just a few of the things I found:
– people with a wedding photo as their profile picture
– a significant number of people saying things like ‘iTunes is wrong, I’M the hottest single this year’
– about 90% of people on the defensive ‘I’m me, I’m unique, deal with it’
– The dodgiest song lyrics known to man kind. Oh boy.
– ‘dunno wat to put’ copy and pasted in the description box repeatedly
– ‘Wanted: room mate NON UGLY’
– ‘If you was a bogey, I’d pick you first’ (I really, really wish I was joking)
– ‘I’ve been a nice guy/ gal for too long, now shit’s gettin’ real’ on more than one occasion I’ve seen this. So you’re essentially advertising yourself as a dick? Good luck with your personal marketing strategies pal!
– So many apologies for ‘bad’ pictures!
– And my personal favourite, ‘I don’t want anything serious, just some fun I REALLY WANT KIDS IT’S MY DREAM TO BE A GREAT FATHER.’ (paraphrased, but the meaning hasn’t changed)
Although quite bad, none of these are the worst problems though, oh no. The very worst problem is even worse than the bogey pick one.
‘I’m an easy going lad from Croydon, I basically eat because food is yum, I like the same films as all my mates and I like to keep fit.’
‘If I had to describe myself as three things, they would be chilled, easy going, and fun.’
‘My mates would describe me as easy going and always up for a laugh.’
These three are descriptions I’ve made up, but I bet it wouldn’t be very difficult to find more than several people who very nearly match those descriptions word for word.
On the face of it, it seems like a good thing. ‘Well that guy has a nice face, and he says he’s easy going and likes to laugh. Cute!’ *click*
But nearly everyone writes ‘easy going’. You’re (mostly) not going to get people who write things like:
‘I’ve got a bit of a temper on me, and I like nothing better on a Sunday than taking whole salmon from the Tesco fish counter and smacking up rude bitchez who can’t push their trollies in a straight line away from me GODDAMIT’
Besides, now it’s now a thing that nearly everyone writes, it’s redundant.
I’m probably straying too far into the realms of personal-wants-from-a-potential-partner now, but this blanket ‘easy going’ attitude, makes it very difficult to tell from profiles whether that person is passionate about anything. Whenever I’ve read ‘easy going’ or ‘laid back’ all my head says is ‘meh’.
It just gives this blanket impression of no-one caring about ANYTHING.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather read a description of someone who’s out and proud of wanting nothing more from life than being a dad, someone who is well into their stamp collection, someone who loves football so much that they almost play as they watch it, someone who feels passionately that Piers Morgan should be extradited to the moon. People who write that kind of stuff without getting defensive, and without trying to hide it under layers of ‘meh, whatevs’. I may or may not share their enthusiasm about the same things (I’m never gonna squeal at a stamp, soz.), but at least it reveals something other than that they love eating pizza, watching DVDs, and going to the gym.
Out of 700+ men the only ONE with a profile I would have clicked on if I was doing this for real, was a 31 year-old, Irish, IT technician named Derek. He wrote a couple of paragraphs about things he loves whilst genuinely sounding interested in them, and he was actually funny rather than just declaring that he is.
So Derek, on the off chance that you ever read this… I’m a 21 year-old lass from the south of England. I have a great sense of humour, I like going for walks and watching DVDs, circuit training and making people laugh. I’m also pretty easy going.
Knowing what to do when you’re angry about something, is so overwhelming.
I mean really angry. Not just the ‘tut, sign a petition and move on with your life’ kind of angry, although that’s absolutely fine.
It’s about Chris Grayling and his stupid idea to ban books for prisoners. It’s actually wrong of me to say that, because he hasn’t specifically sought to ban books. He’s banned ‘everything’, and it just so happens that books fall in to that category. If you want to fact check what I’m saying, then check out the Prison Service Instruction No 30/2013 paragraph 10.4., the text of which is below for all those who don’t want to download something from a link on a strange girl’s blog. Feel free to scroll past it and skip to the good stuff, although I always encourage educating yourself. For example, reading more of the linked document meant I also learnt that families aren’t even allowed to send inmates underwear any more.
To ensure that the IEP scheme is not undermined the general presumption will be that items for prisoners will not be handed in or sent in by their friends or families unless there are exceptional circumstances. Governors have discretion to determine what constitutes exceptional circumstances; this could include for example disability/health aids or an artefact for religious observance, stamped-addressed envelopes so as to facilitate a prisoner’s ability to communicate or where there is a need to replace clothing due to restricted access to laundry facilities.In determining whether other exceptions are justified Governors should consider the impact on their IEP scheme, the potential risk to security associated with smuggling contraband and whether they have sufficient resources to examine resources to examine and search the incoming property.
My initial reaction on twitter this morning after signing a petition, was this.
This idea was popular. However, even though the image of a Carry On-esque prison guard running to and fro with a pile of books taller than a precariously balanced Freddie Flintoff is a lovely one, I’m not entirely sure how helpful it would be. Even in high volumes, they’d probably be removed from the postal system and destroyed, and having a mass book-burning on my conscience would destroy my soul.
I then had another problem. A friend of mine pointed out that it’s a moral dilemma, being seen to be charitable to prisoners, potentially upsetting victims and/ or the families of victims. Good point well made. My response was that prisoners are people too. I’m not an advocate of turning prisons into hotels, but their main aim in the majority of cases should always be rehabilitation.
How does rehabilitation come about? Education, and the desire on the part of an inmate to change.
Where do both of those things come from? Inspiration.
Where does inspiration come from? A variety of places presumably limited in prison, but what could be cheaper or more effective than mind expansion devices aka books?
In my head, by fighting against this ridiculous decision based on nothing but pure arseholery the desire of a politician to look like a hard nut and enabler of the hardcore Daily Mail readership’s voting public’s wishes, I’m not being charitable to prisoners, or disrespectful to people affected by their crimes. I’m defending what is arguably a basic right (using one’s mind, in case you didn’t get that), fighting against a politician who seems to be resolutely determined to forget what it means to be human, and trying to ensure that prisoners have the opportunity to become someone who is a considerable amount less likely to reoffend on release. Prisoners are people, and it’s not a case of ‘us and them’. One day they’re going to be out of prison and interacting, so surely the development of well rounded individuals is in everyone’s best interests?
There are a couple of things which can, and should be done.
Firstly, prison libraries are still a thing. I don’t have any evidence, but I’m sure that if local authorities or whoever is in charge of such things are drastically reducing the funding for local libraries, and have absolutely no problem in ripping The Gruffalo out of the hands of babes, then they’re not going to give many shits about restocking a prison library.
You can sign the petition which is gaining traction here. (please do!)
The thing that I’m advocating in particular, is lobbying Chris Grayling. He’s not even a member of an elected government, and yet he has the right to make utterly awful decisions with the potential to detrimentally impact future society. I think a poignant way to do this, would be to send Chris Grayling book covers, with thoughtful objections to his silly idea written on the back. In particular, I’m thinking about 1984 or The Book Thief, based on a brilliant tweet I received earlier. If enough people do it, it’ll be really annoying and it might well boost the Queen’s self esteem with the rise in stamp sales. Basically, no bad can come of this.
No abuse though, just well thought through arguments and/or maybe even relevant Winnie the Pooh quotes such as:
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
etc etc and so on and so forth.
The address to send it to is:
Rt Hon Chris Grayling
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
C’mon guys, the fact that this made a comfortable student get out of bed this morning has got to be a wake-up call.
My new year’s resolution, was to write a piece of fiction every single day and post it right here on my blog. Two days I managed. January 1st, and January 2nd. I think that deserves a prize, actually. Any medal makers amongst you? One of those chocolate ones’ll do! In fact, only one of those. None of that real gold rubbish.
The reason I didn’t continue uploading a bit of fiction every single day, was because it’s hard. I don’t mean it’s hard to find time to write, or to know what to write – my head is stuffed full of stories to tell, and I’d happily sacrifice a level of Candy Crush or an episode of Dexter to be able to tell them. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t sacrifice Dexter, but I’d definitely stay up an extra hour to get something written.
What I actually mean by the word ‘hard’ is that when I posted my fiction writing on here, I felt really, horribly vulnerable.
That doesn’t really make much sense does it, considering how personal this blog is, and the fact that it is home to the worst picture of me ever taken, as well as all the stuff that a potential boyfriend employer could read and judge me for until the end of time. How come I can write candidly about some of the most humiliating things which have ever happened to me, but I can’t post some made up words about made up people without wanting to vomit?
I’m not sensitive to criticism, I don’t think you can be if you want to be a really good writer when you grow up like i duz. I’m not scared that people are going to read my writing and immediately dismiss it as ‘poopier than a poopy poop’ (Bus Kid 2014). They can do that if they want, I’m perfectly happy to take on board constructive suggestions for improvement and Dexter has given me some pretty great tips for dealing with any others.
So what is it? WHAT? Why does this thing I want to do with the rest of my life make me feel this way? Is it because the characters have become so real to me, that I don’t want to put their lives on display for all to pry at, as if I’m betraying a friend? Is it because I’m scared that once I start publishing stuff that comes from the inner workings of my brain, people have their suspicions confirmed about how weird I actually am?
Or is this entire blog post me using my artistic license to avoid telling you all that I forgot and can’t be arsed?
Marius is a 25 year-old man, who left school when he was sixteen and worked all manner of odd jobs to make a nice life for himself and his grandmother in the countryside. His parents both went to the city when he was 10 to protest against forced government cuts to the energy consumption of all people who didn’t live in the capital. They went missing, and with no electricity Marius had no way of tracing them. Being a farm hand for Eliza’s father was the last in a line of many labour intensive jobs which had taken him away from his grandma, and made him more determined to eventually make something of himself by becoming a journalist and ensuring that important information got distributed to the masses.
He’s blonde with grey eyes, about 6 feet tall, and his birthday is in February. He likes music – although he never got round to learning an instrument – and when he was younger before electricity became a rare commodity, he dreamed of being a DJ.
Happy that they were no longer being followed, Marius relieved his jacket from its role of camouflage net, and shrugged his aching shoulders back into it. Although at the time he pretended that the rips and fresh smears of blood didn’t exist, he would go on to spend years in the pursuit of the jacket’s restoration. He drunkenly told me once, that even though it ended up looking pretty good, the one thing he could never restore was the sense of invincibility that the soft brown leather once gave him. I just brushed over it, unlacing his shoes and covering him with a blanket, and we never returned to the subject.
Once he’d stood up and caught his breath, he offered Eliza his hand. The breakout of war wasn’t enough to soften her stubbornness, so she kept her eyes on the ground, and instead put her bloodied palms on to the rock in front of her, pushing herself to standing. Despite Marius’ early warning not to look down, she couldn’t resist glancing at how far they’d climbed. As she wobbled with imbalance, she emitted an hysterical giggle. The sound rang out, but its echo was mocking, not cheerful. ‘Too soon’ she said to herself as she clambered unceremoniously over the rock to join Marius on the flat platform of grass above.
For a long time, they both lay there. Marius’ fists clenching and unclenching around the clumps of grass either side of him, Eliza’s palms flat and brushing over the ground in a sort-of half snow angel motion. Neither of them could force their disjointed thoughts into making sense, so they stayed silent.
The sound of yelling and screaming cattle eventually brought them to their senses. This time the pair used each other as support for returning to vertical, and they drew closer to the edge of the hill trying to get a clearer view of what was happening.
They stood side by side, and watched as plumes of dense purple-grey smoke swirled higher and higher above the burning farm. Up until now the adrenaline pumping through Eliza’s veins had kept her alive, but in this moment – as she watched her home fall to flame – it felt like she was about to be taken with it. She started to violently shake, and retched at what was probably the smell of burning animal flesh – she didn’t think about it too closely. Without thinking, Marius extended his arm slightly, and let his fingertips brush the back of her hand.
She let him.
Marius was the first to break. ‘So what do we do now?’
‘We wait until it’s dark, and then we get the hell out of here.’
Eliza shuffled closer to him, letting him encase her whole hand in his. She gently rested her cheek on his shoulder, and closed her smoke stinging eyes. They both knew that it didn’t mean anything. It was just a gesture which said ‘I’m standing with you.’
I, Eliza, would eventually come to realise that this was also the moment I knew he’d been telling the truth all along.
My drafts folder has been building up more post than Royal Mail’s annual backlog of Amazon parcels.
I haven’t been neglecting the blog, in fact, I’ve probably started one post a night for the last month, but none of the words came out quite how I wanted them to and so none of them have ever prompted me to click the post button. This blogging lark is hard when you talk candidly about your personal life. How on this Earth, am I meant to continue to write things that are suitable for friends and family to read, as well as future employers, the potential father of my future children (hat tip: Olly Murs) and strangers who wander here and want it to be the blog version of Narnia?
If I say ‘shit’ is someone from church -or my mum- going to call me up on it? If I don’t say ‘shit’, are the journalists going to think I’m a little miss high and mighty? If I dodge between the two and put an e on the end making ‘shite’, am I just going to sound like an arse?
I worry about all of these things, because I want this to be writing that comes directly from me, Katie Gillingham, the girl who likes to write and make people laugh, whilst being 100% honest and learning stuff about herself.
The one thing most people want to hear about, is me losing weight judging by the response I’ve had from previous posts. That’s great, because there is nothing I want more than to be healthy, and to not have to consistently shoe horn my love handles into the jolly fat stereotype – being miserable is a skinny privilege thanks to Santa, the knob. It’s also not great because I feel like if I constantly focus on what I weigh here, it’ll turn into a challenge that I succeed or fail at. I don’t want to fail, I want to lead a healthy life that ultimately ends up with me looking like Katherine Zeta-Jones, is that too much to ask?
The topic of weight loss is a weird one to blog about, because it’s very hard to write humour that’s not self-deprecating into posts about eating an entire pack of Kit Kats (I’ve never done this yet, but there’s probably still time). Not wanting to state the obvious, but I’ve got about 10st still to lose, and that’s going to take me a while. I categorically do not want to be writing about the size of my knickers for the entire time, and so I’m making the executive decision that I’m not going to mention it again until at least the beginning of February.
*Gasp* ‘So what are you going to do instead?’ I hear the two of you who’ve made it this far, cry.
I’ll tell you.
For January in its entirety, I’m going to post something every single day. That’s my new year’s resolution. The posts are going to have a difference, though. They’re not going to be autobiographical, they’re going to be little snippets of fiction.They might link up, they might be random events with the same characters, they might not have anything to do with each other at all, I’m not sure yet. The main thing is, it’ll get me exercising my writing muscles in public, I won’t have to worry about what I look like because I’m not the main focus, and you’ll all get to see my ‘proper writing’ in action.
So there we have it. It’s on the internet, I can’t very well go back on it now, can I?
There are so many ‘days’ to keep track of. Fathers’ day, Mothers’ day, Cake day, Friendship day, Free Hug day, Give Kate Money So She Can Go on Holiday to the Bahamas day, Christmas day, St David’s day, International Sock day- the list continues indefinitely.
With the invention of Facebook, anyone can create a ‘day’ in modern times. In fact, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure it’s been National Friendship day every single day since I joined Facebook in 2008.
‘Send this picture of Dave, the friendship bear to 5 people and your biggest wish will come true. Fail to send it, and a scary ghost bear will follow you around pelting apples at your face until you reach the age of 78’
“Well stuff you, Dave the friendship bear!” I cry daily, “I’m still not married to Olly Murs with 3 kids, so if I see you on my timeline tomorrow, I’ll pelt apples at YOU until you’re 78.” (and repeat)
It’s so easy to share things about Wear a Tea Cosy on Your Head day (my personal fave), and it takes seconds to snap a pic, whilst sporting an elegant little number. In fact, LOOK.
It took me approximately 1 minute to source a tea cosy, stick it on my swede, and snap a selfie.
It’s great to have a bit of fun, but there’s so much more room on the internet for us to also use for genuine good. One of the simplest, quickest, and most effective things we can do, is share stories which affect us in a big way.
I’m going to retell one such story which has really affected me recently.
Momina is a 22 year old single mother of two who lives in the city of Adama in central Ethiopia. 22. That’s only one year older than me.
She was diagnosed as living with HIV three years ago, and her youngest son, Yemosa, was Born HIV positive. Yemosa is now three, but Momina knows very little of his life apart from the occasional snapshots which she’s sent from the American family who adopted him. Momina had to make an absolutely agonising choice, and decided to give him up for adoption in the hope that he would be able to receive medical treatment.
Momina hopes that by sharing her story, she might help other young women who find themselves in a similar situation, to know how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV, and get the care and support they need through projects like Link Up being led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
When Momima was a teenager, she left her family home as she was afraid that her parents would marry her off to an older man as they did with her older sister – who later died of AIDS. After falling pregnant with her first child Rapira, and without the support of her parents, she was forced to move from community to community, taking temporary jobs where she could, to try to provide food and shelter for her son.
“There are times when I feed my child and I do not eat at all. I sometimes come home late from work, there are times when I wake him up and feed him because I don’t want him to sleep on an empty belly.”
Not realising that she was pregnant after being diagnosed with HIV, she was unable to receive treatment to prevent the virus being transferred to Yemosa. She chose to put him up for adoption when he was four months old.
“I convinced myself that it’s better to see my child well. If he had not been seriously ill, I would have not given him away. I would have fought until the end. I am praying for him to be well wherever he is.”
Despite the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS in her country, Momina is always candid about living with HIV. Often this means that she is refused work, and she’s currently between jobs. She does however, have a fierce ambition to become a nurse.
“I want to continue my education and qualify as a nurse. I have always had a passion and love for the profession and I want to serve people like me, people living with the virus. I would be happy if I could do that.”
Momina is assisted with access to HIV treatment and care by Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), who in turn is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Every fortnight she attends a support group meeting organised by OSSA where she and other members of her community living with HIV meet to share their experiences.
OSSA have also helped contribute to her son Rapira’s annual school fee. Momina is determined to see that he gets a good education, and a better start to life than she experienced herself.
In another world, free from HIV and AIDs stigma, Momina’s family life could have been very different. She wouldn’t have any problem finding work, and she’d be able to have both of her beautiful children living with her.
There are people working tirelessly to end the stigma, and help people like Momina, whose lives are affected by the virus. They are BRILLIANT, and their work will ensure that future generations won’t have to go through such an unimaginable ordeal.
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Link Up
Ethiopia is one of five countries currently being targeted by the Alliance and its partners through Link Up, an initiative that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV.
Over the course of the next three years, Link Up will reach more than one million young people aged 15-24 by implementing tailored HIV and sexual and reproductive health interventions to increase uptake and access to services and reduce unintended pregnancies, new HIV infections and HIV-related maternal mortality. In Ethiopia the initiative aims to reach 140,000 young people to improve their sexual health.
Their work is absolutely fantastic, and it really makes me want to help people like Momina. Being a full-time student, part time writer-y type person and occasional legend, takes up a lot of my time. Luckily, there are a few things which we can do to show our support to Momina, Link Up and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, which only take seconds.
– Sharing this blog post of Momina’s story with your friends on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #LinkUp
-Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at www.link-up.org
-Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook
Awareness is important, so please do pick one of these and pass the story on. I promise it’ll take less time than sticking a tea cosy on your head! It’ll also give you a lovely warm glow, you’ll be contributing to an important day, and I’ll love you forever.
“I would like people to see me a strong person, I know that there is strength in me; I got that strength from the life I have had. I want young people of my age to be strong and to have the strength to face and overcome challenges.”