On the outrageous guilt of happiness.

I’m not over you.

I’m not over lazy weekends with you, not over the adventures I had with you, not over the support you gave me. I’m not over all the good you’ve done me and the good times we’ve had together. I can’t bear that we will never have that together again, and I absolutely cannot remember how much you cried, how much it hurt to see those eyes I love fill with so many tears, without beginning to cry again myself.

I’m fixing the pieces of my life that I’ve subconsciously deliberately ruined, and perhaps you were one of them. Perhaps I let you go unduly, perhaps I will live to regret the choice I made to work on our relationship as friends rather than lovers. Perhaps I will come to see that it was, in fact, a choice I made gradually as we started to relate to one another differently rather than a slow, dawning realisation that I wasn’t as happy with you as I had been, that our relationship was declining. Perhaps I will regret severing it so early to give us a chance to be friends. I don’t know. I hope I won’t, and I hope we can be. I don’t want to detangle my life entirely from yours.

But is this what being healthy feels like? A fog has lifted temporarily from my brain and I’m voluntarily cleaning out the cobwebs in my life – literally AND metaphorically: there’s a feather duster by my bed and yesterday I did all eleven items on my to-do list. I don’t know if it’s because I have been spending so much time alone, or reaching out to more friends than normal, or just consciously building a new routine. Maybe I was stewing or stagnating before. I hate that this is without you. I miss how comfortable we were together and how omnipresent you were for the minutiae of my life, and I don’t think I will get over that any time soon.

For now, I am at peace – but I will always love you, and I hope when I see you (soon) that I can continue to piece things together.

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I hope your friends are looking after you like I’ve asked them to and that you’re doing OK.  

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Looking Ahead to April (incredibly boring post for my benefit not yours)

April is deadline city, and after some major and irreversible setbacks in my personal life I am raring to meet them! By breaking down my work into manageable chunks, keeping non-work related tasks on my to-do list and reminding myself that I enjoy what I do, that I am doing well, and that my life in general is in order, I am hoping to be able to motivate myself to put one foot forwards, and then another, and then another. To say that there’s light at the end of the tunnel would be the wrong metaphor – I’m nearing the centre of a maze that has confounded me, but then I found my way.

To Do Before The End of March:

  • Finish at least one blog post (1/2 hr)
  • 500 words a day (2 hrs a day?)
  • Exercise – go to the gym in a morning (50 mins inc shower)
  • Read at least one more for-pleasure book (1/2 day? don’t pick Anna Karenina!)
  • Take dresses to the charity shop (1/2 hr, you can do it on your way to work)
  • Make sure all utilities know you’ve moved out (1 hr max)
  • At least have the bones of Beckett essay (4-5 hrs, can be spread out)
  • Message friends you haven’t messaged back – sorry P 😞 (like 5 mins wtf why is this so hard for me?!)

A Short, Enjoyable and Achievable List of Aims for Once My Work is Done.

  • Finish a long piece of writing
  • Read a long book

This IWD, these are the women who inspire me.

What inspires us can change over time. As our thinking develops and changes we seek new heroes who speak to the things we come to value. Every girl* should have more than one hero: your interests, values and pleasures are formed by your unique experiences, and you should have an idol for every one of them. A style icon; a political hero; a favourite character. Here are just a few of mine – you should definitely follow the links to be inspired.

the activistviola-gregg-liuzzo-370152-1-402
Viola Liuzzo has been a hero of mine since I first read about her. She is the ultimate ally: impassive, helpful, dedicated. As a cis-gender, middle-class white educated woman most fights for injustice are not mine – as a person who lives in the world, though, all injustices are mine. Luizzo used her power in the most effective way to benefit a cause. She didn’t step into the spotlight, she didn’t gain from it as an individual. Her actions taught me the lessons I hope to embody and shown me that the consequences of occupying that space can be profound and worth it.

the researchers200_karen.chapple
I don’t know much about Karen Chapple’s work. I’m not a geographer or a city planner – her academic interests don’t even fall into the same school as mine let alone overlap. But her fascination is fascinating to me, and her self-evaluation as she goes about her business is something I want to embody. Academia is not a high castle in which we can objectively state this and that, and Chapple’s attitude reminds me of this. It also reminds me that sharing your passion widely is more valuable and interesting than keeping it to yourself.

the entrepreneurCaitlin_Doughty_in_red_evergreen_background
Caitlin Doughty is, really, more of an activist or a philosopher than an entrepreneur. I hate entrepreneurs. I hate businesses that build themselves from nothing on the backs of workers just to stick a plaster over some problem they have noticed in the world. Doughty wants nothing more than her own business to fail due to a radical shift in mainstream Western attitudes. By asking profound, scary questions (and giving answers with warmth, humour and no judgement), Doughty gives control to people who never knew they were missing it. Using new medias she has shone a light into the strange (peculiarly interesting) area that is her home territory, and taken us with her.

the fictional characters

 


Being a girl used to mean liking pink or liking football. I remember that when I was growing up, liking makeup or sports or good grades were, by and large, considered incompatible, and it hadn’t yet dawned on me that hating ‘urban’ music or Kristen Stewart were performative (and unhealthy) cultural behaviours. Since last year’s IWD, though, we’ve had cultural behemoths showcase women with contradictions: girls who are cheeky and intelligent, women who are strong and sensitive. We have seen characters whose contradictions make them unique and dynamic and powerful. The reason I loved Shuri and Diana so much was that showed me the dichotomy within themselves. Real women don’t choose a single aspect of themselves, let us remember that.

the writerRankine_2016_profile-200
Claudia Rankine is, I think, our greatest living poet. Citizen is amazing, and thoroughly deserves all the praise that is heaped on it, but her book that speaks to me at the moment is Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Like Citizen, it categorises itself as ‘An American Lyric’, and it walks the line between prose and poetry and fiction and truth. It amazes me that these feelings from the beginning of the Obama era are so resonant with me now, but the power of Rankine is that her words depict both specificities and general feelings which can reach out and grab you any time. The creeping sense of dread in her work is something I am just coming to truly understand, and she is helping me come to terms with the world as it is.

*Girls, boys and non-binary children are included in this sentiment, but for IWD I will condense people to girls. These people can be your heroes whoever you are – even if you are a grown up like me.

Looking Ahead to August

I’m away this weekend, which means I have very little time to cement my (somewhat meagre) July achievements. By breaking down the chores I’ve been avoiding all month into short tasks I can be sure I have enough time to actually do the shit I need/want to get done. By thinking of it as a want I can motivate myself to actually do it – after all, the only person I’m cheating is myself!

To Do Before The End of July:

  • Finish at least one blog post (1/2 hour)
  • Read/annotate two more poems for dissertation (1/2 hour plus each)
  • Put the documentary I watched on Lied singing into my dissertation bullet journal (10 mins?) and update the whole of July (1/2 hour to an hour)
  • Sort my new railcard (omg like 1 hour but such faff)
  • Go for a swim (1/2 hour swim but it will take like 1 hour to walk there, change etc)
  • Read at least one more for-pleasure book (1/2 day? don’t pick Anna Karenina)
  • Take the giant thingy of old fabrics in my room to H&M/Marks & Sparks for recycling (about an hour? Maybe less)

To Do During August:

  • Begin Booktubing – queue up a whole series (can probs film them in a day and edit over a week)
  • Post an instagram every day and save up at least 10 draft instagrams (maybe spend a day wandering around, taking pics? it’ll be fun)
  • Finish Der Romantisch Schule w/ annotations.
  • Swim once a week. Not on Fridays, Fridays are already exhausting.
  • Finish I Love Dick.
  • Finish 1x practise GRE.
  • Practise German every day. Schedule actual lessons.
  • Start seeing therapist again – schedule appointments.
  • Do not forget that Becky is staying last weekend of August.

A Short and Achievable List of Aims for the Coming Year.

  • Write an excellent dissertation. 
  • Get onto MA.
  • Make my hobby more rewarding.
  • Have more therapy – stop being quite so hypercritical (I understand that this won’t go away but I can work on it)
  • Take a holiday.
  • Finish a long piece of writing.
  • Get fit to look amazing for graduation.
  • Fix or throw away all the clothes in my wardrobe.
  • Learn to cook new and exciting foods.
  • Exercise to look and feel better.
  • Relax to feel better and remind myself I actually enjoy everything I’m doing.
  • Work hard to attain the best that I can: reading, ‘riting, and a touch of ‘rithmetic.
  • Get a damn job! (non-negotiable; does not have to be enjoyable)

Boots and the Morning After Pill

Today there has been a call to boycott high-street store Boots for their extortionate pricing of the morning after pill. With Tesco and Superdrug (as well as local chemists) selling it much cheaper, people have demanded a justification for Boot’s high prices, and their answer has chilled women everywhere. “We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product”, says the chain.

This is a feminist issue, a class issue, a social order issue. The Boots response to their pricing plan is outdated and devalues the autonomy of the woman and her male partner (after all, gay women do not require contraceptives, only barriers to prevent STDs) and infers that with the ability to pay comes responsibility. But you can read about this in all of the papers.

More disturbingly for me is Boots’ relationship with the NHS. Whilst the conglomerate dictates to us how we should be viewing women who take Emergency Contraception, it rakes in millions of pounds a year from prescriptions and pharmacy products. As it refuses to lower its price, we begin to understand how prescription services would work without the flat £8.60 per item (or free for children, pensioners, ex-soldiers, inpatients and the registered disabled) the NHS gives us – and we should be appalled by this potential vision of the future. We see that Boots views us – not just women, but all of us – as customers before people, and not even as valued customers but as possible cash cows. Until now they have been protected by market pricing and lack of public knowledge, but as the media net closes in over them the company’s actions are in for widespread condemnation. Probably even more widespread and vocal than the complaints they anticipated in their statement.

I’ve been boycotting Boots for over a year now, for their relationship with tax, and I can tell you it’s much easier than I thought it would be: I’ve gone from someone who bought makeup, toiletries, snacks, medication and accessories ranging from travel plugs to tights in there, who popped in there to conveniently exchange their goods for a bit of my dollar nearly every day and who was doggedly loyal to their Advantage Card scheme, to somebody who hasn’t set foot in a Boots for over a year. Once in that time it has become an issue: I was elsewhere in the UK and needed makeup remover because I had forgotten mine, but an ordinary (albeit larger than local) supermarket came to my rescue. That is why I believe that a customer boycott will be an effective pressure on this particular high-street retailer. Not only is there a direct competitor whose reasonably-priced alternatives can easily replace Boots’ wares, but also because ordinary supermarkets charge similar or lower prices for the same things. If we stop going to Boots, we will not become deodorant-shunning, Goop-reading snowflakes. We can keep all the conveniences we’re used to at the prices we’re used to whilst we bypass this high-street parasite.

If public opinion really is the problem, Boots will lower the price of Emergency Contraception, but it has gone beyond that now. We should be boycotting Boots because of their attitudes to not only women but all sexually active people, all people in need of healthcare (which, after all, is everyone at some point or another) and all people who need financial aid to access services. This is all of us, and we are all far more instrumental in creating a harmonious and dynamic society than one company that behaves like shit.

To-do list I

To to this weekend:

  • Update my bullet journal for July. It is now the 7th and I haven’t touched it once.
  • Annotate a sufficient number of Heinrich Heine poems to show Supervisor next week – two or three should be sufficient for an initial meeting and developing a focus.
  • Finish reading + annotating Der Romantisch Schule (it is not long and it is quite funny).
  • Apply for the job I just found in case this week’s interviews went less well from the other side’s perspective.
  • Find my mum some sources for her William Blake (aka find resources for and plan some sixth form work).
  • Keep up with all usual chores – eat healthily, practise Duolingo, wash up.

I reckon four or five of those can be done in just one sitting at the library, and none of it sounds like something I don’t want to do.

An equal number of achievements from this week to balance my list and prove to myself I am competent:

  • Ran the vacuum round my house without it being a major task. Emptied the bins without being reminded (inc. food bin twice).
  • Saw Daisey – was civilised and cultivated friendship. Managed to talk about things other than our school days because we are dynamic and growing humans.
  • Went to Caroline’s birthday – was sociable and had an excellent time, but was sensible and went home before burning out. Proved I can have just one drink!
  • Put my best face forward at job interviews.
  • Have cooked consistently healthy meals. Have healthy leftovers to go home to tonight.
  • Have done good work at my actual job and been praised by my LM. Have effectively prioritised and engaged with pupils well.

An Open Letter to James Cleverly, MP

Dear James,

One of my Conservative-voting friends liked your Facebook post yesterday about why you voted against the housing bill. I just want to clear up why, in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, I (and many others) am directing my anger partially towards you and those who voted with you, and to address some of the things written in the comments of that post. I have rented in London for four or five years now. It’s not a long time, but it’s enough that I have moved into four or five rooms (several of them in quite quick succession, which is common) and to understand the way housing works in London.

The insinuation is not that you are personally responsible for the faulty cladding on Grenfell Tower, but that you are responsible for the lack of recourse for the residents and a culture in which they were not valued. Many of the newspapers have focussed on just one clause of the Housing Bill – ‘fit for human habitation’ – but I agree with you that this is dog-whistle politics. The finer details of what you voted against are much more insidious. 

The Labour amendments to the Housing Bill were a compromise: the Bill was intended to sell off ‘higher value’ council homes (an ideological difference between a party whose focus focus is providing economic ‘freedoms’ and one whose focus is on providing welfare), which would necessitate the movement of council tenants from areas where their homes were deemed ‘high value’ and into homes that were less sought-after. What this meant in practice was selling homes in London and moving tenants outside London. This is an economic folly, for one: a city as vast and sprawling as London requires low-paid workers to do ordinary jobs which keep it ticking over, and it requires them in droves. Each Starbucks drunk, Pret eaten and taxi ridden requires a low-salaried worker during unsociable hours to provide the service. You would be surprised at some of the places that do not pay the ‘recommended living wage’ (but that is more of my personal experience, and a different story). It is not just about economics, though; it is about what we value as a society. By saying that the artists, refugees, schoolchildren, Muslims, pensioners and teaching assistants who lived in that building matter less than somebody who can pay for it says that we as a society (and you as a person) value them less than any person with a fat cheque. Their income and their race become relevant factors in the fire because these are contributing factors in their vulnerability and the thing which has marked that particular set of people as potential – and now actual – victims.

The Housing Bill implemented powers to tackle rogue landlords (the legislation you decided duplicated the ‘fit for human habitation’ clause): allowing local authorities to request a banning order, creating a database of rogue landlords and allowing tenants to apply for a repayment order. Again, this values money above people: the idea that I want money back from my landlord as a fit compensation for living in squalor is laughable. I would much rather be guaranteed a safe home than compensation. Furthermore, this legislation presupposes that the council are not the ones at fault, as they were in the case of Grenfell Tower. It presupposes that your claims are for your own home, rather than the building as a whole as in the case of Grenfell Tower. It also presupposes that your complaint falls under existing legislation that describes ‘unfit habitation’ rather than allowing that phrase to be interpreted by the judiciary on a case-to-case basis or extended in the eyes of the law.  It presupposes that you have the skills or means to bring about a claim. There are too many variables.

Those powers to tackle rogue landlords are not sufficient. I know, because I have tried to use them. The council and environmental health can do very little to a private landlord other than send a letter (an ‘improvement notice’) and wait. If you go out of your way to make your own property fit for habitation (like calling the London Fire Brigade who will install smoke alarms free of charge) then there is nothing they can do. Photographs, statements and the word of any number of tenants (past or present) are not sufficient evidence, and you must wait for a member of the council to visit you (during council hours) and write a report. For vulnerable people, who lack resources like time, money or knowledge of their rights under British law, the easiest thing is to not even go to these meagre lengths and so many landlords go without even these paltry checks to their behaviour. We as tenants have no rights. 

There are any number of things this Bill did not provide for: extortion from letting agents (it does not cost £70 to run a credit check, nor does it make sense to charge a ‘signing fee’), protection from landlords who do not use letting agents, a meaningful punishment for landlords who break the law. This Bill did not serve ordinary people. 

Privately rented properties are what I and all of my friends live in (except one friend who bought a flat and is having the building knocked down by the council – but that’s a different scandal). Many people I know live in ex-Council Flats which are rented at market price like some of the ones in Grenfell Tower (a policy which you approve of), so these ‘unfit for human habitation’ homes are not cheap, they are the standard for London living except among the elite. The association of them as the homes of the working-classes shows how little London landlords care about ‘little people’, but the victims list demonstrates that this block was for people of all walks of life, and many of the stories show the community spirit from within the block. Having lived in a house that was ‘not fit for human habitation’ as well as in several homes where the landlord (and other people with keys) has not followed legal requirements, I can only tell you about the fear I have felt in my own home and my frustration at being unable to improve my own living situation. But more than that: this letter is not written with selfish aims to improve my own lot in life. This letter is written in anger that you can dismiss your place in a culture that does not value the people who need help the most and wash your hands of your involvement in a Bill which you claim seeks to protect tenants and which I – and many others like me – know to not serve anybody. 

Furthermore, people are widely angry because of what the Housing Bill represents. To many people, the idea that landlords can vote together on any Bill represents a conflict of interests in a system which values the property-owning and wealthy above the ordinary citizens of our nation (and harks back to a time when only men of property could vote at all). A major aspect of the criticism levelled at you, and those who voted with you, is not about how you voted but about the fact that you were allowed to vote together, especially when the only collective power the residents of Grenfell Tower had was their much-publicised blog, which did not affect public policy and brought about no change. 

A few final points, to address the comments under your post: Momentum does not tell me how to think. Momentum shares information to like-minded people who often come to the same conclusion (in the same way that a person’s views often reflect the people they are friends with due to shared experience). They are a flawed organisation, and I do not just read The Canary and The Socialist Worker for my news. Make no mistake, I am similarly not happy about the political point-scoring being made of this tragedy, but it is not all coming from the Labour Party (who are, by the way, fallible) press office – if you hadn’t noticed, the image being contrasted with Theresa May by the newspapers and on social media is generally NOT of Jeremy Corbyn, but Elizabeth Windsor. 

Please do be careful in your analysis and in understanding the criticisms which are being levelled at you. The people of this nation are angry, and your indignation at our anger disrespects the dead as well as our concerns for our safety and security. I am sure that you yourself are a good landlord and therefore cannot comprehend the fear and needless expense that we renters face daily, but your misunderstanding of this issue fails the people of Braintree as well as the nation at large. Share-and-shame posts list your actions – your voting record and your expenses. If you think these actions are defensible, defend them! Don’t dismiss claims of their relevancy if you think you did the right thing. 

This is a national moment of trauma and we need to be shown that those in power understood what they must do to ensure that death on this scale can never – never! – be allowed to happen again. 

Yours sincerely,

Kitty