WE CANT DIRECT THE WIND, BUT WE CAN ADJUST THE SAILS.

IMG_5939

Marathon runners are super human-FACT. They contain a certain specific that unfortunately yet certainly I do not attain. Don’t get me wrong I have never been unfit, unhealthy or even remotely unhinged when it comes to exercise. In reality, I suppose, I have always found some other grandeur to peruse my time, such as drinking morbidly with friends, watching far too much shitty films on Netflix or consuming my body weight in baked eggs. Not to mention I have never found it that cool to keep fit, opting for the cigarette and alcohol approach to increase my street credibility.

 

Darren exploded into my life like the canon scene from Barnum and Bailey’s Travelling Circus. Somersaulting, catapulting and refusing to conform, not only did he turn my world on it’s head, he literally turned me on my head too. In no time at all my wavering fitness levels reached an all time high and my ability to morph my body into sculpting different shapes made the impossible, seem possible.

 

First came TRX, you all remember me hanging off of a door frame or swinging from a tree, right? My physique never looked or felt so good, lean in all the right places with just a hint of feminine muscle definition. As exuberant as I started, I reached boredom with just or even a bit more enthusiasm. Not even the excitement of new abs kept me away from my red wine binges or my lustful relationship with white bread. The Guru needed to step up his game to keep me engaged.

 

Hello CirqusBodyCore, the one stop shop to peak physical ability! If I wasn’t doing planks on a shipping container or shoulder stands on parallel bars, then I was climbing 8ft walls bare knuckled or slithering up the stairs backwards like a deranged python. My body changed once more. It was unrecognisable, I gained a mass of upper body strength, my muscled shoulders and arms looking more masculine than I had preferred. I could crack nuts with those winged shaped muscles protruding from under my arms pits – yuk! It was all far too much.

 

So I stopped, kaput, I gave up and I gave in to my old ways once more and instead of finding my inner strength and motivation, I got fat over the winter. I pretended to myself I was happy with my wobbly bum, thick waist and sudden roundness set upon my hips and thighs, I even tried to love the extra pair of boobs that started to grow voluptuously at the bottom of my back. I thought of every excuse not to exercise and thrived on talking myself out of the task in hand. It was too cold, I didn’t have time, I was too busy at work, uni was stressful, I couldn’t leave the dog, anything at all that would prevent me from doing the very thing that not only my body needed (back boobs included) but what my mind so dynamically yearned for. I needed to exercise.

 

Darren had set himself a challenge and I looked in from a distance with awe and a slight trace of envy. He was to embark on his greatest test yet, to run continuously from London to Brighton covering an epic 100 km. If he can complete that I thought, with absolutely no marathon or even running experience, then I must to commit to a similar trial, set myself a goal, focus on reaching it and overcome any obstacles that prevent me from achieving it. Embroiled in all the running extravaganza my tongue may have slipped, eagerly suggesting that I could, should and would complete the Dundee Marathon this July.

 

I have just 5 weeks to prepare, my mediocre 10km runs are a drop in the ocean compared to the task in hand. I do not enter this challenge lightly, I understand the commitment and time involved in preparing my mind and body to reach that god almighty finish line. I have a tendency to give in when the going gets tough and remember I am the queen of excuses. But this feels somewhat different, as though I have foreseen the outcome and the triumph that will greet me as I reach my final destination. I need this to prove to myself I have it within me to never give up on life.

This is my marathon journey.

P.s I have written this post from my iPhone, whilst walking home from what was supposed to be a 10km training run but I gave up after 6km, please pray for me.

 

Long live the VEF and check out Gigi, our wee marathon QUEEN!

 

I Wear The Mask For You

kr-photography-_3

Before I really get into it, before I whip up the mass of emotion, the atmospheric pressure of vehemence arising from my infuriated sorrow or the cyclone of menacing parallelism and layers of comparability. I ask you to think of a time when you were at your most vulnerable, your weakest ebb, that moment you may have lost your flow. I remember mine well, I have actually experienced that excruciatingly numbing contortion of vulnerability through the hollow of depression more than once. Slap bang in the middle of your helplessness, go on conjure up that manipulative evil that eats your persona from the inside out, you have reached a plight of desperation where even the most ridiculous of ideas and undesirable thoughts penetrate your brain. Ok you’re there, how insignificant do you feel? how little? how ugly? and how un-strong? Now place those emotions in a large mixing bowl and give them a stir, throw in an unorthodox upbringing, an unhealthy start, whisk vigorously before pouring in an abusive relationship, young needy children, drug addiction and serious illness. Continue stirring to combine all ingredients and bake on a steady heat for as long as it takes you to realise that prostitution isn’t always a choice and has very rarely been given this open, honest and passionate voice.

 

I began reading Levi’s story with an open mind and a strong emotional stance, I did not know what to expect as I slowly yet willingly navigated my way around each transcript. I started by consciously leaving my firm, feminist persona at the door. I was certain I would develop a strong understanding and consideration not only for working women but for there clientele too, after all prostitution is considered one of the oldest professions and being pragmatic, I guess we all have that subconscious yearning of sexual desire, it’s part of our make up. We are all human after all.

 

I instantly felt an affiliation with Levi, a common ground, I consumed her vulnerability like it was my own and I carried it, along with her pain as I embarked on her journey, Levi guiding the way. I allowed myself to climb into her story, her words enveloping around me as she described the impact her job has on her relationships. She described daily woes that we can all relate to, anxiety of a new boyfriend, making correct choices, all relatable struggles. Although I cant help notice her self doubt and I pick up on the over whelming feeling of shame. Levi quotes ‘There is no glamour in it’ and describes how after each client she vigorously scrubs her self down in the shower, a ritual of removing not only the smell but the pain of her predicament, a habit she continues whilst being intimate with her partner, a trait he despises, wishing they can cuddle, talk and feel close instead. Only he and Levi’s mother know of her profession although she’s certain others have picked up on her lifestyle. She is a heroin user and claims that because she needs drugs, friends assume that’s what she does, they are not wrong as sadly often both drugs and prostitution go hand in hand creating a twister effect of heroin, sex work and deep depression. ‘I can’t do one without the other’, she says. After trying endlessly to quit drugs, Levi finds the shame of prostitution and how her life has unravelled overwhelmingly punishing to deal with, which often amounts to relapse after relapse.

 

I think of my daughter Ruby and the solidarity of our relationship, only last night after a long ten hour shift, I trudged the uphill journey home, greeted by her infectious grin, holding a watery cup of hot chocolate for her tired mum. I cherish our ordinary time together, our morning routine and heated debates over appropriate hairstyles or practical footwear. The thought of her growth of independence and her invaluable patience with others keeps me grounded in the knowledge that I am nurturing a good egg. Yet her fear of self acceptance and her sensitivity of others opinions reminds me that we are all balancing, poised upon a thin emotional web of self security and self deprecation. Levi is a mother too, she has a son and a foreboding dread engulfs her as she envisions the moment he questions her career choice and/or heroin abuse. The turmoil that is manifesting in her mind of the impact of her son’s upbringing makes me stop reading with a start. Likewise with Levi my family are the nucleus of my survival, so I am side by side with her and my heart aches along with hers as she emotionally outlays how important it is to spend time as mother and son. I am transient, within a feeling of helplessness, anger and a deep, deep sorrow. I feel stuck. I determine that Levi is stuck too.

 

My despondency turns to fury as she describes her time with the punters, providing services to two, three or often more men per day. Levi works from home and I find it difficult to comprehend lending my body, mind and surroundings to these strangers. I consider my home a safe place, a haven or refuge, women including Levi are risking both their families and their own security by letting clients in. An overwhelming feeling of aggravation and vexation implodes inside me as Levi retells a horrific tale, depicting a time at her most vulnerable, danger was fraught, as she was held captive by a punter but she incredibly escaped, she reminisces further describing violent attacks and rape. This information is enormously difficult to transfix and all I am able to digest is the emotional turmoil that coincides with this threatening situation. She is left scarred and frightened, cheap and dirty, exploited, humiliated and dehumanised.

 

Let’s serve up the cake we baked earlier, as we slice through, take time to notice the complex layers of manipulation, self-disgust, intimidation, isolation, disassociation, numbness, stigmatisation, imprisonment, violation, control, doubt and shame. If you’re finding this difficult to digest then this is only the beginning, the icing on the cake. Try putting yourself in a sex worker’s shoes, go on, step into Levi’s and walk with her. In my opinion, she is one of the most resilient people I have had the pleasure of finding out about and I am in awe of her continued strength. I walk along side Levi and I give all I have to support her. From the inside outside, I wear the mask for you.

“At the end of the day, we can endure more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo

 

Inside Outside is a short project run through the Encompass Network, giving a voice to those who have been involved in the Sex Industry in Scotland. The project gives them space to tell their story through words and photos. An exhibition of the contributed works will be displayed at the Scottish Parliament building (Holyrood) from March this year.

 

For further information visit

http://www.insideoutsidescotland.wordpress.com

The spirit of the beach 

I felt a surge of spirituality as I floated silently near the shore of Guardamar beach, the ebb and flow of the tide and the soft splash of each wave transported me from the crowded coastline, it mellowed my anxieties and produced an overwhelming feeling of calm. I thought about the sea-water and the replenishments it fed my body, After all, all life originated in the ocean. Recharging with magnesium, iodine, potassium, sodium, calcium, and other minerals and amino acids found within the water. The pleasure of a free mind and a weightless body is an experience I should treat myself to more frequently.

The sea is full not only of children carelessly playing, but the elderly too and I bet that is the key to a long, healthy Mediterranean life. The improvement in cardio and boost of the immune system as well as anti-inflammatory effects and the refreshing sensation through your mind and body, it is a proven fundamental element and the elixir of life. I lay placid, floating for a lengthy half hour, carefree, worry-free and calm.

My serenity never lasts long with a nine year old and I am almost concussed from the whack of her surf board- it’s time to play. We are at the coast for over four hours and my body feels battered from the sun as we leave. The siesta makes more sense the further I advance into our journey and I’m glad we chose to relax after a week of intense sight-seeing. Another few days filled with sun and sea, means I will be set up and ready for our journey back home. I could never tire of these surroundings, they only make me more eager to visit them more.

Long live the VEF and I wish I was a SeaQueen!

 

“The simplest things give me ideas.”- Joan Miro

 

You can walk dramatically through the walls at the foot of large Mount Benacantil, upon which sits Castillo Santa Barbara, a fortification that centres within the costal city of Alicante. Having perfect views of the Moorish feature from our rooftop pool, we were all keen and eager to visit the top.

A sci-fi style tunnel has been ploughed through the rock, leading to a small elevator taking you 25 metres upwards through the mountain to the final summit, which when reached is worth the nail-biting pressures of the jam- packed lift. Santa Barbara Castle has everything you would expect, cannons, a palace, dungeons, a moat, the ruins of a small church and of course a famous lookout tower. The views are mind blowing and we spend around an hour picking out points we recognise around the city and beyond.

With our feet firmly on solid ground it was time to check out the hotel and make our way towards Los Montesinos and our Spanish family home, the final destination of our Spanish experience. Los Montesinos is a traditional Spanish town situated around a 15 minute drive from the southern coast of Costa Brava, the town overlooks the giant salt lakes of Torrevieja known as Laguna Salada de Torrevieja and Laguna Salada de la Mata, whilst passing the lakes we witnessed wild flamingos feed, this vibrant environment makes for an incredibly healthy climate.

Having visited the town over the past ten years, I enjoy finding out about recent developments and listening to stories of how far the small place has come- it’s unrecognisable from my first visit all those years ago. I also carry a lot of memories here and my heart felt heavy as I look around the house at old pictures of Ruby and my sisters and the lovely holidays we have shared here together. Although my Dad keeps the house modern and contemporary, I still feel as though I step back in time as visions of a baby Ruby crystallise in my mind and I am grateful we have this place to share with each other.

The local Chinese is the best I have eaten and you would be pushed to spend more than 20Euros to feed three people- including wine. A meal of hot and sour soup, steamed dumplings, noodles and chilli seafood, washed down with sangria and schnapps. It feels great to let Ruby lead the way around a neighbourhood she has grown up in. The small square in the central of town draws the locals, elderly gentlemen gather to play traditional games as young kids look on in wonderment. The language barrier disappears here for Ruby and it’s easy for her to get involved in the games.

We finish the night in Torrevieja, watching the sunset at the marina and then on to the fair.

Long live the VEF and I’m so comfortable here Queen

 

The peace of wild things

Having mastered the trains and picking up a little Spanish on my journey, I wish I can start over and do it all again. I guess the fun of this experience lies in the fumbles and the mishaps that we have made along the way. Ruby and I have started a collection of tickets, maps and memorabilia of all our fuck ups (excuse my French) and it’s something we will pull out and chuckle at in years to come.

It’s hard to described the feeling of awakening within the comfort of a superior hotel room, any place I can get my head down, I’m happy with, but it absolutely polishes things off when the air con is set precisely and your Egyptian cotton sheets hug you neatly, the black out from the curtains is a little detail we had gone without and the envelope of darkness allowed us to sleep past ten.

Stretching contently we ordered breakfast in bed- coffee and tostada with tomato and olive oil, made it a little easier to get up and at it. I had promised Ruby upon our arrival in Alicante that we would spend a day at the pool and we pleasantly soaked in the Costa Brava sun. The temperature in Madrid reached 40 degrees but somehow seemed cooler and easier to gain comfort than Alicante. By the time my dad had reached us from his 11am flight, my legs resembled a pair of bratwurst sausages minus the buns.

Keen to relax into his month long break, my Dad enjoyed the comforts of the poolside bar. My sensitive skin sizzling in the lounger, not yet allowing myself to surrender to the relief of indoors, I lay and baked until early evening. Still hopelessly insufficient at the notion of relaxing, I managed to get through two hard-back books and the Sunday paper plus supplements that my Dad had brought me. I only saw Ruby when she needed refreshed and she played happily all day by the pool with new friends she had met.

Hospes Amerigo is situated in the heart of Alicante at the foot of Castillo de Santa Barbara, overlooking the Marina and the soft, white sands of the beach. Featured as a ‘Design Hotel’ the ancient Dominican Convent, features Juliet balconies and arched neo-gothic windows, with a double height ceiling and marble finishing, it was a treat I could not have been more thankful for.

Always keen to spoil his girls a dinner aboard the Santisima Trinidad – a Spanish Galleon in Alicante Harbour, followed by a stroll around the marina, a turn on the Ferris wheel and a few whiskey Sours, was my Dad’s way of saying, I love you, which completed another amazing day, in an amazing country, on our amazing adventure.

Long live the VEF and I’m not coming home QUEEN.

 

Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. – Hemmingway

imageI gave myself far too much credit for finding such a peach of a hotel in Madrid. The nights previous had been bearable, not overly noisy and sleep manageable, but welcome the weekend and as Friday night approached, a street lined with pubs, clubs and gay saunas meant our much-needed eight hours were wiped out in an instant.

I was incredibly impressed with Madrid’s partying skills and as I stretched sleepily upon our terrace at 6am, a few strays were reluctant to give into their night and retire home, I enjoyed watching them sway merrily yet not inconsiderably to their ancient surroundings. In my mind I set a similar scene in Dundee and curiously wondered about the differences within both cultures. I strongly believe the Spanish nurture their young more, they give every age a welcomed and celebrated place in society.

I let Ruby sleep late as I packed our bags, I pride myself on my ability to organise two weeks worth of belongings for two people in one carry on suitcase and an extra backpack for travel documents, tickets etc. It’s incredibly anal to enjoy such tedious events but I get a kick out of my scrupulous organisational skills.

We have only four hours left to enjoy the relaxed vibe of Madrid and I suggest a visit to the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid as a gift from Egypt as a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel Temples when UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy in the 1960’s. Thereafter we accidentally stumbled upon the area of Tribunal, which is rich in independent lifestyle stores, quirky antique shops and chic vegan eateries.

Next stop was Museo Arte Público, which was slightly off grid (if walking) but well worth a visit. An unconventional museum, the 1970s space at the junction of the Castellana with C/Juan Bravo, features sculptures from Pablo Serrano, Chillida and Joan Miro. The outdoor museum is definitely one to put on your to do list, it’s a permanent exhibition which is open twenty four hours and free.

At nine years old a trip to McDonald’s is still considered a treat, so Ruby was elated with her lunch at the ‘poshest McDonald’s she had ever seen’ on Gran Via, before making our way to collect our luggage and further to Atocha, Madrid’s main train station. The Atocha Station is not only a transportation hub, it is home to an indoor botanical garden complete with turtle sanctuary, making it the perfect place for our departure from a city that is one of a kind.

Long Live the VEF and I don’t want to leave Madrid QUEEN!

 

‘ I taut I taw a puddy tat ‘ – Tweety Pie

Pre-booking our tickets online made entry to the Warner Bros theme park amazingly easy. Scanning the barcode from my iPhone allowed us to jump the long queues and head straight to the water park, passing through Hollywood Boulevard and Gotham City, Parque Warner reminded me of Universal Studios Orlando, with its mock tenements, saloons, gas stations and sidewalks.

 

It was Ruby who discovered the theme park whilst researching Madrid online and I was reluctant to visit, due to the high and intense heat (over 40 degrees). Set out into distinct districts including Superheroes World, Cartoon Village, Old West Territory and The Beach, the park was utterly fantastic, the eight hours we spent there passed in the blink of an eye and it was a welcome change to the historical sites we had visited previous.

 

It took around an hour to reach Parque Warner from our nearest train station-Sol, travelling to Pinto and then onto the park by shuttle bus. The train was expensive (50euros adult, 40euros child) with no conductor present to check tickets, in hindsight I would have only purchased one ticket, as Ruby insisted on passing through the station gate together anyway. Lunch at the park gave little options to vegetarians or healthy eaters- our only option was fast food (chips!!) I would suggest bringing a packed lunch and although this was prohibited (I checked the rules online), no one checked our bags or belongings.

 

The colourful map made navigation through the park easy and it gave useful information as to the pace of each ride – soft, moderate, intense which made our approach more resourceful and time manageable. With something for everyone I would highly recommend the trip out to Parque Warner and I am sure Ruby would agree….

 

‘At the Warner brothers park we went swimming at the water park, there was chutes, waves and sprinklers. My favourite part of it was the chutes and the waves, we stayed at the water park for about three hours then went and got something to eat. I got pizza and my mum got a BIG cup of chips. After the water park we went to the theme park, first we went to the super man area, in the super man area we went on the massive swings and The Joker’s ride. At the massive swings you sit on a seat and it got you really high and you spin round and round really really fast, at the jokers ride you went in little cars and banged into people. My favourite one was the swings. Next we went to the Wild West area, in the Wild West area we went on the water ride and the spinning Waltzers. The water one was when you go up really high and their is a big big BIG water slide and in about ten seconds you go right down it, I got a lot of butterflies, in the spinning Waltzers you sat in a bucket and it spun you around really fast. We were gonna go on the haunted house one but we were to scared so we just left it. My favourite ride at the Wild West was the water one it was so so scary. After the Wild West area we went to cartoon village, we went on a lot of rides here but my favourite one was the ACME factory which is a water ride and you sit in boats and you go really fast on water and you get splashed by water I also liked seeing bugs bunny’s house, it was really really cool. Then we went to the Hollywood area but that had no rides it just had shops but it was still cool. After the Hollywood area we went back on the bus and back to the hotel. I had a great day.’ – RUBY

Long Live the VEF and Looney Tune the QUEEN!