Sparkle sprinkled sky,
fire chases a bad year.
Fear keeps me awake.
Sparkle sprinkled sky,
fire chases a bad year.
Fear keeps me awake.
Hunnybee, you’ve got a big storm coming…
Where on earth should I begin? Well, perhaps, with some positive news. This year will be a great year for you in many ways, but you’ll be very depressed for a lot of it, so you won’t notice until right at the end, when you sit down to write this letter. So, good things happen, but it might take you a while to fully appreciate them, because the rest of the world is bleak as hell.
First of all, please enjoy your birthday. Treasure it. Stop waiting for your dumb boyfriend to text you back and focus on the people that are in front of you. This will be the last time you see your family for a very long time, and they’ve all gathered together in the food court at Bluewater to celebrate you, so drink that up and don’t worry about some guy that won’t matter in a few months.
Yes. The guy you thought was your soulmate is in fact just a guy, and it will all be over soon. You’ll cry about it, write songs and poems about it, and drink a lot of alcohol over it, but in the end, you survive, as usual, and you find someone much better, just like Brian said you would (I know you kept trying to be delusional about how often the nine of clubs appeared in readings, but you will in fact be meeting someone new, so don’t be stubborn!) and you will learn to trust people again. It will be difficult at first, because you’ll be anxious, you’ll overthink everything, and you’ll basically be monologuing the lyrics of If I Fell by The Beatles inside your head every time you look at him, but it will in fact be fine. Your confidence will be absolutely destroyed, I’m not going to lie to you, and it will not be helped by a disastrous attempt at online dating that makes you feel very unlovable, due to many suitors only messaging you things about your boobs, however, this mess does help you write one of your favourite songs from this year, Swipe Forever, and you eventually find someone who treats you very nicely, and makes you feel very pretty, without being vulgar af, which definitely helps with the confidence.
You do a lot of cool things this year. The thing you’ll be most proud of is a radio show called Diverse Verse. At first, you’ll think you could never be capable of creating radio content, but then you’ll realise that you’ve been making a podcast for several years, and that you do in fact got this, sis. You will meet writers from all over the world while making the show, and you will finally feel like you are really a part of the LGBT community in a meaningful way. You will also say many NSFW things on this show, and then be mortified to discover that your mother is a regular listener.
You release three records (four if you count the live album) that you’re really proud of, and a wonderful book that was pieced together from your pain but means a lot to you, as well as another that you love just as much, but wish you hadn’t delayed for stupid and sentimental reasons. Writing really saves you this year. It keeps you safe from how awful the outside world is, and you feel a much deeper connection to everything you create.
You also write your first song entirely in Spanish, which feels like a big accomplishment. Your Spanish gets a lot better with a little help from your boyfriend, who is not a teacher but is very good at keeping you focused on your studies. You also start learning Scottish Gaelic, which along with your membership of the Scottish National Party should be all you need to apply for asylum across the border when Boris finally makes England too uncomfortable for you to stay. You will be perpetually disgusted by the British Government, but you’ll have a weekly venting session on your podcast, so that helps take the edge off.
I feel I’ve gone far enough without mentioning the big thing. I’m trying to avoid it, because it is a proper downer, but I sort of have to, to be honest… Towards the end of 2019, you see some stuff in the news about a mysterious virus, and you won’t think too much about it, because you’re still depressed about the general election, but as 2020 begins, shit gets… kind of real. Slowly at first, because everyone basically pretends that it isn’t happening, including you. You are in the midst of preparing to release Deus Ex Machina, deeply considering getting a cat, and making the first steps to prepare for a tour to promote your projects. Alas, only one of these things actually goes ahead. Deus Ex Machina comes out in February, as the news warns in the background of some thing called the novel coronavirus, but you’re not quite ready to listen. So, you ignore it, as does everyone else, apparently. To be fair, the prime minister literally jokes about going into wards with patients infected with this mysterious new virus and shaking their hands, so it is actually quite easy to see why most people were unbothered. You wash your hands, as you always do, because you were raised right, and that’s all, really.
Eventually, shit does in fact get very real, in a way you can no longer avoid, when the British Government begins a national lockdown. People are told to stay at home, the shops are rushed by terrified people, toilet roll, soap, paracetamol and pasta become like gold dust, and you’re like “Um, what?” because you can’t really believe any of it is actually happening, but I can assure you, it definitely is. You start working from home, with only a walk to the park every night and the occasional trip to the shops to keep you occupied outside of day to day things, and at first, you don’t mind. You quite enjoy sleeping in because of the lack of commute. You quite enjoy being able to do all of your work from the comfort of your bed (except zoom meetings. I know you won’t know what this is yet, but it’s basically video calls, but, like, cursed), you quite enjoy being able to have biscuits whenever you want, or not having to properly dress up, but eventually, it starts to get to you. You’re lonely, you’re isolated, you’re bored, and you’re starting to be afraid of this virus, as you see death tolls rise and you watch the world change. You do, however, get lots of cuddle time with Marmalade, which helps.
Your growing dislike of being locked up at home is worsened by the fact that the government initially says it will only last twelve weeks, and then twelve weeks becomes a lot longer. It is also worsened by the fact that your relationship falls apart in front of your eyes, and you can’t do anything to stop it. You give it a really good try. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you fight for anything so hard, but some things can’t (and as you will later discover, shouldn’t) be saved. Break ups are shit, but they are even more shit when you are locked in your house and can’t go out and forget about it. You are literally just trapped with all the overthinking, self doubt, self hatred, blaming yourself, hating yourself, wishing that you could have done things differently. On top of all that, during this period, you briefly lived in a hotel for a week, because your kitchen ceiling came down and you had to move very quickly to somewhere else, with the hotel being a little stop gap. So, there we were, lonely, depressed over a break up, in the midst of a pandemic and low key homeless. What did we do? We got the fuck through it. It wasn’t easy, but we wrote our way out of it, we sang our way out of it, we cried our way out of it, and we survived. I really want you to know that we will always make it. There will be many moments, not just in 2020, but probably in the future too, where things look hopeless, but we will always make it, because the world is not done with me yet. Little Muffin certainly enjoyed our brief time living in a hotel, by the way.
You find yourself closer to God this year. It’s probably a coping mechanism, but it helps keep you sane, so I don’t think we should worry about it too much. You go to church via livestream, which is weird as fuck at first, but becomes quite cool, when you realise that you can pause church to grab drinks or have a smoke. You find a lot of happiness in writing, as I mentioned earlier. You will finally stick to writing every day, and it helps you process everything that you’re feeling, even the things you try to avoid. You miss performing, so badly. You really regret turning down performance dates offered in March, for a previous engagement that absolutely wasn’t worth it, and you spend the rest of the year kicking yourself for not having a few more time on stage before it became basically illegal.
You spend a lot of the year considering travelling Europe, which is very bad timing, considering a) the virus b) brexit, but you do make the decision that you’re going to do it anyway, even if it’s more complicated now, and you may need to wait a long time. At some point, you will indeed be Paris bound. The thought of this keeps you going through some of the more difficult parts of 2020. You spend a lot of time, lost to wanderlust, gazing lovingly at the 3D bit of google maps, exploring places you can’t wait to visit when all this mess is over. You have yet to renew your passport, by the way, but you will get on that for sure, at some point.
You do find a little inspiration from this virus mess, and like many artists this year, you create a project that directly references the horror of Covid-19, when you write Ella at The End Of The World. You have a lot of fun writing it, and it does give you an outlet when you need it most. You finally write the zombie story you’d always wanted to write, but couldn’t quite figure out, and it helps you feel a little brighter, as a difficult year rages on.
Christmas is a bit different. You don’t see many people, in a conventional way. There is a family video call, but you spend Christmas with just one of your housemates. It is different, but still fun. You drink a lot, walk to the lake and feed the ducks, and watch Jingle All The Way, while you sober up with dinner. You are currently writing this, in bed, with the electric blanket that your boyfriend got you, to keep you warm when he can’t, and while a lot of the things in your life are uncertain, and the world is a crazy mess, you know you will be okay, and that’s all you can really ask for.
It’s almost the end of the year, which feels crazy, because it only feels like yesterday that we were heading into 2019!
The year started for me, with my usual attempts to ignore that New Year’s Eve/Day was happening. This all stems from my irrational vendetta against New Year, due to a disappointing New Year’s experience. Way back in 2011, I had my very first New Year’s kiss. I’m not even sure if that’s a thing, but in my mind, it was, because movies had taught me that this was a magical thing you could attain. Yes, a super magical, super amazing moment when you look into the eyes of someone special, and share a mind blowing kiss that will change your whole life… except, it wasn’t. I mean, granted, I did end up going on a date with the person I kissed, we stayed together for a little while, and for better or worse (arguably worse), they did change my life, but it wasn’t magical. Not the kiss, not the relationship, nothing, and so, since then, I have been in a one sided war with New Year. I have hated it since then, and I’d like to tell you that New Year 2019 was different, but, it wasn’t. I spent most of it getting drunk, and waiting impatiently to be able to go home to bed.
The rest of January wasn’t so bad, with a wonderful trip to my beloved Blackpool, where I filmed one of my favourite videos of the year, for 27, With A White Lighter. I wasn’t actually 27 at the time, as I had originally planned to release the book along with the video, on my 27th birthday, but, sometimes, life gets a little crazy, so the book was released earlier, at the very end of 2018, with the video at least being released when it was meant to be…
My 27th Birthday was one of the more stressful ones I’ve ever had. I began my birthday signing documents for my new house, and ended up having to have a very, very early night, because I was moving in the very next day! Moving is one of my least favourite things to do, but my new house came with some awesome bonuses, such as… Marmalade!
Marmalade isn’t technically my cat, but she lives right next door, and likes to come round to hang out with me, and she is probably my favourite part of my new home, apart from finally having a local shop and decent transport links.
I also released my first music release of 2019 in February, A View From The Bridge. It’s one of my favourite tracks, and was originally planned for my second EP, Subliminals, but as I was finishing things up for the EP, it kind of felt like A View From The Bridge didn’t quite fit with the mood of the other tracks, so I decided to release it as a single. It was a deeply personal song for me. I know that artists say that all the time, about everything they release, but it genuinely was. Throughout the year, I’ve been reflecting on my past, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve known, and how they have shaped me, which will manifest in full in my upcoming project Deus Ex Machina, which I’m really excited to share with you in 2020, and I think A View From The Bridge is part of what sparked that. Writing about my first real experience with love, and how it changed my life helped me gain closure on that, and I’m glad I was able to share that with you.
In March, I was busy preparing for the release of two projects, my EP, Subliminals, and my book, Ol’ Brown Eyes Is Back. It was a really exciting, but also kind of scary time, because I spent most of the time sending things out to reviewers, and doing press for the upcoming release. It’s exciting to be able to share my work with others, but I always get worried that people will hate it, which can make it a very nerve wracking time! I was very fortunate to get some lovely reviews, which I was very grateful for.
While writing this post, I’ve been checking back through my instagram stories, to refresh my memory a little (as a typical millennial, if it happens to me, it is probably somewhere on my instagram…) and I noticed something very interesting in March. I posted a picture of a page from Brian Friel’s Translations. It’s my favourite play, and I have read it so many times I can recite parts of it by heart. The section I posted is my favourite scene, between the characters of Yolland and Maire, as they express their love for each other. I can remember the night I posted it. I was feeling pretty lonely, and honestly, wishing I could find someone like Yolland, to love, but feeling like it just wasn’t realistically going to happen. Maybe it makes me sound like a hipster, or whatever, but I felt, at the time, and in a way, still do now, that there just aren’t many people out there that I could be happy with. I know part of that is my own fault, because I am fussy, and unrealistic, but, to be fair, I only live once (apparently, although I still have my doubts), and I’ve had so many bad experiences, that it is a little hard to justify suffering through settling for something that doesn’t actually make me happy… but in the end, I think maybe I’ve found someone special, and there will be more on that later…
In April, I filmed the music video for my single White Wine, which, as some people did point out, was the first time I openly acknowledged my bisexuality in my music. I know that some people wished we lived in a world where people didn’t have to say anything, or that it wasn’t a big deal, but… well, we don’t live there quite yet. I almost didn’t release White Wine, because while I have become more comfortable with my identity as time has gone on, it was still a scary thing to think about, to be so vulnerable, and open with a part of myself that I had kept hidden for much of my formative years, out of fear, but I’m glad I did it.
May was exciting for two big reasons. First, I released Subliminals on the 10th of May. At that point, I had released several singles and an EP already, but honestly, it never gets less exciting to release new music. When I was a kid, I would write songs and dream of them being heard by someone other than myself one day, and now, getting to live that reality, and getting to share my music with others is genuinely a dream come true. I then released my poetry collection, Ol’ Brown Eyes Is Back at the end of May, and again, it never, ever gets less exciting to be able to share something I’m passionate about with people. With Ol’ Brown Eyes Is Back, I got to see another childhood dream, that I never imagined could be real, come true, when it reached Bestseller status on Amazon. I was, and still am so grateful that this happened, and that so many people blessed me with the opportunity to share my work with them.
I spent a lot of the summer touring to promote the new book and EP, as well as writing two new projects. The first, Virgin Vogue was a celebration of the LGBT community, for Pride Month, and the Anniversary of Stonewall. I wanted to create this project, to not only embrace my own identity, but also to pay tribute to the people who gave so much for me to have the rights I have as an LGBT person. I also signed to my record label, Underground Wonderland Records, in June, which led to the release of my third EP, Sleepwalking. The label was formed by some friends of mine, and I was deeply honoured when they asked if I would be their first signing, and even more honoured that they were inspired by something I wrote when naming the label. They have been so supportive of me, and have really helped me to take my career to the next level, and I can’t wait to share all the exciting things we have been working on with you next year.
In the Autumn, I got started on two projects. I began work on collecting everything together for Deus Ex Machina, which, at the time, was just supposed to be a book, and I began writing my recent Christmas song, Christmas Citalopram. I originally planned Deus Ex Machina to be a mini collection, of around eight to ten poems, with different quick looks at relationships I’d had, but it quickly expanded, and is now a book, and a collection of songs, that I will be releasing in the New Year. I also started the fourth season of my podcast Sincerely, Jennifer x, expanding with new features and segments, including UK Politics updates, and news and pop culture coverage. Having built a podcast to four seasons, from something that was essentially unscripted rambling just a few years ago, is again, something I never thought I could do, and I’m very grateful to everyone who has listened and helped me achieve that.
I was very, very excited for Halloween. Not just because it is the perfect excuse to watch horror films, but also because I was ready to share my most ambitious Halloween project with the world, In The Garden Of The Free Children. It began, as an inconvenient idea that popped into my head, about a Priest, who was running from his past. I had no further thoughts on it, but the thought of that Priest wouldn’t leave my head, and it was very inconvenient because I was at the cinema at the time, watching something completely unrelated to priests, and I was essentially having to write down as many thoughts as I could on my phone, in the dark. As time went on, I began forming more ideas, and I was able to unite some old characters I’d created, with some new ones, in the story of the Garden. I was really excited to create an immersive experience for the project, with the documentary style audio drama, and interactive website, and it was really great to read the kind feedback so many of you gave on the project.
By the time November came around, I was in the midst of preparing for the release of Deus Ex Machina, getting review packages ready, making arrangements for touring, and finishing up last minute edits, when life decided I needed a distraction. I had not been looking for a distraction. Despite the slight occasional longing for someone to care about, I had spent most of the year in love with two things and two things only, my work, and myself. I had decided somewhere along the way that I was focusing on me, myself and I in 2019, but then, again, as I said, life was like “Nah love, here’s a curveball”.
Technically, I met the distraction in question in October, but they really became a distraction in November, so… I refer, of course, to my boyfriend. Listeners of the podcast will remember the absurd levels of smug, twee happiness of which I speak about him, and I’m sorry about that, but… I mean… he is pretty rad. Now, I did mention earlier, the scene from Translations, and this does have relevancy. In one of our conversations, I mentioned the scene to him, and he asked me to describe it, and as I did, I realised, that when I was thinking about it, and imagining it in my mind, I was thinking about him. I wanted to say those things to him, and experience that rush of love and true romance, with him. It was almost as if back on that lonely night of self pity and binge reading, in March, I had began manifesting the perfect person for me, and with a little bit of patience, he finally showed up, and well, there you have it, I sort of accidentally fell in love, without meaning to, after vowing to myself that I’d be focusing entirely on my work, and now he’s stuck with me. To be fair, he started it.
And now, what next? Well, I’m ready and super excited to share the new record and book with you next year, as well as a few surprises. I am currently still boycotting New Year’s eve, but we’ll see what happens, I suppose…