Posted in Blog, Personal

New Year, Same Disaster

It feels like just a few weeks since you last wrote one of these letters, but it is in fact a year. As mad as it might make me appear to the outside world, I enjoy sending these letters to you, and I like to imagine me (or you) reading them, back before all of these things happen. I often wonder if you’ll believe me.

This year has been full of ups and downs. As always, we will begin with January.

NFTs were all over the place, and you had no idea what they were. You still don’t. You were starting to write your next album and planned for it to be entirely in Spanish (it isn’t), the nation was hungry for justice as more and more details of misconduct in the Johnson administration leaked, and conflict was brewing as Russia made its intentions clear against Ukraine.

You were angry with your government, but you are almost always angry with the UK government, so I don’t suppose they saw it as a cause for concern. Where Ukraine was concerned, as well as many other things, you would continue to be angry with your government, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the time, you were weeks away from meeting and falling deeply in love with a girl that seemed like she was perfect. She had a whole other relationship, but you don’t find that out until summer. If by chance, you do get this letter in time, tell her to go fuck herself, or to go fuck her ACTUAL girlfriend, instead of fucking with your feelings, because you deserve better.

You’ve never felt that you do, but you do. I say it all the time, so much that sometimes, I get close to believing it. Maybe I don’t even believe it now, but I’m trying.

You do get some great songs out of it though, so maybe it was meant to happen.

The beginning of the Dream Girl era happened around this time. The title track got its first airplay, and it went on to become one of your most streamed songs. Dream Girl was your first loud and public expression of your sexuality, and as you waited for it to be played for the first time, you felt sick, but it went well. More on all that later, for now, we move on to February.

You turned thirty, and the world didn’t end. You felt a little rushed though, so you started going on dates. You’d been putting this off for months. You were out, doing a good impression of being proud and had no reason not to date but it made you anxious, so you didn’t. Eventually, around February, you did, and it was… an experience.

You felt like you’d missed out on a lot, so you said yes to everything, including things that you weren’t really ready for, but along the way, you did learn to be stern with yourself and take things slow. It’s still a learning process, and currently, as I write, you have someone sweet in mind that might become very important, or may be just another winter’s tale. I suppose we will see.

At the time though, there was one girl, after a few that became VERY important. She’s the one I mentioned earlier. You’ll know when you see her, but even with this warning, you’ll still probably dive right in like an idiot, which is fine, I suppose.

February was not just about your love life, and your anxiety about getting old. Russia invaded Ukraine, and the entire world seemed united in their disgust. You have been alive through war (and recall with great fondness your place at many anti Iraq war demonstrations as a child), but never as an adult, and never as close. The war was not happening to you, but you felt lost in helplessness and hopelessness.

Russian tanks ravaged the streets of their much smaller neighbour. Children cried out in terror and families were separated. The people of Ukraine were brave, but they were living in a nightmare. In a rare moment of decency, the UK government stepped up, issuing sanctions against Russia, providing aid to Ukraine and (after a lot of pushing) beginning a programme to resettle refugees from Ukraine to the UK. As I write this, I wish I could tell you that Ukraine was free, but still, they are locked in turmoil. I can only hope that their freedom will come soon, and I wish that there was more that I could do.

March was a special month, because you released Dream Girl, perhaps the most personal album you’ve ever written. The next one is more personal though, but that’s a story for next year’s self indulgent blog post.

April was full of gaslighting from the UK Government as they repeatedly tried to insist that Boris Johnson’s misconduct and criminal behaviour, and Elon Musk was rumoured to be buying Twitter. Increasing political insanity in the UK was frustrating but very useful to you, as the audience for your podcast, “What The Actual F*** Is Going On With This Whole Politics Business?” grew with every ridiculous and obnoxious scandal from the Tories. You finally fell into your destined role, Charlie Brooker in a push up bra. Feels good man.

This was also around the time when you began a weekly stream on Twitch, Storytime Sundays. This was the perfect outlet for you, and something you enjoyed very much. Luckily, it seems other people seemed to enjoy it too, which is always nice.

Summer came along, and you thought it would be a peaceful, chill time for you. That was dumb. You don’t get to have a peaceful, chill time, babe. Not ever.

Late July was a weird time. I got a voice note that would define my entire summer, in the worst way. I was friends with Laura Blake. We had been friends for a while, but got close during Covid (Christ, remember that?). We’d worked together, hung out, made plans for holidays and days out. It was a great friendship.

She sent me a panicked voice note, after being off the grid for a few days. Laura had just attended Twitchcon, so that didn’t seem unusual. It’s normal to be a bit quiet after a weekend of travelling and partying, right? Except something bad had happened.

I won’t tell the story of what happened at Twitchcon, because it isn’t mine to tell, and those involved have already shared what they feel comfortable sharing, but my involvement began with the voice note.

Laura told me that she had been accused of assault by another streamer, but that she had no memory of it. She was distraught, disgusted with herself and what she may have done when drunk. At first, she said she couldn’t remember, and then she said that she could remember but had just misread the signs, and then she said she couldn’t remember again. It went back and forth, but with one common aspect. She said that she was suicidal.

I am not a trained mental health professional. I’m not even in control of my own mental health, but I did what I could to help in the situation. I tried to keep her from doing anything stupid, but as the days went on and more details spilled out, things spun out of control.

I was trying to keep Laura from doing something regrettable while also trying to support Laura’s own fanbase and community who were panicking at her absence and the whirlwind of accusations being levelled against her.

I was arguably going through the least in the situation, and would never seek to compare my experience with the victims, but I was overwhelmed. I was getting messages all day, every day from concerned fans, as well as people urging me to speak out against Laura, while also playing the role of “emotional support lesbian” to Laura who was still spiralling and regularly discussing self harm and suicide.

I encouraged Laura to make some kind of statement to at least reassure people of what was happening and to calm some of the uncertainty, but she deleted her social media profiles and instead asked me to post a tweet, not quite on her behalf, but reassuring her own audience, many of which were also my audience due to our shared projects, that she was safe.

I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with it, but did it anyway. This is one of the big lessons you learn this year, Hunnybee, you learn (very late) to start putting your own comfort first.

I didn’t feel comfortable with it because the details that were coming out made me doubt Laura’s story, and I felt as if I was being manipulated. Every time I expressed some doubt or that Laura should try to take accountability, she would begin talking about harming herself, or would talk about how I was her only friend left in the world, and so, I’d keep trying to guide her back down the right path.

It just went on and on. More details came out as those involved felt more comfortable sharing their stories and Laura watched from the sidelines, through a selection of burner accounts that seemed deeply unhealthy as the whole thing played out.

I still get messages about it now, despite being incredibly uninvolved, as does my friend Mersadist. Mersadist also received a number of transphobic and abusive messages from people who believed her to have been involved in or supporting the assault, as well as abuse from Laura’s fans who were angry that she did not support Laura.

I reached out to Laura one last time and pleaded with her to make a clarifying statement, just to confirm that Mersadist was innocent, but she wouldn’t. I explained the threats and abuse she had received but Laura still refused. I begged her to finally do one small thing to make amends in some part for the hurt she was still causing, and she simply said that she couldn’t.

It was hard to take.

On a happier note, this was a year in which you got very close to the aforementioned Mersadist. She has been a beautiful, shining light in your life, and someone who will be a huge part of your life for much longer.

July was also the month when things fell apart with the aforementioned “special” girl. The one, as they say. She wasn’t. She never could have been. You just really wanted to be in love. Sorry to be harsh, but you spent several months crying over it and if I can get you to the point of feeling better with a bit of tough love, I’ll take it.

The next few months were spent crying, writing concerning things, eating a lot of ice cream and crying a bit more. The world went on around you, and you were appalled, because… well… you were heartbroken and nobody bloody cared!

This went on until September, when you decided to try and do something productive, instead of being an emotional wreck. You wrote a cheery and optimistic Christmas song for lesbians, you wrote a ton of content for Halloween in preparation for Spooky Season, and you had the idea for another new podcast.

Yes, you’ve got another bloody podcast. You decided to take the short stories you were writing for Storytime Sundays and expand them into little audio podcasts for the weekly show, The Unearthly Library. It’s one of your favourite projects from this year and something you’re excited to work on in the new year. The Tories did more messy shit and swapped Prime Ministers, so you picked up some new listeners and got to share your angry, sweary rambles with more people.

War raged on in Europe as Putin’s cruelty continued, the public screeched at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle about something that has nothing to do with them, Liz Truss was a few days into her short reign of tyranny. It was starting to feel like a normal day, but then, on the 8th of September, rumours began to spread, newsreaders changed into black outfits, and shit got pretty real.

The Queen died. To be completely honest, you weren’t particularly upset by it, beyond finding it sad that a person had died. You’re not a monarchist, but you’ve never wished them any ill will (besides Andrew, for obvious reasons), but it did feel like the end of an era, as they say. It was uncomfortable to watch her family’s final moments with her essentially playing out on 24 hour news coverage, and you felt a lot of sympathy for her and her family as the obligation to display their lives to the public became disturbingly difficult for the viewer to consume.

There were a number of awkward and weird tributes from brands that became memes, and a strange ritual of national grieving that you didn’t know how to navigate. You’re still not sure how you’d handle it if you had the chance to do it again. I don’t know that you will ever know.

Life did go on, once the national mourning period was over, and Autumn seemed to slip away quickly. Christmas approached, the tories swapped Prime Ministers again, and you headed to London to film a music video with Mersadist for the single Red Motorcycle. It was a lot of fun, and she looked as stunning as ever. You looked back on the year with a strange fondness, because, well, it hadn’t been too bad.

You learned a little more about yourself, you found new ways to be creative, you branched into new platforms and you survived it. You say it every year, around about 11:30 on New Year’s Eve, and you did it again this year. “I survive everything.” and you do.

Here’s to surviving for another year, and maybe, if you’re feeling up to it, let’s really live.

All my love,
J x

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To The Girl From 365 Days Ago

Hello beautiful,

You’re not dead, yet, and that’s a good thing. You also haven’t wished for it in a long time, and that’s also a good thing. Would you like to know why?

I’ll tell you, in time, but first, we have some other matters to discuss.

We’ll start with January. It is just about to start for you, and it begins the way that December ended, in lockdown. You are bored of all this pandemic business, as is everyone else, and as I write to you, I regret to inform you that it is not over yet. We aren’t quite in lockdown, but it might happen. The upside is, you are no longer afraid of it.

The thing you feared the most about the lockdown was that your boyfriend would go wandering and forget about you, and during the first lockdown, that did happen, but you manage to grab another one pretty quickly, just in time for the next lockdown, and the worrying began again, but this time you won’t be afraid of that. Not because you have found an intensely loyal man, or because you grew as a person and stopped being so insecure, but because you grew as a person and addressed why a man slipping through your fingers scared you so badly.

Oh, you are as impatient as ever. I was going to tell you about everything else first, but I suppose you deserve to know.

This was the year that you accepted the truth. You know exactly what I’m talking about, and I know for a fact that as you read this, you have a racing heart and a tight throat. It’s the same mix of guilt, panic and shame you feel when you think about that girl from school, or that girl you wrote White Wine about. It’s the same shame you feel when you watch the Scottish Affairs Committee (not giving any further context there, if you know, you know). It’s the same way you feel every time your family asked about your love life and the same way you felt when you were fifteen, writing (admittedly, quite good) poems about Carol Ann Duffy.

You know what I’m about to say, and you are staring at this letter, trying to rearrange the words or shove them back into my pen, but you can’t (primarily because I typed them lmao). I’d go back to the girl you were two years ago, or five, but I know they couldn’t take it. I know that they weren’t strong enough to take this journey, and if I’m honest, I don’t think you are, but I know that I was not strong enough for you not to.

You have been carrying this alone since you were a child, but it’s over now. I know that you know what I’m about to tell you, and I know that you are hoping that I won’t. The funniest thing is that your dearest friend in the world is just like you, and you have loved him, just the way he was, but for so long, you couldn’t love yourself in the same way. You accepted him, genuinely but you saw yourself as a freak. I guess it was less acceptable if it was two girls, to you? You celebrated him, but you kept yourself a secret, because you thought you were different, something shameful and terrifying, but much like the angel in the nativity, I come to you and I say “Do not be afraid, because we have missed out on so much life already, and we don’t have time to be afraid anymore.” Perhaps the angel of the lord wasn’t so abrupt, but you know me, I’m no angel.

It all started on a date with a man. He was crazy about you, and you thought you could do what you always do, act crazy about him and hope that he married you and gave you the child that you had always wanted. He probably would have, had he not guessed what you were. I still don’t know how he did, mind you. He asked you, directly to your face, and you felt like you were going to die on the spot.

“Are you a lesbian?”

It seemed like an unfair question. You had been willing to give him what he wanted. You would have been loyal. He would have been happy. He just didn’t need to ask questions. It was a good deal, really, but I suppose he couldn’t take it, because he knew it wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have been a good deal, after a while. You’d get burnout from having to get through the sex, just like you had before and you’d start recoiling at his touch, he’d feel rejected, you’d get depressed. It would be the same as it always is. You’d cling to it desperately, because you wanted to be anything but what you actually are and it would slip away from you, because as it all turns out, men are not stupid, and they can usually tell when their partner doesn’t want them.

You told him that you weren’t “like that…” but you knew that you couldn’t hide much longer. You also knew that nobody was buying your “Shy bisexual” persona either. It was starting to become really obvious that you were just not built to be with a man. If a man who was a stranger could figure it out, then there was no more hope of deceiving everyone else.

I tried to pretend I was just thinking about it, like it was something I was considering for the first time but I had always known, and eventually, after several years of keeping it a secret, I told the truth for the first time. I wrote a bunch of angsty poems to tell the audience and I recorded an angsty voice note to tell the family. As it all turns out, lots of people apparently knew and were just waiting for me to say it, on my own terms, so… you really have nothing to worry about. You could do it, today, if you want. It makes no difference to the people that love you. Your mother still loves you, I promise.

Now that’s over with, we can talk about some other news. As I mentioned, Covid-19 is still very much a thing. You are very bored of it now, mainly because the British government is making a mess of preventing another wave and you long for the safety and competency of a Nicola Sturgeon or a Mark Drakeford, but, alas, you only have Boris Johnson to rely on.

Speaking of all of those people, you finally launched the politics segment of your podcast into its own podcast and you’re having a lot of fun doing it. It does your mental health a lot of good to pretend to be Emily Maitlis once a week.

Your birthday absolutely sucked because you spent it in lockdown and you were really sad, all day. That is why it was important for you to treasure your 28th birthday, but, noooo, you didn’t want to listen… I can’t tell you how the next one will be, because it hasn’t happened yet and nobody knows what the British government will do from one day to the next, but I hope it will be better. God willing, I would like to go to Toby Carvery for your next birthday, but we will see what happens with restrictions.

You will write a lot of things that you love this year, but your favourite is a song called Widow, that you released to raise money for Terrence Higgins Trust. You’ll be donating the royalties every year from now on and I can’t wait for the many years of fundraising ahead.

You currently have a duolingo streak of 506 days. You finally opened up and tried to make friends outside of the internet. You’ve written songs that have been played around the world. You went on a date with a girl, on purpose, in public and you didn’t bail on her or insist on it being a secret. You hit a million streams on Spotify. It’s been a much better year than you are expecting, and I’m proud of you.

You spent a lot of the year being confused and scared. Scared of the virus, scared of your secret, but as I write to you, on New Year’s Eve, staring down the barrel of 2022, I am so happy to tell you that the fear has less of a grip on you now.

I don’t know if it will ever go away entirely, but we’re getting closer to living with it, day by day, and for once, I am actually excited to stay up until midnight and say goodbye to a year full of difficult but necessary lessons.

I wish you all the best for 2022, and not just because I have an interest in what happens to you, but because at last, I am ready to accept that you deserve it. You deserve the absolute best, and you’re going to get it.

Love forever,
J x

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To Myself, On December 26th 2019

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.

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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.

Besos,

J x