Hello lovely readers and welcome to my shiny new blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Some of you may remember my previous blog where I’d post about a whole range of subjects from decluttering to relationships (which can sometimes be the same thing), toxic friends and make up tips. It struck me, as we began to experience this strange new normal brought about by the COVID19 pandemic, that it might be time to restart them.
At the time of writing, mass protests all around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers have gripped our attention. People have taken to the streets to say enough is enough when it comes to racial inequality and injustice.
Of course, these issues are not new but the narrative around it is beginning to shift as we speak more about collective responsibility on a topic people of colour have felt they’ve had to deal with alone.
It’s been tough, watching this play out. Heart-breaking truths about the black experience in the UK, US and around the world are being laid bare. BUT, as hopeless as it can feel at times, the level of activism and engagement is an indication we’re moving in the right direction. People are asking themselves, how am I culpable? And how can I make a difference?
This alone, is a monumental shift and one I fully encourage. It points towards the good in people, the good in all of us that want to come together and work towards making the world a better place.
It’s all hands on deck. As a writer, for me the frontline is at my computer, so here I am, hoping to lighten the load, share some ideas, thoughts and commentary to help move us towards that better place. The blog will be a mixture of new and old posts which I’m resharing here for you to enjoy.
Whatever brings you to this page, I hope it provides a little light relief, food for thought or ideas and inspiration to carry you through your week.
On a scale of 1 to bizarre, how strange has your 2020 been? Keeping calm and carrying on is hard at the best of times but in the midst of a pandemic, well, that’s definitely one to tell the grand kids about. But as we come to the end of lockdown (unless you’re Dominic Cummings in which case you’re probably thinking, what’s lockdown?) and we look towards our new normal, I’ve also been looking back. Out of this unbelievably challenging three months, I’ve been wondering, are there silver linings to the dark clouds of this pandemic? And I would say, yes.
For me, one unadulterated pleasure has been the newfound quiet. I’m a city girl, born and raised but even for me, sometimes I just want everyone to shhhhhhhhhh. When that finally happened in late March, I loved it. The eerie peacefulness, the 28 Days Later style photos of normally busy city centres, the slow encroachment of nature as animals began to reclaim the streets, the absence of billowing airplane trails across the sky – was all blissful.
Whether you agree or not, the Black Lives Matter Protests were absolutely necessary and the lockdown focused people’s minds. Were we in normal, non-lockdown times, the George Floyd murder may have been trampled by the constant march of 24 hour news. The Lockdown quiet gave room for this incident and its repercussions to initiate important discussions worldwide. Were it not for the intersection of these two events, this may not have been possible.
Lockdown has been financial tough for many – those working in entertainment still have no clear pathway back to work – and I really need the nail bars to open. Sort it out, Boris! However, in all of this, it is great how some have managed to innovate, using online technology to maintain or create new income streams. I’ve attended countless meetings, online workshops, webinars, bodywork classes and seen friends put on comedy shows, play readings, run quizzes, debate nights and more. Though you can’t replace the visceral experience of a live event, this is definitely a welcome bridge until things return to normal.
But I think my biggest and most welcome change has been feeling more at ease, talking to friends, family and colleagues on the phone and video chat. Before, I would happily ping pong WhatsApp messages or emails back and forth when a five minutes conversation would have been quicker, easier and I could have said all I needed to say in half the time. We are communal creatures and I’ve enjoyed connecting more fully with people during this time.
Early on in quarantine, some people had high expectations of how it would change society for the better however, as the scenes at Bournemouth beaches and crowds of football fans demonstrate, human beings don’t always know how to do the right thing. Having said that, I hope that despite the hardships of these past few months, we all find or make some positive changes that we carry forward into our new normal, even if it is just skyping our mums.
Please be safe, take care, follow the guidelines, don’t litter, black lives matter and when you know better, do better.
These days everyone’s talking about decluttering with many a declutter or organising expert touting the benefits – Marie Kondo (obvs), the brilliant Oprah – and if you search #declutterexpert or #homeorganiser on Instagram, you’ll find a local guru all set to come and help you turf out your loot too.
All this #CleartheClutter awareness took me back to when I lived in my one bed flat, and how I almost left it prematurely…
You see, I’d decided I’d outgrown my little East London abode and it was time to relocate, maybe to a place with a garden, (fancy) – so I started flat hunting.
I told myself I wanted a cat – to mark my descent into real single-ladydom – but the real reason was, I wanted to spread out. God knows I love to buy shoes but I was running out of space to put them. My boudoir was fast becoming a shoe room that happened to have a bed in it. I needed more space. End of.
After three months of searching though all I could find were two bedroom dungeons or flats that were a few police lines short of looking like a murder scene, it was a bit disheartening.
I began to wonder if I could learn to love the place I currently had, maybe give it a bit of a makeover – that’s when a really radical idea hit me: How about, I thought to myself, instead of buying a new property so I could store more stuff – I get rid of some of this accumulated claptrap? Genius.
I lived in a one bedroom flat – how much stuff could there be? Ha! The thought of going through all the boxes and cupboards and wardrobes was an intimidating prospect. Sorry did I say intimidating, I meant boring. Soooo, I decided to make a list. Oh, I love a good list. I like the sense of achievement as I tick tasks off.
I listed all the places that needed to be decluttered:
Chest of drawers
Under the drawers
In corners of wardrobes
Shoe boxes (in every corner)
Under the bed: all kinds of hoarding crimes had been committed in this dark unseen space (unused yoga mats, old trainers, bags for life that had long since perished). The places to store crap is seemingly endless. I had to be ruthless.
As someone who isn’t particularly sentimental, a lot of the under the bed stuff was easy to resolve. Yoga mat – Out. Old reviews and newspaper clippings – In. When I’m an old lady who smells of cats and pee I’d rather show the great nieces and nephews a feathery Time Out review rather than Yoga Matters finest wares (soz).
Things started to get a bit tricky when it came to dresses and shoes. Even if I’d never worn something I was still torn as to whether to send it to the great charity shop in the sky, or as you’ll see later, Stratford recycling, which is much closer to home.
I elected to take on a tough policy. If I couldn’t visualise myself wearing the item again, it was history. It worked. After a few short hours there were three full bags brimming with dresses, coats, shoes and accessories. For the first time in years I could see the back of the wardrobe. The disappointment of not finding a portal to another dimension was temporary.
Once you get the ball rolling with a declutter it can be difficult to stop. You can end up ditching items you really shouldn’t. Fridge? First world extravagance. Cooker? I shall simply set fire to my vegetable rack and pick over the charred remains.
All in all the whole process, working my way through each room, took a few sessions but after a couple of months I was done. I completed the process by buying some nice storage furniture and a shoe store that hangs on the back of the door (literally the best thing ever) – it’s an Ikea beaut, and I have two now!
And finally my bedroom looked less like Primark during the summer sales and more like a bedroom becoming of a sophisticated lady, like what I am.
But what to do with all these unwanted garments? To simply throw them away would be recycling treason. Instead, I did what is commonly known as Stratford recycling. That is, I simply left the bags outside my house with a helpful note stating what each bag contained. The following morning the bags were gone. Obvs, visiting your local charity shop works too, or recycling your clothes at places like H&M. But back when I did this my local charity shops were dubious, and clothes recycling was probably limited to waiting for that elusive plastic charity bag to be popped through your letterbox.
It was over. I had loads of new wardrobe space, room under the bed and some lovely new furniture to boot. I was now happy in my one bedroom flat!
A good declutter can really invigorate the space you live in. Every now and then, it’s good to shake things up and do something that reminds your home you think it’s pretty cool. I say, use the four Rs (refurbing, redecorating, rearranging or recycling). Done thoughtfully, this can be an economical way of giving you a renewed love of the place you live in – so you can feel happy and content being there again. You will. I promise!
Living in clutter is bad for the soul. A home with gubbins everywhere is chaotic and causes stress, something you may, over time, become immune to feeling but it’s there. Trust me. Losing these unwanted items will bring clarity to your living space and inevitably, your thinking. It’s a way showing yourself some care and those you live with and indicates to the universe that you deserve to live a harmonious, peaceful life. Try it, you’ll see.
I hope you can do your version of Stratford recycling where you live. The best thing about it, bumping into a neighbour who you know is wearing your clobber, and they know they’re wearing your clobber and they know you know they’re wearing your clobber and you both say nothing and just smile.
It’s easy to forget to be grateful. Sometimes, being grateful slips way down the agenda behind getting annoyed with your local bus service or the Yodel not knocking before leaving a missed delivery card…. You DIDN’T knock!
But the fact remains, I am living my dream and I’m not the only one. I put a question out to people I know on this topic and quite a few responded saying they too were living their dream – sooo I created a little series of interviews where each person opens up about how they’ve come to the place they are at now and shares advice for those seeking to make similar changes in their own lives.
But I thought I’d kick off the series by answering my own interview questions. If you’re on a journey to live your dream I hope these stories inspire you, or if you are already there – I hope these help you continue to live in gratitude and hone the skills to realise even bigger and more magnificent possibilities. Keep on, keeping on legends 😉
What is your dream?
To be a writer and performer. When I started acting I thought that was the dream. I’d write on the side but it wasn’t until I started performing stand up that I felt really fulfilled.
When did it [your dream] first form in your head?
I loved Eddie Murphy’s stand up show, Delirious and I reckon I knew most of the big routines before I’d even seen it because everyone at school talked about it so much.
“Goony googoo!” I’d say, not really knowing why. When I finally watched it, it was like the opening of the ark in that Indiana Jones film. In my heart, I knew this was what I wanted to do but my conscious brain hadn’t even entertained the idea. Kids from my background didn’t become successful performers or so I believed. Nevertheless, when I was 14 I wrote a stand up routine and performed it in front of a couple of mates who laughed encouragingly and that was technically, my first gig.
Kids from my background didn’t become successful performers”
What practical (or impractical) steps did you take to realise your dream?
The desire to perform lay dormant in me for several years, and my ‘first gig’ faded into the past. I ended up working in TV post production running a small company (not mine) and by chance, while touting for business at ITV, ended up getting poached to work on their new soap Night and Day, looking after all their post production. The whole production was based on one site so everyone got to mix – actors, crew, support staff, the whole team.
Getting to know the actors, it reminded me or perhaps rekindled my love of performing which I’d enjoyed so much at school. I asked them what the best way to get into acting was and they all unanimously said ‘drama school’. I found a local school that did evening classes and took the plunge. After that I worked as an actor doing a mixture of plays, TV all supported by mind-numbingly boring temp work in offices.
But after about five years, work started to dry up and stage fright was becoming a bigger and bigger problem. I looked at some of the TV actors I really liked (Jocelyn Jee Esien, Gina Yashere and Tameka Empson) and saw that all of them had done stand up comedy. ‘F*&k that’ I thought. Like most people it seemed like the most terrifying proposition ever but eventually, the ‘F*&k that’ became a ‘F*&k it’ and I decided to give it a go. I enrolled in a stand up course with Amused Moose and thought, if I hate it, no harm done. We did a showcase at the end of the course. On the night, I could barely breathe before going on, I was so petrified.
But – as soon as I stepped on stage, I thought… this is it. This is what I’m meant to be doing.
Eventually, the ‘F*&k that’ became a ‘F*&k it'”
If you hadn’t achieved your goals, where would you be, what would life be like?
Me becoming an actor coincided with a need to shake my life up anyway. It was a proper Hollywood movie life change. I changed career, broke up with my boyfriend, cut my hair short and started again. I knew that even though my life was perfectly okay on paper, I wasn’t satisfied and I guess it would have either eaten away at me or I would have had to bury those feelings and ambitions so I wouldn’t be pulled by the wonder of ‘What if’.
If I hadn’t followed my dreams I guess I’d definitely have had a suburban house and I’d probably be a manager at a post production company but I think at my core there would have been an unease. There’s no going back now and I’m delighted I took the risk. I was broke for many years after but always trusted I’d made the right choice.
What advice would you give those pursuing a dream?
The simple advice is, go for it. When I made the changes and choices I did, I felt compelled to do them. It wasn’t just a ‘Good idea’. The feeling I had was, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing!’. If you’ve grown tired of how things are sometimes you need to shake them up. If you want things to turn out differently you can’t carry on doing things the same way.
On a practical note, I guess you have to identify what your dream is and then figure out what practical steps you need to take to realise them. For me, one of those steps was those drama school classes.
And of course it’s a cliché, but you must believe in yourself. Doubts may come but you need to gently usher them away. Your bedrock must be an unwavering faith in yourself and that your dream, whatever it may be, is what you were put here to do.
I say, live in gratitude for the things you have because at some time, you dreamed these things into existence and here they are. Dream your tomorrow and it will come.
UPDATE: It’s so interesting to read over where I was at when I first wrote this eight years ago. At that time, it was so clear to me stand-up was my path. Since then however, I’ve returned to my acting roots, written my first novel, Asking For A Friend, which is out in Feb of 2021 and hosted over 50 #CreativityLiveChat ‘s on Insta, with this Live Your Dream message at the heart of every episode. So though dreams change, for me, the thread tying it all together has been the same, storytelling, be it with my stand-up, acting or the words I write.
Don’t be afraid to let your dream, grow, breathe and change too. The road is rarely straight and we don’t always know what’s ahead. But just know, even though it can be tough, it will also be rewarding, fun and always worth it. Take care, legends and keep an eye out for more interviews from this Cat That Got The Dream Series….