The Woman Who Daren’t Have an Opinion

by Ariadne and Lizzie Cass-Maran

A friend of Lizzie’s on Twitter remarked on the prevalence of the language of abuse in the No campaign, in particular in the shockingly sexist Better Together video. On being challenged to defend this accusation, the two of us wrote the following.

What is the ‘language of abuse?’

First, it might be handy to define what ‘the language of abuse’ means. ‘Language’ is communication; it doesn’t boil down to simple vocabulary. It’s not the same thing as vocabulary of violence; it’s not saying ‘I’m gonny chib ya’. In fact, quite the opposite. The language of abuse is emotional abuse, and blackmail. There are a few articles below giving a bit more detail on this. Continue reading

29 tweets: The full story

In February 2012 I decided to use my last 29 days of being 29 to tell my life story so far.

The rules were that each tweet has to be exactly 140 characters long, and include at least one hashtag @reference or link. One tweet broke all the rules, but that was on purpose. The story was fully written before Feb 1st, and the whole thing was crafted as a complete story.

I invited others to join me and 4 decided to, thought each had different terms. I think I was the only one who wrote all my tweets in advance; other folk wrote them as the month progressed. Only one other 29tweeter got as far as the full 29; there was also a 12tweeter, a 16tweeter and a 17tweeter. Some of the tweets were remarkably symmetrical though, as the full story of the 5 tweeters, detailed below, shows.

Story 1 Story 2 Story 3 Story 4 Story 5
Milton Keynes was dying for a hospital, so I was born in Northampton mkhospital. Father so excited, he went straight down the pub. JW gave birth to a girl child on the steps of a Wyoming hospital in Feb. An omen: this child only flirted with propriety. Kicked and screamed into existence with only Mum in attendance. 70’s Colonial Hong Kong = no family allowed in the hospital I was born in Kirkcaldy in ’83. My mum was so off her face on the drugs that she sang Baa Baa Black Sheep. Setting me up the rest of life… Mum, having eaten late that night, assumed the labor twinges were indigestion – later there was a mad dash to the hospital.
Miss Spooner found me sleeping at my desk during the alphabet. She hit my desk with a metre rule. Everyone laughed; I was terrified #stgregs Riding, almost b4 she could walk, E developed deep communion with equine companions: the hallmark of a blissful childhood. I was the coolest kid on the ex-pat block with my bike: 2 wheeled, bright pink, squidgy handlebars WITH TASSELS ON THE END. In P1 I went missing. I asked to go to the bathroom and went out the front door of the school. I like adventures. The school freaked out. The yellow knitted dress wasn’t my favorite garment – I engineered its demise by getting it hooked on a rosebush & running.
As a shy 8-year-old, I went to France for six months through ALLEF allef. Learnt fluent French and nearly mastered the splitz At age 7, through the good offices of RL Stevenson, the girl from the high plains discovers what she wants to be: a #Pirate Moving to Antigua began my love affair with swimming: I spent hours under the sea, fingers trailing through shoals of fish My first love was Han Solo when I was six. The first of many unatt- ainable bad boys to break my heart. I was playing outside when some family friends arrived, I asked “when are you going home?” I meant “how long can you stay?”
Aged ten, heart broken during Tom Sawyer play. ‘JJ’ first in a long line of boys who just didn’t love me like I loved them. #how embarrassing 1 bored n whiny 9yr old n 1 very frustrated mother add up to a summer of reading Shakespeare’s Complete Works on a dare. Shivering as Caribbean exchanged for Sussex, 3 times a year. Coarse knickers, obligatory worship, tuck boxes and lights out My best friend in p1 was a girl called Holly. She had to move to Aus at the end of the year. We were going to get married so she could say. After games the changing rooms were filled with a thick fog of Impulse fumes. No-one knew about the ozone layer back then.
At 13, I did Kabuki and Shakespeare in Japan with @playbox theatre. Hated the food, the trains and Disneyland. I had no idea how lucky I was. Highs and lows of puberty struck with a vengeance. Parents divorced, remarried and moved us to the city in 12 short months. The institution bred survivalist eating: cress grown on facecloths, ‘peppermint creams’ made from t’paste, snacks of pollen My first pets were Guinea Pigs. My favourite was called Cheeky. He was my first experience of owning my own pet. #CrazyCat Lady: Origins A mid-teen mis- adventure with Sun-In gave my hair a unique tie-dyed look – sadly, I was aiming for a Monroe- esque blonde.
Parents divorced. Story not all mine to tell but I don’t see him anymore. #storycut short City kids hate on Sh*t kicker me. First kiss is marred by chewing tobacco. A new found passion 4 acting provides escape. And lo, a dark cloud fell across the sun… my parents decreed our next stop would be N. Ireland. All protests were in vain I changed primary schools in p3. I remember finding the whole thing quite traumatic. It seemed like the end of the world! #Laby- rinthitis during A-Levels, combined with spending more time planning revision than doing any, resulted in poor grades.
Always said I’d leave home at 16; shocked everyone by doing it. Moved to Edinburgh and went to @telfordcoll. Was the happiest I’d ever been. Breasts grow in wi vengeance. School nickname is ‘Boobs’. Raped by 1st love – can’t tell cuz ’77 WY culture says my fault. Started at the same school my parents met and fell in love at. Quickly began to understand the origin of their problems… I loved my 2nd primary. Even though there were popular kids, there wasn’t much bullying. I still have fond memories! In September 1991 I left the town in which I was born. I was 18. I’d never lived anywhere else, now I was #Edinburgh bound.
17; met a man @beltanefs. Lost my virginity in a hostel in Oban. Embarrassing teenaged angsty breakup makes me cringe. Oban’s pretty though. Teen years blur of theater, rodeos n boys in every town, none allowed 2 do more than kiss me. Then BAM! Love! Passion! CMC! Institution-alised bigotry became the name of the school game. Attempts to explain ‘atheism’ were met with confused looks When I was 8, my Uncle Harald died. It was the first time I experienced death. He was from Manchester & lovely. He loved beer and Sherlock. First day @Edinburgh Napier also saw my first trip to an Edinburgh pub as my first morning friends & I failed find the union
18th birthday: first realise I like a girl. Heartbroken as she goes out with my friend (a boy). Never told her. Came out as #bisexual at 19. 1 year from Drama Medalist, to Shakespeare’s Katrina, to lover, to pregnant, to Senior, to Married. A hectic pace 4 change. I hit the water 6-7.30am, 3 mornings a week, as part of the Derry #swimming squad. Our high point: winning regionals gold When I was wee I was afraid that the Shark from Jaws was waiting at the top landing. Amusingly enough, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I learned a lot at university, not all of it was on the syllabus. My graduation and 21st pretty much coincided. #AllGrown Up
Trusted friend told me I was too fat & ugly to ever be loved. Stopped eating, or binged and purged. Cut myself. Life fell apart. #FF @beatED Married. Senior in HS. Win State 4 Drama & Original Oratory. National Honor Society. Son born 5 days b4 graduation. #Happy Decided to take four A Levels: all the arts, plus, er, Geology. What? Rocks are *cool*, man. My A in English = pure joy I first went horse riding aged 9. I completely fell in love. I wish I had the time to do it again! First full-time job saw me racing up + down a row of fax-machines to send press releases – PR isn’t all smoozing + boozing
Finally asked doctor for help. Told I was fine but given #seroxat anyway. Withdrawal impossible; two years off work; three suicide attempts. “This is MY BABY!” a proud 15 month old declares to admirers of sister. Papa gifts Mama wi vasectomy; worry free sex FTW! Deciding which uni to go to became an obsession, but I still made the wrong choice: @StirUni was way too theory based for me. #liveand learn aged 11 got first bra. First girl in my school. Should have realised then that my breasts would be more popular than me. Suddenly, many of us had “proper jobs”, there were even marriages + mortgages – how had we become old enough to do this?
2003: Slept in beer on the floor of a bus to London for @STWuk march. A million people ignored. Campaigned tirelessly. Ignored continuously. Major bout of unemployment puts spouse in Army as Korean Linguist. Kids in separate accidents go to ER to reattach fingers. Finally diagnosed with depression, at 18. Not sure when the colour began to drain out of life, but its return was beautiful I sang the lead for our P7 WW2 play. To this day, I can’t think that I can sing. But I remember the applause. Sent for chest X-ray – this ran on a loop through my mind as I chain- smoked outside the hospital gates movieclips. com/RUHD- alfie-mov
Gave evidence to the police about the potential grooming of teenagers by my erstwhile flatmate. Attached a @BandQ padlock to the front door. California! We start tradition of marrying every 5 yrs. We restate our vows at dawn, looking over Bay while bagpipes play. Uni was a testing ground: a claustro- phobic upbringing left me without a few key skills natural to others. Alcohol helped. I passed my driving test on the second attempt – I have driven just twice since then with declining degrees of success.
Found my way back to the world with the help of one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Lost touch now; that time is over, but #ioweher mylife CA’s 1st Theater becomes 2nd home. #Melodrama & #Olio acts. Discovering a passion 4 historic clothing, I rock my 1st corset. Met @green griffin: haven’t been able to get rid of him ever since. Left for @KUnews that fall, and met a cowgirl. Yee haw. I was living on a bread roll a day, plus cigs – a diet of my own devising. Eventually people nagged me into eating. Thanks.
First job post- withdrawal @auldreekie tour, leading ghost tours through Edinburgh. Got involved with the comedy scene. Made lifelong friends. Working at a Fat Farm I discover my talent for managEment and have my first professional massage. No.1 son starts school. Returned to the UK full of plans after a year of experi-mental film, 8mm cameras and SLR photography, and bought my first PC We laughed & danced on the dark beach. We’d no idea that we wouldn’t be able to do so forever. Maybe that was for the best.
Threw coins at a girl’s window during her #onenight stand with my ex. I was jealous: she was beautiful & he was unworthy (how she liked them). Discovered I don’t want to mess with Texas. Army exiled us there: 6 months. After, we gratefully returned 2 Monterey coast. Moved to Edinburgh asap after graduation. Made a lacklustre goth, but began to freelance as a writer with moderate success Someone was going to pay me to write. All day, every day. Little matter that it was recruitment ads – it was a writing job.
Fun night out with the ex, then he passed out on the sofa & I kissed the beautiful girl. Scared witless, but beginning of a #beautiful story. Our family becomes a miniature theater troupe appearing in CA’s First Theater Production ‘The Drunkard’ #Actors #Melodrama Finally met @andrew ducker, & realised I was a geek. We were terrible as a couple, but he remains one of my closest friends
Beautiful girl’s visa expired; we went to @See Australia. I worked in a comedy club in Brisbane; she traded chickens for information in Fiji. The Clark family theater empire grows. 1 summer. 4 people. 16 productions. 140 individual performances. #Acting #NoSleep
Accidentally moved into a drugdealers’ squat, with bedbugs, a visiting rat & a dredded gentleman known only as ‘The Columbian’. #itsfunnynow Husband surprises wi 10th anniversary wedding celebrated in high Edwardian costume during intermission of play. #Romantic
1st #standup gig, in Brisbane, then for a few months in Oz and UK. Sucked somewhat. Decided I needed to commit or quit; went for the latter. Discover Renaissance Faires. Start a Guild. Travel 2 Edinburgh 4 #Fringe. Fall in love wi Scotland. #WellMet #Appendicitis
While we were away, our tenant (friend, we thought) conned folk out of £1000s and trashed the place. He’s still wanted by police. #whatacunt Hubby justifies my eternal love by taking me on a Barefoot Cruise of Caribbean for 20th. Married on deck by ship’s captain.
Sold up and bought dream flat in the Abbeyhill Colonies. Got a cat from @uk_gumtree, named him after a Harry Potter character #domesticbliss Empty nest:1 kid marries, 1 moves 2 NYC. Royal Stuarts retire. We chuck it all n immigrate 2 Scotland. I go back 2 college.
Married the beautiful girl on a hill overlooking my city. Smoked a cigar and danced the night away @scottish bktrust, then took her to Paris. Married again. Edinburgh City Chambers. Music by fellow students. Officiant is dear friend, ex-Deputy Lord Provost. #25th
Became godmother to marvellous, crazy & beautiful Toby. He introduced me to Molly’s. I wish they made one for grownups. Graduate wi BMus, Distinction. New job at Scottish Arts Council. Apply 4 permanent stay. Home Office denies. #ExPatNoMore
Became editor @skinny comedy. 3 marvellous & hectic years then passed baton to @blearyboy. I miss it. I don’t miss it. I miss it. #conflicted In Denver for Rocky Mountain High and hubby’s Master’s Degree. Pro: close to Grandboys. Con: NOT Scotland. #Culture Shock
Missed the birth of my 2nd godson by minutes; I was in @greggs choosing a tuna softie. Met beautiful Seth at ten minutes old. Unforgettable. I meet the Haberdashery – the coolest group of writers, ever! #NaNo I write a book! I edit a book. The agent hunt begins.
Quit @the skinnymag to set up a company with the beautiful girl, newly graduated from Napier’s Creative Writing MA. @graphic scotland was born 30th Wedding Celebration is Wiccan – we get full body henna tattoos n create magic. #skyclad #symbolism #BloodNBone #Breath
I proofread and edit, I iron. I blog, I network, I drink. I make websites & enjoy cleaning the oven. I am occasionally #pretentious. I live. Hubby earns diploma. Land in So Cal. New symphonies n books beckon. We start new #ViralOpera project n dream. #LifeIsSweet
Flat for sale, /zXX3fy, life wide open. Don’t know what’s next, except that I’ll have a beautiful girl by my side @AriCassMaran That is me – in 29 Tweets. Thanks for a great month!

29 tweets: it begins

The first tweet is scheduled to go out tomorrow. These are the rules I worked with:

1. Each tweet is exactly 140 characters long.

2. Each tweet contains at least one link, @reference or hash tag. A hash tag is defined as valid if it’s previously been used by at least one person.

One tweet breaks these rules, but that’s purposeful.

The tweets will be going up every day at 11am.

The list of others playing is at!/list/29tweetsproject/fellow29tweeters. Let me know if you’d like to be added.

Let the stories commence!

29 tweets: I love a deadline


Remember this project? Tell your life story in 29 tweets. I planned this in September last year, and part of that plan was regular updates as to the process.

The process, it turns out is much like any writing process. An enthusiastic beginning and a strong outline (at least I know the story) but a metric ***ton of work still to do in the next few days.

I know there were a few folk interested Way Back When – is anyone still joining me? I’ll do it anyway but it is so much more joyful with a group.

Tweet at me @29tweetsproject to let me know if you want to play, too. Otherwise, look out for the story from Wednesday morning UK time.

Lizzie x

The 29 tweets project

February 2012 has 29 days. They’re my last 29 days of being 29. I’ve decided to tell my life story in 29 tweets. You can play, too, if you like. 

I’ve been mulling this project over for a while, but the recent chat from Carol Ann Duffy, and the SOA tweetathon have reinvigorated my enthusiasm for Playing with Twitter.

Subverting a medium

The ethos of Twitter is as a live blogging site, for very up-to-the-minute information, written in the moment, each tweet a stand-alone artefact.

But one of the joys of life is taking something and using it for something other than its intended purpose. I’ve decided to do just that, and use Twitter to tell an epic story, something that is carefully crafted and written, and then released on Twitter. I’m hoping to use the medium’s restrictions to create artistic possibilities.

Turning thirty

I also wanted to do a wee project to mark turning 30 next year. I realised 2012 is a leap year, and I turn 30 in March, so my last 29 days of being 29 will be a special sort of 29 days. So I decided to combine the two ideas, and use Twitter to tell my life story (so far) over those 29 days. I’ve set up a Twitter account (@29tweetsproject) to tell the story.

Join me!

I’m trying to craft it to be as good a read as I can, and it’ll be an interesting experiment, but my life story is probably of interest to relatively few people. So I figured the whole thing might be even more interesting if other folk wanted to join in. So, if you want to play, too, tweet me (@29tweetsproject), or comment below with your Twitter name. I’ll curate an open ’29tweetsproject’ list through that (unfortunately we can’t use hashtags because there’s no room in each tweet – see rules below).

You don’t have to be 29 – in fact it’d be cool if we can get a mix of ages, and a mix of people generally.

What’s the point?

To play around and have fun. If lots of people join in then I do have a few ideas about how the ’29tweetsproject’ might evolve (and I might set up a dedicated blogspace if it get busy), but there’s no overarching philosophical or commercial aim or any of that nonsense. I just think projects like this are kinda cool. lf no-one else wants to join in then I’ll just have fun by myself, but things are normally more fun if other people play, too.

The rules

  1. One tweet a day over the 29 days of February should come together to chronologically tell the story of your life so far. The point is to write them all in advance – I’ve started already – so that it’s all planned and crafted. You can use stuff like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to then queue the release of your pre-written tweets from the 1st to the 29th of February.
  2. The chronology doesn’t have to be relative – skip the dull stuff and then write five tweets covering the same month if you like. Everything should be in essence true; but little details get blown up, glossed over or mis-remembered, which is a normal part of biography.
  3. Each tweet must be exactly 140 characters long. Extra shiny bonus points for including a relevant hashtag, @reference or link.
  4. Break the rules or make more of your own if you like.

Comedy review: Wendy Wason

First published online for The Skinny

Heavily pregnant Wendy Wason’s show is quite cleverly conceived (no pun intended). She looks back at incidents that have shaped her life thus far and there’s something about her imminent labour that lends extra weight to the concept. Essentially, it is just an extended set, but it works, the Flashbacks concept tying it nicely together; it neither tries too hard to fit a theme, nor meanders off course.

She doesn’t labour the point of her pregnancy too much, either, which provides reassurance that her impending motherhood is an incidental fact, not something played for a gimmick.

Wason is charming and sections are beautifully nostalgic, if a section playing songs from her iPod seems clumsy and unnecessary. Her show may not be the place to go if you’re looking for subversive, political or ground-breaking comedy, but as far as a cosy and funny afternoon out is concerned, you couldn’t go far wrong in Wason’s company.

Comedy review: Storytellers’ Club

First published online for The Skinny

Comedy lends itself well to storytelling; that’s what a lot of comedy is. But acts tonight have been told not to worry about being funny, but to focus on the story. Of course, I’ve spent enough time with comics to know that a good act can’t help but tell a story without it being funny, and there are inevitably stories lifted out from the acts’ sets. But this material doesn’t seem crowbarred into the genre, and all of the acts on tonight are very natural. The stories themselves are allowed room of their own; space to breathe and to be told without the ever-present Cowell-esque question of ‘yes, but is it funny?’ They are allowed to be touching, inspiring, tragic and comic in their turn as host Sarah Bennetto guides us through tonight’s offerings: stories of failed romances, betrayal and the Eiffel Tower.

Audiences are even allowed to join in, with a short story competition (five words), the prize of home-made comic books from Bennetto and fellow storyteller James Dowdeswell adding to the inherent homely charm of the night. The development of Storytellers’ Club really feels like a labour of love from people who want to have fun and tell stories.

A wonderfully cosy night that’s well worth catching as part of a rounded Fringe experience.

Comedy review: Andy Zaltzman

First published online for The Skinny

The SkinnyIt’s amazing how much you can tell from a Fringe show by its audience as you come in. For Zaltzman’s show, everyone seemed to be wearing glasses. The couple behind me were wondering if the bar served coffee, and debating where to go afterwards for tea and cake.

This feel was very much reflected in the feel of Andy Zaltzman’s show. With a set resembling a 1950s study, the usual housekeeping announcements before the show were replaced by announcements and ‘bonus jokes’ from Zaltzman. It’s a nice touch to set the scene for what was a gentle stroll of a show, in which Zaltzman uses comic metaphor and brilliantly terrible wordplay to popular effect.

The show is based on the premise that we lack the vitality for proper political uprising in this country.

Then, the night I saw this show, the England riots hit, and I couldn’t help but wonder how this had affected the show. I decided to ask the man himself.
Zaltzman told me that he did have to make changes to the show in the aftermath of events: “That’s the problem with these rioters,” he tells me “they just don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Having just finally settled on how and where to do everything, I then had to change it all.”

That’s what I love about this artform; it’s the most immediate form there is. Acts can spend months working on a show only to have world events blow it sideways. From speaking to those who have seen Zaltzman’s show more recently, it seems that it’s picked itself back up in an even more intriguing shape than before.

Therein lies the true beauty of comedy.

Comedy review: Steve Day

First published online for The Skinny

Telling the story of a personal feat is a tough call in comedy. Many shows either use it as only as a loose basis around which to hang material, or get so distracted by the reality of the story that, whilst interesting, it ceases to really qualify as comedy.

Steve Day’s tale of his quest to run the London Marathon victoriously manages both. He never distracts from the narrative of the story, drawing in the audience with his tale of endurance – such that I am more than once moved to tears – but at the same time keeps the laughter constant and free-flowing, and never an awkward addition.


Comedy review: The Comedy Zone

First published online for The Skinny

The Comedy Zone is a Fringe institution, the longest running showcase on the festival, and this year’s offering brings a mix of quality and substance.

Compere Iain Stirling hangs the night together wonderfully – friendly and cheeky with a warm and likeable persona. Opening act Hari Kondabolu then sets the bar high for the evening. The US comic approaches race issues from an original angle and keeps the audience attentive and amused with intelligent material. Next up, in sharp contrast, comes Paul Currie, whose slapstick set is perhaps most kindly described by a line I heard from a girl at the bar afterwards: ‘It’s funny because it’s not’.

Closer Phil Wang has some fantastic lines and a fresh approach, but his race material falls slightly flat, and it wasn’t the best programming decision to put two performers with such similar material in the same line up, especially bookending such a radically different style. Wang is a good act, but suffers by comparison to Kondabolu, who is a great act.