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Birthing Dora

3 Jul

Contains graphic detail and images of nudity. Probably NSFW.

An epic tale wherein a scuppered plan needn’t mean loss of control.

What I wanted from my birthing experience

I wanted the birth of my baby to be a pain-free, pain relief-free, non-interventionist birth. I wanted it to be relatively quick, and straightforward, in my own home. It didn’t turn out quite that way.

But beneath wanting that were the reasons I wanted that. It was important to me to keep the motivations topmost in my mind. I basically wanted to avoid experiences I’d seen others have: (more…)

29 tweets: The full story

18 Apr

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

31 Jan

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

29 Jan


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

19 Sep

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.

Who’s Judging?

4 Mar

Opinion piece on coming out

Even in this day and age, coming out is not a fun experience. For me, telling my mother was the most distressing experience of my life, and I don’t think I could do it again. My wife had a much easier time of it with her parents, but we spent many an awkward evening on her grandparents’ verandah. There are friendships we both had that have never quite recovered from it. Granted, these friendships can’t have been that good to start with, but it’s still tough.

But that part can be done in a week and consequences will start to wane over time, even if that’s a lot of time. Life is such, however, that you will go on to meet new people and each time you are supposed to judge whether they are worth coming out to. Within my own friend circle, my wife and I will oftentimes be introduced as “the lesbians” – even by other lesbians, which I’ve never quite understood. It seems to be a nickname we’ve acquired. Still, job done.

With new colleagues, I’ll slip a quick “my wife” into conversation. I’m getting better at it. But some comings out I have yet to master – and I’m realising the irony of this is that I am so terrified of being judged that I make pre-judgements on who will judge me. A 25-year-old makes references to my “husband” and I am quick to correct her. But faced with a similar experience recently by a colleague in her 40s, I managed to answer “And what does your husband do?” using the brand new pronoun of ‘mmfferryeah’. “Mmfferyeah, a playwright.” I kid myself that I’m mostly worried about embarrassing the person I’m talking to. That’s largely bollocks. The colleague later discovered and plainly couldn’t give two hoots.

But then there’s the next layer out – shop assistants, bus drivers, people you meet on the street. The common argument here (and by common argument, I mean excuse I make in my head to absolve myself of all personal responsibility) is that really, my sex life is none of their business. What I do in the privacy of my own home … my argument starts to crumble. Gay rights have come a long way in the past 50 years. There have been times in the past and there are still places in the world where people have risked tremendous abuse and physical violence just to walk down the street hand in hand. If it weren’t for these people, I wouldn’t have a wife now. Yet I continue to use the ‘mmfferyeah’ pronoun for fear of being – shock horror – looked at askance.

Widespread adjustment of the social norms is the next stage in the gay rights struggle. So I’ve been trying to make an effort. It’s not going fabulously. Last Friday I was in Marks & Spencer and lost my wife; I thought she might be in the changing room. Changing rooms are a particularly tricky beast. You can’t resort to the old cover-all of “I’m looking for my partner.” They’re female changing rooms. Either you out yourself, or you have the assistant believing your boyfriend is a peeping tom or a transvestite. So the ‘friend’ word comes out. “I’m looking for my friend.” Eugh. Not good enough. In the next few years, I want to have children. Do I want them to see that they should only to refer to their Mummies being married behind closed doors?

So I took a deep breath, but was once more flummoxed by realising the sales assistant was of Asian origin. No headscarf or overt religious paraphernalia; she was just, you know, a bit Other. My head leapt to the same conclusions as with the 40-year-old colleague and I nearly chickened out on the basis that she wouldn’t understand. I approach the changing rooms.


I was right, she didn’t understand. I was met with a look of incredulity. I immediately put this down to her being shocked and appalled at never having heard such a term in her incredibly sheltered upbringing. Most likely she spent most of her time cooking and would later enter into an arranged marriage; her parents would change the channel if they encountered gays on the television. There is, of course, no chance that her look of bewilderment was down to the rushed delivery of my one, carefully rehearsed, line. What a bigot I really am.

I tried the same thing later in TK Maxx and was met with blank indifference. I’m not sure if that’s progress, but I’ll keep trying, knowing it will never get me shot or arrested. And I will try to enunciate.

First published online for The Skinny


Pride and Prejudice

7 Dec

Significant LGBT events in 2007
I’ve never personally encountered real intolerance, so I don’t tend to bother much with Pride events. It’s important, and frightening, then, to remember that not everyone has such an easy time – so good on Amnesty International for showing solidarity with other nations. This year saw the first Pride march in Riga, Latvia that went ahead peacefully. Although it had to be heavily policed to reach even this level, other Eastern European countries have yet to manage this. Russian law, for example, provides no right to protest and this led again to mass riots at Moscow Pride where many – notably Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass – were first beaten by the public, then taunted by the police. Although I’d like to think the egalitarian effect of EU membership affected the Latvian march, this contrasts with Poland’s continued constitutional support of homophobia, with legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, clinging to the old myth that people can be converted.

Rights to protest unfortunately go both ways though, and 2007 saw a landmark ruling in the US with the suing of right-wing inbred crazies the Westboro Baptist Church – famed for the catchphrase God Hates Fags – for $11 million (currently about ₤5.5m and falling). For anyone who hasn’t heard of these folks- they go to soldiers’ funerals, memorials and so forth and ‘remind’ people that their deaths were a punishment from God for tolerating homosexuality. But they met their match after demonstrating at the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq. His father was awarded damages in compensation for emotional distress and invasion of privacy. This was the first civil case involving the ‘church’ following rulings by many states prohibiting protests at funerals. Let’s hope a precedent has been set and this cult will have to keep their immorality to the privacy of their own homes.

And finally, JK Rowling revealed that Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore is gay. What I found most interesting was the reaction from gay rights campaigners, who argued that it should have been more explicit. Because that’s just not Rowling’s style. She is rarely explicit about romance and when she is, we’d really rather she wasn’t (see Ron kissing Lavender Brown). Sounds to me like people are just upset that they didn’t get it – had Grindelwald been a woman, everyone would have presumed a romance – which questions where the prejudice really lies. JK has in fact struck a blow for equality by giving the relationship the status of absolute normality. Most concerning, however, is this Stonewall quote: “Now young gay men know they can achieve anything – even being a wizard headmaster.” Pity the poor careers counsellor who has to break it to bright-eyed young boys – you may be queer, but you’re still a Muggle.

First published online for The Skinny