How could you?

You know when you were little and your mum comforted you after you’d had a bad dream? I had to do that to my mum this morning. She was crying. And the “bad dream” was real…

I’ve stopped reading social media today and probably for a while because I feel too sick and sleep-deprived to bear it, and if I have to see that hideous braying turd-on-legs Nigel Farage and his stupid grinning victory face again I will probably put my fist through the TV.

But I’m writing this because I find it pretty poignant that the final certificate confirming the £2,261.79 I raised running the London Marathon for Mind, arrived in the post today of all days.

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I have rarely ever felt so proud, so elated, so optimistic and full of faith in human kindness as on those days I stood outside supermarkets in High Wycombe and Gerrards Cross with my Mind tin collecting coins towards my Marathon fundraising total. People of all ages, backgrounds, genders, races and probably different political stripes came to me to donate, pulling over and fishing their last change from deep inside coat pockets, telling their stories, congratulating me for being there and buying me hot drinks. I raised £400 towards my total and filled both tins.

And, as an Anglo-German, I have never felt sadder, angrier and more unwelcome in Britain than I do today. During those supermarket collections I saw people here at their very best: caring, generous, tolerant.  Today I see them at their worst: ignorant, bigoted, short-sighted: where being educated and well-travelled is seen as something to be feared. I am sick, I am numb. Like my mum, I want to cry.

What I would really like right now is to sit down with someone who I know supports Leave and who I know is not a Ukipper or a racist pig and hear them explain themselves. But no-one in that category that I’m aware of is here to do it. All I can do is stand incredulously with the 99% of my friends (many also dual-heritage) who voted Remain and are in bits right now worried about what’s going to happen to their lives and jobs. Thank you very much to those who have sent kind and supportive messages this morning asking after my mum; I know she’ll appreciate it.

When I’ve had enough sleep I’m going to apply for a German passport (mum’s already done it and the soonest available appointment at the Embassy is August FYI). But I’m not leaving here without a fight. I want this country to do what Germany did in 1945 and take a long, hard look at what’s happened to get us here. I’m tied to this area until I’ve passed my driving test, which, as this is me we’re talking about, will be at least another year.

Meanwhile, I will go for a lunchtime run today looking at the passers by and thinking “Which of you doesn’t want me and my mum here?” 

And that’s really not a very nice feeling at all.

Product of more than one country: A weary EURef post

Most people who read this will know already. For those who don’t, I’m Anglo-German. Anglo-East German, to be historically pedantic. My dad (English) met my mum (East German) in East Berlin and they moved to London in 1982 after an invasive three-year visa application process which broke the Geneva Convention in a thousand ways (Ignorant white-liberal Americans at parties, please kindly note: It is not “easier” to emigrate to the UK just because you’re white, but let’s have that chat another day…). The Berlin Wall came down at the end of 1989, when I was five years old and had just started full-day school. If it’d fallen a bit earlier we might have moved back to unified Germany instead of out to Tory commuter belt-town and I’d be writing this auf Deutsch. Quite a thought.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a disgrace to my German heritage these days. I’ve been vegetarian for two decades which means my knowledge of my ma’s homeland cuisine is largely restricted to Kartoffelsalat, and whichever Imbisse in Berlin do a good tofu currywurst. I can follow German conversations almost entirely but not talk back very well at all (super-annoying!) and I don’t see much of my German family anymore (as much to do with different lifestyles and personalities as language and geography, really – how many big extended families honestly all get on like a house on fire?). But I firmly consider myself European (White European or White Other, for diversity monitoring tickybox purposes), and voting Remain is the easiest decision I’ll ever make. Actually, it’s not even a decision; it’s a question with an instinctive yes for an answer. You may as well ask me: “Do you intend to have a shower tomorrow?” or “Do you believe in women’s equality?” 

As a journalist by training and someone who loves statistics and evidence-based everything, it pains me to say it, but I couldn’t really give a monkeys about any on this question. Even if an economist offered irrefutable proof Britain was better off outside the EU (and they haven’t) I would still vote to Remain because the bigotry and insularity of many Leave voters makes me so sick to my stomach I wouldn’t stand with them on anything. Much like football and religion, it’s not the game but the noisy fans that leave me cold. Show me someone who made my life difficult growing up and it’s pretty likely they (and/or their parents) are voting Leave. I know there are very nice Leave voters, just as there are very nice religious people and football fans, who are my friends (and lots of atheists and people who don’t watch football aren’t very nice etc etc etc). It’s the sheer nastiness of the nastiest that defines my vote, whatever the right or wrongness of the figures behind their beliefs. If you’re voting Leave, forget about the arguments for a moment and just look at who you’re voting with. A list that reads like a wedding guestlist straight out of the toastiest hell and a man who punches strangers in the face. I wouldn’t take their side if they offered me free champagne and back rubs for all eternity.

The Referendum is even more emotive for my parents, especially my mum, who I’ve seen close to tears in recent weeks whenever the polls have swung against us. During a family discussion prompted by Lucy Mangan’s piece in the Guardian about her Leave-voting Tory husband, Mum said quite genuinely that it would be hard for her to be married to someone who voted the other way on this – or even to accept it if I was. Never having met an eligible Eurosceptic it’s an academic question for me, but, in my taboo alternate universe, it could’ve been a dealbreaker and a cause for chin-scratching. It’s very hard to reconcile the idea of one of the nicest people you ever met, with a shared love of your favourite European cities, agreeing with some of the most unpleasant. On reflection, I could just about manage to see past it, depending on their reasons, how they expressed them, and their views about all sorts of other things. But, if I were married to a Brexiter right now, for the health of that marriage I think we’d need to be spending some reflective time apart over the next couple of weeks…

If Brexit happens tomorrow, I can apply for a German passport, emigrate and skip the fallout. But of course, it’s never that simple. If it was, I’d have emigrated years ago, before David Cameron was PM, let alone before the Referendum was even a twinkle in his eye. But I have mixed feelings about being forced out of a country where  – for all its flaws – I grew up and feel I belong. If and when I leave, I want it to be a positive choice; like the one my mum made out of love and a thirst for adventure. I don’t want to be bullied away from here – whether it’s because of the impossible cost of living or people being reactionary wallies. It would break my heart to leave behind friendships that have been so hard-won despite years of mental rubbish which frequently convinces me nobody would want to be friends with me, and go and start all over again somewhere else.

People who scoff at patriotism often argue “Why be proud of your country when you could’ve grown up somewhere else?” For me, that’s acutely true. One of the ugliest things about Leave’s campaign is the moronic slogan: “I want my country back.”  Whose country? It’s not yours to own. Or mine. Or anyone’s. But it’s my home, and I’d like reasons to stay. A vote for Remain would be one.

To quote a friend’s Facebook post from the other day, (who I hope doesn’t mind):

Nationalism and isolation have never made a country stronger, and never solved its domestic problems, which have never been the fault of a non-existent “other”. Nations come and go, their populations always the result of immigration and trade. Countries are not innately better than one another, but have moments of strength and moments of weakness of differing degrees.

The path of nationalism and racism, once started down, is almost impossible to leave. However you vote on Thursday, make sure you vote for openness and globalisation – reformed as you see necessary – instead of small-minded nationalism and hatred. Only violence and division can result from the latter.

 

Crowdfunder: Please help a wonderful writer dealing with her husband’s sudden death…

As some of you know, I have very happy memories of my (not half as frequent as I’d like) stays at the Retreats For You writer’s retreat in Sheepwash, Devon. I’ve hoped to visit later this year to work on a new project which was given an Arts Council-funded read before Christmas. As well as its beautiful rural Devon surroundings and plentiful home-cooked food, the retreat is adored by many for the hospitality and warmth of owner Deborah and her husband Bob, with their mythical combination of scrupulous efficiency and permanent sunny smiles. I was only 26, little older than their own three children, when I first visited in 2010, and she joked about “adopting” me.

Very sadly, Bob has recently died suddenly. I don’t know the details and don’t need to: the word “sudden” says enough. Deborah – a writer herself – has understandably had to close their business and put aside her own writing while she grieves. As a self-employed, single person, no work means no earnings: and no sick pay or compassionate leave for bereavement. A Retreats For You regular, Angela Clarke, has very kindly put together a crowdfunder to help Deborah cover her costs for the duration, and I wanted to link to it here in support. I was deeply shocked, saddened and moved when I heard the news – not just because Retreats For You meant so much to me, but because of the unique struggles that self-employed people face at times like these.

Without wishing to make Deborah’s tragedy All About Me, or pretend to know in any way what it is like to lose someone you’ve lived beside for three decades, I do know that being self-employed makes coping with an unexpected death all the more challenging, in ways largely unknown to and unacknowledged by others. In 2011, just six months after I’d tentatively gone freelance full-time at the age of 27, one of my closest friends took his own life. In the next few months, my small-but-burgeoning income plummeted to nothing, as my very new business struggled to recover from the time off. In 2014 a second friend did the same, which triggered another dip in my own mental health. I’ve pulled through financially for now thanks to luck, grit and generosity (though I can’t be sure for how long I’m “in the clear” and few jobs come without some uncertainty over when I’ll see the money for them…). This blog post is partly the thinkpiece I’ve never written: I have been trying for four years to put something on self-employment and sudden grief into the media and had various pitches ignored. It’s tiring seeing article after article crowing about “women entrepreneurs” or the satisfaction of “being your own boss,” and not one acknowledging how difficult and painful it can be when you’re faced with the unthinkable without the cushion of a guaranteed income. If she wants to, once she’s able to work again, I’m sure Deborah could use her contacts and experience to bring this issue the coverage it deserves.

Meanwhile, if you’re a writer or self-employed and you have the means (I know money is tight for most of us too) please please consider supporting the fund to help Deborah, in Bob’s memory. I’ve written to Deborah privately and my love and thoughts are with her and her family.

*insert motivational photo of a woman kicking November in the nads*

So, last November was the worst I’d felt for eleven years (if it helps, that means “the worst since I was 19 and had a breakdown”).

Apparently this “November” thing is going to keep happening every year and I can’t do anything about it and so November and I are just going to have to try and rub along together as peacefully as possible doing the best we can for each other. This year, I’ve had a rather nice start to November. More niceness would be ever so welcome. Let us hope…

Meditation and Pilates aren’t just rich hipster fads

I’ve been doing Pilates on and off for almost four years, and have recently started meditation (it’s been branded as “Mindfulness”, but they’re basically the same thing). The health benefits of these have been widely discussed. Both NICE and the NHS recommend them as part of the treatment of various physical and mental disabilities. Pilates is useful for my dyspraxia as it helps with body awareness and coordination. And I’ve been recommended meditation by a mentor to help with particularly bad and life-limiting anxiety attacks during the past year. Sadly, occasionally someone in the media decides to mock these exercises as a frivolous celebrity/hipster lifestyle fad. If it’s some silly tedious trollumnist, I’m not too arsed about it. I expect tedious, silly trollumists to say tedious, silly things. But yesterday on Twitter it was someone I would’ve assumed to have known better, which I found particularly sad and tiresome. She’d been retweeted into my timeline, and was apparently, responding to a radio programme about mindfulness, but taking umbrage at the whole concept as self-obsessed and indulgent.

The simultaneous shaming of “unhealthiness” or “unhappiness”, and mockery of people trying to improve their health and wellbeing is one of the things I find ugliest about Britain. No doubt it has a lot to do with our access to a good education and healthy lifestyle being so wealth-driven, but we tend to mock people for having the tools for good health and self-care more than we ask why others don’t. The irony of those who think yoga or meditation are indulgences for pampered rich hipster people is it seems to say a lot about their own charmed lives. If this is your belief, can I suggest you put down your glossy magazines and turn off Radio 4 for a minute and go and talk to some people who are sick, disabled or in distress and would do anything to try to help themselves. An older lady in my Pilates class has Parkinson’s disease. How very self-involved of her! A sympathetic Pilates teacher helped me feel comfortable exercising in public after the years of humiliation I went through at school as dyspraxic and undiagnosed. I don’t think I’d be running the London Marathon next year if it wasn’t partly for him.

Meditation is not “thinking about yourself” – or believing that chanting or positive thinking can cure clinical illnesses. It derives from Buddhism (Those vain Buddhists, eh? Only ever thinks of himself, that Dalai Lama.) It’s about body awareness, and focusing your mind and body on the present. This helps those with anxiety disorders because they tend to fixate too heavily on the past and future, driving the anxiety. I’m not claiming mindfulness is a quick-fix. I’m not denying there is a great deal of unqualified and dangerous diet and lifestyle advice coming from New Age-y gurus and “wellness bloggers”, or that health and lifestyle practitioners can rip people off, but that doesn’t mean any popular health treatment is negative or dangerous. I bet astrologers and faith healers take aspirin sometimes. Does that make aspirin bad? Does that make not taking painkillers a virtue? (as someone magnificently once said “Just because Jeremy Clarkson says it’s sunny outside, doesn’t mean it’s raining.”)

The other irony (aside from belittling people with different interests or experiences to you as self-obsessed) is that this particular comment came from a writer and academic interested in history and the arts. The sort of people who normally make comments like it are exactly those who think arts and humanities are a rich person’s game and the rest of us should all be down coal mines and scrubbing floors.  (Note: astonishingly, I do still find the time for some cleaning amid all my self-indulgent exercising. That’s when I’m not sitting in a train station with a paramedic for four hours after an anxiety attack…).

Bizarrely, the commenter followed this up by telling someone she had no time for this sort of nonsense because she’d recently had a bereavement. It’s a pity she felt she need to mock something that might offer some comfort to others going through similar. As it happens, bereavement counsellors often recommend meditation to help with grief anxiety –  I should know, I’ve been to two of them for separate reasons in the last four years. And even if people who aren’t ill or grieving are into it, so what? So long as they aren’t having a go at other people for not partaking, what’s the problem?

My greatest worry is that sneering and snarking could put vulnerable people, especially younger people, off things that might help them. I haven’t named names here; I’m not interested in performative callouts or pile-ons, just in debunking glib and thoughtless arguments. Well done to the doctors and other qualified people who responded with more grace and patience than I could muster first thing in the morning.

The 2014 Review

You know you’ve had a year to forget when thoughts of your various Christmas/end-of-year traditions race through your head, followed by “I don’t want to…” I’ve filled out this questionnaire near the end of every year for the last ten or so, and this year, almost couldn’t face it.

Trying to write down how I’ve been feeling recently is a bit like the Allie Brosh cartoon where she’s pointing at the dead fish and exclaiming “Can’t you see how dead these are??!!!” I’m assured this, and very dark thoughts in general, are quite normal given recent events, and the previous similar event, but by any measure, it is not an ideal state of mind for the run up to Christmas. The one thing I had hoped to be celebrating by the end of this year, finishing my novel, hasn’t happened. I’m owed money, and sticking to a daily routine has been like swimming in syrup. I’ve still been getting to bed at fairly reasonable times, and managing to read a couple of pages of an easy book sometimes, but often not actually being able to sleep and/or sleeping in for longer than I should, having been tearful and restless at night. I still read Twitter, but have hardly tweeted anything for ages until today…I suspect because two of the people who stood out from the time I began finding my voice there are now gone and it feels too sad. I’m not on any medication, and whether I should be has been the subject of sporadic internal debate (I took anti-depressants once, nearly nine years ago and have turned them down since). I’ve been having basic CBT on the NHS (i.e, all you can get for free) since August, for long-standing stuff, and it is useful for some purposes but not others. I’m inclining towards getting away for a UK break for a few days in January/February, but I can’t afford to, unless someone makes it my Christmas present, which I am hoping.

The last few weeks have brought some very, very big questions to the fore: Why mental health provision in the UK is in such a godawful state, and how it can be improved. Whether the standard aims of someone my age – find a partner, get a ring, have a family – are either a good idea, or realistic, and if not, what to do with that time instead so I don’t completely lose my cake, since the sorts of jobs you can properly be married to – like hard-news journalism, or banking – aren’t an option. How to finish the novel without my heart/head exploding from some of the resonances. And, in the short-to-medium-term, what to do to make variously horrible things a bit less horrible. These are really the questions I need to be answering right now, not online questionnaires. In the end, though, I decided to bite the bullet and try and fill this in. Mainly on account of memories from the summer which I thought it might help to try reliving at the moment…

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? 

  • Discovered there was a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant (as well as Manna) and went to it (a birthday present). Also went back to Manna with friends, where I’d been before.
  • Had a picnic at Kenwood House
  • Had to breathe into a plastic bag. Which apparently you shouldn’t actually do anyway because it’s no use. Not a nice first, obviously.
  • Not “never done before” but, until recently, not for well over a decade: Started writing down thoughts and feelings in a notebook. Pretty much everything I’ve written since I was 17-and-a-half has been in some sense public. Public writing can be very authentic, but never completely. Sometimes that’s worth remembering…

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? My main one was to do NaNoWriMo in November and finish the book. Which has been derailed by Events in previous years, and this year, was again.

For next year:

  • Never to hold back from paying a compliment no matter how wrong or cheesy it sounds. Honestly, wishing you’d said the nice thing you were going to say to someone who’s no longer alive is horrible.
  • To take compliments better, and not laugh them off out of embarrassment. Wishing you hadn’t done that – to two dead people – is also crummy.
  • Run for Mind.
  • Do something else visible and mental health related.
  • Improve my own mental health (starting with getting the business support available to me, which I haven’t previously, and seeing if it works).
  • Be less jumpy and irritable.
  • Finish the book.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My cousin gave birth to a son. My other cousin and his boyfriend adopted a son. Both are adorable. Unfortunately not near enough to cuddle.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Last month another friend took his own life. Not “close”, exactly; at least not recently. More, the sort of person who even if you didn’t know for long, you couldn’t forget if you tried (and I did try, particularly when Twitter went through a phase of recommending that I follow people with horrible opinions because he did so…). At 23, as a bright-eyed trainee journalist, I was told always to keep in mind that journalism and the internet let you get to know someone better within minutes of meeting them than you otherwise might in weeks, months, or even years. Four years later, as I faffed my tardy way late into an intimidating bar off St James’s where he greeted me as if it was his front room, that sentiment truly hit home. Meeting him felt as though I had a twin who was male, rich and Tory. Which was as frightening and weird as it sounds, but also happy and brilliant (or, as he would say, “First class!”). He was the reason that I was able to develop one of my book’s characters into something rounded and interesting from a one-dimensional wally based on a collection of vague prejudices. I’d never met anyone like him before and doubt I ever will again. Depression is an awful, awful illness, which so many people I know, myself included, have been touched by for many years. I cannot believe he’s gone. I keep thinking of things I might say/ask/tweet to him one day and then having to remind myself there’s no point. I’m devastated. It is heartbreaking.

5. What countries did you visit? None. See next question.

6. What would you like to have had in 2014 that you lacked? Money, mainly.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • The WOW Festival at the South Bank Centre in March. There was some exciting noise about me speaking at next year’s but they’ve yet to return any of my followup on this…
  • Late-April: Buying a commemorative martini cocktail at four in the afternoon with money from my savings. And slightly spoiling the mysterious-woman-of-the-world vibe by taking a photo of it with my iPad because my iPhone was out of battery…
  • The first week in June, when I went to Durham for work and an early 30th birthday celebration.
  • Also June: Germany thrashing Brazil in the World Cup
  • June 20th: My 30th birthday. Couldn’t forget that if I wanted to.
  • Mid-August: Day trip to Colchester with a writer friend and her three little girls. Cause of the foot of doom.
  • November 17th – being a guest of the wonderful Black Dog Runner at The Mind Media Awards. Sadly now extra memorable for what came a couple of days afterwards…

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

  • Managing to fill this in.
  • Managing not to passive-aggressively tweet when upset about something. (Yeah! Look at me, Being A Grownup!)
  • (in the summer) Being asked back somewhere to do a presentation a second year running. And being told it was better than last year’s.
  • (in the summer) Interviewing a bloke from the rare demographic of ex-Durham and ex-City with no apparent substance abuse/mental health/marital problems, criminal record or iffy politics (facetiousness aside, it is rare…). We talked about Durham, politics, each others’ cats, and my book. Which I don’t think he liked much. So maybe not such an achievement. Maybe he’s just the wrong demographic…
  • For Books Sake published a piece I wrote about researching my book which the Britain’s Next Best Seller blog picked up and linked to. Gulp.

9. What was your biggest failure?

  • The usual work-type ones: mostly losing out on a commission about the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall to a famous writer. Getting an actual targeted and useful press release (one in a million), and then a national paper commission off the back of it, which was postponed and eventually dropped for budget reasons. And being tipped off about a staff job in the same section of said national paper but never hearing back. And entering a Christmas competition aimed at Russian tourists to win a break at a hotel where I once stayed a free night because of work. Way to sum up a downward trajectory…
  • Spilling coffee on my MacBook then taking it to a ropey computer repair shop in a panic because it was the only one within walking distance. Who managed to bugger a sensor on the keyboard so that the machine now can’t be run off-battery. And Apple won’t touch it, because it’s been repaired by non-Apple people. Score.
  • The magnitude of the long and difficult emails I had to write, professionally and personally. Not due to failures on my part, as such, but the amount of effort and worry that went into them was immense.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? A foot injury which left me unable to walk for nearly two months in late summer/early autumn, then anaemia from the pain meds (still on iron tablets, hoping to come off them very soon). Closely followed by the worst mental ill-health I’ve had since a breakdown 11 years ago, in the run up to Christmas.

11. What was the best thing you bought?  It was probably a present I bought for a friend; I can’t remember the last time I bought myself anything more extravagant than a chocolate muffin. I was particularly pleased at finding some perfect wrapping paper for a birthday present in a really unexpected place. And at finding birthday cards which were super-appropriate, such as a David Bowie themed one for a friend who’s a big fan, and a card with tweeting birds on it for a friend I met via Twitter. (And by the way, I feel terrible that I still owe people presents from when my foot was injured…sorry about that…).

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

  • People who celebrated my 30th birthday with me.
  • Hannah and Nai, who came to Bucks from London to for a meal/film when my foot was healing.
  • Allan, who treated me to dinner and the theatre (Speed-The-Plow with Lindsay Lohan) in October – it was a really nice evening and he is one of life’s all-round Good-Eggs.
  • Lee, the charming Access To Work assessor (for the uninitiated, Access To Work is a scheme where people with disabilities can get in-work support with any aspects of a job that they find challenging. I had it for dyspraxia in my last PAYE job but didn’t know until very recently that self-employed people could get it too). We agreed on a support package which sounded exactly what I was after, and after half an hour it felt like talking to an old friend. I’m cautiously optimistic (this is very much a “proof of the pudding…” scenario) but as a first sign, it was promising.
  • Melanie, for passing on last month’s bad news. Which sounds odd to say, but finding out any other way would have been much worse (Free tip: Never, ever Google anyone with any known history of depression if they seem to have gone quiet for a while). 
  • And to all those who’ve been especially nice in recent weeks, including people I hadn’t heard from in years, and people I’ve never even met because they live on the other side of the world.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Not “appalled and depressed”, more “frustrated”. I’m frustrated at myself, that writing down how I feel is such a ridiculous effort at the moment. And that it is currently very difficult to see people, for logistical reasons on either or both sides. It’s frustrating when tangible things which might make you feel a bit better can’t happen, even when you rationally know why.

14. Where did most of your money go? Train travel. Although, to be fair, I can sometimes claim the most expensive of that back.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? These were all in the summer…

  • Seeing old friends, and Durham.
  • Writing in the big old Starbucks in Conduit Street (I know, it’s not really that exciting but it’s lovely in there and the music is good).
  • Being invited to a House of Lords reception a second time.
  • Going to the theatre and gigs, not that I did either enough.

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2014?

  • Let It Go – Saint Saviour
  • Tennis Court – Lorde
  • Sad Girl – Lana Del Ray
  • Child In Time – Deep Purple
  • One Of These Things First – Nick Drake
  • Not The Only One – Sam Smith (not my thing, but quite a voice)
  • All About That Bass – Megan Trainor (The “Gangnam Style” of 2014)
  • Goddess On A Highway – Mercury Rev
  • Anything from La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise, especially Uptight Downtown, Kiss and Not Tell and Let Me Down Gently

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…?

– Happier or sadder? Sadder.

– Thinner or fatter? Marginally fatter. Comfort food. Appetite’s the last thing to go in a crisis, and rarely does.

– Richer or poorer? Marginally less poor, but still fairly catastrophically so.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Anything useful.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Feeling like a disappointment.

20. How will you be spending New Year? I don’t know. At the moment, preferably asleep.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014? “I thought I gave up falling in love a long, long time ago / I guess I like it but I can’t tell you, you shouldn’t really know…” 

22. How many one-night stands? Piss off.

23. What was your favourite TV programme? Silk, My Mad Fat Diary, Episodes, Who Are You? (Grayson Perry’s mini-series), any Italian cookery programme, Scott and Bailey. 

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No. But I slightly get the impression certain people might like me slightly less than they did last year. Or that they feel the gap between our lives is becoming increasingly apparent, that I’m not the person they thought I was, or they’re not sure who I am and it makes them a bit reticent about me. I don’t know if this is true. I might be wrong. I hope I am.

25. Do you like anyone now that you didn’t like this time last year? Only that I didn’t know.

26. What was the best book you read? Currently reading Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. Other than that, all I read was political non-fic as novel research. I have two Linda Grant novels from my grandma to read, and an arm-length wishlist of fiction but I just haven’t got to it.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Saint Saviour. Used to sing with Groove Armada. Absolutely beautiful. Sounds a bit like Kate Bush/Elizabeth Fraser/Bat for Lashes. The Quietus absolutely raved about her, and rightly so.

28. What did you want and get? 30th birthday celebrations to remember fondly.

29. What did you want and not get? It’s too painful to go into but let’s start with, for my book to be finished.

30. What was your favourite film of this year? Pride, the film about the Soho LGBT community’s support for the miner’s strike.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 30. In the run-up, I celebrated by seeing Thea Gilmore with friends in concert at King’s Place, and a weekend with friends in Durham. On the day itself I went to Cliveden with my mum and to Vanilla Black with both parents in the evening. Then the week after, another celebratory picnic in Kenwood House, and a meal with more friends at Manna in Primrose Hill. It seems a very long time ago now…

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More money. Better mental health for others and myself.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? I did a presentation in the summer where my trousers and jewellery exactly matched the colour of my iPad and iPhone cases. Was quite proud of that at the time.

34. Who kept you sane? I don’t want to name names here but without the support of my family and several friends in recent weeks I don’t think I’d be here right now.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? In the testosterone corner: Rupert Penry-Jones,Tom Hiddleston and Patrick Baladi. In the oestrogen corner, Eve Best and Anna Chancellor (You can tell I’m getting older, I’m no longer crushing on men who look like Richey from the Manics or women who basically look like me…).

36. What political issue stirred you the most? The disgusting state of mental health care in the UK. The attention given to UKIP, and Nigel Farage, who I would quite like to see swallowed by a hungry whale.

37. Who did you miss? People I never see because they’re far away, busy or dead (upon which note, I see some further-away people more than some who live in London/the South East. This needs sorting out.)

38. Who was the best new person you met? It was mainly a year for catching up with old friends rather than meeting new ones. But I did meet lovely people at the Mind Awards, at a few conferences, and while researching my book. And I finally got to meet Henrietta (@HCA_Bentall) at the British Museum’s Germany exhibition. After tweeting at each other so much we were mistaken for colleagues, we thought it was about time…

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014 Pass. (Teach me one if you like; there’s still time…!)

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up 2014:  I don’t think that would be very good for anyone.