September third, 1990

Eight years ago this week I was writing about Roman fires as part of my PhD write up with a glass of red wine at my side, leftover from cooking my dinner earlier that evening, when an event I witnessed became a catalyst for something that I can only call a milestone in my life and fate wanted me to forever recall that very moment. Tonight I am sharing my photographs and digital art on social media as well as writing this piece, things I could only have dreamt that I could do, or that people would understand or follow them. However, it is none of these I am actually going to write on, instead it is something prompted by seeing children (re)start school after their summer break, which has reminded of the third of September 1990 when I changed schools, and the miserable seven years I had there.

As a child we are told repeatedly that our school days would be the happiest of our life, which made me question throughout my early childhood and into teenage years how miserable must life be as an adult if these are meant to be happy times! Perhaps in the more recent past they were more innocent times than then or even now to be a child, and those carefree days were led to be so happy as did not have the stresses and strains that adults experienced. I only need to look at pictures of my young nieces to worry about how sexualised the youngest is at five years old and posing like a woman four to five times here age in a bikini on a beach. The little carefree girl I played with last autumn seems a million miles from this wannabe model, a child stuck in an adult world, which in turn makes me wonder what world her and her sister will be part of as this ever changing world grows fifty shades greyer by the day.

Back in 1990 dressed almost head to toe in green (yes even my underwear had to be green) I entered a classroom with the stares of my fellow pupils and invisible sounds telling me it was not the place for me…perhaps the near accident the year before should have told me to listen to my instincts and run, but alas there was nowhere and nobody to turn to. I can still recall my classes that day, which included drama and German – giggling to myself at learning that Varter was German for father, which to my 11 ¾ year old ears sounded like farter and very appropriate for my dad! The school was different in how my old one had operated, but ultimately left me just as miserable as its predecessor with bullies and time on my own. My teachers however for the most part were excellent, and as someone that likes to learn thrived under ones like my Latin teacher that encouraged everyone no matter how good or bad you were. Her methods are ones I use myself whenever teaching or supporting someone, and still wish in part I had studied Latin at St Andrew’s University as I considered back in 1996 in tribute to her, but my PhD did involve the Romans so in a way I have done.

The impact of those year years left scars that even now I can feel throughout my body, but they are beginning to heal with the passing of time combined with good friendships that help me to see how naive and stupid the bullies were. I have achieved more than even I thought was possible when I packed my clarinet away and left them behind at the Usher Hall with a smile and the largest sigh of relief that had ever been heard in its corridors. This was just after being pushed off the platform while singing our school song and national anthem to say to me even in our final moments as pupils they did not accept me as one of their own. Ironically, I officially left a month before but had come back to play my clarinet at the request of the head of music, to which I had agreed as long as did not need to follow uniform restrictions to rehearsals! Even now I do not wish any of them ill or bad times, but as someone that knows karma eventually comes a knocking, it will do what needs to be done. My name in full is still one I struggle to own as tainted with the echoes of their laughter, but grown to prefer my shorter form as shows those that really know me to use it.

Going forward the echoes and laughter will eventually go as let the last scar heal, I promised myself I would not pick them. So what will the next eight years bring, twenty seven is far to hard to imagine…well as Coldplay sang – “You can take a picture of something you see. In the future where will I be? You can climb a ladder up to the sun. Or write a song nobody has sung. Or do something that’s never been done” – I intended to do them all and more as this woman can. What I have learnt is that there will always be some that judge and make assumptions, or make our lives hell as their own is not very good, but they do not know the real us and the best action is to show them we do not care to how far we have come.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Words to stories

Words matter. As much as we may tell children that it’s only sticks or stones that have power, the truth is that words are loaded with it. It is why we love listening to stories so much. It is the reason that companies pay millions to advertisers to craft the perfect copy. It is why the words smother or strangle makes us shudder but the sound of ‘I love you’ makes us tingle. Yes, words matter.

Storytelling is recognised in every society across the world regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. They are a way of making sense of our cultural roots or identity, and an insight into the social reality we live in at this moment.

Life events, news, and stories that we share on social media enable us to share insights and enhance mutual understanding in a social, political, psychological and spiritual sense. We do not become any less by sharing; it can be therapeutic to give a voice to feelings that hurt us, make others consider something with fresh eyes or ears, and let another know they are not alone in their battles.

However, it can also leave us feeling vulnerable or even angry when someone question something we take for granted or never considered from another perspective, as can feel like a direct hit at something that is special to us.

This is because stories are part of the fabric of who we are, but only in sharing our life experiences do we develop a sense of self. After all, individuals are necessarily social. Stories cultivate the frequently forgotten yet uniquely human traits that are crucial in building solidarity.

For together we are stronger, and can drive out darkness, deafening those that spread fear and hate.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Love poem 1

My attempt at a love poem (as rarely write them or have any one to write one for/about).

I am sprinkling like a fairy,
Different kinds of flowers,
Every colour of the rainbow.

Here I come to give you songs,
Words to make your head spin,
And flowers to make you smile.

Music that will make you dance,
Oh, and another kind of flower,
To place forever upon your heart

From the city of an extinct volcano,
Sleepily watching over the citizens.
With a castle but no princess be.

I came to bring these just for you,
Carrying them over the seven hills,
And crossing the spiralling river.

Together they may have no worth,
But they are all I have to give,
From citizen FSJB of Planet Earth.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Baldness Ballad

At dusk I cried on hearing the sound of falling hair from head,
By dawn I sobbed as counted the hairs sprinkled on my pillow.
Knowing like leaves in a forest at fall soon there would be none,
Without any send off, funeral, mass, or toast with an old glass.

The inevitable sequel was made but bombed on day of release,
And my immune system blocked any future remakes of its story.
Leaving the me exposed and naked to a judging planet of apes,
With the moon now on my head painted as an ogre in my mind.

For nearly twenty five years the self portrait remained unchanged,
Until I learnt to dance to a new beat and so painted myself afresh.
So the patchwork doll came to life on the canvas and into my mind,
Sitting like Buddhist priest in repose as only fitting for one so bald.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Summer Storms

The thunder with its rumbling tummy has finally been fed,
It is tired after playing catch with lightning across the sky.
Clattering over rooftops of houses and up lanes of towns,
Like a herd of invisible horses hooves trampling the clouds.
Bursting them open with a blinding light of purple haze,
That caused the rain to fall in muted teardrops like a clown.
Touching the hearts of windowpanes and soaking humans,
As curse the games up in the sky for leaving them so wet.
But a sick man from his hospital bed joins in the silent tears,
As his fevered brain calms again and counts his blessings.
In the woodlands trees stretch out their branches so wide,
Hoping to score points by catching the drops to its leaves.
Where as the deserts beg and plead for just one drop to fall,
Like a miracle prayer to someone who lives beyond the sky.
Cows out in fields turn their noses upward silently inhaling,
A perfume that comes after a storm that reassures all is well.
The farmer’s daughter shuts her curtains for the final call,
As the thunder goes to sleep and will play again another day.

© Fi S. J. Brown

It’s a crackpot life

Each of us has our own unique flaws, like cracked pots and vases. These cracks and flaws are not bad things but make our lives interesting and rewarding. We need to accept people as they are and look for the good in them, not dwell on negatives or taint with constant hate and jealousy. Nobody and nothing is perfect, and that’s what so priceless about it.

All too often we focus on the bad and negative, forgetting there is a lot of good and positive out there. We are human shaped, not fat or thin, flexible and adaptable not out of shape. Taking time to appreciate all the different kinds of people in our lives, better to colour in life with every crayon than colour with a single one; imagine a world in rainbow compared with sky blue. Living the crackpot life.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Swan

Earlier this week I tuned and adjusted the white balance of this picture, which I recently took of me with my mobile/cell phone; finding myself looking in the eyes saying ‘yes that’s me‘ and ‘quite a good photograph for a quick selfie.

For a long time an ogerous monster lived in my head that would have said something like this: ‘eww, what an ugly and loveable freak of nature you are, no wonder people point and laugh at you in the street. Delete that at once, nobody wants to see your ugly face on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t bother taking any more selfies, shows your ego is growing. Oh and may break your phone…ha ha!’

Instead another voice came out, the one I use when talking to others with my natural empathy and understanding ways, and not one I have heard myself say to me: ‘You look pretty and happy there Fi. Who cares if you see flaws or things that aren’t right in this photograph, better to knit a scarf than nitpick at yourself for no reason. Anyone that laughs and/or calls you ugly can spin on your middle finger, that’s what it is best used for!

I nearly choked on my own emotion, not for the first time, but this was in a positive way of my own doing to myself. Pondering, perhaps this former ugly duckling has finally seen her own swan-like reflection, and will glide the river of life wherever it is leading her to go. I do not need a mask of chemical colours or a surgeon’s blade to syringe to make me look beautiful; I am me, not an ogre but a swan, and that’s fine with me.

© Fi S. J. Brown

me 2017

The Sunshine

When the blood flows of innocents it has no colour, race, or religion,
Far away few hear their cries but at home it echoes throughout the land.
The sun is a spotlight to these hideous crimes with a ruby tainted glare,
Scarring those it touches with marks that will never be washed away.

Some sing songs of revenge with a bitterness as sharp as any sword,
As the hate boils inside them as it did those that struck the initial blow.
Never learning that violence is not an answer to this twisted circle,
For those that teach do not know the real question from spin and lies.

Dealers will always have the aces but never the joker in the pack,
Laughing and dancing to their old Machiavellian rhythm and beat.
Empathetic love would deafen them but few now know that path,
As follow distractions with false gods into darkness far from light.

On and on this tainted sun will shine on across this broken world,
Stranded in a desert wishing for but one drop of tearful rain to fall.
On and on this tainted sun will burn those that try for the moon,
In a dystopic reality that is far from a fantasy written by the stars.

© Fi S. J. Brown

First Dates

I am not a lover of reality television, but decided to try watch a dating one called ‘First Dates’ as one of the participants like me has alopecia and was interested how the woman would be shown to their audience as well as how it impacted upon her and her life.

The lady in question was called Eve, much younger than me and a beauty therapist from Wales. I felt her tears as she told her story and felt proud of her for telling it in such a public way. She approached the topic with her date early on, which if had been me this would be not a topic for a first date even if for TV and led to her removing her wig. I have to say she looked so much happier and confident without it, the style and jet black didn’t suit her at all. She had a tattoo on her scalp with a few patches of hair (I have neither) but seemed to fit her personality as shown on the screen. The confidence she gave out was incredible and her date was lovely about it all; in the end he was too nice for her (why do some women do that I have no idea). The media and people on social media I have seen have been very supportive and positive generally, which has made me cry a bit.

I have been wearing a wig for over twenty five years now and could never have done this so fair play to Eve. However, it has gone from seeing me naked if saw me without it to just part of what makes me who I am; only last night my best friend and I were discussing what colour and style I should try next time, which I could never have done a few years back as felt shamed that my body killed its own hair cells like they were a disease. Every time the wind blows heavily I worry it will blow away, which can lead to panic attacks and why I always have a scarf on me, but it fits my personality anyway. Being bullied for my hair loss and wearing a wig in my teens are still massive scars for me, which I don’t know if time will fully ever heal. I maybe able to take selfies and share some on social media but that took therapy and a huge effort to get there, going from an ogre to a rag doll, to rewire my brain that I am not ugly or a freak to the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and Hunchback of Notre Dame. One day I would love to do a charity walk without mine but for now I will plough on finding new confidence daily. This free spirit is learning to fly, the phoenix I will forever be, who needs hair anyway…not me!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mental Health Awareness Week (2017)

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week worldwide, so excuse my little essay that follows. For it is a chance to start those conversations that for some are so difficult to begin we do not know how, and need to listen actively with an open mind that does not judge or laugh back. We all have good days and bad days but when those days seem to merge into one grey mess it can be hard to find the courage to ask for help as do not know who’s hand will grab ours back and those that will push us under to drown us. It is often through surviving through the thick fog we discover our true friends that will always have one hand there for us and the other with a tea/coffee to give with us; sharing experiences and a slice of cake and laughter as realise we do that thing too.

For some the image from Hollywood movies is still very much how they see someone that has any mental health condition, yet the truth it can happen to any of us at any time and we look no different to anyone else. We cannot just ‘snap out of it’ as events can leave scars that may not be visible but inside are ripping us apart days to weeks and months to years later, reliving those times again and again without them ever stopping. We may also have a brain who’s chemistry is out of sync, so need medication in order for it function, just as we may take insulin for diabetes. Finding an outlet such as writing, painting and dance can also help us, but others turn to alcohol and/or illegal drugs, as sometimes we just want it all to stop with a full stop/period.

Going to therapy is a way to express just how we feel, words aloud can be scary and ring on in our minds after we have said them. Letting in a stranger can feel as invasive as brain surgery, which is why a qualified therapist is a must. The current UK general election has even been discussing mental health provision, at a time when many services have been or being axed already perhaps this should have been considered first. Health should not have to be split into health and mental health as adds to the stigma; medicine should be holistic covering body, mind, and spirit as everything is interconnected. We are all human, we all experience this journey uniquely, and we are all loved and appreciated, just remember that. The past is gone but yet still may hurt us, the future is unwritten but we can choose a new path; yet we live in the now, we can support and be there for each other today, and we can end this old stigma on mental health for good.

© Fi S. J. Brown