Posts Tagged ‘danger’

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shame.

June 2, 2011

In pursuit of trying to attain a carefree, happy state, I need to try and unburden myself of the baggage that I carry. I think that we all do, and we all have stupid things buried in our past that become a part of us and that resonate as mistakes we are embarrassed by. I generally try and move on and learn from my mistakes, and luckily I can say that each of the following things that I am ashamed of, I have only done once! As long as we learn from our mistakes, that is the important thing. But I want to share 5 of my biggest, most embarrassing mistakes with you so that I can relieve myself of the chips on my shoulder (or try and wipe away the grease these chips have left behind!), and so that we can all see that we ALL do stupid things and we’re only human – unless we fixate on them and don’t move past, we are not defined by our mistakes.

1. Car accident

A month and a half ago, I had become much more confident with my driving, and I had found myself caught behind cars which were driving very slowly and being quite impressive. I never drive aggressively, but I was becoming impatient. It was the Easter holidays, and I was leaving for work on a Wednesday morning. My mother told me to drive carefully, and I brushed it off with a “yeah, yeah”because I thought she was worrying unduly and just doing what mothers do. You know what’s coming next.

Not 10 minutes away from my house, I can’t remember why but I looked down at my phone on the seat next to me for a second. In that second, my hands must have moved on the wheel, I veered into the other lane of oncoming traffic, and I looked up to see my wing mirror being knocked off the car by a van, and although it had swerved to avoid me, the back of the van hit the front wing of my car. Now everyone was fine, the damage was not major, and I just needed to pay for some polish to remove the worst of the scratches, some touch up paint, and a new wing mirror glass to replace the one that had been shattered (the rest of the wing mirror luckily just popped back onto the car in the same way it had popped off).

But I just felt so embarrassed at a) making such a stupid mistake, especially when my phone hadn’t even done anything! My phone stays on silent in my pocket from now on, and I put a playlist on my ipod of what music I will listen to on my journeys prior to setting off!

b) That I could have done much more serious damage, and injured myself or another person. It was bad enough that I had ruined my pretty car (that’s how I felt – now that it’s all touched up, the dent is barely noticeable – especially compared to a lot of cars’ scratches and war wounds) and damaged another person’s vehicle.

c) What would other people think of me having an accident only 3 and a half months after getting a car? Would my friends, my partner, my family risk getting in a car with me again? I was clearly careless, and I was afraid of being judged. Slowly but surely, I have told some of my friends and I was surprised to know that they have nearly all been in a similar position. The most common expression is “oh, you’ve had your first prang!” This makes me feel a little better, because I am not alone. I certainly drive more carefully as a result – I just wish that it hadn’t taken a car accident to make me wake up and be less complacent.

I lost my confidence with driving, and I am only now getting it back. I felt disappointed in myself and doubted my own ability. Mike was absolutely brilliant – he told me to just get in the car, drive to work, and then we went to Halfords and sorted out the door hinge, polished and painted up the dents and scratches, and ordered a new wing mirror glass. And this is the attitude I need to maintain – no matter how disappointed in myself I felt (and I felt pretty low in the days following the accident), I got back on the horse and kept going. Even when I didn’t want to. So that (along with the not looking at my phone while driving) is what I am taking away from this experience.

2. Walking on the motorway in Spain

My friend Jen from LA had come to visit me for a few days during my placement year as an English Language Assistant in San Roque (southern Spain). On the way back from Algeciras on the bus, it seemed like it suddenly got dark and I ended up getting us off the bus at the wrong stop. We didn’t have much change, so rather than wait for the next bus to come along, I decided that we should just walk up to a clearer area and then I would call my flatmate Juan and hope that he would pick us up (which he ultimately did). This involved walking up alongside the motorway – it was unsafe, and Jen was shaking and crying all the way to the roundabout where we met Juan. Although at the time I was scared myself, I felt that we had no option other than to walk – in retrospect, we should have waited at the bus stop for the next bus to come and explained our predicament to the driver. It would have been much safer, and I am ashamed that I put both of our lives in danger, just because I had not enough money and too much pride. I would never make that mistake again, and I was lucky that Jen forgave me easily.

3. Writing ‘SEX’ on my classmate’s art overalls

When I was in year 4 at school, I was fascinated by sex because at that age, it was naughty and forbidden and I was just gathering an awareness of what it was. Because it was naughty and provocative, and my classmate Nick was pissing me off in an Art lesson, I scrawled the word “SEX” in green paint on his overalls. Looking back, this is obviously not a big deal and sort of hilarious – at the time, Nick went to tell our art teacher, who told me I was “evil” and my punishment was to take the overalls home and wash them. Which meant my mother saw, and she asked me why I had written it. I had no real answer, she didn’t talk to me for a day, I returned the clean overalls, my art teacher forgot that I was “evil”, and everything was ultimately fine. But I was ashamed at the time because it was such a shocking thing for a child to write and to do, and being told I was “evil” only made me feel that sex was dirty and naughty, giving me some issues to work through in my teenage years.

4. Mentioning 9/11 to a new student from New York.

When I was in for an induction day for 6th form, we were introduced to a new student who had come over from New York. Her name was Alex, she looked nervous and I decided, in my utmost wisdom, to be friendly and warm towards her. We made polite conversation, and then I decided to put my foot in my mouth and mention 9/11 (which had happened nearly a year ago, by this point), and ask how her family and everyone had coped with it. What possessed me? The poor girl just smiled and flabbergasted, said that everyone was coping and that it hadn’t really affected her overly much. I learned from this that I should think before I speak and that if something seems like it might be a faux pas, then it’s best not to say it. Needless to say, we did not end up being friends.

5. Overreaction at the QCG 2009 Christmas party.

I wrote about this here, so I won’t rewrite it. All I can say is that but a few weeks later, I met Toby (the real love of my life) and I can now look back and see how neurotic I was, and how much I have chilled out. And I can still be pretty neurotic now, to be honest – so when I was younger, I was probably quite crazy!  I have learned to try and keep my composure, to just keep moving in life, and that love is just around the corner, even when it seems most unlikely. And a year and a half on, Mike and I are still close friends and that is the most important thing.

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angelic.

May 17, 2011

I’ve written before about becoming more in touch and at peace with my darker side. My tattoos might be all in black ink, and some might consider them sinister- or dangerous-looking, but for me they are a beautiful expression of my inner self. I have not regretted any of them for a second, and the more I see them, the more I love them.

When pondering ideas for my 5th tattoo, I keep returning to the ideas of wings. Now, I already have a rather large black raven on my hip, so another bird might be overkill – I have never had a particular affinity for birds, so one beautiful one could be considered enough. To me, birds and the act of flying are symbolic of freedom and independence. So I am still cogitating on what to get, and it’s good that I have no clear idea because I certainly don’t have the money to afford a new tattoo any time soon! But I keep returning to the idea of an angel, or at least an angel’s wing.

Now, I know this might be feminine, so I have to think about how to draw it out and to have it. And I think that a pair of wings which took up the whole of my back might be a) too symmetrical, and b) too large. So as you can see, I really still have no idea! As did all my other tattoos, the perfect design and placement will just come to me in good time, and I will know it when I feel it. But I wanted to return to and explore the symbolism of the angel a little bit more. It’s ironic that when I have felt that these tattoos are an expression of my dark side, that an angel appeals to me as a combination of both the edgy and of the purely sweet and innocent. I guess I am quite a sweet and sensitive person on the inside, and I only want the best for everyone (myself included). I am not someone who takes hurting others lightly, and I will try to go out of my way to help others when I can. I’m not perfect – I’m only human! – but I think of myself as a good person and I always try to do my best and do right by all.

Sometimes I wonder whether the idea of being dangerous, or edgy, is a façade that people wear in order to make themselves feel / appear more interesting, more complex. I used to feel that I was so boring, only to realise that actually, I am lucky to have the ability to just follow my heart and have good core values. There is plenty about me that makes me fun, a good friend, and interesting! Living on the edge from time to time is fine, but I don’t understand why it is not considered socially “cool” or exciting to try your best and resist breaking all the rules. When someone tries too hard to “be bad” for show, they end up being more of a geek, or more uncool, than those who choose to stay within the lines and obey rules and laws – because they are clearly just pressed, and in life it’s important to just enjoy oneself and let go at times – both in the context of letting go of all the pressures and constraints we live under from family and friends, and of all of the social norms that push and pull us to be something we’re not, be that an angel or a devil. I just get on with my life and try to live the best I can, being as good to others as I can be while still putting myself first and making sure I value myself. So does an angel really suit me? I do have my dark side, but at my core I am nice and sweet. So perhaps I am angelic… a little bit! But I am mostly human and only time will tell if that tattoo idea is right for me.

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another driving lesson…

March 18, 2011

So yesterday I drove to Taunton and back for a Sexual Health Regional conference. The conference was interesting (some of it went over my head, but some of it was quite useful and I felt privileged to have been invited!) and I felt triumphant that I navigated my way to Taunton and back home with little difficulty. However, I learned that I drove too fast, at times, on the motorway. I have been told off by my parents, by Toby and by Mike – I know they care about me and I wasn’t in danger – the car was never out of control and I never had to swerve to avoid anything or to correct any drift. I’m talking about speeding.

Now, I was on the motorway driving quite happily in the right lane. I was going a fair amount over the limit, but no faster than the other cars in that lane – a lot of the time, I was keeping up with traffic. However, I still have a big fear that I might have been caught speeding – although I saw no cameras or police vans, and I didn’t see any flashes (let alone be followed and pulled over), I am now paranoid that at some point before the end of the month I am going to get a letter through fining me and putting points on my licence. I probably haven’t been caught, because I expect I am dramatising things in my head and the bad speeding was only for a couple of seconds at a time. I didn’t see any flashes, which are apparently what you look for – even in the daytime sunshine, they are apparently visible. But I feel like just having this fear has made me learn my lesson, because I’m going to dread letters in the post for the next two weeks. This is punishment enough! I can’t afford to pay any fines, and I can’t afford to have my licence taken away – I just got it and I need my car! Not to mention the embarrassment… I am sure I am just being paranoid and dramatic – after all, I don’t have any points at the moment whatsoever and I plan on keeping it that way, especially now. I wasn’t going faster than other cars on the road, and I know that plenty of people go faster than I was and still get away with it. I just wanted to write that it’s really not worth the fear of the next two weeks – which I have to endure – to go too fast. So don’t do it kids. Love y’all.

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paralysis.

July 12, 2010

This weekend was lovely for me.  I went to London to see Toby’s new place and also to spend some time with Nana, one of my closest friends from my time at Oxford.  I was due to be in London the following weekend (now this coming weekend) anyway as me and Toby are going to the Surrey University Grad Ball, but Nana texted me asking whether I was free and she needed to talk.  As it’s more than about time I went down to London (she’s come to visit me in Bristol a few times but between university, family and various other commitments I had never made it down), I decided to take a trip on the very cheap Megabus and spend a couple of days.  We had a really nice time eating, chilling, shopping (though I was restrained with spending money – my driving test is looming so it’s time to prioritise) and it was just great to catch up.  But anyway, that’s not what I’m writing about.

On the Friday night after we’d been for cocktails (Toby & Nana got on superbly, and they were able to talk about science while I smiled and vacated my brain and just looked pretty), Toby and I got the tube back to his.  We got off at Earls Court, and due to him not usually getting off at that station and it being vaguely confusing in the night-time, he ended up walking me slightly the wrong way.  We went down one road in particular, and in the entranceway to the first house on the road there was a man slumped, ostensibly asleep.  It was about 10:45 in the evening, he had a backpack still on his back, and he was strewn across the entrance to the house with one arm covering his face.  His clothes looked vaguely dirty (probably from the ground) but other than that I couldn’t tell much of his appearance, from my vantage point of being stood up.  In other words, it just looked like he’d had too much to drink and passed out.

Toby and I stopped, and Toby wondered if the guy was alright.  At this point, I urged Toby to just keep walking, as he was probably just drunk and would be fine. As the words came out of my mouth, I started to question myself: Why was I so eager to just carry on? What if something bad had happened to the guy? What if he needed someone to call the emergency services? And most of all, what was I so afraid of? I can’t deny that I felt a strong intuition to just keep walking and not get involved in something that was probably not a problem and certainly not my business. The media report and project so many stories about people who’ve wound up injured, hurt or worse by getting involved in other people’s tribulations when they were only trying to help.  But what if that man were me? What if I needed somebody to call for help on my behalf, and they just kept on walking?

The dilemma swirled in my mind even as I convinced Toby that we should just leave the guy and keep on walking. As luck would have it, Toby was using the GPS on his mobile and discovered we needed to walk back down the same road and take a different turning to get to his place, so we were due to end up passing the unconscious man again. To assuage my conscience, I said that if the guy looked like he was really in trouble, if we could see blood or signs of something dangerous (we had already noted that the guy didn’t appear to be bleeding, and seemed to be breathing ok), we would call the police. As we approached the entrance to the house again, we passed many other pedestrians on their way home / wherever, and none of them seemed to be the slightest bit concerned about the guy. At this point, I wondered whether I was just naïve: I’m from a decent-sized city but it’s not London, and things are different there. Perhaps it was even more commonplace than in Bristol, and perhaps they had judged it more dangerous to get involved than to keep walking.  Maybe they hadn’t even noticed. But the combination of other people’s lack of concern, the fact that a lot of the houses had lights on so it wasn’t as if the guy would be in danger nor did any of the occupants seem to be particularly bothered by his presence, and the fact that when we did pass him again, he didn’t seem to be in any distress or be injured (in other words, he did genuinely appear to be passed out asleep) meant that we didn’t call 999 but just went on our way.

I hope that he was alright in the end. I just can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing: obviously putting my own safety (and Toby’s) first is important. But at the same time, how much danger could a barely conscious man who was probably stinking drunk pose to us? Why did I feel an instinctual sense of alarm, and was I right to trust that instinct? I believe myself to be the kind of person who would help a person in need, but in this instance should I have done more? Or am I just being naïve and thinking about a commonplace incident far too much? Am I right in thinking that if nobody living on the road nor the other pedestrians walking past seemed to be alarmed, I didn’t need to be either? Is that just being realistic, or is it a dangerous blind eye to turn? I wonder what this says about me as a person, about us as an urban society, that we’re afraid of making a social blunder that could cost us our own personal safety, even when the situation probably is less dangerous than we fear and the person might need our help? Is the media to blame for hyping such incidents to the point that we are too afraid to help others for fear of the consequences that a misguided retaliation might mean for ourselves? I suppose the most telling thing is that if I could do it again, I would probably do exactly the same and play it safe for me and Toby. I just wonder if it was the right thing to do.

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Monica – Still Standing. (album review)

March 21, 2010

Still Standing is Monica’s first album since The Makings Of Me 4 years ago.  Like that album, Still Standing stands at a brief ten tracks (bonuses excluded), and the font on the album cover is the same.  Missy Elliott has a strong presence in the album’s production, and in case you forget this fact, she grunts and shouts at the beginning of some of the tracks to announce “New Monica! Hot shit!” This annoying tic disrupts the flow of an album that is largely slow to mid-tempo, and is unnecessary since we know we’re listening to Monica and we don’t need Missy Elliott to bludgeon us over the head with her opinion of her own track.

Unlike The Makings Of Me however, Still Standing is “hot shit” from beginning to end.  Representing the strongest album Monica has released since The Boy Is Mine (or possibly  All Eyez On Me), Still Standing contains one uptempo track, “If You Were My Man”, which is tellingly the album’s only weak point, riding an 80s groove that sounds genuine and laid back even as the bass knocks hard.  Apart from this song, the album runs at a slow, leisurely pace that really invites the listener to sink into the songs and contemplate the alternately loving and lovelorn lyrics accompanying the tracks.  Despite the album’s slow tempo, the 10 tracks seem to be over too soon, and when an album makes you want to press repeat immediately, that’s a good sign that it’s a decent effort.  What’s more, although there was a real danger that with so many slow songs, they might melt into one another to become a big treacly mess, the lyrics, melodies and production are all immaculate throughout and each song is distinguished from the next.  “Still Standing” (the first song we heard from this project way back in 2008, which opens the album with a declaration of strength and resilient and deserves to be the title track) and “Mirror” employ persistent, menacing synths and underlying piano to emphasise the empowering nature of their lyrics, and are two highlights from the album.

“Everything To Me”, the album’s first proper single, has been an unlikely hit considering its radio-unfriendliness (a 3/4 time signature? How refreshing!).  However, its soaring declaration of love is elevated by Monica’s stellar vocal delivery, and while sonically she sounds more and more like a young Mary J. Blige (Still Standing is the album Stronger With Each Tear should have been), it is becoming more and more apparent that Clive Davis was right all along and Monica is truly the vocal heir to Whitney Houston.  “One In A Lifetime” (which couldn’t sound more like a Mary J. Blige track if it tried, robbing liberally from her mega-hit “Be Without You”) is radio-ready but still sincere, while “Superman” employs a plethora of hero metaphors over a slow-jam beat.

In contrast to these romantic songs stands “Stay Or Go”, another album highlight which takes the flowing piano from Chris Brown’s “So Cold” (the best song from his mediocre Graffiti), slows it down and adds more mature lyrics and beautiful vocal stylings to the mix to serve up an effective ultimatum to Monica’s love interest.  Album closer “Believing In Me” sees Monica heartbroken, defiant and finding her strength of heart and soul all over again in the wake of a broken relationship.  Just as “Getaway” was a declaration of vulnerability at the end of The Makings Of Me, so is “Believing In Me” a declaration of vulnerability but also independence, which one might relate to Monica’s recent split from her long-time partner Rocko.  It closes the album well, with Monica’s vocals on the edge of tears close to the song’s climax.

Still Standing succeeds because while it sounds current, it doesn’t pander to radio’s demands for disposable fluff and instead hews close to Monica’s strengths as a supreme R&B vocalist, giving her solid melodies to express heartfelt lyrics.  Every song is strong and uncompromising, standing on its own merits and together these songs form a cohesive whole.  Annoying grunts aside, Missy Elliott handles production duties well, as do the other producers (particularly Bryan-Michael Cox), and if the album is brief at 10 tracks, at least it serves up excellent quality and is markedly better than The Makings Of Me which contained the same number of songs.  It feels like Monica has really hit her stride after previous album wobbles, and it’s so refreshing in 2010 to find some artists making true R&B still enjoying commercial and critical success.

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g4l. (my new tattoo)

February 6, 2010

Yesterday, I got my second tattoo done, check it out!

That picture is taken straight after the guy had finished tattooing, so that’s why it’s quite red – the blood is at the surface.  In a couple of weeks when the tattoo has healed, the shading will look much more black and grey, which will be perfect! Needless to say, having a tattoo on my ribs was a tad bit more painful than my first one above my collarbone, but I handled it like a man, and Mike reassured me a couple of times which was helpful (we’re both two tats apiece now!).  I didn’t get hardly any sleep last night, because my tattoo is quite sore and every time I rolled over on it, I seemed to wake up, but I’m happy to sacrifice a little sleep for a piece of art I’m truly happy with.

A lot of people have asked “Why a gun???” I think that it’s a little darker than people expect from me, but it has its significance to me.  Firstly, I like the fact that it’s a little dark, a little edgy, a little dangerous.  I was inspired by Rihanna because she has a little gun on her side, but I really didn’t want to just copy her tattoo: a) it didn’t have that much detail in it, and b) I wanted it on my ribs as opposed on my side on level with my chest.  I had my own ideas, and that’s the most important thing I think when getting a tattoo: it has to be what you want.  That’s why I’m so into custom design, rather than picking something from a book or from the display cards in the studio.  The gun means that I’ll never be defenceless again, and it’s a little reminder of the fact that I always possess some power, some control in life.  Finally, I modified the design to make it a revolver instead of your average pistol / shotgun, because I am in love with Rihanna’s song “Russian Roulette” – not only is it a beautiful song to listen to and to sing, but the lyrics mean so much to me.  In short, when I listen to it, it’s the story of Mike & me, it’s a story of love and heartache and the danger bound up in that.   And for those reasons, I wanted to get the revolver barrel put on my gun to honour that; over the past 4 months I’ve had to grow up a lot, and those experiences have really shaped who I have become and my maturity, my outlook on life.

The tattoo studio I went to this time was Iron & Ink on Bristol Road in Whitchurch Village: Dean and Lewis are both fantastically talented and really nice blokes, and having done this tattoo + two for Mike, and Phill’s getting one there next week (where are our loyalty cards?!?! 😛 ), I can’t recommend them enough.  They may be a tiny bit pricier than some other tattoo parlours (their minimum charge I think is £40, rather than £15 or £20 that you might find elsewhere), but I hope the picture above demonstrates that you get what you pay for.  At the moment, they have small waiting lists (I expect this to change as they become more well-known!) and I booked my gun last week, got it done yesterday, thankyou very much – and they’ll work on a design brief you give them and customise it so that it looks the best it can.  I thoroughly recommend them!