Oops, I forgot to blog for five months.

I’m here because I need to write, but both of the novels I’m working on have toxic fumes coming out of them.

I only started the second novel because the first one — the one I’ve been “working on” for three years now — was doing the toxic fume thing and I needed another writing outlet and now look at what’s happened! Goddammit! Infectious novel-rot. “Give it up,” says my brain. “Give up this writing dream until you’re 45 and you have something to say and the skill to say it.”

My brain and I are not always the best team. But here I am. And here’s a life update, courtesy of my brain, soothed by tea and the breeze coming through the window on my left and the peace lily on the desk on front of me. That’s a good place to start.

1. Luc and I are living in a new flat and we’ve been filling it with plants, because plants are happy-making and alive and they’re not technically pets, so they don’t violate the terms of our tenancy. That doesn’t mean I won’t be upset if (when) one of them dies. I will, in fact, be very upset. So far, in addition to the tiny dragon tree I bought at Ikea two years ago (named “Hogarth” after the street we were living in then), we have:

  • A big dragon tree with two smaller dragon trees in the same pot. (Currently unnamed. Taking suggestions.)
  • Two peace lilies. (Named Simon Pegg and Angel, both names related to the movie “Hot Fuzz”, which I finally got around to watching at the insistence of our recent guests and which brought the existence of peace lilies to my attention.)
  • Two ferns. (Currently unnamed, though I have a few ideas I’m toying with…)
  • A ragged little buxus tree. (Named Renly Baratheon. He was our first purchase for the balcony. I might have doomed him by naming him after a dead king. Despite repotting him, he’s looking a bit yellow.)
  • A cupressus macrocarpa. (Named Fartknocker. I asked Luc to name this one. He doesn’t take the naming of plants seriously enough, in my opinion.)
  • Two little lavender bushes. (Named Trinity and Serenity. These were gifts from the aforementioned guests, who helped with the names — twin names, bringing to mind two of my favourite bits of pop culture: The Matrix and Firefly.)

The new flat is conveniently located near to shops and the underground and it has a spare room that I occupy as an office when it’s not inhabited by guests… Guests!

2. We had guests! Guests with luggage! Guests all the way from South Africa! Two of our oldest friends came to stay for nine days this month and it was fantastic. It was hot and sticky in London for almost the entire duration of their visit, but that didn’t stop us from doing loads of touristy things (and not-so-touristy things). Some things I experienced for the first time and felt like a tourist again myself: the London Eye, the London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at how much guiding I was able to do. I’m certainly not the greatest guide, but I’ll confidently state that I can do a better job of showing people around London than I could ever do in Cape Town, and that’s something. I sort of know how all the important bits link together and I’m familiar with enough cool things to fill up at least two weeks for London newbies.

And here we have... a phonebox! It smells like piss.
And here we have… a phonebox! It smells like piss.

We also had another guest at our flat, just briefly, before she headed back to Berlin. We went for a picnic in my favourite London park. There was cheese. It was a good day! I had last seen her in Cape Town. It’s so weird and so nice seeing old friends in new contexts.

3. I joined this feminist meetup group in January and have been to a quite a few cool events with them since then. An exhibition, a debate, a lecture, a body-shaming protest/ body-positive celebration… I’ve slacked off a bit lately because of the heat and other engagements, but I’m so grateful for meetup. And for feminists. It’s difficult to build a social life from scratch, especially in a place like London, and it’s great that technology can help to bring likeminded people together.

Yay! Femimists!

4. I’m sort of working backwards. Which brings me to… our wedding! After our rushed coffee-shop marriage in 2014, we decided to have a belated wedding celebration on the week of our first anniversary, because these sorts of opportunities for merriment don’t come around all that often. It was a beautiful, colourful, special day of heightened emotion and over-consumption. (I mainly over-consumed the iced tea.) The sun was out, we had friends and family there, and we did it our way. It was, I think, a bullshit-free wedding, and I will always remember it with great love and fondness.

Totally not posing.
Totally not posing.

5. Antidepressants. They might seem like a downer to mention at the end of such a merry list, but they’re ANTI-depressants, sooo… yeah. I’ve been on them since the end of last year and I think they’ve made a big difference. Can you tell? As evidenced by some of my blue-tinged/-soaked blog posts last year, the sads kept coming back, no matter what I did, and I was finding it all a bit debilitating, so my doctor (I call her mine because I ask for her specifically these days and begrudge having to see anyone else) recommended the meds. I never wanted to join the ranks of the medicated, but fuck it. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, and I don’t regret it. Things are way better now (apart from my energy levels and, relatedly, my writing, but I’ll save all that for a whingey blog post some time in the future when I’m feeling whingey).

I could write much more about this year so far, buuuut… maybe I should have another go at one of those novels. Urgh. “CACKING ICKRICK!”, as Berro would say. It’s an inside joke. I mean, it’s a joke that only I’m in on. Actually it’s not a joke. Man, writing is a lonely business.


Mini Review: ‘The Bone Clocks’, by David Mitchell



It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart and bookshelf for Mr Mitchell. Why? To name but a few reasons: the beautiful imagery, effortless humour, diversity of style, wild ideas and the fact that he doesn’t quite follow the “rules”. It’s not for everyone, sure, but I get such a kick out of this sort of genre-bending weirdness. This novel is six books stitched together with a character and a thread of the paranormal. It almost needs six super-mini reviews… Hmm…

Super-Mini Reviews: The Six Parts of ‘The Bone Clocks’, by David Mitchell

1. A Hot Spell, 1984: The protagonist’s voice is strong, the setting is vivid, the skin-crawl factor from the paranormal bits is like a fish hook through the face, dragging you onward.

2. Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume, 1991: My favourite of the six. Despicably eloquent snobs and such a perfect contrast to the first bit.

3. The Wedding Bash, 2004: This one was a mixed bag; parts of it were on the plodding side, I felt, and the focal character voice less interesting than the previous two, but the climactic scene was brilliantly handled.

4. Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet, 2015: Shameless metafiction bathed in acidic humour. I wanted to hate Crispin, and sometimes I did, but I don’t think any writer or wannabe writer could ever hate him completely…

5. An Horologist’s Labyrinth, 2025: The paranormal becomes the focus here. If any of the parts are going to chase away the more literary readers, it’s this one. Super weird, but it had to be there and I was entertained throughout.

6. Sheep’s Head, 2043: A sobering conclusion. It’s not without it’s paranormal thread, but it’s chillingly real after part five’s flights of fantasy. There’s hope too, thank goodness; hope for us tragic bone clocks.

Verdict: Did I love it? Yes. Was it as good as Cloud Atlas? I don’t know. Should you read it? Absolutely, unless you’re allergic to the paranormal stuff!

Stuff happened! Stuff is happening!

Hey, blog! Stuff has been happening in my life! I’ve barely left the house since my last update, but still… stuff!


Yep. My secret dream of rocking the boat by spawning a few illegitimate children one day has been crushed by a marriage proposal, which I obviously accepted because it came from this guy:


The event happened quite spontaneously and without too much pomp and/or ceremony (I was in my pyjamas and he used a hair-tie instead of a ring) as a result of the second point of stuff, which I shall detail below. I am extremely happy. As I was saying to a friend, nothing has changed, but everything has changed. It’s a weird feeling.

The customary ring pic. BLING.
The customary ring pic. BLING.


My application for a UK residence permit was denied because the home office feels that there is insufficient evidence that my relationship with an EU citizen is a durable relationship. We provided plenty of evidence, short of giving them access to our Facebook profiles and our mutual friends’ phone numbers, but these people are unbelievably full of shit and have rigged the system to make it as complicated, unfriendly and unfair as possible, so that’s that. It doesn’t matter that I have extended family who are British or that most of my ancestors are British. It doesn’t matter that my parents emigrated here with me in the 1980s and then moved back due to unforeseen circumstances. It doesn’t matter that I’m a hard-working, educated person who is enthusiastic about making a positive contribution to the country. I’ve grown up immersed in their culture and literature. I love London; it’s a world city with a rich history; it’s a fascinating, diverse, cosmopolitan homebase and a launchpad to everywhere. I want to be here. But none of that is of any consequence. I have been told that I have to leave the UK and they’ll only return my passport to me at the airport upon my departure.

We could appeal the decision, but we didn’t do anything wrong in the initial application, so we don’t see how an appeal would help, and we can’t afford the lawyers who could have the decision overturned. (We spoke to some lawyers and they agreed that it’s unfair and were confident that they could undo it, but the price of their services is just terrifying.) The appeal process can take such a long time that we might as well go for option two, which is us going back to Cape Town, getting married (because even getting married in the UK is not without bureaucratic difficulties) and then Luc heading back while I start the whole business over again: getting another family permit to get back to London and then applying for the residence card again as a married woman. More than six years together, four years of cohabitation, multiple joint tenancy agreements and utility bills (etc etc) weren’t enough to prove the durability of our relationship, but hopefully marriage will be.

We will overcome this problem, because Luc has a good job here and I’m not going to let him quit that job on my behalf. I will live here with him, legally. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. I will succeed. But this doesn’t do away with the bitter taste in my mouth. If it wasn’t for Luc’s job and the fact that I’ve met some really wonderful people here, I’d actually quite like to  give the UK the finger and go live in Canada instead. They’ve chucked a massive stumbling block right into the middle of an important part of my life and currently non-existent career, and I’m not happy about it.

Life goes on, though. I’m just one of the countless masses who have experienced crap treatment by lowly bureaucrats, but in comparison to many (if not, most) others, I have managed to get off quite lightly. I haven’t been persecuted or treated as sub-human (only sub-British), so I’m still lucky. Plus, it was this situation that made Luc rush home from work and pop The Question, so the 8th of January was redeemed.


I’ve been doing some online editing from home for a company that filters a huge tidal wave of assorted articles, and that’s been keeping me busy and somewhat sane. Since my internship ended, I’ve been terrified about descending into a depressed state again and there have already been moments when it felt like that was happening, but I’m fighting it off with work and with a part of my brain that I’ve geared up specifically to resist such a descent. Everyone knows that stress and depression are unhealthy, and I get charming physical reminders of that fact. Aside from the common back tension and digestive complaints, my skin also goes completely, horrifically haywire and my jaw problems become very intense when things aren’t running smoothly, and it’s just not worth it. I’m trying to keep my health at the top of my list of priorities. Every time I feel like I’m sinking mentally, I just remind myself how much worse I’ll feel physically if I let it happen. I seem to respond better to physical consequences rather than mental ones. Knowing that I’m in danger of losing the will to live doesn’t light a fire-cracker under my backside, but the prospect of getting even more spots than I already have does, for some reason. Focussing on physical well-being seems to be working so far. I also painted my nails, bought some strawberries, put up a string of fairy lights along the wall… little things, little things.

Edible happiness.
Edible happiness.

I’ve had a few good social engagements this year, one of which was a wonderful Sunday roast with some people I met through my internship. I ate delicious things I’ve never eaten before and introduced them all the wonders of the South African Peppermint Crisp tart, made with ingredients from one of the South African stores in Wimbledon. It was a very good day and one of the memories I’m filing under Reasons Why Living in London is Lovely which is still a bigger list than Reasons Why Living in London is Not Lovely, despite the valiant efforts of the home office to tip the balance. On my most recent meetup with my dear travel-blogger friend Kasha (during which we sampled some bread pudding with tea at a tea room in our local park), I saw my first ever totally frozen puddles. I found this very exciting. That said… where is my damn snow?

Winter is... here?
Winter is… here?

We’re waiting to hear back from the home office to find out when they’ll be receiving my passport from their secure location (what the hell?) so that we can reschedule our flights to Cape Town, far away from any frozen puddles. Even though this whole affair has put another dent in my career prospects (something I’m trying very hard not to think about too much at the moment) I am so looking forward to seeing my family and friends on the other side of the world. I’ve been in touch with many people recently, especially since the whole engagement thing happened, and I can’t wait to see some faces, share some drinks and make some new happy memories to chase the admin blues (or greys) away.

Love love love. So much of it. Onwards!

Printed Books vs E-books

Printed books versus e-books! Which side are you on? Take your positions and draw your weapons because it’s a bloody, gory, paper-shreddy, gadget-smashy fight to the death! Or is it?

I honestly don’t think it is. I shall now provide you with Laurie’s Definitive List of Pros and Cons with regards to both printed books and e-books, which should explain why I don’t have a particular preference. (Disclaimer: It’s probably not definitive.)

My e-book pros and cons were written with the Kindle in mind, because I have a Kindle. I’m not keen on the idea of reading on a back-lit tablet screen because of the eye strain, and I prefer the Kindle because of its longer battery life and single function (no internet distractions!) but I know that plenty of people are perfectly happy with the tablet as a reading device. To each her own!

Laurie’s ‘Definitive’ List of Pros and Cons



Printed books are physically wonderful things. The texture of the paper, the cover, the size and the weight, the way that time affects the object, making it softer, yellower, more lovely in many ways… They are great to look at, great to hold, great to page or flip through, great to stroke, stroke, stroke. You can stack them up or put them in a bookshelf and they are beautiful.

Libraries and bookshops and the magic of browsing through them wouldn’t exist as they do without the physical wonderfulness of books.

Printed books are transferable. You can lend them out, trade them, give them away, wrap them in paper as a gift, hand them down through generations or donate them to charity book shops. They get battle-worn and marked and stained… and it gives them character.

You can use bookmarks in printed books. Bookmarks are practical and and they’re also just nice, especially when they’re old ticket stubs or receipts or other things attached to happy memories.

You can get printed books signed by the author, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Book smell. Mmm.


Printed books take up space. This is not always practical, especially when you have to travel light or you only have a small bookshelf.

Trees have to die for printed books to be made and the production process is usually dirty and bad for the environment.

Some printed books are very big and heavy, which can make them awkward to read in various situations and inconvenient to transport. I wouldn’t want to carry À la recherche du temps perdu around all day just so I can read it on the tube, for example.

Precipitation. Paper and precipitation are not friends. Another weather-related issue is the difficulty of turning pages with gloves on or when your fingers are so cold that they cease to function.

I’ve included the aging process of books as a ‘pro’, but it can also be a ‘con’. When books start shedding pages and coming undone at the spine, it’s just horrible. Replacing a book can be sad, expensive or even impossible.

Printed books can get damaged; scratched, bent, buckled, creased too deeply along the spine… Of course this isn’t necessarily a problem, but many books sit gathering dust in bookshops and publishing houses, shunned because customers don’t like to pay for imperfect specimens. Tragic.



Portability. A nifty little e-reader can be slipped snugly into a backpack or handbag and follow you around all day without breaking your back or getting itself crumpled or ripped by your keys or irreversibly tainted by the fermenting banana lurking beneath.

There’s a button for page turning. This is a massive pro for anyone who uses public transport that requires standing and a free hand for clinging onto straps and poles in order to prevent grave injury or death. The ability to turn pages with a subtle flick of the thumb also allows one to read while wearing inconveniently fluffy gloves, or while finding oneself pressed uncomfortably into the armpit of a fellow commuter. As long as you can achieve a line of sight with the words on the page, you can read anywhere, in any situation, and in some of the less desirable situations, the ability to read might be the only thing preventing you from committing homicide. Breathe in, breathe out, get lost in the literature.

An e-reader is easy to prop up and you can put it flat in front of you and read it without even touching it, until you need to ‘turn the page’. Most printed books need to be held open, and this can be a bit uncomfortable or inconvenient. I like reading in bed. Everyone who does this knows the difficulties and dangers of reading a heavy book while horizontal: developing dead arms and twinging wrists, accidentally losing your place, damaging the book or even dropping the book on your face and suffering a concussion.

You can change the font size. You can look up words without hauling out a massive dictionary or having access to the internet. You can make notes.

Some books are rare or difficult to find as hard copies, but are easily purchasable as e-books.

If you can’t get to the library or the book store for whatever reason, you can stock up on e-books without leaving the house. This is not something that means much to me, but I imagine that there are many housebound people who benefit enormously from this.


E-readers have batteries, and batteries need to be charged. The battery on my Kindle lasts at least a month, so it’s not as if this is a big problem, but because I need to charge it so infrequently, I tend to forget that I need to charge it at all and I’ve almost had it die on me in the middle of a tube-read a few times. Almost. Thankfully it does give a bit of warning before refusing to give you your literary fix, so in most situations you can get it some life juice before disaster strikes… but being told repeatedly that your battery is low is distracting and a bit stressful!

Flipping through an e-book to remind yourself about something or to find an amusing passage to share with someone is not as nice or convenient as flipping through a printed book. Yes, you can make use of virtual bookmarks, but often you don’t know that you’ll need to refer back to something until you actually do, so that doesn’t really help much. It’s a surmountable obstacle, but I find the surmounting to be a tad arduous.

The percentage bar doesn’t give the same tangible sense of progress as a growing section of paper on the left side and a shrinking one on the right. It might seem like a silly complaint, but I do miss this feeling when I read e-books. I miss thumbing the edges of the paper and thinking about how far I’ve come and how I feel far I still have to go. It’s a journey.

E-readers are more likely to get stolen than printed books, and you have to worry about them in the same way that you worry about other gadgety things.

E-books aren’t as cheap you’d think, and it can feel like a punch in the face (A pen through the heart? A falling dictionary to the side of the head?) when you spend almost as much money as you would on a printed book for a version that has no physical form. Oof.


And that’s my (definitely not definitive) list. For me, there isn’t a winner. It’s a matter of preference depending on the situation. In the end, it’s all about the wonderful words, not about the means of getting them into your brain. Like eating; the cutlery and crockery are far less relevant than the digestible stuff that keeps you alive. You’re not going to tell people about your cereal bowl when they ask you what you had for breakfast. The most important thing is that you eat stuff and read stuff, preferably at the same time… preferably chocolate and David Mitchell.

Here's me on the tube reading something that is neither an e-book, nor a novel by David Mitchell.
Here’s me on the tube reading something that is neither an e-book, nor a novel by David Mitchell.

Highgate Cemetery (and stuff).

On Sunday, Luc, Kate (a friend from SA) and I went to Highgate Cemetery. I’d been desperate to go there since reading about some of the graves (and the people buried in them) in Ann Treneman’s ‘Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die’ and it also seemed like an appropriate outing for the post-Halloween weekend. I love graveyards. In my excitement, I failed to do proper research and arrived at the gates not realising that it would cost money to get inside. (D’oh.) We justified the expense with the fact that we almost never do anything that has an entrance fee and because Kate was with us and we had come all that way up the Northern Line … and it was definitely worth it. The ticket included a guided tour of the west side of the cemetery (only accessible in this way) as well as access to the east side, where a number of famous people are buried, such as Karl Marx and Douglas Adams, to name just two. The east side can also be visited without the guided tour of the west side, for a smaller fee. This is a very good thing, because I need to go back to the east side; we ran out of time before the tour and I want to inspect more of the beautiful graves in there.

What is it about cemeteries and graveyards*? It doesn’t matter who’s buried there, really, it’s more about the atmosphere of the place, and the sense of history as a tangible thing. Highgate Cemetery has a particularly rich history and is a great exemplification of ‘the Victorian way of death’, as our tour guide put it. The graves are loaded with symbolism, particularly in the west side (which is the older part of the cemetery). Many of them are intricate and beautiful and all of them have with a story… though I’m sure many of those stories have been lost to the living, under the moss and tangled vines of time.

One of the most fascinating things was the idea of a burial site as a posthumous statement of social standing; something that seems utterly ridiculous to me… And yet, this was very much a part of the Victorian way of death. People saved their money while they were alive to afford the grave of their dreams, so to speak. The vaults and catacombs and expensive, elaborate structures are enthralling in their strangeness. Time has certainly changed the way that people in general think about and deal with death, and it’s so fascinating to wander between the mossy monuments and reflect on these sorts of things. The passing of time, the inevitability of it all… it makes me throw my mind both backwards into the past and forward into the future. And it makes me want to write. I launched into a bit of graveyard-inspired writing that evening when I got home, making up some hopefully credible crap about the handling of corpses in my imagined world:

Cremation is no longer practiced in the post-Chaos world, not due to the resurgence of any cultural sensitivities but because the burning of bodies is recognised as wasteful and polluting. Burials, the now dominant method of body disposal, are always raw, as dressed burials (in which the body is clothed and/or contained in a non-bio vessel) are prohibited by the Code in the interest of environment preservation. For the same reasons, grave markings are uncommon. Where grave markings do exist, they are normally subtle or natural changes to the environment, such as the planting of a tree or the shifting of a nearby stone. In most localities, there are recommended areas for burial. These shift depending on the changing state of the environment…

Speculative nonsense, but possibly the way of the future. If you’re reading this blog post a century from now, do hop into your time-machine and find me here so that I can know if it panned out like this in the end. I’m curious.

I should be doing NaNo. I’m disgustingly behind and this is a shameful procrastination. But Google Highgate Cemetery and read stuff. That’s my suggestion. And watch this video, featured on the Highgate Cemetery website, if you’re interested; it captures some of the peaceful, sombre beauty of the place. The pictures we took don’t capture the atmosphere quite as well, but I’ve stuck a few of them behind the cut anyway.

*I don’t have the Oxford English Dictionary on hand, but according to Wikipedia (shutup), ‘The Oxford English Dictionary defines a cemetery as a “burial-ground generally; now esp. a large public park or ground laid out expressly for the interment of the dead, and not being the ‘yard’ of any church”’  although the words ‘cemetery’ and ‘graveyard’ are ‘generally used interchangeably’ today. There you have it.

Continue reading “Highgate Cemetery (and stuff).”

London: Six Months In.

As of Monday this week, I have been in London for six months. It has gone astoundingly fast and astonishingly slowly at the same time. This is how change works. If I found myself in my family’s living room this evening, sitting on the couch, watching TV, eating bobotie and drinking red wine, with my mom, dad, brother, grandfather and fluffy old cat somewhere in the scene, I don’t think it would be hard to imagine that this entire London episode has been nothing but a strange dream. And yet… I heard that Sun Valley mall got knocked down a few months back. I know my mom swapped the contents of two rooms in the house after I left. People must have longer hair by now, or new haircuts. How much can a person age in six months? I still picture everything as it was, but how many things (little things and big things, insignificant things and important things) have changed? Would I be able to assemble all the old friends in the old places and have everything be as it was before I left? I doubt it. Am I the same as I was? I think I am, mostly, but with additions. And subtractions.

When I am asked anything about my life in South Africa by Londoners, I find myself feeling as though I’m speaking about something I’ve made up. It’s already abstract. If I want to, I can imagine myself walking up and down the aisles in the old local shopping centres; I can mentally go through the contents of the bottom drawer that used to stand beside my bed, or following the route from Fish Hoek, over the mountain, all the way to UCT and then walk around the Arts Block where I spent most of my days as a student; I remember the feel and function of each door handle in my old house… But when I think of my life in South Africa as a whole, it dissipates; it’s like trying to nail down a ghost. And it terrifies me to realise that this is only going to get worse. Or better? I acknowledge that in many ways, forgetting is healthy. This is a lesson I’ve learned well. I don’t keep old emails, chat logs or text messages from other people, because reading people’s words from the past bring them right back into the present, and that’s not always a good thing. I only make an exception for some special sentimental correspondence that is unambiguously positive. I generally prefer impressions to persist alone, open to remoulding and natural evolution without the influence of the unchanging pieces that originally created them. But does this lesson even apply here? I don’t know.

Self-Interrogation Time!

Do I miss South Africa?

It’s not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. I miss my family. The fact that I haven’t seen them since April has been very difficult. I have a close-knit family, and sometimes, realising how far away they are seems to take all the air out of the room and make me feel quite dizzy and sick. I miss my friends and the easy, casual comfort of a social circle I worked myself into over many years. I’m not good at making friends and I’m terrified I’ll never have a circle like that again. I miss being a local; having my accent blend in and knowing all the details that locals know about the place where they’ve grown up. I miss the cultures and the languages and the geography and the climate and all of those things too, but they’re less pressing. And there are lots of things I don’t miss at all. I can live without South Africa because I feel like I’m lugging chunks of it around with me all the time anyway. I don’t yet know if I can live without some of the people I’ve left behind. Time will tell. Life goes on in my absence; events are going to happen that I want to be a part of, but I can’t. And my parents are going to get old. And people I know and love are going to get sick, and die, and I might not be there. It makes me feel cold. Nobody said it would be easy, and I can confirm that it fucking isn’t.

What is the best thing about being in London?

It’s London! It’s amazing. So much to do and see, so much history, so many beautiful buildings and parks, so much happening. In practical terms, the public transport is right up at the top of the list of awesome things about London. The feeling of freedom (at least within zones 1 to 3 covered by my Oyster card) is fantastic and I love not having to drive. The obligation to drive was an enormous source of stress and fear for me in Cape Town and it’s wonderful having that out of my life. Also, there’s something exciting about the tubes… When I’m not in auto-commuter mode and I actually flick my brain on and think about it, I feel incredibly inspired and proud and amazed by the whole business. I’m in London, under the ground, hurtling down a tunnel in a metal tube with hundreds of other people, people from everywhere, going places… There is history in these filthy tunnels, and you can see it and feel it (and smell it). Humanity in transit, humanity on the move, humanity at its most interesting. I won’t go into my occasional experiences of tube rage, because it would totally spoil the tone of this paragraph. *ahem*

Just one of the ridiculously amazing views of London that I get to enjoy every day at the internship.
Just one of the ridiculously amazing views of London that I get to enjoy every day at the internship.

What aspect of the immigration has been the most difficult?

My first instinct is to say ‘homesickness’, but in all honesty I think ‘unemployment’ has been just as difficult. The internship has eased the feelings of uselessness, idleness and frustration at a lack of personal enrichment, but having no income is a massive pain in the bum. If I had an income, I could plan regular trips to visit my family, which would ease the homesickness considerably, but I can’t. Luc’s income is paying off emigration debts, feeding us, clothing us, putting the roof over our heads and even allowing for some luxuries (including a nice pair of boots to get me through the winter), so of course it could be far, far worse, but without me earning, we can rarely experience anything in London that comes with a fee, at least not without a healthy side-portion of guilt and stress; and we can’t leave London at all. I’m eager to explore the rest of England (and the UK, Europe, and the world, for that matter), but it will all just have to wait. My impatience gets me down from time to time, but I just need to keep reminding myself about how lucky I am to be here at all. These are all experiences worth having, even if they’re not exactly the ones I planned to have.

My boots, which I have worn every single day since I got them. >_> (from my Instagram)
My boots. I have worn them every single day since I got them. >_> They feel like warm hugs on my feet.

Am I happy?

Yes, overall. I’m not always happy, but who can honestly say they are? I have bad days and sad days and days where I wake up thinking up I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life and I want to go home immediately, but most of the time I’m happy and excited for the future. My relationship with Luc is as good as it ever was. He deserves a trophy for his patience with me, and his willingness to put up with my emotional volatility when he’s going through the same adjustments as I am, but with such calm and control. I tell him everything and we’re the best of friends and I would never have been able to do this without him (emotionally or practically).

Here he is on the tube, looking relaxed, as always. (from my Instagram)
Here he is on the tube, looking relaxed, as always.

What’s the plan?

Apply for more publishing (or literary agency) internships. Get more publishing (or literary agency) internships. Get a good CV and develop my skills. Become extremely employable. Get a job (in publishing or at a literary agency). Win at life. (?) That’s it, basically. I’ve chosen an extremely competitive job within an extremely competitive industry in an extremely competitive city. I don’t know what the timeline is here. Sometimes I fear it’s too long and I won’t be able to hold myself together (financially or mentally) until I manage to find work. I know that many other people looking for the jobs I’m after have done multiple internships and have much more experience than I do (and also usually happen to be a few years younger than me because they didn’t spend two years doing an MA in creative writing and another year copywriting and another chunk of a year sitting at home, jobless and internshipless, bawling their eyes out) so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. It stresses me out and gets me down sometimes, but all I can really do is keep plodding on and hoping that someone, somewhere will give me a chance to prove myself. I’m trying to stay calm. It doesn’t always work, but I’m trying. That’s the career plan. As for the everything-else plan? Well, most of it hinges on the career plan working out. Watch this space.

Then there’s writing. I went to another creative writing workshop on Monday (the first since starting my internship in September) and it was good! I feel inspired and I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been struggling to find the energy to write as much as I’d like to lately, and this has made me incredibly frustrated with myself. I don’t have an excuse. I just need to get my shit together and make it happen. I’m hoping that NaNoWriMo will be the motivation I need to end the writing slump. I’ve been reading so many amazing books lately, and the desire to write something that I’m at least half proud of has become incredibly intense. I have so many ideas for my WIP, I just need to get them into my laptop and mangle them until they make sense!

I thought I had a grand and poetic point to make in this post, but it turns out I don’t, so I’ll just leave it there and add ‘blog more’ to my ever-growing list of things I should do.

Love to everyone, near and far.

The London Eye (from my Instagram)
The London Eye.

(All pictures are from my Instagram.)

A really, really long ramble about mental health and stuff.

Most of this I wrote more than a week ago, but haven’t had the guts to post it until now. I still don’t feel entirely comfortable about posting it, but I think I should, so I will.


Getting the internship was huge for me. When I received the email saying I’d got it, I had to read it three times before I could believe it and then I cried a lot. And it’s not even a permanent job, or a paying one. I left my job in Cape Town at the end of March, arrived in London at the end of April and was then unemployed until this month. I didn’t expect the move to work out like this. With a bunch of academic achievements and a year of work experience on my CV, I was naive enough to think I’d snap up a reasonably good job shortly after arriving, like Luc (my boyfriend) did. After the first month or two, when I started realising that this wasn’t going to happen and how utterly stupid I had been to expect it, I started to descend into something that, I think, could be described as depression.

I’ve never considered myself to be someone who suffers from depression, meaning that it hasn’t been a prominent issue in my life so far. I’ve never had to take meds, I’ve never self-harmed… nothing like that. I’m lucky. I’ve gone through patches of seemingly overwhelming sadness, but I don’t consider this to be out of the ordinary. Conflict with people, relationship blues, the deaths of loved ones; these are things that affect everyone and my reactions to them are, I think, standard reactions; nothing that qualifies me to say that I “suffer from depression”. But the unemployment thing gave me a taste of what I imagine it must be like.

I’ve come out of it now, since getting that wonderful email, and I have a bit of perspective on the whole thing, so I feel like I can, and maybe should, write about it.

It was terrifying, realising that I was losing control of myself in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I’d wake up some mornings feeling dead. I knew I should be looking for jobs online and trying to fix the main thing that was making me stressed and unhappy, but it got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read an entire job description, let alone write a coherent cover letter. I was stammering more than I ever have in my life. I was crying All. The. Time. Literally every day. Usually more than once a day. I’d try to get out when I could find the energy and when I did I’d feel a vague sense of achievement at having “done something”, but I wasn’t really enjoying any of it properly. I’d take photos thinking “one day I’ll look back at the pictures and be glad that I saw all these amazing things” but most of the time I can’t say I was too glad in the moment I was actually seeing them. I felt detached, walking beside myself, floating above myself, looking at my life as though it was someone else’s.

It got progressively worse and worse and I started getting a bit panicky, especially when the random crying became so bad that the skin under my eyes felt permanently raw and I’d find myself almost throwing up with the intensity of it. So I went on the internet and read a bunch of “How to Deal with Depression” guides and most of them recommended seeing a health professional at some point. I decided to do that, seeing as it would be free anyway. (Yay, NHS!) I made an appointment, citing my dysmenorrhoea as the reason for it and thinking I’d just mention the depression thing “by the way” at some point in the exchange. I almost didn’t. There were two doctors present during my appointment; the main one and a trainee. After getting a prescription for expensive painkillers that I had no intention of buying, and showing them a rash on my hand to buy time, the session seemed to be wrapping up…

Doctor: (perhaps sensing that I was holding something back) Is there anything else we can help you with?

Me: Well, maybe. Yes. I’m not sure. I don’t really know how to say it. Um. I’ve been feeling a bit depressed.

And then I started crying. Obviously. There was this horrible silence that seemed to last forever between the moment that the tears and snot started pouring out of my face and the trainee doctor getting up to fetch me an inadequate piece of tissue. While I was trying to mop up my face leakage, I started laughing and said something like “You see? This keeps happening. I don’t know what to do about it.” I was trying to keep the mood light and not make it more awkward for them than it had to be. I was already feeling terrible about the sky-high levels of awkwardness in there. It didn’t feel much like I was in control of the situation though; I was just watching it unfold like a cringe-worthy B-movie.

The doctor then went on to ask me a bunch of questions that I can’t remember. I told him about the immigration and feeling homesick and not being able to find a job and not knowing how worried I should be about my mental health. And then he asked me if I’d thought about suicide and I told him that I hadn’t, but it’s not really that simple, is it? I would never kill myself. There’s a lot I want to do with my life. I’m not scared of death (there’s nothing scary about non-existence… I didn’t exist before I was born and that was perfectly OK, so I’m not too phased about not existing after I die), but I am scared of dying, as in the actual process of becoming a corpse. I don’t like the idea of being gripped by pain or nervousness or fear in the last moments of my existence and I’m pretty sure that most suicides usually involve all of those things. Moreover, I would never kill myself because I couldn’t do that to my boyfriend, my family or my friends. I reckon I would rather trudge on, hating every second of my life and pretending to be ok for their benefit rather than hurting them by hurting myself… but, as I said to the doctors, I’m scared that if things keep getting worse, these might not seem like such big obstacles anymore. I said something to the effect of “I’m not suicidal, but on some mornings I don’t really feel like existing and I’m scared that one day I’ll wake up and I won’t care about my family and my friends anymore, and I won’t be scared of dying, and I won’t feel like putting up with this shit any longer, and then I don’t know what will happen. I came to speak to a professional because the internet said that that’s what I should do.”

And I was glad I did. We had a good chat, the two doctors and I, once the awkwardness had passed and my face wasn’t leaking so much anymore. They told me that acknowledging that things aren’t all right is a big part of the battle won, and a crucial step towards getting better. They gave me a form for blood tests (to rule out some physical causes of depression, I guess) and told me to schedule another appointment a week after getting them done. I never went for the blood tests and I never scheduled the appointment because I received word about the internship on the next working day and it was like lifting my head out of a vice. Within hours, I was “OK” again, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about this experience and picking it apart (as I tend to do with everything). I have a few thoughts about it.

Firstly: WHAT THE FUCK? Whatever I was going through was obviously not physical, because as soon as the problem I’d been fixating on was in some way eliminated, I got significantly better almost immediately. I’m still sad sometimes, I’m still incredibly homesick, I still cry some days, but I feel alive! Life is not a big black hole of pointlessness and despair anymore. I don’t hate myself. It’s great! The internship is not a permanent solution, and it hasn’t done anything to help with our financial predicament and the stress associated with that, but the change it triggered in my state of mind was profound.

This leads me to understand my previous state of mind as a sort of shroud of misery that I had pulled over myself. Surely if I had pulled it over myself I should’ve been able to throw it off just as easily? But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I required a change of circumstances in order to feel like myself again. I had pinned normality onto something specific and I couldn’t have normality again until that something had been earned. WHY? I’ve been giving that a lot of thought too.

It’s pretty fucked up how my self-worth had become so entangled in “what I do” as opposed to “who I am” that a four-month blip in my career path (if I can call it that) basically caused me to lose my grip. In retrospect, I’m ashamed of that, although there wasn’t much I could do about it at the time. One of the key things that kept triggering the bad spells was shame. I was ashamed. Having been successful academically, I felt like I had something to live up to. I wasn’t responding to pressure from other people to live up to their high expectations; I was having a problem living up to the expectations I’d set for myself. I think that a lot of people are susceptible to this sort of thing. We’re constantly being defined by our work and valued according to how successful we are in our careers. It’s bullshit. Ambition is good, but not when it starts to grind you down. Things aren’t always going to work out when and how you want them to. Learning to deal with that is important.

Feeling the way I did, I withdrew a bit from everything. I tried to keep up appearances online, but mostly I was just posting things into the cybervoid rather than interacting with people one-on-one. I fell out of touch. Not completely though. There were my parents and a few other people who I spoke to, online and offline, who really kept me going and got me through to the other side, even if the exchanges were infrequent, and even if they didn’t know all of this crap I’ve just typed here. The writing marathon in August was also a massive help, as it got my mind off of the job hunt and allowed me to feel like I had a purpose. And now I have an internship. I’m working hard, learning lots, getting out of the house every day and I feel GREAT. Exhausted, but great. Of course part of that greatness could be attributed to the fact that I can now say “I have an awesome editorial internship at an awesome publishing house in an awesome city” (which is pathetic, but sadly, due to the human condition, it’s also true) buuut I also feel great because I’m occupied and awake and I have perspective on things.

So, TLDR, THE POINT: I am now OK, but I wasn’t OK. I let a small amount of failure bring me really low, and it was a waste of time and energy and I kinda sorta partly blame society for helping me to get my self-worth tangled up in things that I can’t always control and don’t really define me at all. I might (in fact I probably will) find myself in a similar situation again, but I’m hoping that I can use the lessons I’ve learned to prevent the emotional apocalypse from manifesting itself in such a destructive way next time. If anyone reads this and can relate to anything in it and wants to talk to me about their experiences, please contact me. I’d love to chat and to help in any way I can.

Disclaimer: Obviously not all depression is like this. Everyone has different experiences and different needs and different methods of dealing with whatever they’re going through. I don’t think that my experiences are universal, nor do I think they are unique. I’m not an authority on anything.

Here's a pretty picture I took at Morden Hall Park with my camera phone. It has a sign-post pointing in various directions, so it's totally symbolic and shit.
Here’s a pretty picture I took at Morden Hall Park with my camera phone.
It has a sign-post pointing in various directions, so it’s totally symbolic and shit.

WIPMarathon Check-in #3!

Click HERE for information about the WIPMarathon!

Click HERE for other Marathoners’ check-ins!

Current word count:

I broke the 30k word mark and reached 31032 yesterday. (4407 words written since the last check-in). So yeah. Not a big improvement on last week, but I’m happier with the stuff I did write and I did a fair amount of planning and editing too, so I feel like I did more!

WIP issues this week:

I’m still stuck in “the middle”. It’s a slimy bog in there, and not at all easy to wade through. Ergh.

What I learnt this week in writing:

I sort of wrote a whole blog post about that. Something to do with setting boundaries, staying focussed, and trying to keep the flailing to a minimum.

What distracted me this week while writing:

Well, on Monday I found out that I GOT AN INTERNSHIP (unpaid, but it’s an editorial internship in publishing, which is EXACTLY what I wanted, and it’s at an awesome-looking political publisher, which caters to my interests too!) This is after four months of super depressing unemployment in my new home country and I was so incredibly excited about it that I basically just spent the whole day bouncing around the house and Skyping my parents in Cape Town and I didn’t do much writing. I don’t have a proper excuse for the rest of the days, except for Wednesday, when I decided to take my almost-weekly trip to the V&A museum.

Last 200 words:
Continue reading “WIPMarathon Check-in #3!”

An Ignorant Writer and the Internet

I’ve always wanted to be a story-teller. This is not one of those narratives I’ve imprinted retrospectively onto my childhood. It’s fully legit. Ask my parents. I was drawing the stories before I could write them and then the writing took over. This is irrelevant. Whether one discovers their passion for writing upon emerging from the womb or much later in life has no bearing on the legitimacy of their writerliness. If you write, you’re a writer, as Chuck Wendig has pointed out. I like that way of looking at it.

But then. But now. But oh dear.

The Internet.

I blundered into my mid-twenties somehow managing to be unaware of the enormity of the writing community online. I had spent a lot of time on the internet prior to the discovery, but I was mostly reading web comics, news, politics, articles about feminism and human rights, and stuff about World of Warcraft. I don’t know how I managed to arrive so late to the party, but I did, and now I find myself fighting silly doubts about the legitimacy of my writerliness. Here are a few thoughts about writing and the internet.

Firstly, and let me be very clear about this: it’s pretty much all good. There’s advice and support and friendship and networking and feedback and ways to help you get your work published and promoted and ways to help others do the same. It’s great.

But it’s also absolutely flipping intimidating and overwhelming at the same time.

Having suddenly immersed myself in the online writing scene, I find myself spending a large amount of time doing things and worrying about things that I never did or worried about before, and while I can recognise a lot of it as unambiguously good stuff to be doing and worrying about, some of it seems a bit counterproductive, at least for me. I’m drowning in acronyms I don’t know, genres I can’t identify, blogs upon blogs upon blogs giving writing advice, reams and reams of information about the publishing process including an entire vocabulary I’ve never previously encountered (but probably should’ve), competitions and collaborations and marathons and promotions and forums and groups and hashtags and and and and… It’s great. It’s great and it has made me very excited for the future… but it has also made feel incredibly tired and incredibly lost. Some days I get so distracted by it and so preoccupied fretting about my ignorance and my disconnectedness and the idea that if I don’t engage with it, if I don’t get more involved, I’ll never get anywhere or be anyone… that I hardly manage to do any writing, which is surely the most important thing for me to be doing, right? The writing! I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t write, and write well. But I’m struggling! And it’s stupid! What is this?

The WIPMarathon has been absolutely fantastic. It has done a lot to boost my feelings of connectedness and involvement. I’ve gained almost 100 followers on Twitter since I started (for whatever that’s worth) but now I’m looking out and seeing this endless labyrinth of things I don’t understand, processes I’m ignorant about, books I haven’t read, people I don’t know anything about, and concepts that are absolutely alien to me and I just want to get into a WIPMarathon group hug and pretend that I’m not obligated to involve myself in anything else. But I’m not obligated, am I? And why wouldn’t I want to be more involved? It’s all here to help me! What is wrong with me? Why do I just want lock myself in a room on my own and pretend that the internet was never invented? I love the internet! What’s up with that? RHETORICAL QUESTIONS.

I used to see writing as a solitary undertaking (which is one of the things that made it appeal to me so much), but now that idea has been flipped onto its head for me. I like sharing and I like being involved but. BUT. I’m not very good at it, I guess. I think that’s the point of this post. I’m not good at getting in and I’m not good at keeping up. I can do it on a small scale, but I don’t know where to set the boundaries and the vastness of it all can be crippling without boundaries. I need to figure this out in my head for a while. Perhaps it’s like anything, and once I’m a bit more savvy, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, but right now I’m just flailing, in a bad way! I need to figure out what tools to make use of what tools to set aside so that I can focus my energy in a productive way instead of melting my laptop by having thirty thousand tabs open and not knowing which one to deal with first. I need to make a plan!

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