International Women’s Day: the international woman who inspires me

We’re at Euston train station, London. Your pain is so severe we’ve requested assistance to transport us through the bustle. They take one look at you – young, gorgeous – and claim there is no transport available. It will be a struggle for me to carry all our luggage, but we’ll manage because we have no choice. You pull a folding walking stick from your handbag.

Shamefaced, they decide assistance is available after all.

My best friend suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Here she is:

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We first met at a burlesque class in Liverpool. I’ve never been much of a girl’s girl, so this incredibly hot human not only acknowledging me, but actively pursuing conversation, immediately had my back up. Why was she interested in me? On noting her accent I declared my weakness for Aussie blokes, before lamenting the standard of the 100% of Aussie blokes I had dated (3 – all c*nts, and not in the banterous Aussie sense).

We became friends.

Like me, you’ve probably never heard of EDS. Here’s what the NHS have to say about it:

‘Ehlers–Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of genetic connective tissue disorders… For some, the condition is relatively mild, while for others their symptoms can be disabling. Some of the rare severe types can be life-threatening.’

Symptoms manifest themselves in chronic pain, dislocations, digestive problems and many, many other issues.

From my view, it means she breaks like a China doll. This is her again, performing this time:

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EDS isn’t particular about when it strikes. A rib can dislocate in a steel-boned corset, or simply during sleep (pssst – she snores really loudly. I was delighted to have finally discovered her flaw).

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As an EDS suffer, there are days on end when interaction with the outside world is reduced to Facebook – if you’re lucky enough to have working fingers – or the seagulls who perch at your window. That henna business you wanted to launch and the costumes you planned to sew? Yeah, not gonna happen today.

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When doctors hear hooves they think horses, but the rarity of EDS means it’s often misdiagnosed as more obvious conditions – hence EDS sufferers likening themselves to zebras. Image by ChrisMPhotos81.

It’s painful hearing someone you love refer to themselves as a cripple. When pain has driven them to the depths of despair, the words to make it better don’t exist.

This person is, in effect, grieving for the loss of their mobility; this fiercely independent soul, who sometimes can’t even brush her own hair. She recently chopped off that lovely hair.

Feelings about the wheelchair range from embarrassment to relief at simply being able to experience fresh air. I try to make her laugh by singing Weird Al and Limp Bizcit songs as we whizz along.

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My fruity sis: you are so much more than your disability. You are the only person who will watch back-to-back documentaries about serial killers with me, and be enthused about Chilling Photos of Murder Victims Taken by Their Killers. You are humble, loyal and loving. You are someone who will stop the car on a trip back to Oz just to photograph some Big Things for me.

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The Big Marlin made my day

It’s hard watching you suffer with your family on the other side of the planet. I hope you know how many people love you on this (admittedly crappier – no Big Things, or Kylie, or blokes with Aussie accents) side just as much.

You may be ashamed of your walking stick, but you are every bit as strong and beautiful as you were without it.

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Little Peaches is a comedy burlesque performer and co-producer of The Secret Circus. Keep up to date with upcoming performances via Facebook and Twitter

 

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Why do People with Mental Health Issues Stop Taking Their Meds?

It’s only Wednesday, but this week has already been pretty rough. A lot happened on Sunday, and the memories have been making me feel sick with shame ever since. I’m finding it impossible to talk about with anyone, so perhaps articulating those thoughts in this blog will prove cathartic.

On Sunday, I wasn’t myself. For those that don’t know, I suffer from borderline personalty disorder.

Although I’ve been pretty darn happy lately, I’ve also started to feel like a failure. I’m experiencing doubt in my abilities as a writer, and having recently graduated, each job rejection is a blow to my self-esteem.

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Sunday was a culmination of self loathing caused by career and relationship worries, and lack of medication for a couple of days (which causes insomnia, which never helps my state of mind).

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On Sunday afternoon a friend encouraged me to take a walk. I wandered down to the docks, next to the River Mersey. Water always gives me a sense of peace, and growing up on an island, I always had easy access to it if I needed to blow off steam.

When I’m down, it’s a comfort to know I can end it if I choose to. I never would, but sitting near the ocean, or walking over the 100ft bride in my Welsh hometown is like a backup plan if it ever gets too much.

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Next to the Mersey I jumped the railing, just to get that little closer to the water. I didn’t want to sit on a bench, with strangers walking right by me. I wanted to be alone. There was a little gate, with stairs leading down to the water.

I sat on the stairs, huddled against the wall and rocking back and forth. A jet ski kept whizzing by as if it were looking for something.

A security guard appeared, followed by two more. I broke down, frozen to the spot for a few minutes, before announcing I was going home. They muttered into their walkie-talkies, watching until I was out of sight.

I sat under a tree next to the big wheel to compose myself. Two police vans waited nearby, but I told myself I was being paranoid.

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I didn’t even notice two policemen, then three, surround me. I hyperventilated. Why wouldn’t they go away?

They lead me to a police van and I calculated whether I could outrun them. Even in that state, I still cared very much what all the tourists watching thought of me.

One policeman was kind, and told me a story about a colleague who had had mental health problems.

The other said I was giving him attitude because I wouldn’t state my name. I eventually admitted  I was just tired and not feeling myself, probably from lack of meds. His response was ‘but WHY would you not take them when they make you better?’ He was impatient and couldn’t fathom why I would make everybody’s lives more difficult.

It took a long time to convince me to willingly go to the hospital, as opposed to being sectioned.

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Being escorted by police through the hospital was the most humiliating moment of my life.

My friend Justine came. I had calmed down a lot by the time she arrived, and the crisis team were happy to let me leave. Justine fed me pasta with avocado and we watched girly TV.

My beautiful, amazing boyfriend abandoned his weekend trip a day early, despite my telling him not to. I feel terrible about it, but seeing him walk through the gate at the train station meant the whole world to me. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have someone who doesn’t walk away from me at my worst.

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Today I’ve been feeling pretty lonely, so I tried to find some resources exploring why don’t people want to take their medication? FYI, I take antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.

I used to have a schizophrenic friend who would skip his medication at regular intervals, and I would wonder exactly what that policeman had wandered.

So, here are my reasons:

  1. The conviction that I’m suddenly cured.

2. Feeling so good, you wonder whether there was anything wrong in the first place. Maybe I imagined the whole thing? Did I even deserve those uni extensions? What if I needlessly wasted 12 days on a psychiatric unit whilst someone else was busy topping themselves? Better check, just in case!

3. Exhaustion. It’s hard to express just how zonked I feel a lot of the time. Although medication has been a blessing – when I’m taking them and stable, I’m the me I was always meant to be – they also take a lot out of me. I’m still exhausted after a 10 hour sleep, and it takes HOURS to wake up because my mind is so foggy.

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So, this week has been a  bit crap. I feel fragile. I missed deadlines writing for a digital content agency I’ve only just begun work for – something the regular me would never do. I’m mortified that I effectively got fired for the one thing I’m supposed to be good at.

BPD often feels like taking one step forward and two steps back.

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I often convince myself that people only like the medicated part of me. They don’t like ME, only the edited version they think they know.

So what’s the point of anything? Nobody REALLY loves me, so nothing really matters.

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Obviously in a good state of mind I know this isn’t true, but in my own little world, I believe the harsh thoughts.

So it’s been an eventful week. I’m still a bit shaken and need time to process, but as usual – I’ll be okay soon.

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How a Flirty Photoshoot Improved my Confidence

A couple of years ago, never would I have considered getting my kit off onstage or in front of a camera. I would literally rather make love to a cactus.

I’ve become somewhat desensitised to topless women over the past couple of years thanks to having them shoved in my face whether I like it or not.

I felt pretty having had my hair and makeup done professionally – that was, until my friend Rachael emerged after her makeover looking a right bird.

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As an actress, Rachael knows how to rock the camera. I wasn’t nervous about getting my kit off, but I was bricking it about the actual posing. I HATE photos. I don’t do seductive or sensual, it’s either smiling or no photo. I was literally shaking with nerves despite the glass of fizz and the photographer had to help me fasten my suspender belt.

The shoot was less terrifying than I’d expected. The photographer told me exactly where to place each limb, so I slowly relaxed.

Going back to view the 40 or so photos a week later was nerve racking. What if I was the exception to the rule and they really couldn’t make me look attractive/thinner/etc etc?

Some were terrible. Of the 11 I chose, I still wasn’t keen on them all. But I blown away by these two in particular:

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A few others were nice too, although they have a vague brothel vibe.

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I was so, so excited to get home and post the photos onto Facebook. I never thought I could look so nice.

For the most part, comments were positive. It was a huge confidence boost hearing how lovely I looked.

But by the next morning, I was contemplating taking them all down because of messages like ‘I just wanna take those god damn tassels off your nipples and lick them crazy!!’

Maybe I was asking for it by posting them. Becoming interested in burlesque has made me very liberal towards bare skin, but despite that I’m actually a right prude and too polite to tell anyone they’ve offended me in case I hurt their feelings.

People can appreciate my photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to me.

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People also commented that they were unprofessional and I would never be able to write for children’s television. My answer to that is: right now, I do not write for children’s television. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but I’m not going to avoid doing things I want to do now on the off-chance I’ll do something else great in the future.

An old (male) friend unintentionally upset me by asking what I got out of posting the photos online. Wouldn’t keeping them for myself have “fulfilled” my hobby?

I am personally not that interested in seeing them, therefore I’m not that arsed. You’re free to do as you please with your own Facebook. I appreciate that it’s part of what make you a more “free” spirit than most women… you seem to give the impression that you want other people to validate what you do, and am curious as to why.

Wasn’t it enough for me to know in my heart of hearts that I looked good? He was like a dog with a bone and I felt terrible about myself. Was everybody secretly calling me a slut? Or snickering about the airbrushing and how disappointing I looked in person?

After a pep talk from a friend, I decided: screw them. They weren’t there to see the 30 photos where I looked like a beached whale and wanted to die of shame.

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I am proud of my photos. I did something that scared me and felt empowered. I am 24 years old and probably not going to look this good again, so why should I hide my body? Why are women – who make up 50% of the global population – made to feel like their bodies are something to be ashamed of?

Showing off my figure doesn’t mean that I’m promiscuous and welcome creepy comments. It means that I can celebrate myself despite my flaws, and the only thing I would go back and change is to put a smile on my face – because regardless of spots, stretchmarks or cellulite – everybody is beautiful with a smile.

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Girl, Interrupted

I spent my 24th birthday cutting myself in my room, curled up in a corner as I rocked back and forth and hummed the tune to Teddy Bear’s Picnic. That marked the beginning of my twelve days on a psychiatric unit.

Generally I’m an open book and will write about all my experiences, but until now it’s been too difficult to even speak about. But, after an afternoon surrounded by Scousers celebrating humankind in all its forms at Pride, I’m feeling brave.

I have borderline personality disorder, and I’d stopped taking my anti depressant and anti psychotic medication. This was a regular occurrence. I would either feel frustrated because my emotions were dampened down, or think I was cured and no longer needed the pills. It seems so obvious, but at the time you absolutely believe these thoughts. I’d also just broken up with my boyfriend.

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My friend Amy found me in my room, hiding under a black fringed cardigan. I wouldn’t let her turn on the light. She’d brought me a bag of birthday presents: ethically sourced earrings, a decorative heart-shaped rock printed with the words YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, and a book about feminism in an attempt to educate me. She read the book aloud while I hid under the cardigan, whiling away the hours it took for the ambulance to arrive.

A night at the Royal was by far the worst night of my life.

We waited along a corridor with all the other ambulance intakes, me convinced everybody was thinking ‘she doesn’t look ill’.

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After many hours I was seen by the mental health team. It was around 1am, and the tiny windowless room was packed with ladders and tins of paint. Amy stayed. My voice is high and childlike at the best of times and the mental health lady told me to stop talking like a little girl. It stank of paint fumes.

There were no beds available on the ward or at the psychiatric hospital, so I was left there all night. I became more and more hysterical in my exhaustion, hiding behind chairs because I felt like a monkey in a zoo as nurses peeped through the glass in the door periodically.

At 6am, they wheeled in an ambulance trolley for me to sleep on. I managed maybe an hour.

The day shift doctors photographed the room because they were so appalled I had been left in there.

Until midday, I didn’t do anything but cry my heart out. The ward was packed, loud, and claustrophobic. I became more and more desperate to just leave. They said I could leave soon, soon, and if I escaped the police would be after me.

Once a bed became available at the psychiatric unit in Walton, a doctor escorted me there in a taxi. I was upset the taxi driver would know I was crazy. I was terrified and had no idea what to expect.

Compared to the Royal, this was like entering an Oasis. Tip: if you’re going to lose the plot, don’t lose it on a Friday night.

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I hadn’t showered or eaten for five days and still wore a party dress.

The fifteen rooms on the ward surrounded a pretty landscaped garden. My bedroom was lovely, with yellow walls and lilac bedding. It overlooked the car park and a big Sainsbury’s.

In these places, the doors have windows so nurses are able to keep an eye on you. The en-suite doesn’t have a door, so there’s a chance they might catch you on the toilet. The mirrors are made of plastic.

One by one, the staff came to introduce themselves. They all made an effort to remember my name.

By now I was exhausted and still hadn’t seen a doctor who could prescribe me medication. A nurse scanned me with a metal detector and I volunteered the scissors stashed in my knickers. She weighed me, took my blood pressure, and watched me pee before testing the urine for drugs. It was a deep dehydrated yellow.

My only possessions were my phone, keys and Amy’s rock, which I hadn’t let go of. They confiscated the key and rock in case I hurt myself.

I wouldn’t leave my room to eat, but the staff brought me a cheese sandwich and orange juice. Someone checked on me every fifteen minutes, twenty-four hours a day.

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I concocted an elaborate lie for my parents, telling them I’d gone down South to visit a friend. I stopped answering texts and drew the curtains so I could curl into a ball and pretend the outside world didn’t exist. I just wanted to be alone, while also wanting someone to hold me and say it would all be alright.

The night staff were less friendly. In my exhaustion and paranoia I became aggressive, chucking things around the room. I hid in the doorless wardrobe so the night staff couldn’t spot me through the slatted window, and screamed that they were stalking me when asked what was wrong.

The bedroom light was switched on from outside every fifteen minutes so staff could watch me. One member of the night team was a lovely religious lady who said ‘God bless you’ and shone a torch through the glass instead. The other night staff  had no passion for their jobs and switched on the main light as if out of spite.

As it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to just walk out of here, I tried to break the grilled windows. I was told that I would have to be sectioned if I attempted to escape. Still no medication, because there would be no doctor on the ward until Monday.

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With absolutely no distraction, I was becoming increasingly agitated. Late into the night I called my friend Kairi. I was inconsolable and have no idea what I said, but she was the only person I felt I could talk to and I will always be eternally grateful.

I still wouldn’t shower because I had no clothes to change into, and I didn’t want anyone watching me.

Realising I couldn’t be here alone, I also called my parents who promised to come first thing in the morning.

I was given something to curb my agitation. I was so tired from all the rocking. The suffocation-proof pillow felt hollow and inflated beneath my head.

The next morning, I heard the cries of a girl out in the corridor. She’d been locked out of her room for self harming. I ventured out and held her hand, both of us perched on the floor outside her door. I told her I was scared.

My parents brought books, the only thing that can distract me when I’m unwell. They brought a note pad so I could write, and my childhood soft toy. Mum cried and fed me fruit from Sainsbury’s.

I began to eat the cheese sandwiches and drink the orange juice the nurses brought, and one even donated her favourite book trilogy.

Over those two weeks my parents drove the four hour round trip from Anglesey every single day, bar one, despite my lashing out at them or barely reacting when they did come. Every day there were new magazines, books, snacks, pyjamas, even a dress. There were countless pairs of underwear because Mum is obsessed with buying knickers; my favourite pair were covered in little neon flamingos.

I still kept my curtain closed. My parents took me to the hospital cafe and I became agitated upon leaving the ward.

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However, I began venturing out of my room to sit on the sunny window ledges overlooking the garden. I ate a cheese sandwich every day without fail. I read obsessively to occupy my mind.

Dad brought me a magazine for writers, which encouraged me to write non-stop. I have always been a comedy writer, and laughing at my situation was the only thing that kept me sane. I wrote a script about the characters I had encountered called The Good, the Bad and the Bonkers.

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My mood began to stabilise. The nurses didn’t recognise me after a wash, wearing my new dress. I wrote incessantly.

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Marie* was in her sixties, and said she was getting married to a monk at the Wigwam cathedral that coming Saturday (I still didn’t twig). She showed me samples of the fabric which would make up the brown bridesmaid’s dresses. We organised a hen party, which was shut down by staff because we were supposedly making fun of her memory loss (I’ve always been gullible). We played pin the tail on the donkey anyway.

Sheree* was a teenager who wore nappies and carried a blanket and dummy. She was referred to as the piggy bank because she swallowed coins and batteries.

Mary* took a shine to me and would follow me wherever I went. Though patients weren’t allowed in each other’s rooms, at one point she insisted on tucking me into bed at 8pm. I humoured her; sixty seconds later she burst in, insisting I follow her to the cafeteria and also that I was going to die.

She once caught me picking the scabs on my arms and said, ‘Don’t do that, darlin’.

My Welsh neighbour Vicky* was feeling low because she was missing her little boy’s birthday. The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve carried through the wall.

Rita* was a prostitute whose dad looked younger than she did. She was a known thief on the ward and had previously been caught with Vicky’s lipsticks falling out of her bra. I left my brick phone and belongings out to test her, but nothing moved. Nobody ever bothers stealing my phone but I preferred to pretend she liked me because I smiled at her.

Martha* had learning difficulties and cried hysterically all the time, to the point none of us could stand to be in the same room as her. She wanted to know when we’d first had sex. Shrieking with laughter, she announced that she’d been seven; an uncle, and three cousins.

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I met so many interesting people, and the staff were just fantastic despite the long shifts with too many patients, and too few nursers.  I was actually sad to leave and I am very grateful to everybody who cared for me.

I was apprehensive about leaving, and spent a fair while back in Wales with my parents. I felt guilty for worrying and hurting so many people.

Since then, I’ve been doing well. I’m taking my medication properly, and I eat well. I’ve started going back to the gym. Cheese sandwiches still comfort me. I’m going to be OK.

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Why I Would Never go Elephant Trekking Again

Grief-stricken back in 2012 after a breakup with who I thought was the love of my life, I impulsively spent a lot of money on a last-minute flight to Thailand. It was in the middle of nowhere a couple of hours from Bangkok that I fell in love with elephants. Trekking through the jungle towards a river, we splashed each other and it dunked us into the cold water where we’d fall off and climb back on. It was a magical experience I would do anything to relive.

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The rest of our trip was organised by tour group Contiki, and the first of our island-hopping stops was Koh Samui. To kick off our stay we were taken on a pre-paid elephant trek.

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Samui elephants are not native to the island and are there purely to fuel the demands of the tourist trade. I could tell instantly the elephants weren’t well cared for and the experience was dismal. Chains hung from their necks and ankles, and their ears were damaged from the bull-hooks used to force them along the track when they hesitated. I found myself with a bad taste in my mouth in a country referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’.

I so clearly recall thinking it wasn’t right and to this day am ashamed I didn’t refuse to get on. Although I should have listened to my gut, I didn’t know what I know now about the treatment of captive elephants.

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The Land of Smiles

But the fact is that wild elephants need to be tamed before they can be ridden. The taming process is brutal, and accomplished when the elephants are very young. In a process called phajaan, or “the crush”, the baby elephant is snatched from its mother and tortured to completely break its spirit. Beaten into submission with clubs and pieced with sharp bull-hooks, they are simultaneously starved and deprived of sleep for several days.

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Photojournalist Brent Lewin won a Science/Natural History Award of Excellence for this image at the Pictures of the Year competition, exposing how the babies are prepared for elephant trekking.

A British tourist was recently killed whilst elephant trekking on Samui in front of his teenage daughter. When the elephant’s mahout – handler – climbed down to take photos he was attacked by the elephant’s tusk, leaving the elephant free to go on the rampage. It threw the tourists of its back, trampling the man and stabbing him in the chest with a tusk and killing him instantly.

Now aged 23 and wiser, I would have made a point of refusing to get on and letting everybody know about it. The industry thrives because tourists all want to ride elephants or watch them do tricks, paying good money for the privilege.

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Likewise, through research I would have learned the Tiger Temple had long been accused by animal rights activists of mistreating the tigers for commercial gain and even trafficking some of its animals. I should have wondered whether a wild animal, even one the size of a dog like a monkey should be kept on a leash.

I learned about an elephant named Tyke, kept in captivity for many years before finally killing her trainer and escaping from a circus in Hawaii. Bolting down the streets of Honolulu, police fired 86 shots until she eventually collapsed from her wounds and died. Her bid for freedom and disturbing final minutes can be seen here, whilst the documentary Tyke: Elephant Outlaw  elaborates on the correlation between wild animals treated as entertainment and them paying the ultimate price.

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Tyke

If you’re determined to interact with an elephant, there are a select few sanctuaries where they are are treated with respect and free to behave as they would in the wild. The Elephant Nature Park sanctuary is tucked away in the beautiful jungles outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, with a mission to protect & care for mistreated elephants rescued from the tourism and logging industries. You can feed them fresh fruit out of the palm of your hand, watch them play in the mud, accompany them on walks and even help give them a bath – which in my opinion sounds brilliant!

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Taking a bath at the ENP looks just as satisfying as elephant trekking (source).

We all know the ivory trade is illegal, but many of us are still ignorant about the socially accepted abuse of elephants. Keeping such a majestic creature alive for monetary gain is equally as cruel, and need to spread awareness of elephant trekking to eradicate this treatment.

If an elephant camp in south east Asia claims to be “responsible” with its animals, you should still be sceptical. Remember the process used to train them is often the same, and even if they’re now treated with kindness it’s the fear of being stabbed used to motivate them to work.

The elephant has been a cultural icon of Thailand since ancient days, a symbol of fortune renowned for its intelligence. It’s easy for me to say this being from a prosperous country, but what Thailand doesn’t see is the good fortune it has in being able to share its land with such incredible animals.

Everybody has the right to make their own decision on whether animal trekking is an essential Thai activity, but neither should they be under any illusions: tourists who pay to ride elephants support the continued exploitation of wildlife.

I don’t know whether that elephant in the river really was enjoying itself, as I do recall a bull-hook, but I often find myself hoping so. I could tell the elephant on Samui wasn’t happy, and I wish it could know how sorry I am.  I will never forget either of them.

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Meet my Jazzesque sisters!

I’ve been part of the Liverpool-based Jazzesque troupe for around a year now. A fusion of jazz and burlesque dance, we have performed at various variety and burlesque events.

Now there’s little more than a week to go until we give our take on the Postmodern Jukebox cover of Seven Nation Army, and most of us go down to tassels for the first time! We’ll kick off the Valentine’s festivities at The Secret Circus on February 13th and the Richmond hotel the next day.

Then in March there’s not one but TWO performances at Threshold Festival, and in June a showcase of all our work including debut solos.

Time you found out who the birds behind the boobs are, no?

 Scarlett Adelaide

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Meet Scarlett Adelaide, AKA Mandy. Scarlett represents her most notable, asset whilst Adelaide was the Christian name of her great aunt, also a dancer in the 40s.

An optical assistant, Mandy is the one who makes you stare at the hot air balloon then blows in your face like the monster she is and has heard her fair share of jokes about blowing old geezers in the dark.

Mandy is also an experienced alt model and has done shoots ranging from latex to pin-up for the likes of Lindy’s Boutique.

She has the sweetest, softest Scouse accent I’ve ever heard and almost makes wools sound sexy.

She loves a good rabbit (not that kind, ya filthy animal) and her big-eared baby is called Heisenberg. Her confidence has grown so much over the past months and I can’t wait for her Jessica Rabbit inspired act!

 

Zoe LaSparkle 

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Meet our little French Fancy! Justine, i.e. Zoe LaSparkle studied English at the University of Leeds, and was so good at it she never left the country.

Now a background actress, her latest project was Peaky Blinders.

Animal lover Justine also dabbles in photography and probably enjoys the Eiffel Tower (not to be confused with being Eiffel Towered) and baguettes.

 

Little Peaches 

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Meet Little Peaches, all the way from Down Under.

Model and burlesque performer Kairi trained and competed as an Irish dancer after seeing a display on St Paddy’s Day when she was five (Aus has a decent scene – who knew?)
This talented possum has designed and made costumes, sets and props for theatre and film since the age of 16 and a film she made costumes for was actually short listed for the Cannes Film Festival.

She even makes steel-boned corsets, so no worries if she ever loses the model bod!

A serious medical diagnosis encouraged her to grip life by the bollocks and sign up for burlesque classes.

She got her start in the The Silk Stockings, an Aussie burlesque troupe. She was known as the clumsy awkward one and once kicked a shoe into someone’s dinner – they thought it was part of the act and lapped it up.

One of her most notable career moments involves being the support act for world renowned DJ Freq Nasty; she and a fellow dancer performed a duo in mud from a nearby croc infested swamp – our Kairi is dead exotic.

In her spare time you’ll find her scouring Camden market, often wearing her own reworked vintage outfits.

She’s allergic to practically everything, including latex (soz boys).

No, she doesn’t know Kylie.

Kairi is cute as a button and I’m happy she’s my neighbour (practically), and life will be a little less peachy when she goes away to become a henna artist and wife-to-be in Brighton after a whirlwind romance. Phew!

 Sassy Violette

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Sassy Violette is a long time party girl and can-can queen. The phrase YOLO was probably invented for Teena, an ex punk rocker who had a full mohawk before shaving it off entirely and still wears a Levi’s 501 jacket she’s owned since 1981.

She started playing rugby aged 47 and loves her snowboarding but has yet to gain a certificate because she’s not so good at it. She’s set her house on fire twice and now has her eye on learning to fire dance. Her greatest ambition is to see the Aurora Borealis and she’ll never leave the house without factor 50 on her face (ginger person probs).

Our Teena has seen it all so is a wise but young at heart owl, although if any of us were gonna end up in jail I reckon it would still be her. However, she’s a right good egg and recently popped down to Calais to help those folks in need – nice one Teena!

 

Venus Von Trix

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Venus Von Trix AKA Lydia is an actor, dancer and performance artist who loves to create and devise new material, collaborating recently with Paperwork Theatre company to create Shortcut to Bliss.

A free spirit with a chaotic past, she’s ‘just tumbling through this amazing and overwhelming journey of self discovery’.

She has a long haired ginger Chihuahua called Coco and thinks men look fabulous in guyliner and glitter. She has a rubber fetish and loves latex.

In March she’ll be running 10k obstacle race Chain Runner whilst chained to another runner and then to work American summer camp.

When there’s time she loves to bake and make jams/pickles.

She loves nature and being outdoors away from the madness, it soothes the introvert in her.

She doesn’t really sit still and is a member of fight club, shhhh.

Venus has an intergalactic feel, living with captain Kronos somewhere between a black hole and the Andromeda galaxy. Venus is forever shaking her pulsar nipple tassels, bringing a little sparkle to dark matter!

Alex Spragg

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Alex, or Spraggs, is like Courtney Love’s better looking sister and from BOLTON!!! Yay!! (Nope there’s no way to make that sound good, sorry.)

A politics student who now hates politics, she did a year at the University of Bristol but wasn’t impressed by the cast of Made in Chelsea swanning about.

She loves cheese, punk and thinks 2pm in an early morning. My favourite memory involves us trying to awaken the spirits with an ouija board and Spraggs being quite socially awkward with it.

Leather Lacey 

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Pint-sized Jemima is the youngest member of our troop. The name Leather Lacey is inspired by a Stevie Nicks song, so she has pretty good taste considering she’d be forgiven for still liking 1D.

She loves mod fashion and Fred Perry, funk, every kind of tea and fringes, so her fave pinup is obv Bette Paige.

Her entire house is pinup themed with a rockabilly style kitchen diner.

She says ‘fabulous’ and ‘snazzy’ far too much, although she is both fabulous and snazzy so gets away with it.

Her modelling alter ego is Jacky Daniels.

She loves a drop of gin, probably because she hasn’t had enough time for a bad experience.

 

Alluring Alice

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Ally the model by day, Alluring Alice who’ll take you to Wonderland by night.

You’ll often find Ally strutting about on stilts and covered from head to toe in body paint at events.

 

Ruby Von Strudel

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Nicola is one of our newest recruits. She studied Creative & Performing Arts at university and it was there she began researching burlesque purely for her own needs as opposed to an assignment set by a subject tutor/lecturer after coming across it while studying dance and choreography in my first unit.
More interested in researching burlesque than an assignment set by a tutor, she became fascinated having watched Dita Von Teese’s martini glass routine online.
She watched a burlesque show at the Bluecoat staged as part of Dadafest, a festival run by those with disabilities. It included Diva Hollywood who began performing 10 years ago after being diagnosed with MS, and she became well & truly bitten by the burlesque bug.
She came across Jazz-Esque and Ruby Von Strudel was born. Dealing with issues about body confidence and self-esteem via counselling, she credits Jazzesque for making a significant contribution. She herself is the Group Facilitator for a self-injury support group.
Her burlesque inspirations include Barbara Stanwyck in ‘Lady of Burlesque’ and Marilyn Monroe in ‘Ladies of the Chorus’.

 

Meg McFarlane

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Meg LOVES the forties when all that good stuff like Slinkys and WW2 happened.

On the subject of the forties, did you know rationing laws ordered the trimming of beachwear fabric by 10 percent, so designers introduced two-piece suits that exposed the midriff but covered the navel. Although the shrinking swimsuits were controversial among mainstream Americans, starlets and beach vacationing teenagers embraced the original version of the bikini.

Meg is an actor but prefers directing because she’s really quite bossy (her words not mine). She swears like a sailor but only because she’s so passionate about things/lacks self control.

She’s a film geek with a quote for every situation, especially Tarantino’s because most of them are full of swearing.

She loves dancing although her body disagrees.

‘In my head I’m like ginger Rogers. ..the outside just isn’t the case.’ Shut up Meg.

Ferrero Rochelle

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Rachael is our teacher and reminds me of a demented fairy.

Graduating with a degree in Dance Drama and Physical Theatre, she pursued a career in all three arts forms; ranging from touring pantomimes, dance shows covering a range of styles, and educational children’s theatre.

Ferrero Rochelle is both a performer and a choreographer. She runs her own company Rachael Mellor Dance, first and foremost teaching Jazz-Esque to “a wonderful and inspiring group of women” (aw, we know).

She has big plans for the dance troop this year as well as beginners classes for anyone who wants to be part of the fabulous Jazz-Esque gang. 

Then there’s the contemporary dance where girls probably let out their inner Bush (Kate! You are just filthy today!), first wedding dances and hen parties.

Besides all that, she’s a film and television background actress and hosts princess parties as Elsa and was an entertainment host on the Disney Cruise Line. WHY wasn’t Elsa around to drown yet?

She also cooks a mean breakfast at 81 Renshaw (please only stalk if you plan on killing Elsa).

She loves a good flapper dress, Audrey and Marilyn.

 

And here are some retired sisters that we all miss…

Naffrodite

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Nobody quite knows who Naffrodite is. Reverse drag queen? Oedepian Freudian Frankenstein? Hostess of Romantic Horrors?

I tend to think of Frankii as one of the “movers and shakers” of Liverpool who has her mitts in many pots. She’s a compère and singer, hair stylist and performance artist, life model and event organiser.

Last year she shaved her head in aid of CALM in memory of a pal.

Jacqui Bevington

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What I love most about Jacqui is she’ll try absolutely everything once, be it burlesque or drum circles or fire dancing. It just isn’t the same without her.

Kayleigh Jayde

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It was short lived but we still consider her a sister. Good luck with your contemporary dancing!

Selina Dunne

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Selina is a proud mumma but also a twin, and I still hold out hope they’ll do a Cheeky Girls duet.

And finally, it’s me!

Lula Limonada

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It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that my solo ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ involves a cross between my fave fruit and that Katy Perry bra.

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Yeehaw!

Do One, Gobshites

Tobias was tall, had dirty blonde hair and thought the soundtrack to my favourite movie, The Virgin Suicides, was boss. I met him on Plenty of Fish when I was 21. We went for drinks (yeah, I know what you’re thinking) at the Pilgrim because the only thing I like better than vodka Slushies is multiple vodka Slushies.

This is where it gets ambiguous, but I want to emphasise: I remember what happened. I’m not someone who drinks and forgets. We were having a good time, but his last train was at 11pm. I was used to letting anyone and everyone stay over because I had a swish pad on Duke St pretty much all to myself. I was used to people crashing on the couch, and I’d think nothing of letting a pal I trusted share my bed. So I let him stay so we could watch movies.

But I always made the deal clear, and this time was no exception: this isn’t a veiled invitation for nookie. I’m not being coquettish and thinking we will inevitably hook up – I am genuinely letting you sleep on the sofa for convenience. I recall emphasising it one more time at the door to my apartment complex. He chuckled and said it was fine.

Fast forward and we’re sat on my bed deciding on a movie when he whacks on some porn. I gave an awkward ‘heh, heh…turn it off’.

I remember him pushing me down onto the bed and the sound of my underwear ripping. I remember saying I didn’t want to have sex – I don’t know whether to him, that meant everything else was free for all. He was rough.

He stuck his head down there (hope I hadn’t washed, at least). He wasn’t stopping so I moaned a couple of times to convince myself it didn’t count. Maybe I should have kicked and screamed more, but putting up with a little was better than potentially putting up with a lot.

When it was over I slipped out of bed. The next morning he found me on the sofa and kissed me goodbye with a guilty look.

I wandered around L1 in a daze. I couldn’t stop the tears and plucked up the courage to tell someone. They said I was attention seeking.

Not to be crude, but he didn’t actually make me do anything to him. It was all for my “benefit”. Free sexual favours! Awesome! I thought nobody would take me seriously. Before, I never understood why people were afraid to tell anyone. Surely your word was enough? But all of a sudden I was questioning everything. Did drinking imply I was up for it? Did wearing a dress mean I was definitely up for it? Was I being a tease letting him stay? How could I be so naive?

It hurt for days. A few weeks later I texted him spelling out what he had done. He’d apparently had no idea, but blocked me anyway.

A woman on Crimewatch today was talking about her own Boxing Day sexual assault back in 2004 – how it had felt, how it made her feel now – and I felt funny and agitated. I couldn’t understand why.

What’s disturbed me the most is that I did such a good job of forgetting it ever happened. I’ve blocked out particularly scathing things people have said in the past, but to go so long without this crossing my mind seemed bizarre. I’ve seen countless invasions of personal space on TV in the intervening time, but I could never empathise and they never brought memories back. It seemed like it happened to someone else, and the only thing that reassured me it really did happen was the funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My boyfriend found him on Facebook and I was disturbed to see his face after all this time.

I’ll stew on it today, then push it to the back of my mind again. I’m writing this for therapeutic reasons, but also as a reminder for you to be mindful over the holidays: respect people’s boundaries. No actually does mean no. So do one, gobshites!