All posts for the month May, 2012

The Singing Historian

Published May 29, 2012 by crazyinpink

A nickname I have in the School of History.  Professors and lecturers are always amused by my ‘double life’ as one of them called it; they’d see me studying hard in the library and in tutorials during the day then when they went home they’d see me singing on TV.


I’ve always loved singing, its just one of those things I am effortlessly good at (one of the very few things I might add). My first solo was at the age of two; ‘Jesus loves me’ at a church barbecue. In school I was always in the choir, usually singing solo and in P7 I was the Narrator in our production of Joseph and his Amazing technicolour Dreamcoat. I still know all the colours of that coat.  Grammar school was much the same, choirs, chamber choirs, singing lessons. I joined the university choir but since it was student-led and a bit of fun, I really missed the challenging atmosphere of a ‘professional’ choir.

I auditioned in 2009 for two choirs.  The first choir is part of a Christian organisation that includes an all-Ireland choir, chamber choir and orchestra.  I was an original member of the short-lived Youth Choir initiative that only lasted a few years. This choir puts on concerts twice, maybe three times a year. Rehearsals are few but intense, you have to be able to sight-sing and work on your harmonies at home. I love this choir. Being with such a group of Christians who just want to worship God is inspiring and makes me feel completely at home. We’re doing some concerts this weekend in a concert hall in Belfast and I can’t wait. 


The second choir is much more problematic. I heard about it through a friend who wanted us both to audition.  We both did. I got in; she didn’t.  The choir was brand spanking new, the first ever Northern Ireland gospel choir.  But even though we were all new, it took a really long time (over a year) for me to feel comfortable with the other members, to find friends. And even though it was a gospel choir, the choir was not a Christian group.  Our director could not stress this point strongly enough: we sang songs about Jesus but we weren’t allowed to discuss religion or try to force our ‘beliefs’ onto other members. So strong was the anti-Christianity of some members that they refused to participate in concerts held in churches. Some members were openly gay. Yet we rehearsed and performed songs that said ‘Oh happy day! When Jesus washed my sins away’.

I had trouble squaring this with my own beliefs.  I am a Christian and I believe that God made me the way I am for a reason, He gave me talents to use for Him and His glory. Singing, therefore, has always been something that I’ve done for God. The break after the first year of gospel choir I thought long and hard about whether or not to return. I loved the singing and performing but I felt uneasy with the ethos of the choir and the egocentric atmosphere. I eventually decided that even though the “choir” might not be singing for God, I was.

Last year, still struggling with the same issues, I reached a point where I could not stand to be associated with the choir any longer.  The choir operates a hierarchy system of the director’s ‘favourites’, the elite who get to do all the smaller, higher profile gigs and get all the solos. I was on the fringes of the elite, a powerful soprano who could hit notes the others only dreamt of but not ‘gospel’ enough for a solo. (Apparently the definition of ‘gospel’ in the choir was the ability to do X Factor-style air grabs and wail runs of off-key notes, turning a simple three note tune into a bad Mariah Carey impression of over three hundred notes) Around November, I was doing a gig with a small group of twenty for a big Remembrance concert. With time to kill after the sound check, the choir went to Nandos for dinner. Around the table the conversation was gossipy, bitchy and selfish. Even the church-going members were telling stories about adultery, maintaining that your life only begins when you get married and how life wouldn’t be worth living if you didn’t have children.  There I was, a girl whose family had been torn apart by adultery, the only single person at the table living with an illness that has high correlation with infertility.  The melancholic mood only escalated back at the concert hall when I got changed into my choir outfit. 

The choir had to dress in red and black but there was no set outfit for everyone.  I had worn the same red dress for just over a year (since I don’t own anything else that colour).  That night when I came out of the bathroom, the director’s husband pounced on me and suggested I pin my black cardigan (the only costume item provided for us) together with a brooch to ‘cover up’. Initially confused, I assumed he wanted me to ‘bling’ up so I said I hadn’t put my jewellery on yet. He went on to explain that he meant I should cover up because I ‘didn’t look good on stage’, he could see what the audience saw and it was not pretty. He gestured over my tummy and said ‘some of the other big girls prefer to cover themselves up’.

Were it not for the fact that I was already feeling low, I might have punched him. How dare he say that to me. The man himself is the size of a small mountain and his wife, our director, is a size 22. I’m not under any illusions that I’m a supermodel, I’m a curvy girl and proud of it. I’m a size 16 with big boobs, a small waist, big bum and yes, a bit of a tummy. I don’t cover myself up because I’m not ashamed of my body.  This is who I am. But that night that man made me feel like the ugliest girl ever.

I only did one other concert after that, one I’d already committed to. But I couldn’t stand to put myself back in that environment again, especially with the severity of my condition and my uni work. I took the term off, citing medical grounds as my reason. When I see choir events advertised or stories pop up on my facebook I groan and roll my eyes. I said I would think carefully about whether or not to return. To go back means I will get to perform more, be in the spotlight, but it would be for the glory of the choir and our director, it would mean hours of rehearsals with people who couldn’t care less about me, sacrificing my time and effort into something I no longer enjoy. I just can’t do that anymore.


PhDs, painting and pirating

Published May 28, 2012 by crazyinpink

I got funding to do a PhD!!!!!!

Okay, first of all, it’s not actually my topic I got funded for. It’s the set topic one I applied for.  I now know I have a secure position for the next three years with a salary and an office on campus. Yes, it would be amazing to research my own topic but it’s not a perfect world so I’ll go with what I’m given.  Saying that, if at some point between now and September I get offered the money to do my own topic, I will be jumping ship!

Secondly, I have inadvertently started my own business, face painting. Random.  The last few years I’ve been coerced into painting the odd child’s face at my church’s summer fete.  This year I got organised and bought a little painting set with a book of designs. The fete went really well and I helped to raise a little bit of money but what was most remarkable was that I was asked to do a birthday party the following weekend.  As a student who just seems to be getting poorer and poorer these days I jumped at the chance and so, I am now a professional face painter.

Which leads me onto my third ‘P’: pirating.

My first ‘gig’ as a face painter was a 7 year old’s birthday party in a seaside town a few miles from where I live.  The weather has been absolutely scorching over here the last week and so I arrived in a cute flowery summer dress with some little flowers painted on my own face (one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do) at this gigantic house with a back garden so big it had its own lake.  I was directed to a picnic table and I set up shop. I had a steady stream of kids and it wasn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the sun.  When a lull came in my queue for painting, I noticed for the first time that there was a photographer.  He was darting around the kids as they played and posed on the various bouncy castles, trampoline, swing set, paddling pools (it really was a huge garden).  None of the adults were even speaking to me, the woman who had booked me for the party had left half an hour after it started. When Mr Photographer came over to my table I asked him if he wanted to be a pirate.

An hour later, I packed up my stuff and left the party with Mr Photographer’s number and business card.

I’m still not entirely sure how I pulled that one off. Yeah, he was kind of cute and I did enjoy talking to someone over the age of 8.  At one point, after I helped a little girl up onto the trampoline, we were standing chatting.  He had been booked by the grandad and ran a photography studio in the town. I explained that I was a postgrad student just earning some extra pocket-money. He was very interested that I was booked through my church fete because he’s a Christian too. He then said we would have to keep in touch and he might be able to help me get more gigs at different events he’s doing throughout the summer.

When my friends in church asked me how my first job went and I told them about Mr Photographer, one found it hilarious that I managed to ‘pull’ by asking a guy if he wanted to be a pirate.

Benedict Cumberbatch – the love of my life

Published May 18, 2012 by crazyinpink

I’m shocked it had taken me this long to dedicate a whole post to the wonder that is Benedict Cumberbatch.  My twitter is full of mentions of the Batch and a fair few of my followers are fellow Cumberbitches.

The obsession began with Amazing Grace, a film I first saw years ago and quite fancied the guy playing William Pitt.  Then I watched BBC’s Small Island and again was struck by this unconventional-looking actor who was so compelling that even though he was absent for most of the series was still my favourite part of the show.

It wasn’t until Sherlock that the obsession truly came to maturity. I was in love. Most people still didn’t know who he was but I had a crush on the man with the incredible cheekbones. Something about that striking silhouette with the collar turned up and the blue scarf, not to mention of course his fantastic suits (costume dept of Sherlock, I applaud you). By the time the second series aired, most people knew I had a thing for him and in the last few months it’s only gotten worse.

My phone and laptop wallpaper are images of the man himself. My ringtone is the Sherlock themetune. I can spend far too long online simply looking at pictures of him. I buy every paper or magazine that he appears in, usually only finding out about it because one of my loyal twitter followers informs me.  Once, I couldn’t get hold of a particular TV magazine he had been interviewed in and a very lovely girl in Manchester scanned hers and emailed me a copy.

I went to a table quiz on Wednesday night.  It was for leaders of Girls’ Brigade. In our team, I was the youngest and before it started we were discussing our ‘specialist subjects’, one girl said ’80s music’ another ‘soaps’. I said that I was good for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘the life and times of Benedict Cumberbatch’. They laughed at me for thinking it would appear.

Then, for the second picture round, who is number 15??

Yes, I squealed. Then I told the man collecting the answer sheets that number 15 was my future husband. Then I kept the sheets with his picture.


Its not an obsession, its a way of life.

Essays and Endo

Published May 14, 2012 by crazyinpink

Tomorrow is the deadline for a massive essay and seminar review for my masters. I submitted today. Early! *mini celebration*

It was a struggle. For a start, I was writing on political history which is not my strongest subject. The reading was tough going and very confusing. I knew I had to get it done for today. Tomorrow I’m attending a Pain Summit in Belfast (in my new role as Chronic Pain Girl) so I won’t have time to get to uni to hand it in.
For the last two weeks I have barricaded myself in either my room or a library, leaving only for food or to go to work. Luckily, I am enjoying mild flirtationships with two co-workers so that gave some relief from the pressure. Over the weekend the pain flared up. I began writing on Saturday afternoon with a hot water bottle clamped to my stomach. I couldn’t take as many painkillers as I needed because they make my brain go fuzzy and I needed to be able to concentrate.
But I got them done. I don’t know how but I did it.

Sometimes its little victories like this that spur me on. Being in constant pain can be so disheartening, can make you feel like you’re missing out on so much. My education means everything to me and to retain that part of my life as wholly mine, and not endo’s, is important to me.

Of course, saying that, I am celebrating this mini-victory over pain by going home after I finish work, having a long hot bath and indulging in some Benedict Cumberbatch.

Boys! Boys! Boys!

Published May 8, 2012 by crazyinpink

The past few nights I’ve had dreams about different guys in my life ranging from the mundane (one of them taking me to Ikea to buy curtains) to the downright weird (one of them being my boyfriend as I tried to put on a production of Annie in a Victorian school building).  So what better time to reflect on the existence of boys in my life and what better title than that of the (subtly-changed) Elvis movie Girls! Girls! Girls!

First of all there’s Best Friend. A whole relationship I’ve already gone into before which is still teeming with awkwardness.

Then there’s my Toyboy. I met him last summer, thought he was cute and we flirted as we helped out at a Holiday Bible Club in church before I discovered he was only 17.  Cue endless slagging from my mates about me being a ‘cougar’. His age didn’t bother me as much as the fact that he was still in school, I couldn’t possibly have started anything with a boy who still wears a uniform. We toned the flirting down and still remain friends. Every so often we’ll go out for dinner or to a movie, things that seem normal for me but very ‘grown-up’ to him. Bless. He’s like an excitable little puppy dog, he cheers me up but is completely exhausting.

Next (and this is where it gets a little complicated) is Lucius. No, that’s not his real name but writing in code is the only thrill I’ll have today and he bears an uncanny resemblance to Lucius Malfoy in A Very Potter Sequel. Lucius and I worked together for six months and saw each other every day. I trust him, he was my friend during my last relationship and through its demise and after we finished work met up with me a few times for lunch. A few months ago, things with Lucius got weird. He’s very flirty anyway and has quite a dirty sense of humour but the flirting stepped up a notch once we weren’t seeing each other every day. When Lucius and I first met we were part of a trio doing temp work with another guy Dave. The three of us reunite every few months for lunch. In January the three of us went out for a meal and to the cinema, it was the weirdest date-type thing ever as both were vying for my attention. Dave by talking about all the things we have in common while Lucius kept finding reasons to touch my arm or play with my hair. All three of us are Potterheads and when I mentioned that I knew how Hermione felt being with two guys all the time they started questioning which of them was Harry and which was Ron. Both wanted to be Ron.

Anyway… There’s Face now too. My flirting distraction. After barely speaking in work on Friday he then tweeted me all weekend and described me as ‘eclectic’. I’m not sure whether this was a compliment or not.

And finally, Jam. *sigh* The only guy I know I fancy. While I enjoy flirting with the others, I know nothing will happen with Toyboy or Lucius. Face is still an unknown entity as I’ve only known him a few weeks but Jam… I really want something to happen with Jam. We have a lot in common and although it took a really long time for us to start talking to each other, I love our half hour convos at the end of work. He went away to Australia and New Zealand for a month and came back to work today. I was so nervous about seeing him again. Things had been going really well with our friendship before he left, what if it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it was? What if I had romanticised just how well we had been getting on? After a complicated decision about what to wear and how to do my hair, I got into work this morning and when he saw me he gave me a big smile and asked how I was and what’s been going on for the last month. I haven’t stopped smiling since. 😀

Having a happenin Thursday

Published May 4, 2012 by crazyinpink

As a special birthday treat for a friend who has been through a lot lately, I bought us tickets to go see Legally Blonde the musical (okay, yes, I just wanted to see it but I also thought it’d be right up her street so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win).  We were both ridiculously excited. I wore a pink dress, obviously. We had decided to go to a matinee as it suited us better and consequently were surrounded by teenagers on school trips.  It was so totally awesome! I saw it in Edinburgh in September but I needed another dose of the pink joyfulness. Legally Blonde remains one of my top ten movies for never failing to cheer me up and I’ve often been described as the history version of Elle Woods because of my fondness for pink, my long blonde hair and my love of pretty accessories.  And the fact that I’m not really as dumb as I appear…at least, I hope so.

We had a ball, laughing, singing, cheering and practically wetting ourselves at the funniest song in musical history ‘Gay or European?’ Add into that our excited recognition of semi-celebs Ray Quinn and Les Dennis and our complete and utter adoration of the guy who played Emmett (yes, I’ve since googled his real name and dutifully starting following him on twitter). It was the loveliest way to spend an afternoon.

After a coffee break (I had an iced latte which means it’s now officially summer time) and a wee chat we set off for our next social engagement. The young adults group from my church had organised a dinner and since I felt a little guilty about not attending anything since January, I asked if I could bring a friend. Dinner was in this restaurant in a college where they train chefs, I never even knew such a thing existed but was up for trying it out. We met up with the group; after being chatted up by a man in a tuxedo in the car park, and all ten of us sat down to enjoy a night of fine food and company.

The company certainly was fine, we had a right laugh at my end of the table. It’s always weird when you introduce one friend or group to another, like separate parts of your life are colliding.  My friend revealed something about me that I had managed to keep secret from the group for about eight years. When I was in school, I had a reputation for dating ‘all the tuba players’ in our school. I should quantify this by pointing out that there only were two, but that didn’t matter at the time, it was all a hilarious joke for the ‘music crowd’ which I guess I was part of. In my last year, people used to borrow my sheet music in choir and write ‘tubalicious’ on it, a word solely invented for me. The first, and first tuba incidentally, was my first boyfriend, we dated for a year on and off until he decided it should stay off. The abruptness of our break-up (by text, after he had borrowed my phone and deleted all messages from him as well as his number – who does that?) and the fact that I saw him every flipping day meant that after a while, there was a lot of pressure to prove who was over who first. Yes, it was very childish but I was only 16, I wouldn’t act like that now…probably. Anyway, the second tuba, two years younger, was a renowned flirt known as ‘Pervy Pete’ a nickname I had in fact given him during my relationship with the first tuba. I knew I could pull Pervy Pete, he’d always had a bit of a thing for me, so it was easy to flirt outrageously with him at choir events, hold hands with him on the bus, let him kiss me whenever he wanted. We never actually went as far as ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ but still, word spread that I had a thing for tuba players, it didn’t help that the mantra of tuba players in our school was ‘tongue harder, finger faster’.

Embarrassing secrets aside, we had a great time at dinner, the only problem was the dinner itself. There were three options for starters; smoked salmon, goat cheese tart and carrot and parsnip soup. I like none of these so I declined from the starters. For mains we had steak and chips, chicken breast and cabbage or Irish stew.  We were told that there were only two steaks left, two instantly claimed them and the rest started ordering. The guy beside me ordered chicken and the waiter announced that that was all the chicken gone too. My face fell; I have always loathed Irish stew. Fortunately, someone knew this about me and swapped me for their steak. Dessert was either lemon posset or apple crumble. Most went crumble, I myself believe that fruit should never be cooked in anything and went for the posset. Our waiter reported back that the apple crumble was burnt and offered alternatives of mint parfait or ice cream. Having made second choices for dessert, he came to tell us half the posset was expired so there wasn’t enough; four of us could have posset, three could have parfait, the others would have to have ice cream. By this stage it was like a comedy of errors, especially when someone realised she had soup spilled down her back when she had eaten salmon.

At the end of the day I dropped my friend home, only to discover that someone had smashed her rear light and dented the boot of her car….

Quite an eventful day.

Under the (painkiller) influence

Published May 2, 2012 by crazyinpink

I take a lot of painkillers. My daily medication currently consists of 9 different pills of varying strengths.

Sometimes I do crazy things when I’ve taken too many painkillers, when my head’s a little fuzzy and I’m not 100% sure of what’s going on around me.

Here are some things I’ve done in the last week alone:

  • bought a Moriarty tshirt online then forgot about it


(yet another Sherlock-based item I’ve bought under the influence)

  • took a yoghurt to work then forgot which fridge I’d put it in, resulting in me rummaging in all four fridges and getting weird looks
  • forgetting the access code that opens the doors to the stairs in work after using it at least 10 times that day alone; used it to go downstairs then two minutes later could not for the life of me remember what the simple 5-digit code was. I had to stand there for 10 minutes before someone opened the door.
  • sending very flirty messages to a male friend
  • engaging in an extremely odd conversation with another male friend in which he called me ‘a buxom wench’
  • taking off one shoe at my desk but keeping the other one on then forgetting this when I went to the bathroom and walked the length of the office in an odd shoe-sock combo…

Sometimes, I just shouldn’t be allowed out.


How I accidentally became an activist

Published May 2, 2012 by crazyinpink

I wore my yellow dress (yellow is the chosen colour for endo awareness) and pink heels (my favourite). I looked around at about 40 people; doctors, MLAs, pharmaceutical reps, professionals, charities, I realised I was the youngest by far. But I ploughed on and gave my wee story. I was told to just be honest, so I was. I told them about being ignored for 5 years as a teenager, I told them that I’ve had to accept that my life won’t turnout the way I’d like it to, that I’ve come to terms with the fact that not everything is possible for me. I said that the most important thing is to raise awareness of invisible illnesses because with more knowledge comes more opportunity for help and for hope.

I think it went well. In the discussion time afterwards all kinds of people came up to me to say that they thought I was really brave to talk about my condition so honestly and thanked me. One politician told me I should go into politics because they need more women who are passionate. I had my photo taken for a health service magazine and they took my number to do a follow-up interview later in the week. The leader of one political party wanted to speak to me one-on-one and took me to the members lounge for a coffee where I told him about all the crap I’ve had to deal with. His jaw dropped more than once and offered to do anything he could to help out.

At class last night, which only 4 of us turned up for, the head of History (who is my Facebook friend) asked me about my day and was impressed with my campaigning. It hadn’t really dawned on me that I was campaigning but I guess that is what I’m doing. I just want to raise awareness of endo and chronic pain and if telling my story to a room of strangers helps do that, then that’s what I’ll do.

I received an email today from the organiser of yesterday’s event thanking me and saying I’m a ‘shining example’. There’s a summit on pain in two weeks, an all-day conference to build upon yesterday. I’ve been asked to attend and hopefully some good will come of it.  We need more awareness and acceptance. And apparently I’m now an activist for the cause.