Homelessness in Scotland

Homelessness in Scotland is on the rise again. In 2016-2017, 34,100 homelessness applications were made. Latest figures saw a 2% increase in applications for housing assistance. There’s been a 10% increase in the number of children facing homelessness in the last year. In August 2017, there were an estimated 800 rough sleepers in Scotland. Analysis from researchers at Heriot Watt University predicts that things are only going to get worse – with an estimated 53% increase to be seen in the number of rough sleepers over the next 20 years.

Shelter published the following diagram, which highlights that single males make up nearly half of all homeless individuals in Scotland.

shelter statistics homelessness

Shelter helped 21,145 people in need last year and actively tackles homelessness and housing problems in Scotland

The Beast from the East

The Beast From the East has hit the UK hard. Scotland has been issued with amber and red weather warnings. This is serious, you guys. Red weather warnings equate to “risk to life”. While most of us rushed home from work to the warmth of our heated flats and excitedly made hot chocolates because any excuse, others are not so lucky.

In this current treacherous weather, the homeless are likely to suffer massively – especially rough sleepers. I’ve put together information on charities and shelters that can provide help and shelter to those in need of a bed and hot meal over the next few nights. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please approach them and offer to reach out to a charity. Even just buying them a sandwich and a coffee would make a huge difference. Compassion and empathy is crucial at times like these, when the homeless are most vulnerable.

Edinburgh

Shelter – www.scotland.shelter.org.uk – 0808 800 4444

Streetwork – www.streetwork.org.uk – 0808 178 2323

Bethany Christian Trust – http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Signposting-leaflet-updated-Sep-2017-4.pdf

St John’s Episcopal Church

Meadowbank Parish Church

meadowbank parish church night shelter

Glasgow

Glasgow City Mission

Glasgow Night Shelter – 07555 591 466 / 0141 221 2630 – 35 East Campbell Street, G1 5DT

The Simon Community Street Team – 0800 027 7466

Dundee

Homeless Services Unit – 01382 432001 (24hrs) – East District Housing Ofice, 169 Pitkerro Road, Dundee DD4 8ES

Night Ministry – 07999 872 928 /01382 871144 – www.nightministry.co.uk

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Cyrenians – 01224 625 732 / 07870 230 692 (out of hours) – Street Alternatives, 62 Summer Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1SD

Elsewhere

If you don’t know who else to call, please call 111. The Police Scotland phone teams will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Look out for each other

At the end of the day, we need to have each other’s backs. If you’re passionate about the safety of homeless people and want to push the Scottish Government to do more, contact your local MP. Ask them for their opinions on the effectiveness of current legislation and what they think could be done to improve it. Show you care. Show you’re not going to let this issue slide. Show that you believe every human has the right to more than concrete for a bed.

Profiting From Beauty

The Grid Girls

A few weeks ago, there was a rather noisy controversy around Formula 1’s decision to scrap the Grid Girls. This left many women jobless and caused quite the stir among Formula 1 fans, feminists and many others.

On the one hand, many were exultant because they saw this as progress towards a society free from sexism and oppression – of which the existence of Grid Girls was a symptom. By this reckoning, the Grid Girls were considered to be existing in a male-dominated community. The Girls’ freedoms were devalued because their jobs made them vulnerable to men, and therefore inferior; thanks to the patriarchy.

Others were furious about the decision and accused F1 of pandering to over-the-top pressures from militant feminists and others who are pushing for a puritan ideology to take hold in our progressive, increasingly liberal society. This side of the debate argued that these women were not forced into the jobs they were hired for and that their dismissal was a puritan persecution of those who refuse to accept that humans can profit from their bodies, appearances, and – most importantly – beauty. The slippery slope argument (that if Grid Girls are acceptable then it sets a precedent for misogyny elsewhere) is exactly that; slippery.

Source: Getty Images

Society is heavily divided in arguments like these; consider the divisiveness around conversations about sex work. For some, legalising sex work gives those who sell sex legal protections from harm, while others believe that the patriarchy has conditioned us into believing that sex work is a job we should encourage when it is not. I’m aware that this barely scratches the surface of the sex work debates, but I’m going to save the intricacies of that for a future blog post. To delve into it now would likely result in this being 5,000 words long and I’d still have more to say! Back to Grid Girls…

Here’s a difference between sex workers and the Grid Girls, though: the Grid Girls are capitalising on their beauty. There’s also the fact that Grid Girls were not, to our knowledge, ever trafficked or forced into working against their will. Grid Girls did not face potential prosecution as they earned their wages. Grid Girls did not deal with nearly the same stigma or potential danger that sex workers do.

For me, one of the most important points made in the Grid Girls debate was made by Sara Pascoe during her performance for The Guilty Feminist podcast’s Suffragette Centenary Special – Part 1. The perfect-star-alignment of this conversation is not lost on me: we are still debating what women can and cannot do, whether it be voting, sex work (or any work), or breastfeeding in public.

pin up girls spray paint

Sara made a brilliantly eloquent point about 24 minutes in which I’ve done my best to transcribe accurately:

…feminism is this huge thing and some of us are running in different directions…I think that what happened with the Grid Girls is really shocking and I don’t want feminism attached to that kind of thing…I feel like sometimes there are these massive misunderstandings, like, beautiful people of any gender are allowed to make money from that. The difference between the Grid Girls and the Presidents Club where people were being harassed at work – they’re entirely different things. It isn’t about outfits, and I feel like I don’t want to be part of something where some women get to decide who women are based on the bodies that they’re born in. And I feel like something like this is so huge that sometimes in a group we get kind of pulled along – we have to remember that it isn’t…it’s interesting that it’s women in their 30s with money who got the vote first. Quite often in feminism, and I speak as one of them, we are the people who also have a voice.

I bloody love Sara Pascoe. The example she gave comparing the Grid Girls to the women at the Presidents Club is perfect. The Presidents Club dinner in January deserved the media attention. Those men deserved to be outed for the sexist, chauvinistic pigs they were. They were harassing women who were there to do a job. Those women didn’t ask to be grabbed, leered on, or assaulted. They were there to do a job, collect their wages and carry on with their lives.

Beauty as a commodity

I also loved Pascoe’s highlighting of a maddenly uncomfortable truth – people don’t like other people profiting from their beauty or looks. Models have such a bad rep as being vacant or uneducated and that they have no prospects outside their looks. It’s completely unfair, widely inaccurate and drilled into us from a very young age.

I remember a friend of mine at primary school, a beautiful girl with blonde hair, fabulous cheekbones and legs a mile long at age 10 being so upset when others suggested she become a model. She asked if that’s all we thought she was good for, if they didn’t think she was clever enough to expect more in her life. Looking back, that breaks my heart. Why can’t such a young girl have both? Why can’t she want to be a model and be intelligent, conscientious and successful?

Pascoe’s point about profiting from beauty is thought-provoking. Beauty as a commodity makes it valuable, tradable and, most importantly, valuable. It is not vain to admit to being beautiful – it is important for us to recognise and accept ourselves for who we are and what we have. While what we consider beautiful is highly subjective and in the eye of the beholder, when others recognise that beauty, do we not have the right to capitalise it like we would our musical ability or aptitude for maths? What makes beauty so different from the ability to compose or design or build or create? While the questions don’t sit entirely comfortably with me, I’m asking myself whether that discomfort is with the idea of beauty being an acceptable trading token, or whether there’s a deeper issue I’ve yet to articulate.

girls

Grid Girls weren’t scrapped as a concept because the women dealt with workplace harassment, misogyny and potential harm. They were removed from the F1 to give off the impression that the F1 bosses are woke and tuned in to world politics. They were removed under some illusion that sexism can’t exist if the women aren’t there. That the problem is only surface deep, and not in fact ingrained so heavily in society it’s painful when we do exorcise those demons.

Whether you think the Grid Girls were outdated and misogynistic or not should not be the sole focus of this debate. In fact, we may well find that we settle on an answer when we delve a little deeper into the other problem – whether women are capable of making such employment decisions for themselves.

We need to highlight that women do have the capacity to make decisions for themselves – we need to remind ourselves that maintaining women’s agency is vital. Women who have agency have the right to decide for themselves what is acceptable and feasible employment and what is not. To start arguing that these women were misinformed or fell victim to the patriarchy or misogynists or whoever else is an insult to women worldwide.

We’ve seen through the patriarchy’s bullshit long enough now – we know our own minds and our own bodies. We should be able to decide for ourselves what we do with them. Isn’t that what feminism is truly about: having the right to choose for ourselves and escaping the patriarchy’s cold, unwavering grip?

solidarity sisters

Lady Doritos? Seriously?

BREAKING NEWS: Women Are Too Complicated For Men

Do you ever read a headline and think it’s a hoax? Recently, I’ve been finding myself checking whether the publisher of articles is The Onion or Reductress, because separating fact from fiction is becoming increasingly difficult. Today was no exception when I was confronted with this headline:

doritos for women article headline

facepalm

It’s almost comical. Almost.

In trying to prove how complicated women are, Doritos have managed to make women out to be so simple.

You’d think brands might have learned by now that people find unnecessarily gendered products insulting. There seems to be no real point to it, unless you consider the company’s profit margins. All it seems to do is drive up the price of a product while “male” or gender-neutral counterpart. The cost of razors depends on whether you’re standing in the men’s aisle or the women’s, we pay more for tampons than condoms, and BIC found out the hard way that women don’t need their own pen.

This latest attempt by Doritos to make “lady-friendly” crisps that are quieter, less crumbly and “handbag” sized tells me three things:

  1. there were no women high up in the decision-making process at Doritos HQ
  2. the men behind this idea really don’t understand women
  3. sexism is alive and well

What’s the problem?

By creating this female version of the wonderous golden triangle snack, Doritos must have made several assumptions about women:

  1. women hate crumbs
  2. women’s handbags are too small/full of other things
  3. women dislike making noise/are embarrassed by loud eating sounds they make
  4. women, alone, take issue with the above problems (i.e. men don’t have the same relationship with a bag of Doritos)

While this blunder may seem somewhat insignificant, it’s only a snapshot of a bigger picture that represents the everyday sexism women face. When women are distilled down,minimised and stereotyped by brands to sell a particular product, a message is sent out to the masses that this is an acceptable way to view women. This kind of behaviour from brands also harms worthwhile activism by distracting the public from issues that matter. Rather than working with women to shed light on real issues like violence, poverty and trafficking, it perpetuates the notion that women are superficial and care more about perception and appearance than they do about the real problems we’re facing today.

This particular product from Doritos promotes the idea that women should be quiet, clean and endorses the “ladylike” shtick that women have been actively trying to shrug off for years. Ladylike is a term that is often used to stifle female expression – be that emotional, intellectual, creative or sexual. Thrown around when a woman’s actions lie outwith society’s restricted ideals of how a “proper” (read – oppressed) lady should behave, ladylike has long been used by the patriarchy to keep a handle on women and their acts of societal defiance.

It’s about damn time people started treating women as human and not as empty shells.

It is not a woman’s duty to shrink herself to satisfy the patriarchy’s ego and obsessive control issues.

A woman is not defined by her looks, her femininity or her ability to placate others.

When will society accept that women are complex, multifaceted and unique?

Why do brands continue to pedal antiquated ideas of what a woman should be or how she should behave?

Can we just get rid of the patriarchy already?

A post shared by La Huesera (@laynearlina) on

Personally, I’m pissed off because Doritos are one of my go-to snacks. I don’t want to be giving money to a company that values women so little. Then I’m reminded that most companies are the same and, like with ethical clothing brands, if I was to cut out all the businesses with crappy ethics I’d end up naked and hungry. Neither of those things are what I want.

What next, then? Well, for starters, keep making noise. Keep proving to these decision makers (regardless of gender) that you will be heard and your opinions matters. Keep rallying, writing, tweeting, sharing – use whatever tools you have in your belt. This is about so much more than those delicious corn triangles. This is about representation and forcing brands to gain a better understanding of half the human population (which would be easier if they were hiring more women to become those decision makers).

From now on, I’m asked why I choose to label myself a feminist, this Doritos debacle will be added to the laundry list of issues I have with how women are treated in society.

Oh, and Doritos? Next time you want to make a product for women, try asking them what they want first. It’s not as hard as Mel Gibson made it out to be.

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My Winter Roses

In December, my Mum made me a window box for my Juliet balcony. It’s a beautiful box (and I’ve already put my order in for a second!), filled with hardy plants that will endure the icy Edinburgh wind this winter. Among the planted foliage, Mum gave me a winter rose. A beautiful evergreen perennial, it has blossomed five beautiful, stark white flowers during the snow flurries and windy winter days we’ve been having over the last two months.

A post shared by Amy King (@amyckx) on

There’s something stunningly poetic about the winter rose. It needs very little in the way of care. It actually reacts very badly to being overwatered, which I found out the hard way. The hellebore (check out the Latin/gardening knowledge Wikipedia has taught me) is happiest left to thrive on its own with a little help from the elements. It really loves the Edinburgh weather. My winter rose sits proudly among the greenery Mum planted, making the view from my sofa prettier, and providing me with the perfect analogy for my friendships.

Long distance friendship is hard. Long distance anything is hard. But with friends, there’s the worry that they’ll think you’ve forgotten or moved on or things have fizzled. It happens. Sometimes, though, you find people and with them it doesn’t matter how long you go without seeing them or speaking, you know they’re only ever a message away should you need their advice, support or stories.

Those friendships don’t need much – as life gets more hectic (which life tends to do), and keeping in touch regularly becomes more of an in-joke than a promise, it can be tricky to feel out where you stand with some people. Not your winter roses, though. Your friendships with those beauties will thrive regardless, even after long spells of no communication. The smallest gesture will mean a lot and the friendship will continue to blossom with the knowledge that your friend will be there anytime you need them – day or night, July or December.

I said this to a friend the other day and realised it applied to some other wonderful people who continue to support me, share their love and keep me smiling:

Good friendships don’t need constant tending to. They’re like winter roses – a little sprinkle of water is more than enough to keep them blooming, even on the coldest, darkest days.

winter roses
(image source)

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Let’s Talk Consent

Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that this is a post about consent (obviously). It’s going to cover consent violations, including one of my own, but I’m going to do my absolute best to steer clear of any potentially triggering phrases or sexually based examples as much as possible. Please keep in mind though that, unfortunately, a lot of consent violations are sexual in nature. I’ll be as implicit as I can, but if you think this post might be triggering for you – don’t read it. Look after yourself first, please x

Right, so, consent. It’s something of a buzzword across all forms of media just now. Everyone’s talking about it, whether in relation to violation, enthusiasm or the “grey area” that exists around it. I thought I’d skip passing judgements on the bad guys (because I think we’re probably all in agreement that they’re bad) and focus on this tricksome issue of consent.

As a young woman who has been to clubs and bars in Scotland and abroad, I have first hand experience of consent violations. For the most part, these have been sexual in nature, but not always.

A few summers ago, I was leaving a club with a friend. That summer I had decided not to drink. My mental health had taken a hit and I was sure that excessive drinking would only be detrimental so I decided to have a dry summer. Granted, there were one or two occasions where I had a gin and tonic or two, but for the most part I stuck to my resolve (which, if you’ve been around Edinburgh during the Fringe, you’ll know to be no easy feat). A friend and I had gone out dancing and, on our way out of the club, I had my stomach grabbed by a man who I would guess to be in his thirties.

I cannot fully articulate how violated I felt in that moment. It still elicits an incredibly visceral reaction from me thinking about it today. It makes me want to shower in scalding hot water. It makes my skin crawl. It makes me feel vulnerable. This man not only grabbed the stomach of a 19 year old girl, but he did so and laughed.

At that time, I was 10 stone. I was wearing high waisted jeans and a crop top that displayed – at most – half an inch of midriff. Not that it should matter. But, for this man, it was enough of an invite to put his hands on my body and exploit my insecurities and vulnerabilities. Had I been drunk, I would probably not even remember this. But I was sober as a judge. I don’t exactly remember what happened next because I was enraged and embarrassed, but I know I was pulled up the stairs fast enough to stop me from swinging for the man or get into a yelling match.

This particular instance stands out for me because it was not inherently sexual in nature. Young women have been conditioned to brush off or defend against sexual harassment from men in a variety of settings, including the workplace, the street and clubs.

“Don’t wear this, don’t say that. Ladies sit with their knees together. Flirting has consequences. That tone will get you in trouble. Be one of the boys to keep them on your side. Put up with the sexual harassment or deal with hostility. Don’t ever expect respect.”

But this was something entirely new. This was a man, yes objectifying me, but finding it completely acceptable to put his hands on my belly and pinch my visible and covered skin between his fingers while laughing. It was invasive and it was far too intimate.

To this day, I think about that incident. It’s a driving factor for a lot of my conversations around feminism and my belief that we need to drill home the importance of consent and body autonomy and goddamn respect for women.

Why consent matters

Because humans have the basic right to choose. It’s that simple. This applies to all thing – law, shopping, GDPR (can you tell I work in marketing?), sex.

To be a little less facetious, consent is a hugely important part of human interaction. Consent helps identify boundaries in interpersonal relationships and is an agreement to do something. This agreement is usually verbal, but can also be granted through non-verbal cues, although this can cause issues with miscommunication.

A great quote I picked up from a website while doing some cursory research for this post summed up consent quite nicely:

Consent allows people to have more control over their decisions and their bodies, which makes people feel more comfortable in social encounters.

At the end of the day, consent is there to ensure the safety, wellbeing and happiness of everyone. By appreciating and looking for people’s consent, we create a culture that understands and respects the views, wants and needs of others while they do not infringe on our own experiences.

What is consent?

According to Merriam Webster online, consent is defined as:

v. to give assent or approval

Definitions of consent in particular situations do vary, though. The law is a great example of this. In America, for instance, individual states have identified different ages of consent to marry.

There are various phrases thrown around in various circles to refer to acts of giving consent, each with a slightly different situational meaning.

Informed consent

Most often found in medical situations (but also works for relationships – consider cheating), informed consent can only be given by an individual after they have reached a sufficient understanding of relevant information that would affect them. For a surgery, for example, informed consent is given after a patient fully understands what is going to happen.

Implied consent

This is an area where much of current debate around consent violations sit. Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted, but instead implied by actions, circumstances or – as is often the case with the many victim blaming scenarios, inaction.

Explicit consent

Consent of this type has been expressly granted, verbally or written. This type of consent is still fallible, but certainly more likely to result in a happy outcome (as long as such explicit consent has not been coerced in some way).

Active consent

Some would argue this is a duplication: consent is itself an active thing.

Passive consent

The flipside to active consent, most would argue that consent cannot be passive, because to be passive means you have not consented.

Enthusiastic consent

Unless someone shows enthusiasm about a proposal, you cannot assume consent has been given. As my boyfriend pointed out – you don’t tend to go to a restaurant without everyone agreeing and being happy with the choice (there are, of course, fussy eaters and exceptions to this rule, but for simplicity’s sake, it’s a good analogy). Why should any sort of intimacy be treated differently from going to dinner?

Thoughts on consent

Jameela Jamil (goddess, actress and writer) wrote a great piece following the Aziz Ansari shitstorm that has been dividing the internet more than that blue/gold dress that had us all topsy turvy.

Anyway, Jameela is all about enthusiastic consent, and wraps my thoughts in a very neat bow with far more finesse than I ever could:

CONSENT SHOULDN’T BE THE GOLD STANDARD. That should be the basic foundation. Built upon that foundation should be fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm. And it is any man or woman’s right at ANY time to stop, for whatever reason.

Preach it lady!

Final thoughts

Consent should not be so hard to understand. Someone broke it down for those of us who are tea drinkers in a rather nifty analogy video which, if you haven’t seen, is worth a watch (if only to make you thirsty).

We really need to change our approach to consent conversations. Starting with highlighting that no one will get it right 100% of the time. People will continue to miscommunicate as long as communication exists. That shouldn’t stop us from trying though.

Consent matters.

Give people the chance to choose for themselves. With a better understanding and ability to negotiate mutual consent, we might actually build a better society, including how we respond to victims of consent violations.

Wouldn’t that be something?

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Oversharing? I Don’t Think So

Attention seeking?

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about my feelings (unless I’m in an anxiety-fuelled spiral, or that time when I spent months pretending I wasn’t head over heels for my boyfriend, but those are stories for another day). I’ll happily broadcast my thoughts, experiences and emotions for all to see on social media and my blog. I guess I wouldn’t have created this blog otherwise.

However, it seems to be something that makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t understand why I “overshare”. The assumption from a lot of these people is that I’m attention seeking. I’m often branded a “drama queen” (the jury’s still out on that one) and loud (guilty as charged). My openness has elicited more than a few eye rolls and shudders of discomfort.

I thought it might help to explain my reasons behind living like Gina Linetti – out loud.

I think I caught feelings

I wrote an article last year on the concept of “radical softness as a weapon“. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! Basically, the term is attributed to artist Lora Mathis who considers open and vocal emotional vulnerability to be a form of activism against our oppressive society which hampers emotional expression.

Radical softness is the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.

Think about the weird relationship we have with our emotions. Sometimes we comfort those who are crying by telling them to “let it out”. At the same time, Britain is notorious for its Stiff Upper Lip mentality and emotionless approach to life. We’re squeamish about feelings. And heaven forbid a male displays any sort of emotion other than aggression – that’ll surely result in his sexuality being called into question. (I have HUGE problems with this behaviour, but again I’ll save my rant for another time). So boys don’t cry, but criers should let it all out, while never allowing emotion to rise and it’s unattractive for women to get angry (or sad, or political, or horny, or anything really, depending on who you’re talking to). Talk about mixed messages!

So, I’m challenging our collective societal discomfort and pushing myself – and maybe you – to question WHY we are so uncomfortable receiving an honest answer to possibly the most asked question around the world: “How are you?”.

#NoFilter

Another reason for my “radical softness” is that I don’t want to fall a further victim to filtering my entire life and only exhibiting the ‘good bits’. It’s unrealistic, unhealthy and unnecessary. Ignoring valid experiences and feelings like this feeds the poisonous train of thought that we somehow fail when we are unable to provide evidence of a happy, successful, fulfilled life. In reality, we all have our ups and downs. Mass media is pretty lacking in the realities of normal life – that includes the bad days, illness (mental or physical, but especially those that are invisible), and general quiet spells where nothing Insta-worthy occurs. We run the risk of manufacturing alternate realities for ourselves that coincide with our quiet, “unfulfilling” lives, which in turn breeds further malcontent as to how we view ourselves and use those around us as a benchmark for our own satisfaction.

I will continue to share my struggles and bad days. I will keep on showing the “unflattering angles”. Why? Because they happen. In being open about my fluctuating mental health among other things, I hope others realise that they are not alone in feeling down, anxious, low or in some way not good enough because their life doesn’t reflect what they see around them.

The truth is that social media can create further isolation, but has the potential to connect and unite people in ways that we rarely see offline.

I have bad days, just like you. In being open about mine, I’m taking a stand against the oppressive Stiff Upper Lip mentality, reaching out for help and support when it seems so difficult to ask for it and hopefully reassuring others that filtered lifestyles of social and mass media are exactly that – filtered.

That isn’t to say that I’m giving up my Valencia or dog filters. I still love me a good selfie, and Valencia raises my photos to the next level. I’m just trying to document my life as it happens and keep my feet planted firmly in reality.

#liveoutloud

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ASMR – Tingles and Triggers

What is ASMR?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is the phrase used to describe the tingling sensation people experience on the skin. It usually begins at the scalp and works its way down the spine, but not always. For the majority of those who experience it, this sensation brings about a sense of relaxation and well-being.

It sounds whacky, but I promise you it’s real. I know because I experience it, and it’s awesome!

ASMR tingles are usually brought on by acoustic and visual triggers and these vary from person to person. It’s also possible to bring on the sensation by thinking about it, but this doesn’t happen for everyone.

There has been little academic research into ASMR. In fact, it was only relatively recently that anyone tried to give the sensation a name. Conversations on forums like Yahoo! and Steady Health saw contributors sharing anecdotes of personal experiences, and discussions grew informally from there, giving rise to the blog The Unnamed Feeling. The term “autonomous sensory meridian response” was only coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allan for her Facebook group.

Some have referred to the experience as a “head orgasm” or “braingasm”, but many within the ASMR community (yes, such a thing exists) refute that terminology because it attaches sexual connotations to an otherwise asexual experience. (Although, there are those who do gain sexual pleasure from these sorts of sounds, leading to a sub-section of the community focusing on ASMRotica, or ASMR erotica).

Most people react in one of two ways upon hearing about ASMR. They’re either intrigued and glad to finally put a name to the sensation they’ve been experiencing for years, or they’re plain weirded out. So, now it’s time to clear something up – this is a natural, physical response that the body creates to relax a person.

As explained in a blog post called “Talking Names: What do we called these tingles, then“, Andrew MacMuiris pointed out that ASMR is:

  • Autonomous – spontaneous, self-governing, within or without control
  • Sensory – pertaining to the senses or sensation
  • Meridian – signifying a peak, climax, or point of highest development
  • Response – referring to an experience triggered by something external or internal

It’s honestly not that weird. Although I will admit that I’m not a fan of all the types of videos you can watch on YouTube within the ASMR community.

Who experiences ASMR?

Have you ever watched someone reading a book intently, or type on their laptop and get a warm, fuzzy feeling spread from your scalp and down your neck? Then you’ve experienced ASMR!

love ASMR. I have found the videos on YouTube to be incredibly helpful at calming me when I’m anxious. They can cancel out the white noise in my brain when I’m desperate to sleep but it feels like sounds are rushing around my skull. I can’t count the number of times I’ve drifted to sleep listening to an ASMR video. They have become a huge part of my self-care routine.

My biggest triggers are ambient, repetitive sounds. I love the sound of turning a book’s pages, light tapping and the sound of hairbrushing. I do have visual triggers too – mostly when I see someone intently carrying out a simple task, like reading or writing. Spiralgraphs and cooking videos (without Gordon Ramsey’s sweary rants) are other great triggers too!

ASMR on YouTube

The ASMR community is arguably most prevalent on YouTube. There are countless ASMR channels whose videos are all created with the intention of triggering viewers’ ASMR. These include audio and visual triggers, with many incorporating a number of different triggers into each video to maximise the ASMR experience.

Since my introduction to ASMR a few years ago, I’ve found a couple of videos incredibly useful for helping me unwind after a stressful day or send me to sleep when I’m really struggling with my anxiety.

Ikea’s venture into ASMR just makes me love the brand even more! While these types of videos don’t usually work so well for me (it’s a bit too Role-Play-esque for my tastes), the sounds are lush and the video has a wonderfully calm vibe which sends light tingles down my scalp and neck.

I once made the mistake of watching this video at work on a particularly stressful day during my lunch break and nearly fell asleep at my desk… (Note to self: ASMR videos are not condusive to a productive afternoon!). The repetitive motion and soft crunch of the sand lulls me into a zen state, which is pretty apt if you think about it.

Tibetan singing bowls have become one of my all-time favourite inventions. This particular video is probably my most-watched on YouTube. There’s something incredibly wholesome and warm about the sound of Tibetan singing bowls. They resonate deeply and never fail to help me relax, even at my most anxious.

I’ll finish off with some unintentional ASMR. Bob Ross is the KING of unintentional tingles. He’s so softly spoken and that deep hum melts my stress away, and do I even need to mention the bristles bouncing gently off the canvas? His videos are ASMR heaven!

So there you have it – that’s the basics of ASMR! Give those videos a shot, you might find they turn you to a puddle of relaxed goo too!

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My Top 5 Fave Poets

I’m back! I know it’s been ages. I’m terrible. And busy. Like, soooo busy. But, I managed to find time to knock this bad boy together.

So, today I want to talk about poetry.

Do you ever read a passage in a book and instantly imagine it brought to life in a hazy, Baz Luhrmannesque kind of beauty that you know would reduce you to tears just looking at it? Or listened to a song and thought you belonged in the music video? (You’re lying to yourself if you say no – everyone imagined themselves in Taylor Swift’s music video for Love Story).

Well, that’s how I’ve begun to feel with poetry.

taylor swift love story
(image source)

Last Fringe, I went to the Loud Poets’ show at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a friend. A friend of ours used to perform with them regularly and it sounded like a sophisicated way to spend an evening at the festival. At the time, I wasn’t much for poetry. I mean, sure, in theory it was great and beautiful and, well, poetic. But in practice I rarely read or watched anything that wasn’t Shakespearean or woven into a film or tv show.

The Loud Poets’ Fringe show changed that for me. I was awestruck by the beauty and fun and sadness their words were eliciting from me. It’s hard to verbalise the experience – you really had to have been there. My love for poetry has since been reingited and I thought I’d share some highlights from my recent readings and watchings.

Slam poetry is new to me, but I have fallen in love with the rhythmic, raw passion it is so often performed with and the realness of the words. It’s one thing to read a poem, but to feel those words seeping into your skin and crawling up your neck with the goosebumps they produce? That’s something special.

Speaking of special, my first slam poet recommendation has to be Neil Hilborn. He has lived with mental illness since childhood and discusses his experiences openly and with an uncomfortable honesty that you can’t help but enjoy.

I went to his Fringe show this year at the New Town Theatre on George Street. We sat in the front row (which after he reduced me to tears for the third time I was starting to regret). He’s an incredibly funny, self-depricating, hugely talented man. He tells stories as easily as breathing and was born to share his words with the world.

This is the poem that convinced me to follow his work and the one that emotionally broke me at the end of his set. I hope you enjoy “Joey” as much as I did.

Savannah Brown is my next recommendation. This poem was my first introduction to her, and I went on to buy her book and artwork created from this poem.

This poem has been shared across social media a number of times. In my opinion, people need to watch it now more than ever. This poem is something of a battlecry for women everywhere who have been marginalised, categorised, appraised, disregarded, sexualised, trivialised and minimalised.

She’s soft and bold and her words reflect many of my experiences growing up. Give her a watch, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Next up has to be Sabrina Benaim. Yes, there does seem to be a theme here in mental health chat (and the fact that Button Poetry is the source – a channel I’d urge you to follow for more great content), but I swear you need to watch this one.

It’s real and it’s painful and she gives you a real insight into the fear and frustration that comes with depression. Her other work is fantastic, but personally this one pushed a button and it has stayed with me ever since I first saw it.

 

I first came across Iona Lee through BBC The Social’s Facebook page, watching her perform this particular poem.

It might be her Scottish accent that endears me to her words so much, but she is a wonderful storyteller and the rhythmic cadences are almost hypnotising.

 

Some written poetry now, but just as worthy of your time as the videos above. You’ll likely have heard of Rupi Kaur by now. Having hit Number 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and become an Instagram superstar, her words are world-famous.

I bought her first book, Milk and Honey, a few months back and putting into words how her words made me feel is incredibly difficult. She writes about growing up, falling in and out of love, loss, feminism and her experiences of abuse.

While I can’t relate to everything she has lived through and written about, many of her poems really moved me to tears. Her words are magical and I truly appreciate her craft. I’m currently waiting for my copy of her second book, The Sun and her Flowers, to arrive so I’ll be sure to update you when I’ve had a chance to read it!

🌱😌🌱

Une publication partagée par rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) le

So, there you have it. There are many more poets I’ve found and fallen in love with, but this post was getting to be a hefty length so I’ll save them for a Part 2 in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Are you a fan of poetry in some form or another? Do you have any recommendations for me? Share them in the comments below!

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51 Hours in the Big Smoke

London: it’s where everything happens. A hub of creativity, richly diverse and abuzz with cultural, historical and political events strewn across the vast city. As a self-diagnosed theatre nut and finally maturing enough to appreciate art galleries and museums far more than I did as a child (sorry, Mum), I was keen to visit a few exhibitions while I was down – not to mention Oxford Street’s Topshop. Being a flying visit, I wanted to make the most of my time down here, but I didn’t want to drain myself entirely, so I made sure to keep my options open and my plans flexible as I entered the Big Smoke.

Tuesday

12 noon: Off the train at King’s Cross, straight into the welcoming arms of my wonderful host and tour guide, Ellie. Straight onto the tube and we were soon nipping our way under the city to Mile End. Falling into Ellie’s new (and fabulously grown up) flat, we set our bags down and got to catching up.

2pm: We wandered towards the DLR and headed for Westford Stratford City shopping centre. A wander through the shops and scoring a fantastic deal on crockery in John Lewis for Ellie’s new flat left us pretty peckish, so we stopped off at The Big Greek for a feast of halloumi, and various other traditional dishes. With a large glass of wine, of course.

5pm: Back on the DLR to Bow and we freshened up before heading on the tube for Holborn.

6pm: Ellie took me to her favourite gelato shop in the city, Gelupo, and with good reason; it was to die for. I’m blaming my indecision for having to buy a two scoop tub – one of pistachio and one coconut. I regret nothing.

7pm: Having scoffed the ice cream and only dripping it on myself once, we acquired a gin in a tin from Tesco and headed for the main reason (other than friends) for my visit to London – Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour.


Best new musical I’ve seen in years

An all-female cast and band telling the story of fictional Oban High pupils coming of age in Edinburgh on a wild day out? How could I say no!? It was raw, pure and left me speechless. Musically, it was flawless, the choreography was slick and the mentions of Pulpit Hill and The Station had me giggling like I was part of some unspoken inside joke. I could relate with those girls in a lot of ways, having moved to Oban aged 8 and grew up surrounded by many of the caricatures they portrayed of the townspeople. At 17, I was chomping at the bit to experience something new in the capital. I was as emotionally naive, angsty and curious as those girls (although I’ve never tried Hooch).  If you ever get the chance to see a production of this show, go. Although this run finished September 1st, unfortunately for you.

9:30pm: We left the theatre, the pair of us buzzing, deconstructing every element of the show and gushing over how wonderful and modern and relatable and crafty and entertaining it was, and headed back on the tube home.

10:30pm: Both of us were knackered (Ellie’s app said we’d walked 15km that day) and with early starts and long days catching up with us, we hit the hay.

Wednesday

7am: A quick public service announcement to any of Ellie’s friends – if you ever stay the night with her, you will need to mentally, physically and spiritually prepare yourself for her alarm. It will, without a shadow of a doubt, scare the absolute shit out of you. Having startled awake, we had a leisurely morning filled with tea, chat and getting ready for the day ahead.

9:30am: We set off for Mile End tube station and I finally started to get the hang of using my contactless MasterCard to swipe myself through the barriers every journey.

10:30am: I jumped off the tube a stop before her and made my way to the Victoria and Albert Gallery, using the underpass to arrive right inside the place! (I tell you, London can be very clever sometimes.) Ellie had leant me her membership card, so I headed straight for the fashion gallery which was exhibiting Carlos Balenciaga’s work and it was there that I fell in love. I can’t claim to be that clued up when it comes to fashion (some would argue that I’d happily live in Primark clothes for the rest of my life and they wouldn’t be wrong). But I know Balenciaga by name, and I appreciate a well-designed outfit as much as the next person, so I ventured in. He was a fascinating man, pioneering techniques that used material-led design; he’d choose his fabrics and work around their limitations. His evening gowns are meticulous, the hats rule-breakers and his Spanish heritage evidentiary in many of his pieces.

12 noon: Having wandered the Balenciaga exhibition and house fashion displays, I headed towards the opposite end of the gallery. Ellie’s neat V&A member card helped me queue-jump and with a headset to guide me, I entered the world of Pink Floyd through a giant replica of their trademark black van with the white stripe. It was an incredible display, showcasing the musical artistry and behind-the-scenes talent that went into creating their masterpieces. You should definitely give it a visit if you’re in London before it closes in October.

1pm: Pondering politics, art, culture, society and life (as well as a low-level hunger and need to pee), I left the V&A feeling educated and cultured. Ellie had mentioned that Grayson Perry’s exhibition was still showing at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, so I walked through the rainy streets and made my way to what can only be called The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever (because that was the name he gave it). A social commentator through multiple artistic mediums, Perry has examined post-Brexit Britain, social media and, of course, his relationship with masculinity. Stopping off in the gallery shop, I picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists (adapted from her TEDTalk) for the train home for a fiver. I just can’t say no to a bargain. Or feminist literature.

1:30pm: My urge to pee becoming more pronounced now, I made my way through Hyde Park to Lancaster Gate Station (passing the wonderful Peter Pan statue that fills me with childhood glee) and hopped on the tube towards Oxford Circus.


Hyde Park

2pm: Nipping into Paul’s for a spot of lunch (10/10 would eat their olive baguette with mozzarella, tomato and pesto again), I headed for the shops. I won’t lie, I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the H&M. Two hours at the shops and a couple of fabulous purchases later (including a bottle of Bleach London Violet Skies hair dye because I was on holiday and felt like living dangerously), I was back across the road to meet Charity for a coffe

4pm: We met up at H&M (because it was the easiest landmark for me) and wandered down to House of Fraser for a natter over coffee and cake in their cafe (which, by the way, is a mixture of the Mad Hatter’s tea party and something from Cinderella). The service was slow and the cappuccino size hilariously large, but that gave us more time to catch up

6:30pm: Heading back to Ellie’s, we stopped off at the Disney Store. My nose was put right out of joint when a 3 year old’s parents skipped ahead of us in the queue to take pictures of her. I reckon my photos turned out much better.


Living my best life

Oh Mickey, you so fine

7:30pm: My uni friends are some of my nearest and dearest, and it has been really hard not having them all round the road to call in on whenever the notion strikes. Having Lucy, Charity, Katie and Ellie in one room with bubbly and good nosh was so wonderfully easy, it was like no time had passed at all! We spent hours catching up, exchanging stories and revelling in the comfort of strong friendships.

10:30pm: Kate and Chaz had a long commute home ahead, so they set off after many, many goodbye hugs and promises of visiting soon, which I intend to ensure they keep. After a sneaky speed cry in the toilets – it’s hard saying goodbye to the people you love when you don’t know how long it’ll be before you see them again – we settled in for the night and hit the hay.

Thursday

7am: I will never get used to that alarm.

9:30am: Back on the tube, we headed towards Kings Cross so Ellie could hit the library, which was my plan too.

10:30am: The British Library has an exhibition on just now, Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty. If you’re in London before DATE, I implore you to visit. It’s in the main entrance hall and while not large, it’s full of information and anecdotal evidence of the persecution, liberation and activism of gay men and women in the UK over the centuries. Central to the exhibition is the vital question – Where are we now, and what more needs to be done? Using literature, theatre, music and art, gay rights activism has persisted for as long as it has existed. When the law persecuted, they persisted. It’s inspiring and heartbreaking to learn of the struggles faced historically and presently by non-heterosexuals. It was a moving, educational exhibition, has given me a long list of educational and fictional literature to work through and is well worth a visit.

11:30am: I wandered back towards Kings Cross and took the long way round to The Granary, soaking up the sunshine and buzz of the city. I did try to visit Words on the Water, but it was unfortunately shut. So, after nipping into Waitrose for a San Pel and an apple juice, I made my way into the House of Illustration.

12 noon: At £8.25 a pop (including Gift Aid), it’s not cheap at first glance, but after completing the three exhibitions currently on display, I’d honestly have paid as much for each one alone. The Jacqueline Ayer exhibition, a carefully and cleverly curated exhibition, was as fascinating as her life. Drawing on Thailand is filled with simple drawings that are full of character; her artwork is deeply emotive and each piece tells its own little story. The Quentin Blake exhibition filled me with warmth: it’s small, but perfect. Anyone who knows Blake’s work would enjoy The Life of Birds, a collection of anthropomorphic winged creatures. Finally I walked round the largest of the exhibitions, Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan and left with a newfound appreciation for the artform.

Comrades in Art © Quentin Blake
The Photo © Quentin Blake

12:45pm: The sun was warm and the families were out in force, with children frolicking in the fountains in the Granary’s courtyard. I sat on one of the stone benches, edited an Instagram photo, enjoyed the smells of the food vans and soaked up the rays while I waited for Ellie to wrap up some uni work.

1pm: We headed back to King’s Cross to pick up some lunch at the food market outside the station. After much internal turmoil, I settled on a roasted pepper focaccia and honeycomb doughnut (I was on holiday!). Ellie snaffled a decadent looking salted caramel brownie. We chatted and people-watched as we scoffed our spoils before she headed back to the library and I to the train station.

2pm: I wandered the shops in King’s Cross. Oliver Bonas is a particular favourite of mine: the colour palette they use for their clothes makes me drool and their jewellery is divine. A quick toilet stop and a bottle of water from WH Smith later, I sat on the floor outside Starbucks and casually watched the board for my platform to be announced and started planning this blog post.

3pm: Settled into my seat with my laptop, San Pelligrino, headphones and my little book of feminism, I got myself comfortable and started writing.

London, Londoff

Yes, it was fleeting, but I really loved my time in the city. London has always been something of a wonder to me. I know I couldn’t live there – it’s too busy, too far from home and it genuinely intimidates me. But to visit like this, to have learned so much, laughed so much and to have finally overcome my paralysing fear of the tube, is wonderful. Catching up with friends I love so fiercely and miss so terribly was a delight and being able to soak in the vast and varied cultural offerings was a treat.

I think my next trip will be more theatre-heavy so I can finally get round to seeing The Book of Mormon and maybe something a little more obscure. I’m determined to visit the Saatchi Gallery too, which I missed in favour of the Serpentine (no regrets other than my limited timeframe for catching as many things as possible). It was a whirlwind trip, and I so desperately needed it. I won’t leave it so long before my next visit, that’s for sure.


The view from St Giles

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My Bikini Body Guide

I’m going to talk today about another societal construct that infuriates me no end.

The Bikini Body Guide

There are so many GET YOUR BODY BEACH READY and IT’S HOLIDAY TIME, CAN YOU STILL FIT INTO YOUR BIKINI? memes and magazine articles circulating just now. Just like every other year as the weather (supposedly) starts to brighten and the air gets a little less nippy.

If you know me at all, you’ll know my feelings on these. I can’t stand them.

They force this idea onto society that bikini wearers can only be busty, flat stomached, round hipped, long legged women with perfectly smooth legs, a dazzling smile and not a bead of sweat in sight.

It’s all lies.

Equally, though, I sometimes find the whole “To get a bikini body, put a bikini on” rebuttal a little too simplistic. For some of us, who are perhaps more prone to a lack in body confidence or have never before bared their belly outside the bedroom or bathroom, it is not as easy as slipping into a two piece and running towards the sea Baywatch style, desperately hoping you don’t accidentally flash your tatas to the world.

IMO, there are a couple of steps between deciding to buy a bikini and doing a PamAn along the golden sands. Here’s my 4-step bikini body how to guide for all of you planning your holibobs this summer.

Bigging up your body

The first step to buying a bikini is actually finding the love you have for your body. This may come naturally to you; you may be incredibly comfortable with how you look.

Or you may struggle with that horrible, terrible, oh-so-convincing voice that pipes up every time you start to find your confidence that tells you flat out that you can’t or shouldn’t wear a bikini.

So, to begin your bikini body journey, you need to stand in front of your mirror. You can strip down to your skivvies if you like, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. But you have to look yourself in the eye and find your beauty. Look at the parts of you that make you go “Heck yeah I look good”. Appreciate them. Hug them. Tell yourself you love them.

Then go to the bits you maybe wish weren’t on show when you wore a bikini. Give them a long, hard look. Accept them for how they are. Maybe you’re in the process of changing them, maybe you’re not. Understand that this is the stage they’re at now. And they’re beautiful.

You have likely lived with those parts of you your whole life. They’ve grown with you. Propped you up on exam tables. Been a cushion for someone to rest their head on you. Moved you across a dance floor or acted as a table for your plate when you’re eating dinner in bed. Maybe it’s the source of your obnoxiously loud or mouse-like sneezes. Perhaps they jiggle when you laugh or run.

They’re unique.

And brilliant.

They’re the building blocks that create you – the things that help make the glorious human that you are.

Buying a bikini

This is potentially harder than just rocking up in Primark and picking a pretty pattern. There are shapes, sizes and the whole separates issue to battle through first. I own a pair of breasts. They are quite nice breasts. They tend to fit into a size 14 t-shirt without much complaint.However Primark’s t-shirt sizes for boobs don’t work well for me.

And even if my boobs did fit the size 14 top, there’s no way my butt is squeezing into the same sized bottoms that come in the matching set. It may be £12, but the savings enjoyed by my bank account will soon pale in comparison to the loss in my confidence as I hope that somehow my butt will not burst straight back out those bottoms.

There are lots of different places to buy bikinis from. Shop around, find the style that suits you and make no compromises. You’re going on holiday, you want to feel good. Don’t try and force yourself to wear something you’re not comfortable in.

Hitting the beach

Accept that, if you’re a little short on the body confidence front, you won’t be the only one. When you walk onto that beach or to that poolside, remind yourself that while you’re so busy worrying about how other people see you, many others will be thinking the same. Then there will be those too busy enjoying their holiday to notice who’s wearing a bikini and who’s in a turtleneck.

So much of what those magazines peddle at us is nonsense – but the biggest lie of all is that the general public’s opinion of your looks matter in any way. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you truly find yourself believing that the only opinion of any value is yours, you’ll start wearing your bikini for you and not the rest of the world.

Self Appreciation Time

Take a selfie. Give yourself a wee hug. Or another mojito. Eat a whole watermelon or have a burger and dessert.Whether you share your love for your body with the world, or just yourself, is up to you. (Personally I’d appreciate you all filling my Instagram feed with your bikini bods, but that’s just me.)

Just make sure to take some time to really appreciate the fact that you look good, you feel good and (if you’re like me and rarely go for practical holiday beachwear) you’re going to come home with some interesting tan lines.

The whole point of this 4 step guide to a bikini body is to highlight the hypocrisies of those magazines that promise to get you “beach ready” in 4 weeks. The fact of the matter is that if you have booked your holiday you’re beach ready.

The trick is to find the love for yourself to wear a bikini that those magazines may try and convince you that you’re not allowed to wear them. They are made in all sizes for a reason.

Wear that bikini proudly and loudly.

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