A Brunch.

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IMG_7335It’s still International Women’s Day! Thanks to you if you’ve checked out my playlist. Please, enjoy this blurry picture of me on a bus 8 months ago. I started tweeting about women I love, and here, in no particular order, is something approaching a more complete list of women who inspire me. In my article on Amy I write about the way I look up to her – that’s essentially how I feel about everyone on this list. I’ll write properly about them soon, but for now please tell me all the people I’ve inevitably missed off.

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International Women’s Day Playlist

Photo on 08-03-2016 at 09.56Guys, I’ve made the best International Women’s Playlist. I’ll add to it through the day when I’m not working on the business I set up, achieving my life goals or being adored for my goddess-like tendencies. And I’m still in my PJ’s! No seriously, it’s a great playlist: there’s divas, girlbands, legends, heartbreakers, newcomers, sass-queens, sirens, songwriters and composers alike on this thing. It’s epic. Trust me. Give it a subscribe so I know you’re there. Whack it on and give thanks for all the amazing women in our lives – and if you’re a woman, then high bloody five from me.

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Boy friends who are stuck at home ill in bed feeling rubbish, but give you a hug as soon as you open the door because you had good news. Boy friends who punch the air for you. Boy friends who buy you lunch and tease you about the little things. Boy friends who buy you water and boy friends who bring you wine.

Boy friends you shared a bed with because there was no room on the floor and it was the worst house party in history. Boy friends you shared a bed with because you were too upset to go home. Boy friends you shared a bed with because they came to hang out but sometimes you need to stay in bed all day and watch The Herbs and that’s ok too.

Boy friends just in time for Christmas. Boy friends who go to the pub with you because your date was late. Boy friends who hold up three Christmas jumpers each so you can try on a dress behind them in a busy market. Boy friends who tell you that you have to get the dress because any date would ask you out instantly if he saw you in it. Boy friends who buy you the dress because you’re broke and you can’t see what they see and there’s a hope that maybe one day you’ll get it; who knows if that will ever happen but it’s nice anyway. Boy friends who’ve known you forever and boy friends who’ve known you a month. Boyfriends.



Happy Birthday, Dad!

IMG_0313My Dad and I have always had a very strange relationship. We lived apart for a long time, he’s never understood my creative bent and we have had extremely different upbringings in almost completely opposing cultures and classes. But as I get older I see the similarities between us. We are both critics, tough, precious with our time and complete workaholics. I frequently look at my Dad for reasons to stop and take more breaks; he is a constantly exhausted night-owl and just a few years into my professional life I’m exactly the same.

Despite being so serious, my earliest recollections of my Dad are of him making people laugh. I think my Dad has always been “the funny one” in all of his circles, and from a young age I’ve seen him use humour not just to entertain but to diffuse tension, bring people together and make people feel comfortable. As a small child, all I can remember thinking is “when I’m older I want to be funny like Dad”. Not smart, beautiful, attractive, rich, famous or anything: just funny. I wouldn’t say I can match him for laugh-a-minute, but I get the occasional gag in where I can.

My Dad was quite hands off when I was growing up. As I get older, I realise that although I’m his first biological child, he has been stepping in and helping to “father” all sorts of people in the years before I came along; cousins, nephews and nieces, family friends, neighbours. He’s a calm listener, and his brain works in a very methodical and logical way – so his advice is always measured and rarely complicated by emotion. It’s another trait I’d like to inherit. I think I get my blunt honesty from him, but I’m not yet as well-tempered or patient as he is.

On our recent trip to Mauritius I saw him taking up the head of the family role: we’re not all together very much, but in many ways he’s a natural leader and patriarch. I’m grateful to have him in my life. Happy birthday, Dad!

Previously: Happy birthday, Mum! / Family


The First Year Without You

aIMG_3583IMG_0105 copyYou died a year ago today. I could feel my life splitting into two parts. Before and After. I hoped I might get back some of the things I left in Before, but I am not sure how it works. I saw your Dad this morning. He said, this last year has been a bit of a blur, mostly focused on surviving. He’s right. It has.

People say you know you’re getting old when your friends start dying. That means I got old last year. It was the year of death; I lost childhood friends, family friends, treasured mentors and worst of all, you. I’d been having a whale of a time being young, being happy, inching towards success when suddenly cancer, suicide, accidents, funerals, eulogies, graves and cremation threw themselves into my path unexpectedly. I think a lot of me is still mourning. My dreams are filled with all the people I’ve lost, even the ones still alive, the ones that got away. Sam told me, Will told me, my Dad told me: you need to get over this and move on.

But I can’t get past it. I don’t have the right coping mechanisms and I’m scared of going forward without you jumping through the same hoops with me, as you always have done. And besides, you’re everywhere; you’re in my lyrics, in my playlists, in my wardrobe, in my Favourite Contacts, in my stories and anecdotes, in my inbox, in my cat ears, in the colours of the leaves, in pumpkins, in the names of all our unborn children, in Will’s stupid jokes, in my harddrive, in unedited photos and hours of rehearsal footage I cannot watch.


People say that when somebody dies young it can remind you how precious life is, and how important it is to live every day to the fullest. This is a nice sentiment, except that is how I lived my life anyway. It turns out that there is a limit to carpe diem; if you push it too far it’s dangerous. It’s reckless, it’s breaking into where you shouldn’t be, it’s fooling around, losing things, insulting friends, drinking too much, staying out too late, worrying strangers, horrible, messy, not giving a shit about waking up tomorrow. It’s just easier.

You would hate this, you would hate me worrying about it, throwing so much away and taking the time to write this. What confuses me most is this: how far away are we going to get? You were 25, and I’ve caught up, as I normally do. Except next year I’ll be 26 and you’ll still be 25. That’s all wrong. What about when I’m 30? It’s so much time to miss you. What if I get all the way to 40?! What then?! We were all so young. What happens when we grow again? Will we think, oh, we were so young when we were 25..? What does that mean for you?

You would not be at all happy with me this year. I’ve done all the things you told me not to, and I’m far quicker to get angry about things: boys, money, not being white. I’m either tired and lethargic, or restless and wild. I’m evasive and avoiding us. I mention you a lot – subconsciously, I catch myself after and feel stupid. I’m scared of our stories continuing without you.  My Dad’s brother died when he was 27. I didn’t even know my Dad had a brother until I was about 12. I asked my Dad, why don’t you talk about your brother more? He looked at me kind of blankly and said, well, it was a very long time ago.

You and me won’t be like that. I’m so grateful, I’m so happy you were here – and you were here, you were here, YOU WERE HERE. You were here with me, you chose to spend your time with me, you chose to support me, you chose my projects, my gig, my shout, my birthday, this, us. I am so lucky I got that. If you were here you would probably choose all those things again. I have to think that. And sometimes, for a moment, the sun shines and makes everything golden, and the leaves are orange, orange everywhere, and I turn the volume up, and I remember that YOU WERE HERE and you chose this, and it makes me so so happy. And it is just for a moment, but it is a moment more than I had a year ago.


aIMG_7678Photo on 01-11-2015 at 13.59


image1Whilst in Mauritius I spent a lot of time with one of my cousins and his adorable kids (pictured, do you see a likeness?). He’s the eldest cousin and I’m the youngest. Despite the differences in age and circumstance there is a lot the two of us share beside our grandparents; a sympathetic disposition, a tendency to laugh off serious statements, a keen interest in how our families have shaped us.

My eldest cousin spoke touchingly of his dream; to have the four of us cousins, our four collective children and our one remaining parent (mine) all together in a room. To just be together like that. He spoke so wistfully it made my heart ache. I have many friends who see their entire families every Christmas, every wedding, every funeral. I’ve met my cousins only a handful of times through my life, divided as we are by continents and expensive flight routes. I wish I were of more use to them, lame as I am with my poor grasp of language; my alien career choice; my bizarre hometown; my youth and naivety; my sincere unknowing of life.

My eldest cousin noted the similarities between all of us cousins. We are all independent, almost to the point of being loners. We are all sensitive listeners who try and help everyone out, but none of us are any good at asking for or accepting help of our own. We are actually terrible at accepting help: quick to retreat, happy to analyse our problems in solitude. We don’t like letting people in. We are all pretty laid-back about the trials of day to day life, saving ourselves for the bigger dramas. The kind of dramas that brew up over a lifetime because nobody knew what to do. The kind of crisis that can cause the rest of the family to dash across the globe and throw their best of intentions at; well-meaning but rashly executed.

Photo on 05-02-2015 at 21.51

I don’t really know what the role of family is. People to teach you, to support you, people who know you best, people who cared about you unconditionally? These aren’t really things I associate with my family. My local family is just me and my parents; three people with a backlog of misunderstandings and confusing geography. With the rest of my family, I know we are all similar people but we’re just too far away – and there’s not enough to go on, not enough to be getting on with.

The attributes of family are instead are the things I associate with my friends. It’s my friends who lift me up, it’s my friends who enlighten me, it’s my friends who support me. Why is that? Is it the age I am and the society I live in? Is it because I see my family so little? Is it because my family and I share the same flaws and therefore cannot look after each other properly? The same cracks in alternate mirrors, the same blots on our differing landscapes. It’s difficult to say.image2


I dressed as Cleopatra for a party we had a couple of weeks ago. The theme was the letter ‘c’: other costumes included cat, colombian, Candy Warhol, chopping board and candy floss. I can’t remember the last time I actually made anything for a costume but this time my housemates and I actually spent an hour in the garden making headdresses out of old necklaces (me) and gluing cotton wool balls together (cloud).

I’ve always liked Cleopatra. Aged 17 we studied Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. I love Shakespeare and was happy enough studying Ophelia, Lavinia and all the other doomed nymphs but Cleopatra was a different kind of female; she was a huge, complex, dominating character. She was the best thing about the play; whole verses tumbled off the page praising her. I remember our teacher characterising her with the classic phrase “women want to be her, men want to be with her”, a modern counterpart to the line in the play; “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety”.

We were encouraged to try and draw parallels between us students and various characters. For some reason I ended up as Cleopatra; at 17 I was pretty weird and fairly low down in the social heirarchy and I felt very far away from the assured and powerful voice on the page before me. I don’t know if my teachers could see something in me that I couldn’t, or whether it was purely linked to my beau at the time (coincidentally named Antony) but the nickname ended up sticking around for a lot longer than the essays.

Cleopatra is often depicted as a beautiful, sensual and powerful woman; but I like that there are so many other stories about her wit, her cunning, her intellect. Stories of tricking men into accepting dares she would win, or sneaking into palaces disguised in a carpet to have “relations”. She was educated by leading scholars in maths and astronomy, had a huge interest in star-gazing and spoke nine languages. Quite a few accounts cite her sweet and alluring voice as the most beautiful part of her.

Whilst 17 year old me couldn’t see any resemblance, mid-twenties Laila could draw a few more parallels. I find her to be quite a modern figure. She often styled herself as a masculine leader, comfortable directing large groups of boys. She laments how women are held back in society and that she cannot be considered an equal; a fight that’s not over thousands of years on. She had a love for exotic hair pieces (totally on board with that) and founded a drinking club with her friends called the Inimitable Livers (again, right on sister). And of course there’s the famous black and gold; the colours of royalty in ancient Egypt.

Cleopatra often said she was a reincarnation of the goddess Isis, who inspired her. It’s nice to think that through the years, huge influential people have drawn inspiration of their own from others before them; our hero’s heroes. It’s easy to look back at famous historical figures and draw conclusions about what kind of person they were, or draw parallels between yourself and them, when you can never really know. But for whatever reason Cleopatra has always stuck with me as a choice heroine. Who are yours?