This week we did a radio preview of this summer’s show on Resonance FM! Here’s the link to catch up if you’re interested. The show opens in Edinburgh three weeks today - if you’re up for the festival come and see me, 5.20pm at Underbelly Cowgate, every day except the 13th.
Children’s and YA books are about being brave and kind, about learning wisdom and love, about that journey into and through maturity that we all keep starting, and starting again, no matter how old we get. I think that’s why so many adults read YA: we’re never done coming of age.
In the Victorian era, hand-fans were used not only to cool oneself but also as a secret way to communicate the language of love. For example, by running one’s fingers through the fan’s ribs, one is trying to say, "I want to talk to you." The enigmatic language of the fan was widely used by both men and women.
I. A fan placed near the heart.
"You have won my love."
II. A closed fan touching the right eye.
"When may I be allowed to see you?"
III. A closed fan moved threateningly.
"Do not act so impudently!"
IV. A half-opened fan pressed to the lips.
"You may kiss me."
V. Covering the left ear with an open fan.
"Do not betray my secret."
VI. Hiding the eyes behind an open fan.
"I love you."
VII. Shutting a fully open fan slowly.
"I promise to marry you."
VIII. Fanning oneself slowly.
"I am married."
IX. Letting one’s fan rest on the right cheek or the left.
"Yes" and "No", interchangeably.
X. Opening and closing the fan several times.
"You are cruel."
XI. Fan in front of the face.
XII. Twirling the fan in the left hand.
"We are being watched."
XIII. Fan held over left ear.
"I wish to be rid of you."
XIV. Carrying an open fan in the left hand.
"Come and talk to me."
XV. Opening a fan wide.
"Wait for me."
XVI. Placing the fan behind the head with finger.
[Artwork: Secret, by Lee Yun-hi.]
WHAT IF YOU WERE JUST HOLDING A FAN AND NOT TRYING TO SAY ANYTHING BUT YOU ACTUALLY PROMISED SOME GUY YOU’D MARRY HIM
When I was about 19, I had to break up with this guy. When I say “break up” I mean “explain that drunkenly snogging at 2am on two consecutive Mondays is not the same as a relationship”. It was early afternoon and we were in our Students’ Union. He started crying, and I was embarrassed, and also a bit guilty and confused - I really didn’t think it was that big a deal, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He told me that it had felt like his life was finally falling into place, he thought that he’d got the girl and everything was going to be okay. I crossly told him that I wasn’t a thing to win, to be “got”, and I turned to walk away. He threw a bottle at the wall. It smashed not far from my head.
For a long time, when I told that story, I tried to make it funny. I painted the guys actions as merely silly, my own as slightly ridiculous. I’d big up how I “went off on a big feminist rant” and “stalked out of the room” like “such a cliche”. I didn’t think it was remarkable - just a funny story.
I didn’t want to make a fuss. The bottle didn’t actually hit me, did it? And I had kissed him. Maybe I led him on, maybe it was my fault. I didn’t think about what might have happened if we’d been in private. I didn’t think about it very much at all.
I never told the story of the guy who thought he had a right to me, and when I questioned that, turned immediately to violence. I bet I’m not the only one who’s never told that story.
Beautiful! We’re looking at creating a sound for underwater steam punk at the moment - I think our mermaid’s home world might look a little like this…
In fairy tales, monsters exist to be a manifestation of something that we need to understand, not only a problem we need to overcome, but also they need to represent, much like angels represent the beautiful, pure, eternal side of the human spirit, monsters need to represent a more tangible, more mortal side of being human: aging, decay, darkness and so forth. And I believe that monsters originally, when we were cavemen and you know, sitting around a fire, we needed to explain the birth of the sun and the death of the moon and the phases of the moon and rain and thunder. And we invented creatures that made sense of the world: a serpent that ate the sun, a creature that ate the moon, a man in the moon living there, things like that. And as we became more and more sophisticated and created sort of a social structure, the real enigmas started not to be outside. The rain and the thunder were logical now. But the real enigmas became social. All those impulses that we were repressing: cannibalism, murder, these things needed an explanation. The sex drive, the need to hunt, the need to kill, these things then became personified in monsters. Werewolves, vampires, ogres, this and that. I feel that monsters are here in our world to help us understand it. They are an essential part of a fable.
Life is often full of overwhelmingness. This could be because you get panic attacks, or uncontrollably angry for a few seconds, or suddenly really sad or unsure of yourself, or an impulse to hide. For me this normally happens during confrontations, but we all have our triggers – and there might not be a reason. Obviously this is totally normal and nothing to worry about per se – but it can lead to behaviour that will piss future you off (screaming at someone, saying something you don’t mean, running away from a confrontation it would have been better to resolve, etc).
This little breathing exercise (or pranayama, as we call breath practices in Yoga Town) is for moments like this. If you ever feel like you’re going to lose it in some way, do these three little steps and they will help you back onto an even keel.
- Take a long, slow breath in. Breathe into the bottom of your lungs first, then the middle, then the top. Imagine air being poured into you like water being poured from a jug (or wine from a bottle, if that is a soothing image). As you breathe in, count how long it takes you – try to get up to a count of four.
- When you breathe out, count how long it takes again. But this time, slow the breath down – try to make it last for six instead of four.
- Do six full breaths like this, with your out-breath longer than the in-breath. While you do it, just focus on your breathing – concentrate on the counting, and how the air feels as it flows through you.
Even if you’re in a situation where you can’t get away and take the time to do six breaths, you will find that even one full in and out breath will calm you down and help you respond in a way that makes sense.
As you are reading this you may be thinking “sure THANKS Lucy, I did actually know that taking deep breaths is calming, chuh, call this a blog post?” and yes, this is something we all understand. The thing is though, in the heat of the moment, it is really difficult to connect to the sensible part of your brain that knows this shit. So what is a really good idea is to practice this breathing every day so that you don’t have to remember – your body knows what to do. Do it in some slack time that you do every day (waiting for a bus, or for your computer to turn on, or the kettle to boil perhaps?). And then when you feel like snapping or crying or running, you won’t, instead you will be a BRAIN NINJA!!!
Of course, you can’t make anxiety or anger instantly go away. Or at least, I have no idea how to (if you can, get in touch and tell me). But you can sometimes buy yourself a little bit of time to change how you react to them.