Getting hit is the least of it

You might have seen the poster stating that domestic violence towards women rises by 38% when England loses a football match. You might have been surprised. You might have thought, typical of the kind of man who’s a football hooligan, but not any mate of mine.

Few people talk about domestic violence. The nature of abuse is that it causes the victim to feel shame, as well as fear, anger and helplessness. So people don’t talk about it. I think it’s about time I did.

It was a few months into the relationship that I first witnessed his ‘temper’. We were on our way to see his friend, and by the time we met him I’d been cowed into tearful silence as he bellowed at me. The reason isn’t important, it never is, but if you have to know, he was angry that I’d been friends with a boy a few years younger than me when I was a teenager. Yep.

He didn’t hurt me physically until much later, but by then the emotional groundwork of abuse had been laid. Instead of telling me not to see my friends, he hassled me each time, gaslighting me when I protested, until it just became easier not to see them. I told myself I wanted to be with him as much as possible, and that I didn’t need to see my friends all the time.

After the first time he hit me, something had given way and now he had permission to hurt me physically, as well as by telling me I was stupid, and fat, and unloveable until I cried. He’d soothe the emotional and physical wounds he’d inflicted by holding me and telling me he loved me, loved me so much, with tears mirroring mine in his eyes. I didn’t have the clarity to see that the only reason he had to comfort me was because of his own actions.

I did leave, eventually, but not before I’d cried wolf several times, taking refuge for the night at my aunt’s and then returning. I told no one about what was happening; this wasn’t the kind of thing that happens to a girl like me, a normal girl from a normal family with a normal job. Before I could leave, I had to believe that I could make it on my own. Being able to do that when someone has spent a long time telling you that you are shit, shit at cooking, shit at looking nice, shit at being smart, just a shit person. One who only they could love. And he did love me, wasn’t I lucky, to be loved by someone beautiful when I was so shit.

It took a new friendship with someone at work to see that I could make a new life. I knew the abuse wouldn’t stop, and I knew it could one day kill me. Once I knew that I had other options, I was able to finally leave. Terrified that I would be alone forever and that no one else would love me (because brainwashing like that sticks), I still left.

Why am I telling you this? Because victims of abuse aren’t frail, timid little people who jump at every loud noise. Sometimes they’re the opinionated, funny girl you work with who seems to bruise quite easily. Abuse can happen to anyone, and it doesn’t mean they’re weak. It means they’ve been manipulated and bullied until their self worth is almost non-existent.


Why achieving fuck all is just wonderful, actually

“And you’ve managed to complete a course of CBT, started enjoying life again.” Charlie took another sip of Rioja. “Some years we tread water, and that’s an achievement in itself. Give yourself a break.”

THIS is why I have friends who are smarter than me. Because as simple a concept as that sounds, how many of us actually let ourselves off for not achieving the things we wanted to?

2017 has seen a lot of changes for all of us. We can think of all the scary, world-wide political changes. We all have our own personal, smaller things that have blown our little world apart. Some of us have managed to attain amazing personal accomplishments this year. If you, like me, don’t feel you have – I’m telling you, as I’m telling myself, that it doesn’t matter.

Treading water is frustrating, dull, interminate. We aren’t going to write scintillating Instagram captions about staying in the same job, home, keeping the same friends, romantic status. Inspiring others doesn’t happen when we’re just persevering in our day to day life. But. Treading water, perhaps obviously, means we haven’t drowned. For me, that means I’ve managed to stay in paid work despite some days feeling like getting out of bed is impossible. I’ve not got even further into debt. I put on weight at the beginning of the year, then lost it, therefore maintaining (kind of), a perfect size 12. I’ve managed to retain and in some cases nurture, existing relationships and be wise enough to know that gathering new people in my life wasn’t what I needed, no matter how tempting it was. For others I know, they have faced incredibly shit times and managed to carry on going.

No, that’s not exciting. But it’s incredible to me. We have had the resilience to carry on, no matter what. Even if some days we spent all day in our beds and watched 11 hours of Netflix. I still think that’s worth bragging about. And I’m hopeful that the boring, trudging groundwork I’ve put in this year has set me up for a much more exciting 2018.

On being mad.

I used to think that personal development was something I worked on only in my career. But this year has taught me that developing yourself is a lifelong commitment, like working on a relationship. I mean, I see enough memes and pious bloody self love quotes on Instagram to have known that already, but it didn’t sink in quite as well as the pics of Rihanna’s ( . ) ( . )

Self-medicating with alcohol or time with friends has been my way of coping in life so far. Self-reflection is something I’ve avoided, because what’s going on in my brain was a festering can of worms. But anxiety and depression have a way of exploding that can, so that worms are flung over your life at speed. And you’re forced to inspect them.

Cognitive behavioural therapy as a result of my diagnosis dragged my reluctant head out of my arse to look at the issues I have, and have had for a long time. And figure out more helpful ways to think. Like understanding how I want to control things, leading to a feeling of panic when that isn’t possible. That I have way too low boundaries (sorry everyone I’ve told an inappropriate story about my personal life to… so yeah, everyone I’ve ever met), which means I don’t protect myself from people who don’t necessarily care about me. And my habit of bending over backwards at the beginning of relationships – hence my pretending to be a mature teetotal librarian at 18 when dating an older man, and in another relationship being *so* totally chill I didn’t need to be called his girlfriend for 10 months.

(sorry everyone I’ve told an inappropriate story about my personal life to… so yeah, everyone I’ve ever met)

Fuck though, that stuff is hard to put into practice. Being angry and inappropriate is part of my identity. It’s most of what I find funny about myself. It took me a while, but eventually I figured out what bits of me flying off the handle were harmful, and a reaction to resenting a lack of control, and which were for comic effect and/or justified.

“I’m going to start meditating and doing yoga and be a fucking zen MASTER, bitches!” I screamed into friends’ faces. Clearly that will never be me, but having panic attacks over who’s president of another country no longer happens. So I’m at least 5% zen.

My therapy highlight was probably hearing “Amazing Hannah, I’m so proud of you,” when I revealed that I’d dumped the guy I’d been seeing by text. “You put the least amount of energy possible into that, and it’s what the situation deserved.” (Caveat: please do not break up with your spouse or partner of several years this way. The guy in question was a bit of a twat and had only been in my life a few months. Therapist man was correct, it was the appropriate amount of effort.) Also, I figured out he was a twat about 4 years earlier than my average – go me!

All this self-reflection and mental homework means I haven’t achieved that much else this year. Plus, you know, being depressed and anxious is pretty time consuming in itself. I’ve managed to do the work I need to be paid my wage, lift weights a few times a week, and see my friends and family. I’ve achieved a reduction in the crazy scale™ from 15 to 3. And that’s ok. It’s only August. My focus for the rest of the year, now I’m sane again, is to get my career moving forward again, rather than treading water. To lift MOAR weights. Actually, to lift my body weight up over a bar, which is harder than it looks! And to end the year happy. With all the pondering of the last eight months, I now know what that takes, so I may have a better chance of achieving that last goal than doing a pull up…

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Rescuing horses is such a fulfilling business…

Horse Tales – Part 2

After the seventh attempt to get her to walk up the ramp onto the trailer, the will to rescue this mangy old nag was quickly slipping away, as was the control over my temper.

Standing in the rain in the car park of the Manchester Arms using every trick my friend Si and I knew to get a horse that wasn’t even mine to load onto a trailer wasn’t my idea of a fantastic Saturday afternoon.

Harley didn’t seem to understand that I was trying to save her from freezing/starving to death under the neglectful care of her owner. Either that, or she thought it was hilarious to be an awkward bitch.

We tried putting some straw down to cover the ramp; horses aren’t the cleverest of animals and are easily duped. Apparently not this one though. She’s cleverer than she looks, contrary to the myth about Thoroughbreds being the bimbos of the horse world.

We tried looping a lunge line round her bony arse to persuade her to walk forwards. That resulted in her spinning round, knocking Si over and getting her legs tangled in the lunge line in the process.

We tried everything. And you know what; I can’t even remember what worked in the end. I think she just got bored of mocking us and getting wet and decided to put herself on the trailer in her, what I was soon to learn was typical, contrary fashion.

I felt very pleased with myself, in a holier-than-thou and virtuous way. I had SAVED this poor, defenceless animal. She would have DIED that winter were it not for me.

Little did I know I’d regularly be wishing death upon her for the next five years.


Look at that innocent face.

The (first) time I wanted to murder a pony

Horse Tales – Part 1

The first time I felt like killing Harley was the day I first tried to catch her. Although she was perfectly happy to plod over when she was being fed, the tell-tale flash of headcollar from behind my back told her that something TERRIBLE would happen if she came near me. For headcollars equate to being beaten with sticks wrapped in barbed wire, being electrocuted, or being subjected to Chinese Water Torture. OH THE HORROR!

I just wanted to give her a brush and take her for a little trot round the field.

I soon learnt that there was no fooling this horse. Many others had gone before me, and many others had failed. So after I’d wasted a quarter of an hour, I stopped trying to hide the headcollar behind my back and pretending that I was just going to feed her. I had to use more devious tactics to bring this mare round.

I started to fuss over the other horses, giving them scratches and treats. I didn’t look in her direction as I was no longer interested in her. In fact, she bored me.

Drama queens don’t like getting ignored, so I soon got her attention. When she looked a bit interested in what I was doing, I chased her away. I don’t want you. Go away, boring pony. Nope, I want this other horse over here.

Not revolutionary; anyone who’s a bit into Monty Roberts knows the Join Up technique that he’s famous for. But this was the first time I’d tried it and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So it was a bit of a long shot.

After ten minutes I had her cantering round me on roughly a 20 metre circle. After ten more minutes, she started to look over at me, wanting to come in. I flicked the rope to keep her away. I got her to change to trot using my voice, then back up to canter, then right down to walk. And so on, for about twenty minutes.

Eventually, she began to relax and started stretching down. Thank God! I thought she never would. I softened my body language and she gradually slowed to a walk and came in towards me. I took a step towards her. She stayed put. I reached out and touched her neck. All was good. Breathing slowly, staying calm, I got the lead rope out and slid it gently over her neck. Slowly, I untangled the headcollar, got the noseband out and started to slide it over her nose…

And she fucked off across the field so fast you’d think her tail was on fire.


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The time I saw loads of naked models

Getting models undressed on your day off sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I thought so too, which is why I agreed to help my recruiter friend out and play around backstage at the Snow Queen runway show at Grand Arcade on 26th October.

On the morning of the show I was giddy as a racehorse at the starting gates – I had no idea what to expect, didn’t know what to wear, and I was pretty nervous that I’d totally fuck it up, enraging a cocaine-fuelled, anorexic model in the process.

The task of giving a model some stuff to wear, helping her get in and out of it and ready for the next scene in the show isn’t exactly cerebral. But actually –  it’s not as easy as you’d think, as I found out when I got my model’s fiddly buckled shoes on before I’d given her the tights she was supposed to be wearing. She left the changing area bare legged and I was left shamefaced.

The model herself was one of the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen. So I was pretty sure she was going to be a right bitch and I braced myself to get a phone lobbed at my head.  Actually, the only thing that hit my head was a bony elbow as I scrabbled round on the floor while clothes were being flung on. That was followed by profuse and sincere apologies rather than ‘get out of my fucking way, minion’, as I’d expected. I’m pretty sure she ate actual food as well. There was talk of Sag aloo. Yeah, I know!

Furthermore, I didn’t witness any cocaine sniffing, puking up of food, or drama queen hissy fits. A little disappointing, but a lot more pleasant than expected.

It was definitely fun. But I can’t see me leaving my comfy desk job with free lunches to run around after women that make me feel like an obese dwarf.  So you can relax, Red Gate.

PS: The male models were well hot.

Not sure I’m cut out for this

Well this really is overdue, isn’t it? Oops. I’ve just been so busy since I came to Indonesia. Seriously, I’m exhausted.

Lying on the beach (Bali, Gili Islands, right now…), doing meditative yoga (Ubud), and eating fresh seafood (everywhere) really takes it out of you.

Every few days I’ve had to have a massage just to rid myself of the tension that comes with being on the road.

Anyway, must dash. Someone just brought some fresh juice over to me. No rest for the wicked and all that.


Bali, you’ve got a tough act to follow.

I’ve just arrived in Bali after spending 1 1/2 weeks in Sarawak. I literally had to force myself to leave, or I’d have left myself no time to explore Indonesia. There were still things I wanted to do and I felt so at home there it was hard to tear myself away.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t really know what to expect from Kuching (the city in Sarawak that I based myself in), so it would have been difficult to be disappointed. But in actual fact, it was better than I could have envisaged.

As well as trying a myriad of new things (kayaking, caving, jungle trekking, bee larvae), staying in Kuching has given me an insight into Sarawak culture that I’ve never had as a tourist before.
This is down to the guys at Singgahsana Lodge, where I stayed. When the brother and sister-in-law of one of the receptionists asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner on my first night, I was pretty sure it was out of pity, as I was sitting at the bar on my own like one of those sad old men you avoid in the pub. But then when they invited me to join them and a bunch of friends at Damai beach the following night, I relented and decided I didn’t care if it was pity driving their generosity.

And so, I was introduced into their group of friends, along with Leah, a German tour guide/intern who’d moved to Kuching a couple of weeks earlier.

Through my new Malaysian friends, I learnt things about Sarawak and Malaysia that I’d never have found out on my own.

Like the fact that, according to one government official, wearing v-neck tops indicates that a guy is gay. And if a girl hangs out with other girls a lot, she’s probably a lesbian.

Or that your rates for loans are determined by your ethnic group. (Seriously).

Politics aside, I also found out that they really like to eat innards. That they love to drink. And that a Chinese/Sarawak barbecue is possibly the greatest eating event you can attend. Seriously – they had sweet and sour chicken, pork belly and SUSHI – all home made – amongst the more conventional barbecue fare.

So Bali had better be pretty fucking amazing, or I’m going back.

The Singgahsana Gang

Living with the Village People


No, not those village people.

Last week a girl I’d met at the lodge told me about a tour she was doing – a 5.5 hour trek up a mountain and two nights living in a Bidayuh village. There was one space left, so I signed up, although with more than a touch of trepidation as I’d never hiked in my life and Cambridge isn’t really known for its steep ascents. I was pretty confident I was going to die.

The actual hike up the mountain wasn’t as harrowing as I’d thought. But it was still bloody hard work – I didn’t know you could sweat from your shins. The views were incredible and there was excitement with the thin bamboo poles acting as bridges high above the rivers – a little scary, but we all made it in one piece.

During the couple of days we spent there, we got up to climb above the village to watch the sun rise over the clouds below us.


My photos really don’t portray quite how stunning it was. We then hiked to a waterfall and spent the day swimming, God, it was glorious. We actually got goosebumps because we were cold.

We also got to meet some of the prominent village ladies, who wear traditional dress and arm/leg rings to show their beauty. They showed us how to do their traditional dancing, which basically involved shuffling round in a circle with our arms held out.

The Bidayuh people living in the village are soon to be relocated, as a dam being built at the bottom of the mountain will flood, meaning access to the village will be impossible. That sounds awful, right? For generations this tribe has lived in the same village, hunting and growing crops up on the mountainside and their deceased relatives are buried nearby. And now they’re forced to leave and live in a completely new environment.

But when you speak to the people, they’re mostly glad for the change. Anything that want or need has to be carried up the mountain. On our way back down we saw a guy lugging a wooden TV unit up past us. If someone gets sick, or injured, they have to be carried down the mountain. The flying doctors only come for pregnant women about to pop, so if you break your leg or cut open your head you have a 4 hour hike, then a 45 minute drive before you can get to a hospital.

Plus, I imagine they won’t have nosey tourists coming to stay in their village and take photos of their children. That must be a bonus too, although they were too polite to say so.

What did you do this weekend?

I saw some orang-utans, kayaked down the Sarawak river, went in some caves, swam in the Sarawak river, swam in the sea, prepped for tomorrow’s 5.5 hour hike up a mountain to live in a Bidayuh village.

If I knew how to write ‘In your face’ in Malay, I would. But I’m not quite up to that level yet.

Apologies for short post, off to dinner soon where I’m going to eat ostrich meat stuffed with mozzarella. YEAH.

Expect a more detailed post when I’m recovering from the harrowing hiking over the next few days.