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Writing, Ruby, madness - and those pesky Olympics.

This week my love-hate affair with writing has me in its thrilling and painful grip.  Writing is like an old friend who sometimes annoys the fuck out of me, and sometimes wraps me in arms of pure co-operative elation. Recently it’s been a see-saw between both and admittedly the ole Borderline has a role in this. But, it helps as much as it hinders. Exquisite highs bring great bursts of creativity as much as the pits of anguish that lead me to unfortunate behaviour and the whole frustrating circle. Occasionally the fast dips into desolation can result in outpourings that stand up to later scrutiny.

It was very trendy to be Mad this last week or so. Mental health ‘poster girl’ Ruby Wax did her stuff in fighting the stigma in the work place. I do get a tad uncomfortable. The portrayal of Mad people (whatever our precise shrink labels) can be saccharine. It doesn’t always feel full bodied enough – is that too scary? Perhaps. I suppose there’s always the danger of it becoming like a Bedlam tour reborn. In a programme most likely made by Channel 5. The Woman Who Sliced Her Skin Off and Made Herself Vomit (et al).

I do acknowledge that generally it seems any kind of PD makes even the toughest mind medic blanch. I told my newest ones as much last week. They tittered and argued this was not true. I pulled a face and went hmmm.

I met Ruby in August 2011, as mentioned in my blog of Oct 2011. I’m down from my high now, not so much disappointed in Ruby as working my thoughts around to a realistic view. She is still new to this. I asked her last year at the audience Q&A if she thought there was anything positive to be found in having a mental health condition. She paused, then said ‘no, do you?’ I smiled and said, I believe it makes me who I am, how can I not?

In one amazing tangential leap I will move to the Olympics. (Tangential conversation and thought is one of my personal hobbies, no apology.)

Controversy alert! I’m enjoying them. Is it the sense of history perhaps? Being a Londoner, and a scribbler? I don’t even like sport much, before we even mention ATOS. Maybe Danny Boyle slipped a subliminal message in the opening ceremony, which I also adored. Music of my youth! The Clash, The Jam, for fucks sake. Irresistible. Made more fun with some close friends over to share the experience.

A couple of us indulged in live Tweeting as we watched, adding another intriguing layer. MP gets the hump at the ‘leftie multi-cultural crap’, tweets swarming to attack him, UK Uncut get an image out there of the arena after the NHS ‘advert’ section, we laugh at the remarks that everyone outside of the UK would think what the damn is this about? But they love it anyway because all Brits are eccentrics. Aww.

Back to the sport. I don’t watch it obsessively, I tune in now and then, entertained for a while, mostly by the personalities and STORIES than the actual winning bit, then I’m bored and go back to my film obsession.  

As for ATOS. Let me be clear. I detest ATOS. I loathe the overt capitalism blatant in the sponsorship of the games and hate that ATOS is part of that. I will join in any protest against ATOS that I am physically capable of. I was there at one of the first demos, I do my online stuff, my local campaigning and will continue.  I don’t see a conflict in supporting the actual participants because it is ATOS who we must fight – and surely this is a great opportunity to highlight their hypocrisy while acknowledging the talents of the individuals who are committed to their sports, art and cultural participation.

Is this bias? I don’t care. A few of my friends are in the opening ceremony of the Paralympics.  I am proud of them and the exhausting work they have put in. They are fully cognisant of the role ATOS plays in the attacks upon us. They see the line, and know where it is.

I will try and go to the Paralympic opening ceremony, when there’s a scandal over unsold tickets… AND to an ATOS demo. I am a writer after all, and if euphoria hits on those days, well, what entries for my bulging, greedy journals!

Posted by Penny Pepper, 4 August 2012

Splitting Penny: the ups, the downs and Ruby Wax.

I've been poorly and bogged down. Staring at the walls and wondering why I painted them like I did. One is red.

 

Looking at the news and thinking this is all so crazy. This is a big brew of hate bubbling to a head. Feral gangs? Criminal immigrants? Disabled scroungers? When will people rebel against this?

 

I know we're battling. I showed my jittery face at an ATOS demo in London, but I could not stay long. The heat and the crowds, too much. 

 

My life is split into many identities and my therapist tells me this is quite common in BPD. Huh. Am not so sure. Outwardly I am mostly on chug-mode. Happy with friends. Annoyed and silent with everything else. Agoraphobic hermit mode a lot of the time.

 

Edinburgh was a bit of a disaster though I did do the show, along with ending up in the infirmary after falling ill. I also got to meet Ruby Wax who I now adore with a passion. She is doing good and on a journey with her show 'Losing It'. Her memoir is very honest. Let's encourage her to some Mad Pride too.

 

I'm twitching around my own memoir. Oh 30 years since I started writing journals. They freeze your memories in a glow of fond nostalgia. How things have changed - it amazes me I managed to live in London when there were no PAs, barely a computer, only an Amstrad with its errie green lettering.

 

There has been progress which we've fought for in many capacities. We can't lose it, somehow we must not let that happen.

 

I'm a cheerful soul, really. Truly, madly, definitely. Mood swinging, I almost enjoy it. 

Posted by Penny Pepper, 5 October 2011

Last modified by Penny Pepper, 5 October 2011

Many Many Penny Adventures

It’s all go. Go, go, go. Where to begin?

Ok, firstly, on Wednesday, you can hear me do my bit on Radio Four, for Four Thought. This was recorded two weeks ago at the splendid RSA off the Strand, in front of a live audience. They were responsive, laughed in the right places – including at the sanctioned word ‘tits’ – and looked suitably solemn at the serious moments. I’ll be intrigued to see what you all think, though please be gentle with me.

‘Adventures in the Dark and Light’ had its first showing in June and went very well in front of a decent sized supportive audience. I learned lots and received lovely feedback, encouraging and constructive. A big thank you to my team of the day, old pals Jo Cox, Alex Bulmer and Sophie Partridge, plus project manager Richard Popple keeping me on the ball and Susi Evans adding amazing vibrancy to my pieces on clarinet.

More showings of Adventures soon – but meanwhile, if you have or know of a free venue, do let me know. I’m happy to do showings and tie in a workshop or talk as the work is in development. There will be a grand finale of development this year, on December 3rd in London, but I hope to take it far and wide. Replete with red bloomers, a rubber glove and words I hope will intrigue and enchant.

In 18 days I am going to New York and will be doing some readings, and who knows what else. Watch this space – and anyone with New York contacts please, please get in touch. I’m so excited I could burst out fancy purple confetti all over everywhere!

A little while later, I’m off to Edinburgh Fringe and, incidentally, I have space in my apartment, if anyone wants to hire a corner. A version of ‘Adventures’ is showing as part of PBH Free Fringe, in Princes Mall. Lots of food and accessible loos available!

As you can imagine, this is all keeping me immensely occupied (along with the odd protest… ) and it is true I have very limited abilities in terms of switching off and that thing called resting – or sleeping. Eh? Do I really need to? This means I fall into the pit on a regular basis and today it was suggested my MH meds go up… Hmmm. What a choice – they dull me down but I know it’s a tricky balance.I do often feel rather poorly...

There are also the writing competitions. No, I’ll save that. Keep lucky thoughts beaming for me, and I hope to be reporting on successes next time.

Posted by , 4 July 2011

Films, moods, protest.

Life is busy at Penny towers with much planning – and worrying – going on since I heard I had been successful with my Grant for the Arts. Of course I am excited and bouncing off the walls too. But where to start? Who to work with?

I’m developing a one-woman cabaret called Adventures in the Dark and Light. Please feel free to join my Facebook page of that name if you’re interested in my work. I try to keep it up to date – latest gigs, activities and news in general.

My BPD has been causing me some distress. I hate the word mood swing. What the fuck is that? It sounds almost Victorian but not as exquisite. Like melancholia. I am experiencing fast cycles of highs and low; exhausting, and then I go into a strange gaga distraction for some days. I'm knackered and sometimes scarcely functional. I scare my friends and family... Still, I have done a lot of creative work on the back of it.

But back to ‘Adventures’. I’m looking for a musician to work with me and my cello player Jo Cox. If you are an experienced keyboard player and/or violinist, do get in touch. This is a professional  role and will be paid, though some in-kind support would be appreciated. Have a look at my websites. My work is influenced by folk music, punk, the world, blues… all sorts.

I’m also looking for an actor. Male, 28+, able to play a non-disabled GP, Dr ‘Nazi’. It’s for a short I’m doing with Sophie Partridge, called Doing It.

Meanwhile, I did a film, a youtube video blog, of my day on the TUC March for the Alternative. An eventful and uplifting day. It’s annoying that the media concentrate only on the ‘trouble makers’, out of proportion to their numbers.  I may be idealistic, but I felt the day did have an effect. It was good for US if nothing else, to join in, to be there and be counted. Please have a look at the film and comment – bearing in mind that PAs who often have to hold the camera are not necessarily very skilled at it. Oh, to have my own crew….

Now I must get on. I’m driven to produce lots of creative things right now. 

Did I mention the CD of my Spoken Word? Oh, next time then.

Posted by Penny Pepper, 14 April 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 16 April 2011

Penny blogs. There's a little sunshine and lots going on

The sun licks across my window and lures the blossom to bloom. At last! I’m bouncing off the walls, full of seesaw moods, happy-sad, melancholy-joyful, and dripping with creative sap. Mustn’t fall off the tightrope mind you. But isn’t it lovely to see some sunshine?

The last week or so has been a cram of activity. A new story ‘Nippy Days’, only written about 4 weeks ago, was selected to be read at ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ - a story telling event run by White Rabbit Theatre

The theme for stories was sex, and I hadn’t touched the subject for some years. How could I resist? The venue was Tonybee Studios, in the hip East End of London, very near to lively Brick Lane. The event offers free chip butties and ice-cream. Definitely a happy Jackanory time for grown ups.

I had a great posse of peeps to support me, including DAO blogger and all round superstar Sophie P. The venue was packed to overflowing and us wheelies edged in, causing happy chaos in the café. The actress who read my story did a great job and selected writers had the opportunity to send the stories to Ether Books, who publish to mobiles. I await their response with the usual mix of nerves and excitement.

A few days after this, I was performing at the cabaret event ‘Sunday Service’, at Carnivale, opposite Brick Lane (again!)  This place has atmosphere, a hint of tatty grandeur and a suitable seedy edged cabaret charm. Access through the rear, passing by mysterious collections of grave stones, there was an accessible loo (rarity) but alas not to the stage.

With Jo Cox giving me her usual wonderful support on cello, staking a space on the floor, we opened each half of the sets and the audience seemed to lap it up. I will never forget the crowd urging me on to do the ‘Protest Song’, throwing in their own ad-libs and drumming on the tables. Maybe with a little help from our dear editor I can supply an audio file as I recorded most of the set?!

Pausing for a brief breath, next I’m preparing for my poetry and spoken word drop-in workshops for Shape. Technology did rather mess up my grand plans to play Youtube examples of different poets and styles, including Ian Dury doing ‘Bus Driver’s Prayer’, but I hope I made up for it by encouraging the group to experiment with personification, which is one of my favourite ways of stimulating the imagination for a poem. 

In this case, giving inanimate objects human characteristics and taking that forward with a narrative or emotion. My prompt of ‘being’ President Roosevelt’s wheelchair resulted in some strong and interesting pieces from new and experience poets. I can’t wait for next week and hope more people will come along. (Roosevelt was a wheelchair user, a fact kept hidden from the public at the time). The workshops run every Tuesday 2-4pm until April 12th.

In between all this, I’ve finished a short film-poem, The Lover, a homage love letter to Leonard Cohen and almost finished an absurd little film about an item of disability ‘charity’ ephemera, which I connect.

My life is a crazy one on multiple levels. During all this wonderful activity I’ve also been a bit sickly, doing my pallid invalid impersonation, and been to court! Weird.  

Never once, even when wobbling close to a dip-down or a fall, have I regretted a moment of being so immersed. I might be hyper but I’ll enjoy it if that’s OK. 

Posted by , 10 March 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 March 2011

Penny Pepper on leading a jigsaw life

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling life is a series of often poorly fitting pieces which have to jog along with each other somehow.

Of late it's been a massive balls-in-the-air act of creative work, PA recruitment, health issues, legal battles and assorted duties that can't be left. Oh, not forgetting I am now about 11 in the queue for my BDP treatment assessment and have to keep chasing that. Thanks goodness for supportive friends and the crisis team - well, sometimes they rise to the mark.

I'm working on a spoken word piece called Scrounger at present and when it's finished I will post it here. I'm also getting my words into shape for the fast approaching Dadafest where I am doing a number of things - burlesque, poet and the In-Bed event. Hurrah I say.

I often wonder how I keep going, only in the sense of the oppressive backdrop against which we all find ourselves - cuts, attacks, even hatred. It doesn't help my beleaguered head with its ragged thoughts, veering through extremes and wondering about labels.

Oh and watch the spaces. I'm hoping an article I've written about the recent government cuts will be coming soon.... with a dandy Crippen cartoon!

Posted by , 7 November 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 November 2010

My Happy-Sad See-Sawing Life, part 97

I survived the big 5-0 drama remarkably intact and with a beautiful party organised by lovely friends. I am not so sure about the outcome of my traumas with my council as detailed desperately in my last blog. It seems to move forward, and some help has been given, but then it gets rather sticky and slows down again. One pushes on as one must. I attempt to look forward and on that note I must thank you all for the encouraging comments left on my last blog, which made me feel less isolated.

Optimism is not always easy of course now I really am in Survivor mode. Surviving doesn't remotely begin to describe what I feel I'm being put through by the medical profession. I have been flung from one mental health service to another-and it truly seems about passing the buck, or should I say the pounds, onto somewhere else. Such is the lot of most disabled people, clearly.

But as I get used to the current situation and my new BPD label, my life see-saws accordingly. I guess this is it - this is me and always has been! I started to write a one-woman show last year and provisionally called it Finding the Darkness and Light. Yup, that says it all. One day it's all gloom under the duvet, the next impossible exhilaration at writing some new pieces. I should be used to it at my age I know, but I not and it is often very exhausting. The meds don't seem to be doing much accept giving me tinnitus.... oh well, big surprise. 

Yet I've been working a little more and how happy this makes me. It's what I do, it's me being me. I did a short but well received set at Liberty (which was one of the best ever this year) and on Friday 10th September I am doing a 25 minute spoken word set in The Rooms, St Leonards, East Sussex, as part of the Hastings and St Leonards Heritage Open Days event. Please come if you can, there's Open Mic slots and the venue is fully accessible.

You will see me at my happiest - here's hoping and we'll all have a jolly good time.

Posted by , 8 September 2010

Penny Pepper is surviving and sunning

It's a very strange place I find myself in this week. An uncertain placing in the world. They, the faceless, have given me hints of another diagnosis - borderline personality disorder. I've 'probably' had it all my life. Not sure what to think, but then that thinking stuff is all a bit scrambled right now anyhow.

My wise therapist of 12 years on and off (sadly not able to guide me officially now) is urging me to resist identifying deeply with any label, but using it if it helps with finding support. The GP meanwhile, infers I am a hopeless case anyhow and too fucked up physically and mentally for them to do little but cast me aside as an inconvenience who doesn't fit in a neat and comprehensible box.

I cried a lot, swore a lot and he told me not to use expletives.... fuck that. I think I'm deemed a vulnerable adult, as I have 24-7 PAs. Yet the shrink team shoved me around hither thither and use my PAs as a stop gap. I simply don't know what next.

Meanwhile out attempting to interface with life and my Kev. Did some filming in Hastings and am editing various films to be shown later this year. We recently went to see the Anthony Gormley installation, 'Critical Mass' on the roof of the very beautiful 30s masterpiece, the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill on Sea.

My PA Sally who is a visual artist about to return to Goldsmith's for her MA, told me about direct light. Viewing the statues, lumps of unforgiving darkness, I was struck by their male blandness and helpless uniformity. But against that light, the sighing sea and the big open sky it was certainly a memorable experience.

I was calm in the lovely rich light for awhile and I know one thing. I am still, even up against any intensity of beingness, glad I am me.

Posted by , 6 July 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 July 2010