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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

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 Pepper blogs her ups, downs and creative urges

 

There is a lot going on for me at the moment and I can hardly dare whisper that much of it seems positive. Not only is the novel ‘Fancy Nancy’ Out There now, at least being read by someone, but I managed to submit a radio play to the BBC and tie up several loose ends on several creative possibilities.

I'm immersed now in DadaFest preparations. There's the burlesque event, I am a roving poet and I am also in bed at the John and Yoko Bed-In celebration. I intend to do a piece called Bed Ridden - say each word slowly and precisely, it creates a whole new emphasis.

As the theme is world peace and non-violent action, I am intrigued to think about the powerful women who have spent time in bed through impairment of all kinds, creating alternative interpretations of action and change. I hope to make the piece entertaining and subversive while keeping to the remit.

I've also finished my creative response to the recent focus groups run by the Royal College of Physicians held at Shape. I became fascinated with the story of Sarah Hawkes, an 11 year old who experienced an injury that caused her body to bend into a painful twisted horseshoe shape by the age of 14.

A early 19th century doctor took up her case and straightened her out with physio and stretching... but history neither records her voice directly, or what tells us what happened to her post 'cure'. I've gone on a journey with this, seeing parallels to my own life at that age, and written The Imaginary Ballad of Sarah Hawkes which exists in both a folk song idiom, and a rap. I intend to discover more about Sarah and have longer term hopes to make a documentary about my efforts to give her the life outside of the medical profession which history has cruelly denied her.

Now I reckon I should pause for breath and fuss my cat who keeps sitting in front of the pc monitor. Is this a hyperactive phase? Will I be cautioned by my MH team - as I often am - to slooooow down? After all that's happened, that simply will not compute as I enjoy riding the wave.

 

Posted by Penny Pepper, 19 October 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 November 2010

Fancy Nancy, the novel, is finished!

Amid painful chaos and the world falling in I did a wonderful if tortuous thing. My thoughts still go through a cruel mangle and bits of me come out the other side in jagged fragments. A lot still hangs in a rather precarious balance – housing benefit issues, the benefit trap, lack of regular work, poor mental and physical health.

 

But then….? I don’t know whether it’s the meds – which were increased recently. I am less raw, but also less motivated and removed. I’m in the famous fog, slow in the anti-depressant dirge of non-emotion. At least the blunting of anxiety gives me a rest – you know, from simply feeling too much.

 

Maybe the task in hand needed that. My rational self had to push through, my humour had to kick me up the arse and say get this thing done girl!

 

The classic situation is that of having a novel I could not let go of. One therapist (a very nice one) suggested over some years I was frightened of success as much as failure. It was deep in me. What happens when you say ‘the novel is complete’ and you don’t have it there burning a weighty purpose into your being?

 

Well, the novel IS complete. It made it as a whole entity at 4am on Oct 10th 2010. Only a nine year journey of rewrites, of hiding in cupboards and on different PCs. ‘Fancy Nancy’ is ready to show her brazen face to the world whether it’s ready or not. I need an agent and a publisher – any ideas or pointers welcome! I will work on it, when motivation can be sustained.

 

Things felt different after this scary task. I’m hoping I can sustain it, because as the godly Leonard Cohen says in Anthem, ‘there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’ This completion filled me with light, and I’d been missing that.Terribly.

Posted by Penny Pepper, 11 October 2010

Last modified by Penny Pepper, 11 October 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

Penny Pepper urges people to go to the Islington Film Festival

I've been away. Not sure where. Wandering inside my head I suppose. Best to save details of that for another day.

I'm trying to come to terms with 'major depressive illness'. That's the label now, more are coming. I want to pour it into creativity. I can't help myself......

My short film is being shown this Sunday June 27th at the Islington Film Festival, Holloway Odeon. Do come... it helps and it's appreciated. I know it's a good thing, though I feel a bit distant from it...

Who has some guidance? How to work and not crack into pieces, and keep yourself there somehow.

Posted by Anonymous, 21 June 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 June 2010

Penny Pepper is looking for an actor - super fast

This is an attempt at a fast blog, haha. I can be pithy when I want. Poetry and film demand that especially. Tight precision I mean.

So right now I am fighting as per, and feeling like Drowning not Waving (see Stevie Smith poem) but we have to pootle on, don't we? I fear there'll be more Prozac soon, but sometimes it helps. I'm all over the place and it gets messy, so we'll see.

A performance next Weds, more on that soon. I'm booked for a featured slot, hurray!

I am working on the film for a competition but scheduling is tough when I can't think straight.

I desperately need a male actor, who can at least pass as non-disabled (it's needed for the context of the piece).

You'd play Dr Nazy, a right wing horror of a GP. It's short and it's dark comedy. Come on, get in touch. Reasonable travel expenses paid and you get a DVD. Also to appear alongside Sophie Partridge who is a FAB actor.

Ok back to work and battle. I think I'd look good in armour, don't you?

Posted by Anonymous, 14 April 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 15 April 2010