HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Monday, 28 March 2011

Frogs

My father is having an issue with frogs.

It's not the first time. When I was eleven years old I accidentally told the French section of my family that my dad had a habit of calling them "the froggies" when they weren't in the room, and all hell broke loose. The froggies - namely my female cousins - went berserk, threw roast potatoes, started crying and stomped upstairs, screaming then you are all le roast boeufs; my dad looked sheepish, my sister put her napkin in her mouth so she wouldn't start laughing and I got it in the neck for ruining yet another Christmas dinner.

Now the frogs are causing problems again. Except that this time it's the small, green, hoppy versions, instead of the ones who live on the other side of the English channel.

We have a pond in my garden at home in England. For the first twenty years of living there, it was Pond by name only: consisting of a shallow dip of concrete, filled with rain water. Then my dad got all Home Improvements and had it made into what he calls a Proper Pond, with an embarrassing naked lady made of stone and pivoted - diving - on a metal spike, water spurting between two stones, a pump, plants that regulate oxygen supplies and four fish (one for each of my family). Mum and dad were both irrationally proud of the Proper Pond - regularly rolling the computer over to the window so that I could see it from the Skype webcam - and during my trip home many hours were spent pointing at said Pond, naming and renaming the four fish, and stopping the cat from taking a hungry shine to any of them.

Dad's not quite as proud of the Pond anymore. In fact, he's not proud at all. It has now - in his words - 'turned into a froggie brothel'. And he is not happy about it.

'I know it's spring and everything,' he told me: 'but seriously, Holly. I thought an otter had fallen in and was drowning, there was so much fuss. I went outside to save it and realised it wasn't an otter at all: there was a frog orgy taking place in my brand new Pond.'
I laughed. 'How many frogs are we talking?'
'Tens. Hundreds. I don't know, they're moving too much to count. I don't know where to look, it's totally unsavory. I have to walk to the garden shed with my hand across my eyes, dirty little buggers. I fear for the fish, I really do. I think they're still under there somewhere, permanently traumatised.'
'What are you going to do?'
'I don't know, Holly. Your mum keeps laughing at me. It's not funny. What can I do? I can't kill the frogs, especially not while they're all at it. But it's ridiculous: when they're done with their disgusting habits they're going to have millions of babies, and I can't kill them either. We're in trouble. I think I might have to move house.'
'You know what you are, don't you,' I told him. 'You're the madam of a frog brothel, dad. You're the Frog Pimp.'
'Oh Jesus Christ. I don't want to be the Frog Pimp. If even one of them turns out to be a prince, I'm out of here.'
'Dad, if any of them turn out to be a prince, you're sending them over to meet me straight away.'
Dad sighed. 'Remember when it was just a hole full of rain water?' he said in a tired voice. 'Remember that? There were no frogs at all. That was nice, wasn't it? They were the good old days, when I could walk into my own garden without being corrupted.'

Things have gotten no better. Yesterday morning dad dropped his mobile phone in the pond while in the process of keeping my mum up to date on 'the shenanigans', and by the time he'd made his way through the heaving, thrashing masses to retrieve it again the phone didn't work anymore. And to make matters that little bit worse: mum heard the splash, thought dad had suffered a heart-attack brought on by all the post-watershed action, immediately started crying and rang an ambulance, so dad was forced to explain to a handful of medics that he wasn't, actually, dying, but was simply preoccupied with trying to poke shagging frogs away from his phone with the end of a coat-hanger.

You know, he emailed me this morning, by the time I managed to get the horny little sods away from it my bill was astronomical. I think they must have been making long distance calls to the mangroves or the swamps or wherever it is they come from.
France? I offered tentatively.

Every dad hopes that one day his daughter will find a prince. Only my dad goes as far as collecting frogs for me, just in case.

Judging on current behaviour, however, I'm not sure that any of these froggies are likely candidates.

Whether they're French or not.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Japanese

I`m so incredibly proud of myself.

"I need you to help me, please," I just asked my colleague, Yuko. We`re about to leave on Spring vacation, and I wanted to check that it would be okay for my family to visit the school in April before I left.
"You want me to translate?" she said.
"Please," I begged, and dragged her to the deputy headmaster (a man who I cannot speak to or look at without being reminded of Father Christmas: he is exactly like a younger, shaved, more twinkly Japanese brother).
"Excuse me," I said, and then looked at Yuko, "but my mum, dad and sister are all coming to Japan in two weeks, and I was wondering if it would be okay for them to come into school and have a look round?"
"Of course," the deputy headmaster said. "We`d be delighted. Excellent Japanese, by the way."
And then I looked at Yuko with round eyes.
"I just did that in Japanese, didn`t I," I told her.
"Yup. Fluent Japanese with a great accent. I didn`t open my mouth."
"And he just replied in Japanese, didn`t he."
"Yup. No English in the entire conversation."
"Shit." And then I jumped in the air and gave myself a high five. "I can speak Japanese, Yuko! I rock."

I`m not going to lie: it`s basic Japanese, and my skills are limited to really, really simple sentences. But I managed to say what I needed to say, without a translator, and that`s more than I ever thought I`d be able to do.

Eighteen months, it took me, to construct my own sentences. But was it worth it?

Hell, yes. Because now when my parents come I`ll have something to make them a little bit more proud of me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Procrastination part 2

It turns out that procrastination isn`t as much fun when there`s nothing to procrastinate from.

Last night I sent an incredibly long, passionate, heartfelt email to The Agent - apologising for pretending I had finished the book seven or eight times when I hadn`t actually finished the book at all and promising that this time I actually had and I wasn`t lying anymore and I was very, very, very sorry for being the Author Who Cried Finished - and she forgave me. The key difference between men and literary agents, apparently, is that when you send agents long, passionate and heartfelt emails, they actually read them.

So I have an agent again, and I`ve sent her the book, and now there`s nothing to do but wait.

Literally nothing.

I`m under strict instructions - from myself, and there`s no stricter instruction - to take a break, because I`m both physically and mentally totally knackered. I know this, because I have the skin of a prepubescent teenager half my age.

But it turns out that taking a break isn`t actually a lot of fun. All the things I squeezed into my days when I should have been writing - the websites I looked at, the books I sneakily dipped into, the tv shows I watched while I "ate dinner" (ie for the hour before and the hour after I had food in my mouth, which is - let`s be honest - most of the time), the friends I emailed, the incredibly long showers I had - have all lost their appeal now that I`m allowed to do them. I have literally hours and hours and hours of time to myself to do exactly what I want, when I want, how I want, and I don`t know what to do with any of them. It turns out the primary element that made procrastination entertaining was precisely the fact that I was supposed to be doing something else.

It`s been three waking hours without a book to write, and I`m already bored stiff. There`s no point in taking a half hour shower when I`ve actually got that half hour to spend taking a shower. The tv shows - now that I don`t feel guilty for watching them - are, as it turns out, incredibly dull: the frission of naughtiness was the only thing making them watchable. The books have transformed into study guides again: now I read them critically, trying to learn how to be a better writer, instead of reading them so I don`t have to be. The websites that were fascinating and from which I could not drag my eyes 24 hours ago are now totally inane. I`ve even found myself watching the underdog X Factor contestants on YouTube - the ones everyone boo when they walk on and then prove everyone wrong by singing Opera - and crying. Because there`s nothing else to do.

It`s pathetic, frankly. I went out for a drink last night to celebrate with my friends, and I spent the whole time yearning to get home to my book, and then remembering it wasn`t there anymore and sulking. I`m the annoying mother who complains about their kid constantly and then pines as soon as it goes away for the weekend. Worse: I have a two week holiday starting on Friday, and not a bloody thing to do with it but lie in bed and watch America`s Next Top Model. I`m dreading it already.

So I`ve found a new way to procrastinate. Half an hour ago, I distracted myself from looking at pictures of tropical islands on Google by writing a draft synopsis of the next novel. Ten minutes ago, I pretended I was looking on a baby site for my recently pregnated friend, when actually what I was doing was looking for names for new characters. And on my scooter this morning, I told myself that it was okay if I came up with a new plot in the processing of driving, because everyone knows that when you`re driving whatever you think about doesn`t count.

I am - in essence - procrastinating from procrastinating by writing another novel: I`m the procrastination version of a recently overrated Leonardo DiCaprio movie. And you know what? It feels good. And I`d imagine it`ll continue to feel good, up to the point where somebody rings me and tells me I need to write another book sharpish.

At which point - and this is just an educated guess - I suspect those islands in the Caribbean and tv shows and long hot showers are suddenly going to seem a whole lot more appealing.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The One

I don't like dating.

I've never liked dating. The thrill, the chase, the excitement, the games: I don't enjoy it. I know a lot of people who do - who get some kind of sick buzz from potential rejection, whether theirs or somebody else's - but it makes me feel nauseous and frightened. I don't like exposing myself, I don't like making myself vulnerable, I don't like asking somebody to like me and I don't like deciding whether or not I like them. And, frankly, the last couple of years of heart carnage have not helped this innate instinct. I'll be honest: if I'm to be in a relationship again, it's going to have to come and bloody get me, because I'm going to be running away in the opposite direction as fast as I can. Love is literally going to have to find me, run me down, pin me to the metaphorical floor kicking and screaming and then spend at least three years sitting on my stomach singing nursery rhymes until I calm down enough to talk to it. I certainly won't be fluttering my eyelashes at it and taking it out for dinner.

For me, therefore, the stakes have been weighed up and thus is my conclusion: love can sod off. My desire to find the perfect man to love and be loved by is significantly less than my fear of the process by which I would do so, and so I have chosen to stay single.

The same, however, cannot be said for finding a literary agent.

While the romantic passions of my heart are easy to ignore, the cerebral passions are not. No fear, however great or paralysing, can stop my desire to write novels and to eventually sell them. Which means that however much I hate it, I have to find a literary agent, even if the process is precisely the same - and every bit as painful - as finding the right boyfriend.

I had one once: a lovely, award winning literary agent. It was a beautiful and promising relationship. She was the first agent I'd ever sent my (extremely incomplete) book to, she rang me within 24 hours of posting it, I went to see her in London, we sat in her office surrounded by best selling novels and talked for hours. There was a meeting of minds; we laughed, I got the pink flush I get all over my neck whenever I'm excited. She told me she hadn't been so excited about a writer in years and I started crying with happiness. It was the kind of date literary dreams are made of.

And then I immediately ran away to Japan, got caught up in the vortex of a soulless man, stopped writing completely, and my lovely literary agent's interest started waning. One month: still incredibly keen. Five months: keen but irritated. One year: less keen, but polite. Eighteen months: one word answers. Two years on, and she doesn't answer my emails, and she doesn't answer my phone calls, and I strongly suspect that she's got an entirely different tone for my number so that she doesn't answer it by accident and get forced into talking to me. And now I've finally finished the goddamn novel - finished it last night - it's too damn late. All I can do is leave a meek little voicemail asking her to call me when she isn't too busy with writers who actually write when they say they're going to write instead of falling in love and running away instead, and then hang up and cry into my pillow.

She won't call, of course, because I blew it. And I've been in the dating game long enough to know a dead duck when I see one.

So now I'm back to the beginning: forced to make an agent fall in love with me all over again. I have to send out manuscripts, I have to wait for them to call me, I have to hope against all hope that they want to see me and that - if they do - they think I'm worth seeing again. I have to check my goddamn email every ten minutes with a sinking feeling in the pitt of my stomach because there's nothing there. And worse, I have to compare them all to the lovely agent who wasn't just objectively one of the best in the business (and who two months ago sold a debut novel for a six figure sum), but who got my novel. Actually got it. Understood the characters, the sense of humour, what I was trying to achieve with it, where exactly in my heart I was writing from. Who gave me advice I worked into the finished mauscript - all of it - and which made it better, and saw all the flaws in my story before I did. Which is rare in any agent, let alone one who actually knows what she's doing.

In essence, I'm going to have to start doing with literary agents exactly what I'll have to start doing with men: looking for one to replace The One. And that is not pleasant at the best of times, let alone when you have to do it twice at the same time.

The difference is, of course, that I've weighed it up and decided that no amount of rejection, no amount of fear, no amount of pain, will ever stop me trying to find the right agent. And if I have to go on a million dates, and check my email a million times, and sit by my unringing phone for a million hours, I'll do it for the sake of my writing. But not for the sake of my heart.

So I may stay single, but unpublished? Not if I can help it.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Holiday

I`m taking a holiday.

I`m not okay. There`s no other way to say it: I`m not okay. It`s not about where I am, or what I`m doing: it`s not my job, or my house, or my scooter, or my friends. It has nothing to do with my plans for the future, or where I want to go, or what kind of life I want to build. All of that is fine: great, in fact, because I live in a beautiful place and have a job that allows me to save money in the middle of a recession. It`s me. I`m the problem, and I`m what needs to be fixed.

I`ve told nobody this - not my sister, not my mum, not my best friends - but I`m still having nightmares about The Boy. It has been a year, and I still have nightmares almost every single night: nightmares so vivid that I frequently wake up crying, and so real that they haunt me when I`m awake. And I`ve told nobody because I`m ashamed: because I`m supposed to be over it, and because not being able to heal like I should makes me weird, and strange, and weak. But I can`t stop them: I can forget about him during the day, but when I`m asleep he always comes back. And it`s not even that I miss him anymore: the dreams where I woke up wanting to call him, or wanting to be with him, ended a long time ago. Now, they`re nightmares about how he made me feel. Ugly and talentless. Pointless. Uninteresting. Uninspiring. Crazy. Replaceable. Less than somebody else; than everybody else. Not worth loving, or of being loved. It`s as if the little voice that was inside me for twenty nine years - the little voice that whispered you`re not good enough, and you never will be - was proved, and made real, and dragged outside myself, because I wasn`t good enough for him, no matter how hard I tried, and I was replaced. Because he told me every day, in words or in actions, how unattractive I was, and how annoying, and how stupid, and how forgettable, and showed me - every day -that knowing me more made him love me less. Because he compared me, every day, to somebody better. Because he put me on a pedastal and then clawed me down, every day, until I didn`t know how to get back up again.

And now the little voice inside me has become big, and strong, and it has turned into him: the demons I`ve been fighting all my life have clustered together, and turned into one, real Demon I have to fight every single night in my sleep. Every night I try and I try to make him love me, and I try to feel worth it, and every night he - The Boy, turned into The Demon - tells me how useless I am, and how unloveable, and how unattractive, and makes me fight him over and over again. Until I wake up crying because every single night I lose. And the irony? I fell in love with The Boy in the first place because he was the only person who had ever told me he would fight my demons for me so that I didn`t have to anymore. And he didn`t just become one of them: he became all of them.

I can`t do it anymore. I`m not going `mad`, and I don`t hate Japan at all: I`ve just lost myself completely. The demons - the little ones inside me, and the bigger one that broke my heart - have finally won. A year of a destructive relationship, followed by a year of nightmares that get stronger with time, and I don`t believe in myself anymore: not as a writer, or as a woman, or as a lover, or as a person, or as a friend. I no longer believe that I can do anything, or that I`m worth anything. I`m struggling to write because I`m embarrassed of my own voice: I shy away from social situations, because I`m ashamed of who I am. I don`t look in mirrors, because I hate how I look, and I won`t apply for jobs because I don`t think I can do them. I`m not lonely because there`s nobody around me: I`m lonely because I stay away from everyone who is. I haven`t been on a date in a year: not because I haven`t been asked on any, but because I automatically reject all of them. And I`m scared of life, and of love, and of the world, and of my future: not because I have no choices, but because I don`t have the confidence to make any of them. Because where I used to be fearless, now I`m constantly terrified.

It`s my own fault. I should have realised a year ago that I wasn`t okay: that it was more than just a breakup. That it wasn`t just about moving across the world for and then losing the only man I had ever loved fully, which would have been hard enough in itself: that it was about having every fear and every insecurity I had ever had proved to me as true, and not being strong enough to deal with it. And while I did what I always do - curl back into myself, and cut myself off, and try to handle it all on my own - the only thing that could have fixed it was to let others heal it for me. To surround myself with people who would fight my demons with me: with people who loved me, and adored me, and could prove that none of it was true the way that one person - and his other girlfriend - proved it was. Instead of burying myself in the countryside in a strange place, with strangers, and fighting myself and my demons every night on my own.

I`m so tired; so unbelievably tired. It`s no wonder that life has lost its magic when every single day all of my energy goes on forgetting the nights. I`m not depressed, and it has nothing to do with bipolarity. I`ve simply been defeated.

So I`m taking a holiday. My parents and my sister arrive in Japan in four and a half weeks after eight months without them, and until then I`m not writing and I`m not thinking. I`m going to watch television, and draw pictures, and go for long walks, and ride my bike, and drag myself to parties - parties I`ve been rejecting for months, now - and force myself to have dinner with friends who barely know what I look like anymore. And - most importantly - I`m going to let myself be, until the people arrive with the weapons I need to start fighting again. The people who think that the world wouldn`t spin without me.

And when I`ve started to believe that too, I`ll be back.

To be - once again - somebody`s Write Girl.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Haruka

The highlight of my school days, at the moment, is a little girl called Haruka.

Haruka is twelve years old, and she has Downs Syndrome. I have a much loved aunt with the same condition, so I had a special fondness for this little girl from the beginning and - when I was feeling homesick - found myself seeking her out. They`re similar in that they`re both extremely cheeky, and take immense delight in being as naughty as possible, as often as possible. I went swimming with my aunt a couple of years ago, and - on seeing that I had put my swimming goggles and swimming cap on the side of the pool - she waited until I had swum to the other side, deftly climbed out of the pool, walked over to my belongings and kicked them straight into the deep end, giggling furiously. Haruka, similarly, dragged Harai into the staff room a few days ago, wrapped in yellow tape: she had wound him in it so tightly that the poor man was waddling like a penguin, and had to be cut out of it. Haruka also has a habit of cheating when we`re playing games - she never lets Harai win, for instance, even when he`s winning - and although it`s been a number of years since I played Monopoly with my family, I seem to remember my aunt moving pieces when everybody was looking in another direction.

My attachment to Haruka is more than mutual, luckily: she adores me. She will run - full pelt - down a corridor to see me; her face lights up if I walk past; if she`s in a foul mood and nobody can control her, the staff come and get me because I`m the only person she listens to. Harai and I teach her English, and she will only repeat words if I say them: will use exactly the same tone (I was embarrassed to discover that her incredibly high pitched "hi!" in the mornings was an exact copy of my own). If we play card games, she smacks Harai if he wins, wrestles the card from him and then hands it to me: telling me, very sternly, not to lose again, and then patting me on the head. She makes me little cards, she has assigned me the blonde anime character on her pencil case, has introduced me very formally to her imaginary friend, and she`s constantly petting me: stroking my jumper, brushing my hair out of my eyes, telling me I`m pretty. It is, in short, the most loved I feel in Japan.

I keep waiting for it to disappear, which tells you everything you need to know about my feelings towards love: I keep waiting for her to stop. Every morning, I wait with an anxious stomach for her to see me, shrug, and turn away: for me to no longer be of interest. But she never does. Every single morning, without fail, her face lights up, she throws my own Hi! at me, and then she launches herself at my stomach. And it doesn`t matter how awful my hair is looking, or how terrible my outfit is, or how grumpy I am: Haruka will find something about me that she loves. A random curl, or a scarf, or a pair of tights. The colour of my eyes. And she will throw her arms around my waist, bury her little head in my stomach and give me the biggest hug I get outside of England. And in a country where affection is so limited, and where love is so reserved, Haruka is the person who gives me the warmth I crave so desperately. She`s the only person in the whole country who can change my mood entirely within three seconds.

She came in twenty minutes ago, and - jumping up and down with excitement because she had found me - threw her arms around me and told me I was beautiful. And I very nearly burst into tears. Instead I gave her a cuddle back, and then - because it`s the only way I know of showing affection across the language barrier - I gave her five stickers. Which delighted her so much that she promptly came back five minutes ago and took another three.

For the last year, since my break up, I know I`ve been getting icier and icier: less and less open to love, and affection, and showing anybody I care. But Haruka makes sure that the old me - the warm blooded, loving part - doesn`t die completely. And she reminds me that sometimes love doesn`t go anywhere: that sometimes it`s there every morning, even if you don`t expect it, and even if you don`t deserve it. Even if your stomach is tied in knots, waiting for it to end.

And for that - and for having such a wonderful, affectionate, mischievous spirit, for reminding me of my family and for tying Harai in yellow tape - Haruka is always the best thing about my day.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Castles

"If I don`t write to empty my mind, I go mad." - Lord Byron





I feel far less bonkers today, which is good because I scared my grandad.

I was going to tell you about the antique chair we just bought for the living room, he emailed me half an hour after I posted, but I don`t think I should now. I`m worried it`ll tip you over the edge.

Worse: mum has yet to respond to my tirade against her sugar bowl, but I`m already feeling guilty. I feel I`ve repressed her ability to talk about it - or the matching cream jug - and I`m therefore a horrible and selfish daughter, as well as a mad one. She should be able to talk about any sugar bowl she has as much as she wants without me screaming stop talking about sugar bowls! I don`t care about sugar bowls! into the webcam, and then bursting into tears.

The irony is, of course, that I got out of bed at 2am last night in a fever of tossing and turning and sweating anxiety to write about how crazy I was becoming, and when the confession was made I fell straight into the deepest, calmest sleep I`ve had for weeks. It was a Catch 22: convinced that I was mad I refused to write for fear that the world would know it, and unable to write I got even crazier. And then I realised that in the two years since I started this blog I`ve been in every mental state under the sun, and a little bit of bonkers wasn`t going to bother anybody: or, for that matter, surprise anybody either. So maybe I should try and write my way out of the craziness, because it`s the only way I ever seem to get out of anything.

A reader suggested this morning that the route to happiness (and therefore, by implication, out of craziness) is being at home, surrounded by a constant, supportive circle of friends and loved ones. They`re totally right, of course. I know enough about life to understand that genuine contentment comes from loving and being loved: of feeling settled, and building a solid life around you that doesn`t fall down with one shake. I know from the way I feel when I`m with my family, and with the friends who genuinely adore me (and don`t wrestle on me naked while unconscious), that this is the ultimate goal. And, frankly, in my head, I`ve often compared my life to the metaphorical equivalent of Disneyland: pretty, exciting, but totally empty and devoid of any meaning. It`s like contrasting the Tower of London to Cinderella`s castle: I can create as many turretts and flags and stained glass windows as I like, but it`s not really a palace and there`s nobody living in it so I`m fooling nobody, and even I don`t care much if it burns to the ground. So of course I know that happiness - the kind of happiness that lasts - means leaving my made-up kingdom and starting, very very slowly and with a lot of hard work, to create something real. A world that actually means something, instead of just looking nice on the outside and entertaining for about three minutes.

But it`s not that simple for me. The desire to run away - to flip my life over - is still there when I`m home and loved: my craziness and hunger for the world still reers its ugly head. Sugar bowls scare me, because they`re sugar bowls. Sofas, mortgages, paint for the living room walls: they all terrify me, still. I`m not at the stage yet where I have learnt how to quieten down my fear of staying in one place, or of caring too much, or of promising anything to anyone. And my rented fairytale castle might be fake and lonely and empty, but I can`t build a real one until I`m ready. Until I have all the bricks, and I know what it looks like, and where it is, and who is in it. Until I have the energy and the desire to give myself to it properly. I can`t give up my fake plastic life for a real one until I find the one I`m looking for and know that it`s right.

Plus, let`s be totally honest: my CV is not exactly a shining example of employability, in that it works backwards. I started with responsibility and gradually decreased it to nothing: my return to the UK is going to herald the doll queue and serving drinks for the rest of my life. It`s not a prospect I feel any desire to rush home for.

Essentially, I`ve been waiting my whole life for the point where the balance tips: where staying and building means more to me than the freedom to run, and the desire for genuine happiness outweighs my hunger to see the world and live as I want to. And I`m not there yet: not quite. I`m damn close, though - my Tower of London gets clearer every day, and my desire to start living there increases - which is why my craziness is getting more painful: the internal voice calling me home gets louder and louder, while the voice calling me away fights harder.

But I`m not there yet. And until I`ve seen enough, and collected enough bricks, I know that I can`t start building. There`s a difference, after all, between settling down and just settling, and if I do the latter the castle I build will be no more real than the one I live in now. And it will give me no more happiness.

I know the life I want, and I know where I`m going: every day I know more about the life I`m heading towards. I know that it has a career I love in it, and people I love: a partner I love, a home I love, and children I love to match the family I already adore. And I know that it won`t involve running.

But until the time comes and the balance tips, all I can do is try and make this plastic castle life as pretty and as interesting as I can: as full of as many turretts and stained glass windows and flags as I can get my hands on. Keep moving, and collecting, and living, and understanding, and exploring, and - quite possibly - crying, until I know what my real life will look like.

And - writing - alleviate the madness.

March madness

Like the hare in Alice in Wonderland, March is the month I go mad.

I don't know what it is - whether it's the effects of a long winter, whether it's spring fever, whether it's just a kind of annual clock built into me - but every March, my brain melts and I flip my life upside down. March is the month I walked into my old PR company and quit without any forethought; March is the month I tried to win BJITW; March is the month I fell in love with The Boy from 6,000 miles away, and - exactly one year later - it's also the month we broke up; March is the month I quit my job in Tokyo, flew home to England for five days and then flew back to Japan, crying the whole way. Every single year, in March my ability to reason goes out of the window. And every single March, I go totally bonkers.

I was early this year. I started going bonkers about ten days ago, which is why I've avoided writing this blog: even a mad person knows that you shouldn't write in public where everybody can read it when you're being a mad person.

And make no mistake: I'm totally crazy. I'm crying, I'm clawing at walls, I'm talking to myself, I'm flushed and itchy and constantly scowling. My writing - of which this post is an example - is completely incoherent, verging on bullshit. I'm having the most dreary dreams in the world which mean I'm foul as soon as I wake up, because real life is boring enough without making it last another ten hours every day. I hate everybody in the world, and I mean everybody: I screeched at my mum yesterday because she was talking about her brand new sugar bowl and I didn't want to, and this morning I shouted at a five year old who whacked my left breast and called me "grandma" without finding it in the least bit amusing. My confidence is zero; nothing is funny, nothing is interesting, and I'm so bored I want to rip my hair out, except that I also currently hate my hair and it will only make it worse. And I'm driving too fast because (and this shows I'm crazy) I'm secretly hoping something happens. Nothing bad, but just... something. I don't normally hope something happens when I drive: only in March.

And - most importantly - I am desperate to flip my life upside down again, but I don't know where to flip it to. I'm lonely, bored, deeply uninspired, and I want out of Japan, but I don't know where to go next. And I can't work it out, because the March madness means that I'm spending a couple of hours a day Googling working on a ranch in Mexico or teaching scuba diving in Jamaica (when I can't scuba dive), before I inevitably end up dissolving into a bonkers panic, screaming, throwing something, ringing somebody up just so that I can shout at them and then falling on to my bed, clawing at my chest and telling the walls how useless I am.

Normally, my life is like a pancake: incredibly easy to turn upside down. But this year it feels stuck to the bottom of the pan and I don't know what to do to make it loose again. Walking out of jobs, falling in love, breaking my heart, moving countries: all tempting, but unfortunately impossible this March.

So I'm just going to have to sit it out and see what happens. And hope that when April comes I'm just a fool, and I don't get trapped forever in March: a mad hare at my own bonkers tea party.

Surrounded by goddamn new sugar bowls.