Friday, 12 February 2010

Another Video...

I meant to post this on here the end of last week, but, of course, I forgot! This was filmed last Thursday (04/02/2010) after the film crew left, but before I wrote my blog on homelessness.

On that, I've decided to work on a report, starting by going back to my old hostels and talking to the residents still there. I want to write an accurate account of homelessness in Glasgow, and publish it either here, or try to get a newspaper involved. Lets see where this takes us!

Anyway, back to the vid, here's what I've done to the place as of then, and I'll post another next Friday (the 19th). Any excuse to keep the ball rolling!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

thank god I'm (not?) pretty?

I don't know when I really realised I wasn't pretty. It wasn't anything my mum said, nothing my family did, to make me feel, well, less than pretty. Even though I have many, many, brothers and sisters (thank you biological dad!), I grew up with my two younger sisters, Lynzi and Jaime-Leigh. Lynzi grew up blonde, blue eyes, tan and the one what all my gorgeous little cousins "took after". Jaime-Leigh was the complete opposite, quite pale and and very dark features, a million lashes framed her deep brown eyes. Even as the eldest, I was somewhere in between. My hair wasn't dark enough to be really brown, neither light enough to be considered blonde. I called it my dirty water hair, because that's what it reminded me of. My eyes were a mix of green and blue.Nothing spectacular.Growing up seeing people fawn over Lynzi's beautiful golden hair or Jaime-Leigh's doll-like features didn't bother me, because I did it too. I didn't stop to realise people didn't really fawn over how I looked.

Maybe it was that old catch-all, school. In secondary school, I seen my peers in the toilets trying to straighten their hair with the hand dryers, decide what kind of earring went with the school tie. The popular girls, no matter what their natural hair colour, would have white blonde highlights in their hair, worn like a badge of honour. Perfectly cut in the space just beyond their shoulder blades.When Britney's "Baby One More Time" video came out - those girls wore the knee high socks, tiny skirts, knotted up oversized cardigans, yada yada. I remember looking at then with a feeling not unlike envy, and thinking, "why can't I look like that?".

And what did I look like during those years? From 12-14, my look was tied back hair (barely combed), black trousers, whatever colour trainers I found a pair of first, a school blouse and my loosely put together tie. No make up. Yup, I was a total tomboy. When I wasn't in school I was out on my bike, hanging with friends, mostly boys - not indoors trying to tame my hair or bleach it to within an inch of its life. I wasn't considering how what I wore attracted the boys, I was too busy giving them Chinese Burns!

Forth Year - two months after I turned 15. During that summer, I started changing - just a bit. I realised I liked to take time making myself feel good, if not pretty. For me, it took some effort. I just wasn't naturally pretty, and I realised that information didn't bother me one iota. I re-entered school that year with a foot firmly in each camp - a well dressed tomboy. Just because I didn't wear make up at school didn't mean I didn't experiment with my mum's make up. I had done since I was little, and it was time to put what I learned into practice. On that day, I showed up, wearing classic black court shoes, a pale coloured pair of tights, a black pencil skirt and a fitted cardigan over a blouse with a properly knotted up tie. My make up consisted of clear brow gel and lashes of non-clumpy black mascara, and a small flick of eye liner. Some of  my mum's light rose coloured lipstick completed the look. My hair was brushed back, not straightened, in a half up, half down style.

Why do I remember this so vividly, 10 years on? I remember because of the looks I got. Even the teachers had difficultly realising who I was. My friends loved it, and the popular girls felt threatened. I was already friends with the boys they liked, and now I looked, to them, "passable". I won't go into the things they said, what interests me now is why they said what they did. I still don't, to this day, understand it.

Remember, I still didn't consider myself "pretty". Not like them. For all the time they must have spent to look the way they did, to me, it still seemed they had the one thing I didn't - they were pretty anyway. Take away my new look and I'd be that tomboy again, but they'd still look lovely. My male friends still farted in front of me, none of them hadn't come to the startling realisation that they really liked me. More to the point, neither did I. They were still just my friends.

Since then, I've struggled with the thought that my looking after myself means something more than it is. I like doing it, and spending some time in the morning making sure I'll go through the day feeling good about myself is the reason I do it. There's no ulterior motive. I might not feel pretty, but I'll be damned if that doesn't mean I don't appreciate myself. I've discovered something I might not have had I felt pretty enough to not need to bother.

I've went through the tomboy stage, the classic goth stage, the neon bright industrial, the vintage, the Bollywood. So much joy found in the different, the strange, the comfort of experimenting. I've not been lazy in discovering new things, and I love each and every thing. I'm no jeans and t-shirt girl. I can't wear something I know is popular, because I hate the idea of looking like just another person. In my quest, I've found talents in myself, creativity, a different perspective. I've found others like me, to bounce ideas off of. I love that even though I love vintage most of all, I can take different aspects of other styles and make it work. I can't imagine not living this life.

And all because I don't consider myself pretty.

Not such a hardship after all, is it?

Friday, 5 February 2010


Yesterday I had a visit from NewArt, a company putting together a DVD for my Housing Association. Basically, they wanted me to talk about how I became homeless, and what led me to apply for the Partick Association. Of course, I wanted to talk about it, because recently, I've discovered I actually want to spread the word. Being in the position of having to declare yourself homeless isn't shameful, and it can lead to the most wonderful things, made all the more wonderful because you can't quite believe your luck will turn when life has beaten you down so low.

J.R.R. Tolkien called it the eucatastrophe. The sudden change of what seems utterly hopeless to joy, and hope. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse.... they don't. 

I suppose most of you know the circumstances of my homelessness. In short, eviction, hostel, private let, stayed with a friend, stayed with another friend, stayed with Gof, hostel again, then finally, blessedly, to a flat with my name on the lease. Some friendships were burned so bad, all that's left is ashes and regret. Some were made, and sealed with love and hope. Mostly though, looking back, it was a real discovery for who I am, and what I can do. I found reserves of strength, eventually, that I didn't believe I had in me. I accepted help, from anyone willing to offer, from family, friends, organisations - and knew it wasn't an admission of defeat. I took time, proper time, and found an iron will. I found that even though I sometimes succumbed to despair, I knew, deep inside, that I will not let this beat me.

And it hasn't. I've still a way to go, no doubt for that - but I'm more hopeful than ever. I'm paying my bills, looking for a job, writing, creating a home, and looking after myself again. Of course, we all know by know, I'm even doing one thing I never thought I would - by marrying the man who stuck by me through all this. I'm still scared, sure, but it's a good fear, the fear that the future I wish for is within my grasp, but I need to work at it to reach it. Not just for me, but for Gof too. For my family. My friends. Everyone who has had a part in the twists and turns so far, and those yet to join me. The fear is knowing I am able to succeed. I would let myself down if I settled for second best.

That's my story. So far. I'll continue to tell it, but right now, my thoughts are on homelessness in general. How much, do we, as the general public (how I hate that phrase!), surmise about homeless people, and how much do we stereotype? It's the runaways, the junkies, alkies, whores of the world who are homeless. 

Maybe the majority are. But where did those people, (and they ARE people) come from? What did they run from? Why are they swallowing, injecting, snorting the memories away? One wrong choice and that might have been you. One moment in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all it takes. The stories I heard when I was living in these hostels... I related to these women. I seen how it happened. For everyone I spoke to, they all said the same thing - "Don't end up like me. Don't give up in yourself". These women settled for last place, living in a hostel for good, since it was the only security they'd had in years. I'm sitting here typing this with tears streaming. These people should be commended for simply surviving over the odds, not condemned for something most of them had very little say over. This was something that was done to them, for which they lacked the skills to cope.

Even so, more and more people are becoming homeless as a direct result of this so-called credit crunch. Families who bought their home suddenly finding themselves on the street because the bank foreclosed on their mortgage. People who lost their jobs because the company they worked for went tits up. Armed with very little information, there is a scant amount of support for those who have no real understanding of a system that can be scary to navigate alone. 

There's very little actual statistics on homelessness in Glasgow. I know, I've looked. Between homeless charities like Shelter and Crisis publishing fairly general reports like this one and Government trying to "spin" the situation, apparently homelessness has went down according to some reports like this one that states;

"Homelessness presentations by single applicants down by 38% over the years 2002/03 to 2007/08"
                            Strategic evaluation of the Glasgow Homelessness Partnership by Blake Stevenson.

But then, we have graphs like this one from the Scottish Government
website completely contradicting that!

What to believe? I know I'm not the only casualty of the credit crunch who has ended up homeless. I know I'm not the only person the DWP has let down. So where are the real stories? Where are the success stories? The hopeless cases? Why is no-one asking these questions?