The Story Behind ‘Stare At Me’

At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with a Teratoma, it was sitting just behind my sternum undiagnosed since the day I was born. Teratoma’s are congenital and are usually benign. I am happy to say that this was true for my Teratoma but none the less it was taking up a lot of room in my chest causing me a great deal of pain and problems with my breathing so it had to be removed. Though it took us around 2 years to discover it from the day that it began to cause me problems; once discovered I was referred straight to Addenbrookes Hospital for a biopsy and then subsequently onto Papworth Hospital for a Median Sternotomy. I was left with what is more affectionately called a ‘zipper’ scar: the full length of my sternum, along with a biopsy scar around 2 inches on my right breast and a few other little ones around my torso from various different drainage tubes and such like. At this time in my life I was attending a stage school in Cambridge called Bodywork. Whilst I have very fond memories of my time there, as you can imagine, this was a difficult place to be when coming to terms with the new additions to my body…

 

I did a big charity shop run with every item of clothing that didn’t hide my scar and replaced them with a wardrobe of high-necked tops/dresses and leotards for dance. I had scarfs for all occasions and as I became more inventive with hiding my scar, my large costume jewellery collection also grew along with some very expensive camouflage make-up concealer! I recall one morning; I was in the shower, I had not long had my dressings removed; As I began to wash my chest I closed my eyes but I could feel the scar all bumpy and uneven. I opened my eyes and looked down at my once untarnished, smooth skin to see what, at the time I thought was the ugliest scar I had ever seen and I just sobbed. I started scrubbing as hard as I could, wishing that I could just wash it off and be ‘normal’ again…

I would like to tell that young girl what I know now; I am and always will be eternally grateful to my Teratoma, for it gave me the life I have now! I can put my hand on my scar-covered heart and honestly say that without that experience I would not live my life the way that I do now. It gave me an understanding of just how precious and fragile it really is and it taught me what really matters. This has only grown as I have and it continues to grow with every day and every new experience.

cia_4397

I never wrote a song about my scar; maybe it was too difficult but more poignantly I think I just didn’t want people to pity me.

It was Christmas time and I was home with my family, a few years on from my operation and now with a little more confidence to occasionally lower the neckline of my clothing. Katie Piper– ‘My Beautiful Face’ was on the telly and I was glued. It was a documentary of a beautiful young girl who experience a horrific ‘revenge’ attack from an ex boyfriend. He hired someone to throw acid in her face and she was left with terrible burns that deformed her once ‘picture perfect’ face. After watching it I initially felt guilty for the shame and embarrassment I had had over my measly scar that I could easily cover with various different ‘costumes’ I’d perfected. I wanted to stand up and shout about my scar and shamelessly present it to the world in honour of the people whose scars and disfigurements were not disguisable. I guess this song (Stare At Me) was my way of doing that. Katie Piper subsequently brought out a documentary called ‘My Beautiful Friends’ where she met many people with various different disfigurements. She showed perfectly their beauty within and opened our eyes to their world. It was as if our desires united with our scars. Although my scar pales in comparison, it was my journey and my experience of it; Of people pointing and staring, talking and looking at me with this face of disgust, confusion or pity, of children brazenly and beautifully asking their parents what it was on my chest and their parents shushing them as if it was something so taboo that it could not be discussed.

Stare At Me was written from my experiences but was born from my desire to change people’s views of scars and disfigurements. I wanted to tell people that it’s ok to talk openly about it instead of averting your eyes in the hope that we won’t see you staring….

1525364_10152094004649731_1070449418_n

When I was writing the lyrics for this song I wanted to make my point without sounding argumentative, defensive or confrontational. Whilst the staring and pointing was a big part of my struggle to come to terms with my scar and have the confidence not to hide myself. I also understand that in many cases it comes from a place of compassion and a lack of understanding of the appropriate response. Even with my scar, I still don’t always ‘get it right’ but I just act from an honest place and hope that my heart is felt. The most important thing is not to fear someone who looks different.

As this song grew into its own and I performed it more and more I began to realise, this is not just a song for people with scars and disfigurements but for everyone who has ever felt judged or discriminated for their physical appearance. Which, lets face it, is pretty much all of us right? We are, at times such a superficial society and we place importance on appearance in such a way that prohibits us from truly loving and accepting our bodies and ourselves. Stare At Me is written with hope that it will help even one person love themselves and all their imperfections unconditionally, for they are what make us unique and beautiful.

I will be releasing Stare At Me on 18/11/16 to coincide with #AntiBullyingWeek. 50% of all the money made will go to The Katie Piper Foundation. ‘Helping to create a world where scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion or sense of well being.’

12733501_10153915323354731_6299583692364989396_n

Listen to Stare At Me:

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/291192915&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true“>http://

 

Advertisements

“Home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself” – Elizabeth Gilbert

This next blog entry has taken me some time to write. This is in fact my third attempt, after a long break to reflect on the 2nd attempt and the 1st attempt is not really worth discussing. You see, what I wanted to tell you about was the bond that was formed between Mum, Bob and I on our trip from London to Bristol on Kevin James; I wanted to tell you about how each of us had someone we were missing. How Bob had lived for 20 years on a canal boat with his wife until she got dementia and this was the first time he had spent more than a day away from her. How mum and dad had always dreamed of owning their very own boat together and now here we were fulfilling that dream together in his name. How I too had shared that dream with the man I love but unfortunately we had not survived the journey together and sadly parted ways just before we were able to realise our dream. To tell you of how this journey for each of us was so much more than just the destination; It was a journey of strength, of memories, of loss, of pride, of nostalgia, of proof, of self worth, of achievement, of reclaiming our lives. We found not only solace but also we found joy and companionship in the company of each other. We formed an unspoken bond and a memory that will stay with all of us for a long, long time.

IMG_5752

…But as I wrote about this I found myself unable to be as open and honest as I would like, unable to really take you on that journey with me and tell you all I learned about myself; I don’t feel it is my place to divulge the emotional journeys of Mum and Bob but I am not one for shouting about my own private life either. When other people are involved it becomes not only a choice of my own privacy but theirs and that is not a decision I can make alone… So I wrote and I wrote, trying to find metaphors and examples to tell you without really ‘telling you’… but it felt empty and weak and not something I even wanted to re-read. But what I did stumble on in my ramblings was this; my 2nd attempt began as follows:

“It’s my first night home alone…

Home…

This is my home now. “

And over the next few days I started to really think about what home was to me… I came to the conclusion that; home has always meant many different things to me; Since leaving home at 19 I have moved around to many different places: over my 32 years I have called so many places ‘home’. Someone asked me the other day: “so where do you call home?” and I said: “wherever I am at the time.” But I don’t think that is strictly true; I have lived some places that I have not really called home in every sense of the word and in the same respect even when I have lived places that I have called home, I would still go home to see my mum. So maybe home can be many places at once… I guess what this means is, home is where I feel most connected to at any moment in my life. IMG_5767I have a link on my keys that holds all my ‘home’ keys and I realised the other day that there are now 5 keys on there. All keys to different places that I would still consider ‘home’, I would still feel completely at home in all 5 of them. But right now they are all overshadowed by my connection to my new home, my very own home, the place that instantly felt like home, the place that feels so completely me that I truly believe we were destined to be together just me and my home; The Kevin James.

 

 

As a creative person pursuing a passion that I love more than I can really explain to you, there is very little time or space for convention. My life is wholly unconventional and sometimes it is to my detriment but always it comes down to one thing and one thing only… music. So having a space that I can call home and knowing that it can come with me along this crazy journey is a comfort that I have not felt before.

IMG_5759Every other home I have had I have always known that I would one day leave but with kevin James, I feel like we are going to be together forever!

IMG_5688

I watched a lovely Ted Talk tonight, which sums up home really well: In it Elizabeth Gilbert talks about home being to do with love, which is what I believe all the keys on my key-ring have in common; In each of those places I felt/feel love. My favourite line from the talk is: “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself”. Well for me, the ones that remain constant in my life and are the reason I call each of those 5 places and many more ‘home’ is Music, Family and Friends. Whatever your home is be sure to realise that it is not the bricks and wallpaper that make it that way, it is the love that you feel within it. If your happiness is ever challenged or tested and you feel uncertain of whom you are and what you’re capable of… Just go ‘home’ and it will all be ok.

 

We made it!

It’s been a bit crazy to say the least. Once again I have struggled to find a moment to sit down and write. I am sat out on the deck of my new home the sunshine is blazing and all I want to do is tell you how amazing my new way of life is but before I do I have the last leg of the journey to tell you about… and man what an eventful last leg it was! I left off in my last entry the day before Devizes and this is the day is all started!

We got up a 6am and set off at 7am in a bid to get to Devizes by night fall to moor up and hit it hard the next day. We were setting off from Hungerford, moored up just after Lock 74 and heading to Devizes, which starts at Lock 50 so there were 23 locks to go… Mum and I had our windlasses at the ready!

We got off for the first lock, dogs in tow and smashed through it in no time, we have a little routine going now which has been unconsciously perfected throughout the trip. When we finished lock 73 we could see Lock 72 up ahead so we thought we would stay off the boat and walk ahead give the dogs a little run… Well this was basically the theme of our day; we didn’t get back on our boat until after Lock 55! Although we popped the dogs back on a little before that which Barley made clear he was not happy about when he turned up soaking wet mid way through our lock prep. Our sight of the boat was blocked by a bridge so as mum grabbed Barley I ran down to Bob to check he was ok: Barley had managed to nose his way through to the front bedroom and then launched himself of the front of the boat! Luckilly when Bob was mooring up to wait for the lock to empty he looked down the side of the boat to check his distance and saw Barley’s bright yellow life jacket! There he was just swimming about in the water… Bob ran down and hauled him out the water with the help of another moored boater and once Barley was on dry land he bolted after us! Crazy dog!

IMG_4938

19 locks down and god knows how many miles walked/run we were knackered!

784b650a24ad6f3c0d71befa6a5e1976

Next up Bruce Tunnel all 502 yards of it, time to test the headlights!

6c3f7bca12f3f978e456d9f2c2559c8a2ced1e33bf4a2030184448ce9b1832b7849cb3fee154865ff3584bac11562f6f

We hopped back off the boat at Lock 54; 4 more locks to go and all in quick succession before we could get back on The Kevin James and cruise the next few lockless hours to Devizes. Excited, exhausted and pushing through we were both pretty happy when we got to lock 53 and the paddles we seemingly easy to wind up, not too much resistance at all…. “Ah these are nice and easy.” I said and mum agreed, what a relief, if the next 2 are like this we will smash through them… Sat waiting for the lock to empty it was a good few minutes before it dawned upon us: The lock was not draining, the paddles were easy with little resistance because there was no resistance! They had not lifted at all, the lock was not emptying and suddenly our 6am start and hammering through 21 locks in no time came to a crashing halt.

IMG_5338

Bob made a call to Canal and River Trust and they assured us they would call us back. 40 minutes went by the lock had managed to drain halfway and plateaued and with 1 other boat waiting to come down the lock another boat came into view up ahead heading up the lock, just what we needed. It was a 70ft narrow boat with a group of 6 old boys on their lad’s holiday! A quick chat with them and they agreed to try their best to nudge the lock gates with their boat in the hope of allowing enough water to escape so that we could push the gates open. With our boat tied up in the lock and four of us on each: On 3 we pushed with all our might as one of the lads drove the narrow boat into the gates. There was some deceptive movement in the gates, which turned out to just be the bending of the beams. The lads were not giving up and continued full throttle into the gates, one old boy even climbed onto the gates thinking he could make a difference with his sheer brut strength but I think that was more to do with the amount he had had to drink than his actual ability.

IMG_5356

With the cue building up the heavens opened! Two hours went by and the Canal and River Trust finally turned up only to take one look at the boat and say; “yep, you’re not getting out of there tonight…” Undeterred I was not about to let their pessimistic, defeatist attitude stand in the way of our journey and undo all our hard work that morning. Mum and I seemingly took on an unrehearsed good cop/back cop routine. I expressed my extreme disappointment in their diagnosis and demanded they give me an exact time in which they planned to get the divers here to sort the lock. Then along comes mum apologising for the hassle this has caused them and with and understanding tone, sympathising with the ‘bad week’ they had had, which they were all too keen to tell us about: ”I know its not your fault” she said. Bob had not given up either and had managed to get some coal ash from the lads boat which he climbed up onto the top gate with and poured down the middle successfully attempting to block up the cracks somewhat in a bid to reduce the water coming into the lock so that the flow going out was greater and thus the 2ft of water left in the lock would slowly reduce. With the coal in but unsure how long it would hold Bob came and said to the two CRT lads: “can we put some pressure on this gates to see if we can let some water out enough to open the gates?” “oooo, we can’t do that, we’ll snap the beam”. Bob, too polite to argue their crazy logic just accepted their response and walked off. In comes bad cop again: “Lads come on. I don’t mean to be rude, you look like strong lads but between the four of us I don’t think we are going to snap that beam! Lets just try. ”Well, I don’t know if it was their bruised ego’s desperate to prove me wrong or just the sheer shock of being challenged by a woman but they complied. Mum ran off to get the lads who were now way more than two sheets to the wind and were just untying their ropes to head back up to the pub for the night. 6 of us on the one gate, the rain pouring down we heaved with all our might. By this point our friends Viv and Ian had turned up on their bikes hoping to meet us along the way to Devizes not expecting to find us in this state; They too jumped on along with a few others from the ever growing queue of boats and we did it!!!!! We were free!!!!

IMG_5361

In a flash we hauled the bikes onto Kevin James, elated to be set free from captive we carried on down the river without a second thought for the boats that we had left behind stuck there for the night till the divers came and fixed the paddles…

IMG_5364

We did, of cause spare a thought for them eventually; we’re not that self-absorbed!

IMG_5369

Slowly drying out and thankfully only 2 more locks to do we powered on but only made it to Honey Street by nightfall. Nothing another 6am start wouldn’t fix: We got to Devizes at 11am. Ready and raring to nail these 28 locks!

IMG_5372

Although we had called out to various people to come along and help, we had but one taker in the form of Nigel Dean. What a clueless trouper he was!

2c7fb99bfb52690ffb150a3ce0cabbb7

With him being ordered around the locks by mum and I, the three of us managed to get a little routine going and smashed it in 3.5hrs.

FullSizeRender 4IMG_5399IMG_5397IMG_5401IMG_54050e527dce2e8586830cb42900899e88b4IMG_542413151975_10154184659496081_1759819822110614499_n

Proud as punch we had a celebratory cheese on toast and cuppa tea then carried onto Semington where we moored up for the night. Just as we locked up the boat and headed down the towpath to The Semington Arms for our first and only dinner out (treating ourselves for all our hard work). We were met by the ever ‘on his way’ Tom Sheppard. Just in time for our celebratory pub dinner and drinks the windlass we had brought him for his arrival and help at Devizes lay untouched in the back box on the Kevin James.

IMG_5433

We had a lovely dinner; Tom and I managed to win pool as Bob ‘the hustler’ lost his hustle by accidently potting the black! Kate Dean joined us at 9 for a late ordering of mushroom risotto and then we all headed back to Kevin James for a little nightcap before bed, lush!

IMG_5435IMG_5438IMG_5442

The next couple of days went by in a flash; with another early start and back down to the three of us we managed to make it to Hanham Lock by nightfall.

IMG_5454

Coming through Bath, the Widcombe Flight of 6 locks didn’t faze us at all however the last Lock was a seriously deep one, so much so that both mum and I struggled to close the gates afterwards. After several attempts we decided to join forces and with my hands on the gate and mums hands around my waist so that she could get her feet onto the poorly placed ridges for some grip we pulled with all our might and not without lots of funny looks and laughs from the passing traffic we got it moving!

1030eefd3dcee22de2a192455560dea13915e549a3af673572c5ad4fd17b267eabb9a34c2c97badb86b0e0153a2fe099

Getting back onto the river was a change of pace; with all the rain the river was flowing pretty fast and we were flying along. There was very little traffic on the water, as I believe most sensible people without a schedule to stick to, decided to stay at home. But halfway to Hanham we met a boat coming the other way, which had seemingly forgotten that you always pass port to port and was now heading straight for us. In a panic I handed the tiller to Bob who was equally panicked but with mum franticly signalling for them to get over we managed to squeeze passed each other. However this left us right in the bushes, poor Bob was desperately trying to recover us but with the flow of the river it was not an easy task. Before we knew it we were right over the other side in the trees, mum and I had to duck right down while Bob stopped, calmed the situation and with a clear head and a quick lift off of the brand new chimney we had just bought he waded us through the trees and got us back on track with only a broken navigational light to show for it. Thank god for Bob! Although once we got to Bristol we did find half a tree under our bow!

IMG_5479

IMG_5481

Waking up at Hanham lock we were only an hour from Bristol so we were able to have a slightly lazier start to the day and head off around 9am. We got to the lock and the moorings were flooded! Undeterred Bob nosed the boat up to the gates and we hoped off the bow straight onto the gate. As we started to wind the gates up the lock master came out in his dressing gown explaining to us that the river was closed due to the flooding and they were not letting anyone in or out of Bristol. Bob tied the boat up around the top of the mooring post that was just sticking out of the water and climbed off the bow while I held the front end in with the rope. A quick chat with his old drinking friend Trevor the Lock Master, a call to the Lock Master at Netham Lock and we were on our way! It’s not what tiy know ‘ey?

It was not going to be an easy ride but Trevor knew Bob was more than capable and sure enough we made it to Netham lock in record time! So much so that the Lock Master was not ready for us. As we waited patiently for him to sift the rubbish through (which was why he allowed us through knowing he had to open the lock for his daily rubbish duties anyway. Also FYI we think this may be where we picked up the tree on our bow but it was more dramatic to say it happened during the near miss!) I started to reflect on our journey and how far we have come. It has been such a journey for all three of us in more ways than one.

Watching as he turned away other boats we couldn’t help but feel a bit smug. Mum and I went and bought a 15 day visitors pass for Bristol (I am currently on the waiting list for Bristol Marina) as I had decided to spend a few days there before heading over to Portished where I am going to moor while I wait with finger crossed and baited breath for a mooring in Bristol.

We got back on the boat and Bob handed me the reins saying: “right skipper, he’s all yours, my work is done, away you go.” A proud moment as I cruised down the Feeder canal, taking the tight right turn with ease, bob said: “well, I’d have been proud of that, you wouldn’t have done that last Monday” and proud I was. We approached Bristol Harbourside and much to everyone’s distaste I decided to moor him up right outside the bustling Arnolfini. It may be noisy at night but if I’ve only got 15 days here I wanna get right in the thick of it!

IMG_5476

As we turn the engine off, a glass of Presecco on a completely empty stomach marks the end of our journey together as a threesome and the beginning of mine as a boat dweller…

IMG_5475

I couldn’t be prouder of the three of us…. London to Bristol in just over 9 days!

IMG_4706IMG_5489

Kevin James has lots of visitors…

It’s Sunday night; we’re moored up at Hungerford for the night… after a short discussion we all agreed to finish early so we can have a lazy evening in preparation to hammer the next five days. We basically need to haul ass to Bristol by Friday so that I can do the big move over the weekend before starting work Monday! Hectic you say…? I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Mum’s getting the spag bol on the go, we have our lovely Bob Back after his trip home for the weekend to allow us to have room for the whole family on board and I have finally got some time to fill you in on the next instalment:

So this is my second attempt at writing part 2 of our journey from London to Bristol. It has been hectic to say the least and every time I’ve sat down to write, there has been a lock to do, a bridge to open, a boat to steer, a drink to make, a dinner to cook, not to mention the moments when you just want to stop and take it all in.

IMG_5116

In my first attempt I started to tell you all about our completion of the Thames River and joining the River Kennet: We hit Reading on Thursday and what a culture shock it was…

 

IMG_5020

Leaving the Thames…

Having never done any boating on the Thames River I can see how people get used to the leisure of it all! No man-powered locks at all, every single one is run by the push of a button and not only that but at 90% of the locks there is a person there to push said button for you! The other lovely thing about the Thames is the space; getting into the windy River Kennet we suddenly had to be a lot more alert while steering! But still I love it on the canals, doing the locks not only gives you a sense of achievement but its great teamwork and a dam good workout. We have of course been putting all our guests to work too!

13139363_10156971988590360_1509220573950174644_n
So far on this trip I have found two new loves; my new (charity shop bought) slow cooker and birds; I’ve become a bit of a keen bird spotter (with the help of Bob identifying them for me) we’ve seen swans, geese, ducks, great crested grebes, cormorants, herons, buzzards, terns, red kites and many more. Unfortunately without a decent zoom lens on my camera and usually only my iPhone to hand I’ve not managed to capture any decent pictures yet but I’m working on it! And don’t even get me started on my slow cooker, its just a dream and perfect for this trip; Chop it all up in the morning, plonk it all in, switch it on, set off and forget about it for the whole day… then after a long day there is nothing to be done but eat… Although the aroma throughout the day is pretty dam hard to resist!

IMG_5008 IMG_4997 IMG_4983

Slow Cooked vegetable curry.

Slow Cooked chicken casserole.

So as I said, Bob headed home for the weekend to make room for the motely crew to come aboard; we moored up just before Newbury right outside the The Narrow Boat pub. That way my sister and the gang could park the car literally spitting distance from the boat and get all their stuff on board. Anyone with kids will know that there is no such thing as packing light with two little ones! But it was perfect for us because with a Tesco’s superstore on our doorstep we were able to stock up… and stock up we did, we were busting at the seems with food and booze (can I just take this moment to say there really is nothing super about Tesco’s superstores, they are so under stocked and have little more to offer than a corner shop! That’s my rant done)!

 

With the family on board, the next morning although up nice any early to enjoy the day we had a leisurely start. Breakfast in our pj’s and much to Gem’s disbelief mum even walked the dogs in her onesie!!! Anyone who knows mum knows she doesn’t leave the house without her lipstick so this was a proud moment for me; she’s adapted well to boat life! Driving the boat with my whole family on board it felt amazing. It was so lovely to see us all enjoying our new venture together. Took me right back to our childhood… only this time it’s ours; no having to give the boat back in a week, no extortionate rental fees, no post holiday blues, it’s ours to enjoy holidays whenever we want. Every day’s a holiday.

IMG_5257

Maximising the new sofa bed

IMG_5159

Quick stop off in Newbury for some pedal boating

IMG_5222

Boat life!

IMG_5024

The sun has been shining down on our journey all week…

IMG_5209

Little Milo getting introduced to boat life… Start them young.

IMG_5221 IMG_5193

IMG_5262

Alfie tormenting the dogs with his ‘swords’…

Even with our leisurely pace we surprised ourselves and managed to make it to Kintbury for the evening’s mooring spot; I think the extra hands made light work of the locks. What a lovely little Village Kintbury is, we had a wonderful stay there and then after another well earned lazy morning the family set off and we picked up our next guests. Some day-tripper’s this time: Miss Serena Catapano came back for some more and this time she brought her mum and step dad along for the ride. Jan got stuck in with the locks straight away climbing down the side the boat, jumping off the front end and pushing the gates open faster than me! We hit Hungerford in no time… So much so that we nearly cruised straight by it! We were cruising passed it and mum said: “oh, this place looks nice, where are we…?” With Serena’s car in Hungerford ready to take them all back to Kintbury and Bob getting the train there to meet back up with us, there was really no choice… I quickly banged it into reverse and with a good old audience building up I managed not to make too much of a hash of it and reverse moored it up! Although we realised shortly after that, that it was the boat trip mooring and not somewhere we were supposed to be… oops!

IMG_5290

Miss Catapano had a little go a steering!

IMG_5288

Jan and Brin loving boat life.

Sunday was of course a popular day for visitors but we managed to fit them all in with our last guests of the day being none other than the lovely Kate Dean and her papa. What a lovely end to a wonderful weekend.

IMG_5331

Time to turn in for the night, long old day tomorrow, I have a slow cooked roast chicken dinner planned, I can smell it already; 24 locks to Devises which we are determined to do so we can moor up and tackle the Caen Hill flight Tuesday morning. Feel free to come and watch or get stuck in, we could do with the extra womanpower…

Kevin James on the Tidal Thames.

Four days ago I fulfilled a childhood dream of mine…

At 12 Noon on Sunday the 1st of May Mum and I pulled into Regent’s Row, London to sign the papers for our very own canal boat. At 60ft by 10ft she is a beast, all glistening and glorious in the afternoon sun! Many of my fondest childhood memories are holidaying on the canals with my family… and since those days I have always dreamed of one day ditching solid ground for life on the water. As we step aboard the formerly named Gertrude, to me she already feels like home… This is a shared dream with my Mum and a big achievement for us both; her and Dad had always wanted to own their own Narrow Boat but sadly never got to realise that dream before he past away. So of course there was no question when it came to naming the boat; one phone call to the Canal and River Trust for a quick sex change; She becomes a he and is fittingly named Kevin James (after my dad).

IMG_4619

With A Little Help From My Friends we managed to get him spick and span and all settled in in no time. With the first fire (lit by yours truly) roaring we popped open the Champagne! Women make fire too you know, we just do it in style…

IMG_4651

 

The next morning consisted of dragging my friends to IKEA on a bank holiday Monday (thats love) to purchase a corner sofa bed that resulted in getting picked up by and UBER driver with a people carrier as, surprisingly it didn’t fit in Serena’s Fiat 500! This may seem excessive but it was an important buy for all the visitors we have coming along the way to join in the madness! Sofa bed made up, food and supplies stocked and we are ready to set sail (I know there is no sail but you know what I mean).

 

IMG_4677

We have a long journey ahead to get him all the way back to Bristol which is where we intend to moor my new home for now. Planning our route weeks before with the help of my new boating friend Bob we decided to tackle to the Tidal Thames and out to the Kennet and Avon Canal that way for what promised to be an epic adventure!

After a relatively short trip from Broadway Market we moored up for the night at Limehouse, right outside the Thames Lock. This proved to be a somewhat sleepless night; Muchly to do with the copious amounts of cheese and Port we consumed, which finished up around 1am! But also the realisation of what we were about to tackle the next day; Mum, whilst excited was somewhat apprehensive. I on the other hand was blissfully blinded to the dangers by my thrill seeking over ambitious brain that just jumps in head first without a second thought of the risk. But the butterflies kept me awake…

I lived in London for 9 years of my life and it will always hold a special place in my heart. This journey is much more to me than just us bringing our new boat, my new home, back to Bristol. It is a little farewell to the place I called home…

IMG_4701

Police escort under Tower Bridge no less! (Just a coincidental convoy I promise!)IMG_4703This is by far the best way to see London! What a beautiful view:
IMG_4706
IMG_4715

Farewell Tower Bridge…You always blow me away with your beauty, especially on a clear night when you light up the Thames!IMG_4736

My knight in shining armour! We could never have taken on this trip without our Pilot and now, dear friend Bob:IMG_4749 IMG_4770 IMG_4778 IMG_4787

Albert Bridge, a beautiful bridge that holds a very special place in my heart. Sunrise from this Bridge is worth the early morning!IMG_4802

Brecon the Border Collie loving life!IMG_4828

Barley the Border Collie wondering why he is on such a short lead… Crazy pup! Hang in there buddy in a couple of years you will have earned your stripes.IMG_4829

And finally we reach Teddington which marks the end of the Tidal Thames. What a ride!

IMG_4819

Needless to say it all went swimmingly and is without a doubt up there as one of the best days of my life!

Our journey continues…

Dear Dad….

Dear Dad

I know I normally talk to you in my thoughts but today I felt like writing you a letter. I hope it still makes its way to you;

I was sat in Kate’s conservatory the other day and we were brainstorming ideas for a joint art project we are doing to accompany my album. To help us with our creation we were listening to my half finished, almost ready, pretty much there, I just need to let go and stop picking at it, album and my song ‘Four Weeks’ came on. This is a song I wrote with Rhys about 7 or 8 years ago. It’s about the moment that Mum sat Gemma and I down to tell us that we were going to have to say goodbye to you. That the man who had loved us unconditionally, with his whole heart and always made us smile was going to be taken away very shortly. You were laying down in the bedroom and we ran in and gave you the biggest hug in the world.
Now, at 31 years of age I understand the true gravity of the task that mum had to undertake. I cannot imagine how she must have felt having to say those words to her two daughters. To this day I am so proud of her for being so strong and being able to put her fears and sadness to one side and support Gemma and I in what felt like the end of our world… Let me tell you she devoted her life to doing just that, always putting our happiness before her own, words do not do it justice; she is an amazing mum and a wonderful friend and everyday I feel lucky to have her.

So, as I was telling you; we we’re in Kate’s conservatory being all creative and it was scorching hot! I think judging by the weather now, it was actually our last day of summer. Had we known that we might’ve got our bikini’s on and sat in the garden, instead we were doing our best not to be uber British and complain about the heat so we simply sat and suffered, inappropriately dressed, drinking copious amounts of tea, chasing the shaded area around the room as the sun moved across the sky (I guess that’s still pretty British!). As ‘Four Weeks’ played, Kate turned to me and said; “This song gets me every time, I don’t know how you do it.” And as she spoke her eyes filled with tears. “Now I am a mother I just cannot imagine how…” She didn’t finish her sentence but I knew what she meant. I wandered over to her and hugged her tightly. “This is silly” she said “I can’t believe you are comforting me about this song”.

But that’s just it Dad, that moment right there is why I do it.

Music has such an indescribable power that we all know and understand no matter where we are from. I have had so many powerful responses to this song and still it amazes me. It has taken on a life of its own and has a power beyond anything both Rhys and I had ever hoped for. It became the inspiration for me to write my album the way I have.
I decided to redo the vocal for Four Weeks and put it on the album. It has never really been given the light it deserves and it just felt right to give it the opportunity to be heard especially as without it I would not be making this album this way. I like to think that in someway it’s you, still in my heart and mind, guiding me as I grow. Should the album be a complete flop with no radio play or record sales/downloads at all (after I have cried my own body weight in tears) I will look back at this moment and remember that that really isn’t what it’s all about.

Yesterday when Mum came over for lunch she dropped off an old cd wallet she had found. It was full of my old cd collection. I had a long drive today so I decided to spend the time listening to them all and I can tell you I have been on a journey; from old boyfriends (some you would’ve approved of and some you wouldn’t) to old friends, from college years to uni, from nights out to nights in, from old best friends to… Well I still have the same best friends! It’s funny how a song can take you right back to a moment; you can experience every detail of that past moment captured right there in the song: the sounds, smells, people, thoughts and feelings. I don’t know how it does it but it does. I know it’s something we all experience for both happy memories and sad and it’s one of the many things I love about music!
After my cd marathon I was feeling pretty nostalgic so on the train home I had the urge to listen to Four Weeks. Sometimes without my control you come into my head and I have to listen to a song and remember a moment just to be close to you again. Often when I listen to Four Weeks and especially when I sing it, I have found a way to disconnect a little, almost like I am watching the story unfold rather than being a part of it, I think I do it without realising just to get through the song… But sat on the train with no distractions I closed my eyes and just allowed myself to really listen to my words; There I was… right there… 11years old, sat down next to mum with Gem sat the other side of her, about to hear the words we knew were coming but we hoped with all our hearts would never come true… Maybe a public train was not the best place for this but nonetheless I just had to write you a letter. I miss you Dad. I want you to hear me sing, I want to sit down next to you and play you my album and see the pride in your eyes. I want to tell you how amazing mum has been and how proud you should be of her. I want you to see how close and inseparable me and Gem are and how much support and love all three of us have for our little family. I want to introduce you to my nephew, your wonderful grandson and have you play silly jokes on him like you did with us. I want you to wake me up each morning singing at the top of your voice as you pull the covers off me and drag me out of bed to get up and make the most of my day; “oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way…”! But most of all I just want you to sweep mum up in your arms and tell her she’s doing great!

It never gets easier to miss you but I promise with all my heart each morning I will throw my bed covers off, drag myself out of bed and make the most of my day!

Lots of love and hugs,
Your daughter,
Sian x

P.S. I got so engrossed in writing this letter to you that I missed my connection back to Bristol! But you know what, it doesn’t matter because an hour alone with you was worth it.

CHOICES

These last few weeks I have been faced with a lot of big decisions that have had to be made very fast! In this situation you have to rely on your gut.

Unfortunately though, when there is so much riding on it you begin doubt that feeling inside, that unexplainable sensation that tells us whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, beneficial or detrimental.

I think ultimately our lives are made up of a whole bunch of choices, from the friends we make to the friends we keep, from the places we visit to the places we stay, from the partner we leave to the one we commit to, its all a choice and we are the ones that have the final say. So why do we find ourselves being influenced so heavily by the opinion of others? Why do we do what we think others want us to do or behave in a way that we think others will perceive as morally correct? I am sure we are all guilty of it on some level. We are the ones that have to live with our choices so we should be the ones that are driving them.

I am a 31-year-old childless, unmarried singer. Now what does society say about that? What would society have me believe? ‘Your body-clock is ticking and you should definitely start having children now’. ‘You’ve been with your boyfriend 6 years… When are you getting married?’. ‘You are 31 you are basically too old to be a singer now, you are passed it and no one will want to buy your music if you don’t have a toned stomach and the face of a 16-year-old. You should get a ‘real job”. It is hard when we are faced with all these opinions and ideals to focus our minds on our own morals and beliefs and see clearly what it is that we want! I think ultimately when making a decision you are taking a risk. You are saying, here world, this is what I want, this is what I believe in and if it all falls down around me then I will still feel happy and proud of myself for trying.

I am not in any way saying that we should lay out our values, morals and believes and live by them for the rest of our lives, never being influenced by the world around us or the people in it. Far from it; learn from others, listen to others, hear their thoughts and then decide what is right for you. We don’t stop learning just because leave school. Every day is a lesson in something. Just because we are not sat behind a white board with our class mates pretending to listen to the teacher while scribbling ‘I heart Dan Hindmarsh I.D.S.T.'(that’s If Destroyed Still True incase you didn’t know.) on our pencil-case, it’s still a lesson… We just get to choose the curriculum. Another choice!

My best friend wrote her first blog the other day and it came at the time that I was having to make all these big decisions that I talked about earlier. It inspired me completely to take the risk and know that it really isn’t a life or death situation. It is just part of the journey and an experience that will in whatever way teach me something new. Here is a little exert from her blog that I like in which she talks about ‘Creative Risk’: “Taking a risk is scary. Risk is putting yourself, your ideas, your business out there. The danger is fear of the world rejecting or criticising you, or it all going wrong. But what if we viewed risk creativity and realised that staying the same could actually be more dangerous to us either personally or to our businesses. What if we take away the concept of fear (the danger) and see risk as a creative action to invite new experiences and opportunities into our lives and trust that it will lead us to places we simply can’t imagine.”

I stand by my choices and the reasons for making them and the ones that didn’t work out the way I hoped still taught me some valuable lessons that will shape my next choice and so on.

“How you feel in any given moment is more important than anything else, because how you feel right now is creating your life.” Rhonda Byrne

believe-in-yourself-quote-4

love, love, love

Sian x

THANK YOU GLASTONBURY

I have tried to write this several times and each time the words I write don’t express the feelings I have for this place.

The unbelievable enlightenment it gives to me year upon year.

Unless you have been there it is hard to explain… you can’t quantify what it is about Glastonbury that is so spiritually enlightening.

There is just something there that makes you go…”Oh I get it now…This is what life is all about.”

Whether you are laying in a field somewhere for an afternoon nap.

IMG_9458

Singing your heart out at the pyramid stage.

IMG_9496

 

Dancing the night away with all your friends.

IMG_9516

Sat around a technicolored campfire at the stone circle.

IMG_9487

 

or stopping dead in your tracks to catch an amazing sunset.

 

IMG_9465

You just feel ………………………………………………………………………………….

(there are no words for that feeling)

 

So Thank You Glastonbury, every year you remind me exactly why I am doing this!

I love you! x

 

Festival Season So Far

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the festival season is in full swing!

photo 3

We started the year with Cosmic Puffin Fest, a cute little festival on Mersea Island… Having finished the album the night before I was a little worse for wear to say the least! I am really not cut out for the rock and roll lifestyle, early night and a cup of tea is what i need before a gig. But needless to say I powered through. The stage can be a very sobering place! The audience grew throughout our set, piling in and filling up our cute little tent till it was busting at the seams… We even got invited back next year! Maybe a heavy night and 2 hours sleep really is the way forward (I’m not convinced)!

photo 2-1

Then onto Colour Fest a non-alcoholic yoga festival (Just what the doctor ordered)! And what a wonderful festival it was; the sun was beating down so hard by the end of the day my freckles had multiplied! We had 2 slots at this festival one at 4:30pm and another at 10pm (The penultimate act on the acoustic Stage). So in between sets we indulged in 4 solid hours of laying in the middle of a field listening to live music and doing absolutely nothing! We did take a short break for some super delicious vegan food from No Bones Jones, all we were missing was a daisy chain head band, some hemp clothing and flowers painted on our faces! But seriously, I can’t recommend this festival enough. If you are a city hippy like me then this is your chance to get back to your roots and ‘explore the depths of life’. In the picturesque grounds of Lord Shaftesbury’s estate you can get involved in music, yoga, movement, massage and more… or alternatively you can remain horizontal and do virtually nothing but soak in the overwhelmingly peaceful, calming atmosphere!

photo 2-3

And finally; on Monday night we performed back on my home turf; Bristol. Big Green Week have set up a solar powered stage at the top of the Cascade Steps. At the mercy of the sun (which thankfully was out in all it’s glory) we were the earliest headline act in history; finishing at 7:30 just to ensure we didn’t lose power. This was quite the experience, the audience was ever changing as people passed and stopped; sat down for a song or two before carrying on with their day, passed and stopped; staying for the entire set because life’s too short to be rushing everywhere, passed and stopped; taking a quick picture or video on their smart phone (I always wonder where they end up). Beginning our performance to an audience of my mum, boyfriend, his 2 friends, my sister and nephew… At one point I would say we had around 50 people stood listening which was such a lovely feeling; knowing that they had been distracted from whatever they were doing and made the choice to stand and listen to my songs. Whether it be for one song or the whole set it was an amazing feeling and I am grateful to all of you who did that! Big shout out to Chris- the crazy Welshman who was so drunk he had fallen asleep on his train home ending up in Bristol and stumbling upon my set. I think you are the biggest fan I have, sorry we didn’t play ‘House of The Rising Sun’ for you but thanks for the dancing and I hope you made it home safe!

photo 1-3

 

Now you know whats coming next….. GLASTONBURY!!!! I will be performing backing vocals for the lovely Ruth Royall on the Sunday at 12:45 at The Pussy Parlour… and the rest of the week I will be mostly wearing wellies and listening to music in a field somewhere on Worthy Farm with my friends!

Maybe see you there. xxx

10565275_10152175882516642_1160323602087601150_n

My First Art Project

I have always loved art. I love to draw/sketch I was never so good at the painting but drawing, whether it’s with pencil, charcoal, pastels or even pen I just love it! At the beginning of last year I brought a sketch pad and decided I was going to get back into it… needles to say over a year down the line there are only 4 sketches in there. In July last year I attended a life drawing class for the first time since my school years! The class was in London(back when I was still a London local). I went with my sister who is a fantastic artist, we had such a great time it was challenging and interesting. Dan pushed us to draw different ways, using different medium and trying different techniques and there was a twist at the end. Our model was also a dancer and in the last 10 minutes he performed a contemporary dance piece butt naked as we all tried to capture his movement on paper. I really loved it and I would recommend it to anyone! Here is my favourite drawing of mine from the class. Remember it had been nearly 15 years since I last drew anything so don’t get all art critic on me:

IMG_9085

If you are London bound and fancy it CLICK HERE for more details. Sadly I left London in August and have not yet found an art class to attend in the West Country so that was my art days on hold for a while…

…But where there is a will there is a way…

The last time I did and art project was back in 2000 when I was taking my GCSE’s (man I feel old). But while making my album I have of course been considering how I will market it; Getting ideas for videos, performances, single releases and of course, artwork! The album itself has been such a journey I wanted the artwork to reflect that. As most of you know my album is inspired solely by the true stories of others. Each and every person as real and honest as the next. Each and every story as harrowing and triumphant as the next and each and every person a true inspiration to all of us! So I wanted the artwork to be about that. Yes, I could go and put my glad-rags on, stand in front of a camera man with someone fanning me to create the illusion of my hair blowing in the wind, then photoshop the hell out of them and call that my album cover( don’t get me wrong I bloody love a good photoshoot!)… but it doesn’t feel right for this. The album is not about me, it’s about you.

Cut a long story short I have team up with World Champion Freestyle Body Painter, my good friend Spinks. What Spinks does is transforms the human body into beautiful pictures using just her paintbrush. She is incredibly skilled at what she does and her work reflects that. My personal favourite is the Peacock, made up of 7 pairs of legs and one arm.

994463_776625972378104_2692719129849929747_n

Spinks and I got chatting about my album art work… I’ve been wanting to do a project with her for so so long and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! Her work is exactly in line with my album concept; Every song is created from real people and their stories and Spinks uses real people as her canvas! So it seems totally fitting… To have the artwork made up of real people too would be just totally harmonious, and you all know just how much I love harmonies!!! We will be doing a picture for each song. Every picture will reflect the meaning and lesson within the song. Where possible I am using the subject of the song as the model for the art piece to go with their song. So it truly is all intertwined in a beautifully real and creative manner. I am so so excited! Spinks and I brainstormed each song, trying to figure out exactly how we could convey the message. What imagery would create the right feel and mood for each track and how we would go about organising all the people, lights, photo’s, schedules, back drops and everything else. We have done 2 shoots so far: The 1st for my song ‘Break the Chain‘ Photographed by the amazing Compo modelled by Veronica Vrettos, Helen May and myself and 2nd just yesterday for my song ‘What Do You Learn’ modelled by Richard Brown and photographed by Spinks herself. I am already so so pleased with how it is all working out. Spinks and I are having a great time and we can’t wait to show you all. We don’t want to spoil the illusions so you will have to wait for any sneak peaks but please just trust me when I say, it’s gonna be epic! You only have to look as Spinks’ previous work and you will be as excited as I am! If you are blown away by the peacock then head over to Spinks FACEBOOK PAGE and hit ‘like’. She is awesome not only in talent but in person too!

Also you can have a little look at how she does it, just CLICK HERE to watch a time-lapse of her in action!

Lots of love and hugs,

’til next time!

Sian x