Tag Archive | Chigwell School

Music of the Night

Softly, deftly music shall caress you

Hear it, feel it secretly possess you,

Open up your mind,

Let your fantasies unwind

In this darkness that you know you cannot fight,

The darkness of the music of the night.

So often I feel that life and living is simply a run.  It’s a run from the time you’re expelled from a womb to the time when you decay and die.  To get from A to Z you have to run, whether you choose to run towards death or away from it.  The irony is that I am as bad at running as I am at life.  Somewhere, sometime before my brain and heart broke, I couldn’t keep up with life’s pace and I slowed down, then stopped altogether.  Now, whether a hurdle tripped me up or I wasn’t fit enough or I ultimately decided I would not run, I got left behind.  Life, the living and all that encompasses left me behind.  Others who fall and fail and struggle through life, who cannot keep pace with the run of life, are tugged along by the other runners in the race, those who knew them, loved them – who would miss them – and saw them fall.  Nobody saw me fall.  Nobody looked back at me lying in their wake.  Nobody realised I was no longer in the race.  Someone had already won and I had already come last in that instant.  Now, I’m up and I am walking.  I am walking but nothing I, or anyone else, can do now will lessen the distance between myself and those ahead of me who might have knelt down and given succour.  So, when humankind forgets you are part of it and is complicit in your survival or lack of it, to whom or what do you turn so that you can keep walking towards death and find an end to the journey?  What is it that keeps you company on your long, dark, solitary odyssey that your life is to you with a broken brain and a broken heart?  The caress and possession of your mind, heart and body by music, the sweetest and darkest music that lets the burning in your muscles dwindle and is the balm to the crushing weight of the world’s dismissal and apathy of you on your shoulders.  Music is the door from this world where Pippa trudges to Calvary alone, no longer able to run with life, to the sacred world where Lucrezia and Cordelia sing with angels and thrive away from the great race in the night no longer “dark and full of terrors”.

My extended metaphor aside, I want to write about music today, seeing as I’ve been crying (inexplicably, I might add!) through three episodes from season 2 of Glee!  It was nothing in the show particularly that elicited such a visceral response from me but it’s a show that, despite being cliched, unbearably American and full of unrealistic teen drama (even from the adults), is about music and the joys of music healing people and bringing them together with other people, who would have left them behind or never known them and made a difference in their lives.  Can you see how this fits in with my metaphor dragged out above?  Just in case I’ve been too cryptic, I’ll spell it out: it’s a show about people falling, failing and fumbling their way through life but more than that, it’s a TV show about others picking you up and being aware that you matter, especially in the episodes aired in the aftermath of Cory Monteith’s tragic passing.

Anyway, back to music!

The first tunes I remember and the first moments of insurmountable joy I experienced during a melody were those of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s composition.  I used to adore musicals and Kid’s Week in London was the highlight of my year.  Now, I find them just adaptations of better works and overly sentimental romances, but Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s works still hit a resounding note with me, despite the fact that I listen to them less and less.  Just to give you a rundown, of all his musicals, I have seen (though, even where I haven’t seen the show, I know of the songs, e.g. I have never seen Song and Dance but I have sung Tell Me On a Sunday):

  • Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968)
    • NB. also my first exposure to Donny Osmond, whom I love also!
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
    • At Chigwell School, this was one of the shows and I played trumpet in the orchestra
  • Evita (1976)
  • Cats (1981)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1986)
    • I believe, other than the Joel Schumacher film, I have seen the show in London’s West End over ten times
  • Whistle Down the Wind (1996)
  • Bombay Dreams (2002)
  • Love Never Dies (2010)
    • NB. I saw this twice and the original ending (SPOILERS!) was that Christine dies and Gustave resides with his natural father, the Phantom, after losing his mother and I LOVED THAT!  Then, after a cast change and alteration to the musical, I saw it again and the ending was changed so that Raoul returns after leaving his wife and “son” and the Phantom lets Gustave return to the father he knew rather than stay with the father he knew no and I HATED IT

I have also seen all of the BBC 1 talent show-auditions for Andrew Lloyd-Webber productions and adored them, but I’m getting sidetracked by a delineation of the history of my fanatical following of Lloyd-Webber.  I’ll get back to proper writing now!

For my third form prom, I sang The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera and for the reason that it speaks of how music brings a lonely, scarred, incomplete man love, a vocation and a life, I have never found another song to replace it in my heart.  Those lyrics that opened this article are words I long to sing and love to recall when nothing but music for a while (kudos to any music lovers who get that reference!) can soothe my achy, breaky heart.  (I am on fire with these references!).

The lyrics of the entire song are about transcending out of this banal and brutal world to one where fantasies can come to life and you can be who you are, not who you appear to be.  That is my life, through television, through film, through whatever I can find.  My need is to leave Pippa behind and become someone else who can feel love and give love in a world that is not going to find pitchforks and cages with which to punish me for being ugly, for being evil, for being a monster.  For, that is what you become when you fall and the run of life leaves you behind because no one living, who runs away from death and towards life itself, remembered to look for you or reach for your hand to save you, who are forced to begin the long march to death.  You become a monster and a beast with no salvation other than that you search and yearn for beyond this life and away from this earth that has forsaken you.

reaching-out-300x196LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

28-06-2015

 

In Memoriam

On Saturday March 21st, 2015 I had the great honour of giving a tribute at my late Latin and Ancient Greek teacher’s memorial service.  He was an octogenarian when he retired and, indeed when he taught me for my GCSE and A Level exams.  Though he was a private man who mostly kept himself to himself and his humour in check (before pupils, at least it seems!), Mr David Horton was a genteel and amiable soul to write about and to recall in front of – I believe – a hundred or so ex-pupils, former colleagues and old schoolmates.  Two others preceded my brief eulogy, including one of Mr Horton’s first Classics students whereas I was his last proper Classics pupil at Chigwell School.  Mine was the shortest reflecting the time in which I knew the man himself but I am led to believe it had a measure eloquence and wit about it…a tall order considering that only a few hours before I was throwing up and passing out in a bathroom, bruising my arm on a cleaning bucket in the process!

I find social speaking and public speaking nigh-on impossible now, but to speak for such a man, a teacher I hold up as the best example of what I should aim to be, was a privilege had I passed it up, the nightmares truly would have never stopped.  For those of you who deem that last statement hyperbolic, even if you did not know the person intimately, when you feel the loss of a hero or admired figure whom you know you will spend the rest of your life emulating and trying to replicate in the hope of being just as good but knowing full well that you’ll be lucky to be a third as good, your mind does seep through the cracks into the darkness percolating below.

So, I can truly say I will miss Mr Christopher David Horton and I will forever treasure the gift of learning and knowledge he gave me during the final years of his long lifetime.

And now…I have recorded below a 98% accurate transcript of my speech, should you be curious, should you be needing it someday.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Now, I have many memories of one of the greatest inspirations to me, David Horton, all of which come from my Ancient Greek GCSE lessons where it was just him and me in a room in Radley’s Yard during lunchtimes, or band rehearsals and concerts where he would play the trombone, or even A level lessons where he taught a class of three pupils about Tacitus and the uses of the gerundive – a tough task, which I can now fully appreciate as a Classics-Teacher-to-Be – and finally, the chapel services where he played the organ.

Before I launch into an encomium, I would like to just share one anecdote with you all that in my view sums up the man that was David Horton.  Let me take you back to my GCSE year when Mr Horton was around eighty and I was the only student of Ancient Greek.  He used to teach me unseens and prose composition, two of the things I found most difficult and therefore made for difficult lesson time.  Now, back when I was a less PC and tactful person, I just had to tell Mr Lord that I didn’t want to have Mr Horton as a teacher anymore.  When he was shocked to hear this, he asked me why I didn’t want a teacher willing to devote his lunch hour to teaching me, my answer was that during that hour, only the two of us were in Radley’s Yard.  This worried me because I was scared that if Mr Horton had a heart attack I’d be the only one there with no idea how to help.  This did make Mr Lord laugh but he informed me that Mr Horton was still driving and teaching so he would be around long after I took my GCSE’s.  What I was not expecting was that this exchange reached the ears of my Greek teacher and all he could do was laugh and in the next lesson told me to pay more attention to my genitive absolutes instead of his health.  A classicist’s humour but a good sense of humour nonetheless…

I could relate the intricacies of the lessons, and how I’m pretty sure that Mr Horton knew every word in the Ancient Greek and Latin lexica, but that would be a poor tribute for the man who had higher value than the syllabus allowed.  For, it’s not the learned Tacitus or the grasped past participle which is what I remember from Mr Horton’s time as my teacher.  The inspiration and fond memory came from the incredible life he lived, spending as much of it – as I believe is almost humanly possible – in Chigwell School both as a pupil and subsequently as a Classics master.

I asked Mr Horton once if he had a favourite student and – not entirely to my surprise – he replied that it is the current Head of Classics, Mr Chris Lord, who was his pupil when he too was at Chigwell.  As both attended the same college at Oxford and then returned to this unique school to teach Classics, I cannot help but see Mr Horton as the beginning of the pathway that is guiding me through my life and that is the greatest gift any teacher or anyone for that matter, can give a fellow human being or student.  Thanks to the role Mr Horton played in my life, showing me that teaching can be both a career, a vocation and a lifestyle choice, I am now on track to be a Classics teacher.  I will conclude by saying that Mr Horton was a substantial part of the Classics teaching staff at this school and because of his example, his life’s work for Chigwell School, I am finding and making a way to one day carry on the tradition he began here and do it the justice he deserves as a superlative teacher and it is an honour to speak about him to all the people who came today to remember him, which is more of a testament to his memory than my words could ever give.

Finally, I will offer some words by Cicero, seeing as this is a memorial service for a Latin teacher: vita mortuorum in memoria est posita vivorum.  That is: the life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living.

Thank you.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

24-03-2015

Time to Change & Time to Talk Day

For those of you who do not know, Time to Talk Day was four days ago and I missed it!  However, as someone who keeps a blog on mental health and is extremely open about her own problems in that area, I feel I have given more than a year’s worth of five minutes talking about my depression, anxiety disorder and mythomania.  So, it gives me great pleasure – and I thank him very much for opting to give his five minutes to LaBellaBorgia Speaks – to introduce you to the writing of Jack again, who has written very well and to great effect here previously.

P. Mistry-Norman


You may remember me, I wrote here previously about my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (https://labellaborgia.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/living-with-borderline-personality-disorder/). For those, however, who do not, my name is Jack Jeffreys. I am twenty three. I live with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (Bipolar).

Today I want to talk about Time To Change, a charity aiming to reduce and eradicate mental health stigma. Today, 5th February, is Time To Talk Day. The idea is that you take five minutes to discuss mental health – so get a cup of tea because I’m taking my five minutes with you all now. However, I do not really want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about the work Time To Change do, and why I think it is vital. Vital in the present, and vital in the future. In our generation and for generations to come.

time-to-talk-290x169

I work with Time To Change through the Advocacy Project based in St. Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove. I do not get to spend a huge amount of time with them because of work, but I give them as many days off as I can afford. We go to public areas, and set up cafes. People can never turn down free tea and cake, and in return we discuss mental health with them. This always starts very one sided, but by the end it completely flips and I am left listening to the random member of the public. This is because so many people have a lived experience of mental health.

One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health “issues”. You have to remember mental health is a sliding scale from suffering from stress, through anxiety and depression, up to addiction, personality, obsessive, psychiatric, neurotic, eating, or mood disorders. When you think of it like this one in four does not sound so extreme.

At Time To Change we aim to challenge people’s views on mental health, and bring them into the twenty first century. We discuss statistics: one in six people in work in the UK have a mental health condition, and roughly 11% of the population is on anti-depressants. We discuss people like Stephen Fry and Winston Churchill, who suffer/suffered with Bipolar; Jim Carrey, who suffers with depression; Heath Ledger, who suffered with drug abuse; and John Prescott, who suffered with Bulimia. We aim to make mental health something that everyone can relate to. We aim to make mental health less scary.

Once we get into a discussion with people, they often start asking questions about mental health. There are some very common mental health myths.

Myth: If you suffer from a mental health condition you can be violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health condition makes you no more violent than anyone else. Only 3-5% of violent attacks are attributed to mental health, and when you consider that 25% of people suffer with some form of mental health, the myth does not really add up. In fact, it actually works the other way. In the US, you are ten times more likely to be a victim of violent crime if you suffer from mental health.

Myth: If you suffer from mental health problem you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health conditions has very little to do with being a weak person, it often requires help, in some form, to get better. Different forms of therapy help different conditions, generally. Mindfulness is the real mental health buzz word/therapy at the moment. Many factors attribute to mental health problems, such as biological factors (genetics or injury) or life experience (trauma and abuse). Many people recover from mental health conditions, but you cannot put time on this. There is no rule for how long it takes to get better; it is not the same as a broken leg.

Myth: YOU cannot help someone with a mental health condition.

Fact: I know a lot of people with mental health conditions. The little things mean the most. Friends telling them they are there to help or helping them access mental health services. Treating them with respect, just like anyone else. Generally being a friend or family member, just how you were, before mental health became an issue. Refusing to allow someone to be defined by diagnosis – I am bipolar but I do not have to act that way. And making it a ‘normal’ thing.

Myth: All you need to do is take tablets.

Fact: This works for some people. But for lots of people this is not the whole answer. A combination of therapy and medication is important. In some cases medication is not even required. I believe anti-depressants are drastically over prescribed by the NHS. This is because of an ever reducing mental health budget.

Myth: Children do not experience mental health problems.

Fact: Half of all mental health disorders show first signs by the age of fourteen, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of twenty four.

There are many more than this, but these are the most common myths we hear.

The important thing about Time To Change is the attempt to normalize mental health. Mental health is not going to disappear. In the high stress world that many people live in, it will only become more prevalent. And without wanting to make this political, under the current government, treatment is becoming less available. Therefore it is vital we are in a position to help each other.

I guess I am urging you to avoid awkward conversations, and to be that person who talks openly about mental health. Go and do research. Find out the truth. Do not shy away from it. If you have a friend or a family member who suffers with any form of mental health, break down the invisible barriers that exist in society, and talk about it. Mental health is not something to be scared or threatened by.

To conclude, I make no apology for not talking about my mental health. If you know me, or have read what I written previously, you will know I am very open and will discuss anything you want to know about me. Today is not about my mental health. It is about building a foundation for our generation, and generations to come. A foundation that allows our friends and family to feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. Start talking about mental health. Go and have another cup of tea. Go and talk about it over dinner. I’ve taken my five minutes today. Now go and take yours.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

09-02-2015

Learning and Students

Hello again, just as a humorous/helpful note.  This was in one of my lectures on teaching yesterday and I found it rather amusing, especially as I want to ‘specialise’ in mental health in teaching and education.  Just see which of the students (and maybe the teacher?) are exhibiting or potentially have a mental health condition in the classroom.  As my mental health problems were missed at school, just take a moment to look and hopefully, this might help people look more at the people in their offices and classrooms and generic workplaces and see what they’re missing because it has not got a neon flashing Las Vegas light above it screaming “I’m depressed” or “I suffer from Bipolar Disorder”.  Physical ailments are easy to notice (a pair of crutches, a bandage, a limp, a wince?) but try your hand at mental ailments and you might find you help someone and yourself in the process.

GroeningCartoonLaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

02-12-2014

Let it Go

I am about to attempt something completely new and different (can you tell that’s the theme over the past week or so?).  I am going to attempt to communicate the way I feel about depression and social anxiety and coping with the aforementioned through music and a video blog.  So, this post is less wordy than my others but I hope you will play the video below and listen and see what it is I want to say but often am unable to.  Otherwise, stick around and the next post in my guest series will be up presently!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

12-11-2014

Red Roses & Black Ribbons

I don’t believe in love.  I believe that romantic love or sexual or even lustful love is the most fallible and unreliable and therefore, weakest forms of love.  What I do believe in with all my heart is the love shared and nurtured between friends and the perennial stability and strength of the love between true friends.

It is said that friends are the family you choose yourself (Edna Buchanan paraphrased).  They’re not bound to you by DNA or RNA but emotionally, logically and understandably, they are bound to you by their actions and love.  I am both blessed and burdened (as most people are) by my friends.  I have two friends – two best friends – whom God gave me when I was very young because he knew I’d need brothers to carry me through my formative years and beyond.  Ben and Matt have stuck by me through thick and thin and this article is my homage to them and a meditation on my longest friendships to date and the only ones I depend on to remain constant.  The others can fade and fluctuate for all I care!  My life would be in no more danger than it is from day-to-day should those friendships run their course but as I often tell them, I would not be able to stomach living in a world that didn’t have my Ben and my Matt in it.

IMG_2006 (2)

Left to Right: Ben, Matt, Pippa (The Golden Trio)

Let me kick off properly by explaining why I suddenly have the urge to pen this article.  I have just finished reading a Harry Potter fanfiction called Premonition (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5710296/1/Premonition) that is Harry-Hermione centric.  The premise is that Harry has a nightmare in which his female best friend is felled during the Battle of Hogwarts and from there a romance blooms.  The particularly poignant part for me that instigated the whirlwind of thoughts leading to this article was:

‘”I told you, I told you they’d be after you,” he shouted at her, his voice anguished. “Oh God, come back, come back,” he pleaded with her, hugging her tight against his chest, his chin on top of her head, his eyes closed, and Ron noticed his glasses were broken. But he had no one to fix them. Hermione always did that. Would he never get them fixed then? “I don’t know what to do without you. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he murmured, sounding rather insane with his grief. He pulled her up closer, dragging her until he had all of her in his arms, his hand buried in her thick curls, his face pressed against hers, cheek to cheek. “I love you. I love you. You’re supposed to live! You were the only one… You were the only one I couldn’t lose.” He shook his head, crying against her, his arm tightening around her to be almost crushing.

“I can’t do it without you, I can’t do it,” Harry told her, shaking his head and exhaling a big whoosh of shaky air. “You promised, you promised, you said… Hermione,” he pleaded, pulling her close again, his face pressed down into her shoulder.’

See, I have had many nights (and days – many thanks, O God of Insomnia!) of vivid and frightening nightmares in which either I die in Matt’s arms or one/both of them die in mine and I am left behind to grieve.  So, you can see that it is not the development of the Harry-Hermione friendship into amour that drew me in, but the intrinsic similarity Potter’s dream had to my own.

Ben and Matt wrote my school yearbook entry way back in 2011 and in it they call me their Hermione, so I’ll share with you a brief extract of their writing as well as fanfiction.net user Shadrac’s which is featured above.

For Matt and I, she [Pippa] also fulfills her role as Hermione, forever correcting us on our grammar (in English AND Latin!) and telling us it really is “leviOsa” not “levioSA”.

Hermione Jean Granger is bookish, overbearing and pedantic but she is also loyal to a fault, smart, someone who fixes things and the person in the lives of Ron and Harry who will give up anything precious to her in order to protect them.  It was therefore flattery and exaggeration on Ben and Matt’s part to say that I am capable of fulfilling the role of the female third of the Golden Trio.  It is definitely true that I love them to a fault and that that affection breaks my heart constantly but I don’t have her Gryffindor spunk or selflessness to sacrifice all for them.  I used to be that way when I was a better person and an infinitely better friend but now I struggle to show or give them the love they deserve without lusting after emotional recompense and a bit of love exhibited or said from them to me in return.  The source of my heartache as far as my relationships with Ben and Matt are concerned is that I always expect too much from them and that I love them far more than they love me.

This is no insult to them whatsoever.  For them to reciprocate my feelings on the same level and with the same intensity, they would have to eschew their social life, their sanity and their hearts for me.  I would wish the same paltry existence as me on nobody but me because I have done some truly evil things in my life and I deserve this!  Their lives are still whole and full and just being lived so it’s better that I exist and they live than us all just existing.

There is no room for romantic love in my heart because I’ve filled that sector with the pair of them.  I have no desire or need to enter into that kind of love because it isn’t physically possible for me to replace or oust the people in my heart who keep me relatively glued together and able to look to the future with a lesser and more volatile relationship.  This is fundamentally why, if I were to lose either – or God and Heaven forbid, both – of them, I simply would have half my heart painfully scraped out and the world would be filled with red roses with black ribbons.

My godbrother, Tim Pruss' grave, with the red rose with a black ribbon tied round the stem that I leave when I visit graves

My godbrother, Tim Pruss’ grave, with the red rose with a black ribbon tied round the stem which I always leave when I visit graves

So when I have the horrific night terrors, I come out the other side praying that they both live full, happy lives in perfect health and survive long enough to help my kids (their godchildren) plan my funeral.

As you might have inferred by now, I am both easy and complicated.  It does not take much to keep me happy or away from a fatal overdose – that makes me an easy person – however finding the real me to keep happy underneath the brittle layers and behind the adamantium-enforced walls is a complex task to say the least and only two people have ever managed it.  Nobody else has ever given enough of a damn to attempt to scale the walls or mine through the layers and that is why nobody else whom I have ever called a friend occupies a room in the sacred inner sanctum of my always broken and breaking heart with Ben and Matt.

Finally, I will say that all I need and will ever need is for them to not forget that I depend on them to reside in my heart until it stops beating and to think of me as the girl they made into their woman (in a kind of Pygmalion-esque way…) who needs them to remember how much I adore them, am loyal to them and rely on them.  I need to be their Hermione in order to feel wanted, loved and fruitful in life but not so much as I need them to need me to be their Hermione.  It’s pathetic (I know) but the world would be a better and safer place if people just communicated how they felt and other people were receptive to the information.

That’s my worldview anyway, so make of all this what you will, but love your friends because the truest of them whom you love unconditionally have the power to save – and make – your life over and over and over.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

01-10-2014

The Hunger Games: The Odds Never In My Favour

I don’t know that anyone who doesn’t live in the barren countries in Africa or a refugee camp in the Middle East can claim to know or experience true hunger.  However, when you suffer from an anxiety disorder that can lead to hospitalisation and hours of seemingly endless regurgitation as I do, I can assure you that hunger is a very real and recurrent sensation.

It is a shame but I cannot actually recall when my inability to eat began, in fact, to put it plainly, I cannot remember a time when I could sit down to eat and not have to fret about how close the bathroom was or how to make sure I always had a cold liquid to hand.  It’s been that long!  My earliest memories are of me dashing through the halls just beyond Chigwell School dining hall to heave my guts out.  The funny thing about the many times when my lunch at school didn’t go to plan was that often I would fly past the deputy head (the school taskmaster) and they were the only times he never told someone off for running in the hallways.  Small comfort, I know…

I cannot speculate on the matter of how the trouble started, only that it started when I was very young and still has a hold over my eating habits to this day.  I don’t know if it arose on account of how busy a child I was what with musical commitments and studying – yes, I was a geek/nerd at school and am still – but I know that it is nothing whatsoever to do with the actual food.  Doctors have diagnosed it as allergies, but been unable to determine the specific allergen, my mother (a pescetarian) reckons it’s because I eat meat, but I believe it is caused by anxiety and stress.  I think that at some point during my formative years, I must have thrown up during a meal and thereupon developed a kind of psychosis towards eating with people and in a stressful – aka formal – setting, for I am not sick when I eat alone as much as I am when dining in a restaurant and/or in company.

As I’ve said already, I have been hospitalised on numerous occasions because of this and been referred to a throat and mouth specialist in the hospital later, but I do not care about the blood that shows when I am sick more than once per meal, I can easily disregard the tonsillitis that flares up as a secondary symptom on account of stomach acids aggravating my tonsils, and even the cuts I’ve got on the back of my throat from when I’ve had to stick my fingers down my throat in order to feel better on the third or fourth regurgitation matter very little to me.  What I would give anything for to be healed and eliminated is the debilitating sense of failure, wrongness and guilt which accompany the physical sickness.

One of the phrases I am known for using when I see or am referring to a particularly problematic or jarring human being is “it’s like God threw up a person” and though I know it’s not an especially pleasant or eloquent statement, I feel it sums up the sheer inadequacy of the current settings in a situation where you cannot simply press a button to restore factory settings (please pardon the IT Crowd divergence).

The current settings on my body’s mainframe seem to be to fail whenever possible and not backup any crucial information or just shut down at a moment’s notice.  In other words, my body is the MS DOS of computers!  My body does not function with speed or finesse and cannot do the most  basic functions that I expect of it in this – or any, for that matter – day and age.  I am now 21 years of age and despite my romantic, mental, sexual and social lives being non-existent or at best deeply dysfunctional, I feel I am well within my rights to beg the divine beings in the world, to just let me be able to sit down to eat without worrying myself and my fellow diners and having to locate the restrooms ahead of time and then panic if they seem more than a minute’s gallop away.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): heroine of The Hunger Games franchise

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): heroine of The Hunger Games franchise

So, to conclude, I guess I am luckier than the poor souls who live without food and don’t know from where their next meal is coming, but (#thirdworldproblems) having a lobster Thermidor or the best bangers and mash in the country (from The Waggon & Horses, Lymington) steaming and appetising on a plate in front of you and then replacing it into a toilet bowl is a kind of Tantalean torture of the 21st century that is hard to bear.  All I am saying is that people forget or dismiss depression and anxiety because so often there is no physical repercussion, however, this post serves as proof and a cautionary tale that mental illness can lead to and perpetuate all kinds of physical trauma.  Mine is the certain regurgitation and the competition between keeping food down and defeating my body or letting it get the better of me and vacate my stomach.  It’s a game of mealtime and a game that until it’s solved and I have help I can not be expected to win.  I just have to apologise constantly and continuously to the people with whom I sit down to meals for worrying them and for consistently flying from the table.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

23-09-2014

Suicide is Strength

As everyone in the world has no doubt become aware, Robin Williams the great thespian and comedian passed away yesterday.  The media and vicariously, the public, has been informed that his death was caused by suicide by asphyxiation, which has prompted me along with a rough evening involving a “Russian duck” and some opera tickets, to write this brief post about suicide and Williams, but what I hope this post discusses mainly is strength.

Williams was married three times and had just as many children yet despite being able to leave such a warm and poignant legacy to the world in terms of his work and family, he struggled in life with alcohol and cocaine and problems with his heart.  Much like other celebrities (Kenneth Williams and Jimmy Clitheroe spring to mind) known for being funny to the public eye, in private Williams evidently had a painful and difficult-to-bear existence.  I cannot claim to know more facts that any concerning his death, or his career and personal life for that matter having only seen Popeye, Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin & the King of Thieves, Flubber, Bicentennial Man, Man of the Year, Night at the Museum, License to Wed and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (actually, that’s quite a chunk of his filmography having listed them!).  However, my viewing activity aside, he was a respected man and actor and I can only assume having read what his daughter Zelda has posted over the past twenty-four hours, that he was a greatly loved husband and father.

Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014)

Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)

His life achievements make me wonder if the desire to screw everything and end it all ever goes away.  I mean to say, I go on and on about how much I need there to be a family of my own in my future for my life to truly begin and be worth all the suffering I have endured, am enduring currently and anticipate until I become a mother, but Robin Williams’ death does make me stop and think about whether that will be enough or if it will fulfill me in the moment but leave that deep obsession with quitting the world where too much hurt and pain and war exists still scratching away at my synapses.  The man was a much sought-after, successful actor in Hollywood, a terrific father and a man who managed to attract three women (more than I’ve ever accomplished) and yet what life gave him and potentially had in store for him was not sufficient to keep him alive.  His suicide meant that a future of grandchildren, growing old(er…), seeing his kids live their lives and continuing to have a thriving career was not enough future and unguaranteed happiness to outweigh the sadness and morbid thinking that must have been percolating in his mind prior to his decision to hang himself.  That is what worries me the most.

Nothing in the future is certain, I’m astute enough to understand that fact and that at any given moment I may get an ovarian cyst that will eliminate the possibility of biological children, or a terrorist will manage to blow Essex up in a cloud of orange fake tan and vajazzling glitter.  The world is a place of chance and it is not a given that just because I’ve had some rotten luck in my personal and love life so far the scales will even out and there will be definitely be happiness in my future.  It is completely by chance that I went to a brilliant school, was taught by impressive and inspirational teachers, found an extended family in my friends and ended up at the University of Exeter.  I am well aware that others aren’t so lucky in this bleak (yet beautiful!) world of ours!  

It takes a certain type of strength to survive and even more to blossom in the 21st century but it also takes a different ilk of strength to leave it behind.  Many perceive suicide as giving up and as a display of cowardice, but I hold a different opinion.  I believe suicide is a high form of bravery.  It is an emotional, drastic and committed expression of the depravity or the depression or the disappointment of life (hopefully not all three simultaneously!).  This – naturally – is a biased opinion from one who has dwelt on suicide for more hours than there are in a day and attempted it on no less than five occasions, committing self-harm more often in practice and I do invite you to disagree and argue with me in the comments section, but nevertheless, I am fully entitled to have this opinion.  Just so you understand that I am not only someone who thinks about killing themselves, I will disclose that (to my knowledge) one relative and one acquaintance have committed suicide in my lifetime and thus I have been affected by the suicides of others in my life too.  Obviously, I am not dead, so what you might have inferred is that I have bottled it five times when trying to kill myself.  Some have attributed these failures to the need to attract attention, others comprehend them as actions the basic, human, primal instinct to survive has averted.  I have another opinion.  I am a weak human being right down to the core.  I struggle with change, I live most of my life alone and beyond the world of the real and living and I speak to my nan (deceased) way too much for it to be healthy.  This weakness never lets me go all the way and leave.  It never lets me find an iota of peace far away from Earth as it crumbles.  It is a weakness that I am still trying to overcome, though with the help of my pills, the desire to try is dwindling, so maybe one day it will disappear entirely…

I realise that this post seems morbid and definitively negative, however, I would just like to share with you one final thought before I go and get some sleep.  Whilst it might be a lack of strength or attention seeking that keeps me alive, I’ll tell you truly that on my good days I disagree utterly with both those explanations.  I believe that it is hope that stays my hand, hope that the future will bear all the fruit that I hope it will, that I will be able to have children of my own and that the world will not blow itself to smithereens in some terrible nuclear holocaust (please, God, no…).  This hope that was left in Pandora’s jar will see me through to my graduation, to America, to becoming a fabulous teacher, to motherhood, to grandmotherhood and finally to death at its right, proper and God-appointed time.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

12-08-2014

O Godbrother, Where Art Thou?

This post has been a long time coming but it’s one that I felt truly compelled to get spot on, so I’ve waited for the right mood to strike, the most opportune moment and the most creative inspiration to come to me.  I realise in the early hours of this morning as I sit writing this introductory paragraph that I’ll be waiting forever if I languish about just waiting for the right words to appear to me – I’m not Shakespeare, after all.  What I am going to write about today will involve my godbrother, my old school, regret, the desire to create something in this world and passion.  I will just say that while you are perusing this article, I would press play on the clip above and listen to my godbrother speak as you read.  It will make the article come alive much more than just breathing in my two-dimensional words.  Anyway, I’ll stop procrastinating and let you get on reading – I’d probably better get on writing this article too – and I really hope you’ll appreciate this article for the labour of love that I feel it is not only for my godbrother and his family, including the best godparents a problem person like me could wish for, but also for the school that helped us be the people we are.

Before I get down to the knitty-gritty, I just ought to give an incredibly brief bio of my godbrother, the speaker, Michael Pruss.  He attended Chigwell School in Essex before going to university at Royal Holloway, London where he attained a 1st class degree.  That achievement led him to cross the pond and study for a Masters at Chapman University.  He has worked for numerous production companies and directors, including Spielberg and Indian Paintbrush, but he is currently employed by Sir Ridley Scott in his production company,  Scott Free, living in Pasadena with his wife and their two precious daughters.

Sitting in the church and the marquee at Chigwell School Speech Day is always a hugely moving experience for me as I truly miss being a pupil there and being immersed in the fast-paced life of the school that became my home almost instantly.  Each time I have taken my place in the pews at the front of St. Mary’s Church, Chigwell since I left school in 2011 and watch as the choir forms up and the brass group tunes up, I have to work hard to staunch the tears that beg to be let free.  I feel in those moments that I am still sitting on the wrong side of the church and that where I used to be entrenched on the inside looking outwards, now I am merely an observer and a has-been in every sense of the word witnessing sadly as others leave behind what I had and the staff (some of whom I consider family) who taught us all.  It is my hope that one day I will teach at Chigwell School and be home again but even though  people mock me for being unable to fly the Chigwell coop and disparage my need to persistently return to the school and see my true home and family again, I will never apologise for wanting to end my story where it truly began.

“Recognition of a shared history…the reverberations of a past that had – I think – led to two different presents.” –

Mike talks about living with curiosity and passion for your career or a particular hobby that might be ‘your thing’ and how a friend of his from Chigwell School gave up his vocation.  In his speech, I recall that this was the first moment when tears came to my eyes.  It wasn’t the concept of meeting an old friend again after a long separation or realising that one iota of difference in a person’s upbringing can make or break their dreams that brought me to tears.  Instead, it was how suddenly it dawned on me that I am that other person, the person who is serendipitously met by O.C.’s and pitied for not having the naus to succeed in life or be loyal to your passions and live life curiously.  Due to my depression, I often feel too sad to venture out and infect the rest of the unexpecting populace with my affliction.  On account of the mythomania, I alienate people through lying that I cannot control.  Thirdly, thanks to the overwhelming social anxiety, not only do I find it nigh on impossible to connect with people and appeal to them, but I have also discerned that this makes others find me tiresome and unapproachable.  I am not particularly led by my family’s wishes in anything if I am quite honest but ‘my thing’ is nonexistent.  I am not sure that I have one thing or a series of things that I am sufficiently passionate about or excel at to be considered successful in life.  I suppose that’s why a lot of people who suffer from depression, myself included, kill themselves or at the very least attempt to – because they believe themselves incapable and undeserving of a good future and the passion of a curious life.

Maybe as a depressed person who missed out on the excitements and usual hype of childhood, all I really covet is familiarity and the stable sense of love that has eluded me my whole life and that is precisely what I found in Mike’s speech that caused me to cry.  The Clan Pruss as a unit has always been that for me: a family that loves each other through thick and thin and has such stability in the love of Mary and Tony that the love in the subsequent two generations is strong and unwavering and something that more than anything else I wish I was part of.  Despite losing an integral and irreplaceable member far too early on, the bond that keeps them close across a vast ocean is still adamantium-strong.  In fact, I’ll share a brief anecdote with you all, since Speech Day at Chigwell, I have been to stay with my godparents and during the sojourn, Mike and his family video called his parents.  It was great seeing them again but all too soon, I found myself overcome by tears again and I couldn’t bear to be in the room to witness anymore of the unwaning love that is shared around the Pruss family.  I will never stop hoping – a pipe dream though it indubitably is – that my own group of relatives (for I’ll never feel that we can share the same noun as the Prusses) will get to experience that kind of beautiful love before it’s too late.

Myself and Michael Pruss

The 'God-Family' (Michael,  Hilary, Tony, Mary and the children)

The ‘God-Family’ (Michael, Hilary, Tony, Mary and the children)

I will finish by asking the first question I asked: O Godbrother, Where Art Thou?  The answer that I give to that question is: in Los Angeles, with an amazing family and a luminous career, living my dream.  The last part in particular is the best answer to the question I can imagine.  If I could live my dream and be so lucky as to get even a small portion of what I want from life, I would never let it go.  Initially, I thought I was green with jealousy but upon reflection, I’m not.  I am staunchly proud that someone I know can have that kind of future because as a sufferer from mental health issues and a few physical ailments, not to mention constantly feeling hopeless and utterly overwrought, it brightens my most miserable moments to think that somewhere across the pond (or for that matter wherever he is!) Mike is succeeding in life.  It is that that provides the hope for the future, not pipe dreams or wishful thinking, but a real person doing real things and getting real achievements.  That is how you reinvigorate someone like me: you get on with your life and show us – even though we don’t want to admit or see it most of the time – that the world can be lived in and great things can happen to people in it.  So, thank you, Mike for being my friend, my godbrother, for receiving and replying to my emails at God knows when (time differences baffle me!) and for talking with me about films and TV and art.  Thank you for making my story more interesting by starring in it!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

05-08-2014

 

Two Tragedies in Life

“There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.” ~ George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

I realise that this is a bit out there but I get the impression that this blog has a fairly loyal following so I feel at ease asking this.

Basically, from 01 July until 01 October this year I am giving up alcohol in an effort to raise some money for a charity of which I am a trustee (to see more please go to the links page).  One of the projects we help is a school in an impoverished region in Tamil Nadu that is named in memory of my godbrother, Tim Pruss, who died suddenly and tragically at the age of eighteen just after leaving Chigwell School, which I also attended.

I am aspiring to raise at least £500 for this worthy cause and it would mean so much to me if this blog, which has helped me so much in the past months, could be responsible for generating some donations.  There is no minimum donation amount and whether you feel able to give £1-£100, I will be eternally grateful for any amount that you can spare.

https://www.justgiving.com/TPMemoriam/

Please click on the link above to be taken to the Justgiving page for my fundraising.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

20-07-2014