At one point in December, about a month after I had moved to the tiny office run by this black-hearted publishing concern, I had gone for one of my lengthy walks around the pier at midday when I got a call from the Ely office to say that the CEO of the House had turned up unexpectedly at the office in London and wanted to know why I wasn’t there. I gave an excuse and made haste back to my post. Once I arrived on the 33rd floor, I was accosted by a tall, young Indian man dressed in an outrageous polyester suit that was so shiny I could see my face in it, iridescent gold trainers, and was wearing shades that shielded his eyes (even indoors and in December).
It is difficult, and probably unnecessary, to describe the existential panic that descends on you once you are cast loose from university to fend for yourself in the adult world. In my case, the general misery that descends with the realisation that you are going to have to be responsible for your own fuck-ups from now on was compounded with a series of personal crises. In a pinch, I accepted a job offer from a friend to be a housekeeper in Colorado for a couple of months, and then spent the rest of the year Kerouacking about the Americas, taking a sabbatical from reality and generally putting off sorting my life out for a little while. I applied for a few postgrad places but didn’t get close to getting in anywhere thanks to my fluffed Finals results, and returned to the UK in the Summer of ’17 to try and blaze some path as a freelance journalist/editorialist/content writer/lion tamer/any old busybody in the London literary scene, more as a default than a last resort.
Some while past, and putting a novel spin on the phrase ‘green fingered’, a close friend of mine declared a rare passion for vegetables: she informed me that she had adopted the humble courgette as her preferred masturbatory contrivance. I say humble – in truth it was generally a courgette with much to pride itself upon, firm, thick and of a goodly length.
My new show Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman creates erotically charged bodily rituals as performance activism. Cyclical, monthly rituals that tune into the phases of the moon. In fact, it’s specifically about reinventing menstrual rituals. If you think that’s a bit icky or new age and not sexy or activist please read on, so I can challenge your ideas about women and blood, theatrical spectacle, red lipstick and changing the world.
My life at the moment can be summed up alliteratively by two words - fasting and fucking. Honestly, the health kick trend of not eating seems to ignite the root chakra or something. All that energy normally spent on digesting food has to go somewhere. The result is a paradoxical union of the transcendent and the profane.
When it comes to pleasure, I rank food, conversation and art to be some of life’s finests. Certainly sex is also filled with oral, visual and auditory attributes which gives it a unique place in the hierarchy of things that gratify. So, when it comes to sexual pleasure, a toy that appeals to our sense of aesthetics is something to be admired.
More often than not, the story of Héloïse and Abélard is hurled onto the same stockpile of ‘star-crossed lovers’ to which Juliet, Troilus, Mélisande and Pyramus belong. Admittedly it has all the conventional elements of a tragic romance: a philosopher and his student fall in love; the girl’s uncle opposes; they marry in secret; the girl bears a child; the philosopher is brutally castrated; faced with no other option they both enter religious orders, while exchanging passionate letters to the end of their lives. A heady mix of piety and illicit desire, guilt and fury, it appears good enough, if not too good, for stage and screen.
Flicking through a copy of Cosmopolitan at my local railway station - I would never buy it, it's only for tutting at disapprovingly as I wait for trains - I saw they had interviewed some ‘real men’ about something to do with sex. I involuntarily rolled my eyes (and tutted disapprovingly) because I've noted that 'real men', according to Cosmo, are to be found not down mines or on construction sites but exclusively in professions that would never require them to break a sweat or develop calluses. They're always in poncey occupations such as wine importing or commodities trading, exactly the kinds of places, in fact, where I am likely to find that species of smug, preening, self-congratulating male I would never dream of having sex with. Men with a manicure probably, Lord save us. A buffed fingernail near my clitoris? I think not.
In the wake of the historic Irish Referendum, Laura Ward looks back through past societies at the almost unbelievable obstacles facing women in the UK who sought terminations and the bizarre underground culture that rose around them. Abortion was the only medical procedure to be banned by law
If I told you this would be the last drink of my life, what would you make me? I ask as I sit at the bar stool, beside a towering, bespectacled young bartender. A Negroni, because it is bittersweet, like life itself, he responds without hesitation, as if he gets such strange custom regularly. I have already shed my duvet of a coat, a silly hat with ear flaps, gloves and a scarf that is large enough to cover my entire body. It is a school night, which might explain why I am one of only three punters at Apoteka; the two others sit by the window that overlooks the Vilnius night, slightly muddled by confused snowflakes.