- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Monday, 29 February 2016
Every four years we all get an extra day. And although I knew this already, Facebook duly informed me of this fact this morning and advised me not to waste it. So I thought, okay I won't.
The chilly winter sun filled morning offered me several options: I could go for a walk (probably in Kew Garden's) and contemplate life. Or I could visit an exhibition or a gallery in London. But then I had a eureka moment. Hadn't I been questioning how I had been spending my working days? Hadn't I started to wish that I could find something that was more suitable for some time, something that would be more beneficial to me creatively?
Well, yes I had. I had been mentally procrastinating about that for a while. So look, I told myself, you have an extra day, use it wisely, and look into ways in which you could make some positive changes.
That settled it.
I changed the radio from Radio 2 to Radio 4 and thought about what my first move should be. Bingo, contact another writer. He might offer some direction and I could start from there.
So I text my good writer friend and ask if he knows of any websites looking for freelance editors or copywriters.
No, I don't he replies.
Oh crap I think. What now?
Although I have crashed at the first hurdle, I tell myself not to to give up and to think and focus. If you build it, they will come I hear a voice whisper in my ear.
What am I trying to archive? I am not trying to build a baseball diamond, I am just trying to find some regular writing work I tell myself. I am trying to be a square peg in a square hole and not a round one. The latter of which, has begun to feel incredibly painful in recent months.
You are trying to create some options I say out loud.
Hummmmmmmmmmm I frown and ponder.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock the clock on the wall interjects.
Then my neighbour goes out and leaves his dog alone (again) which starts to bark continuously.
This happens quite often and I wonder if perhaps I should go for a walk in Kew Gardens after all.
No. I am staying in and doing this.
Look Holly, my voice tells me. Stop being scared of the possibilities that placing one word in front of another can create.
Got it. Arsed kicked.
But before I consider further options. I call the Dog Warden and tell her that the dog is barking (again) and she tells me that she will come by to witness it.
And with that piece of annoyingly frustrating domestic whistle-blowing under my belt, I get back to the task in hand, the one that I have set my mind to for this additional day: the square peg role.
I am quite calm and Sherlock logical in my thinking now, as I hatch out a plan, which means I start with a minor interrogation of myself.
Have I ever been employed due to my writing skills?
Well yes, I have. For several years I oversaw, wrote and managed all of the copy on company website that I was employed by. I liaised (such a corporate word) with designers in order to obtain garment specifications. I then thought about what information I would like to read about the item I was viewing and translated that, into a concise, but informative stream of beautifully descriptive words.
There, I told myself. You did that. So you did write copy.
Yes, my voice starts up again. But that is hardly akin to anything that Virginia Wolf ever produced.
Well no. I reply. But that sort of thing, writing copy, requires a tenacious skill, as well as a lot of thinking outside of the box (another appalling example of corporate speak). So I am taking credit where it's due.
I had also written copy for friends and edited emails, letters and blog posts for those who had ask me to, all free of charge. I could therefore pat myself of the back for those. Nice one Searle.
And hold on a minute, I thought, I have kept my own blog up and running as well as writing stories for the past six years. Something which even my good writer friend had congratulated me on.
So I had achieved a lot. Although, at times, it felt as though I hadn't really delivered anything.
I was sitting in my Bet Lynch Gilroy leopard print dressing gown, when the buzzer sounds. I immediately think it must be the postman with my Ebay item.
“Hello?” I say.
“Hi Holly it's Amy the Dog Warden. Can I come up?”
I push the entry button and await her visit, as the dog has now been barking for two hours. I then realise that even though I have been up since 6:45 this morning, I am not dressed and haven't even brushed my teeth. I also have the lank remains of coconut oil in my hair (to prevent breakage according to my hairdresser). I look in the mirror, I have the appearance of a drug addict, or that of a knackered old bird having a day off from her life on the game.
Amy arrives with Catherine. They wipe their feet and come in. I apologise for my attire, although it is my home and my day off, and I shouldn't really need to make excuses for the way I look.
They listen to the dog barking and ask me if I am sure it is coming from where it is coming from. I tell them that it is. They ask me if there are any other dogs in the building. I tell them that I have lived here for twenty five years and there is only one other dog here, and that owner takes her dog over to a sitter when she can't look after him. Two other people own cats I tell them, That barking, I tell them, trying to look like a serious person rather than one who isn't dressed, is definitely the dog next door.
“Can I open your window?” Amy asks.
She does and cocks her ear intently.
“Yes it is definitely next door.” she tells the seated Catherine.
They tell me that they will go away and raise it and assure me that they will enforce other legal stuff to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
Okay I say. And they leave. And I go back to my laptop and stare at my old Word press web page which I had decided to use to market myself on prior to their arrival. Either I have lost the plot, or the site has been changed as I can't quite find the obvious buttons to confirm or save edits i am trying to make.
The dog is still barking and I give up. Plug my laptop in to charge and decide to go and see my friend Chris in the local charity shop.
I text her whilst the bath is running.
“Are you in the shop today?”
“Yes I am. Come in and cheer me up, but not while The Archers is on.” She replies.
I look up the Radio 4 schedule. I have an hour.
I mull over this morning in the warm bath. I get out and get dressed and do my face and coconut oil free washed hair. I also brush my teeth.
I see that the neighbour has arrived back and make a note.
I get dressed and walk up the road to the charity shop. Ten minutes until The Archers I note as I look at my watch. I will look at books (all a pound, including fairly new and only once read titles), whilst Chris listens to The Archers. Then we can have a chat.
“Hello love.” I say as I walk in. I tell her all about my Archers option for her and she says “Oh don't be stupid I would rather talk to you.”
Chris is the best therapy in the world. She lets me spill all of my recent happenings: family, work, love, dog.
She is brilliantly intuitive about humanity and listens to me and then tells me what she thinks. She's a tonic, the gin and tonic kind. Sparkling wit and carbonated with bubbles of knowledge and insight.
She is a diamond.
She tells me that women like her would love to be like women like me.
I say “What?!” As this is such a an out of the blue compliment coming from a woman like her. I hold her in very high esteem and think she must be on drugs and mistaken to tell me this. But I know if anything, she is a truth-speaker and I tell her that this is the nicest thing that anyone has said to me. She has made my day.
An apparent accident takes place just outside the charity shop, thereafter followed by a lone dog cocking its leg up against one of Chris' just outside the shop baskets that is full of books (not the pound ones).
I buy some phonograph albums, a cardi, some felt and pot. Chris bags the items and we hug and I thank her for the talk.
I walk home and decide that I can't be bothered with my old Word Press site.
Clear the path I think as I revert to my steadfast blog spot site on my return home.
I love it. It is where I write my uncensored thoughts and observations. I start to write this piece in an attempt to create some sort of CV writing blog that will impress writing employers so much, that they will snap me up and give me a job. I wanted to write about all of the occupations I have had. And how I envy people who trained to do something useful with their lives, rather than being cursed with the need to write.
But instead it turns into a blog about what I did on the extra day that happens once in every four years.
Dinner's on. And as the evening draws in, and work beckons tomorrow, I start to stress about having achieved absolutely nothing whatsoever today. Facebook did tell me to do something worthwhile. But then I realise that I have done quite a lot today, and it's not over yet.
Friday, 12 February 2016
Last year I was listening to Kim Cattrall on Woman's Hour talking about the joys of being single. An irony really when you think about the sassy sexy character Samantha Jones she played in Sex and the City. But Kim was was pretty chipper and upbeat about her single status. One of the joys that she cited was the ability to be able to fart in bed at night with impunity.
I mentally applauded her audacious revelation. Being a contemporary of Kim's, and also single, I hadn't really ever appreciated this first world freedom pass to be able to salaciously sound off under the covers late at night while tiny children slept and fractious foxes screamed outside my bedroom window.
It was just something I had been able to do without ever giving it a second thought. As natural as breathing, when the wind needed to exhale, it did so without thinking.
And then something happened. I met the love of my life.
Being in love is the most incredible thing in the world, but problematic when you suddenly realise that you have to suppress your raging wind for the sake of lascivious proprietary.
Love is a very natural state of being, but then again, so is farting. And here was where my conflict began. Goodness it was a nightmare suddenly having to become a fifty something sex siren and having to manage your daily flatulence output.
It was also quite painful.
Was it just me, I wondered, or did other women try to suffer in a muffled wind suppressed silence? And if not, how did they manage this loving interruptus night mare?
I ponder this and came to conclude that out of all of the women on this planet, it surely wasn't the just Kim and I who were worried about inappropriate trumping.
Well, the truth was, as I soon discovered, it wasn't.
And you will not be surprised to hear that this is a issue that is constantly trending in homes all over the world as I type. Just like the wind that needs to find an exit, there's a woman out there right now reading this hoping that her other half will leave the room so that she can ease her trapped wind from captivity.
And how do I know this? Well, I know this because I mentioned it in passing to a few girlfriends of mine. One told me that a friend of hers had been married for five years and was about to delivery their first baby. And, get this, she had never farted in front of her husband.
Well, I replied, both of them are in for big surprise.
Another told me that after a few years of marriage, she just couldn't suppress it any longer as it was just too painful. So now, just like Elsa in Frozen, she just lets it go.
She is, she now tells me, no longer in pain. Which is a big thumbs up. Kim would be proud.
One young woman told me that she was the product of a father who used to congratulate both her and her brother on their style and content when either one of them passed wind, while her mother cringed with horror.
All true stories, which aren't at all funny. No it's just dreadful trying to keep it all in, when your body is desperate to let it out. It's also quite bad for you.
This ridiculous obsession with wind and bodily functions is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's just the way your body works whether it is male or female.
And I don't quite understand why it is such a big issue?
So I did some research on the subject (meaning I Googled it and read a page dedicated to it on Wikipedia). Did you know that the word Fart is one of the oldest words around and it's use was considered a profanity.
Or that the act of farting is well recorded in a negative way in many works of literature? No? Me neither.
Or that Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay on the topic? Me neither. Or that some parliamentary rebels wrote a satirical poem entitled The Parliament Fart during the reign of King James I?
I know, it's all so fascinating isn't it?
Not surprisingly then, the word Fart has become synonymous with being vulgar. It is no wonder then that we consider the actual act as one of the most socially faux parric activities that we can unwittingly deliver.
So what do you do?
For me personally, it became such an issue that irritated an already delicate stomach condition, that I happen to have. And since I have addressed some of those concerns by changing my diet, I still find the odd occasion when I need to fart. So now I do.
It's not funny, or rude, it's just necessary for me to be able to avoid further discomfort.
Isn't it about time in this day and age, that we all stopped worrying about a lot, or a little, hot air?
Although, I have to confess to now privately thinking to myself that Kim actually used to star in a show called Windy City rather than the one she did.
Bravo that woman.
Thursday, 11 February 2016
In Patrick Süskind novel Perfume, his protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille possesses an exceptional sense of smell that enables him to rise from his poverty stricken beginnings to become the toast of the perfume trade in France. If you know this story, you'll know that is doesn't end well. His desire to create the ultimate perfume is met when he smells the most sublime scent he has ever encountered. The only issue is, that it is the scent of a flame haired young woman. He becomes so obsessed with capturing her essence, that he unwittingly becomes an 18th century French serial killer who stalks innocent red headed virgins, whom he then murders in order to distil their essence with which to make the ultimate perfume.
He’s no Tom Ford, that’s for sure.
Historically the perfume industry in France had been a big deal since the 14th century, prior to wafting its delightful smells across the rest of Europe.
Although he is a work of fiction, Jean-Baptiste shared the same keen sense of smell as Elizabeth I whom detested the vile smells that emanated from her subjects and their surroundings. So much so that she introduced the use of perfume, which she advised them to use in order to cover up all of their noxious nastiness.
I bet Liz would have loved a bit of Shake n Vac in the palace.
Ironically she had a fine head of red hair and was of course known as the Virgin Queen. How weird then that Jean-Baptiste was trying to create a perfume from red headed virgins to produce a more fragrant France. They probably would have had a lot to discuss given their political and personal hygiene choices.
Fast forward to now, and to modern society. The perfume industry is big business. Every celebrity, sports star or pop puppet who possesses a well-oiled media constructed identity has a perfume for sale in every high street chemist or duty free lounge in the First World.
It's all part of the marketing master plan to get those who wish to mimic the unobtainable lifestyles of their heroes or heroine, to part with their hard earned cash. Or supposedly smell like them.
But do they?
I doubt very much that these nasty chemically synthesised pongs are ever dabbed behind the ears of those heroes or heroines. No, I am pretty sure they're not. If I had their cash, I'd be hiring the best perfumiers in the world to make my own. And let's face it, with all that revenue from the sale of my stinky mass produced whiff, I could probably afford to do exactly that.
About 12 years ago, I started suffering from migraines. I use the term suffering loosely as if you have ever had a migraine, you do not just have a headache, and you have a full blown pick axe in the head nauseating pain in your poor brain that means that you cannot speak or function as you would otherwise.
They are crippling, so much so, that I have ended up in A&E before now, begging and pleading for some assistance to help relieve the pain.
On two occasions, they have been so bad, that as I have laid my head down onto my pillow, I have prayed that I would still be alive in the morning.
They are horrible and nasty. When I get one, the first sign is usually when the bridge of my nose and the area around my eye sockets starts to hurt. This discomfort spreads to my head and creates a pain so immense, that I am unable to perform the simplest task. Even turning my head is a pain filled effort that makes me feels physically sick. I cannot speak, I cannot see. I cannot eat. I simply have to lie down in a dark room and sleep it off.
Migraines are caused for me in the most part by smells. More often than not, these smells derive from this modern obsession that people appear to have in covering themselves in foul smelling synthetic perfumes that would have made Jean-Baptiste weep.
I now avoid taking the bus to work on purpose and walk as these walking tester sticks are a nightmare that my nostrils can't abide. One whiff of some office worker who has literally bathed in Eau d'celebrity, and I risk being saddled with a migraine for the following two days. When I get to work, I risk the same outcome if I venture into the ladies. In there it is a twofold nose assault course with young fillies’ busy topping up their foul pre-work spray fest, or due to the air freshening dispenser that fills the air with an acrid vile odour that is more offensive than copping a sniff of someone’s poo.
Why are we so obsessed with covering ourselves, and the smells we naturally produce, with these unnatural rancid smellies?
And why aren’t people just content to use soap and water anymore?
There is a scene in Se7en where Detectives Mills and Somerset discover the near dead victim of John Doe’s. The victim is laying on a bed above which hangs an assortment of Magic Tree car fresheners. This scene used to make me wince due to the content of their horrifying discovery. But now it just makes me squirm: as I well know exactly the effect those Magic Trees would have on my nose, resulting in a full-blown migraine attack.
I do however like a nice perfume. In my 80’s hay day, I used to collect perfumes. I simply adored them. I had hundreds of bottles of the classic fragrances that were produced by many of the haute couture French fashion houses. Some of these perfumes no longer exist. Back in the 80’s celebrities didn’t bring out their own perfumes. Back then, we just had stars and personalities. And whilst stars may have worn a dab or two of Chanel No 5 (and nothing else in bed), personalities didn’t even endorse a bottle of 4711. And yes alright, maybe it’s all Henry Cooper and Keven Keegan’s fault for splashing Brut all over themselves that made way for this modern evil.
No matter who we are, or what we do, or what we have in the bank: we quite like to imagine what it might be like to be someone else. So when we buy these nasty niffs, we are buying into a little bit of this fantasy.
However, unlike those classic haute couture posh pongs, these modern pretenders are made of unnatural and nasty synthetic chemicals that can cause harm to sensitive flowers like me.
So please humanity, stop using what smells like a bottle a day of these rancid poisons because you want to be like a little bit more like your latest celebrity crush.
And to the air freshening industry, please stop insisting that I inhale your idea of what citrus fruits smell like.
Please, please, please will you all try and spray a tiny bit less in consideration of those of us who suffer in the silence of dark rooms.
Just like Jean-Baptiste, it should be as clear as the nose on your face, that some smells are not always so pleasing.
But unfortunately for me, and my nose it isn’t.