Redheads, assemble!

 

My love of red-headed folk is long-standing. There are ginger genes in my family. My nan had auburn hair and my mum is a bright, coppery beacon. As a child I even had a shrine of images on my wall that burst with oranges and reds and translucent skin. I was in awe of red-heads even then; I called them my ‘happy people’. Seeing an abundance of coppery hair has always drawn me and made me smile.  I guess you could call me a rutiluphile but for me it’s much more than sexual attraction. It’s a feeling of affinity and of kinship. It’s a feeling of both longing and belonging.

Whilst I’m only a token ginger by virtue of my mum’s carrot hair hues and Lush’s rouge henna, I heartily identify as a redheaded woman. Lucky me, then, that there are some awe-inspiring, powerful, bold, flawed, ginger heroines throughout history to take a cue from. From Boudicca to Ygritte the Wildling, via Lucille Ball and Elizabeth I, redheaded women are known for their fieriness, passion and explosive tempers. I mean, you wouldn’t mess with Black Widow or Jean Gray, would you?

 

The past is bursting with examples of red-headed women inspiring art. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other Pre-Raphelite painters loved the lusciousness that red-headed women brought to their work. Alphonse Mucha created flowing art-deco images blazing with red-heads. Part of the appeal to artists is how striking red hair is. It is visually arresting and creates a powerful contrast or emphasis that makes for compelling art. Just as red-headed men have become associated with being untrustworthy due, in part, to the depiction of Judas as a redhead, women with red hair have become synonymous with sensuality, licentiousness and deception. The image of the wily temptress is often portrayed simply by the addition of ginger hair.

 

 

Throughout history, red-headed women have been known not only for their stunning beauty, but for their ferocity and cunning. Being already well-aware of the physical allure of red hair, I’ve recently been reading more about the characters of these well-known red-headed women. I love historical fiction; it’s meaty, character driven, informative (when taken with a pinch of salt) and full of amazing personal stories. What intrigues me most is the intimacy of the readers’ relationship with the central characters, whether they’re maids, jesters or monarchs. Little wonder then that I adore Tudor fiction with the powerful and poisonous Queen Elizabeth I. I’ve read pretty much every novel based on her life, and those of her mother and father. (Henry VIII was, after all, a red-head).

In terms of non-fiction, Tracy Borman’s Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen shows us a female-centric world in which the cult of the personality, as in most monarchies, prevailed. Elizabeth used her red-headedness to her advantage throughout her reign, and not just as a means of seduction. It was a blatant defiance of any doubt cast on her parentage. Her hair was Tudor red and she played on this as proof that she was her father’s daughter and that she was capable of leading as Henry had before her. Naturally, red hair became fashionable during the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth relied on this as a symbol of self. In her later life she wore wigs, which she had made in different hues of red and copper. It certainly had the desired effect, creating an instantly recognisable figure to us today.

Reaching even further back into society’s cult of the redhead is the legendary figure of Boudicca. When I discovered the Dreaming the Eagle series based on the warrior queen, I think I made a sound that only dogs and Professor Xavier could hear. Boudicca has is all as far as I’m concerned – she’s a warrior, she’s a leader, she’s Scottish, she’s anti-establishment and she is so ginger it hurts (see my post Me, Myself and Merida for more on this killer combination). The mixture of the mythology surrounding her and historical fiction format, this series is proving to be an immediate favourite. In these books, we meet the warrior queen Boudicca before she even exists – when she is a child named Breaca. We meet the men and women in her community and see how central the spirituality of her nation is to her every choice and action. It is laden with small details that together build an immersive world, every bit as real as our own. Boudica is depicted as a woman, destined for greatness, but by no means ready and willing. It is a tough slog with hard decisions, personal loss and bad choices.

My most recent red-head reading has been Red: A Natural History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey. It’s essential reading for red-heads, aspiring red-heads and social historians. It charts the mythological and social perception of red-heads, their anatomical differences, the gendered assumptions about redheads and more. The gene may be recessive, but the cultural obsession is growing!

As for me, I’m ready for the red-head-revolution:

 

miss lilith

red-head and proud

Fun and fancy for free

foundpoem

They say the best things in life are free and I wholeheartedly agree (with the exception of buying dresses, of course). A person can’t live on dresses alone and nor should they try! Since wages aren’t what they should be and, anyway, Money Makes You Mean, here’s a list of shenanigans that won’t cost the earth (or even an island). Some of them cost nothing at all. Imagine that.

 

  • If you’ve got it, flaunt it: Use that gym membership that is totally neglected, delve deep into the recesses of Netflix, wiggle to your premium Spotify and enjoy your ad-free fantasy world (damn you). Read an entire book of poems that you haven’t picked up yet. Just an idea.
  • Stroke an ego: Maybe your own, but not necessarily. You could beat down a friend’s door with flowers and serenade them in a creepy Ginny Weasley’s cupid kind of way.
  • Deal with it: Crack out a pack of cards or a chessboard and make a move.
  • Booked up: Raid a library, whether a public one or a friend’s. Get stuck in. Reading can sometimes feel daunting if you’re out of the habit so start light – maybe don’t go straight for War & Peace… try one of the Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press, maybe. Or Mills and Boon.
  • Dirty Dancing: Learn an iconic dance routine. Become Kevin Bacon. Or leap into Jennifer Beals‘ dancing shoes.
  • Creative cooking: Dig out everything in your cupboards and create something from what’s in there. Things might get interesting…
  • Snuggle ‘n’ snacks: Is there anything better than a cosy cutch and some first-rate munchies. The correct response is no.
  • Water baby: Go for a muddy walk and splash in a puddle. Put a watering can out in the rain. Steam your face. Try watersports…
  • Found you: Grab some free magazines, chop them up and make found poems with the headlines (see main picture for ‘Here’s one I made earlier…).
  • Beauty queen: Go through your beauty supplies and spend some time experimenting. Try some basic nail art or play around with a shade of lipstick you never use. Try repurposing it as a blush stick. Try something a little different, or get ready for halloween… Youtube is your friend.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

A girl should always have flowers

 

I’m a firm believer in beauty, in all its forms. I also believe its like art – you don’t have to understand it to find it beautiful. And flowers are beautiful. Life just seems brighter and more bountiful when they are around.

There’s no feeling on Earth like sitting in a little Eden, especially if it’s one of your own making. My parents are keen gardeners and also keep an allotment, and not getting out into these oases often enough is one of my regrets (I’m working on it). Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to hothouse lilies, you can grab some daffs for pence around Easter. Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi usually do good value and good quality fresh cut flowers. I tend to go for yellow roses or something like that. When they’ve had their innings, I re-purpose them into pot-pourri. Another good, more economical option is to buy a small potted plant to inject some green into your world. For me, though, the physical process of choosing, trimming and arranging a bunch of flowers is a singular pleasure in it own right.

If I’m not buying myself some flowers, I’ll almost certainly be wearing some. Of course, it’s a common print, especially for vintage clothing, and my wardrobe is particularly floral-heavy. I love it and make no bones about it. I think, even for people that don’t go for the twee pastel vibe that I go gooey for, there are more subtle ways to incorporate flowers into your wardrobe:

 

  • Undercover: Flowers on your lady-garden – underwear is the second outfit only you need to know about.
  • Accents: Belly-bars, belts, buttons, buckles, bags, brooches… all can be made in a flower-shape. Yay!
  • Hold onto your hose: Tights may also come embellished with flowers, to be paired with something plain, or neon orange fishnet. Whatever, Trevor.

 

And, if you need flowers in more than just your outfits, you could always make a real commitment. Tattoo, anyone? Maybe not… But seriously, have a go at making your own rose petal tea (go to an Asian supermarket for the ingredients), burn floral candles or incorporate some edible petals into a salad in the coming summer months.

Also, try reading about the Victorian Language of Flowers, or Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s gorgeous ‘The Language of Flowers’, which tells the story of a emotionally detached young woman, communicating through flowers. Beautiful!

 

Let flowers speak to you!

 

Distraction Tactics

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Life is sometimes a thrower of curveballs; it likes to test us and see how we cope. When you feel like you can’t cope, maybe, in that moment, you can’t. So you need tools to take your mind outside of your life for a little while.

Here are my top 5 Distraction Tactics:

  1. Read a book: No, I’m never going to stop recommending this as a course of action. It’s appropriate to all situations and it has been a life-saver for me (and I mean that in a literal sense).
  2. Puzzle it out: Do some online quizzes, print out a sudoku and immerse yourself, do a wordsearch using pretty colours. Concentrate and work that grey matter.
  3. Get some grief-bacon: Bake a big, fat, fudge cake. Create a curry. Make moussaka. Chargrill chicken. Delight in dough. Well… you get the idea.
  4. Potter with plants: Have a good nip with the secateurs, wrangle out the weeds, rake vigorously. Green fingers, assemble!
  5. Plans with people: Actual real life people who care about you. Go to the cinema, eat together, read aloud to each other, play a board game that takes hours and ends in a hissy fit. Spend time in other people’s worlds and your own becomes less daunting.

For anyone struggling with self-harm, here are some links:

Scar Tissue

Alternatives to self-harm from rcpsych.ac.uk

No More Panic

Give yourself a break 🙂

Top Ten: Mental literature

Here’s my Top Ten pick of plays and novels that look at mental illness:

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: A classic that teeters painfully on the autobiographical.
  • 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane: Brutally honest and original.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger: Don’t be a phoney.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey: The revolution will be lobotomised.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: Watch Antoinette Cosway become Bertha Rochester – the mad wife in the attic’s story.
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palanhuik: It’s all in your head.
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Trippy and beautiful – we’re all mad here…
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Some wars don’t ever end.
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides: 5 sisters, no fairytale.
  • The Comforts of Madness by Paul Sayer: Even the speechless and the catatonic have something to say.

Proof that you are not alone.