Saturday, December 31, 2011

The best thing for comics in 2011

Was the August issues.  Truly, they were fab.  All of them (that I read) were saying goodbye to loved characters and love plots, unknowing where they would be in a months time.  Then August ended with the stupendous Justice League #1.

All in all, Auigust was fab.

Happy new year folks!

Friday, December 30, 2011

At last! A real blog!

So, I has been slack recently.  If by recently you mean several months.   I finally find myself re-energised (a break from work and studying, plus sleeping, boozing and eating tends to do that).  Now, while I'm waiting for dinner to cook, I shall regale you with my thoughts about the latest comic books.  Behold, my not so mighty ramblings....
Spoilers ahead.

Oh how I want to call him Aquaham.  And I'm an Aquaman fan.  I blame Spider-Pig. ANYHOO.  This book started brilliantly.  The things from the trench were terrifying.  Then they got less terrifying and the book now seems to be about Geoff Johns Showing Us How Much Of A Badass Aquaman Is.  Now, I really like Aquaman, I always knew he was a badass, but I'm now a bit tired of this being shoved down my throat every issue.  Now this arc has finished, I'm hoping we can get back to more adventuring and less Badass Proving.  And I hope the dog dies soon.
The splash pages of the trench were pretty awe inspiring though.

This is the surprise hit of the relaunch.  I was prepared to hate it.  I kinda love it.  The art is a bit, well, 90s (angular and swivel waisted and pointy pointy pointy), but the story and the writing is wonderful.  And I even like the exaggerated art.  So there.  New fella, Miguel, wins points for not being a complete raving stereotype too.
This issue was the only one that made me laugh out loud this week. I would like to tell Tim that borrowing a t-shirt because your costume is ripped is not remotely comparable to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. 'stealing' teenagers.  Bart requesting Tim take the shirt off him fuels my slashy mind  Bart then modifying one of Tim's costumes and excusing it by saying 'oh please, it was in the back of your closet' is, well, great.
5 out 5 shiny stars to this series.  Long may it reign (and reign in fun too!  Teen Titans should eb fun, not angst ridden).

The SAVAGE Hawkman
He's savage, he's dangerous, he's got shiny, pretty, shifting, liquid artwork.  Very pulpy.  He hasn't got an engaging story. Sigh.  Another one I wanted to love, but don't yet.  We'll see, I'll hold on for another 4 issues then make my mind up.

I could easily drop this.  I feel nothing for this incarnation of the Kryptonian.  But, I'll hold on for a bit, cos I want to like it.

Now, for the rest of the comics I've been getting but which weren't out this week.

Superman is a cocky lil bugger in this.  I like it.  It's much better than the regular Superman title.  Nerdy Clarkie is lovely.

You should all be reading this.  It's brilliant.  Easily one of the best of the relaunch, in a very un superhero way.  It's very reminiscent of the Vertigo run of Animal Man.  It's mature.  It's probing.  It's a thinker.  As opposed to Justice league which is a brawler.

For the first three issue this was my favourite of the new titles.  Then number 4 seemed to be a little bit too obvious, seemed to be too trendy, too knowing.  Or I could have been drunk when I read it.  Either way, it reminds me of Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin, which is just darned amazing, in a terrible way.  Justice League is macho, brazen, cocky, full of testosterone (even the ladeez are full of testosterone).  It's the equivalent of 1980s cock rock or 1980s action flicks - Die Hard, Predator, Demolition Man, Total Recall.  In short, exactly the sort of shit I love.

Pretty much as expected.  The relaunch hadn't changed dear old Kate's history, and J H Williams is still on art.  So, yeah, as expected.  Good.  Oh, except for the lack of Renee, who I now fear is dead. :(

Another surprise hit.  I was dubious about the premise, but it's been carried out with style.  And Rose Wilson.  Rose Wilson (done well) makes everything better.  Fact.  The art is ..round? Soft on the edges?  Hard where it matters?  Slightly cartoony.  Great, anyway.

BIRDS OF PREY rule the roost, yah?
Let's see, Dinah is made of awesome, Katana is delightfully bonkers, Starling has class and Poison Ivy is, Ivy.  Yah.  This is fun, and solid, and lots of other tasty things.  Consider buying it!

As much as I'm grumpy about the need for another relaunch of Kara, I have to admit this is rather good.  Mahmud Asrar's artwork is lovely, and makes even the stupid elements of the suit work.  The story is well handled, it's nothing like the solicit and is definitely one of the better books of the new 52.  Everyone should be buying it (and I say that as a fair judgement, not just as a Supergirl fan).

This is amazeballs.  The reimagining of the Gods is inspired, the artwork is (ignoring a few eschergirl problems) gorgeous and the story so far, works. Mostly.  I'm going to ignore the terrible idea that is Zeus as Di's father.  I mean really.  The made of clay origin is magical and mythical and full of amazingness and Zeus as Di's father is boring.  Beyond boring.  I also dislike Hippolyta being blonde.  I know originally she was blonde, but I don't like it.  So bite me.
Ignoring those big problems, the rest of this book is fab.  Fab fab fab fab.

I'm getting this electronically.  This here is Judd Winick being good, not Judd Winick being crap.  When he's good he's very very good.  When he's bad he sucks.  This is good.  Buy it.

The series I dropped were Hawk and Dove (got 2 issues, got bored), Green Arrow (my favourite character, made rubbish, beardless and boring, boo), Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm (neither were working for me, although I can see they are good).

Other than DC I'm also getting Ultimate Comics Spider-man and Dollhouse. Both are mah-ha-vellous.

I think I may be back in the bloggy spirit. Oooo.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Super Silly Sunday

Streaky resembles a demon cat, dripping acid or something here..
We didn't see enough of Streaky in this series. :(

From Adventure Comics 383.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December bulletin from ASN

Here's December's ASN bulletin.
ASN December eBulletin: Tis the Season to help women

Welcome to your ASN eBulletin. ASN on national TV. We’ve almost hit £1,000! ‘Tis the season to say thank you to those helping women – including our volunteers. And in November, ASN heard from 29 women. Hear some of their stories – and keep in touch!

• ASN on 4Thought
• £163 to go!
• ‘Tis the season to be grateful
• Women we’ve helped
• Keep in touch!

ASN on 4Thought TV
ASN’s Mara Clarke was invited to speak on Channel 4’s 4Thought on the topic of whether or not abortion clinics should be prevented from providing counselling to women seeking abortions. While we wish they hadn’t cut the part about ASN’s providing financial assistance and accommodation (our main purpose) we were glad to have the opportunity to provide our view. Well done Mara on flying the ASN flag and raising awareness among women who might need our help now or in future, as well as potential supporters and the general public. See all 7 4thought pieces on this issue here:

£163 to go
ASN’s campaign to raise £1,000 a month in regular income (standing orders from people in the UK and regular PayPal donations from those abroad), launched in March 2011 is going strong, and our monthly total is now at £837. If 32 of you give £5 a month, or 16 of you give £10 a month, we will reach our goal. Details of how to do this can be found here. Don’t forget to register for Gift Aid. And thanks!

‘Tis the season to be grateful
It is not possible for us to spend enough time thanking the family planning clinics and other organisations who send women our way, help them access the services they need, and fight for the rights of women living in Ireland and Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortions in their own countries. Please consider donating, supporting or getting involved with one or more of these amazing and important organisations.

The organisations helping women access safe abortions
 bpasadvocates for and provides high quality, affordable services to prevent unwanted pregnancies with contraception or end them by abortion with 19 clinics and 36 consultation centres located throughout the UK.
 South Manchester Private Clinicpromotes the sexual health of men, women and young people. It offers abortion treatments and free pregnancy testing, sexually transmitted infection screening and a fully comprehensive contraceptive service.
 Marie Stopes International is the UK's leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services. They are committed to providing all the help you need to make informed choices about your health.
 The Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham supports the right for people to limit their family. For 40 years, it has been providing surgical and medical terminations for thousands of women each year.

Women on Webis an online medical abortion service that aims to reduce the number of deaths due to unsafe abortions in countries where abortion is highly restricted or illegal. WoW helps women in these countries gain access to a safe abortion using pills.

The groups fighting for abortion law reform – a partial list of the many, many organisations who are working to make abortion legal in Ireland and Northern Ireland – ASN is cheering you on and we happily wait for the day when your efforts successfully put us out of business!

 The Northern Irish Family Planning Association (nifpa) recently launched a video on abortion in Northern Ireland to highlight the 150th anniversary of the 1861 Offence Against the Person Act that has resulted in 150 years of discrimination and denial for the women of Northern Ireland.
 In addition to providing services to women in Ireland, The Irish Family Planning Association (ifpa) campaigns for law reform, believing that abortion is an intimate aspect of private life, intricately linked with human rights values and principles that protect a woman's sexual and reproductive rights.
 Abortion Rights UK is the UK’s national pro-choice campaign, working to defend and extend women’s rights and access to safe, legal abortion, to all women in the United Kingdom – even if they live in Northern Ireland.
 Safe and Legal (in Ireland) Abortion Rights Campaign
 Alliance for Choice
 Belfast Feminist Network
 Choice Ireland
 Cork Woman’s Right to Choose Group
 Safe and Legal (in Ireland) Abortion Rights Campaign
Abortion Funds
 The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) is a network of more than 100 grassroots abortion funds and practical support organisations (including ASN, who wouldn’t exist without NNAF’s help and support!) that help to make sure that all women and girls can access abortions.

 Before ASN, there was the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG), a group of Irish women in England who helped women from Ireland and N Ireland travel over for abortions from 1980 to 2000. Their story was told in Ann Rossiter’s book, Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora.

Pro Choice champions
ASN could not exist without our amazing ASN VOLUNTEERS,who answer calls from women between work, family and other commitments, write our materials, design our annual reports and websites, raise our funds, balance our books and get the word out about the work we’re doing. Our without our supporters, who provide the funds to help women access safe and legal abortions.

Thank you thank you thank you!

Women we’ve helped
In November, ASN heard from 29 women. We are immensely grateful to all of you who enable us to help women.

This month, we’d like to let women speak to you in their own words:

i have contacted ye in email and ye rang me back i couldn answer as i was with family i need this uregent as i dnt want a baby as i have a young baby and i had very bad postnatal depression after and was very hard cope i woudn be able deal with anther baby aswell as im jus getting back on my feet d last few mths i need this done asap as its getting me down nd findin it very hard and i have noone to talk too bout this i cant cope with another baby would be to much

I really appreciate how much effort you have gone to in providing me with all of the information. I did not expect so much help at all and it was a great help. I really am very grateful, I had never heard of your organisation before and I'm sure there are probably many others who are in a similar situation to me who would like to know about it too.

I have just found out that I am pregnant and desperately need to have an abortion I need some form of urgent help. Although I am in a stable relationship, my partner is not supportive of me having an abortion, despite the fact that neither of us are ready for a baby. He has told me he will never look at me the same again 'knowing that I have killed it'. But I can't possibly have this baby! I can't tell my parents because they will be so disappointed that I am pregnant in the first place but at the same time I don't think they would support an abortion either. I feel completely alone and trapped. Whatever I do somebody gets hurt or is disappointed in me but I truly feel that abortion is my only option. A baby deserves a good life and right now I can't provide that. Please help me in some way. I'm desperate.

To all at Asn,I would just like to express my deepest gratitude to all at ASN who have helped me in the last two weeks. Words cannot descibe how grateful i am to you all. You have helped me by both providing practical advice and much needed funds to ensure that it would be possible to travel for a abortion. Me and boyfriend will never forget the help and support you provided. The abortion was done and was only possible because of the help we recieved, having a abortion is hard enough emotionaly without the added stress of trying to arange travel and money. You all at ASN made it possible and I only hope that in the future I will be in a postion to help other women and girls the way you have. Thank you so much, Student 18.
ASN thanks these women and men for sharing their stories with us, and for permitting us to share them with you.

Keep in Touch
Want to make sure you have all the ASN news as soon as it happens? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Also, from next month, this eBulletin will have a new look and feel, courtesy of MailChimp and another one of our fabulous volunteers.

Thank you thank you thank you!
ASN is funded almost entirely by the generous donations of individual supporters – like you! Without ASN, the many women we help wouldn’t be able to access vital financial and practical support towards covering the costs of their procedures and their journeys. Donations to ASN are vitally important to the lives of women faced with unplanned pregnancies.

We are entirely volunteer-run, and our small overhead costs are covered by a regular donation. This means that any money you donate goes directly towards the cost of a woman’s abortion or transport to England.

Thank you again for all your support. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to provide accommodation, financial assistance, and confidential, non-judgemental information to the women in difficult circumstances who have contacted us.

With best regards
Abortion Support Network
+44 (0) 7897 611 593
Charity Number 1142120

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice everyone.  Today is the shortest day of the year, for which I am very glad.  I loathe the cold.  I know the temperature is likely to worsen before Spring, but at least the days start getting longer.  I am a summer person.  I am sure these dark days contribute to my state of lethargy during winter time, they certainly contribute to my difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.

I am not feeling very mentally prepared for today.  Usually, for each holiday, I contemplate it and, well not exactly meditate, but take time out from everything to give myself some headspace and, without trying to sound really wanky, centre myself.  This year, I have been so busy over the last couple of weeks, and so damn tired (due to courses, and work, and family visiting and everything), that I have had bugger all energy to do much but read or occasionaly internet.
So, to celebrate the mid point of winter, I am planning to make this recipe, a vegetable stew with herby dumplings.  It looks warming, substantial and seasonal.  Pretty much what I need at this time of year.  I also get to leave work at 3pm today, hurrah!  So from now, until the 3rd of January I get to rest, eat, drink, see friends, read and forget about courses and work and other tedious things like that.

Happy Solstice everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

State benefits in the UK

I've been following Diary of a Benefit Scrounger for a while now.  It's a campaigning site focusing on the proposed cuts to welfare benefits in the UK.  There's a few posts I think people should read.

The Very Definitions of Irony -the writer of the blog has severe Chron's disease, osteroporisis and malnutrition.  She takes chemo shots every 2 weeks, has had major seizures and a stroke.  Her application for Disability Living Allowance has been turned down.
3 Claimants die after being found for fit for work
An open letter to Iain Duncan Smith
Did you know this about your ESA50 form - Given how strict we are about data protection, why do royal mail sorting officers open the ESA50 applications, and sort them in the post office?  What's it to do with them?

Who is the most deserving? - Since 2008 75% of applicants got gurned down for Employment Support Allowance.  Apparently they weren't sick or disabled enough.
We all know someone who could work but doesn't - don't we? - Hidden, secret disabilities and illnesses.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Illiterate estate agents

I have my house on the market.  It's not really getting any interest (a pox on the current housing market. Or not.  A pox would probably make it worse). Our estate agents sent us an ill-spelt Christmas card.  I was going to upload a picture but I am having problems connecting my phone to the computer.

Anyway, it wishes us a a Prosporous New Year.

Bad spelling winds me up.  First there's the thing about not being able to spell, then there's the thing about not using spellcheck, on a professional communication.  Arg.  I hope their spelling doesn't reflect on their ability to sell houses.

Oh, and I am aware that my posts are full of typos.  I must drive my readers nuts over some of my creative spelling choices.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Super Silly Sunday

For the kick. And Superman booby traping something for his kid cousin. Dick.

From Adventure Comics 382.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Re-reading Wonder Woman comics..

Specifically Gail Simone's run, and specifically Wonder Woman 34 and 35.  The one where Wondy and Diana team up to find the enemy in a meta fight racket.

I came to a realisation.  Black Canary, as written by Gail Simone, is SallyP.  It's true.  Go read the issue.  then go read Green Lantern Butt's Forever, Sally's blog.  They are the same person!

(And in case anyone is wondering, that's a high compliment from me!)

I betcha Di likes checking out green butts too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Super Silly Sunday

Things that really annoy me: people not knowing the difference between insure and ensure.  And this is meant to come from a university? Sheesh.

From the 1972 Supergirl run, issue 1.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Things I like about Christmas:
Christmas Trees.
Fairy Lights
Sparkles and spangles
Mince pies
Making someone happy by giving them an unexpected yet good gift
Yorkshire puddings
Christmas pudding

Knowing I am loved as evidenced by the stupid amount of gifts I get
The time off work
The fact that everything closes down for one day (It should happen more often)
Delicious food

The days getting longer
My awesome quilted advent calandar, made by my mother:
Seriously, isn't it cool?
The bunting made by my mother (sadly I don't have a picture of it, but each piece has a different fairy on it and one is doing rude things with a mushroom)

Things I don't like about Christmas:
The stress and pressure of gift giving and receiving
The stress of trying to fit in seeing all family and friends (this never works out as well as I want)
The business of the streets and the shops
The anxiousness of trying to get Christmas dinner ready
The feeling of being not good enough or worthy of familial affection
Other people
Crap Christmas Music
Do they know it's Christmas/Feed the world.  Whatever the bloody thing is called.

At the moment the good things are outweighing the bad things, which is a turn up for the books.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From Wonder Woman v3. The great Dodson's are on art duties.  Ok, so it';s not Diana, it's Donna, but with armour as beautiful as that who cares?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Although this took place in the middle of Jiminez's run, he didn't do the art and so it was awful, ruining an otherwise inspired story.  But, this cover is good and images of Wondy fighting mythical beasts deserves a place in Wonder Woman Wednesday.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From the end of Phil Jiminez's run.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

She died last night, from a stroke, aged 85.  I am really sad about this.  I adore the Pern books.  I first picked them up as a teenager just when I was starting to read again.  For a few years the only books I really read, with iinsatiable joy, were the Discworld ones.  That's what being depressed does for you.  I must have read other books too, but I don't recall getting enthralled and diving into any ones other than the Discworld ones.

Coming out of my fug, I picked up the first pern book, was delighted, and then raced as fast as I could throught he rest of the series.  I was borrowing them from the library, several at a time, and I remember going talking to the assistant, trying to work out with her which one was next in the series and glowing about the stories.  My face was lit up.  That almost never happened to me.

I never wanted a dragon, I wanted a fire lizard.  I wanted to be there when they found AIVAS, I wanted to learn with them, I wanted to see threadfall and I wanted to go to a school where they taught crafts, and real skills, not just academic knowledge.

As I've got more life experience my understanding of the gender politics of Pern has changed and I've got more out of the stories with each re-read.  Every time I read the Masterharper's death scene I'm at risk of crying (I don't cry).

Anne McCaffrey and her worlds will be missed.  I realise she hasn't taken full authorship of the recent books, that's been done by her son Todd, but her influence will be missed.  I am ever so grateful (and lucky) to have been giving the opportunity to discover and read her worlds.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From Jodi Picoult's run

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Accessible site maps on a nature reserve!

 I recently went to France and was lucky enough to visit the Marquenterre nature reserve in the Baie de Somme.  I saw a kingfisher there!!  My first.  It was brilliant and I'm still excited about it.

I also noticed that they'd made their site maps accesible to blind and visually impaired people.  How you ask?  By placing braille over the written text and by using different types of material as the key for the site map.  See here:

Isn't that just fabulous?  So simple yet so effective.  I've never seen that kind of thing in England.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Definitely not a Wonderful Wonder Woman Wednesday

Dear artists.
Pants like you've drawn on Wondy here won't stay like that. The gusset will shift about and expose her labia.  The only way it won't is if it's pulled really really tightly and then you'll probably see her labia anyway, and quite possibly it will cause a serious chafing injury.
Please, draw underwear sensibly, even if it's outerwear.

Thank you.
Also, those poses are candidates for Escher Girls.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Abortion Support Network update - November

Here is their November e-bulletin:

Welcome to your ASN eBulletin. ASN’s 2nd Anniversary Party was a rousing success; and ASN’s founder would like to say a few words about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Miss the party and want an annual report? Women we’ve helped in October. And Carnival Rights Belfast highlights the absurdity of the 150th birthday of the Offences Against the Persons Act. Read on!

2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Want an annual report?
And now, a word from our founder
Women we’ve helped
Carnival Rights Belfast
Gift Aid now on website
2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Thanks ever so much to those of you who donated, sent support and/or attended our event on the 26th of October to kick off ASN’s third year. For those of you who were unable to attend, you can view photos from the night taken by the fabulous Emma Campbell.

We were thrilled to see so many new faces at the event, and to have the chance to say hello to old friends. Cake was eaten (thanks, Louise!), copies of ASN’s 2011 Annual Report were snapped up and over £200 was raised between donation buckets and our 50/50 raffle.

ASN is exceptionally grateful to the women who motivated us with their speeches at the event. Alison Peters from Marie Stopes International spoke of the hardships faced by women who come to her clinic in Bristol. Our special guest Diane Abbott (Shadow Health Minister and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington) inspired us with a speech about the importance of providing practical support for women in Ireland and N Ireland while she and others are fighting for law reform. We also received a message of support from Dawn Purvis, who spent years being the only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose abortion. You can find out about the great work that Ms Abbott and Ms Purvis are doing by following them on Twitter at!/hackneyabbott and!/dawnpurvis respectively.

“Women from Ireland North and South experience the added anxiety of having to travel across the sea in order to exercise their right of choice.  Your organisation, team of volunteers and donors have helped make that journey a more supportive one.  All credit to you as you celebrate your 2nd Anniversary.” – Dawn Purvis

You’ve got Mail
Did you miss the festivities but want an annual report? You can download a copy here or email us your address and we will post you one. Donations toward postage appreciated but not required.

Looking forward, looking back – A few words from our founder
I had the opportunity to address people directly at the anniversary party and wanted to do the same for those of you unable to make it.

The first glimmer of ASN was seen at the bottom of a glass of red wine a few years back – the idea that an American-style abortion fund could work in England. I spoke to the widest range of people I could get to take my calls – the ifpa, nifpa, Marie Stopes International, bpas, the Calthorpe Clinic, Alliance for Choice, Ann Rossiter of IWASG and many more – to see if any group was providing this sort of support and whether or not women from Ireland and N Ireland still needed it. And then I started interviewing volunteers, and ASN became “we”.

It’s hard to believe that in just over 2 years we’ve grown from an idea in my head into an organisation with that has heard from hundreds of women, has had more than 30 volunteers, and is now a charity that MPs even consider speaking to. We tripled in size last year in terms of women helped and grants given, became a charity, and added on a Board of Trustees.

That’s a lot of change in a very short period of time, especially when you consider that every single one of us is juggling our work for ASN with our other responsibilities – families, partners, and in most cases, full time work. We are doing our best to continue as we began: as an organisation big enough to reach women in need and appeal to potential funders, and small enough to both enable us to be extremely flexible in helping the women who approach us; to be an organisation that can be run by volunteers who often have to make and take calls and emails between meetings or instead of lunch.

With the help of you – our wonderful supporters and volunteers – we can still say that we’ve never had to turn down a woman who could not access an abortion without our help. I want to thank each one of you for your support, for your trust in our organisation, for your compassion for women in need, and for your understanding as we navigate our rapid growth.

Here’s to another great year!

Mara Clarke, Founder

Women we’ve helped
In October, ASN heard from 24 women. We are immensely grateful to all of you who enable us to help women, the phone coordinators (Katie, Maddie, Sarah, Jane and Mara) who help these women navigate their way to a safe and legal abortion, to Women on Web for the amazing services they provide, and to the clinics and other groups involved for making it all possible.

Women we helped this month included:

A single mother who, not knowing she was pregnant, had several x-rays and was on a number of medications.

A woman who called us the morning of her teenage daughter’s appointment from the airport. The loan they were expecting had fallen through the night before and they were terrified they’d be turned away if they turned up short of money.

A student on limited budget and unable to cope or afford a child. When she went to the student financial aid centre, she was told that this was a “foreseeable expense” rather than an emergency, so they couldn’t help. As a result, she’s decided that when she gets back to Cork, she will be putting all her efforts into campaigning for a change in the law.

A woman who was early enough in pregnancy to be referred to Women on Web who was extremely pleased not to have to travel to obtain an abortion.

A lone parent who was seriously distressed about not being able to raise enough money to fund her abortion, who said that until she spoke to ASN, “This whole experience has made me feel like I’m being burned at the stake”. In the end, we awarded a smaller grant than we’d agreed to because she rang us the day before the procedure to say she’d raised an extra £50.

A couple who found out late in pregnancy that their child had catastrophic abnormalities. In addition, they could not believe that they would have to pay for the procedure themselves, especially as she had previously lived in England. They were only able to afford the procedure with a combination of a grant from us and a generous reduction in fees from the clinic.

A woman who had an abortion before and became pregnant again despite taking hormonal birth control. She has no money as she’s only just paid off the loan she took to pay for her first abortion. Upon hearing that we could help her, she had this to say:  “I’d like to get on a stage in front of people who are anti abortion. Even though it breaks my heart to do this it has to be a woman’s choice. It would be selfish for me to have another baby – I can barely afford the kids I have. The stories on the side of your website make me feel like I’m not alone. If I could jump through the phone and hug you, I would.”

A recently separated woman with several children, including one with serious health issues. We were able to provide funding and accommodation for the two nights she had stayed here. She had never left her children before.  “If I am not able to do this before I am 18 weeks and 6 days the cost doubles to over €1500, at the moment it is €700 which seems impossible.  I just cannot see any way to do this. I had no idea that women in Ireland had to go through this.”

Email from a woman:
i live in rep. Ireland I just found out im pregnant and at the worst possible time, i am only 18 and have no means to be able to have a baby, i Have just started a course. I feel so cheated me and my boyfriend made  a drunken mistake but i went and got the moring after pill immeditely. I duno what im going to do, I cannot afford nor provide for a child yet i cannot even afford an abortion. I feel sick thinking about it all feel like i have no choices due to a lack of money. I do not feel ready to be a parent and nor does he.

ASN thanks these women and men for sharing their stories with us, and for permitting us to share them with you.

Carnival Rights Belfast
Free to Choose (F2C) is a collaboration of activists who have come together to highlight the absurdity of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act being on the Statutes for 150 years. Their series of events is entitled the ‘Carnival for Sexual Rights and Freedom; Pro-Choice, Pro-Sexuality’. The group consists of representatives from Alliance for Choice, Belfast Feminist Network, the Rainbow Project, and Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth Committee. Several events are happening around Belfast and Derry beginning 12 November.  Check out their Facebook page for more info.

Thank you thank you thank you!
ASN is funded almost entirely by the generous donations of individual supporters – like you! Without ASN, the many women we help wouldn’t be able to access vital financial and practical support towards covering the costs of their procedures and their journeys. Donations to ASN are vitally important to the lives of women faced with unplanned pregnancies. We are entirely volunteer-run, and our small overhead costs are covered by a regular donation. This means that any money you donate goes directly towards the cost of a woman’s abortion or transport to England. Thank you again for all your support. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to provide accommodation, financial assistance, and confidential, non-judgemental information to the women in difficult circumstances who have contacted us.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Women's introduction in the new DCU - the conclusions! part 3

Phew.  Nearly there.

As a reminder, you can read the introductory post setting out what this mini project is about here.
You can read the findings, i.e. the nerdy numbers, here.

My first reaction upon looking at the numbers was one of pleasant surprise.  45% of women were introduced without reference to their sexiness and without establishing them as a love interest.  This is pretty good.  This means that the women  are introduced as just another character, and their gender/sexuality are not relevant to the story (at that point).  It would be nice if the percentage was higher, but actually it's not too shabby.

It's important to remember that these numbers don't tell you anything about the quality of the book, and certainly don't tell you anything about whether the depiction of the characters is sexist.  For example, the Wonder Woman book featured Hera in a cloak, clearly naked underneath, and also 3 party girls who served as Apollo's Oracles.  The Flash introduced Iris leaning over a hole and the image is all boobs.
The depiction of these are not sexist at all, but when you contract them with Catwoman or Starfire in Red Hood, you can see that those books are clearly sexist.  Yet each book gets a yes for drawing the woman sexually.

Having a woman introduced as a love woman is also not necessarily sexist, given that stories about human relationships are pretty important in the grand scheme of stories.  The problem (in my mind) would be if all storied about women put them as love interests.  But clearly that is not the case here.

The data also doesn't tell us about the ratio  of male characters to female characters (something I regret not asking about actually).

The data also doesn't tell us if the women were introduced with other roles as well as love interest.  Also something I regret not asking about.

Right now it feel that my conclusions are mostly about what the data doesn't tell us.  Hmm.

What do you all think?  What conclusions can you drawn from the data?  Is there any other way you'd like to see the data analysed?  Do you think I've missed something?

Let me know!  Let the discussion roll!

Women's introduction in the new DCU - the findings! part 2

You can read about my goals with this mini project here.  I recommend you do read that post as it will explain exactly what we were analysing, and without reading it, this data won't make sense.

Now, what did we find out?
We've got 52 titles..
In which there are 97 female characters (including one kid)...
Looking at the titles -
27 of the titles feature female characters that look sexual, either by their clothes or because of the way they are drawn.  That's 51% of titles.
29 titles introduce female characters as a love interest.  That's 55% of all titles.
Combine these, and there are 33 titles that feature female characters that are either drawn sexually, or are a love interest.  That's 63%.  Some characters are drawn sexually and are love interests, some are love interests but not drawn sexually, and vice versa.

Of the female characters themselves...
41 are drawn sexually, that's 42%.
41 are love interests, again, 42%.
53 characters are drawn sexually and/or are a love interest.  That's 55%.

4 titles had no major female characters in them (Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Justice League and Men of War)
No women were introduced as the love interest of other women.

I looked at the ratio of titles per subgroup and female characters per subgroup.  You'd hope that if there was an even spread of female characters the ratios would be roughly similar.  They aren't.  Instead we have:
Subgroups: Batman:Green Lantern:Justice League:Superman: The Dark: The Edge: Young Justice
Titles per subgroup: 11:4:11:4:7:9:6
Female characters per subgroup: 14:5:20:6:15:15:19

So, no correlation between female characters and subgroups.

Justice League Dark, Suicide Squad and Legion of Superheroes all have 3 female characters that are drawn sexually.  No other comics had a higher number of sexually drawn characters.
Justice League Dark had 4 female characters as love interests, this is more than any other title.

As for subgroups:
The Justice League books had the most number of female characters (20).
The Green Lantern books had the least number of female characters (5).

As for which books has female characters drawn sexually and/or as a love interest.. here is the list:
Subgroup         Title                                   Sexual?     Love interest?
Batman             Batman: The Dark Knight    Yes           Yes
Batman             Birds of Prey                      Yes           Yes
Batman             Catwoman                          Yes           Yes
Batman             Nightwing                           Yes           Yes
Batman             Red Hood                           Yes           Yes
Green Lantern   Green Lantern Corps          Yes            Yes
Green Lantern   GL: New Guardians            Yes           Yes
Green Lantern   Red Lanterns                      Yes           Yes
Justice League   Aquaman                           No            Yes
Justice League   DCU Presents                    Yes           Yes
Justice league    Green Arrow                     Yes            Yes
Justice League   JLI                                    No             Yes
Justice League   Mr Terrific                        No             Yes
Justice League   The Flash                          Yes            Yes
Justice League   Wonder Woman                Yes            Yes
Superman          Superboy                          Yes            Yes
Superman          Supergirl                           Yes             No
The Dark           Animal Man                       No              Yes
The Dark           Frankenstein                      Yes            Yes
The Dark           Justice League Dark           Yes            Yes
The Dark           Resurrection Man              Yes            Yes
The Dark            I, Vampire                         Yes            Yes
The Edge           All Star Western                 Yes            Yes
The Edge           Blackhawks                       No                 Yes
The Edge           Stormwatch                       Yes                Yes
The Edge           Suicide Squad                    Yes                Yes
The Edge           Voodoo                             Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Blue Beetle                          Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Legion Lost                         Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Legion of Superheroes         Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Teen Titans                          No                   Yes

Titles with no female characters drawn sexually or as a love interest:
Subgroup          Titles
Batman               Batgirl, Batman, Batwing, Batwoman
Green Lantern     Green Lantern
Justice League    Captain Atom, The Fury of Firestorm, The Savage
Superman          Action Comics, Superman
The Dark           Demon Knights, Swamp Thing,
The Edge           Deathstroke, Grifter, OMAC, Stormwatch
Young Justice    Hawk and Dove, Static Shock

Next post will feature my thoughts and musings on what this all means.  Or as otherwise known, the conclusions.

A note:  This may well make you lose faith in the entire thing, but I figure I should confess - my maths isn't very good.  I've gone over and over the figures (done using excel - it's a godsend) and I think that mathematically speaking, they make sense.  But now my brain is a bit fried so if you notice a glaring error in the results please tell me!  Then I will redo them.

I can send the findings as put into an excel chart to anyone who wants them.

Analysing the role of women in the new DC Universe - part 1

All the furore about the treatment of Starfire and Catwoman in the  DC relaunch got me to thinking about about how female characters were presented in the new DC Universe.  If you only read the reviews of Red Hood and Catwoman you’d think that the DC books were a hotbed of misogyny.  I started pondering if this really was the case – certainly the books I read seemed to treat their female characters fine. 
Then the thoughts expanded and expanded and lo and behold, I came up with an idea of doing a bit of research onto how women were introduced in the new DC 52.

NB: I couldn’t have put this together without the help of Eyz, theyallfalldown and JimmyMcG.  Major major thanks to these guys who re-read a lot of comics for me and answered my questions about the women in the books.
So, onto the work.  I summarised the research project thus:
“Basically, what I am interested in finding is how the major female characters are portrayed in their first pages of the new comics (the number 1s), mostly centring around whether they are presented sexually or not”
I asked my co researchers to report on the following:
A description of how the major female characters are introduced in every new DC book.
I am looking for things like -
State of dress
Style of art (tits and ass aka Starfire vs normal proportions aka Power Girl or Wonder Woman)
How they are described by other characters (If applicable)
How they describe themselves (if applicable)
If they are introduced as being in relationship, flirting or something else romantic/sexual.
I wanted to know if the characters were drawn overtly sexual as I feel that could indicate a sexist treatment.  I also wanted to know if they were introduced with a reference to their physical looks, or as the partner of another character, because if they all were introduced like this, it would indicate that women in the new DCU exist to be primarily sexual beings and linked romantically with men (or women, I’d be interested in seeing if any women were introduced as lesbians too).  I term this phenomenon, the 'love interest'.
I requested that the reporters look at only how the character is presented on the first page they appear, not in the rest of the book – I believe this is important because the first impression we get of them generates an image of the character that is difficult to shake off in later times.  Considering that this takes place in a relaunch, it is entirely reasonable to suspect that DC wanted the readers’ first view of a character to be the thing that hooks you in, that scene that tells you all about them and who they are.  I think the way the character is represented in their first scene is indicative of how DC views them and their role in the new status quo.
I specified major characters and I explained that major should be taken to mean:
Female superheroes and supervillains
The women who have historically been partners of a hero/villain (e.g. Iris West)
Any notable female sidekicks (whether new characters or old)
Plus those women we know from the old DC who may only have cameo (like Power Girl in Mr T).  Basically this equates to every female character excluding those existing in the background with a non speaking role, such as being a face in the crowd.

I gave examples of the following:
Selina Kyle was introduced by her breasts on the first page of her comic (very sexual)
In Teen Titans, Cassandra Sandsmark was introduced by Tim describing her as gorgeous (not sexual, but definitely introduced with an emphasis on her looks).
In Mr Terrific, Power Girl was drawn normally, but wearing just a t-shirt in Mr Terrific's apartment, implying she's been intimate with him (i.e. introduced as being in relationship/fling)
In Wonder Woman, we first saw Diana in bed, naked (but I don't think this was done in a sexually ogle-y manner).

After some queries I sent all reporters the following:
As a reminder about what I want - I am not so much interested in the value judgement we put on the images, e.g. whether or not they are sexist, more about what they show, as I mentioned below.
Your reports don't have to be really long - a  few lines will do, but if you want to explain your reasoning that's also fine.  Basically I am looking to discover what the DCU says about women, not assume I know what it says and then try to prove my hypothesis.  So, we need to look at the books with an open mind.
What I want to do is look at how the women are presented and then extrapolate about what this means for representations of women in the new DCU.   i.e. are they introduced as sexual/romantic beings, is the emphasis on their looks and/or their sexual relationship to them men around them. I intend to make generalised commentary and possibly do some statistical work too. 

I realise that the methodology isn’t completely robust, there’s a lot of human bias coming into play in everyone's reports.  This skews the results so without a really strict marking scheme and formal framework in which to work in, the reports from each person aren’t completely comparable.  However, if someone would like to take the findings and build on them to do a better study, please do!  Just let me know what you find OK?
The reason for asking other people to help was because I a) couldn’t afford each new DC title and b) didn’t have the time to report on all of them.
The type of reports submitted varied in style, some reports gave me a bullet point list, others gave me prose talking specifically about how the women were presented, others gave me mini reviews of each comic.  I tried to extract the relevant information from each report and put it all into an excel table where I then did some nifty sorting according to group of titles and the results of each question. 
N.B: Stating that the introduction of women has a sexual or romantic overtone, does not mean they are misogynistic or sexist.  It is perfectly possible to portray a female character in a relationship with someone else and not have it be sexist, and it is perfectly possible to portray a woman in sexual manner without it being misogynistic.  Determining whether or not the introduction of women was sexist or not wasn’t the point of this study.  What I wanted to discover was if there was an overarching similarity in the way the women were introduced in order to find out what the cultural discourse surrounding women new DCU is (and see if there is a set discourse).

So, onto the findings!  Or, see next post. Conclusions coming up in a third post. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dead Man's Run

I got sent a signed copy of Dead Man's Run #0, by Greg Pak, for review  (Ah, the power of twitter, it's fab!).  So, here comes the review.
First off, credits:
Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrations: Tony Parker
Colours: Peter Steigerwald
Letters: Josh Reed
Publisher: Aspen Comics.  After googling this company I see it was founded by Michael Turner, which explains all the Michael Turner linked ads in the comic.  Some of these ads feature art of truly Escher Girls propotions, but thankfully, Dead Man's Run doesn't.  Well, the boobs on the cover are a bit odd.  the lady in question isn't the lead role int hsi issue, although it looks like she will be a major player later on in the series.

As for the comic itself, well, I quite enjoyed it.  I knew I'd read some of Greg Pak's work before, but couldn't recall what.  A quick search on New readers... shows that I reviewed Magneto: Testament which is just brilliant.  With that in mind it's not surprising that I enjoyed this comic.

It starts off witha big beefy type of chap buying goods in an American grocery store, he's obviously not that rich as he ahs to be careful about what he buys.  The interaction between him and the store assistant on just this first page gives us a lot of information about the characters, the job of the protagonist and the world this comic is set in.  For example, there's a big explosion outside and neither beefy chappie nor store assistant look particularly worried or surprised.  I know it's a really simple thing to do, use all available space to feed us details about the world and it's background, but I marvel every time I see a writer/artist do this.  It makes the reading experience so much more pleasurable.

As the comic runs on we learn that beefy chap works for a prison and he's got a a dark past.  We don't know what yet, but he seems like a decent sort now.  He's not scared to criticise authority and he's doing something heroic now, as he describes his job as 'to defend the surface'.  There are lower levels to the prison called the City of Corruption, and actually, the lower levels turn out to be hell itself.  Literally.  Our hero descends, with his team of other prison guards, and one thing leads to another and he dies.   Now he's trapped in Hell and presumably he's going to want to get out.

There the comic ends.  I liked it.  Plot wise, it's very fast moving, a lot of ground is covered but it doesn't feel rushed.  It dealt with in a simple manner, not simplistic, but controlled and carefully.  The colours are bright and shiny - very Michael Turner in style (yes I know Turner pencilled, not coloured, but a lot of his work is coloured in a very similar fashion).

At the end is a page of prose from Greg Pak talking about the comic.  He describes it as 'jailbreak from hell'.  Pak talks about his research for the project and says that he believes hell is a place of injustice, where the innocent burn. Religious imagery and settings is a thing I'm very interested in, so I'm very tempted to add this to my pull list.  I think it could be a good contender for a New readers... review, once the trade is out.

Thanks for Mr Pak for sending me this review copy, I certainly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to people.  It's got a lot going for it and shows a lot of promise.  Click here to buy Dead Man's Run.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Today is all hallows eve, halloween, samhaim, the death of the old year and the start of the new.  Today the dead come out to roam the streets and folk everywhere have a party.  Well some do.

By the time this goes  live I'll have carved a pumpkin, hopefully it will actually look ok.  It will be the second pumpkin I've ever carved.  A book I have on Pagan feast days says that at halloween, pumpkins become a holy item Ihence why we carve them) and recommends that you place pumpkins and other root vegetables, such as turnips and swedes on your altar.  Well, I'm fuusy, and what will be going on my display will be my decorated cloth, my pumpkin and my orange and black candles.

I've been thinking for a few weeks about what to put in this post.  It is the end of the year so it seems apt to look back on the past year.  This last year has been pretty crappy.  Last autumn/winter was very stressful for me, and although I got a permanent reasonably well paying job, it's not what I hoped for and leaves much to be desired.  However, it does provide a regular wage and it does allow me to pay for my BSL training, which will get me permanent work using a language I love.  Having finally started my BSL level 3 I find myself knackered and extroadinarily busy, but that's ok. I expected that and I love the course.

This past year has seen a lot of people I know get seriously ill.  Like life threateningly ill.  The good news is they all recovered.  The other good news is my sister is now pregnant so I'm gonna be an aunty!

Then of course there's all the government cuts.  I think that I heard about Norfolk County Council's proposed cuts on about the 2nd November last year.  This seemed like a pretty bad omen for the year ahead.  On the plus side, the final cuts weren't as bad as foretold.  On the bad side, the whole country is facing severe cuts and those most vulnerable are getting screwed over again and again and again.  It feels like this has been a year of protests.

It also feels like it's been a year of disasters - the Japanese earthquake, the recent Turkish earthquake, and well there's probably lots more that I can't quite recall.

And a year or uprisings - well hello Arab Spring!  The Arab states have been amazing to watch this year.  I feel far more aware of international affairs than I did a year ago.

Writing this, despite listing all this shit that's happened, I do feel more optimistic that I did a few weeks ago.  Certain aspects of this last year have been hard, really hard, but they could have been worse and I've got to focus on the good things.  Here's to a more enjoyable, more relaxing 2011/2012!
(and keep protesting folks!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guest post number 2! - The Big Project

This is the second of our guests post from Will aka Rob, of Reynard City.  In today's post he talks about his project, Reynard City, what it means to him and why it's important to do something you love.

I have made a number of mistakes in my life. Letting my brother cut my hair in the style of David Beckham. My brief attempt at being a postal worker, despite being not that quick on a bike, a poor sense of direction and a fear of dogs (Yes even your cute little dog that has never bitten anyone and the saints sing their praises for being so wonderfully doggy)

But one thing I can’t regret is working on Reynard City. It’s taken a number of years, format changes and general figuring things out but we seem to be getting there. And it is down to a collaborative effort with a number of different people.

One thing I realise now is that the whole “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan” thing need not necessarily be negative. It is often trundled out as a cynical response to someone succeeding and people jumping on the bandwagon.

However in this instance it is more that working together with people gets results, while trying to do things on your own is a heck of a lot harder. The range of contributors over the years has included writers, artists, costume designers, musicians and film makers, all of whom have added their creative spark to the collective fire.

While I love talking about the comic and the characters I’ve practically grown up with, it is also awesome to see people from all over coming together to work on something. The good news is that if people have an idea then there are people out there that can help.

The problem is that sometimes you may think “What if someone steals my idea?” While this can happen and there is always a danger of that, sadly risk is a part of life. I think it’s better to be inclusive and try to bring people into it as much as possible.

Inevitably sometimes it’ll go wrong, you’ll annoy people and so on. But I have found if a concept is strong enough then it won’t go away, regardless of time, money or lack of sleep. In short, if you love a project, find some people and share it.

Rob Turner (aka Will Turner) is the writer/producer for Polycomical Studios, a group dedicated to young and emerging artists. Their webcomic Reynard City ( is currently being made into a cartoon pilot and a video game.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A guest post! 'In defence of Superman'

Today I have the first of two guest posts written by a friend, Will aka Rob.  The first one is, I am pleased to say, a look at Superman and what he means.  Take it away Rob:

I know it sounds strange to defend someone whose image on his chest is one of the most recognisable symbols on Earth. Whenever anyone is asked to name a superhero inevitably his name comes up (it helps he has “Super” in his name I guess).

However when it was recently asked on Twitter who they would rather be more people chose Batman. In some respects this is down to the way our culture has changed. The internet means less people identify with a character that is said to be synonymous with “Truth, justice and the American way.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at Batman. His character has echoes of some of my favourite American literature, combining the gothic visuals of Edgar Allen Poe with the stolen childhood of Citizen Kane and the self myth making of The Great Gatsby.

Superman by contrast seems to belong to a more innocent age. His story reflects that of his creators, two Jewish immigrants who seemed to suggest that a person could transcend where they are from to be the symbol of their adopted homeland.

For me (a man who has worn glasses since childhood) Superman and many heroes like him have that concept where you can be more than who you seem to be on the surface. That idea that one day you too could rip off your work suit and reveal the costume underneath.

Maybe that view is childish and na├»ve but I think it’s too easy to go to the dark side sometimes these days. More people seem to be enamoured with the badass nature of Batman, someone who won’t kill but use all his resources to spread fear amongst the criminal underworld.

Strangely enough it was the director Tim Burton, the one responsible for popularising the Frank Miller superhero noir to the masses (albeit with his typical visual flourishes) who was recently quoting as saying “Maybe it’s time for the cartoon to come back.”

I’m not saying I want to go back to the “Gee shucks” early fifties idea of comics. But while the character of Batman is iconic and helped to create a more complex idea of the superhero, Superman represents a kind of ideal that goes beyond even that of America or superheroes. And I think it would be a shame to lose that.

Rob Turner (aka Will Turner) is the writer/producer for Polycomical Studios, a group dedicated to young and emerging artists. Their webcomic Reynard City is currently being made into a cartoon pilot and a video game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wonder Woman Wednesday


(I know I used this in last week's post, but I still like it, so it's getting used again)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hearing dog awards

Hearing dogs for deaf people do an annual award ceremony where they recognise particular dogs that are really special to the Ddeaf people they help.

One award is the Life-Cganging Hearing dog of the year award and my friends have just won it!

See Foggy and Simon's story:

See the other finalists here.
See finalists for all awards here.
See winners for all awards here.

YAY! Well done fogs and Simon :D

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Norfolk County Council recognise comics!

But thinks we read too many...or thinks we chuck too mnay in the bin...
Honestly, they don't know comics fans very well do they? Like any comics fan would chuck one in the bin or recycle it!


Friday, October 14, 2011

I got a guest post on the F Word!

Remember how a little while ago I asked ya'll about menstrual cycles?  Well, something I saw on The F Word about PMS prompted me to write a comment, which before I knew it had turned into a full post about the myth about 28 day cycles.  You can read it here.   Although anyone reading this blog probably already knows what i'm gonna say.  Anyhoo, I'm quite pleased :D.  I feel immortalised on a proper feminist website :D.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Best. thing. ever.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Captain America aftershave.  In a bottle shaped like a fist. Awesome. Sauce.  I'm not sure how it smells, probably melon-y, most stuff in the shop did that day.

The badge on the fingers says Diesel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

World Mental Health Day

Today is world mental health day. As someone who has been officially diagnosed as suffering from depression and stress at various times in my life, and has self diagnosed as having OCD, I thought I would contribute to this day by listing the symptoms I experienced and talking about the diagnosis methods doctors used on me.

Symptoms first:
Tight feeling in my stomach
Often feeling fearful (i.e. at least once a day)
Often crying (again, at least once a day)
Feeling numb, emotionally but also feeling angry and hateful
Self harm
Sleeping for long periods
Difficulty concentrating
Feeling of un-connectedness from other people, my emotions, my body and my thought processes
Paranoia – feeling that the people you are talking to are not who they say are
Little to no concept of time – feeling like what is happening now will last forever and being unable to recall feelings or events from previous days when I felt different (worse or better)
Poor memory
A need to repeat things, either in my head (thoughts or statements) or in physicality (locking doors, counting, checking things)
Smoking (half the time when I smoke it’s because I want to hurt himself, I know it’s bad for me, that’s the point)
Low self esteem
Self hate
Not caring about self
Difficulty moving
Over eating or sometimes under eating (mostly over eating though)
And more, many more symptoms, but I now can’t be arsed to go into them.

As for how I was diagnosed, well the psychiatrist I got took to when I was 15 asked me about some of the above but phrased it in such a way that he asked if my sleep patterns or eating patterns had changed. This was not a helpful way to ask as I could not remember feeling any different. I was not in tune with my body, I was depressed. How was I meant to answer these questions? He then asked me if I ever had moments of lightness, if I ever felt better when feeling low. I could only recall a phone call I’d had a few days ago (see, I told you I had problems with concepts of time) from a friend where for the couple of minutes it took to have the conversation I felt not quite as shit as I did just before. But as soon as the phone call ended I felt shit again. Anyway I answered yes to his question, although in hindsight my reasoning was probably not what he meant. Because of this answer, he decided that my depression wasn’t chemical in nature, so I didn’t need to be prescribed pills.

I was referred to a psychotherapist and saw her for 3 years, I think. It could have been one year, I don’t know. I have difficulties with time. Seeing the therapist wasn’t the most useful thing I have ever done, but I couldn’t say I was unhappy with her as I had low self worth and didn’t value myself.

When I was 20 I went to the University doctor who asked me very similar questions, to which I had the same problems answering, and she diagnosed me with stress. I was referred to the University counselling service, who were by and large, shit.
That’s my experience of the mental ill health profession. It is not overwhelmingly positive, but I am glad to say that I am now much much better. I haven’t self harmed in years and I think I now get more anxious than depressed. Woo, go me.

1 in 4 people will suffer with a mental health problem in their lifetime. Don’t be dismissive, or critical, or think because you are worried about them you have it hard. Be supportive. Ask them how you can help. Be a friend.

Ok, it's kinda scary to post this as I know that real life friends get the link to this.. so please, if you're gonna comment, play nicely.