TRANSCRIPT: Belle Bluestocking (S1:E6)

Toxic Positivity and Dancing Through Life – full episode notes available here

You can listen to the episode on a range of platforms, all available here

ROCH = Ferrero Rochelle; ROS = Rosie Verbose; BELLE = Belle Bluestocking (AKA Issy)

ROS: Hello, and welcome to the Invisible Cabaret Podcast. We’re all about stripping away the stigma surrounding mental health with honesty, creativity, and sparkly jiggly bits. We are taking the time that we have been given in lockdown while we’re not making cabaret shows to chat with our fabulous troupe members about their mental health journeys and creative processes. We’re also looking forward to interviewing many other kinds of artists. We’ve got some in the pipeline already, but if you’ve got a story or piece that you really want to share, you are very welcome to email us at invisiblecabaret@gmail.com. But back to the present. We are very excited to have our Invisible Cabaret sister and dancer and beautiful lady, Belle Bluestocking. Hello, my darling. 

BELLE: Hello. 

Belle Bluestocking is a dancer and cabaret performer. She is mid-dance here with her arms in fourth position, and one leg extended to the side. She is wearing a white, flowing, Grecian-looking mini-dress, and a gold leaf crown. She has collar-length brown hair. Her eyes are closed and she looks focused and serene. Behind her are several audience members watching on.
Belle Bluestocking – taken by Steve Gregson Photography

ROS: Hello. It’s so nice that you’re with us. We’re really glad you’re here. So, you are known in your burlesque state as Belle Bluestocking. Are you okay with us also interchangeably saying Issy, what is your actual name?

BELLE: Yes. What is my actual name is fine also. 

ROS: (Laughs) Great, lovely, that’s a good start. So also, obviously, as usual, your hosts for today and always, Rosie Verbose, myself, and Ferrero Rochelle.

ROCH: Hello. I’m waving. You can’t see me, but I am waving. Hello, hello, it’s lovely to be here.

BELLE: Clapping for you guys. 

ROCH: Oh, bless you.

ROS: God, we do miss applause. 

BELLE: Don’t we all.

ROCH: We live for it.

ROS: It’s a problem. So Issy, Belle Bluestocking. How is your – oh, that was quite cute, Izzybelle. Did you ever get called that as a child?

BELLE: No. It made me think of Babybels. Do you remember those?

ROCH: Yeah.

ROS: I do, yes. 

BELLE: Or “Babbybells,” whatever, but um, yes.

ROS: Who says “Babby bells”?!

BELLE: My family. My family are weird with pronunciation, which we’ll just move swiftly on from, because that could last a while. But before I went vegan, a good friend of mine called me Isabella Mozzarella. 

ROCH: I’m just going to show my ignorance again. Is that where your name came from, your stage name? Because your name is Isabelle.

BELLE: Roch…

ROCH: How did I not know this? What is wrong with me? 

ROS: Every week this seems to be happening now. 

ROCH: Every week! Bloomin’ hell.

BELLE: The ‘Belle’ part was quite easy for me –

ROS: (in mock surprise) What? What? 

BELLE: (Giggles) Because it’s part of my name. And also my favourite Disney is ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ so I’ve always got a soft spot for Belle. And ‘Bluestocking’ was also quite easy, because that is a kind of family name. When I got into Cambridge, I became “my parents’ little Bluestocking”, yuck. 

ROCH: That is so cute. (Laughs)

BELLE: But I kind of really enjoy it, because it became a sort of pejorative term for female academics in the 19th century, and I like this idea of reclaiming it and making it kind of feminist and sexy. So yeah, it was an easy thing to come up with and identify as. 

ROS: I also kind of love in a sort of mischievous way, that the 19th century Bluestockings would probably not be too pleased about being used as a burlesque name, but stocking! It’s there! It’s right in it, isn’t it? Like, what are you gonna do?

BELLE: It’s obvious, right?

ROS: And to be fair, they ought to note, these 19th century Bluestocking ladies who are definitely all tuning in, that your acts, certainly that you have developed with us, have all had quite an academic, literary vibe to them, haven’t they? 

BELLE: They have, yeah. 

ROS: So just run us down the stuff that you’ve made with us so far, Issy.

BELLE: So, so far, I seem to have just stuck with – I mean, it is one of my absolute favourite books.

ROCH: Don’t say “just”, let me just interrupt you there. Don’t say “just”. We’re not here for that.

(Laughter)

BELLE: Maybe I mean “yet”, because my special area is 19th century literature, but The Bell Jar was published in 1963, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, and it’s a kind of coming-of-age story that’s very dark and autobiographical, semi-autobiographical. And it just – I mean, it has a lot of amazing kind of layers in it, so that’s why I think I’ve been able to mine it for dance inspiration. Yeah, so my pieces so far have been about the kind of metaphor of The Bell Jar for depression and the kind of place where you’re stuck and you’re still seeing the world, but through a kind of thick fog. And, you know, sometimes the bell jar lifts and you’re going about your life fine, but without any warning, it can just come (makes whooshing sound) back down again. So you know, I think that’s quite a visual metaphor and something quite easy to translate into a choreographic way. I think it was your idea, Rozzi – we introduced a, like a canopy, like a bed canopy. That’s going to sound really weird for anyone who hasn’t seen it. 

Belle in her Bell(e) Jar, performing her dance about depression

ROS: That kind of works. Like a really long tent, a really long, narrow tent. It’s definitely not a mosquito net, that’s for sure.

BELLE: Well, yeah, actually, maybe that is a better way to describe it, though, because people will actually know what that is, rather than a bed canopy, which sounds kind of massive and medieval, yeah (laughter). So that kind of represented the bell jar, and my piece was about kind of breaking out and never knowing when it might fall on you. Which actually did happen in one of the shows. 

ROCH: It did fall on you.

BELLE: And I had to sort of style it out.

ROS: I’m really sorry about that. 

ROCH: Which you did very well. 

ROS: That was my bad engineering. 

BELLE: No. It’s gonna happen at some point. If you’ve got a prop, something will go wrong with it. That always happens.

ROS: That is true. At least it was metaphorical in its, uh, misbehaviour. 

ROCH: Yeah, it’s like it was meant to happen all along.

BELLE: It kind of did work with the timing, it was (laughter), yeah. I mean, it keeps you on your toes. It was, it was fine. It was funny. You never know when the Bell Jar is going to descend, is the moral of that all. The other piece is about the fig tree metaphor which is in the novel. It’s basically about how you can have seemingly, like, an abundance of choice, all these different yummy-looking, juicy figs, and in the metaphor, they all represent a different lifestyle. This was at the time where, you know, just the kind of idea of having it all wasn’t, like, a thing yet. So it kind of crystallizes the image of being able to want to grab everything, but if you grab one, then you can’t have the others. And it’s also about being paralysed with choice, because in the book, she’s just sitting there looking at all the figs, and she can’t decide which one to take, and as she’s paralysed by the choice, they all wither and die. So in the piece, we used different members of the troupe to represent different careers that a woman could have, or anybody could have. I was kind of trying to choose one. I feel like it’s a very relevant millennial problem, that actually, now we feel like we can have it all, but because there are so many things to try and so many things that we think, ‘Oh yeah, like, I could be really good at that.’

Belle’s ‘figs’: Petit Pois, Ferrero Rochelle, Ida Sanguine and Blue Monday (L-R) – taken by Steve Gregson Photography

I think there’s this prevalent rhetoric of, if you want something hard enough, if you work for something hard enough, then you can get it, anything is possible. Which, you know, sounds great, but I think can be quite damaging if you’re somebody who’s quite sensitive to pressure being piled on you. If you don’t achieve all these things or you can’t even choose one thing and do really well at that, then you’ve failed. And that’s kind of what happens throughout the story arc of the book, is that she kind of doesn’t do that well in anything because she’s kind of paralysed by depression and pressure. She’s been an A-grade student and then suddenly, you know, she’s out in the big, bad world, and it kind of wasn’t what she imagined it would be. And then she sort of falls into stasis and suicidal ideation. But I have definitely felt it a lot. If you don’t do really well, or even do really well in your own terms, then you can, you know, feel like you’ve failed. It seems that you’re not allowed to have negative thoughts. You’re kind of only allowed positive thoughts. Like, if you have a negative thought: ‘Oh, you know, just reframe it to yourself as something positive. Just keep going.’ And you kind of see yourself, if you aren’t following that upward trajectory, then you think, ‘Oh no, I’ve taken a step backwards, so I’ve fallen down and like, I’m not continuing to go up, up, up.’ And – I think, I’ve kind of mixed those two up, but I think they feed into one another. And I kind of think of them as the same problem. 

ROCH: Yeah. It’s making me think of like, certain social media influencers or, you know, life coaches that are prevalent on social media in some form, that kind of have the attitude of, you know, “I was really positive. I was stuck in a dead-end job and I didn’t know which way I was going to turn, and all I had to do was change my mindset and now I’ve managed to capture the world.” And a lot of those posts are quite damning and quite negative towards people who don’t think like that or –

ROS: Ironically.

ROCH: Exactly, yeah, and are quite, you know, quite judgmental of, “Well, if you’re not achieving the things that I am or that other people are achieving, it’s actually your problem. It’s actually your mindset and you need to change something about it.” And that in itself is incredibly paralysing, isn’t it? 

Belle’s final pose from the Fig Tree Dance, wrapped in vines – taken by Steve Gregson Photography

ROS: Absolutely. And then it becomes the, both of the things, actually, doesn’t it, the thick fog of the bell jar and the figs withering on the branch that you’re not taking. And I know in the piece, we wanted to really make it so that towards the end of – the song that you’re dancing to is a Florence + The Machine song, isn’t it? We wanted to have it take a sort of almost sinister tone, so that the other troupe members representing the figs… (giggles) God this sounds so, like, “When I was a fig in the cabaret… We really had to channel our inner trees.”

ROCH: Our inner fig. (Laughter)

ROS: “You know, being a dried fruit is actually really tough.” Sorry, it is serious but I just, I took a moment and I heard myself and I couldn’t have not have a giggle at that. But yeah, towards the end of the piece, we had the other girls who were the different figs kind of turn on you, didn’t we, so that they were almost becoming a judgmental force that was restricting and tying you up. Because it is that kind of paralysis, as you said, that’s…

BELLE: Yeah, exactly. So I kind of ended up being wrapped up in vines and like, strangled by possibility, and you know, they all kind of became, or I always saw them as like, voices in my head. It’s actually, like, a really, kind of, emotional piece to perform. Actually, they both have been, because, you know, in order to kind of show, like, tell the story, you kind of have to put yourself back in that place. For me, like, as mainly a dancer, that’s sort of the opposite of how I’ve normally performed. Normally, you know, you’re making everything look easy, so even if you’re telling kind of like a love story and doing a pas de deux, or you’re kind of, you know, evoking an atmosphere in a dance piece, you’re still kind of doing it in, like, an aesthetically pleasing way. I mean, I don’t know if I always pull it off. Like, who knows what my face does when I’m dancing. Like, I think all dancers have their, like, passionate dance face, which they don’t think about too much. But it’s like, “But it feels right.” But I know we’ve talked about it a lot, that I kind of wanted to not be so, like, worried about looking pretty or like, a pretty version of these feelings. And I just kind of had to think, what is my face actually like when I feel, you know, really overwhelmed and scared? 

ROS: Because you’ve been choreographing the pieces, too. Do you have a general process for choreography? Where do you start?

BELLE: Yeah, I do have a process, in that I normally start by printing out the lyrics or writing them out so I can, like, look at them and see the shape. And then I kind of work out where I might like to edit it or cut it, what sections will work with what. Like, if you’re working with props or with other dancers. And yeah, I always write it down as I go. And then I like to kind of look at it and look at which bits need kind of filling in, you know. Basic things, really, like have I got levels in it, or have I got changes of pace? Do I want to work with the music or against the music? Like, if the music’s going slowly, do I necessarily want to go really slow now, or do I want to kind of, you know, challenge expectation a bit? But I definitely am changing choreographically, in that I used to kind of dance or choreograph to how I wanted it to look, rather than, like, what suits me as a dancer. Because it’s quite new that I’m dancing solo and just choreographing for me, and kind of this idea of working to my strengths, weirdly, is quite new. It’s actually kind of tricky because when you have dance vocabulary in your head and you listen to music and you think, ‘Oh well, you should have a double pirouette there and then a jété there, and then you should do something on the floor which looks really impressive…’ You know, your brain doesn’t, like, have those limits, especially when you’re listening to the music, and the music always just kind of spells out the dance to me, and it’s quite easy. But then, now I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, well, I can’t, like, leap onto the floor and do, like, a roly-poly into a backflip.’ I’m not very, like, acrobatic like that, sadly. And especially not since I hurt my knee. So I’ve kind of had to really think about, okay, like, what feels good and also looks good on me as a dancer, and which represents the story and, you know, what I’m trying to say with the music? So it’s a lot of things going on.

And I also love to look at different dance styles as well. Like, I’m a contemporary dancer but that doesn’t mean that I’m sticking to, like, the Limón style or Martha Graham. I’m kind of always looking at how to infuse bits of, like, salsa or anything that I could take – just, like, a hand gesture or something that I like to look at and that feels right, and put it into my kind of store. I would definitely recommend that to people who get a bit stuck. Watch some Alvin Ailey or something that’s totally, like, different to your piece and just look at something, because even if you, if you’re trying to, like, copy it and you do it totally wrong, how that feels in your body might be really nice, and it might inspire you to try something else and think, ‘Oh, okay, I love the way it feels when I turn my knee in and then I push it out… Oh, and actually, that would fit with this nice bit of the music which I always think is kind of swishy,’ and, you know, you kind of just, like, work out with this intimate conversation with your body, which I love. Like, I love choreography. 

Belle expressing her love of dance in a pas-de-deux

ROS: That’s so lovely to hear, because it’s so cool to hear you talk about listening to your body. 

ROCH: When you first try to do that, it’s quite limiting and can make you feel a bit down about it, so I – I’m thinking in relation to your injury, Issy. You know, actually, it probably is a great thing that you have learned through having an injury that you need to listen to your body and that it works really well to go with what feels comfortable for your body so you don’t risk more injury and so, you know, things can still look great but also feel safe and feel supported etc. But when that first happens, there’s definitely, like, moments where you just go, ‘Oh, but if I, you know, had a fully-functioning knee right now, I’d be able to do a high kick, and I’d be able to do this,’ and it can be really, really frustrating. But it’s wonderful that you have got to a place where it’s like, ‘Actually, I can still make beautiful art with any limitation,’ you know?

BELLE: My knee may be a little bit weird, and it’s not fully recovered, and I probably may need more surgery, but you know, the rest of me is working pretty well, actually. And I’m going to be just incredibly grateful for that, and it has made me work on strength and flexibility in a kind of more, like, dogged and yet calm way than I’ve ever done, because I think I’ve found it frustrating before and I’ve just thought, like, ‘Oh, well, you know, my body just won’t do this and just won’t do that.’ And now I’m like, ‘Okay, it won’t do that, but if I slowly and very carefully train it, like, what can it do?’ I think sometimes when you go to dance classes or fitness classes, it’s very easy to get a little bit competitive, or just see someone be a little bit fearless. Especially in dance, where there are some super flexy people out there. I’m kind of more aware of my limitations, but also more aware of my possibilities. Lots of people have injuries that they’re just kind of embarrassed about and hide, and actually we should all be just, so much more hot on warming up, then stretching, then dancing or doing your activities, and then stretch the hell out of it again. Stretch till you think you’re taking the piss, because you’re spending so long on your feeble splits and you’re like, ‘Oh, god, okay. I’m taking myself very seriously.’ Take yourself seriously! 

ROS: I just think it’s ironic that we were talking earlier about like, the influencers and the messages that we receive of, ‘Just have a better mental attitude and all will be fixed.’ The real swizz in all this, is that is that you’re doing the positive mental attitude, which isn’t, ‘I’ll think better and I’ll be better.’ It’s, ‘Actually, okay, what can I do?’  Like, that’s the real positive mental attitude that’s like, reality and hope mixed in together. 

ROCH: That’s beautiful. 

ROS: So that’s positivity to me. That’s like, the actual helpful positivity as opposed to the positivity that weirdly makes you feel like shit. 

ROCH: Yeah, kind of vapid positivity. Yeah, yeah. 

BELLE: Well, there’s that new terminology that I’ve been reading about called toxic positivity and I feel like I was just waiting for it to have a name. So like, there you go, like, that’s the, that’s the name of the, ‘Oh, smile, it might never happen,’ mentality. The, ‘Look for the silver lining.’ And although, like, sometimes it’s really nice when you do find a silver lining or if somebody says, ‘Oh, well, you know, but at least this,’ you know, occasionally you’re like, ‘Oh, okay, yeah,’ but most of the time it’s just like, ‘Fuck off, no!’ 

ROS: Like, we’re already trying, dude. You know, maybe we need a moment to be like, ‘This is, this sucks that this has happened.’ Because otherwise, you know, the alternative is that you work through it or you repress it and you bury it and then it springs out in some way that you weren’t expecting.

BELLE: It’s not the one, no. 

ROCH: It also reminds me of a conversation that I was having yesterday with a friend. We were talking about the kind of relentlessness of the performance industry, and about how there’s this idea, I saw it as a cartoon once. There’s two people digging for diamonds, and they’re digging and digging and digging and digging, and there’s one guy who’s just continuously going and then there’s one guy who’s really tired and he’s kind of turned his back and he’s walking away. And there’s, like, a tiny amount of mud that he would have had to get through, and then there’s a massive great diamond. And the idea is, you should always keep going because you never know how close you are to the diamond. And we were saying, that’s all very well and good, like, I completely agree with that for a lot, you know, for a lot of it. You’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to be tenacious, you’ve got to persevere. But at some point, surely, you’ve got to stop, because, you know, you’ve done so much digging. What if when you get to it the diamond’s tiny? Or what if when you get to it, you’re like, ‘I’ve got the diamond, now what?’ And then you’re not happy. You know, for what? If we’re all just chipping away, chipping away, chipping away forever… I don’t know where I’m going with this.

Digging for diamonds cartoon, as discussed (illustrator unknown)

ROS: I think I do.

ROCH: Great, can you finish it for me?

ROS: I know we’re sometimes psychic Bert and Ernie. You’re saying that it’s all very well to say, ‘Keep going, you don’t know how close you are,’ but you have to, at some point, know when too much is too much.

ROCH: Right.

ROS: And if you are told to sort of turn off your body signals that are telling you, ‘This is too much,’ like you were saying, Issy, listening to your body – if you are told to turn off or turn down the volume on the critical voice in your head that is sometimes your saboteur, and sometimes, babe, it’s actually a saviour. Because it’s saying, ‘You are about to burn out. You need to put down your shovel. Even if you decide to pick it up again. Just put it down for a little bit.’

ROCH: Right. And also, there’s no shame in stopping digging. If you do decide that enough is enough, there’s nothing wrong with that. You haven’t failed. That’s just your moment to put it down and that’s okay. And I think it was just really frustrating us because my friend has worked in the industry for so long and is just exhausted, and she was like, ‘I’m not feeling the love back. I pour my heart and soul into it and I’m not feeling it being reflected back at me. And so now I’m taking my moment. I’m putting down my shovel.’ And there will be people out there who are like, ‘Well, that was her biggest mistake. There you go, that was it. If only she kept going, maybe she could have made something of herself,’ you know? That whole idea, it just – I have no time for it. I’ve got no time for it. I think I just want to focus on being happy, and if digging constantly is making you happy, great. If it’s not, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

ROS: I’m glad you haven’t got time for it, because it’s shit.

BELLE: It’s shit.

ROCH: Not toxic positivity, but let’s talk about some positive things. Let’s talk about your relationship with dance, and also how it makes you feel.

BELLE: Oh, what lovely questions. I have danced since I was very little. I think, frankly, I enjoyed dance and stayed dancing because I was good at it. I was quite a slow, shy little girl. I know now that’s because I have dyspraxia, which is a neurodiversity or learning difference which affects your motor neurones, so I struggled with social interactions. But for some reason I was good at dancing, which is kind of weird for a dyspraxic person, because if you don’t know what it is, it’s often described as dyslexia but with your hands, so it really affects your coordination. But I am – I always get this word wrong but Rozzi and Roch know it – I’m a kinesthetic learner. Kinetic learner? The one which means you learn with your muscle memory.

ROS: Kinetic, right?

ROCH: Kinetic, yeah.

BELLE: Kinetic, yeah. I always add extra letters.

Please note: Belle was right, R&R were wrong! It is kinaesthetic. The more you know!

ROS: Kin-aesthetic. (Laughter) Like, you’re moving but you’re looking good while you’re doing it.

ROCH: Aesthetically kinetic.

BELLE: Yeah, there we go. I like to make up words too. So yes, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed, you know, kind of getting attention but not having to say anything to get attention, because I’m quite quiet. And I just thought it was, you know, basically the ultimate kind of feminine way of being beautiful, which I have challenged now and this has changed, but I think over the years I kind of saw it as part of the way to be an ideal, perfect person, would be to, kind of, look beautiful and not show any effort behind it. But mainly dance has always been, like, a huge therapy for me. You forget everything else that is going on and you’re just there with the music, with your body, trying to make something out of nothing, which I just love. And I always turn to dance if I don’t know how else to express what I’m feeling, you know. It’s just always, like, there for you. So I think dance brings me joy and even though, over the years, you know, it’s been quite fraught, because obviously, the whole kind of environment of ballet, which is what I originally trained in, is very vain, to be honest, because you’re constantly looking at what you look like and what your body looks like. And I don’t think you can grow up staring at yourself in a mirror for hours every week in pink tights looking like, comparing yourself with how other dancers look and seeing when they’re praised for making beautiful shapes. I don’t think you can grow up in that environment and not look at your body very critically and have that have a negative impact on you, and, you know, how your relationship with food develops.

Baby Belle dance photography

But on the other hand, I definitely think dance helps you see your body as a kind of instrument, as a tool. Dance teaches you, kind of, how to carry yourself, which I think is so important. It’s one of those things where it helps you kind of fake it ‘til you make it, you know. If you kind of just roll your shoulders back and lift your chin up and walk into a room, you can kind of trick yourself into thinking, ‘I’m a calm, confident person.’ Yeah, I think I’m just endlessly grateful that my mum and dad helped me get dance lessons, because I think it’s helped me cope with dyspraxia. I think it’s helped me cope with my mental health. It’s definitely, you know, why my mental health took a huge dip last year when I hurt my knee, because I didn’t realise how much I relied on dancing as a way of kind of processing my emotions.

And you know, that’s why I was just so eager to be part of Invisible Cabaret, because it’s just, like, a fusion of everything that’s important to me. It’s a kind of a way of me using this passion of mine to say something. And it’s weird because, I guess as an English Literature person, and, you know, my Muggle job as a script editor, I’m always dealing with words and their potential and their magic. So the kind of special thing about dancing for me is that it takes away that pressure and it kind of helps me inhabit a world that is about storytelling, but is kind of in a place where I do know my limitations. You know, even at uni when I was writing about Shakespeare, I looked at how dance pieces and ballets about Shakespeare’s plays kind of succeeded where I think the language sometimes falls short, because it’s universal. Like, you don’t need to speak a language to watch somebody and understand the story they’re telling. You know, and it just takes a moment, it’s such a quick way of telling somebody how you feel. And I think that’s what’s been a part of lockdown that’s been really hard for me, as a kind of gestural, demonstrative person, is that you can’t put your hand on somebody’s arm, you can’t give them a hug, you can’t, you know, just use your body so much to kind of talk to somebody and say like, ‘I’m here for you. Are you okay?’ But, you know, I’m super grateful that I can be part of Invisible Cabaret and use this time to kind of get to know what my body can do these days, what do I want to talk about in my next piece, you know, listen to music, think about ideas. That’s my silver lining, guys. 

ROS: Oh, ooh. You make my heart feel all of the things. 

ROCH: Same! That was lovely. It actually segues in quite nicely, because you finished on being grateful to be with us. We are grateful to have you. What are you grateful for this week? 

BELLE: I am grateful for my friends. I actually got a chance to go and see some in real life. It was just so lovely, because you know when you have friends and you realise you’ve graduated to, like, a new level of friendship, when you can just be super honest. You know, honest about your boundaries, things like, ‘I need to go to bed now, so let’s stop chatting,’ because I go to bed at a really early old person-ish time these days. Or like, ‘I am, you know, needing to do my pilates exercises every day. I’m gonna need an hour in the morning to do that.’ So you don’t feel, like, pressured to perform when you’re with them all the time, you can just be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got these grown up things I need to do.’ So that was really nice and kind of soothed my anxiety to know that, you know, I can be with friends but I can also still say what I need and not worry about being inconvenient. That was really nice. And also just things like going into shops together, which was, like, so exciting. In fact, going into a shop with my friend was so exciting, I had a panic attack, which was really embarrassing.

ROCH: Oh, Issy!

ROS: Oh, honey!

BELLE: Honestly, like, I can try to laugh about it. It’s like, you know, maybe what it is, is that it’s haunted here, and I’ve just had a bad vibe… Like, I couldn’t accept that I just had a panic attack because it was so nice to go into a shop again. 

ROS: Oh, darling.

BELLE: But she was lovely and, you know, she was great throughout my panic attack, and she did the thing where she was like, ‘Let’s think about what you can see, what you can taste, what you can touch.’ I couldn’t participate very much but it, like, hearing somebody say the right things was also just lovely, because, like, she wasn’t, you know, being like, ‘Oh my god, what’s wrong? Tell me, tell me, tell me!’ She was just with me. 

ROS: It’s really validating, isn’t it, when people do that, when they’ve taken the time to, like, understand the best way to help?

BELLE: Oh, she was brilliant. So yeah, I’m grateful for friends, and friends who care about your mental health. And also grateful that we could laugh about it. 

ROCH: That’s good as well. 

BELLE: But I think it’s – coming out of lockdown, yeah, where you just don’t realise how traumatic it’s been to not do normal things, and then you’re doing normal things but they’re not normal. 

ROCH: The dear Mouncealot, I’m grateful for her in particular because we work, we do the same Muggle job, and I’ve not been able to get much work recently. And she basically offered up a Muggle slot for me to do some work, so I’ve actually been working this week, which has very much alleviated my money worries. So thank you very much, Mouncealot, for that. So that’s what I’m grateful for.

ROS: What a ledge.

ROCH: She is pretty great. What about you, Rosie?

ROS: I am grateful that we’ve had a couple of gratitude messages from people who aren’t us! So, if I may… This week, Hannah is grateful for the fact that she has finally had a landlord accept them, so her pup can have the best garden around. Isn’t that lovely? We love happy people and happy dogs. And, oh, the sensational Rubyyy with three y’s Jones is grateful for a slower kind of summer. And that’s a nice, truly not-toxic-positive way of looking at the flip side of the pandemic. 

ROCH: Totally.

ROS: So thank you, very good, you utter legend, Rubyyy with three y’s Jones. Belle Bluestocking, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. Is there anything that you would like to plug while you’re here?

BELLE: I figured since I have nothing to plug, I would make some TV recommendations, because that is what I have been doing with my time. 

ROS: Yes, and also, you know, your job. Not recommendations, but TV.

BELLE: Exactly. So yes, I’ve been making sure that I have watched all of the dramas ever. I wanted to recommend I May Destroy You on BBC iPlayer, which is an amazing 10 part drama by Michaela Cole. You know, it needs a trigger warning with it, it’s about sexual assault, but if you’re in the right place to watch it, it’s absolutely incredible. And I also wanted to recommend Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon, which just was absolutely awesome, a really interesting adaptation. And it’s about kind of small town suburbia in America and systematic racism and microaggressions. It’s a thriller.

ROS: Those are some solid rec’s. Thanks, man.

ROCH: Yeah, thanks, Issy.

BELLE: You’re very welcome, and thank you for having me. I’ve had a lovely time. 

ROCH: It’s been our pleasure.

ROS: You’re exceedingly well brought-up. Absolutely. (Laughter) So polite, she can come any time.

BELLE: Oh, merci, merci.

ROCH: You can come for dinner again.

ROS: All right, thank you so much everyone for joining us. We will be back not next Friday but the Friday after. That’s what we’re doing now. We have a schedule because it’s good for our mental health (whoops from Belle and Roch). If you would like to be involved in the next episode of the podcast, then check out our Instagram, because there are more details on there. But we always want to know what you are grateful for, so if something nice has happened or struck you as something to be grateful for, then give us a shout, give us a voice message, give us a tweet, and we’ll know to give you a little shout-out on the next episode. Right, I’m going to go watch some good TV, I think.

ROCH: Absolutely. I might have a nap.

ROS: Fair enough. That’s okay too. All right, thanks so much, Belle. We’ll see you soon, everybody. 

ROCH: Thank you, everyone. Bye bye.

BELLE: Thank you, bye.

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