I see you, “fat” girl. You weren’t fat. You weren’t ugly. Your life wasn’t over. It was just beginning. Here you are, dancing on your 21st birthday with your sister. Look at you, in your blue ballgown with your pretty feet and your happy smile. This photo embarrassed you because you thought your arms were “plump”. People were already telling you to lose weight. Why? Look at you. There was nothing wrong with you. You were gorgeous. And you’ll never be 21 again.

Paddy’s Day Gig Prelude For Fibber’s

Swinford, Mayo, Ireland, was hive of activity over Paddy’s Day weekend and locals were treated to music and comedy that showcased Irish talent whilst supporting On The Rocky Road Again, a fundraiser devised by Stephen Kelly, aka “Cowboy” of Netflix series Hardy Bucks.

St Patrick’s Day is always a tricky date to schedule evening events in Ireland, especially with revamped anti-drink driving laws, so turnout for this cornucopia of talent afforded fans an intimate but lively gig – their follow up Dublin gig in Fibber Magees on March 23 will be even livelier.

The Paddy’s Day gig at Swinford’s Gateway Hotel had a mellow start with local musician Vincent Murtagh entertaining before comedy trio Three Bucks Left (Cowboy, French Toast & Salmon of Hardy Bucks fame) took to the stage to welcome supporters & thank musicians for volunteering their talent and time to support a worthy cause.

French Toast (aka Peter Cassidy) could charm birds out of the trees (or possibly kid you up a tree before cutting it down on you, he has the twinkling Irish eyes of a lovable rogue, one look into them and I found myself grateful not to be walking away with a lighter wallet plus a cob pony) and had the crowd up and dancing in no time to the fiddle, flute, guitars & lusty vocals of 4degrees West who performed the compulsory cannon of Irish songs required for Paddy’s Day, eg Whiskey In The Jar.

Michael Salmon’s developing comic talent is Andy Kaufman-like in its blend of self-conscious stream of consciousness replete with tentative pauses and a handy dandy notebook….whether Salmon is a wistful Don Marquis or a William McGonnegal is entirely open to question, as his straight faced delivery is matched by a (one assumes) shy aloofness that deters approach by fans such as I.

Not so aloof were Cowboy and French Toast, their comedic entrance was old timey music hall banter…perhaps aided by few pints of “the black stuff” (never mind Lenten promises, it was Paddy’s Day, after all.)

The much anticipated Mystery Guest was (probably to no-one’s surprise and guaranteed to no-one’s disappointment) Owen Colgan aka “Buzz”, Hardy Bucks star, actor, writer, comedian and social media butterfly whose Instagram posts are surrealism at its most sincere & self aware.

Colgan made his stage entrance to strains of “eye of the tiger” in fighting fit form and promptly put the biggest chap in the room in a headlock. As the biggest chap was my husband, I did get to enjoy a seemingly endless moment trapped like a moth overdosing on lamp in the glow of Colgan’s periwinkle orbs (poised above those of my likewise blue-eyed hubby) before the lads bounced with enthusiasm onto the stage.  A minor tussle with the mic stand and some good natured banter was the extent of Colgan’s official appearance….his stand up act will be much anticipated at the Dublin gig.

Hardy Bucks spotters (yeah, alright, me) noted Big Mick “check for an Adam’s apple” from the TV series amongst the crowd as the night charged on with performances by sweet & soulful Sean Joyce, a phat set from Con Murphy and a tight Seattle grunge-influenced closing act from The Kerbs.

The musical talent on display was truly impressive and the upcoming Irish summer will be a great one for live music sessions if the Swinford gig was a taster.

On The Rocky Road Again raises funds for Beaumont Hospital, a karmic payback by a grateful Stephen “Cowboy” Kelly, whose life was saved by emergency surgery at Beaumont after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2016.

The Mayo and Dublin gigs (tickets at eventbrite.com) are a lead up to the main event this Easter weekend. An endurance relay by Kelly and Cassidy (plus any friend with cardio fitness) running 240kmsish from Dublin to Castlebar.  Good Friday will see the lads set off from Dublin and it’s hoped Easter Sunday will see them arrive victorious into Castlebar to cheering supporters.

Donations can be made to the worthy cause by donating https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/on-the-rocky-road-again?fbclid=IwAR0R7ADCrNe-2ucoDCpF0UhGO-pTqrpSMIa-_3cnVukYIJcxbXvcBlYhVBM.

Follow @3bucksleft on Instagram and Facebook for further details of their comedy, their fundraising and for the craic, like.

If anyone wants me, I’m in the bath. Still.

So, around Christmas 2015, I just decided to let it all hang out online, temporarily.

If the Universe had cursed me with a degenerative incurable fat disorder that was rapidly making me immobile, I was going to accept it and get on with living life.

Maybe, if my hubby The Fenian and I took photos of me doing ordinary things, bathing, eating, travelling, swimming, etc and posted them on Instagram or tumblr, my body image and that of other lipoedema sufferers would become normalised.

People would stop staring at lippy ladies.

If I was going to be forced to live with lipoedema then the internet fat-shamers were going to have to become educated about Painful Fat Syndrome and accept me also.

Solidarity, sisters! Where are the modern Rubenesque paintings of lush thighs and dimpled bottoms?

Women in the Victorian era strapped pads to their thighs and metal cages to their arses to make them appear like walking talking butternut squashes the same way Nature shaped me in the 20th Century. 

Check out the beautiful photographs taken by Leonard Nimoy of ample-figured women.

Google search “pawg”.

We exist and believe it or not, there’s room for all of us – even with bingo wings.

As you can see from the photo, I have lipoedema in my arms, also.

Thankfully, since the liposuction operations on my legs, my lymph system and overall measurements have reduced and I can now once again buy and wear garments that have sleeves, instead of waving my jiggly fidoobiders around like two overcooked sides of boiling bacon.

Movements like Free The Nipple and mybodygallery.com are designed to liberate women from expectations of body image. 

Hyper-sexualisation of the breasts we’ve developed to nurture our babies is exacerbated by men of religion who legislate their hang ups with censorship or in some regimes, stoning to death of women they regard as immodest.

Observing our bodies in their naked state reminds ourselves as a diverse human species inhabiting every corner of the globe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The sight of a naked fellow human being, no matter their size, shouldn’t be a shocking thing.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to be shamed by the vessel that houses our spirit and our spirits and our minds are the poorer for the shame.

Variety is the spice of life, despite Miss Universe pageants and Victoria’s Secret marketing.

So, in the spirit of Annie Sprinkle demystifying the female body, I bravely made my nude bath photo my twitter avatar as a mini social experiment.

Unlike Kim Kardashian’s subversive neo-blaxploitation butt pics, the internet didn’t break.

In fact, the internet was too polite to mention it – I had over 1000 twitter followers at the time and barely anyone mentioned one Saturday afternoon that I’d changed my profile pic to that of a tattooed middle-aged morbidly obese woman (with tits and belly that showcased evidence of diligent engagement of six children, a nephew and occasional grandchild) *apparently smoking medicinal cannabis (which remains illegal and blocked by bureaucracy in Australia) in a clawfoot bath.

I chose the bath because it had become my permanent refuge, the water helped my lymph circulation and eased the chronic pain from aching heavy legs and the struggle to pull 125kg around. 

I was in the bath more often than anywhere else, although “in bed” and “helped into and out of the recliner” were my other main hangouts.

(In our house in Tasmania, hubby The Fenian had installed a corner spa – although I’m a Greenie and all for water economy I can’t recommend a cool spa for swollen legs and lipoedema highly enough.)

My legs and buttocks had become so large by 2015, I could barely fit in the bath.

In fact, I had to stand up to drain all the water when I pulled the plug – I was a blancmange-like dam.  Any top up of hot water never reached the cooling pool between my bum and the non-tap end of the bathtub.

I’d joked for years I was more dugong than woman, unhappy on land. If only I could stay in my tank.

But back to my bath photo – so much for provoking art, photography, debate and education, people were too embarrassed at the sight of me to engage!

So, this is what a woman with lipoedema taking a bath looks like. Live with it.

I’ll post an updated nudie bathtub pic soon – I’m much smaller and rapt with my transformation but still “fat” by trumpism standards. 

I don’t care.

This is about women’s health, not the usual shallow misogynistic magazine wankfluff article on “beach bodies” with genetically blessed and silicone enhanced celebrities in designer floss.

The stigma of being “overweight”, whether by lifestyle choices or fat disorders, won’t disappear until we all let it all hang out.

I’m roughly a UK size 16. That’s fine.

Dress size doesn’t mean a thing, other than inconvenience if you can’t sew nor shop off the rack.

It’s about mobility & fitness & confidence and being able to hang out with my family & cycle and walk my dogs – I don’t need to kid myself that if I was size 8 my life would suddenly become wonderful.

My physical independence has been restored – that makes my life wonderful.