David Bowie & Nine Inch Nails – Hurt

It’s my day off: I woke up to snooze the alarm for the third time, and saw a BBC breaking alert telling me that Bowie was died. Straight on to Twitter, “no no no, how?”.

Radio 2 to 6 Music; to Shaun Keaveney and Matt Everitt-from-Menswear’s excellent analysis of Bowie’s career, both audibly trying to hold it together and doing an incredible job; and then to Lauren Laverne and three hours of stories, anecdotes and tributes from listeners, all filled with those songs.

When Modern Love came on, I went in to where H was sitting at his computer, got him up, and we danced. Because of all the bathroom stuff in boxes we danced statically, like two nodding dogs, but we danced, and we kissed, and we celebrated the joy of that song and all the many things we felt, and would feel when the next song came on.

I remember singing Space Oddity in the car with my dad, who, like many kids my age, was the one who introduced my brother and I to Bowie, off one of the Sixties compilation CDs I was hooked on. In 1997 we got that amazing double sided Greatest Hits, and it was like a rainbow of bits and pieces.

At sixth form, my brother introduced me to the massively illegal and therefore incredibly useful download service, Kazaa, where bootlegs were there for the taking provided you could get the Hampshire dial-up to cling on for long enough. I don’t remember how I ended up getting hold of this version of Hurt, but it soon became a fixture on my driving CDs. There is one incredibly steep hill just before Selborne where the song always seemed to break into those gorgeous, ringing chords and without meaning to, I always cried. Really embarrassingly it was one single tear crying, no sobbing, just one tear.

Nine Inch Nails’ original version of Hurt is completely fine, and the Johnny Cash cover is very moving, but neither come close to the punch of this one. Trent Reznor’s howling, committed vocals ring out every bit of the chorus, while Bowie, statesmanlike, that unbelievably shimmering voice, is the glorious top layer that makes this song something other.

There were many songs I listened to as a teenager that said all the things I couldn’t express. It turns out that heroin addiction, and things far away from my cosy upbringing, rang truest of all; a massive opera of empathy and truth condensed into five minutes. Every time I listened to it it gave me an indescribable support, and every time I finished it I felt stronger, and less alone.

Thank you Bowie. Thanks for everything you gave to your friends, collaborators, and those who loved you and listened to you.


Happy New Year, may 2015 be joyful and catful

The best sign I saw in New York

The best sign I saw in New York

2014 has been a very, very long year. 365 days. Many, many hours. Some quantity of minutes that I do not possess the mathematical ability or interest to calculate and oh my God, maths, I’ve already bored myself.

I find looking back on a whole year a bit of an impossibility, like trying to fit an entire packet of digestives in your mouth without taking the wrapping off first. Continue reading

World Mental Health Day

I went into journalism wanting to be Laura Barton. I loved her writing in the Guardian, I still do. At university in Durham, my friends and I would always turn to her stuff first. On Mondays, we’d sit in Riverside Cafe and pore over the (then massive – oh how things change!) jobs section in Media Guardian and plot our move from the north of England to Fleet Street.

My reason for wanting to be a journalist was that I wanted to entertain people. I had a lovely vision of having a column somewhere, which luckily didn’t happen, because when I was in my early 20s I used even more adjectives than I do now. The one thing I didn’t particularly want to do was to use my life as the basis for features. Again, how things change.

In the last few years, I have been incredibly lucky to be able to cover stories that really matter to me. Sometimes, I’ve used my own experiences. In the cases of a new cancer day unit at Guy’s Hospital (I cannot wait to hear what their cancer centre is like – it sounds amazing), and speaking out about mental illness, I don’t mind at all.

When you speak about an aspect of your health, particularly one with such unsexy connotations attached to it as mental health has, you end up being called ‘brave’. This is a lovely thing to have people think, but it is complete nonsense. In speaking out about depression, and my experiences of it, I am being entirely selfish. I just want people to know more about it, and hopefully, to be able to reach people who might feel incredibly isolated.

I recently wrote a piece for Grazia about my experiences of depression, and I attach a copy here for you to read – sorry about the scanning, that’s never been my forté.

Hope you enjoy it, but most importantly, I hope it makes you think about mental health problems in a new light. Everyone will be affected by them at some point, whether individually, or through a friend or loved one. Let’s break the stigma.


Click to enlarge:

Grazia depression piece - Kat Brown1

Grazia depression piece - Kat Brown2

Favourites from EGX: A Light In Chorus, Lumino City, How To Be A Tree & Bertram Fiddle

A Light In Chorus

A Light In Chorus

Yesterday, H and I spent six glorious hours trawling EGX, the video games expo in Earls Court which runs til Sunday. SUCH joy. The cosplay! The Streetpassing! The hunt for new games we’d heard of,  and new things to fall in love with and throw our pounds at in the near future.

Towards the end I was hungering for new Street Fighter so wasn’t wild about visiting Rezzed, the indie zone, but blimey it’s grown since I last went a couple of years ago. And double blimey – this year’s had some of the most beautiful and entrancing games I’ve seen since playing Okami, that gorgeous watercolour RPG reboot. All the ones I tried were works in progress, and these ones were my favourites. Continue reading

#TBT: “You want me to do what?” What it’s like being a lay preacher


Instead of wearing a cross – bit Buffy for me – I have this beautiful bracelet which my godfather gave me for my confirmation

Nostalgia week – commence! After four and a half years at The Times, it’s my last day next Thursday. Of the many opportunities I’ve had here to write about something I feel really strongly about, my 2010 series about being a feminist, LGBT-supporting person getting confirmed was one of my favourites. I know, sexy subject, right? Nothing says “This won’t alienate people at all!” like talking earnestly about faith, religion and small sacred biscuits that are actually really difficult to swallow. Continue reading

The gentrification of Camberwell

The Myatt's Fields Park summerhouse...through the seasons

The Myatt’s Fields Park summerhouse…through the seasons

I was thrilled when the Evening Standard announced that they were covering Camberwell in Homes and Property (today, people! Today!). I love H&P. It’s the covetous, property porn jam to my otherwise disappointing Wednesday toast.

And I was thrilled that people were going to see how great the place is. Sarah Waters’ new book, The Paying Guests, has a ‘genteel Camberwell villa’ at its centre, and lots of Camberwell is indeed jolly genteel. So much so in fact that there was much “Wuh?” from SE5 residents on Twitter when Time Out posted a review of the Camberwell Arms (announced today as one of The Good Food Guide’s top 50 British pubs) painting SE5 as a grim, downtrodden haven of grime, and nought else. It was so bewilderingly sniffy that those comments have since been removed from the review.

My brother used to come to Jazz in the Crypt at St Giles all the time, but as far as I was concerned Camberwell was unreachable – largely because everyone told me it was. When I moved here three years ago, I may as well have been moving to Narnia. “You have to walk? To get to a bus stop? For 10 minutes?” I was weak at my under-exercised knees.

Continue reading


This is the most beautiful poem I’ve read in ages. I wish I had synaesthesia – I have the lower end of it I guess. I was explaining to Elizabeth how when writing I will almost taste a sentence as being green, or lilac, or a bit the wrong blue. “I have exactly the same thing!” she said. Of course she did, because we are Not Quite Sisters.

Paraic O’Donnell

It’s nothing really, just

a way of treasuring

things, a feasting

on the bright

world that borders

on the pathological,

on the unseemly

maw of wet nerves,

the gape that swallows

every spine, tingles even

in the absence

of signal, lusts for

every fluke of noise

covets wave

and particle alike

collapsing always,

coming home drunk

or high and falling

asleep in that deep


where all our seemings cross

where the overspill

was the light under

overpasses, was the solace

of amethysts

and deep kissing

where the numbers

of your birthday

were—write this down—

magnesium almost

and chlorophyll

and something like honey.

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IWD2014: Becoming a woman in a hut in the French forest (and other Grimm fairytales)


Sunset at Persephone the Forked Woman: an entirely unseeable Anna and our friend Cat in Durham c. 2004

My university friend Anna was the first person I went running with. We did Race For Life in 2006, and it was exhausting. I’ll never forget the horror of schlumpfing down Barbican, only to see runners coming the other way and realising I’d only done 2k. THERE ARE MORE K?

Anna now runs a wonderful website – more of a community really – called Any Other Woman. I wrote this for her on AOW,  for International Women’s Day (which is tomorrow, but tomorrow is Saturday so they’re doing it today while people are actually looking at the internet.)


The moment I realised that I was a woman wasn’t when I got my period, or mastered nail polish, or achieved something otherwise monumentally female. It was in France, surrounded by male friends, all of us high as a kite on mushrooms. Continue reading

Strange and horrible

If we hadn’t stayed to get a coffee cup, we wouldn’t have seen it. The others had disappeared into the pub for our choir rehearsal by then, and I was chatting to my friend T about carols in my local park in a couple of weeks, B and T’s wife J following behind.

We were skirting around the ladder when there was a slip, a smack and suddenly there was a man lying on the pavement a metre in front of us. He was on his back, eyes open, completely still. On the other side of the road, a woman screamed. Continue reading