Ladies, Can I Have a Word?

It’s been just over a week since the 45th President of the United States was inaugurated. He’s not my president (literally, rather than in the powerfully symbolic way many Americans are saying it) but I wasn’t happy about it. I could fill a whole blog post, in fact many blog posts, about how and why I wasn’t happy about it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk about us gals.

The day after the Inauguration, women (and men alongside them) all over the world marched in protest of the views of men like the new President, of the inequality women face, of the way we’re negatively treated. I applaud the marchers. I didn’t take part. I could say that it was because I was working but really, I’m just not the marching type. I’m the writing type (obviously). I applaud women standing together to protest inequality. It’s a beautiful thing.

Women's March On London

It’s an especially beautiful thing in view of something a little uglier I’ve noticed of late. It’s something perhaps we don’t want to discuss. Feminism generally targets those institutions, governments and individual men who oppress women, who discriminate against women and who regularly insult women. Quite right. Someone needs to speak out against them and it’s important that we do. However, we seem to be ignoring a rather large group of people who constantly diminish our worth and our self esteem. Other women.

I’ll give you a few examples of what I’m talking about. Last year in the US, a former Playboy Bunny decided to take a photo of a woman she did not know and share it online, along with a disgusting comment. She claimed later that she meant to only share with a friend, as if that made it ok. I was initially shocked but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I’ve heard countless women make nasty comments about another woman’s appearance.

Here in the UK, when the Conservative party was looking for a new leader, candidate Andrea Leadsom made the claim that being a mother gave her more of a stake in the future of the country, compared to Theresa May, who has no children. Again, I was shocked. Whether or not you’re a mother shouldn’t enter into how qualified you are to do any job. But then, how many of us have faced similar comments? And how many of those comments have come from women? Not all, I suspect, but some.

After the US Presidential election, a woman emailed another woman (who happened to be the Mayor of a town in West Virginia) describing Michelle Obama as an ‘ape in heels’. Ok, this isn’t just a nasty comment about another woman’s appearance, it’s also got a rather racist vibe to it, although both the sender and recipient tried to claim otherwise during the backlash when the email was made public. But still. Michelle Obama, who not only maintains a constant air of dignity, but also campaigns tirelessly for the rights of girls. None of that matters. What counts is how she looks.

michelle-obama-1129160_1920

We’re regularly told about the damaging effects of women’s magazines that show images of women that have been perfected (in the opinion of some), first by professional stylists then by editing software. On top of these images are articles about how to keep your boyfriend interested in you, how to lose weight in ways that are usually unhealthy and sometimes border on dangerous and how we can shell out endless amounts of money in an attempt to look like women someone has decided look the correct way. As you can probably tell by now, I hate these magazines. They cause misery. But who makes the decisions on running these articles and including these images? A 2008 article from Forbes tells us that the top magazine editors are all women.

When a man recently directed at me the kind of nasty sexist comment we all face at least occasionally, the many women present didn’t defend me or encourage me to defend myself. Instead they told me that men are just like that and we have to put up with it. Which is pretty much insulting both genders at once. Men are apparently animals who can’t help but be disgusting and sexist and women should just submissively shut up and accept it. Neither of which I see as true. Shamefully, I’m not the confrontational type, so I did shut up. I shouldn’t have. I will try to have the strength not to when this almost inevitably happens again.

Am I saying that the discrimination and oppression of women is actually the fault of other women? No, of course I’m not. I’m saying that it doesn’t help the situation when women tear each other down.

To quote Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls (an awesome film, by the way), ‘You need to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores’.

o-tina-fey-birthday-facebook

On a more positive note, there are plenty of women out there who are supporting other women. I already mentioned Michelle Obama, who I really admire. I’ve taught my own daughter her now famous quote: ‘When they go low, you go high’. Malala Yousifrazi, who risked her own life in her determination to become educated and to spread a message about the importance of education, especially for girls in countries where it’s too often denied to them.

unknown

Emma Thompson, a supremely talented actress (I dare anyone to watch her performance in Love Actually and not shed a tear) but also a human rights advocate and a highly intelligent and witty woman who behaves exactly as she wishes, seemingly without a care of what anyone might say about it.

6fe3df1787f35b3694eb2b867f305d49

I could go on. But I want to end with this. We can all be one of those women who encourages, supports and defends, rather than criticising and mocking each other on appearance or irrelevant personal choices. We can all be positive role models for each other. Do we all need to be best friends? No. We just need to be a bit kinder and a bit more considerate.

 

Thanks for reading.

My Favourite Things to Read Online

I am guilty, as I believe many of us are these days, of spending a fair amount of my spare time reading online. Blogs, articles, news sites and, the favourite of any procrastinator, Wikipedia.

I have made it a personal goal to try and restrict this a bit more. I should be spending more time doing my own writing or just doing anything that’s a bit more productive. That’s not to say I want to cut it out altogether, just a bit. Online articles can be informative, inspirational and amusing. With that in mind, here are my favourite sites to read:

I Fucking Love Science. Written in a usually lighter tone and with citations in abundance, I find it an enjoyable and trustworthy source for science news. It’s articles are often about debunking common myths, for example the lies spread by many anti-vaccination campaigners.

Seychelles Mama. I bet most of us at some time or another have thought how awesome it would be to pack up and move somewhere tropical. Well, this lady and her family did just that. This blog is all about the realities of being expats in the Seychelles, both the pros (there are some gorgeous photos) and the cons (of which there aren’t many!).

Words from the Corner. This is actually written by my own Hubby. He started a blog in the New Year (definitely not a resolution, he makes clear) and writes on various topics. I know I’m his wife so you might think my opinion is a bit biased but really it’s good stuff. I think my favourite so far was his post on the apparently not so universal appeal of music.

Rules of Play. This is actually the blog of an independent games shop located in the shopping arcades of central Cardiff. While we lived much closer to the city centre, we could probably be found in there at least once a fortnight. Sadly, moving further out means that we visit much less regularly. However, this blog not only offers updates on the new titles they’re stocking but also suggestions of new games to try. If you’re a fan of tabletop games, even if you’re not in Cardiff, I’d suggest reading this.

Cardiff Mummy Says. A brilliant parenting blog in any case but particularly handy for me as it includes regular lists of stuff to do around Cardiff. I often look at this when I’m a bit stuck for something to do or feel like I’ve already tried everything Cardiff has to offer (I never actually have!)

So those are my favourites blogs. For news, I generally favour BBC. I know every now and then they get told off for claims of being biased but most of the time, I feel like I can trust them to give the facts, though even then I’m very cautious. With fake news being so widespread these days, I like to check sources and facts for any piece of news I hear, wherever it comes from. Fake news has stopped being about celebrity gossip and moved quickly in the realms of actually affecting politics. So it’s important to be properly informed.

Just to end with a little shameless self promotion, if you often find you’re stuck for something to read, the Bubele newsletter is released every fortnight and always has a few things going on in your area, plus competitions and a suggested article to read. Go and sign up!

Thanks for reading.

Why I’m Terrified of my Daughter’s Adolescence

You might think that worrying about my seven year old’s future teenage years might be a bit premature but when it seems like only yesterday that she was just starting nursery, it seems only logical that it’ll only feel like another week until she’s starting secondary school and let’s face it, adolescence pretty much starts there. In fact, if she follows in my footsteps, puberty is due to hit in about three years.

Already, she’s dealing with loads of drama at school. She complains every day that many of the girls at school lie, make up stories about each other and gossip constantly. In a sense, I’m glad she’s complaining because hopefully that means she’s not taking part.

So far, being a strong willed, confident girl means she wears what she likes (I only intervene if she, for example, tries to wear a summer dress outside in winter), she plays the games she likes and she picks the TV and music she likes (again, minor and occasional intervention from parents). However, I think even the most confident girls are affected to some extent by the peer pressure and self esteem issues of the teenage years. As a side note, I’m pretty sure boys suffer with this stuff too – it’s just that they’re expected to be strong and unemotional so the suffering is done in silence.

My own adolescence ended almost a decade ago but I remember it pretty clearly. I remember being mocked for being a virgin at 15 and then mocked even more when I pointed out that sex wouldn’t even be legal at that age. I remember being complimented on my jacket by one of the popular girls, who told me that if I bought the right trousers and shoes too, I’d be allowed to hang around with them. Seriously. The film Mean Girls is truer to life than you might think.

I remember someone shoving a cigarette in my mouth when I refused to take one myself. I remember a boy threatening to sexually assault me in my sleep if I didn’t have sex with him. I remember my first boyfriend thinking it was actually acceptable to cheat on me because we’d been dating for a month and I hadn’t slept with him yet.

How on earth am I meant to help my daughter navigate this kind of stuff when she reaches this stage?

I could tell my daughter my own experiences I suppose. I could try to tell her that I went through it too and you’ve just got to stick to your own principles and not allow yourself to be pressured into anything. But the truth is, I didn’t always make the best decisions. Ok, I said no to drugs, I said no to sex until I felt happy with it. But I did sneak into a park after closing to drink vodka with a bunch of people I didn’t really know that well. And it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve started to wonder if I was more affected by peer pressure than I thought at the time.

During parties, it was seen as quite normal by the group I was in to kiss people of the same sex. There was a strong message from everyone involved that it meant nothing, it was all good fun and it meant nothing about your sexuality. We might have been the ‘alternative’ crowd but being gay was still a big deal. Not a bad thing but not something you’d want because your friends might be ok with it but pretty much nobody else would. I had gay friends who’d come out to their parents and it had been a nightmare for them. One even got kicked out of their house. I once asked my Mum how she’d feel if I were a lesbian. She said she’d absolutely fine with it, of course, but followed this by very firmly stating that I was 100% straight, no doubt about it. So when I was kissing girls at parties, it never quite occurred to me that I might be bisexual. I definitely wasn’t gay and I didn’t really know about a third option. I’d heard the term bisexual but it was so synonymous with promiscuity (still an issue today) that I didn’t identify with at all. So it turns out that I was so affected by what everyone around me was saying that I couldn’t even work out who I was!

I suppose the scary thing about all of this is that, for the first time, her safety will be her responsibility. As parents, we can talk to her about the tricky issues, we can make sure she’s educated on sex and drugs and we can set boundaries and rules. But in the end, it’ll be her choice. All I can do at that point is hope she makes the right one.

Pop Pilates: My exercise of choice

A few years ago, I was once again in a state of temporary desperation to be fitter and healthier. I’d read or heard that pilates was supposed to be a great way to tone up so I thought it would be something to do alongside the jogging I’d started doing. I went on YouTube and searched for ‘Beginners Pilates’. What I found was this video.

For a couple of weeks, I followed this workout every other day, jogging in my local park on the other days. I started feeling stronger and healthier.

I can’t remember what derailed that particular attempt at shedding some of my excess pounds and becoming a healthier person. Maybe it was school holidays or Easter or Christmas or something. To be honest, it could have been a big takeaway curry. My willpower is my greatest enemy.

Anyway, last summer, I found myself eager to try exercise and healthy eating again. Without much consideration, I turned straight back to that video. It was, for exercise, reasonably enjoyable and it was only 30 minutes long so I could fit it into small spaces of spare time. But this time, I actually looked into the person who made and stars in the video: Cassey Ho. She’s a super perky exercise instructor, plus she’s that little bit more realistic than some instructors I’ve used the videos of. It turns out, Pop Pilates is her own form of pilates, designed to be more fun and energetic than the traditional classes. I went on the Blogilates website and found the Beginner’s Workout Calendar. I followed it diligently for four weeks and then continued for a couple of months after that, using the videos I really enjoyed (yes, actually enjoyed) and I found were working best for me.

I lost 1.5 stone in those few months. I felt so much more energetic, healthy and strong. I know I probably sound like a cheesy advert right now but it’s true!

Now three months of regular exercise and healthy eating is pretty amazing for me. But inevitably, it all ended when we went on holiday at the end of summer. I told myself I’ll forget the exercise for a few days and try to be careful with eating. Well, a few days spent at Husband’s grandmother’s house and a day trip to a theme park (ice cream and burgers galore!) and I had gone totally off plan. Then it was back to work and school routine and I completely lost my motivation. I’ve now gained back half a stone.

Now January has rolled around and, despite a slight lack of real motivation (if you read my last post, you’ll know what I mean), I know I need to give a healthy lifestyle another try. The way I see it, if I can lose a stone each year overall, I’ll be my ideal weight by the time I’m 30!

I’ll be going back to the Blogilates Beginners Calendar again. It worked before and I’m hoping it’ll work again. I genuinely recommend this exercise programme to anyone who’s been interested in trying pilates but is a little reluctant or unsure of where to begin.

Good luck to anyone else embarking on a January diet!

Thanks for reading.

(P.S I wasn’t asked to write this review of Blogilates. It’s entirely my own opinion)

Another Day, Another Year

So another year has begun. Goodbye 2016, hello 2017.

Don’t panic, this isn’t yet another internet rant about how terrible 2016 was and how, somehow, 2017 will be so much better.

Actually 2016 wasn’t bad for me personally. Yes, terrible things happened globally and I did feel sad about them but some pretty great stuff happened to me. I graduated from university. I got some ongoing paid writing work. I stopped taking anti-depressant medication. My workplace allowed me to dye my hair pink (and indeed a whole range of other colours that I’ve got my eye on).

In fact, I feel a little unsure about 2017. I’m heading into a year where I don’t have any guaranteed opportunities for achievement. There’s nothing big on the horizon. That’s a little daunting, especially when everyone else is so determined that their 2017 is going to be so bloody brilliant. I feel like I too should be super positive and excited at the new opportunities apparently afforded by a new year beginning.

Instead, if I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit down today. Christmas is over. The tree is coming down tomorrow. We’ll all be back in our usual work and school routine on Tuesday. My daughter is pretty excited about that. She’ll get to see her friends and tell them all about her new bike and all the other cool stuff she got. Meanwhile I’m trying to summon up the motivation to fit some exercise and writing into the cold, empty months that the start of any year inevitably bring.

So yeah. Perhaps not quite the upbeat, fresh start post of New Year optimism people will expect or even want. But there it is.

I genuinely do hope you all have a good 2017 though. Cheers for reading my bleak thoughts. I promise to make the next post a little perkier.

 

Tis the Season!

Christmas has officially arrived in our house. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped up underneath. We’re quite a bit more than halfway through our various advent calendars.

It’s the last day of school term today and, while I am working a few days between now and Christmas, I feel like Christmas really begins when Pip starts school holidays. I’ve had Christmas tunes on all day. I should probably apologise to my neighbours for attempting to sing along!

The tree has one new ornament this year, just as it does every year. We chose this one together – we’re all big Marvel fans and I really like the detailing on it.

img_1286img_1285

img_1307

The first ornament we bought, just after Husband and I visited Paris in 2008

img_1301

Celebrating Pip’s first Christmas

img_1308

img_1300

For our first Christmas in Wales, after moving to Cardiff in 2011

img_1306

For Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary in 2013

img_1304

img_1302

Seemed very fitting for a family of Starbucks fans

img_1303

This year’s ornament, celebrating our surpreme geekiness

img_1284

My best wishes to you all for a happy & fun Christmas and New Year!

Five years in Cardiff

Five years ago, we moved from London to Cardiff. It’s probably been the best five years of my entire life.

Back in 2011, we lived in an area not far from where the riots had recently happened. It’s not easy being out in a place and constantly wondering if the person you’ve just passed in the street was looting a few nights before. We’d been talking about moving away for a long while but it had always felt like fantasy, like when you plan which mansion you’ll buy when you win the lottery rollover (Everyone does that, right?). But with London (or at least the bit of London we lived in) feeling more and more like somewhere we didn’t really want to raise our child, we started looking elsewhere.

620316_10151988371905026_460214143_o

View across Cardiff Bay, 2011

Cardiff was a pretty obvious choice. We’d been there on a day trip a year earlier and instantly loved it. It’s a capital city – a good place to find jobs with plenty of cultural stuff to enjoy – but at the same time it’s a quieter, more laid back and friendly place than where we were. Plus it’s where Doctor Who is filmed and for a family of geeks, that’s a massive tick in the pros column.

616163_10152035952950026_2120956739_o

At the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay, 2012

Husband went on a little reconnaissance mission. The poor guy spent two days looking at what were mostly pretty grim flats, attending job interviews and spending the night in hotel room with a broom closet sized bathroom and a TV smaller than his iPad. He had the pressure of actually picking where we lived without me ever laying eyes on it. When we actually moved, I arrived a few hours ahead of him (he finished packing up at the old flat, while me and Pip went ahead) and he texted me, all anxious about what I thought, given that this was the first time I’d set foot in the place. I think my reply was ‘I f*cking love you’. He’d chosen brilliantly.

I loved that flat. It was the first place that really felt like our home, rather than somewhere we’d had to settle for out of necessity. It was just near Cardiff Bay, still one of my favourite places to visit, plus near plenty of shops including a huge 24 hour supermarket. The best thing about it was it’s second bedroom. Pip finally had a room of her own, which we were all extremely happy about.

We stayed there for a year, then our landlord quite suddenly decided that they were going to sell the flat and gave us just over a month to move out. This time I chose the flat and Husband was the one that didn’t get to see it until after we moved in. I won’t go into much detail about that place but suffice to say, we’ve since made an agreement that he gets to choose all subsequent places we live in. It was bloody awful.

468382_10152813301680026_489589542_o

Victoria Park, 2013

Since 2014, we’ve been living in my favourite place that I’ve ever lived in. Plenty of space, brilliant location and a lovely landlady. I don’t see us leaving here for quite some time yet, which is quite something for a family that’s moved five times in eight years.

I love Cardiff. I love the Bay, a beautiful place to have a walk, take some pictures and perhaps have an ice cream. I love the city centre, full of shops, two museums and a castle, plus a massive library and loads of lovely places to eat.  I love that if you say Good Morning to someone in the street, most of the time they’ll say it back rather than look at you like you’ve just casually uttered a racial slur (seriously, I wouldn’t even make eye contact with strangers in London). I love how comfortable I feel here.

13626442_10157129369740026_1928911186197561700_n

Castell Coch, 2016

Starting fresh in Cardiff has made me a such a different person. I might still be shy but I’m way more confident than I used to be. I’ve faced up to the fact that I have PTSD and depression and had treatment and now I feel so much better. I’m not cured but it’s incurable so being able to deal with it is the best I can do and I think I’m doing it (most of the time).

386472_10150501692052905_1702759151_n

Me, 2011

14721712_10157679938000026_669269821694190653_n

Me, 2016

So thanks Cardiff. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store!