Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things I would like to see happen in 2015

...I lied, I basically wrote this AT work. It was a quiet day.

1) For the media to stop giving Katie Hopkins the column space. Like a fight outside a pub, they need to just leave it, because it's not worth it.

2) For the media to also stop asking famous people whether they're feminists or not, like they're compiling an international register. It's getting really boring, and it's also putting me off people. I don't really need to know whether or not the woman who plays Penny in the Big Bang Theory is a feminist.

Because the thing is, if you treat something like it's a Massively Divisive Issue, then it never becomes anything other than a Massively Divisive Issue. Why don’t we just assume that everyone is strongly pro “women having equal rights” and “women being perfectly capable of making the decisions that are best for them”, and so on? Of course, we know that not everyone is, but if we all start acting like it’s the absolute norm to be Strident Feminists, eventually the non-feminist types will start to feel like the freaks.We can hope.

3) A distint lack of naked photo "scandals". Taking photos of yourself sans clothing, to share with a partner, is not a crime. It is a very normal thing to do - the first thing humans drew, with pebbles on cliff walls, were other naked humans (probably) - and let's face it, we're never going to be any younger or more attractive than we are right now, right this second. Making naked photos of someone who isn’t you and hasn’t consented available online is a crime. It's hardly PhD-level astrophysics to not be a tremendous jerk.

4) More excellent TV programmes with badass female leads, a la Carrie from Homeland. I want a female House, a lady Sherlock, a woman version of Rust from True Detective.

5) A complete overhaul of the current political system, please. (I never said these were going to be realistic goals.) I would like people who've had real jobs doing the nation's admin; people who know what works when it comes to education, healthcare, energy, transport - and/or who are prepared to listen to those who do know.

6) More women on TV. Fucking. Panel. Shows. Again, it's not hard.

7) For up-and-coming writers, musicians, artists, and all other creative types to support each other, help each other out, promote each other's work. I just think it's important. Good karma and whatnot.

8) For fewer judgemental bloody think-pieces on things like cereal cafes and Russell Brand.

9) The complete disappearance of clickbait and "listicles" (irony acknowledged).

Happy New Year!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Naughty Badger's Review of the Year

This was, unarguably, the highlight of my year.
So, the close of 2014 is imminent (which reminds me, I still haven't planned anything for New Year's Eve. Is it even a Thing anymore? Can I not just drink alone in my own house?) and as I haven't blogged nearly as much as I 'should' have done this year, I thought I'd do a round-up to fill in any gaps. Here y'are.

The "back off, dude, this is getting creepy now" moment of the year:

I'll try and nutshell this one but it could be tricky, and you kind of need the details for context.

In January of this year, I was still working at the salon. It was a cold, dull morning, and I was not feeling brilliant, having been up since about 6am with period pain (sorry, male readers, but it's best you know how utterly fucking grim it can be). In walked The Guy (42, with an estranged wife, if that's relevant), and we chatted briefly. He was a regular customer, polite and friendly, therefore immediately memorable, and actually gave me the time of day, which was rare. I made an off-hand comment about having a bad day, and his response was "oh, that's a shame, I'll have to take you out to dinner to cheer you up."

I didn't think he was serious - no-one asks someone out like that, do they? - so I replied with a feeble, "hahahaha...yeah, hahaha..." In my defence, I'd taken some pretty strong painkillers.

Ten minutes after leaving the salon, he returned - practically flying in, not looking at me - and handed me his phone number written on a napkin, and then left again. Now, I didn't think people actually did that, outside of below-average romcoms, so I just sort of stared after him, thinking "oh. What's happening? I'm not sure."

A week later, he brought up the subject of dinner again, and this time, gave me time to say "um, well, I do have a boyfriend."
"Oh. Oh." This was apparently news to him, which is odd, because I was certain I'd mentioned this fact.
"I'm sure I've mentioned him to you...?"
"Yeah, yeah, you have. Not for ages, though. I thought..."
"No. Yeah. Still got him."

Long story short, we did end up going for a friendly drink - because initially, he was just that. Friendly, and funny, and good at... just chatting, I suppose. The Valentine card delivered to the salon was perhaps unnecessary, and he was absolutely baffled by the fact that Drummer Boy knew everything and was entirely unfazed by it. I say "everything"; there wasn't anything to know. "So he really doesn't mind that you're having a drink with me?"
"No. Why would he?"
"It's just weird that he's not bothered."
"Is it?"

Drummer Boy's take on it was refreshing: "I'm not worried. Not in the slightest. There's not exactly any competition, is there?"

Yeah, I'll just leave that one there.

Bringing flowers to the salon was also perhaps unnecessary - "erm, thanks...?" - and when he suggested me going to his flat and having dinner, I started to wonder if I hadn't been clear enough about the whole "I have a boyfriend who I'm definitely not leaving" thing.

He got the message eventually, so now it's just a mildly amusing extended anecdote.

The "is this really happening - in a good way?" moments #1 and #2:

Both of these happened at ArcTanGent. The first was at the silent disco - after finding "Lake ArcTanGent" in our tent following about 19 hours of non-stop drizzle, I was not feeling especially post-rocktastic. I reluctantly joined the others at the silent disco, because the only other options were standing and staring forlornly at our soaked belongings, or scouting out some hard drugs.

And I learnt something that night: you have not lived until you've witnessed a tall, broad, burly man, who is drunk on bad red wine, jumping up and down and bellowing along to "WEEE-EEEE ARE NEVER EVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER!"

Moral(s) of that story: don't ever think you're too good for a bit of Taylor Swift. Oh, and don't buy a cheap tent.

The second one isn't really my story to tell, so I won't, but in short, it's the best poo-related anecdote I've ever been told, and upon hearing it, I decided I'd never be embarrassed by anything, ever again. Just imagine having a terrible stomach upset, in a tent. On a school trip. Yeah.

The "well, that's a relief" moment of the year:

I got a job. I am gainfully employed. I pay tax and everything. Woo! It hasn't stopped Mother Dearest going off on one on a fortnightly basis - "you could be earning more money, why aren't you working in London?" - but it's a start.

The "is this really happening - in a shit way" moment:

Ah yes, a little occurrence I like to call "the time Drummer Boy and I nearly broke up after a Brontide gig".

It should have been a great night, being the album launch show for Artery. But a) we had to leave before the end, which, where Brontide are concerned, is like having really good sex but being called down to dinner before anyone's had time to enjoy themselves properly. And b) well, we nearly broke up after it.

But it turned out that the only thing worse than staying together was not staying together. At the time of writing, we're about as revolting as the couple in Dylan Moran's skit about young people.

The "they say you shouldn't meet your heroes; in this case, they are wrong" moment:

I met Caitlin Moran, after her show at Union Chapel at the beginning of July. She hugged me, someone took a photo - I won't be smiling that broadly on my wedding day, I can tell you - and like every other person in that queue, I asked her what advice she'd give to aspiring writers. She was lovely, she smelled nice, and I wanted to ask her to be my mum.

The Panic Attack of 2014:

With hindsight, Drummer Boy deciding to drive us to The North less than two months after passing his test was a Bold Move. Horsham to Manchester, Manchester to Leeds, Leeds to York, York to Horsham. That's a lot of miles in a small car (nicknamed "the sausage dog", as she's low to the ground but tries her little heart out), and in the centre of Leeds we met our nemesis, our Voldemort, our Smaug, our Wicked Witch of West Yorkshire. The combination of a new driver, a shit Satnav, a nervous girlfriend, a car that hates hill starts and some hideous town planning meant that finding our hotel was something of an ordeal. I came very close to leaping out of the car, with a "sorry, I can't do this" and seeking refuge in the nearest pedestrianised area. By some miracle, we made it to the hotel - and promptly got a parking ticket.

Nice to meet you too, Leeds.

There's loads more that could go in here, but I've rambled on quite enough, I think. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions - who is? - but if I were to make any, they'd go something like this:

1) Write more
2) Read more (which means more books and less internet)
3) Run more
4) that's enough to be going on with.

 See you in 2015.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Other people's houses

I can't tell you how much I want to live in a converted barn. One day I will. One day.

A little slice of whimsy...

There is one advantage to being a panic-stricken cowardy custard who can't bear the idea of driving (hurtling around in a metal box, dodging other hurtling metal boxes? Do you people not understand the potential for death and disaster?!) - well, two, actually. One is that I've never had to join a gym, and the other is that I get to have a nosy at people's houses as I stroll past their front windows. Yes, I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, I'm an interior design pervert.

It might be the need for my own space really kicking in - but let's face it, I'm probably never going to be able to afford a house. And anyway, being responsible for an entire building seems like quite a lot of hassle. But I've done it for as long as I can remember. And I can't be the only one; everyone loves a quick peek into other people's lives. I remember Saturday morning riding lessons, clattering past flint cottages with thatched rooves in the depths of rural Sussex. One house in particular stands out in my memory, not for grand reasons, for small ones: there was a table by the window, and on that table was always a newspaper folded, open at the crossword page, a pen, and perhaps a cup. I don't think I ever saw anyone sitting at the table; maybe their weekend routine was subject to constant interruptions.

We're in prime window-nosing season, because lights go on early, and every house looks warm and inviting when you're walking along a cold, dark road. And my favourite time of year is pretty much upon us, when Christmas lights twinkle at almost every window and streets are dotted with flashes of red, green and gold. I walked down to Drummer Boy's house on the evening of Christmas Day last year, and caught sight of a family congregated in their kitchen, holding mugs and chatting, the remains of their Christmas lunch on the counter. It looked so comfortable - I could picture them having all dozed off after lunch, then coming to a couple of hours later, and deciding that the obvious answer was tea, and maybe a cold roast potato, or a couple of Quality Street. (I'm basing this entirely on my own thought processes during the later hours of December 25th.)

There's a house on my route to and from work that I'm currently a little bit obsessed with. It's recently been completely gutted and re-done, after seemingly standing empty for months, but now, it's beautiful. Boden catalogue, White Company levels of beautiful. Whoever lives in it has put a window seat in the kitchen - the audacity! Who has the time to lounge on a window seat in the kitchen? The rest of the house - well, the bits I can see, peering through gaps in the hedge as I walk past - matches the kitchen: shiny and white and glossy. God, I want to live in that house. There's a place a few yards along from the Dream House that's set back from the road, but I can see a hallway, walls painted cherry-red, with a piano in it. Red would be a good colour for a kitchen, I think - it matches all the best things you'd find in the kitchen: wine, tomatoes, chorizo, jam.

Having read some of this back, I'm starting to think it's not houses I love, but kitchens. If there's one room that represents a family best, it's got to be the kitchen. Ours is incredibly tidy, verging on show-homey, and our toaster is kept in a cupboard when we're not using it. Which is so typical of my mother - you put something down for a minute, go back to it, and she's whisked it away and put it somewhere "useful". Drummer Boy's kitchen, on the other hand, is rarely tidy, but it's always well-stocked. There are always leftovers of something tasty, or some good cheese, or double salt liquorice - which you have to actively learn to like. I don't think I'd ever met anyone who genuinely liked liquorice until I met DB's family.

But it's not all about food; I like living rooms too. I appreciate seeing a good sofa, a few cushions, throw rugs, open fire places, a sturdy wooden coffee table. And bookcases. Show me a living room with a packed bookcase, and I'll probably approve of it heartily. I don't think we have any books downstairs, but I'm running out of places to put them in my room. They're on my desk, my window sill, my chest of drawers (which doubles as a place to keep my ridiculous amount of make-up), the floor. And that's just the start - the vast majority of my book collection is in the garage - ready to be loaded into a car for when I finally get to move to Bristol. Or Bath. Or even back to Belfast (basically, if it starts with "B", I'll go there. I draw the line at Basra though. And Birmingham).

Hopefully, it's not going to be too long before I can have a place that's sort of mine. A little flat - that's all I want for now - stuffed full of books, with somewhere I can put my desk by a window. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" - can't argue with that, Virginia Woolf. I think the same applies for women who veer haphazardly from vague attempts at seriousness to little doses of whimsy.

I've listened to this so many times this weekend. It is perfect.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

On growing up

Read on to find out why these are in any way relevant...

I'm not a proper grown-up yet. I know this because, firstly, I still live with my parents (no, it's not out of choice; how on earth would it be?); secondly, I can't drive; and thirdly, I still get excited about my birthday (it's a whole day about me -  with presents!).

At the moment, getting older doesn't scare me. Drummer Boy recently turned 25, and threw a rather half-hearted sulk about it - and shortly after, bought some yellow trousers. Should I be worried? Is that a symptom of the so-called quarter-life crisis I've read about on Buzzfeed? Anyway, putting DB's sartorial choices to one side, I've never really been fazed by getting older. I've wanted to be "grown up" since I was about six. (One day, I might get there.) It's a relief to be 24; it really is. Done with the awkwardness and uncertainty of being a teenager, I can finally crack on with putting together the person I actually want to be, without having to worry about being "cool" or whatever. I can be boring and totally embrace it.

Speaking of being boring, here's a handful of things I've noticed recently, that make me think I might well be sort of, nearly, almost a Grown-Up:

1) I bought a coat this winter. A warm, reasonably waterproof one - and while browsing coats, found myself saying over and over "I just want a coat that at least covers my butt". Yes, I'm officially my grandmother; someone find me a thermal vest. I was vindicated with this one, though; during a recent walk to work, I found - too late! - that my dress had ridden up and was somewhere around my waist. The people of Horsham would have got an eyeful of be-tighted thigh that morning - but I was wearing the coat. So I think I just about got away with it. I hope so, anyway - my route to work usually has me passing a sixth form college at about 8.35am...

2) I've overcome my intense bath apathy. I've hated baths for about ten years, and have only had them in times of severe weather or illness. But now, after a hard day's sitting down in an office, further sitting down in hot water and nice bubble bath is a treat I can enjoy for oh, all of twelve minutes.

(I mean really, what do people do in the bath? It's like being poached.)

3) I now take exercise out of choice. I have to coax myself into it like I'm tending a sick duckling, but I bloody well do it. It's mainly so I can eat and drink more, if I'm honest - you can't be greedy, vain and lazy, you can only pick two - but it does feel good. And after eighteen months, I now sort of miss it if I don't do it for a few days.

4) I like planning things: "I have a day OFF! We will get up before 10am, and we will go to this place, to look at these things! There's no time to lose!"

5) I have opinions about the following things: architecture, weddings, war, clickbait, unpaid internships, welfare.

I mean, I have opinions about loads of stuff - as I think you might suspect, by now - but those are some of the "official" ones.

6) I have sent emails chasing people to meet deadlines. I have actually typed the words, "Could I have that report by 12pm please Louise?" And then spent five minutes chewing the inside of my mouth going, "was that too harsh? She's probably swamped too. But we need that report or nothing will go out on time!" I'm never going to be anyone's boss. Least of all Louise's.

7) I like early nights now. Do I want to be out, doing shots, acquiring a hangover? No, I want to be in, drinking wine, watching Homeland, acquiring a classier breed of hangover - that's more "a bit fuzzy and tired" than "Christ, I think I'm dying, don't breathe near me please."

8) I know how much I don't know. All the writers I like and admire have read widely, and have all their references down, on everything from history to pop culture. Having spent 19 years in full-time education and only a few months in a full-time job, it's only just dawning on me now that there's still so much I need to cram into my little head. There really is no time to lose.

And here are three things that make me think I've still got a way to go:

1) I still don't quite know what my wine limit is, nor when to leave the pub. "We're in the middle of an amazing conversation about what the best Clash song is*/our plans for changing the world/what the best superpower to have would be - I'm not leaving! What do you mean, we have work tomorrow? Another round so we can solve this!"

2) I still have a blog. Go figure.

3)  I can't clothes-shop to save my life. I keep trying, but it's so... self-esteem-destroying. I have to seek refuge in Waterstones at regular intervals. You're never the wrong shape for books.

*Train in Vain, followed by Rock the Casbah, FYI.

Today, I've mainly been crushing on this guy, and these ones.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

When something is better than nothing

I have to admit, my heart sank a little upon hearing that Band Aid 30 was going to be a thing. “Really? They're releasing that song for the fourth time?” (I then took a great amount of pleasure in being able to prove to Drummer Boy that yes, we have now heard four incarnations of Do They Know It's Christmas? People always forget the 1989 version. Probably with good reason. I digress.)

It's just all a bit, well, pfffff... You know. That song again. It doesn't even make sense – and the lyric edits this time around haven't helped in the slightest. If there's anything more sinister than Bono singing “Tonight, we're reaching out and touching you”, well, I don't want to hear about it. Tomorrow, we're applying for a restraining order. And I mean, who even is Rita Ora? I still don't know.

So, yeah. It's problematic. Rich, famous people telling poorer, less famous people what to spend their money on – and possibly shaming other rich, famous people* for not doing so – is never going to go down well, and Bryony Gordon's somewhat uncharacteristic rant makes this point really well.

*I'm still not 100% sure Adele was “shamed” for not being a part of it. All the reports I've read – and admittedly, that's a grand total of 2.5 – have been very vague about what was actually said.

However – and when I bring out the GCSE History essay game-changing word, you know shit's going down – at least Sir Bob Geldof has done something. Even if that 'something' is 'assembling a rabble of mediocre chart-botherers and cobbling together a single and a music video'. They managed to do that in the space of 36 hours. In the last 36 hours, I've... had a pub lunch, slept a bit, and sat in an office fiddling about with a shitty Sharepoint site. So I can't fault the man for deciding to do something and then bloody well getting on with it.

And yes, the criticism that the great and the good and the former rock stars should just put their hands in their own pockets, donate to one of the incredible charities that are already doing so, so much and shut the hell up about it is perfectly valid. Of course it is. Personally, I'm way more in favour of  quietly donating to your chosen charity than I am of any of the rather more public fund-raising efforts that have been so popular this year. (I'm not going to be specific; we know what I mean. I was going to write about it at the time but I'll be honest, I didn't want to be crucified. I still might throw a few thoughts down; everyone loves that one idiot who's brave/stupid enough to voice their unpopular opinion.)

But there's still something to be said for the people that wish for change - and then come up with ideas to bring about that change, and follow them through. Take Russell Brand - yes, he spouts a lot of words, and maybe only some of them are well-chosen, but whether you agree with him or not, he's done something. He's had enough faith in his own convictions to write a book about them. (I can hear the "yeah, but Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and look what happened there" quips from here, OK?) It's easy, and often right, to criticise people for their egos, their self-promotion and their seeming naivety. Reading some of the criticism of Brand in the last few months has made me think that there is a sense of "but he's just a very average comedian, how dare he have opinions on other things? Get him back in his box!" If you set the dogs on the first person with a new idea, no-one else is going to want to come forward. And so nothing will change. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the only people who've ever made a difference to anything important have always been the ones who were naive - and mad - enough to think that they could.

And do you know what? If I'd had the year Bob Geldof's had, I don't think I'd be throwing all, or indeed any of my energy into putting out a charity single. I really wouldn't. I cannot imagine how awful this year must have been for him, so if he can be thinking about the suffering of others at a time like this, then all credit to him.

I think the only point I'm making here is... live and let live. Or, to nick a Caitlin Moran quote, "don't get in the way". If someone's doing something that they believe in... let them. If you don't like it, do your own thing. It's as simple as that.

This is a much better track than Band Aid 30.

And so is this. I'm going to learn all the words to this; it can be my [very tedious] party piece.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Because a blog post doesn't have to be serious...

 ...sometimes, it's just a case of "I'm really into this right now, so I'm going to inflict it on everybody else!"

I'm pretty smug when it comes to my taste in music (not sure if anyone's noticed). I am wholeheartedly in love with Brontide, who no-one's heard of, I've been to a [very, very drizzly] post-rock festival, and about ten minutes ago I listened to all eight minutes of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. But I do have a bit of a thing - and I won't say 'guilty pleasure', because life is too short to feel guilty about the things that give you pleasure - for late nineties and early 2000s pop.

Such as this prime example. Oh, the acoustic guitars. The harmonies. The spiky hair. The smily boys. The implausibly clean-looking station.

And this. A slightly moodier version of the above, and it looks like a Jack Wills promo video. I still fancy boys who have curtains and who layer short-sleeved t-shirts over long-sleeved ones. And that wobbly, overwrought "I can't get over YEW, baby!" Take it away, boys.

A personal favourite is this one. I have this on my iPod, and still listen to it at least once a week. Again, we've got those acoustic rhythm guitars and incredibly flimsy lyrics. The video itself is kind of dreamy and a little bit soft-focus, and Jennifer Paige is a) wearing clothes, and b) styled in a way that is so typically late-nineties it hurts. The denim jacket over the baby blue, Calvin Klein-esque dress. The choppy haircut. The "natural" make-up. I'm just going to dissolve into a puddle of nostalgia, I'll catch you guys up.

And who didn't love this song? At least the first 492 times it was played on the radio in 1997, anyway. Once again, it's all a bit dreamy, and once again, our singer has a bob that's less "choppy" and more "Edward Scissorhands is my stylist, what of it?" She's also rocking a floaty-dress-and-boots combination that I quite like.

And, the video that actually sparked this post - it's one of my all-time favourite songs and I will always love her - this one, from 2001. I revisited this video while writing about Michelle Branch for something else (codename: The Other Project), and it made me laugh out loud, because suddenly I was eleven again, and just starting to learn the guitar, and music was The Most Important Thing In The World.

There's the bootcut jeans, and the top with the cut-off sleeves. The impeccably straightened, layered hair. The Lust Object with his shirt unbuttoned over his vest thing. A lot of moody shots of Michelle, as she plays guitar like she means it, and sways slightly, because the video director is telling her she has to move a bit - she's a female pop star, she can't just stand there and play her instrument. The requisite party scene, where people are jumping up and down for no apparent reason. We've also got people standing in front of a backdrop of trees for no apparent reason. Upon spotting her mystery man, she legs it downstairs to try and find him. But alas, she has to return home alone - clearly pissed off that stalking him and noting his every move hasn't worked - but would you look at that? He's in her living room.

There's no way I can end this post with a meaningful line, so I'm not even going to try.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

On doing something for nothing

It's kind of tricky to admit, but I know I can be pretty selfish at times. Certainly no more so than the average twenty-something - I hope - though I do have an aversion to sharing food and drink that borders on the psychopathic. And to make that worse, I am That Girl - the one that won't order her own chips/onion rings/pudding, but will absolutely expect you to share yours with me. I'm sorry. I'm working on it (I'm not).

On Saturday, however, I did a small, reasonably selfless thing - I volunteered at the Cancer Research UK Shine Night Walk. Which meant I chose to spend my Saturday night standing at a pedestrian crossing in Trafalgar Square, from 11.30pm to 7.30am, making sure 16,000 walkers went in the right direction and didn't get run over (I was at about mile 18; it would have been a terrible waste to get mown down at that point). It was, all things considered, a complete and utter blast.

The reason I decided to do it wasn't because I now work for CRUK (though I do enjoy it; but mainly I just like being employed). It was actually because of a wonderful friend of mine, who was walking the walk, in memory of her mother. This friend has been through a fair amount by anyone's standards, and is still one of the loveliest, kindest, most thoughtful and fun people I've ever met. It was kind of a solidarity thing - I thought, if she's going to be walking 26 miles through the night, the least I can do is help out for a bit. So I did.

And what a night it turned out to be. When I arrived at my designated station, I wasn't in the best mood - I was already getting the first wave of tiredness, the one that makes you think wistfully of sinking into bed. And the station manager was the most Scottish woman I've ever met, and she was so loud and enthusiastic that I'm sure she was an American cheerleader in a past life. At 10.30, this was not what I wanted. At 6am, when I had my next proper encounter with her, it was actually exactly what I needed.

I was partnered with Steve - "what a guy!" said Mrs Cheerleader, and they were not the words I would have used to describe Steve - and we were walked to Trafalgar Square and put in our spots. The only memorable thing about Steve was what he said after giving me one solitary fruit pastille: "your sugar levels will probably crash after that". Steve, dude. I've weathered exam seasons fuelled by Haribo Tangfastics, coffee and Mini-Eggs. My tolerance for sugar is second to none. One fruit pastille's just a drop in the saccharine ocean.

So then it was just a case of standing there, in a snazzy high-vis t-shirt and hat, feeling like a lemon - and looking like one, incidentally. The first walkers came by about an hour later, but stormed past like they were in a Liam Neeson film and were on a mission to fuck shit up. And then I waited another hour, and more walkers started to appear. But of course, this was London on a Saturday night, so while I was waiting on Shine walkers, I provided the tipsy revellers of Trafalgar Square with much amusement. "Why are you all in yellow? Do you have to stand there all night? What charity is this for? What are you DOING?" Most people were lovely, and simply curious, but I did acquire a creepy "friend" for a while - he wouldn't leave me alone, and then would wander off for a while, but return ten minutes later and ask if he could stand there all night. Eventually, he realised he'd lost his phone at some point, and I put on my best bossy voice and said "I really think you should go and find it", and he left.

The loveliest drunkard of all though was Eric. He'd lost his friend on their night out and decided to just stay and chat for a while: "So you're standing here all night?" "Yes." "For free?" "Well,  I work for the charity, but I'm doing this for free?" "All night?" "Yes." "For free?" "Yes."


"Have they even offered you a cup of tea?"
I replied that they hadn't.
"I'm going to buy you a coffee!"
"No, don't be silly. And I don't have any change, anyway."
"No, it's fine." And off he stumbled.
I decided that, given the state he was in, I'd be surprised if I actually got that coffee. And I later found out that he had tried to offer it to Steve, who'd helpfully directed him back to me. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a 4am latte more. The price for this was having him stand there, shouting "encouragement" ("come on ladies, only six miles to go!" "Erm, there's men there too, and it's eight miles. You can't tell them it's only six!") and every so often having him try and call his friend to get him to "come to the bright yellow lady!"

So if anyone knows a London-based, half-Finnish journalist called Eric, can you tell him that the bright yellow girl says thanks for the coffee? Cheers.

The night wasn't without its low points - the main one being at about 5.30, when I realised I hadn't seen the tea-coffee-and-loo van at all, and to be honest, quite needed it. I flagged down one of the the volunteer cyclists who were patrolling the route, and he hared off to find it. It was at this moment that a passing French guy chose to ask me about the event. I was almost bent double, as my back was really starting to hurt from the hours of standing, and also my kidneys were beginning to feel like they might explode. "What is this?" he asked. I couldn't be bothered to simplify the explanation, so went with "it's a Cancer Research UK walking marathon".

"Cancer?" he said, with a look of concern in his eyes, and I nodded, and went back to crouching down, trying to ease the pain in my lower spine. So now there's probably a French guy who thinks I have something terribly wrong with me. Sorry.

But then Mrs Cheerleader arrived to pull me and Steve from our positions, and give us tea and biscuits and a sit-down, and her sheer pep was just the thing to get us through the last hour or so.

And watching the sun rise in the Square was possibly one of the most beautiful things I've seen in ages - the sky lightened slowly, gently, and the morning was crisp and clear and pale blue and gold. The best kind of day. There was hardly anyone around by this point, except event staff and street cleaners - peace at last. At the end of the shift, I walked back down the Mall, towards Victoria Station, and wished I could stay up all night in London more often, so I could see things like this:

It was such a great event, and all of the Shiners were truly amazing - so positive, right the way through the night. Good on you, every single one. You were fantastic.

I might have to actually walk it next year.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Long time, no blog

So. It's been a while. In fact, I'd sort of made the decision to abandon this blog - at least temporarily, anyway. I have a real job now, in an office, and it involves spreadsheets and phone calls, and means that there is no better time than 5.30 on a Friday evening. And I'm actually trying to write something... bigger. Which sounds counter-intuitive; who gets a full-time job and decides that their now-limited free time must be spent tackling a sizeable writing project? Oh, that's right, me. Why? Well, because if not now, when I'm supposedly young and fresh and energetic and full of half-thought-out ideas, then when? But more on that another time. I'm going to be testing it out, possibly on a different blog, so if you're interested, watch this space.

Anyway. This post is all the fault of my friend Catherine. She tagged me in one of those "make of a list of things then nominate others to do the same" Facebook statuses, and while usually I ignore them, it's such a lovely one that I couldn't not make that list.

In no particular order, here are ten books that, in the course of my reading life, have seemed terribly important and world-view-changing at some point or another.

1) Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott. Yes, I'm sure I've wanged on about this one before, but I caught the film on TV again relatively recently, and it struck me again how bloody relevant the story is. On the surface of it, you might think that the lives of four girls and their mother in Concord, Massachusetts, at the end of the American Civil War would be of little consequence to the average modern reader, but let's take Jo March, the second daughter. A tomboy, a guy's girl, when girls weren't allowed to be. An aspiring writer, who wanted to do Something Good and Important, at a time when women had very little power. An angry young woman who, upon being left at home after one sister married and another went to Europe, had a massive rant about not fitting in and wanting to run away, and who then took herself to New York and got cracking with a writing career.

And the best part of it is, Louisa Alcott didn't even want to write the book. Her publisher suggested she write something about her own life, and she wasn't keen. And then she only went and created one of the greatest families in literature. Thanks, Louisa.

2) The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. Grosz is a psychoanalyst, and The Examined Life is a collection of patient histories. It's fascinating - I had to ration my reading of it, as each case is brief, so you can sail through the book in a day, maybe two if you're busy. It's astonishing how people will repeat the worst behaviour of their parents and relatives and remain unaware that they're doing it, until they are shown. It's a book that makes the reader more aware of themselves - something only truly good books can do.

3) Eating Myself, Candida Crew. Again, I've mentioned this one before, but it's great for anyone who's ever felt a bit weird about food. Crew explores what she calls "normal-abnormal" attitudes to food, putting forward the theory that the vast majority of [white, Western] women are just on a scale of abnormality when it comes to food and dieting. Some are more normal about it than others, but we all have our "things".

4) Ulysses, James Joyce. No, I haven't read the whole thing - I'm not entirely mad, and I've had stuff I needed to get done, to be honest - but I read bits of it for a uni module, and if James Joyce taught me one thing (other than "maybe don't write a 700-page book") it's that you can make up words that fit what you're trying to say. No-one's going to stop you. In fact, they'll probably ply you with awards and praise.

5) Running Like A Girl, Alexandra Heminsley. I'm not much of a runner - even less so since I rediscovered swimming - but Heminsley's book about how she turned herself into a marathon-runner is genuinely inspiring, and touching, and funny. Worth it for the bit where she completes the San Francisco marathon (I cried, on a bench in town, on my lunch break) and for the line "I decided to be able to". That's how you get things done.

6) Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. Another lofty choice, another hangover from my English degree. Thing is, it's wonderful. I thought it was going to be all grey and grim and muddy, like a long weekend in Yorkshire, but it made me think about society and class and whether social mobility is actually possible.

7) How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran. There was no way I wasn't going to include this. There are better books about feminism, sure, but none that are as funny, or as brutally honest. Moran has helped make it OK to talk about things we previously kept to ourselves. Better still, she made it OK to joke about them. She turned Mother Feminism - originally a stern, scary headmistress-type, full of righteous anger - into the cool girl in the pub who wants to get drunk with you, tell filthy stories and become your best mate.

8) Unsticky, Sarra Manning. I should probably apologise for having something that looks a lot like chick-lit on this list, but I'm not going to. I read Manning's teen fiction when I was at school, and she started writing "grown-up" books as I reached my late teens, so I sort of think we grew up together. Her heroines are always slightly awkward and moody, with good hearts, and her love interests are always intriguing with astonishing bone structure (I think my obsession with cheekbones comes from reading too much Manning). And she's one of the few writers who can write a hot sex scene - which is important.

9) The Equality Illusion, Kat Banyard. For anyone who's ever wondered why we still need feminism, or has ever uttered the words "I don't know what feminists are complaining about" - read this book.

10) I'm agonising over the last slot on this list - I really am. There are so many books that have had an impact on me, and the vast majority of them aren't big and important works of literature. A lot of the books I've returned to, and re-read over and over and over, are just small, simple stories. The "Jill" pony books of the 1960s - a girl and her horses and her friends, living in the country and riding all the time, the worst thing that ever befell anyone was a horse going lame on show day. Anything and everything by John Niven - if I'm ever half the writer Niven is, I'll die happy. I've never come across a writer who's so skilled at making the reader empathise with such vile characters. (I'm also willing to bet that Ruby Ferguson's "Jill pony books" and "John Niven" have never been mentioned in the same paragraph, and probably never will be again.) Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette - because I have a bit of a fascination with the maligned queen, and regularly daydream about Versailles and all its mind-melting grandeur. Chavs by Owen Jones - because it's political and meticulously researched and right, and because Owen Jones is brilliant.

I can't pick one; there are too many. Each book is another little world, that either takes you away from your life for a while, or makes you feel your life more keenly - makes you understand your own "self" a little better. The best books manage to do both.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Confidence crisis

This one got a bit self-analytical and emo. Consider yourselves warned.

Here's a tragic realisation: I turn 24 in less than three weeks, and I have no idea how to stand up for myself.

To people who have no choice but to put up with me - to people where arguments are a natural part of the relationship - I can. My mother, Drummer Boy; I have no problem arguing with them (I should, but I don't). Anyone else - colleagues, bosses, even friends - I can't. And it's got to the point where I need to learn pretty damn quickly.

Trouble is, once everyone has you pegged as a quiet one, one who won't make a fuss, you're kind of doomed. When you finally do put your foot down with a firm hand, everyone is taken aback and thinks you're being a bitch. You end up over-doing it, because everything you've put up with over the previous weeks/months/years has gathered and grown, so by the time you get around to speaking up, it simply comes out as, "screw you guys, I can't take this bullshit anymore," Carrie-from-Homeland style.

I'm not even particularly laid-back; I'm pretty highly-strung. Things that make me hissy include but are not limited to: not having enough to do, having too much to do, being rushed, other people being slow, cold showers, the Boy not being a fully-qualified mind-reader, and my mother offering me food*. I know, I know - I'm probably going to spend a lot of time in some sort of therapy when I can afford to.

*She barely eats, but insists that everyone else eats loads. It makes me irritable.

Obviously, the problem with standing up for yourself in work-related situations is that there can be pretty serious consequences. If you're just having a bit of a scrap with a loved one, the worst that can happen is a few hours of sulking and silence. If you try and point out - however tactfully and politely - that your boss is being totally unreasonable and that something needs changing, you could lose your job/have your colleagues turn against you, et cetera. Nine situations out of ten, those things won't happen, but there's still a risk, and it won't always pay to take that risk.

It's frustrating though, because I think it's a confidence thing. It feels like there's a part of my personality missing - the "no, I will not take your bullshit" part. It's really sad but I think I'm just too scared of being disliked. (Having written that sentence out for The Internet to see, I realise how pathetic that is. Oh dear.)

I've half-wondered if it's also partly a woman thing - I've been told many times that I'm too nice (it's not even true! I can be a right so-and-so when things aren't going my way, I just pick and choose who sees it) and I'm fairly certain that girls are brought up to be "nice" in a way that boys aren't. Studies conducted in US schools found that girls receive harsher punishments for being "rowdy" (for example, answering the teacher back) than boys do for the same wrongdoing. Nice guys finish last, but nice girls go far (that isn't true either, I am hugely in favour of nice guys. They're better in bed, for a start). But I can't blame society - like I said, it's in my hands now. It's time to take responsibility and learn how to be assertive. I'm not trying to be a ball-busting, hard-as-nails bitch, I just need a sodding backbone.

A piece of advice I've seen a few times is this: pick a role model, and do what you think they would do. Admittedly, it does sound like something you'd read in a teen girl magazine, but you don't have to pick Beyonce as your "model" (I'm not nearly black nor American enough to pick her, anyway). Who would I choose? Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, Owen Jones? Great, so my options in times of trouble are: making amazing puns followed up with devastating insights (Moran), saying something brilliantly snarky but very funny (Dent), or pulling out some well-chosen statistics and being fantastically socialist with a Northern accent (Jones. I say all that with admiration and lust though, he's my current intellectual crush). None of that is applicable to my life at the moment, sadly. So that's not much help.

Perhaps I should look closer to home. My mother? No. Confident she may be, but she still says "yes" to everything, knackers herself out, takes it out on the rest of the family, all the while pretending it's all her idea. I love her, but I will not do the martyr thing. The Boy? He always appears to be incredibly self-confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance. I know it's not genuine arrogance, but it doesn't really matter - if you look like you're confident in yourself and aren't going to stand for any bullshit, then people are simply less likely to try and take advantage. Fake it til you make it and whatnot.

Pffft, as usual, I don't know. If anyone's got any tips or tricks, feel free to share.

In the meantime, there's music:

I don't know why I like this song so much, having always been pretty underwhelmed by the singer in question, but I cannot get enough of the lyrics at 2:58 - there are songwriters with three decades on her that couldn't come up with lines like that.

And this song - despite the video being utterly bonkers, and the lyrics sounding like Avril Lavigne wrote them -  keeps getting Stuck. In. My. Head. So now y'all have to suffer it too. (It is quite cute though.)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

From Bristol with love

I took this.
Or: "Naughty Badger's* step-by-step guide to an awesome couple of days away".

*Not sure if I've explained this nickname. It's not as deviant as it sounds, unfortunately.

Step one: Set off alarmingly early, because your significant other needs to renew their railcard and is confident that this can be done at the station before 7am. On a Sunday morning. Resist the urge to tell them not to be so ridiculous.

Step two: Find that, indeed, it is not possible to renew said railcard. Resist the urge to hiss "I bloody knew it, you moron". A conductor tells you to get off at Clapham and do it there - but the conductor does not understand that you are booked on a specific train from London Paddington and if you miss it, there will be financial consequences.

Step two, part b) Get off at Clapham. Wait for significant other (SO or "Boy" from now on) to take passport photos and fill out form. Assure him that his face doesn't look "wonky" in the photos. (It does look a bit wonky.)

Step three: As expected, miss scheduled train. Fail to remain chipper - it's cold, and you've been up since about 5 - and snap briefly. Then feel bad. Have fruitless exchange with member of station staff, who rightly asks "why did you get off at Clapham if you had booked tickets for the 9.03 from here?" Pay for new tickets.

Step four: Once on train, doze off on Boy's shoulder, but keep sliding down into his lap, causing him to worry about what this looks like to other passengers.

Step five: Get to Bristol and feel high as a kite that you're back. Chatter like a [well-rested] child at Christmas. Discuss lunch: "I really feel like soup. Something healthy but warm." End up in 'spoons with a cheese toastie and a pint. Which both go down an absolute treat.

Step six: Because you have an exceptionally cavalier attitude to deadlines, spend the afternoon writing feverishly in order to meet one. The Boy is fine with this, as he has John Niven's latest book and, unusually for him, a Nintendo DS.

Step seven: Drink strawberry beer. Realise at about half-ten that you're starving. Make plans to take pizza back to your hotel room (do it once and you'll have a glorious tradition for life. Trust me). Head to nearest pizza place, scoff at prices. Head to nearby Tesco Express, whip out iPhone, find a deal, order pizza. Return to pizza place, collect pizza. Worry about how disapproving the hotel staff will be when they see you carrying the pizza box to your room. Boy assures you repeatedly that no-one will notice or care.

Step eight: The hotel has locked the front door, and you must show your keycard to be let in. Which means you and your pizza have been noticed. Refuse to make eye contact, feel mortified. Once inside the lift, hiss at Boy: "Sorry, what was that you said? No-one will notice or care?!"

Step nine: Forget feeling mortified, demolish pizza in bed while watching CSI: Miami. Realise that far from being cool and exciting, eating pizza in bed with fairly awful American TV and a nice young man beside you is actually the dream. Also realise that the main dramatic device of CSI: Miami is... the way... Horatio pauses... to make every utterance seem... really... significant.

Step ten: Following a pretty poor night's sleep - partly due, no doubt, to being chock-full of cheese and pepperoni, but also because you seem to be in The World's Hottest Hotel Room - drink a bajillion cups of coffee. And find that Brendan Cole, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, is staying at the same hotel, with a group of musicians and dancers from his show.

Step eleven: Go shopping. While in Topshop, receive an e-mail saying that one of the five pieces of copywriting you did the previous afternoon has been accepted. Figure that the company is going to e-mail you about each piece separately, which means you have four more to go (you're good at maths). Immediately think back and realise that you wrote a lot of bollocks. Narrowly avoid having a full-scale panic attack in Topshop. Think, for the ninetieth time in your life, that coffee and an anxious personality do not mix.

Step twelve: receive four other e-mails telling you your pieces have been accepted. The red fog of anxiety clears.

He took this.
Step thirteen: Head to Clifton - the only reason you come to this city at all, really. Time it perfectly so that you're standing on the bridge as the sun goes down. Let the views knock you sideways, like they always do. This is the bridge where it all began, two and a half years ago. It will never not be the most beautiful place in the world.

(Give any readers permission to be a little sick, if they haven't already.)

Step fourteen: Get cold, go to a pub. Drink more strawberry beer, try a pilsner called Veltins, which is honestly one of the best things you've ever drunk. Go and eat a terrifying amount of glorious Indian food at Clifton's Thali Cafe. Wonder how on earth you're going to fit in a cocktail or two (we had vouchers for free ones).

Step fifteen: Walk back to the hotel, seeing the city lit up around you. Debate whether the definition of true love is both "finding the person you want to annoy for the rest of your life", or "finding the person you can stand being annoyed by for the rest of your life".

Step sixteen: Decide that you can probably stomach at least one cocktail, so reluctantly shoe-horn yourself into a dress and head down to the bar. Watch as Boy promptly sloshes quarter of his first drink over his jeans. Feel old because the amount you've eaten and drunk over the last thirty-something hours is catching up with you, and you just want to sink into that big hotel bed.

To finish: As the train leaves Temple Meads, remember that year you spent in Cardiff, flitting to Bristol whenever you had a few days spare, and how flat you felt when you had to get on the train alone on Sunday evenings. Feel grateful and relieved that you don't have to do that anymore.

Get home, Google "jobs in Bristol".

You really need to listen to this guy. Saw him last night, and he is disgustingly talented.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A double whammy. Whatever that is.

Instead of one big, lofty, I'm-totally-changing-the-world-here post, today you get two little ones. They're just little oddities I can't put anywhere else. 

The reluctant runner... 

Dressage is NOT "horse ballet"
I've never been what you call "sporty". The only remotely energetic things I was interested in while at school were hockey and horse riding. (I now get disproportinately cross when there's any sort of equine sport on TV and people think it's OK to take the piss out of dressage. There's a metric fuck-tonne of skill that goes into that, all right? It's not just horses dancing. It's not.)

I went through a phase when I was about 15 or 16 where I got a bit obsessed with being skinny. Nothing major, no medical intervention, and it was cured by a bout of food poisoning - after five days of whimpering on your bathroom floor, you start to miss the ability to keep food inside you - but that was when I started dragging myself out running. Which, incidentally, was another thing cured by the food poisoning, as it took a good month or so to not feel totally drained by everything. I digress. Running was exercise I didn't mind doing. I pretty much forgot about it while at uni, but in late spring last year, I decided to go back to it. I figured that I might as well get into good habits now, before I get to the wrong side of 27 and all that cheese and wine weight suddenly comes out from wherever it's been hiding for the last few years.

And so now I run. The first ten times, it was painful and knackering. But then one day it felt easier, more natural, and that in turn made it easier to keep at it. I remember my doctor telling me, at the height of That Anxiety Thing I Had, that exercise could really help work off the excess adrenaline that was making me feel so bloody mental. I'm still not sure if this is true for me personally - as at least once every run I become briefly convinced a heart attack is imminent - but it certainly boosts my mood. In the damp, drizzly winter months, it's incredibly hard to want to go out and get moving. You can be putting on your trainers and opening the front door, repeating "no, I don't want to, can't I just stay in with biscuits and Netflix?" but by the time you've done a warm-up jog, you've come around to the idea. Your legs - and ideally, your energizing playlist - take over, and you think "look at me go! I'm doing it. I already feel awesome!"

And then you come home to a warm house, and biscuits and Netflix, and you're snug and smug. Because that, I've found, is the thing about running - sure, it gets your heart, lungs and leg muscles engaged, it burns off some calories - but it makes you feel jolly smug. And if that's not a reason to keep doing something, then I don't know what is.

Not even a bit related...

The very tip of my make-up iceberg


I've written about make-up before, and as a rule, I try not to write gender-specific posts, but I read this yesterday and had one of those "Oh God, yes!" moments - and, as something of a rarity, all the comments on the piece are lovely, and worth a read. (If you don't know who Sali Hughes is, she's the Guardian beauty writer but also does a lot of other journalism work. She's mates with Caitlin Moran, and seems like an all-round good egg.)

So yeah. I love make-up. I can spend hours - and a small fortune - in Boots. I'm not insecure about my looks - well, I am, but no more than the average woman - and I don't wear it all the time, but I do love make-up. It's fun. I like the possibilities, the playfulness. I like not having to leave the house with the face I woke up with. You can be anyone - smudgy eyeliner a la Kate Moss, or classically red-lipped like old Hollywood stars. Though, if truth be told, I've yet to master either of those without looking like a child who's got hold of Mummy's make-up bag. The point stands though - it's fun, it's transformative; it can make you feel bolder, more confident. And when you're confident, you function better. You literally have your game face on.

Male friends - and I say this with love, and an unwillingness to make sweeping generalisations - don't get it. "You look great without make-up, you don't need to wear it." OK - a) I don't look "great" without it. Honestly. I don't. I see my face every day, I know it better than anyone. B) I want to wear it. I like it. I like the ritual of it - it's ten minutes at the beginning of the day that are calm; just me, doing my thing and trying not to get mascara on my eyelids. And on bad skin days, a bit of foundation and concealer can make the difference between a good mood and a bad mood. Another favourite line trotted out by men is "I don't like women to look fake... lots of eyeliner, false eyelashes - nah, just doesn't do it for me". You know what? That's because it's not for you. We do it for us. We really, really do. (Weirdly, on the rare occasions the Boy has noticed and complimented my make-up, it's been when I'm wearing more eyeliner than usual. Maybe he likes the slightly gothy look? Who knows?)

I don't like having to downplay an interest in make-up and beauty as a guilty pleasure, as something that's too "girly" and not useful. I'm properly geeky about it at times - a lifetime of problematic skin has given me a genuine curiosity about ingredients and techniques that work, and those that don't, and why. The idea that you can't be smart and bothered about your appearence refuses to die. If you express an interest in beauty, and appear to enjoy spending money on new products, you can still expect to be thought of as a bit vain or superficial. And that's frustrating, and wrong - on the Sali Hughes piece, find the comment about the woman who escaped a violent partner, got to a refuge and asked for, amongst other things, her favourite face cream. Sometimes your beauty routine - however basic or complex it might be - can keep you together, emotionally. Like I said, it's a moment of calm, a ritual. Therapeutic, almost. During WWII, American cosmetic brands gave their lipsticks names like "Patriot Red" or "Fighting Red". And in the fifties, beautiful, quirky powder compacts became all the rage - after years of rationing and the dark times of war, reclaiming a little bit of luxury and glamour became important.

OK, I've rambled on enough now.

On the subject of beautiful things, here's this.

Friday, 3 January 2014

This old chestnut...

Happy New Year and all that. Personally, I'm hoping that 2014 is going to be a vast improvement upon 2013, which was - to put it politely - patchy at best. I'm going to kick off the year with a feministy rant. Sorry.

I love a daft stock image.
Shortly before Christmas, I spent most of a day writing a piece on whether society still judges women who choose not to have children, as part of a staff writer application (miraculously, they liked what I wrote). Now, normally, I'd be all over that shit. As someone who has always found the whole pregnancy and childbirth thing utterly terrifying, and who has only recently started to think "aww, kids might be fun", it's something I could bang on about for yonks. But my word limit was around the 400-mark, so not nearly big enough. I like to throw all my thoughts at the page and see what sounds good, so small word counts are tricky. I also felt a bit bored by the topic - like "we're really still having this conversation?" But we are. I even asked my mum - not that she's the best person to ask, Mrs Daily Mail - and she shot back straight away "yes, we do judge childless women, without a doubt".

So here's the unabridged result of me throwing some thoughts at my laptop.

For all the progress we've made in a few decades (the vote, education, employment, equal pay - in theory if not in practice - and contraception), feminism's still got things to do*. It's got to deal with all the insidious stuff - the attitudes, the media's representation of women, how women are treated by the legal system - stuff that is, arguably, harder to tackle. If you want legislation changed, there are procedures you can follow - campaigns, petitions, advocacy groups - you get the picture. It might not be easy, it might not be successful, but there are ways and means, paths that have been trodden. To change attitudes, you have to shout into the wind and hope that enough people hear you. You have to call people out when they say things that are narrow-minded, unintentionally offensive or just plain stupid. At best, they might accuse you of not having a sense of humour, and at worst, they might be hostile, aggressive and threatening.

*Despite what Angela Epstein said on Newsnight a couple of months ago, when they did a piece on Everyday Sexism. I didn't know Ms Epstein wrote for the Daily Mail at the time, so I sat there and seethed about how contrary and deliberately obtuse she was being. When I looked her up afterwards, it all made sense.

Anyway, back to the thing. Womanhood and motherhood remain inextricably linked, despite all the progress that's been made. The notion that you're not a fully-fledged human being until you've produced a new one persists - if you're female. Women who choose not to have children, and instead throw their energy and intelligence into their careers, travelling the world, or simply going about their own business - quite happily - still have to deal with questions and remarks that are loaded with judgement:

"When are you going to settle down?"

"Give it time, your hormones will kick in."

"You'll change your mind."

From aging relatives hoping for grandchildren, you might expect it. But I've had the latter two said to me by male friends my own age. In my case, I happen to think they're right - I would like children, it's the personally having them I'm not so keen on. If it was simply a case of planting a tree and plucking a baby off when it was ripe, I'd be all for it. Or growing one in a tank, like Sea Monkeys. It's the giving up my body in order to grow a little human that I have the issue with. And then forcing it out into the world. It's the biggest physical commitment there is, and only women can do it, so when it's men saying "oh darling, you'll change your tune", I get a little riled and want to spit back "how the bloody hell would you know?"

The flip-side of this was pointed out to me by a very wise friend - it's incredibly rare that you hear parents saying that it's not all it's cracked up to be. There must be some people out there who have children and have found that were they able to go back, they wouldn't have had them. You don't hear those stories, because it would be horribly damaging to the children in question to find that out. There are people who never planned on kids but had them, and wouldn't change a thing, but that's a far more socially acceptable position to take. Society needs to catch up and recognise that motherhood isn't something that women have to cross off the list - we need to stop having conversations that run thus: "she's very successful, yeah, top of her field. Never had kids though". Making and raising new humans is such a commitment, such a life-changer, that you have to really want to do it. It's the unwanted children, the resented ones, who will suffer.

One day, women's choices and decisions aren't going to be the subject of endless judgement and debate. One woman's way of doing things won't be seen as representative of the whole of womankind. We will all - men included - just be allowed to get on with things. And let's hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

I don't have a sex playlist (well, not as yet, but you never know) but if I did, this would be on it.

And when I went for a very chilly, rainy run the other day, this song made me feel invincible.