Author of 'Do I have to be good all the time?' wondering about life, love and awkward moments. A lot of of awkward moments, actually. And sometimes chocolate. You have been warned…

Happy Blogday – 6 today!

A sneaky little reminder popped up today letting me know this blog is six years old today! My posts have become almost an annual event, thanks to being busy with other things but here’s a little update on what I have been spending time on…

Mostly the Real Life Love project! Yes, it turns out opening a window into the world of how Christians talk about men and women and love and God is a large and complex subject. Who knew? Thanks to almost 1500 lovely people sharing their experiences and opinions, and a lot of research into history, sociology, faith around the world, sex, marriage, living patterns and much more the book is taking shape. I’m planning for it to make. its way into the world early next year. I would love to let you know more as the book develops and plans unfold, so for occasional updates you can sign up here and I won’t bother you too often. If you’d like to add a comment to the project, you can do so here.

Last week I presented the Daily Service on Radio 4, and it’s available to listen to for a few weeks here  (don’t click the picture; that’s just for fun). I talked about Acts of Generosity, as part of the Lent programming and there’s some nice choral singing too (it’s not me, don’t worry). I have other bits of talking (this time with moving pictures!) on my website, if you decide you want to hear / watch more. Click here if you want to see me interview author Michael Morpurgo – now a Sir – or watch a talk I gave about – can you guess – Christians and marriage and dating and singleness or listen to a few other talks, including a panel discussion about online dating. No wonder I ended up writing a book about it all…

In other news, a long term project to help women’s voices be heard finally went live on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Project 3:28, a collective working towards gender balance in the church, has launched a database for women to sign up to so event organisers and media outlets can contact them and invite them to speak at conferences, festivals, churches, on radio and TV, and anywhere else women’s varied and brilliant contributions should be represented, but often aren’t. It has taken several years to get to this stage, and we – the small team behind it – are delighted it finally exists. If you are a UK-based woman interested in signing up, or a producer or event organiser working in this area, please do visit the site! You can FIND THE DATABASE HERE. Yes, all caps. It’s that good. We have nearly 200 women already signed up, with specialisms including theology, mission, youth work, the arts, leadership, charity, business, entrepreneurship and lots, lots more. Please do encourage women you know to sign up too – we’d love to reflect the breadth of knowledge, skills and experience we know women have to offer.

OK, time to celebrate the blog-birthday with the traditional cake and cheer 😀 Catch you again soon

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Things I’ve been doing

Where does the time go? Mostly on persuading you all to complete surveys!

There are still a few days if you want to listen to me presenting the Daily Service on BBC Radio 4. The theme is divine economics, and I talk about goldfinches and space and who decides what we value and why. (A brief FAQ: Did you choose the music, Vicky? Answer: I did not.)

RLL sky

Thank you for being trusting souls / good sports and sharing your thoughts and experiences over the last few months. The Real Life Love survey had nearly 1500 responses by the time I closed it in January. That’s a lot of stories. I’m now buried under piles of other people’s books about relationships, history, linguistics, and philosophy as well as muchos data. If you missed the survey and have thoughts to share, you can get in touch anonymously via this link. And if you’re a Christian in a relationship with someone who isn’t, there’s an extra little survey here if you’d like to tell me how that is. Anonymously, of course. For very occasional general news and updates on the project and book, there’s a mailing list sign up here.

My website is updated with all kinds of links to things written and spoken. Have a look here if you’re interested. I’ve mostly been engrossed in Real Life Love research since I last remembered I had a blog but here’s a little piece on gentrification I wrote earlier this year.

Til we meet again…

Eye contact?

If we didn’t see each other face to face at the Threads sexy talk event back in July (I wrote this about sexy times ahead of it), there are a couple of opportunities coming up. Next Monday I’ll be at the fantastic Greenbelt festival on a panel organised by dating aficionados Christian ConnectionGreenbelt-web-footerWe’ll be debating ‘Has online dating changed everything?’, kept in order by the lovely Kate Bottley, Googlebox vicar. There are hundreds of hours of brilliant programming at the festival covering arts, faith and justice, so if you’re coming along, try to say hello. Good chance to meet lots of interesting people too – and it’s supposed to be sunny. Perfect bank holiday outing. Especially if you’re a camper.

flanders RLLOn the subject of love and dating, a very big thank you if you’re one of the nearly 950 brilliant people who’ve completed the Real Life Love survey already. So grateful for all the thoughts, opinions, experiences, and ideas you’ve shared. If you haven’t yet, there’s still time. Spare an hour (or less) for an in-depth vent or happy reflection on all you know about how Christians talk about relationships between men and women, love, dating, marriage, family, and all that jazz. I’d love to get as wide a perspective as possible so if you haven’t already, are there people you’d be happy to share the link with? Of course there are. HERE IT IS!

prem  digi 16And, if you like planning ahead, we can also look into each other’s eyes (from something of a distance) at the Premier Digital conference in November. It’s a fun and interesting day, covering all things online, followed by an awards ceremony (there’s still a week to nominate people and things for great faith-based online engagement). I’m doing two premdac talksessions: chairing a debate called ‘They all hate me! How do you cope when the web turns against you?‘ and then an exciting seminar in the Thinkers stream (I know…) about art and death in the digital age. ‘Reaching Beyond: Bowie, Prince and the new eternity‘. This year has been a shocking one for much-loved artists departing without warning. I am intrigued by two in particular: the clever, carefully planned exit of David Bowie, and the unexpected, accidental death of Prince, and how these were captured, manipulated, and became global events because of digital technology. How does this interact with the Christian view on the eternal and life after death? You can see the full conference programme here.

Hope to see you somewhere along the way (and don’t forget the survey…)

Whose life matters?

When I was at University a few years back now, studying history of art before it was the way to meet a future king, and grants were available for the non-monied, I was introduced to the concept of CRASH. Standing for Class, Race, Age, Sexuality, and Handicap, it was a basic tool for beginning to think about who had advantages over who and why and what impact this might have on life chances and the art a person might produce. As a young, straight, white woman it was likely I would have fewer obstacles than an older, wheelchair-using, black, lesbian, for example (cue political correctness gone mad tutting and all the eye rolling). All should have been well in my world – aside from minor issue of the list of risks women face for being women. I did have a black partner though. A privately educated young man from a respectable family, training to be a lawyer. Spoiler: that counted for little in many situations.

That one R variable made a ton of difference. Over a few years I lost count of the number of times he was stopped by the police for suspected involvement in a crime, even ones he’d been nowhere near. A citizens arrest, in one case, as he walked home at night from his shift at the call centre we both worked in during holidays. A pregnant woman had apparently been mugged and he was literally the nearest black man. The reason given by the white men who grabbed him was Continue reading

The Real Life Love Project

RLL scene

Huge thanks to all you lovely people who’ve completed the Real Life Love survey so far. Your responses are invaluable to what will be my new book, looking at romantic interactions between men and women, how these are affected by faith and church experiences and how we find healthy ways through no matter what. So I’d love to know: what are your experiences of Christian teaching on how men and women should meet, date, marry and live with each other happy ever after? Where do you go for advice? What books helped or hindered? What are you concerned about?  What about staying single? What is off limits for you, if anything?

Take the REAL LIFE LOVE survey here.

Over 700 of you wonders have shared your experiences and thoughts so far. Thank you! I would love to hear from more to get a really broad range of views. So, if you haven’t responded already, please do. If you have friends of any age, marital status and church experience, I’d be really grateful if you’d ask them too. If you’d like to be totally anonymous, you can. Only a small number of questions are compulsory; the majority are optional. You can spend 20 minutes or a couple of hours (or days…) on it, and click past anything that isn’t relevant!

LGBTQ people are really welcome to respond too if you have experience of this element of Christian culture – there is space for comments if questions don’t apply.  While the scope of the book won’t extend to LGBTQ relationships – rather focusing on how the church teaches about the area of men and women attracted to people of the opposite sex – I would welcome anyone who would like to to respond with their thoughts and stories on how Christian culture talks about this.

Oh, and if any part of the video below resonates with you, I’m sure you’d find the survey very therapeutic…

Things I’ve been doing (again)…

Let’s face it – I’m a terrible blogger. It’s a good job I didn’t set out to be one. Months pass and I get one of those ever-so-slightly needy prompts (from WordPress, not from sad, wannabe readers) that I haven’t broadcast my thoughts to the world. But actually I have. If you’re interested here’s where you can find them all. My scattered thoughts, for your consumption, some with voices and moving pictures too. It’s like Christmas come very, very early / slightly late. With that in mind, if it’s snowing or about to, you’re allowed to pretend the festive season is right here…

Gallery Show 28

The festive special of The Gallery was all about ‘The New Christmas Storytellers’. It’s an hour of conversation, music, performance and more from artists interested in new ways of looking at Christmas. Legendary writer Michael Morpurgo joined me for an extensive, exclusive interview, and you can watch a clip of that here.

The rest of the show has a splendid array of talented people from around the world including Over the Rhine, A Capella wonders The Swingles and lots more.  You can listen to it here, and there’s a whole page of extended interviews if you want to hear more from War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, or any of the other artists featured.

I’ve been involved in raising awareness of the on-going issue of domestic violence, and yoLinah pink dressu can read the full piece here  about what the church could do to become a safe place for women being abused: “I became friends with Linah in a church, and since her murder I’ve become aware of how many relationships that seem happy and healthy on a Sunday mask terror and pain the rest of the week. There’s something about hearing someone else’s story that makes those who are suffering dare to speak out. I, and many who work with women abused by partners, discovered that quickly. I wonder how many churches are ready for that. Society tends to stand back, bought into the myth of the ‘abusive relationship’ that holds both parties responsible for the dynamic, rather than the reality that one person chooses to abuse the other.”

I’m also quoted in this piece about the murder of Sian Blake and her children. While the risk is still there, I will keep talking about this. I realise how alien it can seem if you haven’t been personally affected, and how much people like me can seem to go on about it. It’s likely you do know people going through this, or who have been affected during their lives. It’s on us all to become aware and to act. I try to add this at the end of every piece, so the abused know where they can find help, and abusers know change is possible:

The National Domestic Violence Helpline (0808 2000 247) is a 24-hour freephone service for women experiencing or concerned about domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues or others calling on their behalf: nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.ukRespect works with domestic violence perpetrators, male victims and young people. If you are concerned about your own behaviour, or the behaviour of someone you know, it can be contacted on 0808 802 40 FREE, by email at info@respectphoneline.org.uk, or through its website, respect.uk.net

adeleAnd just to prove I’m down with the so-called kidz, here’s something about Adele and the brilliant sketch where she infiltrated a group of Adele impersonators and passed herself off as ‘Jenny’: ‘Why Adele was like Jesus for ten minutes last week’. “The Adeles are supportive of each other. Despite taking up the same space, and offering the world the same marketable skill, they are kind to each other. They operate as a team. When ‘Jenny’ misses her cue on stage one of the Adeles breathes deeply in empathy. When she fakes nerves and leaves the room, they share sympathetic glances and one whispers “Bless her…” They feel each other’s pain and joy. Rather than competing, they share their big moment and celebrate their time with their hero.”

funny women proposalIf you’ve ever dreamed of the perfect proposal – a wonderful, heart-stopping thrill ride of romance, imagination, daring and flash mobs, well, you probably won’t like this: ‘Indecent Proposal’, for Funny Women, on the rather cynical proposal industry. “Lovebirds, take note: a betrothal Cinderella would envy is now compulsory. A whole industry is forming around the bestowal of such trinkets, before the wedding roller-coaster even sets off. A simple tale of love shared with a close few is no longer enough; this filtered, curated world requires fireworks (literal, if possible).”

It keeps happening

I thought I was ahead of the game. Five minutes early to walk rather than jog (unwillingly) to the station, as usual. Be a little bit leisurely, even on a Monday. Instead I spent those five minutes watching a man assault his girlfriend, in the street, out in the open. I watched her apologise, try to protect herself, persuade him not to hit her again. I spent those five minutes conspicuously standing across the street, making sure they could see me, asking if everything was OK, waiting in the silence for a response. Yeah OK, they said eventually, first him, then her. Ceasefire, waiting for me to leave. I didn’t leave. Five minutes early, remember, time to stand and wait. He started again, vocal aggression, ridiculous accusations, leaning in, intimidating her. “There are people here, you know,” I tell him, “people all around. People can see”. I am relieved to be proved right, to see a woman and child appear from an alley nearby, a man pull up in a council van. “People can see,” I say again. I look at the girl, “If anyone needs to walk away.” Continue reading