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…
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 you 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.uk. Respect 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 email@example.com, or through its website, respect.uk.net
And 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.”
If 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).”
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
Somehow it’s August. Though I haven’t written anything just for here in quite a while (er, did someone say January…?) I have been busying around elsewhere. Here’s a few of the things I’ve been doing…
I made a radio programme! The Gallery is a show exploring culture and the arts through the lens of faith. It’s half an hour of performances and interviews with talented, interesting people talking about their work including painter Charlie Mackesy, comedian Jo Enright, award-winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts and TED talk slam poet Harry Baker. Have a listen, tell me what you think and if you like it, tell your friends (#TheGallery). There are extended interviews online too so you never have to be starved of insight and loveliness ever again. Listen here.
I’ve been writing too, mostly about culture, society, and women. It’s been two years since my friend Linah was killed by her ex-partner. I wrote about her life and death after the murder trial was finally over last year in The Independent (piece here) and to remember her again I wrote a piece this week for Cosmopolitan after an incident that reminded me how domestic violence is an on-going issue nobody should look away from. “If the pattern of the last decade continues, there will be another Linah every 3.5 days. Another woman killed by male violence. Another name kept alive through words only. Another headline fading into a statistic. Another funeral, inquest, and trial. It appears I can not walk by anymore, literally or figuratively. Though it’s painful for Linah’s death to overshadow her life, reminding the world she existed may help to change the outcomes of other women.” Read the full piece here.
Going back into my past life, when I used to travel the world visiting factories, I interviewed stylists, experts on ethical sourcing & buyers to find out if things have changed and how we can buy better: “Before that final transaction in a busy high street store, costs were incurred right across the world and the greatest costs landed with the people with the least power and fewest options. Our low price is someone else’s compromised life. We have privilege, we have choice and we’ve started to feel entitled, leaving the ethics to someone else despite evidence of exploitation.” Click here to read We all deserve a better high street.
I wrote about how images of war are used to sell products. This is Who is that boy? Faraway wars and western media: “A bedraggled, bewildered, toddler clutching a grubby teddy bear, alone in the rubble of an unnamed land. Not the latest news from Syria, Iraq, or Ukraine, but the debut of a new advert for an optician.” Read more here.
I write a lot about how women are represented in media, including this review of recent news: It’s been terrible week for women and yes, it matters. Covering an array of stories from the changing of the Tesco self-checkout voice to the deaths of black women in police custody, “Every time women are quietened or silenced, reduced to a transaction, commodity or prize, it reduces our value in the eyes of the world. To be considered more “interesting” dead than alive is not surprising in a media age that bombards us with images of glamourised violence and decorative sexuality.” Here’s the article.
In NSFW: Not Suitable For What…? I wrote about images of women’s bodies available online, ranging from pornography to beauty advertising. “From their early years, women hear how their bodies are useful, or not, to men. They will be told they are the cause of anger, frustration, lust, danger, and confusion… In church women’s pesky bodies have been stumbling blocks, Delilah-esque destroyers, Biblical seducers, property of husbands, that could be tested and cursed according to his whims, and an undermining presence for men’s spirituality and even identity, feminising men away from the church with our jiggly bits, and even from belief in God. Who knew hips really could lie?” Carry on reading here.
I’ve written a few words on love and relationships too. I always start by wondering, and here are a few places those wonderings ended up. I was wondering… if you’re attached explored how our early years experiences can affect the way we approach relationships as a grown up. I was wondering… why you’re hiding looks at the pointless pursuit of perfection and increasing pressure to hide our flaws and dismiss others for theirs, and I was wondering… how to have a happy marriage about just that. There’s a whole archive of thoughts and advice if you simply must know more.
And because the world is sometimes an amusing place, here’s a highly seasonal piece I wrote for the people at Funny Women back when we were all shivering under duvets. Have a read of Baby it’s cold outside here. Their revamped site is looking fancy and now links to other things I’ve written for them, about my nieces’ insatiable love of One Direction, and why wildlife seems to find me irresistible in a heatwave.
And if you’ve been writing, blogging, tweeting or anything else online this year you might be interested in a rare opportunity to have me judge you. What a treat! Find out more about the Premier Digital Awards here. Entries close on September 4th so still time to nominate your favourite people. Oh, and if you’ve always wanted to hear me explain BDSM to a woman from Canterbury, I’m delighted to oblige. That should keep you busy for a little while…
It’s been a busy couple of months so here are a few links to things I’ve been doing, on the off-chance you’re interested. It’s rare that I’d describe anything I do as Important-with-a-capital-I but I believe this first thing is. If you missed it, I wrote last month about the death of my lovely friend Linah for The Independent. Linah’s former partner, a man I also knew, killed her in front of their young daughter in July last year. Domestic violence is shockingly common and yet still seems distant and hard to imagine unless it affects us directly. As a society we seem to be unwilling or unable to act to change what we believe to be private matters. So many things went wrong in Linah’s situation and sadly many people are experiencing very similar situations today. If you want to read about my friendship with Linah, the Independent piece is here, and there are a number of links at the bottom of it that provide further information. If you want to do something, charity Refuge are campaigning for a public enquiry into responses to domestic violence and you can read more and join here.
In more trivial matters, I also dispensed a few opinions on the romance front for Christian Connection. Inspired by the question “What does it take to be a good man?” I shared a few thoughts here. As usual, I don’t think whether you’re a man or woman is a determining factor in whether you treat others well but tell me what you think (though do play nicely – that’s kind of the point).
For Threads, I wrote about the light-hearted topics of power and dissent in a piece called ‘Shouting over the music’ and how easy it is to shut out valid challenge or even criticism because the source isn’t friendly or regarded as an ally.
And if it’s not enough for you to read my priceless pearls of wisdom – or you need help dropping off – there are a couple of unexpected opportunities to hear me ramble and see my actual face talking. At last year’s Greenbelt festival I did an unexpectedly sarcastic-sounding talk as part of the ‘By the time I’m 40 I don’t want to be…’ series on defying social expectations. My topic was ‘not being defined by marital status’ and you can watch it here (particularly recommended if there are ten minutes of your life you urgently need to fill with an eye-rolling woman sounding caustic about Christian marriage culture).
And finally for Premier Radio, a whole half hour of me talking (note: this can not be taken as proof there isn’t a God) on ‘The Leadership File’ interviewed by the very nice Andy Peck. You can listen here if you’re falling short of your required levels of exposure to mild and unintentional heresy today (only from me; Andy’s spiritual credentials are im-peck-able).
And that’s all. Over and out.