I hope you don’t mind me asking but do I look any different today?  Not at all?  Not wishing to put words into your mouth, but is there any chance that I look radiant?  That is to say, even more radiant than usual?  Refined even?  Okay, supple? What do you mean “no”?  Oh I see, I always looks radiant.  Thank you.

The reason I ask is because I was poised to write a piece about the touch paper of the Brexit bomb being lit by the PM yesterday.   I was thinking on this in the shower this morning.  I was using a shower gel, ah-hem, I mean a shower mousse which confidently stated without any caveats whatsoever that should I venture into the shower with this product, that I would emerge with my skin being “cleansed, radiant and refined.”  It also has a special nozzle that it helpfully advised me was reminiscent of the nozzle for piping cupcakes, which is obviously what I do when I’m not stroking my kittens or riding my ponies. And just in case I wasn’t sure that I would understand it in English, it also gave it to me in French as well. Having used it liberally, I was rather hoping that the effects might be obvious, but it would seem not.  How disappointing.

Anticipating that the effects from this miracle mousse were not likely to be as successful as promised, I started looking at the wording on all of the beauty products that I have (of which there are many) and then I wondered what the wording was like on products for men and decided to compare the two.  I report my findings to you.

First, there were a lot fewer products in the bathroom, or indeed the house, for the Man of the House.  He’s not a particularly vain person, which is just as well because I have a rule that a woman should not be involved with a man who spends more time in front of the mirror than she does.  However, I think he is a fairly typical man in that respect.  I have a lot of lotions and potions for a variety of first world beauty needs, which are obviously not needs at all.  The disparity in the number of products tells its own story.   However, in spite of there being precious little to choose from, there was a manly shower gel.  Well actually it was a hair and shower gel, so it performs two functions at the same time.   I have a separate shower mousse, shampoo and conditioner.  The bottle was a dark and manly colour, with hard edges and an easy to use top.  No fancy cupcake nozzle for him!  No, no.  He has manly work to get on with like striding around on his mobile ‘phone shouting “I need you on this deal, dammit!” and “buy” or “sell”.  This is why he needs one product to do everything as quickly as possible.  I had a look at the bottle.  There was one line on the front: “For the man who wants to look good effortlessly.”   On the back there were some short and clear directions, in one language, as to what to do with the gel if you were such a man.  Wash with it.  It also advised that if you get it in your eyes, to rinse them.  Bless.

I moved on.  My products have lots of writing on them which include words like “peptide”, “expertly created”, “latest scientific advancements” and “essence” on them.  Frequently there is an accompanying leaflet and a box.  They also make claims as to the effectiveness of the product such as “anti-ageing” and “leaving skin feeling supple and comforted”.  And if all of this is not repeated in French, then it is frequently peppered with French, because let us be honest, everything sounds so much better in French.

Boy stuff?  Theirs has directions as to use.  One body spray specifically advised to “shake well….hold upright….15-20cm from body and spray.”  Another helpfully advised the nervous user that it was okay to use their product everyday.  Just what kind of a man are these products for? Some years ago, a friend of mine (who had just got his own flat), was cooking chips.  He put the oven on to heat up, then when at temperature, got the chips out of the freezer.  All as advised on the instructions.  Very good, well done.  He opened the oven door and got his baking tray at the ready.  Just wanting to check how long they took to cook (because you get chips out of the oven when the instructions say so whether they are actually cooked or not), he placed the bag on the hot oven door…. he only did it once, presumably because he didn’t need to do it twice because the instructions were forever to be viewed on the oven door…….He now runs his own successful business.  Surely if you spray yourself in the eye with a body spray you are only going to do it once?  And isn’t the clue in the name? Presumably they felt that they had to put something on the bottle rather than leave it blank.

Meanwhile, ladies, one of my products advised me to “Forget the diet”.  If you have read my blog about my shopping experience then you may be forgiven for thinking that I might need to go on a diet.  However, I am not on a diet.  I have never been on a diet.  I have no intention of going on a diet.  Ever.  They are not helpful for me.  That is not to diss women who are on diets, because I have lots of friends who do find them useful as a way to help them feel better about themselves.  However, what particularly irritated me is the assumption that all women are on a bloody diet and a numpty somewhere thought that an opportunity to bring it up on a body wash was a good idea.  Someone proposed it in a meeting, presumably to nods of approval, and then at another meeting, and then it landed on someones’ desk, and it ended up on a container of shower mousse and in my shower. With entirely the opposite effect of the one intended because it really pissed me off.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, the two most prominent and powerful politicians in our country met earlier this week to discuss what will inevitably be the most tumultuous time for our country since the European Union came into being.  As you would expect with such an important meeting, there was a photograph on most front pages.  One newspaper (I use the term loosely) thought that rather than comment on the importance or significance of this meeting, a headline about the attractiveness of the legs of the two protagonists was appropriate.  I am heartened by the ridicule that this headline was subjected to. In contrast, yesterday, when Tim Barrow presented Donald Tusk with the letter triggering Article 50, I searched for a similar headline.  Nothing.  Not a peep.  Not one comment about Tim Barrow’s bottom or Donald Tusk’s enviable figure.  I was really quite put out.  I bet they were too.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter one iota that women like to have more moisturisers than men.  We all (men and women) want to try and look our best, or if we are being really honest about it, feel a bit better about ourselves.  It is the ingrained nature as far as women are concerned – the notion that we are treating ourselves on the one hand (with a nice shower mousse) but then getting beaten over the head with the other (“forget your diet, but only while you are using this shower mousse oh chubby one!”) and men just have a shower and then get on with being important.  Two women meet and their bodies are commented on: “Ooooh look at the girls having a bit of a play at politics, don’t they look nice?” Two men meet and the headlines, quite correctly, stick to the facts and the job that they are doing.  Which, as we all know, was delivering a letter from one of the women who was the subject of the exceptionally dubious headline earlier in the week.

I hope she’s not panicking about her diet or how emollient rich her make-up remover is.  I hope she’s not playing at it.  Because if she is, we really are never going to get out of the shit that the boys from Eton have left us in.


End of Sentence


I am one of those people who talk to the radio. Everyone sings along to the radio, but I listen to programmes and not only do I tut and huff and sigh, I also argue back. Last week I unleashed a tirade at the car radio when it reported to me that young girls and women in this country do not have access to adequate sanitary protection. It went on to tell me that girls were missing school each month because of this. The issue had come to light because a charity, Freedom4Girls, which provides sanitary protection for young women in Kenya was approached by a school in Leeds as they were concerned at the falling attendance of young women at school being due to them staying home because of their periods. That charity is now supplying sanitary protection in that area too. That’s Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

I was fuming. The more I read about it, the worse it got. I had previously heard that food banks were appreciative of donations of sanitary products as they were needed, but I had no idea that it was this bad. Young women are choosing between whether to eat food or wear sanitary protection. One young woman said that she missed lunch sometimes (paid for by her EMA) to save some money for sanitary products. Another admitted to being given one sanitary towel a day by her mother. Another said that she didn’t like to ask her mother because she knew that they were expensive and that she couldn’t afford them. One young woman interviewed said that from the ages of eleven to fourteen she sellotaped tissues into her underwear, and sometimes just had to miss school.

It is bad enough that there are women in the world who live like this every month. It is not right in any way that women the world over are denied access to education. But I was horrified, truly and utterly appalled that young women in this country, in this country, are being denied access to both, effectively by virtue of their gender. Young women, our young women who look to all of us to support them and show them how to be grown women are missing food and school because they cannot access basic hygiene products; that is unacceptable in a first world country.

I saw that there is a crowdfunding page now set up so donations can be made towards a study. Go and do your study if you must. I am sure that it will be helpful to find areas of particular need. But I don’t want to talk about it any more. And in three years time I don’t want to read a report about it either. I don’t care what the reasons are. I don’t care if a young woman’s parents are crap, cash poor, or they want to find an excuse not to go to school. And I don’t care where in the country it is happening. It is happening and that’s enough for me. As I type, and as you read, young women, really young women who may not properly understand what is happening to their bodies, are rolling up socks to put in their underwear each month. And if they’re doing that this month, that probably means that next month that they will have no socks. I am so ashamed.

I cannot help but wonder if this state of being has been (unwittingly) arrived at by a historically patriachal and heterosexual society. Anyone can walk into any family planning centre in the country and get free condoms. You can go in, ask for them get a carrier bag full and have as much safe sex as you like, no questions asked. Marvellous. Good, public health issue assisted there. Women can also get other forms of contraception free on the NHS. Of course, men cannot because there is no such thing available to them. Yet. 2017 being sixty six years after the contraceptive pill was invented for women and fifty seven years behind it being freely available on the NHS. Nevertheless, even if you’re having unsafe sex, whilst you may be risking an STI, if the female partner is taking some form of contraception, you are most likely not risking a baby. Another public health issue assisted there. Great. Menstruation. Something that happens to pretty much every female of child-bearing age around the entire world every single month. Oh that. Well that’s just women’s stuff isn’t it? Best not to talk about it and let them get on with it quietly so we can pretend it’s not happening. And when it’s over we can get back to the sex without the risk of infections or babies.

Thank goodness that we are no longer living in a country where women quietly retire to the country for their confinement surrounded only by women, and then emerge three months later either carrying a child or not at all. In law, at least until 29 March 2019, women have equal rights to men. And that includes the right to an education and to live free from discrimination based on gender. We all know that in practice there is some catching up to do; sometimes obvious and sometimes less so. In this case, it has been revealed to us by day to day events borne out of mysogynistic attitudes that shaped the system and its output years ago; an attitude that thankfully is dying. As shocked as I am by this (as I think we all are given the reaction), I like to give us all the benefit of the doubt – we all made a mistake here and missed it. I want to apologise to all of those young women who have endured whilst we were not quite looking the other way, but not paying the attention that perhaps we should have been; we probably can’t make it right for you, but we will do our best to help change it now we know.


You may sign the petition for free sanitary products to be provided in schools by cutting and pasting the following link- https://www.change.org/p/provide-free-sanitary-products-in-uk-schools-periodpotential?utm_medium=email&utm_source=notification&utm_campaign=petition_signer_receipt


Original image John Anderson


Let It Go


At nine thirty on Monday morning, fifty four extremely excited nine, ten and eleven year olds boarded a coach. They barely acknowledged the group of parents waiting by the roadside to wave them off, chatting madly about what they were going to get up to, the games that they had brought for the journey, the sweets that they would be sharing, who would be sleeping where….Once on the coach we could see arms gesticulating and heads bobbing……

The fifty four children were off to North Wales for five days of outdoor adventure. This involves gorge scrambling, rock climbing, kayaking, bush craft, and as far as I can tell, cake testing.

The group of watching parents could be split broadly into two groups: those of whom had done this before, and those of whom had not. Those of us in the latter group were a little tearful and trying not very convincingly not to show it. We weren’t really talking to anyone else, and weren’t very interested in talking to anyone else. Arms were folded, heads and eyes were down, except to try and catch a glimpse of our child once seated. Those in the former group were talking animatedly with each other, thrilled at the prospect of five days without someone eating the entire contents of the fridge and already in eager anticipation of reaching the bottom of the washing basket. Arms were waving, heads were up, eyes bright.

The parents were passed and the children were followed only slightly less enthusiastically, by five teachers and a school governor. I say slightly less enthusiastically because last year I mentioned to the Head that she could perhaps find better ways of spending five days of her life than with fifty or so children not wanting to wash; she disagreed with me. And as she jigged up and down she confessed to “absolutely loving it.” When she bounced past me this year, it seemed that her enthusiasm was undiminished. One teacher practically skipped onto the coach at the prospect of being covered in mud for a week. Another, who is not given to public displays of emotion, looked the closest that I have ever seen to happy in the face of a holiday which may involve his safety rope being held by a child he made stay in from play. The governor has sacrificed five days of annual leave to go and spend it plastered to a rock face in the rain. This leaves me to wonder; what on earth is wrong with these people?

I have read two articles recently; one about the government needing more teachers and the other about Ofsted saying that people are leaving the profession in droves. It occurred to me, just on reading these two, short articles that perhaps it would be a good idea if the government and Ofsted talked to each other to see if they could work out what the problem is. Although they could find out what the problem is by asking any teacher, or the friend or relative of any teacher. I am both the friend and relative of several teachers, and as I have currently have the floor, I shall say what I think it is.

I believe that there are two problems with encouraging and keeping teachers in the profession; money and trust.  I have a friend who is in her first year of teaching and she is doing sixty hours a week at the moment. I have a relative who is in her twelfth year of teaching and she is doing sixty hours a week at the moment. There is a pattern here and it’s not related to their pay packets, which I shall come onto shortly. So there’s not enough money to pay them more? Not that I think they do it for the massively impressive pay check, but I have just one suggestion, and this is off the top of my head. My relative was observed teaching by her boss last week. Nothing wrong with that occasionally. There was a second observer in the room, to observe the observer. Let’s get rid of that observer. The one making sure that the person observing the observer is observing the observee correctly? That would be a start. Happy to help with looking to see where other savings could be made as well if that would be useful.

The second one is trust. The lack of trust for teachers makes my blood boil. There seems to be no other profession like it. People don’t query their dentist or their solicitor. Although I bet doctors get really annoyed with patients googling their symptoms.  With teachers it seems to be a free for all. It is born out the same cretinous mentality that thinks it is necessary to have an observer observing the observer. It is the idea that people teach because it’s an easy job and they get holidays ‘off’. What a load of crap. We’ve already established that the money’s rubbish.  People teach because they love it. And on days that they don’t love it because of all of the bullshit that they have to deal with, they still want to.

As I type, my son is probably dangling from a rope off the side of a cliff, a rope most likely held by one of his teachers. It will not surprise you to know that my son and his two sisters are the three most precious people in the world to me.* Yet I allowed my son to go.  I stood there, told him that I would be waiting for him on Friday and blew him a kiss as the coach left.  I did it because I am his mother and it is my job to raise him to be strong enough to leave me one day.  The only reason I could do it when he is so young is because all of the time that he is away I trust in my heart of hearts that his teachers will catch him if he falls.  Given that everything else that they have tried so far isn’t working, isn’t it time that the government did the same?

If you would like to raise your concerns for the cuts to school budgets in your area go to http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk

*The reason that I can count beyond three is because I had a maths teacher who sat and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t thick and I could do maths. And the only reason I am writing this now is because I had an English teacher who wrote in a report that my dedication to English never waivers – it hasn’t, it didn’t, and now I am old enough not to know that I can’t care what people think if I write.


Happy 724th Birthday


As I am sure that many of you are already aware, today is International Women’s Day. It is a day upon which we celebrate and remember women; celebrate what we have achieved so far and remember the work that we have to do.

I wondered why 8 March was chosen for this day, so did some research. It seems that women had already started marching, but not specifically on 8 March 1914 until there was a march in London from Bow to Trafalgar in support of women’s suffrage. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested at Charing Cross on her way to speak at Trafalgar Square. Imagine that, being arrested for almost, nearly, but not quite, speaking.

On 28 July 1914, the First World War broke out. I mention it not only because it is a significant part of our history, but also because I wonder if thoughts starting changing when fighting a war that claimed sixteen million (presumably predominantly male) lives. I wonder if it occurred to those men who were left that a) they were not keen on fighting and b) whilst they were off fighting, it was necessary to have someone running the country back at home. Also, maybe the women were getting a bit peeved at running the country back at home and in return being given no rights to choose the government that was sending their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons to war.

Three years later on 8 March 1917, female textile workers demonstrated in Petrograd, the capital of the Russian Empire. They were asking for equal rights, the end to the First World War and the end to Czarism; thus began the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, Czar Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional government granted women the right to vote. A year later, Britain and Germany gave women the vote (you had to be over thirty and reach certain property qualifications in Britain). It was not until 1928 in Britain that women over the age of twenty one were given the right to vote, twenty one years after the Grand Duchy of Finland (as was) gave women the vote in 1907.

It was handy that Britain and Germany had afforded their females this right, as less than twenty years later, they were on opposing sides in the Second World War. The estimated deaths of the Second World War are between fifty and eighty million. At sixty million dead, it was around three per cent of the world population as it stood in 1940. When that many people are being slaughtered, you simply cannot afford to be too fussy about who is running the country at home, even if they are girls.

Communist countries celebrated 8 March as a day for women from around this time. It was not until 1975, the International Year of the Woman that the UN celebrated the day, and two years later invited member states to also celebrate. In 1975 the British Parliament enacted the Sex Discrimination Act, making it unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their gender. That is (only just) in my lifetime. It is very, very recent history.

After reading all of this information, I began pondering on famous women about whom I could write an interesting article; Emily Davison, Amelia Earhart, Maya Angelou…..I then decided to have a look more specifically for women who were born or died on 8 March. I  asked Madam Google for some answers. Madam Google listed a number of websites that I could investigate. Lots of men were listed. Lots and lots. All in various fields of expertise; scientists, historians, writers, artists….all with biographical detail, some with pictures or paintings as appropriate. Not so much for the ladies. I have found one woman. Just one. Out of the whole of human history, there is seemingly one woman with a birth or death day of 8 March who was worthy of note.  Today is her seven hundred and twenty fourth birthday. Her name was Beatriz de Castela (Beatrice of Castile), born on 8 March 1293. Beatriz was Queen Consort of Portugal and died on 25 October 1359. If you ever find yourself in Lisbon Cathedral you can see where she rests – a reminder of how far we have come, and as I have discovered today, how very far we still have to go.