How To Look Good At Forty And Overthrow Your Government

We all know, because we’ve been told, that 40 ish is a difficult time for the smart lady about town.  You are not young.  You are so definitely not young!  Ha ha, you said young like it might apply to you, you are RIDICULOUS.  But also, you are not old.  Not really.  These days, 50 is the new 40, so essentially 40 is the new 30 and you are both 40 and 30 and you have gone back in time to warn your 30 year old self about the wtf is about to happen sometime around 2016, because 40 is the new 12 Monkeys.  I mean, you are basically 20.  Times have changed.  Fiona Bruce is 53 and she barely has to think about her age as a TV presenter.  It’s a pretty sweet deal for women now – they get to present programs with old things, so that they can place a tiny piece of their soul into every ancient artefact that they touch on the Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune, like a Horcrux, making their human form immortal.  Then they are allowed to remain on TV.

Anyway, anyone who has read women’s magazines recently or looked at the internet with their eyes will know that 40 is great and older women are fierce and powerful, and they should also worry a lot more because their husbands are probably going to leave them.  It will be ok though, because then they can go on to run their own ethical business wearing a capsule wardrobe made entirely from inspiration.    The aim is to undermine the mechanisms of an oppressive patriarchal capitalist state (women’s magazines are so feminist and intersectional now! Go girrrrrl!), but also to look young, but not like you are trying to look young.  Never forget that the aim is to look effortlessly chic.  EFFORTLESSLY.  For Christ’s sake don’t look like things require effort.

Luckily, I am here to help your confused old lady brain decipher the cryptic clues of media and advertising aimed at women, with my handy How To Look Good At Forty guide.  You are *welcome*.

Your FACE

Looking at your old face is the main way that you know you are getting old.  If you aren’t sure what getting old looks like, because there is only Helen Mirren and that doesn’t look like you, then you can handily refer to the Boots No.7 Seven Signs of Aging.  If you haven’t seen them, here they are:

  1. Looking older
  2. Looking older
  3. Looking older
  4. Not giving a shit about looking older
  5. Enjoying looking older
  6. Not noticing that you are looking older
  7. Overthrowing your corrupt and unjust government

Your face says a lot about you.  Sometimes it says that shit out loud, even though we’ve been told, over and over again, that evidence based opinions make us sound fat.  They also give you mouth wrinkles of the mouth.  It’s almost like we’re not even listening any more!  Heads up, everyone, here are some things that will age your face:

  1. The sun
  2. Pollution
  3. Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two
  4. Royal weddings
  5. Elon Musk

The beauty industry has so many products for the older woman, whose mind is literally unravelling at the prospect of no longer being able to seek validation based on her appearance, as she has been conditioned to do since childhood.  ‘Women are idiots!’ they think.  ‘They need help for their faces.’  So true.  But many items of make up are also unnecessary, so don’t get suckered into buying the latest fad like a thing that is called a serum that is made from crushed hopes and literally magic, you old ladies whose insecurities are manufactured over a lifetime and then mined for profit.  Women are idiots!  SO make sure you look good and buy the right stuff so men will know that you don’t give a shit about them.

Luckily, I have a go-to make up range for really making me look confident, almost as if I’ve lost weight.  Especially if I know I’m going to be photographed – even the most assured of us can feel nervous about appearing in front of the camera!  Or the judge!  It’s an organic range, called ‘camo paint’, and it works almost exactly like contouring.  Camo paint is very slimming.

NEVER rub your make up in, ladies.  Such a common mistake.  Sad!  Rubbing your make up in will cause you to rub off the woman suit you’ve been wearing and reveal the Many Breasted Bride Queen of the Underworld, Destroyer of Men underneath.  Pat your make up in.  With your fingertips – pat, pat, pat.  Sleep upside down, like a bat.  Do this, and your skin will carry on bouncing back, firmer, stronger, flexible – just like your career when you had to take 5 years off to be a mumtrepreneur.  Follow your dream, ladies!  During school hours!

All the same, a fair and impartial system has shown that women are not as good as men at being competitive in the workplace (science!), so some of us may not be earning quite so much.  Or anything at all!  So here is how to save money on make up:

  1. Imagine you are already wearing make up.
  2. Imagine your face looks nice. Imagine if we all did this.
  3. If sometimes you like to wear make up because you want to, you can also wear cheap make up that is pretty much the exact same thing as the very fucking expensive make up. You’d be amazed how many different brands are owned by the same people and made in the same factories, although they don’t really shout about it.    Be aware that every time you buy Chanel eyeshadow for your sad lady eyes at full price, somewhere a make-up industry executive sitting at a mahogany desk presses a button labelled ‘IDIOT WOMEN’ and is showered with cigars from a trap-door in the ceiling, which he lights with £50 notes.  YOUR £50 NOTES.  If you don’t like one of them, you can boycott their products.
  4. If you would like to wear make up because you want to and your skin colour is not something the rich and diverse beauty industry likes to associate itself with, you can go to mainstream shops where they have two foundation shades and some eyeshadow for you, or you can go elsewhere.
  5. Btw if you have children, remember that they are agents of the resistance for you to release at will onto the make up counter like winged fucking monkeys.

Your HAIR

Do you have a fringe?  A fringe is cute.  Maybe you are 22!  And likeable!  The internet has made it very clear that after a certain age, the key to good hair is hiding as much of your face as possible so nobody notices that the unceasing passage of time is bringing you ever closer to your last fuckable day.  Nobody needs to see a strong, independent woman who doesn’t give a shit about her hair.  Grow your fringe longer.  No, longer than that.  Entwine it with your burgeoning chin and nose hair to make your very own balaclava.  Warm, practical, useful for maintaining an ID defence during a police interview.  Nobody likes a lady who talks too much in her shrill lady voice!  So go no comment under the advice of your legal representative!  And remember, frown lines make you look unapproachable.  Frowning while facing down Nazis makes you look unapproachable.  Smile!

THE CASUAL WARDROBE

Everyone dreads the ‘smart casual’ event.  But we should all remind ourselves that anyone who objects to you attending a school event smoking a cigar and toting a machine gun is probably just as worried about their own outfit.  ‘I love it when a plan comes together’ you will say, reaching for another tombola ticket at the Christmas fair prize draw.  Anyway, here are my suggestions for a practical yet chic approach to those tricky day to night looks:

The Wetsuit

Commonly associated with the summer months frolicking in the warm, sunlit waters of the British coastline, many women file the wetsuit under ‘fuck this’ before they have even had the chance to go on a self-catering holiday and throw themselves into the pounding Atlantic surf in an attempt to drown out the sound of their children’s voices.  And this is a shame, especially if your days of grunting while trying to take your clothes off in public toilets are now just a distant, mostly consensual memory.   There is a well known fashion saying: women over 30 should never miss an opportunity to assume a deep squat in a public place, and of course, this still holds true.  But a wetsuit is so much more than just something you can do lunges in next to a body board you rented from a 23 year old white man called Jed.  It is also fashion’s one truly absorbent, year round wardrobe staple.  The original onesie, it is designed to retain both heat and liquid, meaning you can save on heating bills and bathroom breaks – freeing up valuable time for burning your laundry in the street and fomenting civil unrest.  Not only this, but it can form an empowering under-layer for the busy woman who has moved beyond underwired bras, to a higher plane. This is a plane she might at any moment parachute from into the ocean, like James Bond but younger than Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice.  Try wearing one for a day around the house.  Really, try it.  I promise you will feel amazing.  Recommended.

The Boiler Suit

Are you HANDY?  Can you FIX SHIT?  Do you work in MAINTENANCE?  Are the things that you maintain called ‘relationships with friends and family and the unending list of domestic tasks’?   Would you like to be treated as if all the emotional, mental and unpaid labour you do is tough and important and should be shared equally?  Well don’t worry ladies – the boiler suit is for you.  Cheap, tough, all over you and hard to get out of, this is the Tinder date of leisure wear.  And it’s usually the boiler suits for men that are most easily available, so just like gender stereotypes – one size really does fit all.

But don’t be deterred by having to roll up your trouser legs like you are trying to sneak your tits into a Masonic lodge* (and I mean literally in your trouser legs if you have breastfed anything, ever).  This is a wipe-down outfit with pockets. Buy 5 of these** and you have a complete wardrobe. Underneath could be anything you like – vest tops, sexy underwear, your pyjamas, a cute dress, your pyjamas.  The point is, you won’t have to think about anything apart from which boiler suit you are going to wear.  Because you’ve got one hand in your pocket, and the other one’s smashing the patriarchy with a hammer that you keep in your other pocket.

*I have done this.  It was not as exciting as it sounds.

**I would recommend a boiler suit from Dickies, but other brands are available.

WORK PLACE CHIC

If you dread having to find clothes that say both ‘take me seriously’ and ‘don’t worry, I like men’ but also ‘this will not harm the case for the prosecution if I am sexually assaulted’ then you might want to consider taking a job where there is a uniform.  I have been dressed as a clown since 2014 for this very reason, and the accountancy firm I work for have openly applauded my easy up do and roomy yet professional trousers.  Bright colours are very slimming.  Of course this isn’t an option for everyone.

Equally, if you are a person who has produced a human being from your own body, then we all know that what follows is a time for you to take a few months out for adventure and self-discovery, to adjust to this huge transition while your partner takes care of the kids.  Parenting can prompt a lot of anxiety about our own mortality and it’s common to express this by dicking off for long periods of time and maybe tackling a risky creative project we’ve always fancied.  Or maybe having sex with someone much younger.  And who would mention even once that we are parents and should shelve that for a bit like the men in our lives have?! NOONE, GUYS!  THIS IS *OUR* TIME!  Anyway, what we got up to in Papua New Guinea that time was definitely not idiotic or racist. Well done if you got rescued by helicopter from a place where plenty of people live all the time!  Welcome back.  But what to wear?  And how to wear it on your body??

Here are a few simple rules for hassle free work chic:

Ironing

So many ladies fret about ironing their beautiful work clothes, when really you can iron the hem of the stained maternity dress you are still wearing with hair straighteners – life hack!

You can iron out the ups and downs of your profound disappointment and exhaustion with rage supressing alcohol, hahaha gin for mummies is funny – life hack!

Upper arms

You know, we call them ‘Bat Wings’, which is a funny little joke between us girls because our arms are undead and will burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight.  Aged crone limbs need to be kept under wraps in the day guys, so we can release them at night to drink the blood of younger men, sapping their strength until we control the media.  Cosmopolitan magazine does not lie.

Knees

Who hasn’t put together a snappy little ensemble for a work Christmas party that says ‘Hey, I’m a young lady! Touch my knee!’ only to find innocent people who have wasted their time explaining things to you recoiling at the sight of your elderly knees.  This is not a safe time to be a man!  Because – that’s right – your knees were built on an ancient Viking burial site, and now the spirits of your ancestors won’t laugh at anyone’s informative anecdotes.  So what I’m saying is that if you really have to sit next to senior management at the annual office do, your wizened harlot spirit medium knees are always there if you need them, to ruin Jesus’ birthday with feminism from beyond the grave.

Accessories

Play with accessories.  Play. With. Them.  Go on a lunch date with them.  Overshare.  Block them.  You are a ghost.  You are the Merciless Lord of the Accessories.  Your accessories will scare other accessories with stories about you.  You eat small accessories.   Ladies! BE the accessory you want to see in the world.  An accessory to crimes relating to the criminal damage of advertising in public spaces.  CCTV black spots are very slimming.

Shapewear

How does she look so slim?  Well, don’t tell the chaps – shapewear is our little secret.  That and the fact that we control the moon with our back fat.  My motto is Live Fast, Die Young While Out Walking Alone, Leave A Desirable Chalk Outline For the Forensics Team.  Chalk is very slimming.

Hiding your belly

This is a problem area for many women, especially after having babies, or killing and eating the bodies of the men who have wronged them.  Many successful working mothers keep theirs in their handbag, along with an all-purpose packet of wet wipes and their prolapsed uterus.  Pro-tip.

Shoes

The centre piece of any outfit, many people will tell you that when it comes to shoes, less is more.  And I of course would reply that in fact it is fewer, not less.  I have been corrected on this point so many times that, let me tell you, it’s always a delight to hear it, however many shoes I have forcibly removed from the men who cannot stop correcting me and strung around my neck as trophies like I’m Colonel fucking Kurtz.

SHOPPING

Peg leg trousers.  Leather leggings.  Bandeau tops.  Are these for you?  Well, you’ll have read a lot recently about the powerful, strong older woman who can do anything she damn well likes, so the answer is very clear: Absolutely not.

As we have all understood it, shopping in actual shops is supposed to be a segregated affair, with younger women corralled in places with loud music and shop assistants dressed in ripped irony.  Anyone over saaayy, 40, is directed to dimly lit scandi affairs, where everything is soft to the touch and there is only the Radio 2 playlist and Vaseline on the mirrors, like the set from a Fifty Shades of Grey film but with pictures of Dame Judi Dench where you least expect them.  (Exactly like the set of Fifty Shades of Grey).

Ideally, of course, women would shop at home.  Online.  Separately.  They wouldn’t get out there and get together in large groups at all.  Much is done to deter women of different age groups from mingling in person.  In Topshop and Urban Outfitters, the blast of hot air from above the door as you enter is in fact designed to mimic the symptoms of the menopause so that older women leave immediately to protect their shrivelled ovaries.  Those who linger too long in the entrance, confused by reflective spandex, are ushered kindly but firmly out of the building and into the nearest White Stuff outlet store, where somebody picks out an A-line mid-length skirt with drawings of boats on it saying ‘This is for you now’.

But don’t be deterred.  You have a job to do.  Since the public spaces in which we used to gather are increasingly taken up by sort of, maybe, don’t tell anyone definitely private spaces (with handy shops in), then I guess this is just where we are going to have to talk about dismantling the structures of power.  If you do make it past security, then here are some tips to avoid detection and alert any women who haven’t noticed yet that they are putting up with a lot of bullshit.

Firstly, play it cool.  Blend in.  Put your head through random holes in clothing as if you are subversive and not confused.  Roam the band t-shirts IN SILENCE.  Saying things like  ‘Songs about being a Nice Guy are a bullshit part of rape culture’ will trigger the XX to play on the in store speakers, and then, as you are old enough to remember that this is the music that David Cameron listens to during sexy times, you will have only seconds left to live.

Some shop assistants will see you flailing, red faced among the obviously uncomfortable heels and, mistaking your outrage for confusion, pick out some shoes and say ‘these shoes are very slimming’.  It’s important to make sure you maintain eye contact while you eat the shoes.

On busy days, try on new things in front of the mirrors in the middle of the store because if they don’t provide enough changing rooms then you will literally show them your ass.  On quiet days, try on new things in the changing rooms.  The staff won’t bother you in there, because they know you have visible pubic hair and they are afraid.    Stand in the changing room Hall of Mirrors, dressed mostly in gold listening for low self-esteem like the poorly lit Louis XIV of Unsolicited Life Advice.

You don’t even have to lock the doors until the end of your lecture on feminism and consumer culture, your very presence is enough.  Do not underestimate the power of seeing someone out there who gives no fucks, especially women, especially about their body.   If you are over 40, you’ve got a head start on this bullshit.  We’ve got a lot of work to do, and in 10 years it’s going to be my daughters in those changing rooms so let’s get in there and set some fucking examples.  Try on new things.  Love yourself, forget your body.

If you think that you are not strong enough, that change can only be great gestures, millions of people on the march, then think again:  10 years ago I saw a woman in a camo bikini and a gold helmet driving a quad bike down a red dirt coast track.  I didn’t know her.  She didn’t see me.  She passed me, standing by the side of the road, sweating into my long sleeved top that covered up my imaginary flaws, and I looked at her for maybe 30 seconds before she turned the corner.  I do not remember whether her body was beach ready or if she was fat or thin or whether her thighs had cellulite.  I only remember that somehow, somehow I knew that she gave no fucks.  And for 10 years now, every day, I have tried in some small way to be that woman.  On the school run, wiping arses, dancing at children’s parties, running, walking into meetings, I am wearing a camo bikini and a gold helmet on the inside.  There is no shop that can sell that to you.  No t-shirt with strong words on it made by companies run by white men.  We can only give it to each other.

So guys, hang out with other women, especially those who are at a different stage in their life to you. Soak it up.  Find some hope.  For better clothes, a better future.   Young people are amazing.  Many under 25’s are ripping it up right now, because they are as angry as you are, and they don’t have a mortgage and two kids.  They are not the apathetic, dumbed down economic cannon fodder the government hopes they are.  There is an army out there of highly educated digital natives on zero hours contracts, with no pensions, no free health care ahead of them, no hope of owning property, who have realised that their parents and grandparents, for whom most things were free and the rest was cheap have gone ahead and pulled that ladder right up behind them.  Their future has been driven off a cliff by people who are about to die soon anyway and they have absolutely nothing to lose.

They are activists, organisers, protesters, voters.  At an age when I was checking neither my privilege nor my non-existent email at the university I attended virtually for free, people now are organising cultural movements on a massive scale.  They are targeting policy makers, campaigning, marching, fighting for their reproductive rights like it’s the goddamn Handmaid’s Tale, making films about activism, making documentaries, reporting on injustice, changing the set text in education, in the workplace, in fashion and consumer behaviour.  I have seen discussions online between 19 year olds that make most mainstream political commentators look like fucking schoolchildren.  That is, assuming schoolchildren aren’t as woke as they actually are right now.

Youth-quake, Corbynistas, whatever sneery term is applied to them by the increasingly nervous mainstream press, know this: you spent your twenties waiting for a seat at the table.  These guys are going to spend their twenties picking up that seat and using it to smash the fucking table up.   And you get to watch them, you get to watch their back.   It may not be your first time being angry, outraged, passionate or tired, but ladies, this is the first time in history that we’ve gotten close enough to see the whites of their eyes.  This is the first time that when other people say that they are not just sick and tired, they are hopeful, we get to say Me Too.  And we must, because hope is contagious. It changes things we haven’t even thought about yet. If you don’t see it, if you think that this is all going to blow over, then you are not paying attention.

Women – whatever your goddamn age, the body politic is your bodies.  Your face, your hair, your skin, your age, your voice, your height, your weight, your clothes, your uterus – this is what we talk about when we talk about power.  The media knows it, they’ve been dressing it up and selling it back to you for decades, and now more than ever, so do you.  You don’t need to buy power, ladies.  You already own it.  So go, tell your stories, listen to theirs, come find me in my boiler suit in the spandex aisle, wear whatever the fuck you like and join the revolution.

 

RADVENT DAY 24 HERE WE BLOODY ARE WE MADE IT EDITION

It’s arrived! The last day of Radvent!

If you are still following these, I apologise but here we are.
We’ve travelled through the midwinter of our fishing quotas and tier changes, and arrived at the sunlit uplands of flooding and the personal email I received from the CEO of Tesco I got yesterday, telling me there weren’t going to be food shortages.

I have really appreciated the space to say (rant) the things that have mattered to me and the people around me, during this nightmarish year – even though I didn’t get time to cover a lot of things I wanted to (especially housing, especially activist lawyering, especially compassion) and could essentially write 365 of these jolly and uplifting little nuggets in order to complete my descent into madness on a wide range of social media platforms (except TikTok).

If any of them have made sense to you, then please go and have a look at the one policy to change them all – the big daddy, the radical thing worth pushing for in 2021:
Universal Basic Income.
It needs work, it’s not a quick fix, it’s not free money, it changes everything, and it’s got more support right now than it ever has. Have a look
https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2020/07/moment-universal-basic-income-here-s-how-it-could-work

I had great plans today to write something about love, and that wispy-steely thing I think of as grace, how the people who make change are right here with us, in our towns, and next to us in our homes, and it’s us, it’s us.

But my children have inexplicably asked to spend time with me, without my phone on or my laptop open.
So that’s my radical act for today, and for the rest of the month/time as an EU citizen. I’m off to finish off my dogshit gifts for everyone and hug the people in my house and finish reading Danny Champion of the World with my 9 year old and then get arsey about failing to make Tiramisu. That’s my silver lining, this Christmas. My family, my home, my joys, my community. Lucky me.

So, having shared my silver linings, I’m going to do one last thing today and buy gifts for those who have none of those things. Maybe you can do it too. Choose Love. And wherever you are this year, on your own or surrounded by friends and family – Merry Christmas x

https://choose.love/

RADVENT DAY 23 CLAP FOR CARERS EDITION

Yesterday, I did my last day of work before Christmas, and since my children had played a mere 300 hours of Roblox Adopt Me this week, I took them out for a walk in the pouring rain and 3 feet of mud to celebrate the start of the holidays proper.

The break this year will, for us at least, involve the usual things: time with the kids, large cups of tea, eating the festive goods we ransacked from the aisles of Tesco using a flame thrower and stinger spikes, and avoiding death from the two (current at time of writing) mutant strains of the Coronavirus. Still, at least we’re not in a lorry in Kent.

But while we get to put our feet up at home, across the country, NHS workers are working flat out, in unbelievably dangerous conditions, to care for the millions of us right now who need medical support.

I don’t know how to talk about the NHS at the best of times, and the way it has saved my life, saved the lives of my children. I certainly don’t know how to talk about the bravery of those front line staff working during a once in a century pandemic that has (to date) killed nearly 70,000 people in the UK.

So, this summer I stood on my doorstep and clapped for carers, every week for 10 weeks.

The first week, while I clapped, I had a think about the decade of funding cuts that poor planning that had resulted in staff shortages so severe that we urgently need to recruit 5,000 nurses from abroad every year, and the fact that our own proposed immigration policies make it harder for us to staff hospitals and care homes.
https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/positions/nhs-workforce

The second week, I clapped alongside a government that got rid of student nursing bursaries in 2015, further contributing to the shortage of UK NHS staff. I was also by this point heavily embroiled in the fallout from a comment I made in a community Facebook Group about not clapping for carers if you voted for the Conservative Party, which is what I do for kicks now that I’m no longer allowed to base jump or test pilot fighter jets. But I digress.

By the third week of clapping, I was thinking about the fact that there has been no national NHS workforce strategy since 2003, which means that if our lack of strategy was a person, it would be old enough to legally drive. Maybe an ambulance.

Week 4 I banged some spoons together on the patio because two thirds of NHS trusts charge their staff for the use of hospital car parks. Those with paid for permits still have no guarantee there will be spaces available, and sometimes have to pay private companies extra to park elsewhere. This was paused in June 2020 (because of campaign work) but is (merry Christmas!) creeping back in.
https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/health-care/big-issues/hospital-parking-charge-far/

Week 5 I rang my bike bell and thought about the fact that overseas NHS staff had to pay a surcharge to use the NHS, and if they died of Covid 19 their families were not allowed to leave to remain or access to bereavement support (later reversed, because of campaigning)
https://www.amnesty.org.uk/im-nhs-cleaner-and-my-video-helped-force-government-u-turn

Week 6, I did slightly panicky clapping for the Nightingale Hospitals that it was clear we would not be able to use because of staff shortages.
https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/uk-lacks-nursing-staff-to-operate-nightingale-hospitals/

Week 7, clapped again, had a little think about the fact that frontline NHS staff earnings have decreased in real terms by 7.4% since 2010.
https://fullfact.org/health/nurse-pay-may-2020/

Week 8: Honked a vintage car horn I found in the shed, for all the food parcels and crisis grants that had to be given out to carers and NHS staff this year, to help them have enough to eat and to heat their homes while they are risking their lives at work.

Week 9: Not gonna lie I was driving to Barnard Castle to test my eyesight, but on the way I did have a think about the creeping privatisation of the NHS and the impact of future trade deals with the US on the cost of pharmaceuticals
https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/privatisation-in-the-english-nhs-fact-or-fiction?gclid=CjwKCAiA8ov_BRAoEiwAOZogwVegB1UaA7wan8KdkArUhCTN3pFUIoYrkanIpZe1ttAa3IK-GLgHjxoC5l8QAvD_BwE

Week 10 I watched government ministers clapping on TV, and had a good think about the MP’s that clapped and laughed in 2017, right there in the House of Commons, when they successfully voted against raising pay for nurses. Then I stood by the back door and banged my second best casserole dish.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/public-sector-pay-cap-vote-conservatives-cheer-tory-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-dup-a7813661.html

Those working on the front line are paid ridiculously small sums of money for the skilled, life or death work that they do.

Christmas Day is set to see the largest number of people hospitalised by Covid19 since the pandemic began.

NHS staff need proper pay right now, not a few crumbs handed out in May 2021.
https://nursingnotes.co.uk/news/pay-rise-for-nhs-workers-delayed-amid-economic-pressures-confirms-hancock/

If we think front line carers are heroes, we should stop clapping, stop voting for the party that refuses to pay them what they are worth, and take action.

FREE
Campaign:
https://www.rcn.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/fair-pay-for-nursing

CASH TO SPARE:
Donate:
https://rcnfoundation.rcn.org.uk/get-involved/make-a-donation
https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/health-and-care/here-listen-support-line-nhs-people/

SELF CARE
Stay indoors, wear a mask outside, wash your hands, stay safe, don’t go on your community Facebook page unless wearing full PPE x

RADVENT DAY 22 HOLIDAY ROMANCE EDITION

I’m on holiday. The holidays are here. I’m taking it easy. I declare this plague island festive season to be officially OPEN and my true love and I will be marking it with the annual reading of this review of Love Actually, without which it would not be Christmas. Later on we might watch the first 12 minutes or so of several romantic holiday movies in order to live tweet every abusive relationship and breach of the sexual offences act we spot in them – a much cherished family tradition. Keira Knightly was 17 when this film was made!
Please enjoy.

https://jezebel.com/i-rewatched-love-actually-and-am-here-to-ruin-hit-for-al-1485136388

RADVENT DAY 21 OMG MARCUS RASHFORD EDITION

I believe it was the enigmatic leader and serial cappuccino froth scooper Matt Hancock (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7232159/Matt-Hancock-caught-TV-recorded-using-fingers-finish-cappuccino.html) who once said, in the dim and shadowy past of April 2020, that premier league footballers should ‘do their bit’ during Covid 19, and take a pay cut.

A bold statement, perhaps, from a government that had so very recently, and with no apparent sense of irony, awarded MP’s an extra £10,000 for working from home, while refusing to raise the value of vouchers given to pregnant women and their children for fruit, vegetables and milk from £3.10 to £4.25 per week.

So mysterious are the workings of the Hancock mind, that we are unable to say whether this statement was deliberately designed to prompt Marcus Rashford to step from the side lines at that point, and assist the government with a series of Premier League standard own goals over the last 6 months.

It’s impossible to know what machinations have been whirring away smoothly since the moment the virus was detected and Cheltenham Races was given the thumbs up by a government with almost no lucrative links to the horse racing industry.
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jun/16/horse-racing-tory-donations-and-a-swift-return-from-lockdown-matt-hancock

One can only assume that an elaborate long con is in play, a veritable Queen’s Gambit of refusing to ensure children have food during the school holidays before, in fact, being ‘forced’ to ensure children have food during the holidays by a 23 year old who demonstrates things like ‘decency’ and ‘leadership’.

All we can say for sure is that only a football player could have combined grace and power as Marcus Rashford has over the course of this year.

Who else, when raising enough money to provide enough food for over 4.2 million meals for children and families who might not otherwise eat during the crisis, and raising the profile of food poverty more than any other person since the creation of the welfare state, made sure it was his mum he gave credit to, who raised him as a single parent while working 3 jobs.

Who else, when successfully influencing government policy with his #MakeTheUTurn campaign, ensuring 1.3 million vulnerable children could continue to access food through the holidays, and launching a book club to give those children access to endless worlds and ideas, made sure it was the families themselves who were given a voice.

Who else would bring together thousands of local businesses, councils and charities to ‘do their bit’ and ensure the welfare of children is at the heart of how a community thrives.

Who else, when made an MBE by an increasingly nervous set of government ministers unable to openly dismiss him, said he felt like he shouldn’t have received it yet because he was just getting started.
Just getting started. Omg.

This year, even on the bright and sunny days, things have sometimes been grim.
Today, the shortest day, after weeks of fog and rain, with everything that has happened, it feels we are creaking endlessly away from the sun.

But if there’s one thing this year has shown, it’s that there is always light somewhere. Marcus Rashford is a reminder, in a terrible time, that when you use the resources you have to commit to kindness, that goes out into the world, and there is no way of knowing how much good it will do. When you offer people support, and respect, you never know who they are going to turn out to be. Who knows how many children have been watching Marcus this year, gently and absolutely refusing to take no for an answer, and what they themselves will go on to achieve. All I do know is, we are going to need them.

FREE
PLEASE watch Marcus and his mum for yourself, to understand better than anyone else can explain how the system is not set up for families on low incomes to succeed, no matter how hard they work. And what you can do about it.
Tonight, BBC1, 7pm

https://www.bbc.com/mediacentre/proginfo/2020/51/marcus-rashford-feeding-britains-children

DONATE
https://fareshare.org.uk/marcus-rashford/

SELF CARE
I don’t get emotional much because I’m basically dead inside and my heart is made of stone but can confirm I will be cathartically ugly crying whenever his mum talks about how proud she is of him, with a large slice of stollen – please feel free to join.

RADVENT DAY 20 PUTTING THE MEN INTO MENTAL HEALTH EDITION

It’s like I always tell people – I like my coffee like I like my men: ethically sourced, best matched with my I ❤️ Bognor Regis mug, and living their truest lives free from the crushing expectations of a patriarchal society.

We don’t often talk about men – they’re a much overlooked minority.
So, here are some men facts for you: Men are three times more likely to die by suicide, three times as likely to self medicate mental illness with alcohol and drugs, and far less likely to talk to their peers, their GP or to professionals about their mental health. 40% of men say they would have to be suicidal before accessing this kind of support, which when you think about it, is a bit of a mad way for society to function.

Perhaps it has something to do with the way society teaches our children that boys should suppress their emotions, and should be tough all the time and compete all the time (even down to the way you hold a conversation). They are assumed to be more rowdy or aggressive – and less accountable for it when they are. Boys don’t cry. Man up. Grow a pair. Boys will be boys.

In a patriarchal society, this is what comes for children, as soon as they are old enough to understand their place in the world. It’s the flip side of what happens to girls at the same age – the sliding away of confidence in their own decisions, in their own bodies – but it’s the same system at work.

We’ve all seen the little boys in our lives losing their willingness to talk about their worries, or their joy. We’ve all seen the girls asking if they’re fat, or couching all their good ideas in apologies. My children are 7 and 9, and let me tell you you’ve got 6 and a half years max before this nonsense kicks in and carries off their own ideas about themselves.

Being tough all the time is hard. I mean sure, for a lot of white men, it is balanced out by all that unexamined privilege and earning potential and holding all the positions of power within a political and financial system rooted in colonialism and white supremacy etc. But in a totally unrelated way, it’s also linked to things like fragility, anger, homophobia, violence as a way to resolve conflict.

Sometimes there’s confusion about feminism’s goals – the idea that attacking this kind of toxic masculinity is attacking masculinity as a whole. It ain’t. It’s about smashing up the whole set up and building something better. You fix this, you fix everything. This isn’t a ‘women’s issue’. Consigning toxic masculinity to the bin is one for all of us, and it’s as radical as it gets.

FREE

Read:

https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/boys-will-held-accountable-actions-phtz/

7 Toxic Phrases Parents Need to Stop Saying to Their Sons

When IS International Men’s Day?
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/international-mens-day-comedian-twitter-money-charity-richard-herring-a9208541.html

MANDEM

CASH TO SPARE
Donate:

Home

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/tags/men

SELF CARE
Listen:

https://play.acast.com/s/insaneinthemenbrain

RADVENT DAY 19 CONNECT AT CHRISTMAS EDITION

I was going to write about mental health over Xmas today, but events, as they say, have gotten ahead of me, and I wanted to share this amazing list of resources for helping people to stay connected digitally instead, as we all enter Tier 4 and/or have our Christmas plans reduced and altered. It’s going to be tough, but very much hoping to keep the people I love safe to be with me next year, so we can hug each other then.

Right now lots of people are just dealing with how they are feeling about these changes. But if later on you want to do something to make change, you can help others to be digitally included.

If you know someone who doesn’t feel confident with video calls, or apps, or online stuff generally, then you can use the free links below to help them improve their skills, and radically improve their Christmas.

We are all going to need each other to see out this terrible year in the best way that we can. Let’s stay connected x

More info here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/stroudcorona/permalink/423997288788031/

RADVENT DAY 18 GET SOME DAMN SLEEP EDITION

I’ve skipped a lot of self care on the Radvent posts this year, which probably reflects my own month so far.

Last night I fell asleep fully clothed with my face on the laptop while getting the kids to bed, then woke up at 5am determined to make a radically better balance for myself.

So, today’s Radvent is not as planned. It’s a simple one: get an early night. Possibly straight after Gogglebox, who knows. Literally everything can wait. Nourish yourself. Maybe not with eggnog tho. But anyway, ditch the wrapping and the work and the sorting and get some sleep.

And if that’s not radical enough, here’s my other pointer:
If you already give to charities at Christmas – make sure you have something lined up in January too.
Many organisations receive a flood of support in December, and have the same need (if not more) the whole year. Spread the love all year in 2021 ❤️ Once you’ve got some sleep, that is x

RADVENT DAY 17 THE LONG TABLE EDITION

If you would like do something truly radical this year, apart from failing to procure a sourdough starter at any point, then you could do a lot worse than support The Long Table.

An organisation set up close to me in Gloucestershire, for the last two years The Long Table has redefined what it is to provide a community with food and connection – an idea that goes far beyond the local.

Before Covid19, they started with the single idea:

What if everyone has access to great food, and someone to eat it with?’

Out of this came a community kitchen, training for people who want to learn how to cook using locally produced and donated food, a crop swap – and a pay as you feel place to eat (in the world’s most beautifully decorated shipping container, as it goes). Here, people from the same community, who might never meet otherwise, could sit in a welcoming place, talk to each other – and that subversive thing – eat together.

During Covid19 and lockdown, the team at the Long Table produced nearly 50,000 meals that were distributed across the county, paid for by those who could afford it, free to those who could not. This was a lifeline to several people I knew at that time. They continue their work, with dozens of their ‘Freezers of Love’ open in community spaces, providing beautiful pre-prepared meals on a pay as you feel basis. Nobody knows who pays and who doesn’t – when it comes to food and togetherness, the community acts as one. This Christmas, they have also delivered 3,500 festive packs and meals to people’s homes.

FREE
Have a look at their projects, and be inspired to think big on food and community.
https://www.thelongtableonline.com/

CASH TO SPARE
Near or far, you can be a friend to the Long Table, donating weekly to help them grow their projects and to change the world, one meal at a time. This is not about poverty, or need – this is about feasting, beauty and plenty. It says everyone is entitled to these things. Radical indeed.

Get your seat at the table here:
https://donorbox.org/thelongtable

RADVENT DAY 16 JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE EDITION

It’s Wednesday. It’s very nearly the middle of winter, and I’ve been getting the kids to bed for 15 hours, ever since it got dark at around 9.30am. I have no plans for today’s Radvent. I have no plans for Organising A Little Christmas. Of course I have no plans, these days I have Tiers where the plans used to be, and it’s December, and there’s rain in my shoes and fog in my elbows and my to do list has (current version) 38 things to do on it.

However, this afternoon I dyed my hair pink and put on a sequinned dress I got from a charity shop so as I write this I’m sitting in a child’s bedroom in the dark on a bean bag, glittering and pink – or shiny and weird, as my daughter called me. I’ll take that. Later on, I’ll be wearing men’s flannelette paisley pyjamas, and if you do not own these, then I feel sad that you have never known true comfort.
None of these things were on my to do list. But I was prompted by a recent post by Lucy AitkenRead – Unschooling Support on joy as an act of resistance.

It will be no surprise to those who read my heart warming posts about universal credit and all the times I’m attacked by the cat, that I am very into joy. Anyone who wants to make the world a bit better, which is all of us, must live with hope and joy running through them like a stick of rock. It isn’t gratitude, or even happiness, exactly. Joy means understanding that there is value in things, and in people, and they won’t last forever. Hope means knowing that things can and must be fought for, while we can.

We all find real joy in different things, there’s no yardstick to measure it by, or way to manufacture it and sell it.
Joy is dangerous and wonky and doesn’t fit into any of the boxes we are given to tick.

For me, joy is sparked with every act of grace and kindness I see in my little town, every time we dance in the kitchen, every tiny victory we celebrate against the things that divide us, every time my children wake up in the morning and we hug each other and smell each other’s hair, every time I eat Christmas cake with cream on the plate with gold leaf that fits it just right, every time I run soggy miles with my legs and my lungs, and every time I think about when I was gifted a book by Marie Kondo, and I threw it out of a window.

Dancing, running, laughing, connecting with others, eating whatever we like, wearing whatever we damn well please – if joy has one theme running through it, it is taking up our space in the world and filling it to the brim.
No Little Christmas for me this year, no matter how few faces there are at the table, even if the gifts aren’t expensive. We’ll be at home, trying to keep the people we love safe. We’ll be ignoring the Queen’s speech, we’ll be failing to beat my 7 year old at monopoly, the house will be messy and full of crap and – lucky us – we’ll be full of some terrible meal I’ve half-heartedly cooked, and we will be full of joy.

SELF CARE
Only one volume:

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/joy-as-an-act-of-resistancef

RADVENT DAY 15 VALUE EDITION

If you want to get something done, ask a busy person, is how the saying goes. Maybe that means a hedge fund manager who works for his father in law (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi_Sunak). They’re pretty busy, right?

Oh no wait, i’m talking about single parents, who also do all their financial management while listening to Frozen 2 and being hit in the face with a tommy tippee jug, and are basically paid the same amount, makes sense.

Lone parents have – surprise! – been disproportionately impacted by loss of jobs and childcare during 2020, changes to the welfare system, loss of job security, low paid work.
But that’s not all. As the state recedes, the community steps in, not because it has the capacity or the infrastructure, but because it has to otherwise lots of people go hungry, they sink, they die from the cold.
And when you take a good look around at who is delivering the frontline community work to support everyone else in a global pandemic, it is – surprise again! – often these lone parents and carers themselves.

Over the years, I have lost track of the number of community groups, CIC’s, charities, grassroots campaigning I’ve been involved with that has been run by single parents. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve been lucky enough to know who are caring for their parents as well as their children, caring for children with a disability, up at dawn, up 5 times a night, spending hours filing reports, writing to their MP, endlessly challenging poor decisions, rectifying errors.

These are people who are raising a new generation of adults, challenging the status quo, and often also providing care to some of the most vulnerable people in society while they do it. The free labour they provide is worth a lot more to this economy than fishing, I can tell you that, and they aren’t invited onto the Today Programme to talk about What Brexit Means For Them.

They are, without exception, skilled, resourceful and unbelievably powerful people. Imagine, for a moment, how we would all benefit if we had childcare systems and employment practices that meant it was easy for single parents to be paid what they are worth, and to thrive. I’m not saying we should sack those in charge and replace them JUST with the women I know, but I am saying a Cabinet full of single parents would have sorted track and trace in two weeks for £86.24, and had enough left over in the budget for a PTA raffle and a UK wide Universal Basic Income. No wonder the media hates them.

So, I’m not going to talk about being on your own raising children during a lockdown, in the middle of a pandemic. This takes a kind of mental resilience I do not know anything about, because although I’ve been lifted up and supported by many lone parents in my life, I have never been one. I’m also not going to talk about Marcus Rashford (yet) and the work he has done to tackle the stereotypes around single parents and their children, quite apart from anything else.

I’m just going to say that if you want to change anything, anything at all about the way things are right now, you start by truly valuing the work of carers.

FREE
Campaign to have the rights of single parents enshrined in law. Nothing changes until the law does. Run by EllamentalMama in her oodles of spare time, gathering a groundswell of support right now – get on it and add yours:

https://www.ellamentalmama.com/single-parent-rights/

Read more about the deep inequalities being entrenched by Covid
https://www.uea.ac.uk/news/-/article/women-and-single-parents-most-impacted-by-effects-of-covid-19-on-social-housing

CASH TO SPARE
Gingerbread is a resource designed for lone parents and carers, and offers advice and support networks, help at Christmas, plus brilliant research, lobbying and policy work. It’s amazing give them your CASH

https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/support-us/donate/

SELF CARE
Not one for the kids, this. I make no apologies for the language, it is JOY

https://youtu.be/vpDG_t3XYsU