Category Archives: thoughts

On turning 30

My twenties were good to me. The mainly traditional thing I did (from that little checklist of “things that must be done according to society at large or so they say”)(is anyone even looking at this list anymore) was get married and buy a house-getting in under the buzzer on that one. No babies. One dog, one husband. A few degrees and a lot of travels and books read and films seen and alcohol drunk. An indefinitely permanent move abroad was made. They have been chaotic years, and it’s been a bit of a chaotic decade really. Things only seemed to settle around the 28 mark, although in the past year, and particularly in the past 6 months, I’ve felt more myself than ever before. And I feel like a door has solidly shut behind me, and shut on a fair amount of uncertainty, of insecurity.

When I was 12, it was a tradition at my school to write a letter to your future 18 year old self. Pretty neat and not at all cheesy, I know. My classmates and I wrote these letters in our 6th grade English class, saying what we’d hoped we’d done by then, and who we assumed we’d be, asking questions to our future selves, licked the envelopes closed with favorite pictures or trinkets inside, and when we graduated, if we were still at the school, they were given to us once again. I know I still have my letter somewhere, so enthusiastic and pure and earnest as all get out and so so hopeful for everything that my nearly teenage self assumed would happen. I remember getting teary when I opened that letter during the spring of my senior year in high school, although I can’t at all remember what I wrote to myself. But so it goes.

If I had written that letter again at 20, or 23, or 25, I don’t know what I would have said or asked of my thirty year old self.  It may have been more cynical in tone, surely. But maybe just as hopeful that things would eventually smooth out, and bare some semblance to a life that I wanted and might have dared to dream of. And definitely a life that had a reassuring kind of stability to it, one where I felt safe and secure and loved and continuously optimistic all at once, in a way that I didn’t feel or know if I would find for a hefty part of the last decade.

Things seem to be settling now. My twenties were very very good when it comes down to it. But maybe my thirties will be, too. Or they’ll be better. And I’m ready for that, whichever way it goes. I don’t mind getting older, and can’t relate much to those who do. It is a thing that seems so silly to complain about. What’s the alternative-death? No thanks. So. Here we are. Thirty! Man oh man.

thirty year old

thirty year old selfie taker


Sometimes I wish we lived in London

shoreditch london graffiti

burrough market london

russian revolutionary posters tate modern london

bar at the tate modern londonlondon bridge

Most of the time Shoreham, and Brighton for that matter, are really wonderful, lovely places to be, and I am happy here, and happy to call this place home. But sometimes, coincidentally nearly every time I spend any amount of time in the city  (also known as The City), the slowness and relative smallness of this place makes me yearn for the endless activity of London.

I went to a conference on Friday in Shoreditch, home of the hipsters, as the internet will gladly let you know. The conference took place at Amnesty International’s London Headquarters, and centered around ethical consumption and was pretty intense, really. My two co-workers and I left before the day’s last session ended, a little worn out from the seriousness and infighting, and  wandered off to get some air. Then we decided that going to the Tate Modern would be a great idea, the idea of modern art and a walk along the Thames to take the edge off a big day sounding pretty fantastic.

We hopped on the tube and got off at London Bridge, then did a solid mosey down the river, over the cobbled streets, past Shakespeare’s Globe, and through the throngs of tourists and serious working London types and the early autumn sunshine twinkled on the river and things were gorgeous. The Tate had its usual stuff and did that thing of reminding me of the scene in Ferris Bueller at the art museum where they all get lost in their own thoughts while staring at various paintings, but with a lot more surrealism and abstract pieces involved. There are several Dalis and Picassos in those rooms, after all. It’s a very dreamy place! They have a new exhibition on Russian Revolutionary posters that I found fascinating, and so imposing and so…red. Really red. It was great.

Eventually my co-workers and I decided a drink or two was in order, so we went to the restaurant/bar on the top floor of the Tate and ordered some wine. The views from up there are amazing, and the wall facing the river is floor to ceiling glass, making a coveted seat along it hard to come by. We managed to find a little table and had the kind of talks you can have with people that you like, but haven’t gotten to know well yet, and it gives you the tingles in your brain and heart because you’re having such a nice, unexpected time with good people.

Finally we trickled off-a coworker had to get the train back down south to pick up her daughter, another’s friend (a stunningly beautiful and heartbreakingly sweet London surgeon) came to join us, and I decided to be responsible and leave them to their evening plans. Walking back along the river to get to London Bridge, I was struck by that same longing, wishing I was going home to my cozy little London flat with all of this at my doorstep, rather than fighting the crowds underground and taking an hour long train ride home to my sleepy flat by the sea.

Like I said, it is good here, it really is. But London-it really sucks you in, too.

On good professional feelings

happiness at work

Bruce on my work desk, apropos of nothing. But he’s so cuuuuute.

Today I presented my first professional writing workshop. Twelve employees of a company I consult for, none of them writers, most of them developers, stared at me blankly, or nodded sometimes, or took notes. I got them all brainstorming ideas for articles around themes, I got them chatting to one another to think up clever and interesting titles, I taught them what to look for when proofreading and editing one another’s work, and I hopefully made them feel a little more empowered and able to take ownership of their writing abilities. It went really really well, and even though I wanted to throw up just a little bit before it began, I didn’t. Yay.

To me writing has always come fairly easy. A hobby but also a skill, and a craft. The idea of it, but more often the act of it. Writing makes me feel better, more connected to myself and my thoughts. And so many people don’t have that and don’t feel comfortable putting proverbial pen to paper, and I love that my job now is so much about getting people to find those words and get them out, even if it isn’t always about the most interesting of things.

Teaching was hard. Being a teacher was really hard. It was fun and satisfying and forever interesting, but it was hard and underpaid and overworked too. I loved teaching my students of all ages how to tap into their own thoughts and jot those things down, and getting in front of that group today was like being in front of a classroom all over again.

It is incredibly satisfying to feel like I’ve found a thing that I want to do for the foreseeable future, that I’m good at, but that I can get better at. It’s good to be paid a good salary to do good work with good people. I never really thought all those parts would fall into place, and I still can’t quite believe that they have. But they have. Or they seem to have, for now. Which is good enough for me.

Trashy holidays? On Benidorm and British Class Issues.

When Jon told some of the people at work that he was going on a holiday to Benidorm, he received a variety of responses, all in the same vein. These are two of the real ones he told me:

“Are you going ironically?”

“I thought you and Ashley were into cultural things?”

When I answered the question “oh, where are you going?” with Benidorm, I got either a laugh, a “really?!”, and once, from one of my clients, a sweet party-down style fist pump into the air. In that case, I was the one who laughed. That fist pump was pretty awesome.

But these responses are really indicative of the ways that English people look at holidays. In a country where a much much bigger segment of the population can take a holiday or two a year than in many other countries (and need to take that time off work, or risk losing those days altogether), on top of the fact that traveling abroad is super cheap when you a) have the still-pretty-powerful pound to spend and b) a two hour flight out of London can put you in Africa or anywhere in Europe, well, some places have become known for some things. Not all good things, either.

From what I understand, it was in the 1980s that a larger number of working class Brits started to have the expendable income and time off work to go on vacation every year, and this is when some places-mostly in Spain and on islands in the Mediterranean-became known for the “unsavoury types” that were taking advantage of the cheap prices and sunshine to get really drunk in the sunshine. The saying goes that this type of vacationer doesn’t want any culture, and just wants ‘England in the sun’.

This is how places like Benidorm, Lanzarote, Ibiza, Magaluf, Falaraki, etc have come to have the reputations for being places where English people go to get shitfaced in the sunshine, eating full English breakfasts every day in a terrible pub owned by a British expat that shows British tv, getting incredibly sunburnt, all the while being angry that more of the locals “don’t speak English” and trying to get naked with a local dude/lady (they aren’t completely against culture, if it’s sexy!). Some are known more for young people going to party on their gap year, others for being popular for families, and still others for old retired folk (pensioners) who have migrated into the sunnier climes in their older years. But all have reputations.

This bothers me though.

The classism involved in saying that one place is for a trashy holiday while another place is culturally appropriate is mostly idiotic, and thoroughly steeped in the idea that some places have culture, while the influx of drunk Brits has eroded the culture of other places. But that can’t be true. And isn’t. Everywhere has culture. That’s how culture works. It’s a matter of looking for it.

This year, Jon and I wanted to take a lazy beach holiday, something we’ve never done. We went to a part of Spain that is cheap. We had a great time. It was not “trashy”, although there were some potentially trashy things going on in some places (the same could be said of some of the shit bars in Brighton, or New York, or anywhere really). But no, we didn’t go to any museums or look at anything particularly culturally significant. That doesn’t mean that section of Spain is devoid of culture.

Last year, Lindsey and I went to Tenerife, another cheap and cheerful holiday destination that is fairly popular with the stag/hen do set (also known as bachelor/bachelorette in the States, except for in the States no one would take all their friends to Miami for a week just because they were getting married….or would they? Maybe I need fancier friends!). There were lots of folks there just to drink in the sunshine by the pool and on the beach. There were also great restaurants, traditional flamenco dancing, a bus trip to some old villages on the North side of the island, and day trip up a cool ass volcano.

A holiday is what you make it. And while I don’t think anyone in the states would turn their nose up at the idea of someone they know saying they were going to say….Myrtle Beach, or Key West, or San Diego for a summer vacation, I sure as hell know a LOT of Brits who give a side eye and a giggle to anyone going to one of the holiday destinations deemed “lower-class”. And I even got in on it, this weird classist joke,  after we figured out where we were going, but the more I think of it, the more annoyed it makes me. These stiff definitions for what a place is, and what happens there, are just another way of dividing the population of Britain. It’s weird. It’s weird to be seen as a different person for even wanting to go to a place like Benidorm over a place like Barcelona, two Spanish cities only separated by a few hundred miles of coastline.

At the same time, I don’t think Jon and I would take another all-inclusive holiday like that again, just because we generally are people who like to explore and see new things everyday. But do I begrudge people who want to get the most out of their money in a sunny place, close to the beach, often with their families or a group of friends? No. Nope. It’s easy, and it’s lovely, and more power to ’em.

And if you’re interested in reading a bit more about this strange (to me) phenomenon-here’s some more reading around the web, including the very recent article that went out as a response to a German paper calling British holidaymakers the worst in Europe/the world, some writing on Brits abroad, where to take your prim and proper middle class holiday, and some writing about chavvy (aka poor+trashy people) holidays. Whew.

One: the aforementioned response

Two:on “lad culture” on holiday

Three: on “chav holidays”

Four: an actual pdf on middle class holidays to take. Seriously.

Five: an article from back in 2009 about a travel company offering “chav-free” holidays

Six:and one from today on Brits abroad

still a feminist over here

I used to write do a little weekly round up called feminist friday. I thought it was a good feature in that I already spend so much of my free time keeping up with, and being hyper aware of, news that reflects the inherent misogyny in our culture, and ways that people-men and women-are fighting for equality, and it seemed like a nice way to share that bit of knowledge. Since it was more an issue of collecting things in one place and then posting on Fridays, it took a much smaller amount of thought and effort to put together, and served a somewhat larger purpose than just rambling on about my day to day.

But then I stopped. I kinda got worn out. It’s really hard caring so much about this stuff and feeling the complete impotence that is being a woman in the world. Superficially empowered, but still looked down on in so many ways, by so many or our compatriots, simply for existing. It is a hard life, and so many of the stories that were being shared were about the injustices being faced by women and the marginalized, with very few uplifting bits. And it proved very disheartening, even for a round up with next to no commentary. I still feel like it’s all disheartening more often than not. And it’s not that I’ve stopped keeping up with things-it’s just that I’ve stopped writing about that.

Last night I watched a documentary on BBC2 called Blurred Lines, by the news presenter and journalist Kirsty Wark. It was an hour-long look into sexism and misogyny’s role in today’s culture, and how the internet and media have played into that, and whether today’s misogyny is new and different, or just a rehashing of the old versions. it was amazing, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. And frustrating, as most of these things are.

The Steubenville case (which makes me sad for it having drawn such negative attention to my mostly invisible home state, such a normally beige place), Grand Theft Auto (where more effort was put into creating realistic murder scenarios for prostitutes than into actually creating a female driver avatar), Page Three girls here in the UK….all were brought up in the documentary. It felt like an example of a situation where none of it was new to me, but where the presentation and the vessel were possibly putting it in front of a very different audience. I’m happy to see these sort of issues being put in front of a different kind of audience, where it’s not all “preaching to the choir” and where it becomes evident to those who have either brushed aside or completely ignored this very important contemporary issue that it’s not as marginal as they may think. It’s important and we, as a society, MUST address it.

After a few businessy meetings this morning I took advantage of some break time to time to wander into a book shop and purchase a copy of ‘The Female Eunuch’ by Germaine Greer. Published nearly 40 years ago it is still relevant today, and the sheer bad-assery of Ms Greer in the documentary last night made me even more eager to get around to finally reading her masterpiece. (On a side note, the feminist theory section of the Brighton Waterstone’s was a paltry half of two small shelves also shared with sociology. It was slightly embarrassing, with a whole floor of philosophy waiting and open for other schools of thought, and so many other books that I’m aware of that could have been on those shelves).

“Commercial porn has been liberated. Fantasty has been liberated. People haven’t. Women haven’t been liberated. -Germain Greer

In sum, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should try harder once again to get feminist things out there in this space. Links for reading, for those interested, and for those not interested who still pop in to say hello. Any of us interested in putting those things out there, should put in just a bit more effort-it’s still so important, and in no way overwrought or finished. After all, those who don’t care won’t be clicking anyway, but those with the least bit of interest, well, they may just pick up something new. And any mind opened to these issues is a success story. It’s worth it. One hundred percent.

Another big change

big changes

For the second time in 8 months, I’ve been asked to join a new organization, and subsequently embark on a totally new professional life/career. And that’s pretty damn unexpected, but also seriously cool. Getting head-hunted for a fairly dreamy and autonomous writing job (with a company that does great stuff! where I get to work from home most of the time! for the same salary I just got after a pay raise at my other job! with more holidays in my contract!) makes me feel several things. All the things, if I’m being honest. Really flattered, for one. And really insecure for another. Those are the big two. Also, really excited, but that’s obvious if you happen to be reading here.

It’s strange to see some big plans that I had for my life from way back in childhood really coming to fruition now. Getting close to my 30th birthday in the fall, and finally finally finally I’m feeling like I have grips on the direction my life is taking, or has taken. That I’m more in control than I have ever been.

This time last year, I was a teacher, still scraping by and loving my work, but knowing that there was no future in it unless I sunk more funds into more qualifications and degrees, or stumbled upon an academic directorship at a school similar to the one I was working at (which is nearly impossible around here, as supply beats demand by a whole lot in my field). And a year later, I’ve spent 7 months learning some of the ins and outs of an edtech startup, which arguably left me jaded in a lot of ways, but also taught me some things about the other side.

And here I am now, today. Last week I sat down with an amazing fellow I know, who was familiar with some of my freelance work, but also with my passions as a feminist and a writer and really, as a person. And with his business expanding, he wanted to invite me to come on board as an editorial consultant, working with big companies (writing their content and doing their media bits) in order to make enough money to work with small companies, charities, and non-profits. Doing the same thing for them as for the big guys, with the big guys footing the bill. And that is something that I can really get behind. Because I’m kind of a socialist that way.

I’ve always wanted to be paid to write. This internet hole isn’t a great example of my work, I know. I don’t put as much effort into this space, and into my bits of writing, as I could. I have all these ideas for essays and columns and I just….don’t do anything with them. But this seems like a turn of events that I never imagined, and that I couldn’t be more excited for. And it may even leave me inspired enough, and with time and space enough, to think and write more over here too. Who knows. But this is now, and after this long Easter weekend-Friday and Monday off!-I’ll start a brand new job. One that I plan on doing for a long time. And it will have a learning curve, certainly, but I’m so looking forward to it all. All of it. Life is so weird sometimes.