Goodbye Dirty Thirties…

I turned 40 last week. And I turned 40 to a rather large fanfare – in my own head.

I had debated for a good while whether or not I was going to bother acknowledging it, or run away and hide, but as it approached and I remembered that I am no longer young, free and supple, I decided to embrace it, enjoy it and celebrate it. So I had a party.

What a palaver.

Let me start out by saying that it was a wonderful evening – I had a great time, lots of brilliant friends and family came to celebrate with me, and I felt loved, drunk and happy. This is not about the party or the result of the party – this is about the fact that finally, at 40, I have realised that although I have lots of amazing friends who are there for me, I also have “friends” who are just going to let me down.

I set up a Facebook event around 7 months before the party and contacted people to “save the date” advising that invitations would go out nearer the time. I confirmed addresses and duly created, printed and posted proper invitations to people. Around 80 people got back to me. Around 60 people did not respond.

I waited a short while, and then contacted them all again – text/email/facebook – you know where it tells you if people read it or not. From this “chasing up” I got about 30 replies, eventually. All of whom declined, the week before the party.

Now let me just confirm – these are not acquaintances or people I don’t know very well – these people are my friends.

The “declines” fell broadly into 3 categories:

1) The Ignorers

They literally did not reply to me. I haven’t heard from any of them since

2) The Elaborate Excusers

“I would like to come, but I have a friend whose wife left him 2 weeks ago, and I need to be around for him in case he needs me” – So you are not going to make any plans or go out to work or have your own life in any way “just in case?” I am your friend too.

“I won’t know what I’m working until the date of your party” I just don’t believe this. If coming to my party was in any way important to you, you would find a way to find out. Also you are a f*cking postman and have had that job for 20 years.

“I think I’m going on holiday, but I don’t know what date I’m flying yet” Well – lets hope you find out before the plane takes off

“I had pneumonia last week, and still don’t think I’ll feel very well” Sorry to hear that. I see, however, that you’ve been at work and are going to a gig on Saturday. Still – if you can see into the future, then you know best

“My mum is on holiday, so I can’t get a lift” No other cars/trains/buses/taxis in the world?

3) The Maybes

“I am definitely going to be there if I can, but I’m going to be in Leicester and my car has been playing up, and it might not get me back in time” You’re not coming, are you?

“I am out earlier on in the evening, and I don’t know what time the other event finishes” You’re not coming, are you?

“It all depends on whether or not my hours at work are going to change” You’re not coming, are you?

(None of them came)

But there are two worse types of party-denyers:

a) the ones who said they were coming, and then just didn’t turn up. And didn’t say “Happy Birthday”, didn’t send a card, and haven’t asked me if I had a good day.

b) the liars.

Yes, I have friends who think absolutely nothing of lying to me, and then failing to cover their backs by not keeping up the lie on their social networking sites

“I am going on holiday and fly on the day of your birthday party” – negated by the photo of her at a concert in a nearby city the night after the party, and a photo of her and her husband 2 days after having lunch in a nearby stately home

“I am having an emergency operation that has now been scheduled in for that day” – negated by the twitter feed which was updated hourly throughout the day discussing the rubbish day at work she had, and then tweeting photos of herself in a pub at night

“I am already at another party that night” – negated by the Facebook status: “Friday nights are so boring – TV and wine for me”

“I’m at a gig, sorry” negated by the fact that the gig mentioned was actually the following week.

I know that not everyone wants to come to a party. I realise now that not everyone likes me as much as I thought they did, but I cannot understand why these elaborate and strange excuses happen. If you don’t want to come – don’t come! It’s simple. You don’t even have to give me a reason if you don’t want to. “No, sorry” does actually work.

I think I’ve worked it out, though – because I had a lot of “maybes” and none of them came. I knew they wouldn’t. But it was obvious to me that they didn’t want to lose friendship points by giving me an outright “no”, so thought they would come up with a really good and valid reason not to come, but at the same time pledging to try their hardest to overcome the adversity, and therefore stll ensure their friendship status. All the time having zero intention of attending.

Because, frankly, if you don’t know what you’re working until the day in question, you need to sort that out with your HR. If you don’t think your car will make it back, then you need to fix that. Or spend the intervening fortnight thinking of another way to move from one place to another. If you are keeping an evening free on the offchance a friend might want you, remember that you have other friends who definitely do want you. If you’re going to fake an operation, remember that I follow you on Twitter. Which is timestamped.

Beause the fact is, these are all excuses and not reasons. And if it was important to you to be there, then you would have found a way. If your daughter was getting married, would you have just accepted that your work timetable hadn’t been published? No. You’d have found a way. Now, look –  I’m not saying my 40th birthday party is as important as being the Father of the Bride; I am highlighting the fact that if you’d have wanted to be there, then you would have been.

You all just made choices, and your choice wasn’t me.

So I am just going to accept that there are people in my life who are not there for me, who aren’t interested in me and who don’t want to spend time with me when it’s important to me. And that’s OK.

Because there are people in my life who wouldn’t have missed it for the world. People who drove around for 2 hours because they were lost, and nearly ran out of petrol, but who didn’t give up and still got there, because they cared. People who went into pubs to ask for directions in full 1970s costume and wigs, because they cared. People who went to the trouble of buying me thoughtful and personal gifts, because they cared. People who got up and danced with me on my birthday, despite not loving the music, because they cared. People who are my friends.

So, now I’ve got that off my chest, I’m focusing on those people. On the ones who are on my photos, who I can look back and laugh with. On the ones who bought me a drink and called me an old fart. On the ones who threw up out of the car window, and the ones who took all the rubbish home in their car so we would get our deposit back. Because they are my friends.

And the rest of you? Life is too short, and now I’m (hopefully) about half-way through, I’m going to spend it with people who plough through excuses and actually make it.

Happy birthday, Bectora. Happy streamlining.


General Sexism and Bashing Heads Against Walls


I’ve been a bit quiet of late, and that’s primarily because I’m engaging with a bit of online debate on various forums; most of which is to do with the casual sexism that is so rife in everything we see, hear and do in the United Kingdom.

I thought I’d write myself a pocket guide to dealing with misogyny, and hope that it allows me to let off enough steam that I can stop engaging quite so much, because it’s frankly tiring and repetitive, and it makes me despair for what I am dealing with.

I would like to start by saying that I NEVER seek to to “make other people agree with me.” That is not my intent. Rather, I comment and debate on various threads, in order to engage and discuss issues that matter. I am happy to hear other sides, and am happy to put my viewpoint across. Too often, however, it descends into name calling and personal insults, and it is at that juncture, that I realise that the point is all but lost.

These are all examples of recent “debates” I have fallen into the trap of getting involved in.

1) On the Morrisons Facebook page, a reader posted a photograph of the toy aisle, in which boys and girls toys were separated and advertised with a gender divide. Not news, of course, and pretty much prevalent across most high street stores. A debate ensued. I made the point that I felt the gender divide – where girls’ toys are all sparkles, tiaras, dolls, prams, make up, shopping trolleys, kitchen items and pink lego, and boys’ toys are all dinosaurs, construction, vehicles, monsters, aliens, gunge and guns – was unnecessary. I (politely) advised that I felt it was unhelpful to segregate and market certain toys at different genders, because children will basically play with anything, and rightly so. I said that I didn’t like the message that it sends to children – “these are your toys, and those toys belong to the other gender” because it embeds the notion of the gender divide at an early age, and I gave an example where, at my son’s nursery, a boy had a doll and pram removed from him, whereupon it was given to a girl, and he was taken to the cars section.

A couple of people agreed with me, but for the most point, the vitriol and hatred I received made me wonder if I had inadvertenly posted that I was planning to kill, cook and eat some babies. I was told to “grow the f*ck up”, “stop projecting [my] own inadequacies”, “shut up and grow a pair”, “leave kids alone to be kids” and was also advised that I was a “rampant lentil-weaving feminist”, an idiot because it’s “adults what buy toys , not kids, you tw*t” and that there are “much better things to be worrying about”, and one kind soul made my point for me, stating that her daughter “loved to dress as a builder, and likes other boys’ toys. What’s wrong with that?”


Because although many of them failed to see it, we were actually ALL saying that children should and could play with anything and everything that came my way. Which was exactly my point in saying that gender marketing was unnecessary.

2) I commented on a thread by a local radio station, which asked if Page 3 was “cheeky fun, or pornography”. Most replies ran along the “cheeky fun” line, and I responded with a short statement saying that Page 3 IS pornography and unnecessary and helped to embed the notion in our society that women are there to look at, and not be listened to, because Page 3 is in a newspaper, which I feel is inappropriate. I followed it up with a quick “I’m not debating about the existence of porn, I am merely stating that it should be removed from a newspaper which markets itself at the family demographic”

I was attacked left, right and centre. I was told by one respondent that he had “fought for King and Country for 18 years, and he did that to protect the right of women to do whatever line of work they wanted”. My response that we actually have a Queen and haven’t had a King since 1952 didn’t go down too well, and neither did my question “what about my right to not see porn in a newspaper?”

I was told that I was jealous (I’m not), campaigning to remove something which is our country’s heritage (it’s not), and that I was a “do-gooder with too much time on my hands”

I was also told, by several people, that if I don’t like it, then I shouldn’t buy it – which clearly misses the point, because it is the existence of Page 3 which I object to, and which continues to objectify women in our society. I provided links to the No More Page 3 campaign, and to the #EverdaySexism project, and also links proving a correlation between Page 3 and some instances of sexual violence. I was called a “sad woman” a “f*cking idiot” and a “silly b*tch”

3) I saw a lovely photograph of a steam train, posted by my friend. It had a description on, advertising the fact that “even women” work on trains, and that a woman named Steph was the new fireman on the train. These were not my friend’s words, but I commented on the page, and mentioned that I felt it was a shame that it had to be pointed out that “even women” can work in this industry. I also asked, politely, why she was referred to as a fireman? I was met with a wave of misogyny that really shocked me.

I was told that the job description was part of the heritage of our country, and no “lady” has a right to change it – and the “ladies” who worked there didn’t want to, so why was I getting het up about it? I was told that women can do the job as well as men, and they were merely pointing that out (erm…thanks) and that men who work in hospitals as “ward sisters” don’t get all militant and “foot-stampy” about the job title, because men don’t react like women.

I replied to this by saying that I felt it unnecessary to include a gender description in any job title, and I would support anyone – male or female – who opposed it. I also commented that men in general tend not to react to sexism, because it isn’t directed against men in the same way it is, and always has been, against women.

Another poster told me that it’s “just language” and I shouldn’t get annoyed with language. I replied that I wasn’t annoyed, but that there is still a gender pay-gap and employment opportunity disparity in this country, and opinions like the one published were all part of that problem. I was then challenged because none of them believed in the slightest that there is a gender pay divide because “in all my years of working in public and private sector, I have never known women get less money than men”

Within two minutes, I posted 5 links to support these facts, which I found on google, published by The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the BBC and the Guardian. I then found a piece on the pay divide in professional sport and posted that. I mentioned that in graduate professions particularly, and including politics, science, engineering and business, the pay gap is very real.

The response to this? “When you’re in a hole – stop digging.”

My favourite bit, though, was the man who told me that there were lots of “feminine ladies” who worked alongside him on the trains. How lovely for everyone concerned.

These are but three examples. There are dozens more.

I find it interesting that the people who argue with me, tell me that I’m wrong, even when I explain to them why I feel the way I do, but they cannot tell me why they think the way that they do.
■The people who want to keep gender divide marketing just tell me I’m being silly and they’ll buy whatever they like – fine. So let’s get rid of it, if there’s no reason to have it
■The people who want to keep Page 3 tell me that it “doesn’t do any harm”, and say that it’s their right to look at it. – fine. Look at it from the top shelf
■The people that feel that gender-descriptive job roles are OK and that there’s no issue just told me I was wrong when I explained I felt there was. One of them did tell me that the job-description was part of the heritage of the industry, which is a historical indusrty, and something that they wanted to preserve. I disagree, but at least he had a coherent reason. However, when I presented them with facts to back up my opinion, I was just told I was incorrect because men don’t complain – fine. That’s their business. This is mine, and I feel like righting wrongs.

Very often I am flogging a dead horse, but I still think that my opinion has value, because I back it up with reason and fact. That doesn’t mean that I expect the world to agree with me, change their minds, or tell me I’m right. I just expect people to understand what I am saying, and accept my responses when I answer their challenges. I also welcome debate from people who hold other opinions to me – but I rarely get it. Because most people deny that it’s an issue, ignore the facts that I give them, or completely misunderstand my point of view.

However, if one side of a debate can only fall back on insults, aggression and refusal to acknowledge that there is even a debate to be had, then they are part of the problem that they don’t believe in.

The Youth Of Today

In everyday life, there seem to be a lot of accusations levied at the “younger generation.”

I don’t know about you, but I hear it all the time: “The youth of today have no conversation. The youth of today are so rude. Kids these days are only interested in themselves. Teenagers are always on their phones. They’re confrontational, opinionated, only care about what’s on telly and have no interest in politics.”

 Essentially, most of the problems in today’s society, according to some popular opinion, are the responsibility of our teens and tweens.

I say this:


When I was a teenager, the same accusations were thrown our way. I played “knock a door run” and “chicken” – innocuous and innocent sounding as those games now seem to the 40+ generation, at the time it must have been inconvenient at best for those residents and car drivers, and dangerous and frightening at worst.

The “youth” has always been a foil to blame society’s ills on, and in this 2000’s era with all of its technology, the ability to share an ill-thought-out comment with hundreds, or even thousands of people in an instant, is easy and, in my opinion, ultimately forgivable. Because, you know what? Kids aren’t quite there yet, in terms of having the filter on what’s appropriate for wider consumption – just look at what happened to our first Youth Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown. Vilified by some and forced to resign from post because of silly comments made when she was just 14 years old. The only difference between these young people, and those of my era in the 80s, is that our throwaway comments were thrown away. Not recorded forever on an international media feed.

I’ll end with this. I have just had the pleasure of spending the morning – in the Easter Holidays – with two committed classes of Drama students in Year 12 and Year 13. They have given up one of their “days off” to come into school and rehearse for their examination performances. They have been respectful, entertaining, clever, witty, hard-working, diligent and a pleasure to be around. Working in a school, I get to see the good and the bad of our “youth”  and quite honestly, these students – like most of them – are a credit to themselves, and to us.

Because it’s our job to make sure they learn from the same mistakes that we made

Facebook, Banality, Wit and Worrying

I have entered a potentially dangerously boring phase of my life – and you might be a future victim of it.

Allow me to explain;

I have always prided myself on my ability to communicate interesting things with relevance and humour. Not everyone is going to agree that this is the case, but by and large, I try and talk about interesting things in a way that people will engage in. It’s my thing. If you ask my nearest and dearest what my defining quality is, some will say I’m a performer, others will say I’m a bit of a (lapsed) comedian, but most will say I’m a writer.

I have spent long hours over many years, honing and perfecting a style of writing that I hope engages people, and ensnares them into reading whatever it is I have to say. I’ve never really been dull on Facebook, and have never posted a picture of my dinner with the words “nom, nom, nom” next to it. I’ve also never written “going to bed” or “my son used the potty today” or “nearly summer” or any kind of approximation of those violations against wit. I’m more likely to utilise colourful language to explain a dispute with an alarm company, or choice allegations against a poor tour operator. Or make a joke. I make a lot of jokes, and none of them are copied and pasted, unless I am quoting Monty Python, which is not a sin.

But this is all changing, and it is for two reasons.

1) My sister gave birth last week to my first nephew. I am overcome with emotion about this and.. I can’t help sharing it with people who probably don’t care

2) I am on a diet, and doing really rather well. I have refrained from posting my “results” thus far, and have not yet resorted to the attention-seeking “lost 4lbs whoop whoop” kind of bollocks that I’m always reading…but I’m dangerously close to doing so and will, no doubt, soon be sharing it with people who probably don’t care.

Facebook is mental. It’s just a place where anyone with access to the internet can show off a pile of random crap to all and sundry. Some conversations that people have on Facebook, completely enthral me with their banality and stupidity, and right at the top of my Facebook fist-itching hates, are:

  1. Photographs of someone’s boring wanky dinner, described (as mentioned) by “nom” or “yum.” Especially “nom.”
  2. Boring, boring, boring commentary-style statuses, whereby “friends” narrate their every dullsville move throughout a given time period
  3. Enigmatic, moody attention-seeking postings along the lines of: “So fed up by it all.” or “Well, that’s it. Don’t mess with me, because you’ll regret it.” These are inevitably followed by baa-lamb responses (usually around 7-10 in number) of “what’s wrong, babe?” “what’s up?” “what’s happened?” And let me tell you, if you – the status originator – then respond with: “I’ll inbox you,” then you will move several notches up my shit-list.
  4. Poor grammar and spelling. This includes bloody text-speak, and “lol.”                                                                                      YOU ARE NOT LAUGHING OUT LOUD. AND I WOULD WAGER THAT YOU HAVE NEVER EVER IN YOUR LIFE ROLLED ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING. AND IF YOUR ARSE IS STILL ATTACHED TO YOU, YOU’VE NEVER LAUGHED THAT OFF EITHER. This section also includes those of you who write a couple of angry sentences about something or someone that has pissed you off, and then end it with “rant over.”  Point 1) It probably wasn’t a rant – we know a rant when we see one. Point 2)  If you have to tell us it was over, then it was a bad rant, and probably wasn’t one anyway. See Point 1.
  5. The constant posting of stupid copied pictures and “thought of the day” type crap. I don’t mind something funny or relevant or newsworthy, but I am so sick of “don’t forget who you trod on, on the way up, as they’ll be there to meet you on the way down” kind of crap. Yawn. If you can’t think of something intelligent, poignant or impressive yourself, then just post a picture of a cat yawning.
  6. Pictures of cats yawning
  7. Racist or sexist or inciteful or offensive or insulting or disablist lazy Daily Mail type shite.
  8. Constant updates on the progress of your children. They are amazing. To you. You honestly don’t need to tell us “I love my boys” every 5 minutes. We’ll just assume that you do
  9. People who post c&p statuses where you are supposed to feel guilty if you don’t repost it immediately, because it is in aid of cancer/babies dying/autism or whatever. These end in “99% of people won’t post – will you?” …     “No” would be the short answer. This also includes the rounds of “Facebook is changing its privacy settings…please read on if you don’t want your privacy compromised…” bollocks. It is untrue. www. Seriously.
  10. People who post EVERY SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH THAT THEY EVER TAKE. Even if they’re blurred, upside down, identical to the last 6 that were posted, of nothing, and crap. This includes people who pout. Sort through your photos, people.

I could go on, but I don’t know if anyone is still here? The thing is, I use FB all the time. And I’m probably more than guilty of other people’s pet hates, and no doubt there are people who block me from time to time, because they can’t be arsed with my moany campaign statuses. But if there is one thing I can’t stand, it is hackneyed, trite, unoriginal banality, and I have a (fairly low key) one-woman mission to inject a bit of humour into a Facebook day.

Well, I did. Until now.

So, please, those of you who are friends with me on FB – do enjoy my upcoming regular updates on my nephew’s bowel movements, and how cute and small he is. I will accompany them with photographs. And, in a couple of months, you will have my weight loss progress to look forward to, because I’m holding the announcements in by the skin of my teeth only.

I know you’re not really interested. I’m not interested in much of what I read on Facebook either. But, we’re there and we’re using it, so it’s going to happen. Read it, roll your eyes, and mourn the passing of my witticisms, because …here comes boring.

Rant over.