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How good stories can make bad people

9 May

In one of Piers Morgan’s books he says that when Princess Diana died, some journalists came in to work on their days off – unprompted and without asking – just because they wanted to work on such a big story. Others who rang and begrudgingly offered to come in, were apparently told if they had to ask, then they shouldn’t bother coming in on Monday.

News journalism is a funny beast. Having just revisited this side of things for the last 10 days, I confess I love writing news, there’s an immediacy and an edge to it that feature writing just can’t touch. It’s not all scoops and doorstepping of course – much of it is mundane – but there are adrenaline moments for all of us.

When a company I’d written about over the last ten years finally went bust and was exposed for being a sham, I stood up and cheered in the office – fist punchingly good news (very un-Chiswick)..good riddance to bad rubbish etc.  Similarly when the chap who’d called me an idiot for asking me to explain his (deliberately unfathomable) business model went belly up I was delighted – vindicated at last.

But as we know with animals and all the rotten press behaviour leading up to Leveson, tasting blood can turn you into a vampire if you’re not careful.

Sitting in Green Park opposite the Ritz hotel with my friend whose still in news reminded me how close this line can be. Hearing of the death of Mrs T – she rang in immediately and offered to come in. Why would you want to miss that kind of story, we agreed, it’s just too big – and a once in a lifetime chance to be involved in a story like that.

The conversation then moved to what the next event will be – that fine line drawing ever nearer.. Hmm Blair – no that definitely won’t be as big. The Queen – yeah that’ll be a good one. And then I thought (& only just stopped myself from saying) – ooh what about Kate, that’d be fantastic.

Woa.  Line crossed. I’d officially gone to the dark side & don’t like the thoughts in my head. Back to features, I’m a nicer person there.

[Disclaimer of sorts: apologies for those of you who find the above distasteful, I blog about it for the purposes of highlighting how scarily easy it is to find oneself on the wrong moral road – not as a justification of bad behaviour, just as a note that we all have the potential to think the unthinkable. The point, I guess, is just whether or not we act on it.]

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A mum’s night out

8 May

Up until now I had – naively or arrogantly – assumed I’d side-stepped that awful mummy-pitfall of over-dressing for a night out.

I’ve noticed certain mums doing it over the last few years. I think the infrequency of nights out brings it on – like a rash. A night down the pub brings out the sparkly tops, skimpy skirts and pre-childbirth stilettos. It’s like having “I’m a mum on a pass out” written all over your forehead – it’s basically a spotlight highlighting how out of place they have become in the regular world of socialising.

So when I went out to meet some old friends at Green Park last night, I realised, as I tottered to Gunnersbury station in heels that I could clearly no longer walk properly in, that I had not so much side-stepped the over-dressing banana skin as gone hook, line and sinker for full banana skid.

This was confirmed, not only by the heels, but also by the fact that I spoke during the day of going ‘into town’ – like some true-blood suburbanite.

When oh when did that happen?

I have no idea how I slipped out of urban outfitters & into suburban mum unfitters, but I want to get back to the real world of socialising..

That means I need to go out more than once a month, not wear high heels on inappropriate nights (& re-learn to walk in them for when they are appropriate) and remember that living in zone 3 IS already ‘in town’…

Charity Shop pricing is out of touch

1 May

How much?

So I was in a charity shop in Chiswick this morning – which perhaps means they saw me coming – but an M&S cashmere jumper with a pretty significant hole and a stain on the front was on sale for £25. They’re only £60 brand new. I only wanted it as a replacement blanket for Ellie’s ‘blankie’ but for that money I could buy a brand new top in the phase eight sale next door.

I understand that the more money they make the better for the charities they represent and I genuinely don’t begrudge that most of the time, but  they seem to’ve lost all sense of proportion. It used to all be 50p/£1/£2.50 type pricing, which is clearly never going to make anyone any money fast but surely there’s a sensible middle ground somewhere?

They seem to be totally out of touch with the current reality of retail pricing where Primark is selling t-shirts for £2 or £3 while other high street names seem to be having permanent sales, bringing their prices down, in many cases, to below those in the charity shops.

Maybe someone will just do the naughty trick the shop assistant told me about – take the item to the changing room, rip off the tag and swap it with another cheaper item’s tag – clearly bad form.

Needless to say I didn’t swap tags, but nor did I buy it (or the Phase Eight top) and so the charity loses out and so does Ellie, whose current blankie is on it’s last legs, having been reduced to mere threads after 5 1/2 years of loyal loving.

Death becomes her but doesn’t become him

16 Apr

So Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is tomorrow. For all the iron lady stuff, political divisions and high emotions, an elderly woman has died. It is sad, but not tragic as she lived a full life (too full for some) and got to a ripe old age – as they say.

Today I learnt of my husband’s colleague who, aged 58, was killed this morning in a car accident. In a moment – his life was just gone in a flash, and the happiness of his wife and children destroyed and will never be the same.

In fact, his family’s lives will be defined by today. To be taken so suddenly, so young is the harshest blow. This first night without him, knowing he will never return but not comprehending how this will actually feel further down the line, because his clothes still smell of him, his things are still all around, is the cruellest blow.

I will never forget that disbelief and the tears of the first night without my father. As a friend once said – who had also lost their parents in sudden tragedies – welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. Although you learn to get on with life, a little bit of you dies and your heart will forever hold tears.

While others mourn for or riot over Thatcher tomorrow, my heart goes out to that family for his needless death will never make sense, while the untimeliness of it will forever rob them of not only the husband and father they loved, but the feeling of unbridled contentment and happiness.

Stop Press: Easter is a RELIGIOUS festival… oh & btw so is Christmas

26 Mar

News Flash: So a Travelodge survey finds that half of all kids think Easter is about bunnies & chocolate. I’m not surprised.

I’m getting fed up with this constant pushing of treats to our children on religious festivals with barely – or any – mention of the god-connection.

In a world where (some) parents are trying really hard to convince their children that the whole world does not revolve around treats – either of the present or chocolate variety – these religious festivals are just becoming insane.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ, Easter marks the resurrection. It’s not complicated but it is Christian. As a Jew (loosely speaking) I want my children to learn about all religions and their significant dates – I fundamentally believe that this is the only way to break down barriers in the long term. Why can they not be taught this first and foremost in schools and nurseries, rather than the main event being the present or the food associated with it. It’s all completely back to front?

But more than that, in another way, the less we mark their religious significance, the more these events become solely centred around the commercial. So Christmas is now all about Santa, stockings full of presents and chocolates on the tree rather than baby Jesus, a stable, wise men etc. Similarly Easter is now solely about chocolate for many children. I have not heard my kids mention Jesus at all yet. My three year old’s Easter party this afternoon consisted of a tea and Easter egg hunt. He ate 2 sandwiches, 1 piece of sponge with chocolate icing, one chocolate nest, one chocolate biscuit, one chocolate bunny and some hot cross bun. Not a single mention of what Easter is really about. Seriously not one.

I’m fed up with it, not only does it engender religious ignorance, but it also undermines the healthy eating message we so desperately need to impart to our children and the ability to help them learn to make the right eating choices. Schools and nurseries providing food like this is not a treat – it is condoning this type of food in a child’s brain and as such is very damaging to ‘the main message’.

However although it probably sounds like it, I’m not a food-puritan  – I am happy for my children to have the odd bit of chocolate – but why should it always be the nursery or school who gives it – it’s only Tuesday and my kids have already had way too much chocolate than is good for them this week from school and nursery respectively.

Why should I not be the one able to spoil them on Sunday, once they have been taught at their various schools and nurseries what it is all about. The trouble is, if treats happen every day they become the norm and so not only lose their treat value, but also make our kids fat, spotty, moody, ill and sluggish.

Surely, it should be a parent’s prerogative to ‘treat’ their child if, when and how they choose – the fact that everyone else now feels this is the part of the festival to highlight means that by the time many parents get their turn, the kids should not be having those treats as it will be completely over-doing it.

Pull yourselves together girls. We need to stop pressing ‘self-destruct’

20 Mar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As children of the 80s we were promised it all. The perfect body, the gorgeous & rich husband, the 2.4 kids, dog, big house, luxury holidays and glamorous career. It was Loads-a-money all over. But reality is a hard mistress.

And guess what – most of our lives have fallen short in one or more areas because, like it or not ‘having it all’ is just not possible for most of us. So when we hit our mid-life (I won’t say crisis – but the point where you look back and reflect on where you thought you might be, where you actually are, and what lies ahead) many of us feel disappointed with our lot.

And the result is to press the self destruct button. But women are sneaky creatures. We don’t just fall apart, we pick one area of our life to let go, lose control or blow out the water, while managing to carry on our daily lives as if nothing is wrong, so no one else can tell.

Take friend A. Super-successful international career girl in mid forties but single who would give it all up in a heartbeat to have a husband and kids – her self-destruct weapon – unprotected sex with random men during her travels and at home, genuinely putting her health (life) at risk.

Take friend B. Again high powered career woman but with family and husband who never gets a moment to stop or breathe. Her self-destruct weapon – she barely eats at all during the day, then binges at night on packets of biscuits and chocolate. Her weight peaks and troughs taking her regularly from a size 10 (on diet shakes) to size 20 when reverting to normal food.

And finally friend C. The stay at home mum who also works, but not to a high level because she is also doing all the family organisation and kids routine. Her self-destruct weapon – alcohol. She can’t wait till 6pm for that glass of wine that inevitably leads to half a bottle or more. She’s not an ‘alcoholic ‘ as such,  she doesn’t get wildly drunk or have raging hangovers that force her to stay in bed, but similarly she can’t not have one, she is the oft-written about middle aged, middle class alcohol dependent – worrying constantly about how much damage the wine is doing to her body, yet unable to stay dry for more than a couple of days.

There are more examples out there no doubt, but it just dawned on me that for those of us affected by this self-destruct tendency, instead of focussing on these negative influences – and they do become a focus of our daily thoughts, be it the “I am/am not having sex with anyone” or the “I can’t wait for my first drink/biscuit” – we need more positives to focus on in our lives.

I for one have done very little to take care of my body since I was single, pre-kids. But since the start of the year, a couple of friends and I have shared a personal trainer – Ron – once a week and it has become the highlight of my week. It has become the ONLY thing I do for myself that I really look forward to in my life which combines both total personal enjoyment, benefits to my body and fitness and has no bad side. It is in fact the opposite of self-destruct – it is rebuilding me.

Women are rubbish at sport

15 Mar

Really?

Well if you talk to the mums and women I know, that’s what you’d believe. Recently I set up a weekly training session with ‘Ron’ – a fabulous trainer who I’d met while working on a feature.

But as a sex, I must confess we are rubbish. Not one of the women I spoke to said: “yeah but watch out as I get really competitive, so be prepared to eat my dust.”

It was all: “Well… I’m really bad at sports/I’m really unfit/I haven’t done any exercise since the birth of Tiddles/ I can’t run….” you get the picture. And I’m not judging them because I include myself in this. I regularly use the lines: “I make a ‘grapevine’ look like Spaghetti hoops” and “I gave up aerobics as I knew my super-bad co-ordination would never improve so I’d be able to actually go in the right direction as the rest of the class.” to belittle my abilities – which as it turns out are not quite as awful as I remember.

It’s just insane and I’m coming across it ALL the time – Many of the women I now know are the women all those articles were written about over International Women’s Day – we are the lost mummies – the professional women who had good careers up till about 35, then had kids and are now floundering in the ridiculous ‘you-can-have-it-all’ mantra we were promised as children of the 80s but clearly doesn’t exist.

But it’s not just these women who have this self doubt – and it’s not just in sports – this was just the latest example.

Over the years I’ve interviewed many successful women (often not mothers) and I would guestimate that at least 80-90% of them have self doubt and are constantly scared that they are going to be found out as frauds and will be ‘discovered’ as inept or incapable of doing their job.

What is it in the female psyche that makes us put ourselves down so much… and so often? I just can’t imagine men saying those things. We limit ourselves by our own put-downs. Surely there are enough external influences out there in the big wide world to put us down and challenge our success, we shouldn’t need to sabotage ourselves and our own potential as well.

I don’t know what the answer is, it seems no one does – but it sure isn’t belittling ourselves and our abilities. Every one of the women I’ve come across is not only super-capable, intelligent, charming but they are also adeptly juggling more than most circus performers. That’s not to be sniffed at, or belittled. Ever. Especially by ourselves.