Archive for the 'Londonista' Category

Thursday is the new Friday

NS August 19th, 2010

Thursday for me is what some might call ‘Me Time’ but in reality would more accurately be called Outsourced Housework and Childcare Equals a More Patient and Fulfilled Mother Day. But that’s a mouthful so I just call it my favourite day.

On Thursday morning, my wonderful cleaner comes. I greet her as I scramble to get shoes on excitable children and herd them out to the car where I will transport them to Grandma’s house. I feel no existential feminist guilt for this. I look after two small, demanding children all day and am self-employed in two different capacities. If people can outsource their childcare in order to work, I can outsource my cleaning. Or both!

I know someone out there will be thinking I’m some kind of pampered, indulgent, stay-at-home mother who should be looking after her own children 24/7 and cleaning while her husband works hard to bring home the bacon, but to those people I say get off that sanctimony pony, make yourself a cocktail and hitch yourself a ride into the 21st century, compadre.

I do not cook. I do not sew. I do minimal cleaning. As of next month, my daughter will be in school all day and my son with either a childminder or his grandmother three days a week.

My kids probably watch too much TV. I spend too much time on the computer or with my nose in a book. I frequently say No to playing or chasing in order to do my own thing, or do the playing or chasing only until I get bored and decide it is grown-up time again, which is usually after ten minutes.

On Thursday, after I drop the children at their grandmother’s for the day and before I go home to a clean house, I spend an hour in a coffee shop drinking lattes and reading the newspaper from cover to cover. I go for a walk or a meander through the shops. Today, I put up a couple of flyers promoting my doula services.

I drive home. Alone. I sing as loudly as I want, drive faster and revel in not being asked a hundred questions from the back seat. I might stop into the shop on my way home and nearly forget not to park in the parent/child spots. I am able to get in and out in less than 10 minutes. Another Thursday miracle.

I open my front door in gleeful anticipation of clean floors and a gleaming bathroom. The air smells faintly of lemons. It is quiet. I can hear the clock ticking in the living room. Does that clock tick? I never notice unless it’s Thursday.

I look out the smudge-free window and admire the sight of washing flapping in the breeze, juxtaposed against the blue sky and emerald green grass. I turn on the radio and listen to my favourite radio program, Robert Elms on BBC London at noon, while I prepare lunch for one.

The Robert Elms show is a celebration of every aspect of this tumultuous city that we share. For three hours a day we revel in the numerous stories and characters, memories and aspirations which make this such an extraordinary place to live and work. Art and architecture, history, movies and language, shopping, drinking, dining and dancing all carried out to a soundtrack of music for grown ups.

On Thursday I do not have to cut crusts off sandwiches or put juice in cups with lids. I nibble at olives while I half-listen to the radio and daydream of all the places I’m going to see and all the things I’m going to do once I have not only one but THREE days a week in which to be alone.

Most of those days I will be working: doing my editing job; blogging (I consider my two blogs work in that it sometimes results in payment and because it keeps my writing skills sharp, which I still hope to utilise professionally one day); administrative work, research, study and preparation for my doula business; and general household stuff like taxes, banking, shopping, doctor’s appointments, DIY, gardening, etc..

But on at least one day each month, probably on Thursdays, I will catch the train into a new part of London or an area I’ve been but not properly explored, or to a place I’d like to visit. Somewhere along the way while out and about in this wonderful city of mine, I will do something nice for someone I’ve never met. It might be something simple like leaving a note or a small gift for a stranger to find, or helping a mother struggling with her pushchair on the stairs to the Underground. It might involve a bit of street art or guerilla goodness or a random act of kindness.

When out doing my history lessons/walkabouts/random acts of kindness, I will bring my camera and use it. With no children in tow, I will have time to change lenses or adjust  for the lighting and actually learn what my long-coveted pride and joy is capable of. Killing three birds on my life’s to-do list with one stone: fall in love with London, be a positive presence in the world and finally (finally!) learn the art of photography.

Thursday is definitely, and will hopefully continue to be, my favourite day. A day for me and only me. That, in turn, makes me a whole lot nicer to everyone else.

Photo credit

7/7: Five years on

NS July 7th, 2010

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t read more about this in papers and on blogs today.

It’s been five years since bombs tore through London’s Underground and on a single bus, killing 52 innocent people and injuring 700 more. It also marks five years since London became ingrained into every little nook and cranny of my soul and confirmed my love for and devotion to this city.

I’ve told the story before of where I was that day and what kind of emotional impact it had and continues to have on me. So I won’t tell it again. But I will never forget.

To the families of those killed on 7 July 2005, and those living with the scars and pain left behind, know you are in my thoughts and my heart today, and always.

Doing nothing says everything

NS January 21st, 2010

Did you know that the Metropolitan Police sent a message to every woman in the UK yesterday?

What, you didn’t get yours? Well, it didn’t come on paper and through the letterbox, admittedly (that would contravene its environmental policy and administration budget, you see), but we can all understand —  loud and clear and in no uncertain terms — what that message was. It went something like this:

Dear Birds Women of the UK,

We are sorry we were caught regret the honest mistakes systemic failures and staggering inactions on our part which led to what seemed like a nice guy serial sexual predator John Worboys (aka the Black Cab Rapist) carrying out countless attacks over a period of years on drunk slappers numerous victims, none of whom we believed when they came forward.

While we take allegations of sexual assault not at all seriously, the investigations stemming from these female fairy tales allegations were completely inadequate not quite up to our usual piss-poor high standards. For this we are totally unrepentant sorry and have resolved to get the media off our backs make changes at no all levels of the department, including a new unit specialising in regret sex sexual offences committed against whiny feminist bitches women. At all times At this time, we do not feel that any further disciplinary action against the officers in charge of the utterly failed mismanaged investigations is deserved needed.

Fuck Thank you very much,

The Boys Met

I’ll just pause while you refocus your eyes after all that reading between the lines (ahem).

Obviously, that wasn’t the exact wording, but you get the drift. If you are of a more exacting nature and wish to read the nauseating excuses comments from deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Deborah Glass on why the body decided to only issue the officers with written warnings, see below.

“I think on the evidence available the written warnings outcome was right,” she said. “They are a serious sanction requiring officers to accept they have breached the police code of conduct and have failed in some way. People will say, if you cannot sack them what’s the point? But there is still a point, there are important points around learning here. It is not about slamming the Metropolitan police. This is their wake-up call.” She acknowledged that had the police officers at the centre of the inquiry not committed “serious errors of judgment” and “missed crucial investigative opportunities” when Worboys could have been stopped before he went on to assault more women. “There’s certainly a likelihood that if they had followed up lines of inquiry he would have been in custody much earlier,” she said.

Whew! And here I thought that written warnings were just a weak, one-digit tap on the wrist: not even akin to a slap! Thankfully we have Deborah to explain that, actually, writing the words ‘You were naughty…but carry on as you were” in an officer’s file (perhaps alongside a frowny-face doodled in the margins) is an adequate reprimand for “serious errors of judgment” and other perfectly understandable breaches of professional misconduct like laughing at the victims, failing to follow up crucial leads or interview any potential witnesses, failing to fully investigate Worboys or obtain a warrant to search his home and, most of all, failing to believe that anything could or even should be done about it.

For the Met and the IPCC to act like this was some kind of shocking revelation and that the individual officers in question conducted themselves (and the investigations) in an unusual, non-sanctioned manner is absolute and utter bullshit. For as long as they have been reporting sex crimes (a long time) and for as long as they have been police officers themselves (not such a long time), women have been belittledharassed, bullied and disbelieved by the boys in blue. Those meant to protect the people and uphold the law have often been accused of protecting one another from criticism and even from criminal charges, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. They have botched other serial rape cases. The rape conviction rate in this country is the lowest in Europe, a measly 6%.

This is not a recent phenomenon.

Why, just as recently as 2003, a Met rugby team put together a magazine for its players with sparkling sexist gems such as: “Why did God invent lesbians? So feminists wouldn’t breed,” and “Women: can’t live with them, can’t force them into slavery,” not to mention “How do you know when your wife may be dead? When the sex is the same but the washing starts to pile up in the sink.”

But hey, I need to lighten up, right? It’s all just a bit of harmless fun and in no way influences the way these men think, behave or do their jobs, yeah? Tell me it doesn’t contribute to rape culture or the belief that a woman who reports a sexual assault is to be shooed away, fobbed off or altogether discredited unless she has irrefutable proof, has been battered to within an inch of her life and/or is a ‘respectable’ white woman who hadn’t been drinking, wearing revealing clothing or flirting before she was violated.

If you believe that I’d also like to talk to you about tropical jungles in Siberia and ocean-view property in Nebraska. Call me.

Hell, even the Guardian reporter from whom this information comes in today’s paper (and who, on the surface, seems quite repulsed by it) subtitled his article, “Boys will be boys. But shouldn’t the boys in blue know better?” suggesting that men naturally feel and think these things about women (by the way, it’s called m-i-s-o-g-y-n-y) but that, as police officers, these guys should have hidden it better.

So thanks, Met police, for the fucking pathetic half-hearted attempt at making yourselves blameless accountable, but your words, I’m afraid, hold no value. Your actions speak louder and ring truer than any statement you could ever make.

Wordless Wednesday: The drunken eye

NS January 6th, 2010

This is what the London Eye looks like, as viewed from Waterloo Bridge after a bottle or two of wine.

The drunken eye

Call to action: this shit has got to stop

NS November 24th, 2009

The response to my last post has been overwhelming. The F-Word picked it up and posted about it on their site, which then made the rounds through the feminist blogosphere and brought hundreds of visitors to my blog overnight. The supportive comments and messages I received — here, by email and on Twitter — made me realise that what happened at the march hadn’t just angered me, but many people. When something like this happens to one of us, we all feel it because we know it could’ve been any one of us. To be attacked while on a peaceful demonstration just makes it all the clearer how deeply ingrained violence is in our society, and how much of a threat those who question the Order Of Things are to those who think they hold the deeds to us.

Wednesday November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as designated by the United Nations since 1999. It is also White Ribbon Day, a complementary campaign run by and for men that encourages them to be part of the solution. In honour of this day, Million Women Rise had planned a candlelight vigil. When they read about what happened to me at Reclaim The Night, they asked for my permission to turn the vigil into a wider protest and to use my story to help highlight just how unsafe we still are. Together with other women’s organisations, like Object, the Women and Girls’ Network and Roshni, they are asking for as many people  (all self-identified women and male allies) who are able to come to this event to attend or help spread the word. I will be speaking of my experience at the event and there will likely be a media presence there as well.

Please, if you are as pissed off about violence against women as we are and want to demand that it stop, come join us in Trafalgar Square at 7pm tomorrow (Wednesday 25th November). Bring a candle, bring a friend and bring your voice. If you’re not able to attend, please spread the word to as many as you can, particularly if you are in or near London. A good turnout will help us raise some much-needed awareness.

My own personal request to those of you who can’t attend (and even if you can!) is to focus on speaking to the men in your lives about domestic violence, sexual violence and other forms of abuse and harrassment towards women. If you have a male partner*, ask him not to sit in silence when he hears a joke demeaning or belittling women. Talk to your male friends about how consent means getting an active ‘Yes’, not just the absence of ‘No.’  Ask them to complain about sexist ads (including ones that degrade men) and boycott misogynistic publications like the Daily Mail. If you have a son, talk to him from an early age about respecting girls and the conflicting messages he will receive from his peers and the media. Ask all of them to get active in becoming part of the solution because we can’t eradicate this problem on our own. Passive agreement is not getting us anywhere. Keeping quiet is not an option anymore; it is silent complicity.

It’s time for this shit to stop.

*edited for more inclusive language; h/t to Ruth for pointing out my mistake — I have poor editing skills when hastily typing before the school run!

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