New Year, New Lists

2014Being a disorganised person, who exists in a constant state of bemusement and flummoxedness, lists are a pretty big part of my everyday life. Honestly, how little I would function without my lists doesn’t even bear thinking about.

And at this time of year, it is somewhat traditional to write up a little list of New Year’s Resolutions. I used to write New Year’s Resolutions, but for about five years now, I’ve been making goals instead. I find they’re much easier to motivate myself to accomplish and to be honest, they often end up making my year a whole lot better.

So let’s take a look at 2014. I like to keep some of my goals private, so that I’m not too embarrassed to set them, but they ranged from really huge ones like raising £1000 for Cancer Research:

IMG_3060To little, seemingly insignificant ones like learning to bake an apple pie:

apple pieI also did something brave, by leaving a job that was making me miserable, made macarons, wrote a children’s book and side climbed to the top of my pole.

I’m going to go ahead and carry a couple over to next year, which I didn’t quite manage to get done this year:

Learn a rock and roll dance routine! This one I’m definitely going to manage, because my utterly excellent manthing has bought the two of us a course of swing dance lessons for my Christmas.

Fly a kite. I’ve never flown a kite and I feel like my life is incomplete because of it.

Go somewhere I’ve never been. This one makes the list every year. There is nothing better than travel, even if you’re not going far.

And some new ones, fresh out of the oven for 2015:

Take part in a Race for Life Pretty Muddy event. So ready for this. I was born ready for it.

Be more of a partner round the house. When I hear women laughing about their hapless husbands, it makes me physically cringe, because in my relationship, I’m the hapless husband. I’m okay at actually cleaning, but things like doing the dishes, putting away washing and generally not leaving my shit all over the flat…I am the worst. Report card: must try harder.

Learn how to take beautiful photos for my blog. Y’all are giving me photo envy.

Do something terrifying.

Once a month, do a little good deed and tell no one.

Eat baked alaska.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? What do you hope 2015 will bring? Where can I get good baked alaska in London? Get in touch in the comments, or at @EscapologistGl.

It’s A Sister Thing

I talk about my sisters quite a lot on here, because they’re a massive part of my life. Especially Sophie, now that she’s old enough to have actually turned into a person and be good craic.

Just some classic sister bantz.

Just some classic sister bantz.

This year, I’ve ended up pretty far away from her, having moved to London within a week of her moving to St Andrews. But I never fail to marvel at how little things have changed. We still start conversations in the middle of conversations, as if it was only five minutes ago we were talking, not a week and a half. With that in mind, for your pleasure and entertainment, I would like to share ten actual conversation opener texts between Sophie and I.

1) The feet couple had another baby.

2) Lucy Liu is by far the hottest Charlie’s Angel.

3) OH MY CHRIST GIO IN THE RED SHIRT (Ugly Betty fans, reveal yourselves).

4) Remember that time dad mistook a plastic bag for you?

5) YZMA IN THE BIRTHDAY HAT.

6) The Swan Princess is such jokes. I hate you I hate you I hate you…oh wait, you’re hot I’ll totally fight to the death for you.

7)Remember Mighty Joe Young?

8) I thought pineapples grew on trees.

9) You know, I think Sarah in the Polar Express is kind of a douchebag.

10) Pope Francis is the best pope.

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I actually feel bad for the people who have to be around us when we see each other in person, because it’s basically guaranteed to be a two hour solid deluge of the above. We do occasionally talk about things that aren’t Ugly Betty or the Emperor’s New Groove, but if you’re trying to get in with either of us, those are probably a good place to start.

And don’t worry if none of this post has made sense…I guess it’s kind of a sister thing.

Inspiring Women with GAP and Glamour

It was a grey and rainy Tuesday. One of those mornings where I’d picked an extra ten minutes in bed over putting a single scrap of makeup on my face. The dress I was wearing was at least three years old. But folks, when your friend texts you asking if you want to go to a woman empowering event hosted by GAP and Glamour Magazine, there’s nothing to do but say yes.

A sneaky lunchtime trip to Boots and a quick swipe of lipstick in the work bathrooms, and off we set. I shouldn’t really have worried about having no makeup on because the freezing, blustery walk ensured that I arrived with that nice “frozen snotter” look that’s so hot on the catwalks right now.

I feel like real beauty bloggers don’t use phrases like “frozen snotter”.

Fortunately, GAP was filled with waiters carrying around trays of cocktails, mini hotdogs, burgers and cupcakes that had me warmed up in no time. I think I ate about 17 hot dogs. You can take the girl out of Glasgow…

The event saw Glamour editor and general badass Jo Elvin chat to some seriously inspiring women about what keeps them going, what makes them successful and what advice they would give to other women. The panel included journalist and TV presenter Jane Moore, director of GAP’s P.A.C.E. education programme Dotti Hatcher, DJ Annie Mac and founder of the charity Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh. That her name contains the word “Batman” goes a little way towards describing how excellent she is.

gap glamour inspiring women

Photos by the wonderful Suzie Jay Photography.

Camila founded Kids Company in 1996, to help provide practical, emotional and educational support to children and young people throughout the UK. Love and compassion shine out of every single pore in her body, and when she speaks, she can’t hide her passion for helping young people to achieve their potential. She didn’t patronise or victimise, she inspired, and I could well believe that she could help these young people, who have often been through multiple horrifying traumas, to see the chink of light in their lives and to stand tall and seize it with both hands.

I’ve lived an incredibly charmed life, with every bump along the way serving only to make me who I am today (yes, yes, I know, but cliches are sometimes cliches for a reason). I can’t imagine what some of these children have gone through, but what wouldn’t I have done for a Camila in my life when I was 14. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she responded “To be mad sooner. It’s such fun.”

I genuinely sleep better at night knowing that there is a multicoloured superhero of a woman telling kids that they don’t need to live up or down to anyone’s expectations of them.

Dotti was equally amazing, exuding absolute warmth and gentleness. She is a woman who has dedicated her life to improving the situations of other women who were born with less resources and luck than the rest of us. She opened the presentation with a video showing a young woman’s journey through the PACE programme, from working in one of GAP’s garment factories to dreaming of starting her own headscarf business. I broke out in goosebumps as she uttered those awful words:

“I didn’t realise women had the right to have rights”.

In a world where women are still silenced and stepped on, often violently, we need Dottis to shake us up and say that no, you don’t have to accept your lot. You can be so much more than what you are supposed to be.

Self confidence was a running theme throughout the night, with both Jane and Annie also touching on self belief as one of the most valuable qualities that a woman can have. But this was tempered with a great big dose of perspective. When asked how they manage to do everything that they’ve done, and how they keep going in the face of adversity, the answer was simple:

They just get on with it.

They never underestimate the power that they hold (that sounds a bit more magical than intended), but they are aware that they are not the biggest or most important person in the world. That might sound a bit depressing, but actually, it’s the most freeing thing. If you make a mistake, who cares? It’s really not the end of the world. Realising that you’re small takes away the fear of messing everything up, and ironically, ends up pushing you to do something much bigger than you ever would have if you thought you were the centre of the universe.

Jane was an absolute woman of steel, and I mean that as the utmost compliment, not in a scary Maggie Thatcher kind of way. Everything she said was steeped in the biting humour that has seen her become such a successful journalist. She was the perfect example of how being strong doesn’t necessarily mean being cold, or hard, citing her children as her greatest achievement and saying that all that life really comes down to is the people who love you. So maybe steel wasn’t a good metaphor. Pat on the head for someone who can name me a substance that is strong, but not cold or hard.

Listening to Annie speak was like talking to an old friend, which is of course why she has made such a brilliant DJ. She blew the idea that successful women have to fit a certain mould straight out of the water, confessing to a lot of bumps along the way, including a tragically shortened acting career, a very dramatic haircut and more recently, overwhelmed tears in a meeting. I was lucky enough to get chatting to her after the presentation ended, and I think I might have gushed at her a bit. Must learn how to be cool and aloof.

Me being not at all cool and aloof. Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Me being not at all cool and aloof. Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

So what did I take from the event? Well, really rather a lot. Let’s do a rundown. Love a rundown.

  1. You don’t have to be anything but yourself. Your “imperfections” are your greatest strength, because they set you apart from everyone else. If people can’t see how wonderful you are, that’s on them. Ignore them, and get on with being excellent.
  2. You are not the most important person in the world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to do great things. It means you have to. When you don’t have laurels to rest on, you need to get off your ass and create something.
  3. Don’t overestimate yourself, but don’t underestimate yourself either. You have the power to really shake things up. Sometimes changing the world isn’t about fanfare and applause and massive progress. Taking a scared little hand in yours. Telling a woman you believe in her. Being an inspiration to others. Don’t tell me that these things don’t change the world.
  4. Don’t let anyone else define what your success is. I learned this one the hard way. I allowed myself to be miserable, because I thought that as long as no one knew that I was hurting, I would still be A Success. Success is happiness. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. No one gets to judge your happiness and you don’t get to judge anyone else’s. Do what makes you happy. Create a great career, if that’s what you want. Work nine to five and build and amazing life outside of that. Do both. Do neither. Happiness is all that matters in the end, everything else is just filler.

I feel so very grateful to have seen these women speak, GAP and Glamour – thank you so much for having me!

Me and the fabulous Kelly...you'll be seeing more of her! Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Me and the fabulous Kelly…you’ll be seeing more of her!
Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Click to donate to Kids Company and P.A.C.E.

Wintery Wanderings

Since I moved to London, Clissold Park has been one of my absolute favourite hangouts. Before I got my job, it was the perfect place to get out of my flat and out of my head for a while. Big enough to spend hours wandering around, and busy enough that you could people watch forever, it’s an amazing free place to hang about in London. I enjoyed sitting on the warm grass in the summertime, collecting the biggest conkers I’ve ever seen in autumn, and now that winter is here, the park’s charms haven’t lessened one little bit.

The butterfly dome is closed for the winter, but you better believe I’ll be first in line when it reopens, elbowing five year olds out of the way wherever necessary. The rest of the animals are still out and about though, with a whole family of fallow deer, if you’re looking to get Christmassy.

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I wish I could claim that I didn’t shout “BAMBIS! BAMBIS!” when I first saw these, but I cannot, in truth. The park boasts a pretty cafe in Clissold House, with a delicious looking selection of cakes, snacks and hot drinks. Wrap up warm, grab a cup of tea and sit outside if you can bear it…these early sunsets may be unwelcome, but those long winter shadows are beautiful.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

The park is also always full of the best dogs ever, so if you’re a dog person, get on down there immediately. Seriously, there was one wearing a Christmas jumper the other day. Top notch. Whether you’re out for romantic walks, with clasped gloved hands and cold nosed kisses, some end of year contemplation or just some excellent dog petting, Clissold Park is an amazing place to be. Besides, to get there, you pretty much have to walk up Stoke Newington’s glorious Church Street, which is constantly buzzing with vintage shops, pretty boutiques, cafes, florists and pop up fairs and markets. Just you try and walk down that street without popping in somewhere. God knows I can’t. And with christmas trees starting to pop up outside every florist, it makes for a very festive walk. I hear there’s a Christmas market on in the park this weekend…it’s beginning to look a lot like…

Let’s Talk About Porn

uk porn ban

Don’t look at me like that, the government started it. Besides, it’s in all the papers. The Telegraph has a complete list and analysis, so I’m definitely allowed. Needless to say, this post is going to contain a number of unsavoury topics, so read on at your leisure.

The UK government announced this week that UK produced porn was not allowed to portray certain sexual acts and practices. While the official line is that they are promoting safer sex, there is a depressingly familiar theme running through a lot of the new rules.

Female ejaculation is banned. Male ejaculation, and its consumption is not.

Facesitting is banned, on the grounds that it might obstruct airways. Deepthroating, and gagging, is not.

The idea that women experiencing sexual pleasure is somehow extreme or radical, or even dangerous, is so old hat that it’s actually just boring. Besides, these guys need to be careful, the first time society attempted to clamp down on us crazy women and our crazy impulses, they accidentally invented the vibrator. So beware.

And it’s not just women who are getting a hard time. Spanking, full body bondage and verbal or physical abuse (whether consensual or not) are also banned. Mainstream porn already consistently shows one type of sex over and over and over. So obviously, what we really needed from the porn industry was for it to become even more heteronormative, male centric and vanilla than it already was. It plays into the idea that some types of sex are wrong, or weird, or disgusting. And you know what? Some people might think that they are. But the amazing thing about sex between two consenting adults is that it is nobody else’s goddamn business what you get up to within the confines of your own bedroom. Restricting porn like this is going to encourage people to be ashamed of their kinks and desires, and god knows, we really don’t need any more of that in Britain. From fairly softcore things like female pleasure, to more out there things like consensual abuse, this is sending the message loud and clear that some acts are simply not the done thing, darling. This conversation has become about what is and is not acceptable to do in the sack, what is and isn’t “normal” according to the Grand High Council of Sexual Normalcy (bet they’re all straight guys), when in fact it should be about consent, communication and talking to your damn partner to find out what they do and do not like in bed. I know, talking is gross. Better just ban everything instead.

I could write massive essays on why shaming people for being sexual is a rubbish idea, as well as hugely conflicting posts on my opinions of the porn industry in general, but that actually isn’t even what I wanted to talk about.

What most annoyed me about the announcement is that it was accompanied by the bog standard “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” justification. We can’t risk teenagers seeing these acts portrayed in porn, going home, giving it a go and hurting themselves. Guys, I want you to listen to me very carefully, because this is important. Are you listening? Okay. Porn should not be the primary point of sex education for teenagers.

We need to stop pretending that you can just throw abstinence at teenagers, tell them not to Google naughty words and hope for the best. Time for a horrible truth: kids are going to have sex. They are. One of my high school friends lost her virginity when she was 13 years old. Whether they do it because it’s expected of them, because it’s not expected of them, because they’re madly in love or because they’re just curious, they are going to do it. And even if they’re not having sex, they’ll be doing even worse…thinking about it.

*Shudder*

When you’re a teenager – or if you’re a girl, from when you’re about 9 – your body starts to do some pretty crazy things. What would be really super awesome is if we stopped telling adolescents that their bodies and feelings are icky and dirty, and if we started telling them that their bodies are amazing and normal and loads of fun. We need people teaching sex education who aren’t embarrassed to say the word clitoris to a group of sniggering 13 year olds. We need someone to teach girls that they’re allowed to take pleasure from sexual activity, rather than splitting the boys off to talk about masturbation and the girls to talk about periods. This is an actual thing that happened in my school. I didn’t hear a woman talk about masturbating until I stumbled on Vagenda magazine aged 18. 18! I had to ask my mum what orgasm was, after seeing it written on a billboard for Lipton’s Iced Tea, years after getting sex ed in school.

THIS IS ALSO A TRUE ACTUAL THING THAT HAPPENED.

We basically need Laci Green to go around every school in the world and tell teenagers how to have great, consensual sex, when they feel like they’re ready for it. Teenagers are sexual, because people are sexual, and that means that some of them are going to be into some pretty kinky stuff. What would be great is if instead of telling them not to do those things because they’re wrong and weird, we taught them how to do them safely and respectfully. A lot of hardcore BDSM relationships are actually the most respectful, because safety and consent are emphasised all the time, and are never, ever assumed. If you’re afraid a teenager is going to watch porn and then go home and hurt their girlfriend by trying to fit their entire hand inside her, put it in the curriculum. I’m not even kidding. If you’re worried about it, talk about it. It probably doesn’t even need that level of detail if you’re feeling squeamish (and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all). Just a simple “Hey, if you’re having crazy sex, be sure to check in with your partner that they’re enjoying it as much as you are”.

Oh, and just to set a pernicious little myth to rest. It’s not the nineties anymore. The internet has evolved. If your kid has “stumbled upon” porn, it’s because they were looking for it.

Kids don’t need to be protected from sex, they need to be educated about it. And if we are leaving it to porn to educate them, we are doing a damn shoddy job.

That Time I Went Scarlet…By Accident

You know those little beauty habits that you just know you should stick to but never do? Putting on a base coat before you put on bright nail polish. Using a different face cloth every day. Using toner.

Performing a strand test before you cover your entire head in hair dye.

SONY DSCYeah, decidedly not ginger. Definitely red. But not ginger. This doesn’t even really show the genuine actual fire engine redness of my hair right now. Five years I’ve been home dying my hair, so I guess I’m pretty lucky that this is the first time it hasn’t turned out how I envisioned. I’m also lucky that I’ve actually been this colour before, so I’m not freaking out too much. But sweet jesus, did I get a fright when I pulled off the towel. I’d like to have a word with whoever takes the photographs for the Garnier dye boxes – there aint nothing copper about this colour.

I do feel kinda like a superhero with my super bright hair, harking back to my rebellious youth where I bounced between scarlet, plum and purple. Okay, that youth was about a year ago, but still. Fond memories. But I don’t like it as much as my ginger.

However, having just stopped torturing my hair with my straighteners, I think it would be very silly to dye it more than once in a week. So for at least a week, I’m gonna be working the Little Mermaid look.

And so, I’ve done what any sensible girl would do, having accidentally dyed her hair scarlet. Although I suppose a sensible girl wouldn’t have accidentally dyed her hair scarlet in the first place. But having done the unsensible, the only sensible thing to do was to channel Moira from American Horror Story. Obviously.

SONY DSCAs making the best of a bad situation goes, I’d say this is pretty damn good. And next time, I’ll do a strand test. Probably. Maybe.

What beauty rules do you constantly break? Has anyone else experienced a surprise hair colour? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.