Wednesday, 24 April 2013


I recently interviewed a lady who told me about the work of a local charity called Crossways. Based not far from me in Richmond Upon Thames, it's an organisation that I feel more women should know about - hence I'm writing about it now and will do so for other outlets.    And I will twitter about it.  There should be more like Crossways around the country.

I write a lot about motherhood, the playground mafia, the life enhancing and challenging realities of motherhood, albeit under the guise of fiction, and at the moment I'm researching much more in depth about the whole issue of what it is to be a mother. The media box mothers into groups, tribes, types, stereotypes, - I've even done it myself - but the reality is we are a little bit of everything - not the extreme that we are portrayed as. But the way the media works it has to construct something rather than mirror something for us to watch and be 'entertained'.

Celebrity mums are sound bite mums, you see the snap shots of them, good and bad but not the the whole story and no fly on the wall documentary does justice to the role of motherhood.  The role is just too big and is made too slight or too much of and patronised, so it becomes mishappen and unrecognisable.    There's a few films such as Parenthood which touch upon it's idiosycracies, well observed about single parenting of teenagers, which made me appreciate I didn't have girls but also regret I didn't have more.  But how about those women who don't want to be a mother or can't be a mother?  From those I have interviewed in that situation, the more one is told you can't be a mother, the more you want to be.   I am sure it is different for all women, but the ones I have met and interviewed express this view.   I am of the view that motherhood isn't for everyone and sometimes those who are able to become mothers shouldn't necessarily do so, and others who unfortunately aren't able to, would make wonderful mothers.   These women are nurturing, selfless, balanced, joyful, realistic, pragmatic, caring. And they watch other mothers who are blinkered, spoilt, sociopathic, bullies to their children.   And I understand the 'it isn't fair' and 'why' written in their eyes.   It becomes an obsession, that question.   The 'why?' or 'why me?'.

So Crossways, although a very small charity does a very big job.  It doesn't tackle little issues, or even big physical issues like the big C.  Put very simplistically it's role is to do with the choice of being a mother and the support needed to help you decide if you should become a mother.  Or if you have tried and you can't.   The weight of this responsibility and role as listener, compassionate and impartial, words well chosen, must be immense but as she talked me through the processes, the stages one goes through of grief, denial, anger, forgiveness, acceptance, it struck me how so many things in life go through the same process. Loss in all it's forms, be it of bereavement, divorce, abortion, miscarriage, even splitting up with the boyfriend.  The ups and downs and emotions swings are normal and sometimes it's just realising that they are 'normal' that helps someone not to move on, but to understand.  I wouldn't be able to do this job and I have so much admiration for those who work for this charity.

Crossways hopes to provide more help for single parents (of which there are increasing number in the UK) and expand their role within schools, educating children about self esteem. They already do a great deal of work in local schools which has been well received and hopefully will decrease the number of single parents in the future, although nothing is guaranteed.   Sex education is really about teaching self esteem not about sex.

The feedback forms she showed me from women who have visited the centre are very moving.   Some had had to deal with the emotional consequences and decisions around miscarriages or terminations by themselves, not telling anyone, or worse, they chose to tell those they trusted and effectively acted  as 'witnesses for the prosecution', so gave them more stuff - their stuff (guilt, anger, denial) to deal with than they needed or deserved.

Crossways is about helping women to make choices and help them to understand why they are making them and that it is their choice and not something that has been forced upon them.     Their email is and website is

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


As everyone is enjoying the sunshine except me I have been having reflexology.  To my surprise I found there were wooden stocks in the corner of the room.    "It stops people from kicking" the woman explained.   It seems there have been a lot of therapists being kicked in the face by (mainly) men and women who didn't like their feet being touched in certain places.  So they have resorted to a very Fifty Shades way of keeping it in check.  Any way, that's what they told me it was for.  I didn't see handcuffs so I have no reason to doubt they told me the truth.

Monday, 22 April 2013

To be or knot to be.

Knot in my shoulder. Knee swollen. Both left side.  I should be walking around in circles I'm so lop sided but I can't walk.   I feel as though I've had an incomplete stroke that hasn't reached the face yet.  And it's Spring and the sun shone this weekend and I couldn't run! Aghhhh.


Just seen two films. One won lots of Oscars, the other will not win any.   Argo is a true story and a good one.   It's basically about real people pretending to be actors to save their lives during the Iran crisis, although if you think about it, it's actors pretenting to be real people pretending to be actors.

In real life it was the Canadian government who got the credit for saving the six members of the American embassy who found themselves stranded in 2003.   Until now of course, because this film has been released. Now of course we know that the Americans, together with Hollywood saved these unfortunate people.   A cynical view would be this is why the information was 'desensitized' recently so that the true story could be Hollywood.   No wonder Hollywood gave it an Oscar.    Just wonder how many stories are still considered sensitive showing how the Americans and Hollywood screwed up big time.

Scary Movie Five my son wanted to see so I went, not willingly, but I went. It's very funny and in some places very very funny, as in I found myself giggling and laughing not wanting to (coz I've done something to my shoulder and something to my knee which means I can't run or do yoga at the moment - and it hurts when I laugh so there was pleasure and pain in watching). It takes the proverbial out of Paranormal series, The House in the Woods, The Planet of the Apes and even Fifty Shades which did make me giggle and hurt at the same time which seemed somehow appropriate.   Oh yes, and the films Inception and Black Swan.  There's another bit to do with the book of evil and a cliff but I don't know that film.  Perhaps it was called 'mama on a cliff' or something.

There's a scene with the nanny and the dad on a lawn which is hilarious. Another with a black lap dancing pole dancing swan and a dream sequence to do with Fifty Shades which makes me want to read the book (almost). The nanny steals the show although there are cameo performances from lots of 'names'.  It's very teenage humour. Go see it.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


I can't really remember much about when Maggie Thatcher was in power. I know my parents were full of praise for her because our country was almost third world when she became PM, strikes crippling industries, rubbish being left on the streets and she broke the unions - something that was thought impossible. She stood up to them and it took a lot of courage to do so.   Something that no man in this government now or since her time in power has managed to emulate. Once they get to power they appear as weak as piss.  Or they are as weak as piss and it's not an illusion or something even the spin can't get rid of.   Strength of character is very hard to fake even when you have professionals telling you how to come across.

I was at a party at Christmas full of great pretenders (actors and politicians) where one minister admitted (sounding more like an actor than a politician) that he would be spending more time dealing with the press and the image than he would be dealing with the job in hand.  The simpering little man will probably be our next Prime Minister. As another guest commented "he's all fur coat, no knickers" but then so were a lot in that room.

On the "I hate everything Thatcher stood for' camp, I was reminded by a journalist friend that many of my novels were inspired by her.  Or rather the characters within it.   The City oiks, the 'greed is good' and their excesses were encouraged by her policies although I actually think that was more to do with the policies of Blair and the loathesome Brown.  I am known for my dislike of bankers, which is as much personal as it is professional. They are not a personable bunch the traders and those at the top, their smug superciliousness seeping through despite their hours of media training.   They embody the win at all costs, selfish materialism, all ambition no talent or substance, that is now considered a virtue and the only thing of value.  Those who work in the City value only what makes money.  It's not a cliche, it's true.  If it's not worth it's weight in gold, it has no value.  They even talk about people as liabilities and have the divorces and dysfunctional children to testify to it.   Their ambition has bounced off into other areas of everyday society.  Ambition without talent or substance is rewarded in all it's guises.  Am I the only one who looks at those in the spotlight these days and feels like the little boy in the Emperor with No Clothes?

Thatcher focused on the economics, had no time for sense and sensibility and although the excellent Hugo Young in his eulogy on her in The Times this week wrote she didn't care what people thought of her, she cared enough to hire a top advertising agency to make her policies sell to a populace that desperately needed a hero and a strong one.    Well what they got was a dictator who lacked the courage to surround herself with strong men and women and that was one her gravest mistakes.  Weak men are treacherous.

So I will not be booing at Maggie's funeral but I understand those who will.    She was a strong woman amongst in the main, extremely weak men because she chose to surround herself with weak men and lacked the courage to bring in strong women, of which there would have been a greater choice.   Perhaps like me, she chose to go to the wrong parties.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Just returned from a whistle stop tour of the Isle of Wight. Stayed at a fabulous place called Tom's eco lodge ( which is five huts by the sea, on farm where you can collect eggs from free range hens in the morning (if you get there before the children from the other holidaying families do) and see the cows being milked to 'Wave Fm' at four in the morning or the more reasonable four in the afternoon.    Run by extremely cool couple Kimmie and Tom, who you would want to be if you could be if you could relive your twenties again, it's an ideal place to stay if you are here for the festivals either in June or September.   Or any time actually.   Tom and I climbed trees (try out green, with Paul who shows you how to climb 50 foot into the air suspended by rope and courage and get a unique perspective of the solent.    The seaview wildlife  experience ( (20 min drive not far from Ryde) is fab for the Wallabies and though it sounds naff is great whether you are a teenager or teenager at heart.  I took my too cool for schooler and even he was delighted with what he saw.   It rained almost non stop for three days but it was a fabulous trip.

Monday, 8 April 2013

the view with a loo.

the view from the top. isn't it fabulous.  we had stunning skies that day in Snowdonia.  top of the world and there was even a toilet there. the highest in the UK I am told. xxx

Saturday, 6 April 2013


80 mph, over a mile, 14000 under clear blue skies in Snowdonia today I became wonder woman for 55 seconds.   It took me about twenty minutes to get into the gear unlike Linda Carter who just spun round very quickly usually in a phone box and appeared all suited and booted like a red dominatrix sometimes with whip in hand.  I wore a large red all in one boiler suit, weighed and everyone's weight was written on their wrist. At least it wasn't my age.  If we were considered under weight, we were  weighted down  with what looked like iron bells on our backs although I'm told these are going to be replaced next week to funkier and more fitting weights.  I didn't care. As long as they got me across they could have strapped a fridge to me as long as I didn't get stuck half way.  One of the guys shot across so fast (120mph) that he literally back fired and ended up half way back along the wire, to be gamely rescued by Jane, all five foot three of her.  It took twenty minutes and you don't want to have to go through that either.  Another girl put her arms out bird-like and slowed herself down so had to be unceremoniously pulled in by holding onto an outstretched ladder. But these are all early days yet and just teething problems, the small group of journalists being the willing guinea pigs.

The zip wire ( near Betws-Y-Coed, is the longest in the world (the one in South Africa at the moment doesn't work) so it is the longest in the world.  Still in its very early stages they hope to build a cafe at the top so people can have something to drink before they zoom down, although I don't think alcohol is a good idea or a full stomach for that matter.    It's not the going down that creates the nerves, as with sky diving, it's the waiting around and the watching others doing it. You will always want to be next.

The security procedures are reassuringly anal. They must have said 'are you ready to go' to the people waiting for me at the other end (they were specks on the horizon) about five times in my case because one of the radios didn't work so they tried new ones. It reminded me of that scene in Contact where Jodie Foster has the same issue before she entered some parallel universe.    I was wondering if half way down I would enter into some parallel universe and there would be a different life awaiting me on the other side  although I admit I do love this one.

After five, four, three, two one, I zoomed down head first - quickly picking up speed, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 80 and think 90mph.  I was told not to put my arms out so flew down determined to be streamlined as possible.    You practice on a baby zip before you go on big daddy or mummy or whatever nick name it's going to be called.   The baby makes you realise how you should lie in the harness and that you can trust it completely.   It also introduces you to the staff who are all local and specially recruited for their empathetic skills I was told.   I admit they were brilliant - calm, informed, like baby porridge - just right.

Half way down despite my bullet-like posture, I turned 90 degrees and continued to zoom down sideways. Don't know how I did it and the organizers don't know how I did it, but I did it, then magically self corrected myself, and didn't slow down and landed without needing to be pulled in, pulled back, slowed down, and held the hand that was offered me at the end by a very nice man called Nick Moriarty (wonderful name that) who designed the zip and other 'rope courses' around the world.  What an interesting job.    I didn't scream. I prayed a lot at the start.  For adults it costs £50 and for children £40.  It's worth it for adults, they should put the price down a little for children. And they charge less for the locals which is an excellent idea.

I then went Gorges walking which I thought was walking along Gorges through forests, spotting the few remaining baby lambs that have managed to survive the freezing conditions (there were lambs but so few and usually I am told there are thousands).   No.   Gorges walking is canyoning but backwards.  Instead of walking down waterfalls and rivers, you walk up waterfalls and rivers.   Going against the flow is as challenging literally as it is metaphorically.  Wearing wetsuits which leave nothing to the imagination I started walking up the river, with a guide called Vicky who was brilliant, gave clear concise instructions (e.g., if you don't lean forward there and instead lean backward Sarah you will roll backwards and fall onto the rocks).   There was a bit called Elephant's Bottom (nothing to do with me) which meant me and two others climbed up a rope on an almost vertical rock formation which had a waterfall flooding down it and then crawled on our hands and knees through a narrow opening at the top.   I'm very pleased I've done it, I would do it again but only if Vicky was there to tell me what to do.

I stayed at Craig-Y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel (, where the food was excellent, the views amazing and there was a wedding going on. The zip and gorges walking are great activities to do for a hen or stag party.  Sober.  And there's a company called Busybus which takes you around from the hotel and organizes the trips for you at a discounted rate. I'd do it again, but only if I didn't have to wait at the top of the wire and Vicky was there again to show me how to navigate the waterfalls.    Amazing weekend. Thank you.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Just watching a program I didn't see first time round. Lost in Austen, the story of a modern day girl that's got lost literally into the plot of Pride and Prejudice. I feel a bit like her at the moment.   She is creating chaos bit like I think I do in my life.   Every time I think I've found Darcey I end up with a pantomime prince, who likes to be pissed on, continually asks after sex 'am I the best' and feels like a woman inside - denoting an ambiguity about sexuality, insecurity, neediness and lack of understanding who he is.   Back to the program, the modern day girl has already pinched Darcey from Elizabeth Bennett but I'm sure the plot will all return to as it should be.  Any way, the program waxes lyrical about how relationships should be all about gentle restraint and no kissing, although Ms Bingley was found out to be a lesbian (I actually always thought she was) and will marry Darcey anyway because it looks good and they both quote 'fit in with each others lifestyles and incomes'. Wow, I realise how little has changed. Probably even the lesbian bit too.  I also suspect there are threesomes going on in the back of the barouches all over Pemberley (they didn't have taxi in those days...) and that will feature in the next episode.  Probably.  However, it is still oddly romantic and appeals to my 'there is hope' although it does me giggle and seems oddly timely for me.

Then I turned channels. There was a program on dogging. I initially thought this was possibly to do with Crufts, and there were indeed people on there with animal masks on, but no it was to do with people watching other people have sex in the back of cars.  I am sure this will feature in the Lost in Austen program at some stage.  I am sure they did it then.  I am sure they did.

I then turned channels in search of a channel that didn't have sex on.  All the rest was food, how to prepare food.  About twenty channels on only food. And one on sex and food.  

Then I found Charlie Brooker on how TV ruins our lives and I laughed till I cried. It was about how TV portrays relationships. Go see it on iplayer because it is hilarious, vicious, painfully accurate and very angry, eloquent and all the other positive superlatives. He knows TV very well and he is so angry about it.  I do hope he does a program on bankers and he asks me to get involved. but this one was hilarious. He did a piece on break ups, sex, marriage, the lot, 'making do' with people who may be dull but at least they're seemingly 'safe' (bit like the sapphically inclined Ms Bingley and Pantomime prince Darcey marriage).  I do hope against all odds Darcey ends up with Elizabeth. Ultimately, she does do it for him while Ms Bingley types don't.    That's the romantic in me.  Probably why I stick to fiction.