Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Age is just a number...

I was sitting in the doctor's surgery today when I had one of those awkward moments. I got chatting to the woman next to me, who I estimated to be a few years older than me, so when she said she was 39, I laughed and said yes, I was only in my early 20s too. 'No really,' she said, 'I'm 39.'  There was an embarrassed silence.

I think I look pretty good for my age. Most people assume I am a good ten years younger. The Boy's 'Not A Girlfriend' guessed my age at late 30s but then she's at that stage where there not much difference between 30 and 130.  She did go up hugely in my estimation though.

When I got home I was looking through the online news on my phone and came across some new research that claims to have found the top 50 signs that you are getting older so I thought I would see how I stacked up against them, so here goes:

1. Feeling stiff. Hmm, well I can't quite do the splits any more and the sudden urges I have to do cartwheels have to be kept in check

2.  Groaning when you bend down. Well, I have been occasionally guilty of that one

3.  Saying 'In my day'. Oh dear, guilty as charged M'lud.  I say it so often that my children say 'If you say 'in my day' once more I'll....(insert torment of choice)'

4.  Losing my hair. Is that the same as tearing your hair out? I do a lot of that.

5.  You don't know any songs from the Top 10.  Well I know all the words to 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk, probably the only decent thing to come out of France in years, I can sing along to 'La La La' by Naughty Boy and I love Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' so no, that definitely doesn't apply.

6. Getting more hairy (nose, ears, eyebrows, etc). A quick check shows now sign of simian-type fur anywhere it shouldn't be so no, not me

7.  Hating noisy pubs. Well, to be honest, I've never liked being in the sort of place where you have to shout to be heard and you spend the evening saying 'yes' to sex in the toilet/class A drugs/buying another round of drinks because you can't hear what anyone is saying.

8. Saying it wasn't like that when I was young. See 3 above

9.  Talking a lot about joints/ailments. Did I tell you about this pain in my back.....?

10. Forgetting people's names. Sorry, who were you again?

11.  Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than fashion. Well, having given my heels a run out twice in the last month, spending an evening feeling like I've put my feet in a cheese grater, I can safely say that I have chosen fashion over comfort

12.  Thinking policement/teachers/doctors look really young.  Well I quite enjoy some of the eye candy at the school the Boy and the Girl attend

13.  Falling asleep in front of the TV. See my last blogpost

14.  Needing an afternoon nap. Chance would be a fine thing!

15.  Finding you have no idea what young people are talking about. Well, as I share my life with two young people I think I am quite well versed in what they are talking about

16.  Struggling to use technology.   Well I did have to get The Girl to show me how to resize my Facebook photos

17.  Losing touch with every day technology and tablets.  Nope, quite at home on an iPad

18.  When you start complaining about more and more things.  Did I tell you about the appalling service I got at....

19.  Wearing your glasses around your neck.  To be honest, if I don't wear them on my nose I walk into walls so no, this isn't me either

20 .  Not remembering the name of any modern bands.  See 6 above

21.  You avoid lifting heavy things due to back concerns.  Well who wants to spend a fortnight necking Naproxen and Valium?

22.  Complaining about the rubbish on television these days. After my anti-BBC rant the other day I think I'd have to say yes

23.  Misplacing your glasses/bag/keys. Does driving 22 miles to work and leaving your laptop at home count?

24.  You move from Radio One to Radio Two. What and leave Grimmie behind? Not a chance

25.  You start driving slowly.  I have a very nippy Golf TDi, what would be the point?

26.  Preferring a night in with a board game than a night on the town. A bored game, more like!

27.  Spending money on the home/furniture rather than a night out. Well, the village pub is closed at the moment

28.  You talk to colleagues so young they can't remember what an Opal Fruit is. Ha ha! I'm the youngest in my team!

29.  Taking slippers to a friends' house.  I somehow think they'd prefer a bottle of wine

30.  Listening to the Archers. The only Archer I listen to is my friend Lou

31.  Falling asleep after one glass of wine.  It probably would put me to sleep but mainly because I don't actually drink any more and haven't since about 1995.

32.  Never going out without your coat. When I go out without my knickers I'll start to worry!

33.  Getting bed socks for Christmas and being genuinely grateful. Do welly socks count?

34.  When you can't lose six pounds in two day any more. Hmm, not sure I could ever do that.
35.  Gasping for a cup of tea.  Well how is that a sign of ageing? I'm British for goodness sake. A nice cup of tea is the panacaea for all ills. I drink many gallons of tea each year in order to keep the good tea farmers of Yorkshire in business

36.  Taking a flask of tea or coffee on a day out.  As my drink of choice is a one shot skinny latte, then no.

37.  Joining the WI. Err, yes, I have actually

38.  Taking a keen interest in the garden. Well I'm mainly picking up dog poo. Does that count?

39.  Spending more money on face creams/anti-ageing products. And thinking about laser eye surgery and maybe reading adverts for non-surgical facelifts?

40.  Taking a keen interest in Antiques Roadshow.  Well I wouldn't want to miss discovering that my door stop is a priceless treasure

41.  Taking a keen interest in dressing for the weather.  As someone who recently went to work in open-toed shoes and a summer top when everyone else was wearing thermal socks and jumpers, maybe not

42.  Putting everyday items in the wrong place. There's NOTHING wrong with putting the cat in the dishwasher

43.  Obsessive gardening or bird feeding. That would just be encouraging kitty snacks for the murderous cats

44.  Really enjoying puzzled and crosswords. What is 21 down?

45.  Always driving in the slow lane or under 70 in the middle lane. I think you'll find the latter is a criminal offence now and I'm far more likely to be the one yelling at the idiot hogging the middle lane.

46.  Consider going on a 'no children' cruise for a holiday. I would never, ever consider going on a cruise for a holiday anyway, children or no children

47.  Your ears are getting bigger. They are NOT!

48.  Joining the National Trust. What? At their prices?

49.  Drinking sherry.  See 31 above

50.  Feeling you have the right to tell people exactly what you are thinking even it it isn't polite. Well maybe not polite but usually in their best interest!

So, there you have it. Are you old? Me? Like I said to the lady in the doctors. I'm only 21 really!

What the f**k is this? Do I look like I have nasal hair?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Life without the Beeb? Yes please!

Life without the BBC would be 'unimaginable' according to John Humphreys on the day that the euros in the meter finally ran out for the Greek state broadcaster. Really?  I don't imagine it, I more or less live it.

I used to work for the BBC, firstly in one of the newsrooms, then for the commissioner of independent drama. I lasted about a year before I ran screaming for the door, vowing never to return.  Even in those days, tokenism was the name of the game. It was all about having the right quota of gays, disabled, muslims, whatever was the minority du jour was. As a white, middle class heterosexual woman I was viewed as slightly alien; one who had accidentally slipped in under the equality radar.

On my first day, I spent so long with the Health and Safety people making sure my chair was the right height, my desk at the right level, footrest in the right place, screen the right distance that I wondered when I would get any work done. And then when I did, I discovered that my computer was programmed to shut down every half an hour to make sure I didn't get repetitive strain injury. Fat chance!  At the time, the Beeb was getting rid of a lot of its staff and re-employing them on freelance contracts.  The 'redundancy' pay they were giving to people who were walking out of the door one day as employees and walking back in the next, to the same job at the same desk, as a freelancer would make your eyes water. And at 4pm everybody, and I mean everybody, stopped to watch Countdown. Having come from a working in the private sector, where just about every one of my colleagues would most likely have been let go years before, I was shocked at the waste of time and money, taxpayers money. There was this certain arrogance that pervaded and still does pervade the BBC. But Television Centre at least had a certain charm about it.

Then someone had the bright idea of moving it, lock, stock and tax-payer funded barrel, up to Salford and the concept of Media City was born. The good people of Manchester rubbed their hands in glee at the thought of all the employment it would bring to an area that suffered over 400 incidences of crime each month. A vast, sprawling monolith was built that most people, according to my inside information, hate and that they had to literally bribe staff with hefty, tax-payer funded relocation packages. Some went, others took the equally hefty redundancy packages and yes, we paid for those too.

The idea behind the move was because the BBC wanted to it's views to be more representative of the country and less 'London-centric'. Apparently not enough people in the Northwest watched the BBC, apart from Corrie of course. And, whoop, whoop, they've grown their audience share and all for a lifetime cost of well over a billion pounds of taxpayers money. The 38% of staff they relocated cost us a cool £24 million in relocation packages and the redundancy packages for the 500 odd staff who opted not to move was another £26.2 million. This, apparently, represents value for money.

And as for investment in the local economy? Well apparently they only employed 34 'locals' which will make a huge difference to an area that has double the national average of unemployment.  The rest came from London. Lucky old Manchester.

But for me, the real change has been the empty sofas, the 'and we are joined from our London studio by..' because, let's be honest, no captain of industry or opinion maker has the time to schlep all the way up to Manchester in their busy day to spend a few minutes sitting on the red sofa with a couple of presenters who have their bags packed ready to head back down to the South the nanosecond that the director says, 'it's a wrap'. Anyone can get on the sofa at the Beeb these days, and they do.  It matters not a jot if they have anything even vaguely interesting to say.

The move has given us a chance to see what the average person on the street in the North West has to say. So far, I'm sorry folks, but it's been very little. The vox pops have been cringy and the BBC now resembles a regional news outfit rather than the flagship of British broadcasting. So I've turned it off. I don't watch BBC Breakfast any more. I never watched Corrie anyway so I certainly don't miss that. (Ed. and of course it's not even on the BBC anyway!)

And the idea of a northern production base doesn't seem to be working either because the truth of the matter is that the bulk of the film/tv talent is based in the South. Those that rushed with indecent haste up to Manchester to ride the tide of the new productions from the BBC are sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs and wondering if they will ever work again while new studios are opening up in Hampshire and Bristol, Pinewood is applying to extend and Shepperton is booked for years to come.

I'm all for the BBC reflecting national opinion but in my humble one it could have been achieved in other ways than by  wasting  spending over a billion pounds of tax payers money. But the BBC is smug and arrogant and still thinks it is the major force in world news that it was in earlier decades. Its staff are overpaid, underworked and now up there where they will air kiss each other into obscurity.

So, Mr Humphreys. A world without the BBC? Yes please - and it may come sooner than you think.

Look at all the Londoners!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Women Inspring Women Awards, Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire 2013

Back at the beginning of May I wrote that I had been nominated, then shortlisted in the Women Inspiring Woman Awards as a Rising Star/Woman to Watch. Not quite the Oscars, as I said at the time, but an honour to be shortlisted out of the hundreds of nominations the organisers had received. Thank you to the person who nominated me. You know who you are.

One of my closest friends, offered to accompany me and as it was to be an evening almost entirely female, it seemed like the ideal time to break a 15 year embargo on ridiculously high heels. I dragged my flattie clad feet around Salisbury looking for something that was a) comfortable - or at least relatively, b) likely to cause only minor injury if I fell off them and c) wouldn't cost the GDP of a small African nation.

After trying on what seemed like hundreds (but was probably only five or six) I settled on a pair of plain black patent ones with stupidly high heels. They were the only ones which didn't make me feel like I had put my feet in a cheese grater. No wonder Posh Spice never smiles. Her feet must be killing her! Shoes bought, the next vital part of the outfit was the gel insoles (you thought I was going to say the dress didn't you?). Why do M&S put the gel insoles with the socks rather than the shoes. I mean, you put them in your shoes, not your socks. That's one of those question that academics will ponder for years to come.

Back home I decided that a sensible women would at least try and break the shoes in. No-one in their right mind, especially one who's footwear of choice is a pair of red patent Doc Martens or crocs, would go out for an evening in a pair of unworn stilettos. The first problem was getting the gel insoles in. Who designs these things? They certainly aren't mean to go in shoes. They are so sticky that it's virtually impossible to get them inside the shoes without getting them stuck to the top of the shoes or halfway down. Still with a bit of perseverance, I managed to get them in roughly the right place. The shoes were surprisingly comfortable but, as I later found, totally unsuitable for hoovering the stairs. I tottered round the house, trying different walking styles, most of which made me look as if I had a hedgehog wedged somewhere unpleasant. In the end, I found that a sort of cross between a sashay and a swagger seemed fairly stable. Whether it made me look stable is open to question.

We arrived, suited and booted, or dressed and shod, at the hotel and I sashayed/swaggered/wobbled my way in, carefully negotiating the uneven flagstones at the entrance. A gaggle of glamorous women were laughing and giggling outside so there was no way I wanted to fall flat on my bum in front of them.

Inside, it wasn't hard to find the party. The sound of hundreds of female voices - and a few lone males who had braved the evening with their partners - drew us to the reception and a glass of something bubbly for my friend and an apple juice for me. Sometimes this no drinking thing is a drag!

 Once the welcome drinks were over we moved on to the restaurant and found ourselves on the table plans. I knew almost no-one there so I was really looking forward to meeting our dinner partners. I wasn't disappointed.  Our table was  shared with some incredible women who are pushing the boundaries in business, have set up charities, work as advocates for those in need or have bought new life to rural communities. Sitting next to us was the lovely Rachel from Ewetree Bakery who very self-deprecatingly told us she had no idea why she was there as all she did was make cakes. These are not any old cakes but award winning cakes. Not only that, Rachel set up The Teffont Bakery in her little village of Teffont Magna and every Saturday, she sells cakes and pastries and serves tea and coffee (free refills) giving a vital opportunity for the older people in her village, particularly those who live alone, to meet up and enjoy the company of others. I can't stress how important this is in rural communities where isolation is all too common, particularly for older people. Since it's inception, it has grown into a little farmers market with handmade chocolates, local produce, plant and flowers.

My friend and I dropped in to see Rachel the next day and I can absolutely attest to the superbness of her brownies. We spent a lovely hour stuffing our faces with croissants and cakes - just quality control you understand - and drinking endless coffee as we watched the world of Teffont Magna go by. It was buzzy and we could absolutely see the value Rachel is bringing to her local community. I left with lots of ideas for something similar in our village.

But back to the evening... it started off with a rousing chorus of  'Man, I Feel Like A Woman' - apparently a bit of singsong is something of a tradition at the meetings of Damsels in Success, who were co-hosting the evening with Ladies Who Love...Events. Lulu, from Damsels and Catherine, from Ladies Who Love were our hosts and led the singing with great gusto. Then it was on to the awards. The categories were Woman's Role Model/Advocate, Woman in the Community, Woman in Business, Rising Star/Woman to Watch (my category), Creative Woman and Inspirational Woman.

I'm not going to go through all the nominees and winners, if you are interested you can read their stories on the Women Inspiring Women website suffice to say, I was completely in awe of the winners, all of whom were worthy. Between them they had pretty much saved the world and I was honoured to have spent time in their company.

Dinner was delicious and the conversation sparkled around the table until the last course was finished and beyond.  Afterwards, we had photos taken with our fellow nominees - sadly I looked like I was sucking a particularly sour lemon so I didn't bother to buy a copy. My friend and I  had every intention of joining in the dancing when the tables were moved but in the end, we crashed out in the overstuffed sofas in the bar, slipped our feet out of our heels and just chatted for hours.

It was a truly lovely evening. New friendships were forged, new networking opportunities made and the awesome power of the female of the species was thoroughly in evidence.  I was a wonderful night. Thank you, dear friend, for making it possible. You know who you are. If you lived round here I'd nominate you for the 2014 awards in a heartbeat.