Click and share and sneer

Apr 6, 2014 by

“It’s like Ascot!” someone said, “but more bosomy and fabulous!”

No it isn’t, I replied. It’s Aintree.

The Liverpool women this weekend, short shirted, curvy thighed and balancing heroically on staggering stack heels, armed with killer Shellacs and mighty blonde manes, are beautiful. Bold and bright, they shout “look at me!”, and we should. We should look at them and praise them, our women, for being them, for doing what they want. Instead we sneer, the 2014 Aintree Ladies Day image of choice a shot of a two tanned legs, one ankle looped with an electronic tag.

sneer

 

Look at the kip of that! Who does she think she is?

Sneering captions are tacked to photographs of our tanned Scouse Amazons, flashed up on Facebook by Daily Hate copycats. Click and share and sneer, quickly! You might get left behind.

Sneer first, consider later that the same tired ankle tag bracelet photograph has done the rounds for months, no date or venue attached. It could have been taken at a wedding, anywhere; or Ascot. Ever heard of Photoshop? In these times of click and share and sneer, it’s a thought too far to think. A breath too big, a brain too stretched. No time to pause between clicks.

To click and share and sneer are easier, let’s do that.

There’s no need to click and share and sheer at a better class of racecourse, with its finer class of punter to match, the bankers, nightclub owners, fat cats with high moral codes bleached white and scrubbed clean. You can say one thing about bankers, they’d never wear electronic ankle tags at a racecourse. Heavens no! Perish the thought! They’ve never been caught, convicted, condemned, for one.

But don’t bother about that, not when there’s time to click and share and sneer.  If happy to be spoon fed, don’t forget to lick the back of the spoon, be sure to get it all.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here 

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Knock knock, who’s there?

Apr 2, 2014 by

I reckon Andy and myself are sociable types. We love going out, enjoy meeting and talking to people, even throwing the (very) occasional soiree at our home. What we don’t like is people “dropping by” unannounced. I reckon just turning up at someone’s gaff anytime is rude and odd, but even worse are the daytime “I was just passing, so…” visits. I’m saying it now – I hate them.

Most people are aware I work from home. To me, that means I’m sitting as I am right now with my laptop on my knee, writing and researching articles and stories. An alarming number of people, a curiously big percentage, read working from home as Cath is sitting at home on her backside doing nothingCath doesn’t work or even worse Cath must be at a loose end, what she needs is a visit from me.

 

I Googled "unwanted visitor", and found this.

I Googled “unwanted visitor”, and found this.

 

None of these are the case. If someone knocks during the day, this is what happens:

I swear to myself, stop what I’m doing and peer through the net curtain. If the person knocking is trying to flog me something or wearing a lot of Nike (sorry) then I don’t answer. If it’s the postman or a delivery, I do.

If it’s someone who looks like they might be a postie but in fact aren’t, I come unstuck. This happened yesterday. I was expecting a delivery of nail varnish (gold glitter – I like having pretty fingers) and on hearing a  knock at the door, I tore it open to…”I thought I’d just pop by and see if you were in!” accompanied with a bloody great grin, like they’d won something. I decided to make a stand there and then, and dealt with the individual on the doorstep. No cup of tea for “pop by”-ers at chez Cath and Andy! Or even the offer of a seat.

If people are going to “pop in”, they could at least have the good manners to send a text warning me they are on their way so I can pretend to be out…

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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“Marked” – Reclaim the Night

Mar 24, 2014 by

reclaim I’m reading out a brand new short story called “Marked” on Friday night, at the Reclaim The Night rally in Liverpool. The theme of the event is street harassment. With lots of events I speak at, I have stories “in the bank” already, written as ideas come to me but I started “Marked” from scratch last week, the early (very short!) draft written at the writing workshop I attend. I don’t always base my work on my own experiences, but “Marked” is very much me, based on one night when I walked from the train station to my house,  about 15 minutes’ walk at a decent pace so not far.

A man talking very loudly into his mobile phone walked behind me, so I crossed the road because he made me feel uncomfortable. He walked too close for my liking and was shouting and laughing with whoever was on the other end of his phone. I’m sure most men would think me crossing the road away from him this was acceptable behaviour on my part, but this one took it on himself to copy me and cross the road too, walking behind me once again. I went back across the road again, he copied me. I crossed yet another time, he did the same.

I told him to stop following me and he bellowed down the phone “THERE’S SOMEONE HERE WHO THINKS I’M FOLLOWING HER!!!! HOW MAD IS THAT???!!! HA HA HA HA!” He knew I felt uncomfortable, and enjoyed it. He did it because he could. As it says in “Marked”, what a dick sneeze. Anyway, I got a short story out of the experience and will be reading it on Friday. If you’re around the city centre, please come and support the writers, poets and speakers sharing work and personal stories.

This year’s Reclaim the Night Liverpool will take place on Friday 28th March and will focus on ending the everyday harassment that women face on the street. The meeting point for all self-defining women wanting to join the march is outside Liverpool Town Hall (junction of Dale Street/Castle Street) at 7pm.  The march will then lead up through the city centre, with a meeting point for others at St Luke’s (the Bombed Out Church) at 7.30pm; then onwards to Maryland Street, for a rally open to all in John Moores Students’ Union. The rally will have a line-up of all women speakers, performance poets and DJs for everyone involved in the march. (Please note: Children are welcome to attend the rally but must be supervised by an adult at all times)

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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Twenty four hours (flash fiction)

Mar 23, 2014 by

worn carpet

TWENTY FOUR HOURS

The stair carpet is baggy and tired, tacked loosely to each step and due to be replaced tomorrow. A roll of new carpet, green like a promise, balances against the wall in the hallway.

 

‘He fell,’ I say.

They believe me.

 

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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‘Novel Reading’ was grounds to be admitted into an asylum from 1864-1889.

Mar 19, 2014 by

Gentler times?

 

'Novel Reading' was grounds to be admitted into an asylum from 1864-1889.

 

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here (then pack your bags for *a little trip*)

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Inspirational Women’s Day

Mar 8, 2014 by

Staff decorated the main hall in balloons and flowers

Staff decorated the main hall with balloons and flowers

When it came to careers advice at my school, I vaguely remember filling in a paper quiz about what we liked doing. Each girl was duly told that being a nursery nurse, teacher or secretary was the ideal for them no matter what. Now, it’s different. Yesterday I was at Holly Lodge College for Girls in Liverpool to take part in their Inspirational Women’s Day (International Women’s Day a day early). Staff invited women in differing careers to come in to talk to Year 9 girls, those about to take their options. Myself plus a firefighter, architect, landscape architect, human resources manager, forensic analyst, magistrate and others spent the day telling girls about what we do for a living.

We were given flowers and chocolate as a thank you for speaking (Andy and I ate the chocolate last night, sorry).

We were given flowers and chocolate as a thank you for speaking. (Sorry, Andy and I ate the chocolate last night).

The girls were great, and asked lots of questions. I think it’s fabulous that teachers and staff go the extra mile for students these days and wish this sort of thing was done when I was at school. Those ghastly paper quizzies are a thing of the past, thank goodness.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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Sisters, truly.

Mar 6, 2014 by

leaf liverpool loo sign

We’re frequently told aren’t we that women don’t like other women, we hasten to criticize, eager to pounce on any alleged flaw, blood in the water attracting the sharks. The female to female viewpoint is followed by a rolling of the eyes like an echo, with an exclamation of “You women! You’re such bitches!” The term “bitch” is misogynistic and thrown about with abandon. Any comment by a woman is bitching. A conversation between two women, that’s bitching. Two bitches bitching. A woman expressing an opinion that means she’s a bitch, yeah? Another bitch bitching again. Bitch is part of our discourse. Bitch is a woman, bitch is talk, bitching is women talking.  We’ve totally fallen for it. Men talking, a man commenting on another man is unremarkable, of course. No eye rolling there, no bitching. Silence everyone, nod your head and furrow your bitching brow. Keep in walking, there’s nothing to see here. Don’t question, bitches. We’ve fallen for that too, we’ve fallen for the denial of sisterhood. It’s crept up on us, bitches.

I am the compere at an open mic night, I introduce singers, poets, storytellers who come along to entertain and be heard each month. Open mics provide an open forum and a microphone in pubs and cafes, for anyone wanting to perform. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Those who don’t go to open mics might imagine them romantic affairs, strumming minstrels and acoustic loveliness, Bob Dylan thoughtfulness and earnest songwriters. In the real world though open mic events are notoriously curious and sometimes hostile affairs, competitive and sneery, my guitar’s bigger and better than yours, male dominated. Me though, I run a comfortably tight ship. Just call me Captain Bitch. No one talks when the acts are on, or dares leave after they’ve performed. Applause is mandatory. We have a full house right until the end.

Last month, one of the women putting her name forward to sing was a service user at our local hospital’s mental health unit. She wanted to sing the song Valerie by Liverpool indie band The Zutons, not only solo but accapella too. A brave decision, even if I could sing I wouldn’t do it on my own with no accompaniment. The whole premise to me feels vulnerable, naked. I don’t have the backbone. The woman’s performance started well but she forgot the words of the second verse. That could’ve been the end of it, but no. Instead of sniggering and being “bitchy” as eye rollers would love, three young women from a youth group got up, walked across the floor and stood with this visibly upset and distressed woman, and sang the song with her. Sisters, truly.

It was beautiful, and not just the singing. A simple gesture and unremarkable on the surface, but powerful true sisterhood in action, nudging its way in like the lemon light of early morning warms, nourishes. There’s nothing to eye roll at, here. No bitching, bitches. It’s sisterhood sisters, and it goes on all the time, we just need to choose to see it.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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The woman who gave up chocolate

Mar 4, 2014 by

choc-digestives

Part of being I writer I think, is to seek and find the beauty in things as well as any darkness. We learn to look at things from different angles in our minds and interpret them, manipulate them in our own way. Sometimes this process of watching, thinking, and listening causes me to see things from a very different perspective and budges along my opinion.

This happened to me just under a year ago. I am a long time atheist, I sigh in derision at Easter and even Christmas although I enjoy the presents and food part of the festivities.  Am I a hypocrite? Yes, and proudly so.

I went to meetings of a local atheist group at one time but rapidly became dissatisfied, there seemed too many rules. It was too much like a religion. In 2007 members were salivating over the controversy of Shambo, a sacred cow in a Welsh Hindu temple, claiming it was wrong that a cow which might have TB should be allowed to live because of his sacred animal status. As an animal lover I was more distressed that Shambo should be killedbecause of the meat market, and the people at the temple seemed lovely, all they wanted was for Shambo who they loved would be allowed to live. It seemed wrong that others, people I knew and talked to, were hoping for an animal to die so I knocked any form of organised atheism on the head.

I still had no time for religion either. When Lent came around I got all superior and smug, blithely carrying on as normal, giving nothing up. Why should I? Why should anyone? What does it accomplish?

Then. Last year I was talking to a woman I know. I’m not sure how we started talking about Lent, but it came up anyway. The woman said she gives up chocolate for Lent, every year.

‘I’m not religious,’ I sneered. ‘I don’t believe in any of that.’

One – nil, to ME.

The woman said she carried no religious belief either.

Why are you doing it then? I sneered inside my head this time. Because everyone else is? Think for yourself, woman!

Two-nil, to ME. I win! Ner-ner-ner-ner-ner!

Not quite. The woman explained that when as a little girl she and her best friend in junior school got all worried about religion, started obsessing that if they didn’t do the whole Sunday School thing, pray every night before bedtime and so on they were going to hell, no questions asked. Her friend was very passionate that they gave up chocolate for Lent. The woman agreed with reluctance (chocolate is chocolate, after all) but went along with it. They lusted like sinners after chocolate but turned their adolescent noses up in piety at the cocoa bean in all its forms. After a couple of Lents though, boys came into the picture so they forgot all about religious observance. It happens.

When the woman and her friend were teenagers, the friend got cancer. She died aged fifteen. Horrible, but every year at Lent since then the woman has given up chocolate, in the memory of her friend. She doesn’t “do” religion, observe any ceremonies, but she does this one thing for her childhood friend, because it’s one thing they did together even for that brief time. She remembers the good times they had, and thinks her friend would like it. It’s a tribute.

It might not seem a massive or hugely notable thing to do, and claims no headlines but is the sweetest and nicest gesture I’ve heard about for a while. I’d say it is bloody beautiful. My opinion on religion is not changed after hearing this, but it has shifted. That’s possibly the most you’re going to get from me on the religion front but to me, it’s a lot.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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This is Liverpool. Pass it on.

Feb 27, 2014 by

bus ticket

This week came the news that a production company have come up with idea of a reality television show about the people of Liverpool, imaginatively entitled This Is Liverpool.

Oh, that’s a good idea,”  I didn’t think when I saw the much watched trailer about the series on YouTube, full of bad language and a nicked hub cap shy of every stereotype imaginable.

Hmm, I thought. That isn’t the Liverpool I know. But what is the Liverpool I know?

On Tuesday nights, I go to a writing workshop in a café in Liverpool city centre. I get the bus from the top of my road (it’s a bit like a taxi!) into town. On Tuesday evening I stood at the bus stop as usual, waiting for the bus. I noticed a lonely Saveaway Merseyside bus ticket lodged into the frame of the bus timetable. It was dated for Tuesday, 25th February, that very day. There’s nothing spectacular in that, you yawn. Please, stay with me.

A bus ticket, at a bus stop. It’s nothing spectacular. Or is it? On Merseyside, it’s seen as the thing to do that when you’ve completed your train or bus journey for the day you leave behind you ticket for someone else to use. Everybody does it. It’s kind, considerate, generous, big hearted. People could quite easily think “sod it, I’ve paid £4.80 for that, why should some other bugger have it?” but they don’t. They pass it on.

That to me, sums up Liverpool, not some silly telly programme. Pass it on.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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Everyone’s A Critic

Feb 19, 2014 by

The power lead for my Kindle gave up the ghost just before Christmas. Appalled at the cost of an official Kindle lead (£9.99…erm, what?) I hopped on over to a popular auction website and found generic ones on sale for a couple of quid, with free postage and packing. I was feeling flush, so bought two. (Well, if you can’t treat yourself over the festive season, when can you?) They arrived in handy enough time, and worked fine. The convenience of online shopping, I thought smugly. Get me. I win. Then it came, the inevitable request for feedback on the product, a review. What can you say in a review about a USB lead?

“Best USB lead, ever?”

I can’t gush about a piece of plastic, rubber and wire, I haven’t got it in me. So I got a weed on, being of a belief that I’ve fulfilled my side of the buyer-seller moral agreement by paying for the product. I bought the bloody lead because it’s cheap, the pay-off shouldn’t be I have to write an essay about it. That’s not part of the deal. I ignored the request for feedback, but it kept on coming. There’s a lack of dignity to someone begging you to say something nice about them, like an ex who wonders why you finished with them and please, please will you give them another chance? NO.

It's OVER

It’s OVER

We’re given so much choice now even if we don’t really need it, have to judge and review everything before we even buy. I even have to take time to work out which bus company I’m best buying my ticket from each week. One is £15, but another is £12.50…which one should I get? It depends on how many times I’m going into the city centre, so I consult my diary before purchase, and have a think, all to save £2.50. The stress isn’t worth it. Price comparison websites have cracked on to our new found sense of control, before we even think about of insurance we must go on a price comparison site, or our world will implode. It’s all just too hard.

When I was growing up, my frugal mother would dart from shop to shop to get the best bargains. Bread from Kwik Save, milk from Co-op, fruit and veg from the stall in the market. I used to think, how tiring, why doesn’t she just get it all from one shop? Nowadays, the poor woman wouldn’t stand a chance. I went to get some onion rings from ASDA last week. There were four kinds made by ASDA itself (battered, breaded, beef flavoured, chilli flavoured) and then I came upon Aunt Bessie’s range as well. Too many onion rings, so little time.

Have a REALLY nice holiday.

Have a REALLY nice holiday, then go on Trip Advisor and tell me all about it.

Trip Advisor has to trump onion rings in the irrriation stakes, though. I signed up to it (why?) and if time travel were possible I’d go back to that ridiculous day when I believed it a good idea, and punch myself. As it is, I don’t know how to opt out so I’ll carry on getting daily emails telling me how people on Facebook  I haven’t met are really enjoying their weekend away in Paris.

Good for them I growl, developing a migraine from getting the wrong bus pass. Just think what I could’ve done with that saved £2.50! Buy another USB lead, and write a bloody review about it, maybe? I give in.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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A classic cat

Feb 8, 2014 by

ing fire

Cats have their own thing going on and hold little interest in changing to suit our needs, one of the reasons I love them so much. Our beloved Ingrid, who died on Thursday, never sat on a knee for the 16 years we had her or yearned for any physical contact at all. Some people might have a problem with that or see it as stand offish maybe, but we admired her restrained and dignified approach to life. What she did do was want to be near us, quietly and not wishing to be bothered. We learned that being talked to was her thing, rather than participating much. She was a very happy cat, quiet and content, and rarely gave much away, apart from once when we went on holiday about a year after she came to live with us. Upon one our return our other cats were furious at our bare cheek, but Ingrid started purring and chirping with delight. We were shocked; we were never convinced she cared anything for us until that moment.

She never looked for a lap to curl up on or wanted handling, but a scratch between the ears and under her chin was accepted. Apart from the classic feline in front of a warm fire position, what she did enjoy was sleeping in bags (plastic carrier bags, handbags, holdalls, laptop cases, she didn’t discriminate), sitting on the top of doors, and eating fish. Later when she became ill, she liked kipping on the back of the couch and being hand fed. Classic cat.

She identified the warmest spots in the house, like any cat. When one of Andy’s colleagues came to the house once and went to use the toilet, the poor woman came right back downstairs, shocked.

‘There’s a cat asleep on your toilet floor,’ she said.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It’s right above the water heater. Just ignore her.’

You can’t argue with a true cat.

Every night at approximately 10pm Ingrid would hop into the arm of the sofa, expectant and hopeful. She wasn’t after affection or attention from me, it was merely her body clock telling her that we’d be off to bed soon and she wanted first dibs on the warmed cushions. We hoped she would still be with us in the Spring, so she could stretch out on the garden wall in the sunshine, the true warm spot of  the season, but it wasn’t to be.

Ingrid’s eyes were a pretty mixture of blue-green, and she miaowed silently, any requests for food and so on would be mimed. If she did miaow at all it was not shyly but quietly. That’s how I knew on Thursday it was time to let my cat, my little friend, go.

Ingrid, a classic cat.

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The Pink Razor People

Jan 25, 2014 by

buffy

We re watched our box set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer late last year. What an amazing, brave, clever, strong, hairy heroine. Hairy? In today’s terms, yes. Actress Sarah Michelle Geller in the early seasons of the programme had fine, normal fuzz on both her arms when she fought the vampires, sent the love of her life to a hell dimension, and saved the world, repeatedly.

I admit here, I was a bit surprised Buffy had hair on her arms. As I watched, I found myself wondering why she hadn’t waxed, shaved, or her “people” hadn’t had a quiet word. It was then I had a word with myself. The hairs on Buffy’s arms were perfectly normal for a woman to have and I, as someone who considers herself a feminist, was making quite frankly bonkers aesthetic judgements.

 

beaver

 

When this week Cameron Diaz came out with her support of female body hair, I thought embarrassedly about my attitude just a handful of months ago about The Slayer, the chosen one. It was my own bigotry and weirdness, thinking Buffy’s arms were something to be fixed, amended, when they are fine arms, and ones that helped stop many an apocalypse. Dozens, in fact. A friend told me that her nine year old daughter has just shaved her legs for the first time, because of teasing from others in her class, and she wore long socks over the summer because of the again quite normal hairs on her pins. That can’t be right, can it? Nine years old, for god’s sake.

I am quite hairy. Although fair haired, my eyebrows are black and bushy with one brow much larger than the other. If I don’t pluck the big beast above my right eye it looks odd, my face out of kilter. The whole issue of eyebrows has me confused. I got told early on that plucking and shaping one’s eyebrows “opens up” the eye, and as someone with deep set eyes, mine need all the opening up help they can get. It’s always a struggle to get my brows even and balanced, but most of the time I manage to crack it, or so I thought. I was told by a MUA (makeup artist) that I’ve been plucking them too short; I mumbled “it’s how I like them” while she crossly tutt tutted at my incompetence. This week the bold “Scouse brow” was scorned in a national survey about the worst beauty “mistakes” – and what do you know, “over plucking” is on the list of survey’s “mistakes”, too.

If I can’t get my body hair “right” in the eyes of the world, what chance does a nine year old have? It doesn’t bode well for any of us, does it? The rules don’t make any sense. There’s no point having them if they contradict each other, is there? The pink razor people, rude MUAs, crap surveys and indeed me/us need to get together and come up with some new guidelines, obviously.

 

Read the first chapter of my crime novel Blood Money here

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Never knowingly without a lanyard

Jan 15, 2014 by

For some reason, I have a thing for lanyards. Not just writing festival lanyards, always best on the design front in my view, but everyday ones as well. This week I spoke to some art students from Holly Lodge Girls’ College in Liverpool, they are creating works of art based on my short story Orange Is The Only Fruit, as part of their final BTEC project. I was given a lanyard to get into the college which I swore faithfully to all concerned that I’d return, but right at the end I sneaked out like a thief with it crammed into my pocket.  I felt like I’d won something. Evidence I need to get out more, if ever there was. lanyard In the days when I had a proper job, about 20 years ago, I went for an interview at an insurance company. The man annoyed me so much by asking if I was planning to have any children (and yes it was against the law to do that then) that I took the lanyard they gave me, home. That showed him, oh yeah, and I got another lanyard.

My  lanyard.

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What every writer needs to know

Jan 10, 2014 by

(YouTube)

no corkscrew

 

 

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It’s Friday, so…

Jan 2, 2014 by

…let’s dance!

marilyn friday

 

 

 

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