Tuesday, 29 March 2011


So, I'm sat at Edinburgh Park station contemplating how far we are from having integrated transport solutions in this country.

Having had a fabulous long weekend away in Shetland I'm now trying to make my way home. Flight from Sumburgh, ok apart from the airport not spotting that we'd arrived and leaving us sitting at the stance for 15 minutes. Connection with public transport from Edinburgh airport, fail! First a taxi driver who doesn't know the route to the closest train station, and then charges the best part of a tenner. Then super friendly (not) station staff and another 7 quid to Stirling. At least it's only a short walk at the other end. And it's not raining.

No wonder we're addicted to our cars here. The alternative just isn't that easy! Roll on the trams!

Friday, 25 March 2011

All about me

Or that's what this post would have been about if I'd written it anytime in the last few days. Regular readers might have noticed I've been a bit quiet recently. Truth be told I've been rather unhappy and unhealthily self absorbed about it. I resisted the urge to bore you all with it. Or more accurately, I was unhappy to even bring myself to write about it.

And before you start worrying, there's nothing wrong. Nothing happened. No crises. No particular change. I was just down.

But this post isn't going to be about me. It's going to be about not me. It's going to be about other people. Other people I know who are dealing with stuff, not necessarily successfully all the time and not necessarily stoically and with self assurance. But dealing. Getting on. Surviving. And I think they're awesome.

My widowed friend, turning her life upside down again to follow her heart. My former work colleague battling an illness the doctors can't quite understand and certainly haven't managed to treat yet. A current work colleague facing up to the fears of a loved one heading into danger. People I don't know in Japan and Libya and Syria trying to live their lives in amongst unimaginable turmoil and personal disaster. Other people I don't know living their lives closer to home, coping with the scars of modern day Britain in the world of the have nots.

All these people have reason to be down, sad, unhappy, angry, hurt, lost, lonely, hopeless. I'm not saying that I don't - it just seems of a different degree. Makes you think really.

And as for the photo - yes, that is the colour I was. No photoshopping involved. I'd just finished my longest ever run (7.25 miles) as I continue to work towards my (crazy) marathon goal. It's not a pretty sight, that's for sure. But boy, did it feel good!! Probably for the first time I didn't think that completing the marathon was such an impossible challenge. And I could still walk the next day too. Amazing!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

15 years ago

15 years ago today, a man who lived in a house just round the corner from where I now live, walked into a local primary school and murdered 16 children and their teacher as they got ready to start their gym class. He injured 15 others and scarred the lives of countless more - friends, families, staff, emergency workers. People I know. People I work with. I wasn't working here at the time and for me the incident is something remembered. For many people locally it is something relived - and not just today on the anniversary, but every day, all the time.

And tragically it still happens. Witness Derrick Bird's killing spree in Cumbria in June 2010, where a sad and angry man first killed members of his own family and then conducted a horrendous catalogue of drive by shootings in the otherwise quiet Cumbrian towns around Whitehaven and Seascale. In total he murdered 12 people and injured 11 others.

Sadly these are only 2 of many incidents worldwide where people - usually men - aggrieved by some real or imagined sleight, have taken revenge in this way. Yes, these men used guns to wreak their havoc. And while I'm no fan of guns, legal or otherwise, let's not forget that it wasn't the guns alone that killed these men's victims. It was people: in many ways, people like us - a little strange and often at the edges of society, but all the same, more like us than not like us. And I don't know about you but I find that a really scary thought.

What's perhaps a more encouraging thought, is that there are far more people who don't do these things, that don't resort to violence and who are horrified and repulsed by it. Love and compassion are far stronger, more powerful emotions than hatred and anger. Hope brings light. Here's to a world shining brightly with hope, love and compassion.

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchard and dark-green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing
will never be done. 

Siegfried Sassoon                    

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Just when you thought it was safe...

...to put away your winter boots, down comes the snow again!

Or to be more accurate here in Stirling sadly, the sleet. I wouldn't mind so much if it was snow but this is just cold wet yuk. And I've had to cancel my day trip out. Still, it's the perfect excuse now to stay in and catch up on some DVD watching.

Hope the weather is better where you are.

STOP PRESS: The snow and sleet lasted all day into the late afternoon and then turned to rain. There's still snow on the hills this morning but it's nowhere near as cold today. It often snows at this time of year here I've found and it never lasts long, even when we have a heavy fall. It's almost like this is Winter's last hurrah, a reminder that even if she's gone for a few months now, she'll be back again to chill us all once more.

As regular readers know, I don't actually mind winter - I love crisp cold mornings when the frost nips your fingers and paints with diamonds across the world. I even love the snow - silent white blankets that muffle the world and brighten the night. It's just sleet and winter rain I can't stand!!

And if you're wondering, it was Sportsnight I was watching on DVD, courtesy of a good friend for my birthday. An awesome first out for Aaron Sorkin and many of the actors who went on to be West Wing regulars.

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Thursday, 10 March 2011

White Ribbon

This evening, I got to take part in something really special and important. I was asked to participate in the White Ribbon March in Stirling. The White Ribbon Campaign is a movement hoping to bring an end to our society's still too silent acceptance of the scourge of violence against women. It is aimed at men and asks them to make a public commitment to never commit, condone or be silent against violence against women.

I am really proud to say that our local Council has committed to making Stirling Scotland's first White Ribbon city. And refreshingly there was relatively good attendance at tonight's March, with local men, women and children braving the not particularly hospitable weather to walk from Stirling Castle to the Council Headquarters to show their solidarity with the cause. Central Scotland Police were also well represented with the Assistant Chief Constable reminding us that while domestic violence is a crime of violence, more insidiously it is really a crime of control, isolation and domination. Speaking out against domestic violence hopefully helps all who suffer find the strength to break out and find their own personal freedoms from oppression.

And in case any of you are wondering about how big a problem this really is, ponder the following facts:

  • 45% of women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • At least 32% of children, mostly girls, experience some form of child sexual abuse
  • At least 80,000 women suffer rape every year.
  • On average, two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner. This constitutes nearly 40% of all female homicide victims.
It really makes me realise just how lucky I am, and just how dangerous life can be for too many other women.

Do not condone, ignore or turn a blind eye to violence against women. You may just save a life. And it can be happening closer than you think - sadly.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The great divide ... still

Tomorrow (Tuesday 8th March) is International Women's Day 2011. In fact it's the 100th such day since it was started in 1911 to celebrate the social, economic and political achievements of women all over the world, and in particular to mark the work of Suffragettes fighting to extend sufferage (the right to vote) to women. It's quite frightening to realise that it wasn't until 1918 that women actually won any right to vote in the UK and only in 1928 that the right was extended to all women.

Scarey though that thought is, it's even more mind blowing that even today, women across the world lead lives that are disadvantaged, diminished and in many cases, downright dangerous. Far too many women across the world, and sadly right here in the UK, live lives that are different from the ones experienced by their male counterparts. I count myself lucky that I'm not one of them. But even fortunate as I am, I know that I am looked at differently from a man in the same circumstances as me - both at work and in my personal life. It's not fair, and for me, luckily that's all it is. Many are not so lucky. Tomorrow, whether you're male or female, take just a bit of time out and think about whether you think it's right or not.

And for the women in the UK reading this, on May 5th, whatever your politics, make sure you exercise the right that women fought so hard to get for you, and other women are still fighting for. Even if you just turn up to spoil your ballot paper because none of them are worth voting for, make sure you turn up. After all, women died for your right to vote, and are still dying to gain theirs. Don't throw it away, make an active choice, use it. Because you're worth it.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sugar and spice, and all things nice

 A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
Coco Chanel 

According to the nursery rhyme, it's sugar and spice and all things nice that little girls are made of. And while we do get a better deal of it than the boys do with regard to ingredients, I think there's just a small chance that the creator of that rhyme might be underselling us. I far prefer Coco Chanel's definition.

But when you think about it a bit more, perhaps they're not saying such different things after all. One of the key parts, in my opinion, about being classy is being generous and gracious to other people (being nice) and a prerequisite to being fabulous is being willing to go a little bit more to the edge of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to be more than you otherwise thought you could be (the spice perhaps?).

I blogged yesterday about musing with a good friend on who we are and what we want. This is the same good friend who pointed me towards the importance of making the most of your life and your talents, and of going beyond what is comfortable. Part of our conversation on Friday covered both of these points - my friend was remarking on my seemingly never-ending desire to seek out new challenges (strange new worlds!) - and she wondered what that was about for me. Was this what I needed to do as part of the someone that I am, or was it part of me trying to work who that someone is?

I don't know the answer to the question, but I do know that she's right. I am always looking for new things to do, in particular things that stretch and challenge me. For example, I didn't just learn how to do beadwork for myself, I made it and sold it at craft fairs for a while. I decided to cure my fear of heights by learning to climb. And I haven't just taken up running as a way of keeping fit and active, I've already completed a 10k and have now challenged myself to a marathon this year. My birthday book (pictured above) from the awesome Frances really is so appropriate!!

I describe myself in my CV as someone who is always up for and energised by new challenges - and that's certainly true at work. I just didn't realise it was quite so true in my personal life too. As another friend recently told me, that might make it a bit hard to be with me - always pushing on to the next thing, not always enough time for anyone else.

That's certainly something my (second) ex-husband felt when it came to my work and the hours and focus I put into it. In the end it wasn't something he was prepared to come second to, and if I'm honest, I don't really blame him. It can't have been much fun.

But it is who I am and it's not something I can easily change. Or want to change. On reflection, I don't think I'm pushing the boundaries to find out who I am. This IS who I am. I love learning and discovering new things and always have done. I have an inquisitive mind and spirit. I push myself to try new things and to stretch myself because ultimately I want to be as big as I can be, to live up to the potential that I have inside me, to never stop wanting to know and to be more. We are only in this life for a very short time, I think we have a responsibility to make as much of it as we can. Complacency and self imposed limitations are not options we should accept.

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
Nelson Mandela, 1994 

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Who am I?

And what do I want?

I was out for a drink with a good friend last night and as ever our conversation turned that bit deeper after we'd finished the first bottle of wine. We didn't quite get as far as the question in the title of this post, but we did talk about the second one posed above. What it made me realise is, that if I want to answer that second question I probably need to understand a little bit more about what my answer to the first one is.

WARNING: This is about to be an introspective post, for those not wishing to know more, look away now!

Some bits of the answer to Who am I are straightforward. I'm the younger of two sisters, the baby of the family, and I realise now that I've always been used to being the youngest. I was the youngest in my year at school, at least a year younger than most of the people in my year at University and consequently I started on my post University graduate career, just that little bit younger than most. So, I've been used to being younger than my peers all my life and largely it still continues. I don't know if that has any great relevance, it just is.

I'm also relatively independently minded. I don't like to be penned in, tied down or told what to think or do - and that goes for work as well as my personal life. Perversely, I do like to have support and guidance around, but if I'm honest it's probably only ever on my terms and when I think I need it. Which possibly makes me not the easiest employee to manage or person to have a relationship with. I'm probably best when I get to have the ideas and call the shots - unless, of course, I've decided I don't want to, and then it's definitely your responsibility!!

I have (perhaps unsurprisingly given the above) two failed marriages and a handful of equally unsuccessful serious relationships. At the moment, I'm on my own and have been for almost 2 years. It's the longest time I've been without a partner since I was a student. In fact I think it's quite possibly the only time in my adult life I haven't been part of a couple for any length of time. I'm not saying this for sympathy, again it's just something that is and is part of who I currently am.

I can't say that I entirely enjoy it. At times I very much feel the lack of an 'other' in my life, but equally do I want to be joined at the hip to someone else again? Not really, and certainly not at the moment. A fair proportion of the time I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being just me, doing what I want to do, having (largely) to suit no-one but myself and being responsible for no-one but me - apart from Cat that is, of course!

But - and here's the rub - I do want something more, I'm just not sure I know what that 'something more' is. Do I just underestimate the love and support I already get from my friends? Or is there something substantively different that I want, need from a partner?

Perhaps it's a level of intimacy that I don't feel I get at the moment that I'm looking for. And by intimacy I don't mean sex - although don't get me wrong, that would be great! - but there's a closeness that I don't think I get in my current circumstances and may well be what I'm looking for. That, and the feeling of having someone on my side when things get tough.

Which gets me to thinking, do I only really want someone for the tough times, or is it just that I feel their lack more accurately then? And if I only want someone for the tough times, to support me, does that make me selfish? And is that perhaps why I find myself 43, on my own and with no realistic prospect of that changing any time in the near future?

Who knows! And I still don't really know who I am or what I want!!