Monthly Archives: June 2016

Women and men and sport….

Women and men and sport….

It’s a curious time to be British, even if we can’t agree of anything else surely we can agree on that. But heyho, sport will bring us together. And look England are playing Iceland, and for the amount we pay Wayne Rooney each week we can give almost the entire population of Iceland one pound each. Oh wait….

It’s not just that last night’s football was a disaster that’s getting my goat, it’s that it was all so male. The commentators, the players obviously, the male sentimentality of it all. I can’t help imagining the whole of the news over the last few months replayed with women instead of men as the main protagonists – how soon we would start talking about gender problems, why women just can’t manage the big problems of the world, they’re too emotional, look at them weeping over a game…

But back to sport. That’s the thing that brings us together. Now if I was writing as a journalist, I would be getting quotes, finding research etc etc, but this is a rant. A rant as a sports fan, a mother, and yes, a woman. Because at the moment professional sport doesn’t bring us together, it brings men together and keeps women on the outside unless of course they join in and become ‘good sports’. Whereas everybody knows we are bad sports. We don’t deserve to be paid as much as men – even when we’re competing in the same tournaments – or to be given the same airtime, or the same personal respect.

It happens early. I saw it with my children – my son, a good rugby player was taken on tours to America, Canada, Scotland, given special privileges at school for being in the top team, recognised by teachers etc etc. My daughter, a good cross country runner, was told that she should keep running because it gave her a great figure, was not allowed to join the school’s cross country tour to Spain because it was traditionally for boys and her going would mean the expense of an extra woman teacher even though she was a better runner than many of the boys going. Oh how I wish I’d kicked up more of a stink about that, but she begged me not to.

See, that’s what we do too often as women. We don’t kick up a stink because we know there are ‘consequences’.

So we buy newspapers every day, especially at the weekend, where the ‘Sport’ section is actually ‘Men’s Sport’ – and where very often the only photographs or mentions of women are the reporters. And we don’t say anything. This has consequences – such as a senior BBC sports commentator not realising until too late he was doing anything wrong when he made sexist remarks about the appearance of a top woman professional tennis player, or women not realising they could do boxing or rowing until we saw women do it in the Olympics with their whole hearts and bodies, and oh, it might not have been pretty but it was inspiring.

I was a keen sprinter at school but then overnight I did what was called then ‘developing’. When I ran in races, the boys would stand on the sidelines ‘appreciating my developing’ until I got self-conscious and started worrying about how I was looking. Consequently I began losing and eventually stopped. Although I loved running, loved the feeling of forcing my body to run so fast that my mind went blank and my legs took over. I loved the competition side too, not just the winning, but having other girls beside me also running their hearts out. And us all laughing afterwards because the adrenalin was still taking us over.

Bloody boys, I think when I look back. WHO WERE THEY to bring me down so quickly just because I had breasts. I didn’t stand on the side of rugby matches and shout comments about their penises. Or that they didn’t deserve to be on the pitch because they were ugly. Or tell them in corners afterwards that I was seriously worried that if they continued training, then they might grow muscly and therefore unattractive. That I was only telling them this was for their own good and besides, all that hearty stuff was, well, a bit unattractively unmasculine, wasn’t it?

But hey ho sport brings us together.

So what can we do? Back to the Olympics, and I’m imagining the sheer horror there would have been if they decided not to show any of Jessica Ennis’s races because ‘advertisers weren’t interested’.

Is it because men are better at sport that we see so much of them, or is it because we see so much of them that we become brainwashed to believe that men’s sport is best? Here’s what I think we can do…

* Let’s stop pretending it’s a level playing field, and that women just aren’t as interested in sport as men. Would men feel as entitled to live for sport if all they saw, day after day, year after year, was women playing?

*Let’s demand to see more women’s sport in our newspapers and on television.

*Let’s not praise the BBC every time they mention ‘women’s cricket’ or ‘women’s football’ in passing but write in asking for news EVERY TIME our national teams are playing.

* Let’s make it easy to go and watch women playing by giving full match details in advance, just as the men’s matches get.

* Let’s learn to praise girls and women for their skills not their appearance, and then maybe we won’t need official surveys into why women aren’t playing sport any more.

And then maybe sport really will bring us together.

Throw some writers in a bowl….

Throw some writers in a bowl….


…. shake them round a bit, and you get ….


I think I’ve probably talked a lot already about how I love my Tuesday writers – a regular group that meets at my house to write. We celebrated last night with an end of term reading – a mixture of novels in progress, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, flash fiction….


Fifteen writers in all, oh, it was so wonderful just to listen, and not know what was coming up next! A real treat.


And amazing to think that not everyone knew each other – it was a mixture of the old ‘morning’ group and the ‘evening’ group. But it didn’t take long before the words took over and we created a perfect literary salon.


We normally start each session with a freewrite – here are some of the prompts we have used so far this year….

* If I could change anything in the world, I would…
* Mind dump – all the things you have on your mind right now
* Sentence stems – He’d thought he was on his own, but when he turned round…. The giant stamps his foot and… Your mother told you never to… I’ve called you all together to tell you that… The kiss was…
* The last time I danced…
* Things to do today
* First a mindmap – ‘the things I carry’ – freewrite from what comes up from that
* Images that don’t use sight – ‘senseshots’
* What I’ve brought back from my holidays
* My brush with fame
* The last time I was lost

And here is my favourite quote of the moment, by my favourite writer of all time, Colette, not least because it sums up Tuesdays for me: You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.

Tuesdays will be quiet over the rest of the summer!

Laugh until you mean it

Laugh until you mean it

I went to a laughing workshop tonight. Ridiculously I was a bit scared, but that made me laugh by itself. Scared of laughing?

Luckily I’d had practise – just at the weekend we’d laughed a lot as we celebrated my sister’s special birthday. Drinking games, silly moving round the room games, songs, memories. Those family jokes that only family find funny – running to the sitting room to be first on the sofa for a round of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, speaking bad French, singing, not knowing the names of any footballers, and then there was the time we set granny on fire…

But this was with strangers.

We did eye each other up a bit as we sat in the yoga studio waiting for it to begin, but then we had something in common – we were all wondering why we were there.

But not for long. Caroline, our ‘laughter’ coach, got us laughing straight away. ‘It doesn’t matter if it is faked,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t matter if you are laughing at, or with us. Just laugh.’

We sang little songs, we shouted ‘well done well done, yay’ tens of times with happy movements, we laughed as we shook hands, we showed each other our secret laughs, we lay down on the floor with our heads together and we laughed. This was yoga, we were stretching our chuckle muscles.

We’d done charts beforehand of how we were feeling, and after an hour of laughing, we filled in the same charts. I don’t think I was the only one who was amazed at the difference. We laughed at that too.

And look, even when you’re one of the most powerful men in the world, you know it’s important to find time to laugh.

obama laugh

Somehow it feels good to be reminded of that just now. I’m hooked.


Hurry, still a few places left… Writing and wellbeing course

Hurry, still a few places left… Writing and wellbeing course

I’m really pleased to be sharing some of my journal writing exercises in Canterbury next week as part of the Poetry Practice’s Summer Celebration. There are just a few places left, and it looks like a wonderful group so do come and join us! For more information and click here., and for more details and a booking form, email . CPD certificates are provided. Each workshop is £25 per person for Lapidus members, £40 for non-members. (The KWWN meeting is free.) The venue is the lovely Beaney Library, an easy walk from the railway station.

Writing to (and for) Yourself with Sarah Salway

Wednesday 15th June 10am – 1pm

Do you want to ignite your creative spark and have fun exploring your life on the page through a varied series of short guided writing exercises? This workshop is an opportunity to discover new ways of journal writing as well as reinforcing what already works for you. We’ll forget the grammar police, red pens and even neat handwriting as you give yourself space to tune your unique writing voice, liberate your imagination and use language as a map to support your journey to self-discovery and growth. You’ll write at your own pace, and with absolutely no need to share unless you want. No previous writing experience is necessary.

Many of the exercises are based on the acclaimed Journal to the Self course, devised by Kathleen Adams, director of the Center of Journal Therapy and bestselling author of the book, Journal to the Self. Sarah is one of a handful of instructors certified to teach this in the UK.

And afterwards, as part of the Kent Writing and Wellbeing Network, we will be holding a networking event – a good chance to meet other people working and/or interested in the field of writing and wellbeing:

Wednesday 15th June 2.30pm-5pm

A chance for members to update each other on activities and opportunities and share skills and ideas.

Ten photographs I didn’t take …

Ten photographs I didn’t take …

I’ve just come back from Paris. I’d love to show you my photographs, but I tend to take gardens these days (although do go here to see some Parisian gardens if you’re interested!) Besides it was raining so hard that Paris looked a bit like a once beautiful woman on a VERY off-day. Here’s the Seine…


But that’s not to say Paris didn’t weave its magic on us. So here are the photographs I would have taken…

  1. Just before the church service starts, a woman ask a business-suited tourist to move from the front. She listens to him talk before putting her arm round him, and then she leads him to a seat next to her.
  2. One of the busiest restaurants, if queues are a sign, is the Vegan Burger Cafe – I remember when it was impossible to get a good vegetarian meal in Paris.
  3. Peonies everywhere. And roses. But oh the peonies.
  4. All the small fat Frenchmen being fawned over by tall beautiful much younger women. There were so many that this would have to be a collage. Perhaps with questionmarks. What could they possibly see in each other?
  5. A white fluffy dog doing its business right outside the Hermes main front door, and the look of panic in its owner’s face.
  6. The Chinese girl dancing down the street swinging a huge carrier bag and smiling so hard everybody stopped to smile with her. She was finally in Paris!
  7. A tree floating down the Seine.
  8. At the Pompidou Centre the girl in front of us in the queue edges slowly backwards, inch by inch, until she finds shelter under our umbrella.
  9. We stop for a cavalcade of official cars and police motorbikes. Whistles everywhere. And there’s a bespectacled man hunched over in the back of an official car. Is it Hollande? Not sure. Who cares, we’ll say it is.
  10. A very old battered Fiat 500 swerves up to the entrance of Le Bristol Hotel with panache. A beautiful woman leaps out and hands her keys to the doorman with as much confidence as if it was a Maserati. He looks surprised, and laughs.

What photographs haven’t you taken recently?