Beauty in action. And words.
You may also like this post – Women and Men and Sport
Beauty in action. And words.
You may also like this post – Women and Men and Sport
And secondly, another link – here’s the book recommended above – Eat Sweat Play, How Sport can change our lives by Anna Kessel. I thought it was totally wonderful. If it doesn’t make you want to get moving, I’m not sure what will – and not just for the fun of it but because it shows just how women have been conditioned not to play sports for reasons that have nothing to do with us. More on the women footballers of the first world war soon…. it’s an amazing story!
Look at this blog go …. all organised and snappy with the days of the week. FIrst of all there is a regular Friday writing exercise, and now a weekly Sports(woman) Sunday. This gives me the chance to talk more about women and sport, look at the opportunities and praise the wonderful. And there are so so so many. As always I’m doing this mostly for me – the chance to find out more and keep information in one place, but hopefully there will be something for others too. Let me know what sports work for you, or otherwise. Let me know your successes and hopes. And stories. But first of all – WALKING WOMEN!
Now, as you might notice from the dates in the poster above, the special Women Walking event as part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016 festival, is nearly over but there are still things you can do, walking women you can follow, and inspiration to be taken. After all, here’s the quote used in the publicity:
The invisibility of women in what appears as a canon of walking is conspicuous; where they are included, it is often as an ‘exception’ to an unstated norm, represented by a single chapter in a book or even a footnote. Heddon and Turner (2012) ‘Walking Women: Shifting the Tales and Scales of Mobility’ Contemporay Theatre Review, Vol. 22(2), 2012, p. 225
I couldn’t resist that. When I went along to the exhibition, I tried out Jennie Savage‘s recorded walk – leaving Somerset House to follow her instructions through the headphones (turn left, now next right etc etc)
Listening to Jennie’s observations of a very different walk while carrying out my own was a strange experience. Apart from refusing to turn right, turn right, because that would have taken me into the Thames….
…rather than being distracting, the dual narrative – Jennie’s and my own on the ground – meant I noticed things I might not otherwise. First of all there was the tribe of other walkers – on every level.
And then I started to make connections in the walk, mapping it if you like. For example, I came across this statue I’d never noticed before, perhaps because while I have walked these paths so many times before – it’s always been with a purpose. And if I’m honest, I’m usually late for that purpose so rushing.
A fascinating man, W T Stead. I looked him up when I got home, and boy, is there a novel to be written about him! Not just professionally – although, apparently, ‘He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government policy, and advocated “Government by Journalism“. He was also well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England’s criminal codes.’ But he also died on the Titanic, was obsessed by spiritualism, and knew much about the ‘dark underbelly’ of Victorian times. This plaque is a replica of one in New York.
But this information was all found out by letting my fingers ‘walk’ on the internet afterwards. On my actual walk, turn left, thinking about journalists, I also noticed these…
So much news, so many empty boxes – funnily enough just at the moment, Jennie was talking through my headphones about passing a newsagents. And then back at Somerset House to return my headphones, paying a little more attention about where I was walking, I started thinking about how many people had climbed down these stairs to mark and smooth them so…
Some of you may recognise them as the Stamp Stairs. I’ve gone up and down them many times, but not really looked at their history. And hey, this is where all newspapers in Britain had to be ‘stamped’ to indicate that the correct tax had been paid. So all newspapers in the country had to be brought to Somerset House to be individually stamped here until 1855, when the duty on newspapers was removed.
News, news, news. Amazing what you pick up from walking. BUT… why walking women and not just walking?
I find this fascinating – this Canadian report of a discussion of the difficulties and challenges in planning a gendered city shows some of the reasons. After all, a ‘streetwalker’ might be an historic term, but it is telling one. Because there’s no doubt that men and women experience walking in any space – city or countryside – in very different ways, and to be honest, much of the current literature is about men walking.
A major inspiration for me is the writer and walker, Linda Cracknell. She knows how to walk – read her books! Recently on Facebook, she talked about women walking and camping on their own, with particular reference to a wonderful experience she had had. Oh, I replied, I’d love to have the courage to do that. And so apparently did many other women. So Linda wrote this beautiful piece giving advice about just how and why women can become more adventurous solo walkers:
So that’s something for me in the future. But in the meantime, I might follow another of the great ideas (from Amy Sharrocks) in the Walking Women event – to buy a bus ticket and see where I go, and then walk back…
And I’ve ordered this book… I promise it is not just for the ‘Chip Walk’ although….
Every Friday (or most, try as I might I’m not a machine), I’m going to offer a writing ‘seed’ for you here. Put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and set your alarm for ten minutes. Don’t worry too much, just see where your writing takes you. And if you’d like to leave a link to your writing in the comments here, please do. Here’s the first prompt…
I COULD have spent the last week glued to the radio and twitter, head swerving left and right as the badnewsgoodnewswhatthehellisthatnews rushed in, but instead we’d booked a week away camping on the uninhabited islands in the Saint Anna archipelago in Sweden. It’s hard to imagine somewhere further away from day to day life.
There’s no rule of trespass in Sweden, so we could camp wherever we kayaked to. Just find an island, lift our kayak up on to the rocks and find a flat enough spot to put up our tent. Magic.
We’re not completely brave – or foolhardy – though. We travelled with the excellent adventure company, Do the North, who organised all the equipment for us and know the archipelago well. The company was started by Thomas (a Swede) and Sam (a New Zealander) who had been flatmates in London together, and then thirteen years ago, Thomas organised a trip round the islands for Sam and the other flatmates. It was such a success they thought they would set up a business aimed at allowing others to have the same experience. What I loved most about the whole thing is that it’s based on common sense more than rules, schedules and what you ‘should’ do. Here’s Thomas (or his hand) before he set us off to explore all the islands on the archipelago we could visit, more than a thousand…
And here’s me trying to work out just how much luggage I’d brought could be fitted into a kayak… what do you mean I can’t take my new blue glittery handbag…
And that really was it. By three o’clock in the afternoon, they’d waved us off and we were on the water. On our own. Civilisation left far behind, compass ahoy, and, er, rain ahoy too! Luckily it didn’t last long, and by evening the two of us were watching this view instead of Andrea Leadsom or any politician really.
The joy of going through an organisation like Do the North is that while you are out in the world, you aren’t exactly roughing it. Is it possible to fall in love with a tent? Because I did. Look at its little red heart above beating away.
And look at the cooking equipment we got… I’ve put the grater next to my hat so you can see how sweet it is. Funnily enough we didn’t use the measuring spoons as no baking was done…
However luckily the food was normal sized because we got hungryhungryhungry.
And the joy of finding the right spot, opening a can of beer and lighting a fire…
and then watching the sunsets… oh the sunsets….
But wait! Is that another politician washing their hands of the mess they’ve created before drifting off in the sunset…
Of course it wasn’t all wonderful. Although there may be over 1,000 islands, we found that not all were suitable to camp on – needing both rocks to pull the kayak up on AND somewhere to camp. Sometimes we only found this out when we were exhausted and ready to get on to solid ground. Any solid ground. And then there was the fact that it’s practically impossible to navigate without getting lost at least once an hour, and to be honest, the only real kayaking we’d done is a half-day guided tour last year. Sometimes it was a good thing that the muttering from the front of the kayak couldn’t have been heard in the back. But then we came across beautiful things like this and oh, I LOVE NATURE…
Then I got bitten on the cheek by an insect in the night and, you know, f***ing nature. But mostly lovely lovely nature…. because this is as close as it gets to rush hour out there…
And the joy of not washing and no mirrors and no emails and no deadlines and …. breathe…
Just taking the time to capture all those miracles I might otherwise have missed but would be going on without me anyway. I can’t tell you the privilege I felt in being here…
So yes, it was all a bit Pippi Longstocking, although luckily there were no pirates. BUT here’s a description of Pippi (with my emphasis in bold):
Nine-year-old Pippi is unconventional, assertive, and has superhuman strength, being able to lift her horse one-handed. She is playful and unpredictable. She frequently makes fun of unreasonable adult attitudes, especially when displayed by pompous and condescending adults. Pippi’s anger is reserved for the most extreme cases, such as when a man ill-treats his horse.
I can’t think of a better role model right now. Something to keep with me, this week after we sadly pulled up the kayak (not quite one-handed) on our last day to get the bus home…. I miss it all already.
Someone asked for this poem last night, and so I thought I’d share here too… it feels like a time for the comfort of new journals, and not just for women. It’s from my poetry collection, You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book.
Love and Stationery
Tonight, women dream of stationery;
well thumbed catalogues hidden
in bedside tables, falling open
at filing solutions. Some promise
this will be the last time, one final look
at industrial size staplers, hole punches.
Others take it further. Post-it notes
edge their desire as they chase private
rainbows husbands don’t understand.
At lunchtime, propelled out by a need
for highlighters, their fingers brush
sellotape dispensers as they imagine
being held by paperclips,
protected by bubblewrap,
wiped clean with Typex.
In quiet moments,
they will pull out new journals,
those blank, lined, empty pages waiting
to be filled; who knows what magic
will result from an organized life?
At bad times, when the ink runs dry,
you will find a woman standing in front
of an open stationery cupboard, the flutter
of her heart stilled by the solid weight
of correspondence quality paper.