hot coffee

I thought of you today dear heart,
And wondered at the pain.
As I stared across the cobbled streets,
All slick with misty rain.
Was staring from a window,
Smudged-out people blurring by.
Hands warming on my coffee,
Hiding from a winter sky.
Eyes caught you in the melee
A blue calmness in the crowd.
Jolted at your presence,
Strangled whimper sighed out loud.
You sauntered through my reverie,
Passed within an easy reach.
Am hit with fresh reminders
Of the lessons that you teach.
Of the learning that you gifted
With such generous aplomb.
And helped to turn my life into
Some cliché-strewn sitcom.

And the noise around me swells
With the busy lunchtime surge.
Every thing in slow-mo
Each conversation starts to merge.
You still have my attention
As you cross the shiny street.
I  will myself to turn from you
But cannot move my feet.
Your stride is strong and confident
Without sign of hesitation.
And must concede it yet torments
I still await your explanation.
The window framing your betrayal
Begins to mist again.
So I raise my cup in toast to love,
As you retreat down Memory Lane.




invisible ink – a response

Whoa. So I’ve been bagged-out and demonised since I aired my long-held view about superfluous and gratuitous presence of grid girls at motorsport events. A lot of men have got their knickers in a right old mess over what I have said on twitter and here. None have countered what I’ve said with any direct academic points, but only repetition of their original premise: there’s no harm in them, and let a woman do what job she wants. Some have completely missed my perspective and retorted with more mixed-up whataboutery than I can begin to fend in a single life-time. neonbrand-428982From accusations of being jealous of youthful beauty to somehow offending the family and friends of racers because I have said grid girls have no place on the starting line? And a few have been abusive… which is ironic given they are supposedly defending women’s rights. Because part of being a woman and having equality, is society protecting my right to vocalise an opinion different from… well, men’s. Let it be known clearly, no woman with an opposing view has connected with me to discuss, just men pontificating. Or trying to correct me. My experience in similar jobs, background in marketing, love of motorsports, time in the Paddock, and being a woman, actually discounted as having any leverage in validating my view. This latter, I find hilarious. Like no one but men and the ‘girls’ themselves (I mean even the bloody job title they use is denigrating to women) can speak with authenticity. 

I know. I know. Most of you have recognised this conversation has taken a limited single-layered tone. And you’re absolutely right to be concerned. As world-wise and educated, wider-thinkers, we know. This is a much bigger, more insidious issue. It’s important.

I have been trying to find a way to explain, articulate my thoughts on the difference between a woman’s right to choose her employment and this. The purposeful contracting of young women by men, to wear specifically sexual clothing in a male dominated environment to entertain using only looks, for men. So I’m going to try and flesh (!) it out here.

I believe in a woman’s right in both choice of clothing, (how she presents herself to the world) and how she financially supports herself. Except this, this ‘girls on parade’, this pimping out for male pleasure, isn’t choice. It’s allowing yourself to be part of the male construct. It’s a male environment, managed, funded, and provided by men, for men. You are permitted to perform here. Are paid to be here. Purely and precisely for their financial benefit, and sexual gratification. A starkly different image, but possible comparison to explain further: the burka. I have absolutely no issue with a woman wearing what she wants, when she wants. But the doctrine, provision, and permission for women of this culture (see religion, institution, patriarchy) is managed, owned, and defined by men. I feel like they are similar aspects of the same issue.

We are led to believe empowerment is our choice… but it is actually and very essentially found in our freedom away from a masculine criteria. If each scenario could be held separate and still be relevant, then that is true choice. I believe, to a certain extent this also includes aspects of prostitution, stripping, and variations on acting – and whether you report directly to a woman for your paycheck or are employed by an organisation led by men – if the world in which these actions happen, can be isolated from male dominance or their conceptual infrastructure, if there is no direct benefit, profit, or manipulation by men, by their purely being male, that is choice… if not, it is existing for them, to support, or provide a service for them. Without real power, negotiation, status, or equality.

invisible ink

I can hear the groans of grown men from here. Some of them not at all pleasant. They are imagining a life without scantily-clad women to gawp at when they go to the motorsport. Lorks! The anguish they must be feeling. The bereft state they find themselves in, suddenly, and with a bewildering shock. I can sense their dis-ease at the changing landscape. One that holds no hip-hugging-lycra ladies, nor free cans of Monster held out by a widely-smiling angel. The future must feel like a bleak and unfair place.

I read that the once beatific babes themselves are aghast that anyone should find them offensive. Question their right to employment, their empowerment. How dear we shrivelled and over-sensitive moral brigade call out the silliness of their status. Don’t we know, they will be jobless? A job they so passionately love. That a whole stable of sex-pots will be redundant. Negated, unheard and just not cherished enough. Sad days. Who will carry the brollies?

But wait. A surprising turn. For now we have a plot twist – and given the rarity of a plot at all – engagement and activism from both sides in joined pursuit of a mutually beneficial climax. I mean out-cum. Outcome. This is the stuff of fantasies. This is a coming together (rarely happens, it has to be said, have you seen the state of that beer-belly?) of a band of dubiously developed men, desperately wanting to protect the objects of their desire.

Feeding such simple needs, this scenario… hot girls become maidens in need of rescue, normally quiet impotent men rise up demanding retribution on behalf of the meek, the mewling minxes say No! We are strong and fighting and we stand tall in our stilettos. The men, at once, in thrall and engorged with purpose. An excuse to connect with objects of their affection, to offer affirmation. It is the story of centuries. A centuries-old profession. That of the sexy con. The gifted sweet smile in exchange for a good bartering. The selling of goods. She doesn’t mind they are her goods being sold but the boss-man’s products being bought.

These two are bit players on the set-edge of a yawning cavern of change. Their puppet-masters, aware of the shift and managing the stage carefully. Watching from aloft, while counting the revenue receipts as the entertainment settles in to a new groove.

What tweaks my nip most, is the vehement vilification of those who agree it is time for the removal of #gridgirls from our tracks and telly-boxes. Such a noisey chest-beating response by men, to what should be an obvious and positive change. And astoundingly nasty commentary from women…

“I saw a minger on tv saying it’s morally wrong… bet if she had a quarter of the looks these girls had she’d be doing it too!”

Yeah, because ugly* is the only reason a woman wouldn’t do the job, right? FFS. Honestly, bitch?

*When women are calling other women mingers, ugly… when females are using beauty values to dismiss someone’s intelligence and academic achievements, shitballs, we still have a massive problem.

Right, where was I?

From your keyboard you are yelling. It is Political Correctness Out of Control! Listen, your anti-PC insularity is not what this is about. The curdling cries of What next? No more ads featuring stunning actresses wearing red lipstick biting seductively at a chocolate bar to make us all a-titter? All the beautiful people banished into an underground dystopian world? Those self-replicating fembots making us wear loose sack-cloth from head to toe, hiding our man-memberage in case blood-flow takes a detour from the brain? People actually suggesting “… it’ll be the Burka before long, mark my words…” (can almost picture the shaking staff and accompanying spit at the dirt floor in curse). Because the choice of what women wear in a promotional role in public is that binary. Either your body is encased in figure-tight luridly-branded lycra or, only your eyes will be seen. A hijab though? More surface area for the branding, it has to be said – may be the way to go. Like a grounded zeppelin. Anyhoo. Are you all insane? Or is this just being male? Because that doesn’t make it ok this time.

And don’t start @ me about ‘The Feminists’. Please. That somehow heavy-hoofed he-women have pressured the cowering boss-mans of F1 and Darts, dictating in world-ending prophecy, that all femme-bodies shall be covered in breathable material, that they shall not endure long hours of posing atop ridiculous footwear, and henceforth be free from the pervy, penetrating, prying eyes of a guy being manipulated by sex into buying the latest sock for his helmet. This is about money, don’t let them make you think it is anything other. If the #gridgirls and promo staff bought in ROI that fiscally outweighed current misogyny, alienating the growing female demographic, and the just plain glamorous (see tacky, cheap, creepy, prostitution-like) tradition of it, F1 certainly wouldn’t be ceasing this plying of their trade. It is a business decision and not one based on morals but driven by dollars.

Your accusatory, aggressive, abuse towards Feminism makes me reel. From fear. Have we not learned to embrace and trust it; that Feminism is the umbrella (see what I did there?) under which women have grown stronger and more confident, sought shelter and shared stories. Feminism is the small space we give ourselves to find what we want to do with our lives, to then move forward knowing the path is made safer for us. And you women, calling out your sisters for caring about the generations to come, our daughters. For wanting the betterment of society for us all. For believing, and rightly so, that these roles perpetuate and support the objectification and sexualisation of females. Dissing us for wanting you to know:

you are more than just body parts

More than a nice face and a photogenic personality. By not hearing our voices trying to join with your own, you allow sexism to continue it’s “enduring, pervasive, systemic, cultural, and ingrained” existence (Reisenwitz). That faux-empowerment, the language you are using, mimics your overlords. Take a beat, girl.

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes (Google dictionary, my dears).

The way in which we “define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.”
(Wiki, see the definition is easy to find…)

Hell, it’s not a new concept – it is older than your bra-burning Grandmother. The word feminism has been around since the late c19 and whilst it’s evolution has seen the inclusion and understanding of intersectionality, it has rarely diverted from its origin. I am a Feminist. I strongly believe in the right to choose. Choosing life-goals, choosing careers, choosing not to have children, whatever the journey. Feminism is, at it’s very heart, a woman making a choice for herself. No matter how confused or misguided she may be, she is permitted that choice.

“A choice of circumstance, or need, or desire – it does not matter. If she has made that choice for herself, then it should be honored and seen as a feminist act – a conscious choice of her destiny in the world.” Sheila Hageman, ex-stripper

I do not argue against a woman choosing to use her body any way she wishes, to pay attention to her needs, to pay the rent. What I have always objected to is the need for this outdated and inappropriate marketing tool at motorsport. At any sport. The objectification of women, the premise that an entire gender exists for the gratification of another. It remains a poor example to our children, the new spectating generation – of all genders. Let’s teach them this is no longer acceptable. That women are not a reward given to men by other men, that you cannot buy them. That being beautiful on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside… lets teach them that. And along the way, let’s keep reminding ourselves too. Because I am not sure you men would weep so loudly, be so indignant, if these were not specifically the jobs of beautiful women.

Here are my questions: can the role of #gridgirl be carried out by anyone? Can brollies be held by any gender, ethnicity, appearance or academic qualification? Yes? Then, why aren’t they? Because sex sells. Marketeers know men are hard-wired to notice sexually relevant communication (to be fair, a lot of men are still very confused about this: boundaries, permissible behaviour, consent, etc but who can argue against Harvard studies, ay?). Because purveyors of goods sold around circuits around the world, know men will spend their hard-earned, diminishing disposable income, if they feel good. Women paid to make men feel good, are a marketing tool to increase sales. But I venture, this gig is up.

And whilst the #gridgirl is long-obsolete, if rider, racer, driver, really needs a wipe-down or to hide under an umbrella and their pit-crew don’t have enough hands, then lets muster people who can utilise their abilities, holding a brolly and holding a flag, whilst wearing actual clothes. Loads of people can do that, right? It’s not a complex skill. Widen the competition, an all-inclusive employment opportunity. The uniform provided will of course be H&S appropriate overalls and steel-caps, to protect them – I mean, why wouldn’t it be?



Ah. February. Your end does tease.
In a sulking, shrugging way.
Skulking out there in the grim.
Your grey cloak is no warming
Shoved down hat precludes my begging.
Shuffle off. I am chronically sickened by you.
Tag in the striding March. For we are ready
And it will be a pleasure to see April’s
Bi-polar sunshine and snow sweep forward.
Swap places now. We are done
You and I.
Take your fixed, determined stare
And go.



“A timely reminder to me of the promise I made myself a few years ago; we are not able to control the actions of others, should not expect empathy or respect. They have their own journey and it is not mine to chastise. I can keep them company from a distance as they walk their path or stay near linking arms, but I must not make judgement from my view. All I can do is be the best person I can. At all times, kind, patient, and brave.”
~ Lifted from my Facebook post, 24 February, 2014
So the fog is in again, you know
Another day of grim.
Daylight slow and strangled
Once light, starts growing dim.
But season, I have news
For the days will now get long
So Winter grab your coat
It’s time to move along.
The lowest sun is climbing
Trees will shortly start to bud
And my walk into the office
Will not be swathed in mud.
Though, hang on there a moment
I quite like the muffled sounds
As I trudge along the towpath,
Drag my feet through boggy ground.
And I do adore the evenings
Bundled up in winter clothes
Drinking by the fire
Whilst thawing out my toes.
Or sitting in the park, quite still
All cloaked in mystic fog
Watching the blurred lovers
Holding hands, out walking dogs.
And the romance comes with winter
The cosy and the close
It seems to feel more subtle
Like a black and white repose.
So wait, I think I’m saying,
I’m happy with the bleak
Even while it makes me cold
And cuts against my cheek.
I’m cheery with the kicking
Of autumn’s forgotten leaves
And to be perfectly honest
When you go, oh I shall grieve.



the colour of cowardice 

I have only experienced an alcohol induced ‘blackout’ once. In my late 30s. Old enough to know better. A lifetime of knowing how to look after myself. At the time, an assumed alcoholic time-skip. And the repercussions were more traumatising than I’d care to admit.
It happened after a formal work event, an after party party. I’d had a wonderful evening. Hosting cocktails, wearing my stunning, cherished, vintage gown. And ran the event – that was my job – like the professional I was. 
As the corporate function drew to a close in the early hours, I had a quiet conversation and last kiss with a colleague I’d spent time with over the previous six months. I told him I had met the man that starred in my dreams; I hoped this guy would be my future. My booty-call buddy was happy for me, shared my misty-eyed romantic imaginings. Wished me the best life could offer. And we said our discrete goodbyes. 
Later in public we both joined the larger group, moving on to a bar to dance until close to dawn. I remember every detail of that night, well, most of it. I drank slowly and was cautious. My new and treasured boyfriend was driving down from Leicester for the weekend, and I didn’t want to waste a moment being ill or tired. Wanted to welcome him into my home and arms. I was excited and happy. Buzzing from a good night, with witty company. And as was my role, was also ensuring peers, my friends, were enjoying themselves. Even whilst I was ‘off-duty’. 
During much of the night, I know a young man was hovering. Just on the edge of my peripheral. I knew him; an infrequent running partner and work colleague. With a crush on me. A youth, who I’d taken to addressing as ‘Kid’ to reinforce our relationship. Or lack thereof. A boy I was neither attracted to nor would ever sleep with. He was there, skirting the distance. Laughing and dancing and existing as part of our little energetic group. 
Towards the end of the night, I left my glass of JDs on the table, so I could bounce my way back to the dance floor. I know the song, etched in my brain. It reminded me of summers long gone and I cannot help but get a wiggle on when it plays. No matter where I am. And then I returned to my stool, grabbed my coat and purse, skolled my glass empty. Made my way through the team saying my toodle-pips, and wishing them a joyous weekend. 
Down the two flights of stairs, I escaped into the winter air to wait in line for a taxi. The river of people climbing into cars moved quickly. I didn’t have to stand long in the drizzle. Could imagine the sea only a block away, lapping against the shingle. The birds would be chorusing soon. I was merry, relaxed. Off-guard. And then, at my elbow, The Kid arrived. Smiling and salacious. He lived in my direction, surely we could share a cab? 
Waking a few hours later, curtains still flung open from the morning before, I heard the snuffled sounds of a companion. He lay still and exhausted next to me. And I did not understand. I remember getting in to the taxi. I do not remember getting to my front door. Or any detail of my journey home. I don’t recall inviting the young man into my house. Or heading up to my room. I cannot, though I have tried, remember having someone with me in my bed. 
I have had two ‘one night stands’ in my life. Both of whom I am still friends with. I do not share myself without care or respect. It is not who I am. But there, in the place my boyfriend had vacated only four mornings previously, was The Kid. 
With horror, I believed that I had requested this lightly acquainted youth, to accompany me home. I was wracked by self-loathing and guilt. By harmful blaming and sad acceptance. I must have done this. It is my fault. 
He woke, grinning like a Cheshire. Casual and comfortable. Overly confident for one so young or so tenuously acquainted with me. And I asked him to leave. He was aloofly affronted. Exclaimed but why? Why kick him out? Was I embarrassed? He wouldn’t tell anyone. Our secret. We’d had a fun night, what made me so upset? I wanted it. He knew I had. 
A mortifying cliche, I scrubbed myself for hours in the shower. Trying to rinse him and my disgust away. Desperately trying to summon up any detail from the dark hours before. And then I went back to my room. To destroy the residue of his presence. Remove the lingering signs of his visit. 
I picked up my precious dress from the floor. Sat on the bed. Hugged it close. A small comfort, to ease my growing understanding. As I unbundled the layered silk ready to handwash, I noticed it was ripped. The zip jammed. The floral corsage hanging by threads. And inside. Inside on the peach lining, stains of blood. Bright scars of myself, smeared into its skirts. 
This is the story I tell young people in my life. A crappy tale from which I hope they learn. I have never ‘forgotten’ a night. Not prior nor since. I protect my glass, and myself. Always have. Except that one night. And of course, like the worst dull cliche, when I hear that beachside sunny tune, the one that evoked such easy hip-sway, it reminds me.