Thursday, 24 July 2014


Have you noticed there's a vogue at the moment to celebrate GIRL. People seem to have varying ideas of what this looks like and varying motivations behind celebrating it but here are a number of examples of focussing on GIRL.


My social media feeds lit up with this gem of a video by sanitary towel maker, Always.

I always think the Marketers of the unglamorous brands have the toughest time and Always have done a good job here of talking about confidence and womanhood (both very marketable things right now) to carry their message. Although I saw many retweets of the video - I didn't see that many subsequent GIRL projects with the tag 'LikeAGirl' and hadn't even noticed that Always have a whole section of their website dedicated to the cause.

To Be A Girl

This is an awareness and fundraising initiative by WaterAid which considers the negative implications of being a woman in need of water worldwide. Whether that is the cultural expectation that women collect water, or being ostracised from community and fresh water during menstruation; there are many challenges affecting female access to water many of which I hadn't even thought of! All fundraising is matched by the government before Sept 9th 2014. Water Aid have been very keen that people publicise the issue through social media - off the back of my donation I received both an email and a letter in the post encouraging me to tweet about my donation. In the end I tweeted the cause but not the donating bit. An interesting angle for a charity who provide water to all, to focus on the current gender agenda.

In a similar vein Oxfam just released a GIRL infographic below:

How to Build a Girl

This is the title of Caitlin Moran's latest release, a novel about a teenager growing up in Wolverhampton. Trigger alert: This book features many of the joys and tribulations of coming of age in a working class house; if you don't like to hear about: masturbation, menstruation, alcoholic fathers or the Rolling Stones this book is not for you. 

However, I'm really enjoying the book. Almost certainly autobiographical in content, How to Build a Girl has made me laugh out loud on the tube, and cringe occasionally too. This is the pains of growing up without the Taylor Swift gloss and its jolly brilliant. But like I say, if you've a tendancy towards prudishness pick up another book. On a side note, she's got a wonderful range of merch out, and the profits go to 'Refuge' helping women escape domestic violence. 

Well, all this focus on GIRLS is a bit different innit, here's to hoping it prompts lasting change and isn't just the latest marketing ploy to sell sanitary towels!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Haunch of Venison Yard: London's roads and pubs

I have been wandering the streets of London since I was six when accompanied by my Dad and little sister we would pick an area and walk it. Once home we would highlight the area covered and over several years of walking most of zone one was a veritable rainbow.

This education was furthered by studying in Bloomsbury, working near St Pauls, living in East London and now living in NW3. Every time I move to a new area I take great joy in getting lost, and then found with, or without, the assistance of the GPS or a local tube stop.

On foot the important things are the compass direction and the food outlets ('left at Sainsburys') to navigate by.

But I am discovering London from a completely different angle of late. Living as far west as I ever have done, and travelling primarily by bike and bus the key navigating points have changed and so I'm noticing other things. For example, did you know there's a road in Mayfair called Haunch of Venison Yard? Or that Mornington Crescent is actually still a crescent?

(Photo credit: 441K9 Flickr)

Cycling in London can be a bit nail-biting and as such I need all my concentration on the road, not on my phone GPS system. When I am going somewhere new I try to remember at least a 10-minute stretch and I do this using a combination of road names but also by the pubs. It amazes me that there are still enough pubs to navigate by. Its also got me thinking about pub signs. I always assumed they harked back to mass illiteracy, 'meet you at the Red Lion at 5'. But I wonder if those hanging pub signs also serve a greater purpose to people who are travelling too fast to read.

(Photo credit:

Now, I don't pretend to be a lightening fast cyclist but the signs outside both The Victoria and Edinboro' Castle reassured me that I was on the right track. By contrast the lack of signage outside the Queens Head and Artichoke on Albany Street nearly led to a small diversion. Being fair to the owners I'm not surprised they didn't feature a pictorial sign. In my head its looking like a head on a plate, with a stick of artichoke between her teeth. Apparently the name was given by Queen Elizabeth I's Head Gardener.

(Photo credit:

Pub signage navigation comes particularly into its own when considering that postcodes are a relatively new invention. These days we take for granted our ability to type a code into our GPS but postcodes were only introduced first in the 1870s and then fully rolled out 1954 - 72. Before then points of interest would have been much more helpful for navigation.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Shakespearean Summer

I watched two Shakespeare plays in two days; there was a lot of blood!

King Lear – National Theatre - £5

Classic case of a king trying to divide his kingdom amongst heirs without causing World War III. Surprisingly all his heirs are women and the process drives him crazy. Lear is a long-old play, the first half alone is a hefty two hours complete with barbarism, butchery, and in this case, a full-sized deer carcass! King Lear considers issues of nature vs nurture, the all-consuming nature of power and the barbarous lengths people will go to in order to secure it.

Mendes has truly lent his Bond-style influence to Shakespeare’s text;  Lear’s retinue in monochrome berets and boots with every pocket knife was bloodied, and the women don’t go halves on the lace, or the butt kicking other. The staging as ever with the NT was imaginative and excellently executed complete with revolving staging, moving panels, AV and the mandatory trap door.  But the credit here really must go to the actors who  were very good; I’ve never seen King Lear nor read the play but they made it come alive in a real way that I could follow. There were several famous names in there, Adrian Scarborough is a witty fool and its pleasing to see Anna Maxwell Martin escape her Jane Austin costume and become this wild, powerful heiress.

I really enjoyed King Lear, although there's more violence and nudity than an average episode of Game of Thrones and is a mammoth 3-hours long (the first 2 of which take place without pause or break!). 

(Photo credit: Upstate Films)

Two world-leaders fall in love, what really reigns love or power? The play charts Antony's rise and fall in a strongly poetic style. Antony and Cleopatra will be your jam if you like innuendo, artistic depictions of warfare, suicide involving snakes. Having studied this play at school I at least knew what we going on, but my sister had to come to me for minute long synopses at the end of each scene.

(Clive Wood and Eve Best. Photo credit: The Guardian)

The joy of watching Shakespeare at the Globe is that sense of watching Shakespeare in its authentic style. As we arrived incense was pouring out, suffocating all the standing audience. We gratefully took our seats to one side of the stage on our rented cushions. On top of the incense there was plenty of impressive acrobatics and simple set changes that were very effective. My favourite part of the play was just before the interval when Antony and Cleopatra leave the auditorium in splendour. Something as simple as gold confetti created this amazing, glorious effect. The other great pleasure of this style of theatre is it allows the actors to be responsive to their environment. Eve Best (Cleopatra) did this really well, pausing before starting her big speech to allow planes to pass overhead, kissing an audience member on the lips when he played along. These little additions really knit the audience into the story and help you feel you have witnessed something unique.

Antony and Cleopatra was great, I think the lovely sunshine definitely helped, and the aeroplanes and pigeons stopped short of ruining the performance. My only criticisms would be the long political conversations between magnates were a little stagnant and tricky to follow. For a play in the Elizabethan style it was good. Fork out for a seat! It would be pretty long stood up!