“Just write”, she said: On the wisdom of Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us

Last night I went to see Laura Barnett at a book event at Clapham Library, and found myself inspired not just by her beautiful novel, but also her honesty and clarity, and her very human appreciation of how very hard it is to find time to write

Laura Barnett, author of the wonderful 2015 novel The Versions of Us, is rare.

As her first ever published book, the novel was a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into over 20 languages, optioned for a TV series, and has enabled Barnett to put aside her previous journalism work and take to writing fiction full time. For a writer, it’s the dream.

Except, it wasn’t quite her first book. As she explained at her very own literary event at the opening night of the Omnibus Clapham Literary Festival last night – twinkly, friendly, articulate, funny, blonde and stylish as she was ‒ it was actually her third novel, and had been, at times, bloody tough to write.

Not that you could tell from reading it. It’s lyrical, beautiful; stunning in both description and characterisation – the individuals within it as real and flawed and insecure and loving and sexy and fragile and scared and fabulous as any actual human ‒ and as expansive and detailed in its descriptions as in its depiction of life and all its infinite tiny decisions and worries.

Much of it is set in Cambridge (my old uni), whose colleges are centuries-old and whose streets are seemingly impervious to the restless decades, and Rome (one of my all-time favourite cities), and Cornwall (where one of my best friends lives), so much so that I felt like it was almost written for me.

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Let’s stop with the negative self-talk, OK?

True, that

True, that

Really thought about this advert from Whole Foods during my workout today. I see this poster every time I walk into the Tube at the moment, and you know what? It’s so right.

I did another HIIT workout this morning, even though yesterday’s workout meant my thighs and calves were killing me (even after a bit of stretching), and it wasn’t easy. I felt tired and weary, and try as I might my legs felt heavy pretty much all the way through.

I kept going, of course, but damn if a tiny negative voice started piping up, going “No point doing it if you’re not going to do it properly”, “jump higher, how lazy are you?”, “ENGAGE the muscles, stop cheating when you bend down, commit to it, for god’s sake”. Etc etc. All the good stuff (not).

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“Bodyshaming on bodyshaming”? Why bashing the Protein World poster isn’t the same as bashing the model in it

This week I wrote a blogpost criticising a poster that’s been cropping up around
London – a now-infamous Protein World advert selling protein powder to help women
get their body ‘ready’ for the beach.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

The poster has been widely mocked for its perceived sexism and suggestion that only
one kind of body – a thin, traditionally-beautiful one – is ‘ready’ for the beach. There has been a petition against it, the Advertising Standards Agency is investigating it, and there is a planned demonstration against it in London’s Hyde Park this Saturday.

However, my main problem with it wasn’t the sexism (although wow, how lazy do you need to be to use a woman in a bikini to sell something?), or the predictability of asking women if their body is ready for the beach in spring. It’s staggeringly unoriginal, but you know,
whatever – that’s not my point.

My point was that it showed only one kind of body – the kind that is ALWAYS shown as
ideal – as the absolute pinnacle of beach-body-ness. However, neither was I especially thrilled with the ad’s use of photography or the expression on the model’s face. Legs apart, her back to the wall, scantily-dressed, an ambiguous and not-particularly-happy look on her face, the model didn’t seem that empowered or happy with her protein powder. Which kind of misses the point, no?

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“Are YOU beach body ready?” Oh, do f*ck off

Apparently, if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

I was particularly affronted to be greeted with this monstrosity of an advert on my daily commute this morning. Funny, I thought I was just minding my own business in my usual spot on the Jubilee line platform. But NOPE, actually I should be PERMANENTLY stressing over whether my body is “beach ready”. Duh.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

Luckily, I’m not the only one to be affronted. A Change.org petition against the ads has nearly 30,000 signatures already. Sign it here! Also follow the link to see lots of people’s reasons for signing, including sexism, promotion of eating disorders, constant bombardment of these sorts of images…

But actually, my problem with it isn’t the usual “OMG sexism, skinny women’s bodies on show, bikinis, argh” outrage.

From my point of view, it’s about promoting one kind of body over all others, and suggesting that one magic protein powder will do that.The response of the company, Protein World, is particularly infuriating.

In the inimitable words of the TimeOut London Now Here This website: “Protein World do not appear to give a shit about any of the criticism. They argue that the the adverts are okay because the model has a healthy BMI. They also say: ‘It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren’t focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.’“.

That’s suggesting that if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly.

Because don’t get me wrong. I love being healthy. I even like working out, because of how it makes me feel. I care about my fitness and health, spend time planning my meals and trying to make good choices when I eat and workout, and aspire to a strong, healthy body that looks good.

BUT this ad is promoting ONE type of body – on a rather miserable-looking model, at that – above all others, and making weight loss about looks, and being “beach ready” rather than strength, health and mental positivity, and suggesting that some protein powder rubbish will do that for you. All kinds of wrong.

Body positivity isn’t about shaming or being thin – it’s about feeling good in your skin. It means different things to different people – for me, it’s about being strong and functioning well, as well as being at the best weight for my figure. For others, it’s something else – recovery from an eating disorder, the freedom to eat what they like without worrying, or not conforming to others’ views of how they should look.

Credit: @DoveUK and @MTWTHRL on Twitter

So GTFO of my commute, Protein World, and PLEASE, stop talking to me about beaches when I’m on the way to work, yeah? Ta.

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

Dreams and possibility…?

The older I get, the more I realise that most people are generally too busy in their own worlds to bother too much about what you’re up to.

You might think that you’re standing out like a sore thumb, or that everyone’s looking at you or judging you – especially somewhere super-crowded like London or New York – but actually, it seems that most people are mainly absorbed in their own thoughts and worries to pay too much attention to you and yours. Sometimes this feels damn lonely, but other times it can be liberating, or, as I like to call it, I-dont-give-a-shit-esque.

AND YET, if anyone ever wondered, even for a split second, what I’d honestly want others to say about me, the following image wouldn’t be a bad place to start. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a dreamer – both positive and negative connotations implied – but if that means you also see possibility everywhere, and ask, well why the hell not me? Well then, I’m pretty happy with that.

Originally posted on one of my guilty-pleasure websites, The Culturist.com.

dreamer-image

Life on a T-shirt

The internet is full of crap,  but sometimes a random browse will bring you to something awesome. I can’t even remember how I found this, but somehow this week I ended up on this site named Rad., which produces some super-cute T-shirt designs.

Drink coffee
I don’t even wear T-shirts (except for exercising, and even then I’m more likely to wear a vest or racer-back top), but these slogans and artworks are pretty sweet. And we all know how much I enjoy a good quote. Here are 10 of my favourites…predictably they all centre on thinking positive about your life, going on an adventure, being a bit creative, and swearing. (NEARLY) ALL MY MOST LOVED THINGS!!

Also, a special shout out to the pretty fab designer Leah Flores, who coincidentally seems to have created a significant chunk of the ones I love (I promise I’m not being paid for this shit. Ha). I’m kind of sad that I don’t actually wear T-shirts enough to make any of these worth a purchase, but maybe if they started making them in thin, long-sleeve, boat-necked T-shirts or racer-back shirts for running, I would actually invest in a few. Not that I’m picky or anything.

EXCITEMENT UPDATE: They actually DO do hoodies and SOME racer-back style shirts, and also some canvas bags! OK, I may have to buy some after all! How will I ever contain myself?!

1. Life is not a problem, by Leah Flores 2. Wild at Heart, by Frankie Phoenix 3. Keep climbing, by Leah Flores 4. I just want to drink coffee, by Words Brand 5. Adventure that way, by Leah Flores 6. Abso-fuc-king-lutely, by Leah Flores 7. Take an adventure with me, by Reuben Watson 8. Blessed are the curious, by Leah Flores 9. Everything is OK, by WRDBNR 10. Je m’en fous, by Acid Clothing 11. Snuggle Buddy, by Leah Flores 12. Probably won’t make any money, by Fly Art 13. Oscar Wilde, by Leah Flores 14. Find something you love, by Yawn