The Girl Effect

Last week I had lunch with my friend Megg. Even though we live near each other our work schedules tend to keep us apart, so we dove into our time together, gossiping and laughing as friends tend to do. As we walked back towards the train station we noticed a gaggle of teenage girls ahead of us. They were all dressed similarly — big hair, short skirts, you know the look — and while rolling my eyes I quipped that it must be a nightmare being a teenager these days. That it was bad enough waiting for the home phone to ring back in the 80s, so what must it be like now, when there’s social media measuring your popularity? What if you you have no Facebook friends? What if someone tweets something mean about you? What if embarrasing photos of you end up on the internet? It must be horrible!

Megg and I agreed that growing up in the 80s might have been easier.

But those teenage girls with their over-applied make up and blinged-out smart phones don’t know any different. It’s all just part of the world they’ve grown up in.

There are other girls in the world growing up with a very different set of problems.

Watch this video:


From the Girl Effect donation page: “There are 600 million adolescent girls living in poverty in the developing world. By giving one of these girls a chance, you start the girl effect. When girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive. And if they thrive, everyone around them thrives, too.”

I want all girls to thrive. I want all people to thive. And in my heart of hearts I know it starts with the mothers, daughters, sisters and aunties. So while I’m doing what I can over here in my corner of the privileged Western world, I’m sending money to those who can directly help in the developing world.

Can you help too?

— Bloggers are circling this week to promote the Girl Effect, so add your voice and share here

— Explore the Girl Effect site and get more informed

Donate directly to the Girl Effect

— Donate to specific life-changing programs here

Let’s make a difference xox

A quiet corner

I haven’t watched television in over a year and I have to say it feels really good. It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop. It just happened naturally as I became more focussed on writing the book and wanted less distraction around me. I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper either. For all my life I’ve been a news-watching, paper-reading person, but these days I’m appreciating the calm of being less in touch with the media. It never helped that the news was always bad news, and that some days I’d absorb more of that negativity than I wanted.

These days I choose the images I see by renting films and buying DVDs. The important news filters down to me through Twitter and my Google Reader, and I click over to the Guardian website when I want to go deeper. The recent rioting in London hasn’t directly affected Bath but i know that if I was back in the capital I’d be on the streets with a broom in my hand right now. I see the people of my country hurting and feel powerless to help. But in the next breath I silently recommit to sending as much good stuff out into the world as I can. Because I really do believe that every little helps.

My top 10 favourite TV shows (because we all need to escape sometimes)

1. True Blood
2. Fringe
3. Lie to Me
4. Lost
5. Supernatural (love those Winchester boys)
6. Ashes to Ashes
7. The Good Wife
8. Bones
9. Californication
10. The 4400/V/Buffy/Battlestar Galactica

10 films that don’t depress me

I watched Annie Hall twice yesterday. The first time I paid attention because it’s a film I love. The second time i let it play quietly in the background again while I dipped into my new book. Diane and Woody were the perfect accompaniment to a rainy grey Sunday afternoon.

I’m quite a film buff and own a lot of DVDs, but the ones I watch the most, I realised, are the ones that don’t depress me. I have a lot of films-that-make-me-weep. And films-that-make-my-brain-ache. But it’s the ones that leave me feeling okay by the end that I tend to watch the most. They don’t necessarily have to be comedies or even particularly uplifting — they simply mustn’t depress me. You know what I’m saying, right?

So here’s my top ten films that don’t depress me:

1. Annie Hall
2. The Day After Tomorrow, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Indepence Day — in fact, any pseudo sci-fi blockbuster with the word ‘day’ in the title
3. Desperately Seeking Susan — the film that defined my teenage still makes me happy
3. The Bourne trilogy
4. Ocean’s Eleven. In fact, anything with a slice of Clooney (he’s film star prozac)
5. The Prestige
6. The Matrix (the first one — the sequels are a bit meh)
7. Shaun of the Dead
8. Anchorman
9. Practical Magic
10. Event Horizon

What’s in your top ten?

Ode to an attic flat

I just read a post by my friend Amy Palko — her husband and three children are about to head off to Australia for six weeks while she stays at home in Scotland working; Amy now faces six weeks of living alone… for the first time in her life. I just tweeted her that it would be “six weeks of awesome” and that living alone is the best thing I have ever done (with an emphatic EVER repeated at the end.) And it’s true. I wouldn’t have chosen to live alone; up until that fateful day in 2005 I’d either been living with family, boyfriends or flatmates. Back then I thought that to be alone would also mean you were lonely, despite knowing it was perfectly possible to be lonely within a relationship. I know that much of my fear was down to abandonment in my childhood, something that never got healed and played itself out again and again as I clung on to relationships that were long past their sell-by date. I had never lived alone; I’d never actually been alone. It was simply unthinkable.

And then, suddenly, there I was, completely on my own.

Somewhere around the beginning of the second year after his death, I was filling my fridge with food for the week, and noticed that everything on the shelves was stuff I liked to eat. Hummous and veggies, and little anchovies in olive oil. There was my favourite yoghurt, and Jarlsberg cheese, and the wine I relied on too much in those days. Every single thing in that fridge was just for me. Hell, even the fridge was mine — I’d bought it in a sale when I moved into the flat. He’d never seen that fridge, yet mingled in with the sadness was a growing sense of freedom and independence that I had never experienced before. The more I nested in that flat, the more me I became.

Five years later and I don’t think much about my fridge anymore. It holds my food and Polaroid film, a small but essential piece of a home I have built around me. One of my greatest pleasures is coming home, locking the door behind me and sinking in my own comfortable space, just me and my sofa, my big bed calling to me as I type a last email into my laptop. The wedding blanket I bought in Marrakesh sparkles in the morning light; a side table rescued from the tip now holds my favourite books. Everything in my home feels like an extension of me, yet even when i go away, i carry that same feeling inside me — that sense of being grounded in my own space, and it helps me navigate the world as a single person.

When Sas came to visit a few weeks ago she walked through the door and let out a sigh: “It smells like your home,” she said, a trace of incense still lingering in the air. And it does, and I love that it does. And yes, one day I hope to be telling you all how hard it is to mix my beloved books with someone else’s, that his guitar or his running shoes or whatever it is that’s important to him are now sitting on my wedding blanket and I’m finding it hard to let go and let someone in, but that I’m trying really hard, because I know it will be worth it.

I look forward to that day very much; but for now I’ll relish the space and freedom I have, because I’ve worked so hard to appreciate it as much as I do.

Have you ever lived on your own? Did you/do you love it?

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Ps. If you’d like to listen to Monday’s call you can now download it over at Fabeku’s place — it was such fun we’re planning to do it again :)