…. and the Gender Blog is back up and functioning, after a brief April hiatus, which saw me spending ten days in France, having a multitude of interviews for all manner of global diversity jobs (at last! Finally! Is this proof that the economy is on the move, if companies are once again prepared to invest in senior level diversity roles? I think so) and agreeing to undertake some gender balance writing work for leading Australian company Emberin.
(Emberin founder and CEO Maureen Frank, the woman I have previously described as “so charismatic she could found her own cult”, has just published an updated version of her bestselling book “You Go Girlfriend” and has sent me some review copies – so I’ll be reading and reviewing it later this month and offering up a couple of copies to anyone who … OK, I need to think about that. But anyway. Free books, imminently).
Whilst in France, I spent a week at this magical place, the Circle of Misse, on a fiction writing “boot camp” course. Although I’ve been blogging and writing non-fiction for years, the last time I wrote a “story” was at school and so the disciplines and techniques of writing fiction were a complete mystery to me. But I came back from Goa a few months ago with a story and a host of characters who just wouldn’t go away – what was I to do with them, how could I bring them alive on the page? Just as I was wrestling with this, I received an email flyer offering a 10% discount on the Circle of Misse “Get Writing!” course and, before I knew it, I’d signed up and committed myself to sending through a sample of 3000 words of fiction to the tutor ahead of the course start date.
(c) Circle of Misse, with grateful thanks
In the context of A Room of One’s Own – I discovered that maybe I can write, a bit. The course, hosts and setting were fabulous; Aaron and Wayne run writing, painting and cookery courses at their beautiful house in the Loire valley and I whole heartedly recommend the Circle of Misse experience for anyone interested in those disciplines who wants to perhaps do what I did – take a kernel of an idea and run with it – and see where you end up. In my case, I arrived with a concept, a few characters and my 3000 words, and left with closer to 20,000 words, a fully formed plot and a far greater understanding of the techniques of novel writing.
(I think I’m still rubbish at writing dialogue, but at least I now know that and can focus on improving those skills.)
Of course, whilst I was away, we had VolcanoGate and yes, I got caught up in it – although it did mean that I still haven’t flown Ryanair, which perhaps isn’t so bad after all. In common with thousands of other people, I was stranded in France when my flight back from Tours was cancelled and so we (me and N, the guy from my course) had a highly improvised journey home consisting of a five hour car journey to Le Havre, courtesy of the C of M team, a NINE hour ferry crossing and a two hour drive back to London. And, although the ferry crossing was e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y slow and it was frustrating to have that “so close but yet so far” feeling, from a writer’s point of view, it was a fascinating experience.
Subsequently, I described the boat as a ship of stories, because I heard so many tales of life on the road from people squashed onto the upper deck with me. The ferry was absolutely heaving with a vast cross-section of travellers, who had quite literally ended up there from all over the world. I chatted to one family of four (this was on a Sunday evening) who had left Florida the previous Wednesday, expecting to fly Orlando to Gatwick, change there and fly home to Edinburgh. Five days later, they had flown Orlando to Detroit (?), Detroit to Amsterdam, caught a train from Amsterdam to Brussels, another train to Paris and then hired a taxi to get them to Le Havre. After we disembarked the ferry, they were collecting a hire car in Portsmouth and then driving through the night to get back to Scotland. They hadn’t seen their cases since Florida, they had only what they were wearing or carrying as hand luggage and Mum reckoned that this “adventure” had cost them in the region of £2000 – more if you add on the fact that their dog had had to stay in kennels for a further 6 days!
I also met a very dishevelled Irish man in a suit, who’d flown to Frankfurt the previous Tuesday for a 48 hour trip (he sold sandpaper … but I expect that that was the least of his worries) and who had hitchhiked, trained and bussed his way across Europe to Le Havre; from Portsmouth, he was catching a cross-country train to the Welsh coast from where he would catch another ferry back to Ireland. So I guess that N and I got off very lightly, all things considered, although I am still c. £200 out of pocket and will doubtless remain so unless and until Ryanair cough up a refund for my cancelled flight.
Apart from getting news updates from TLS on volcano and travel related issues, I was in a complete news avoidance bubble whilst I was in France and I’m still catching up. It’s a mere four days to the UK’s keenly anticipated General Election and, in some ways, nothing much has changed: the debate is still between three main parties, led by three white guys, who all still use the sound bite of “hard working families” (yes, Lib Dems, even you) at every opportunity.
The Labour Party’s campaign has been challenged by one woman, namely Mrs Duffy from Rochdale – and the current shape of the media is indicated by two things: Mrs Duffy has her own PR rep and the Tories are streaming their anti-Brown Twitter feed onto a moving billboard on London’s A40 (westbound, just before Hanger Lane, if you should happen to be stuck in traffic there this week).
And mentioning Twitter …. check out the hilarious #nickcleggsfault hashtag on there … he’s responsible for everything, apparently, according to the right wing press, including having been spotted poking an Icelandic volcano with a stick in early April.
Meanwhile, the Fawcett Society’s What About Women? campaign has been doing a sterling job of keeping women’s issues and concerns front and centre, even if the all-too-frequent references (not by Fawcett) to this election as the “Mumsnet Election” serves to enrage those of us who aren’t mothers and, as pointed out in this extremely tart and on-point Guardian column … “reinforce gender stereotypes” by making women’s concerns focussed on childcare …or Sarah Brown’s footwear.
The Gender Blog is now streaming to a newly established website, Missive, which has been set up to bring together women who write about politics. The two founders, Caroline and Sarah, aim to make it a way for women who write about politics to reach a wider audience. If you can think of any female bloggers who ought to be on there – please let me know via the Comments function below.