Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If not me, who?

Emma Watson in her recent speech to the UN - "If not me, who?If not now, when?"

What an incredible call to action and resolve from this remarkable young woman. Yesterday I listened to another young woman tell of her belief that if she has a baby it will be the death of her career. Not only that, but she would be 'letting down' all the colleagues and mentors who support her career and have invested in her.
She and the women in the room accepted this as fact.

Women are so manipulated by their desire to be competent, to 'do the right thing', to 'play nice' that they do not see power and choices, only compromises. That the value, possibilities for success and ambitions of a woman decreases when they have children is true, but that it has to be this way, is an utter lie.

I am tired of holding back, of 'playing nice' of being more concerned about appearing too aggressive, too forthright, even 'unattractive' and so reverting to holding my tongue and being meek.

I could claim my power and choose my life.

Why not?

Women suffer from their own limiting beliefs as much as by socially imposed limits. We are excellent at 'playing the game'. That 'feminism' is a negative even shameful word, is testament to that. As is the disgraceful fact that men and women in the media now actively seek to undermine her words and cause by sexualising and exposing Emma Watson

We buy the magazines.
We watch the shows and the films.
We worship celebrity.
We talk about 'thigh gap'. (What man in the world gives a rats ass about 'thigh gap')
We accept and condone the proliferation of pornography.
We accept the conventions of beauty and worthiness.
We self hate.
We fear making ourselves too big.
We apologise.
We bring each other down.
We let our daughters do the same.

I have done it all.

But we don't have to.
As citizens of the developed world we have more power than we realise.

In the west, women have gained so much. But we hold ourselves back.
We do not have to subscribe to a masculine paradigm of beauty/work/wealth=success.
We have choices.
We can influence.

Imagine a society where parenting, community, love, expression, age, care, children, art, culture, individualism and connection were valued as much as sexiness and the size of your pay check?

We can take up space.
The acceptance of limitations and polite apologies for speaking up and expressing opinion can stop.
We don't have to play that way.

This needs to happen.
For the millions of girls to be married as children.
For the millions of girls who are denied basic education.
For the millions of girls in our own countries who see no future, only welfare and abuse.
For the young men who take their own lives rather than express what they see as weakness.

We can stand firm in our own shoes.
We can hold back the polite apology.
We can refuse to be limited.

Hold each other up, men and women together.
'Be bloody, bold and resolute.'

If not us, who?
If not now, when?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Why I write

Why I Write

I write to amuse myself, to see what comes out or, as someone famous once said, 'to find out what I am really thinking'. To be quite honest, I think my thoughts are better on paper. Words stumble and fumble out of me and I lower my eyes and send out unspoken apologies when I try and speak. Writing is clearer, more strident, more ... what I really think.

I write because if I don't write I become dark and mean and bitter and twisted and frustrated and I froth at the mouth and spit fire.

I write because it puts what's inside of me on the outside of me.
Its sweet relief and gentle progress. Word therapy.

I write because I am shite at drawing and painting.
Because words are the way I paint pictures.
Words are the bomb.
Words are bombs.

Writing leaves a mark. Good writing leaves an indelible mark.
To write a picture that another person can look at and say 'Hey, hang on ... that's me!'  - now thats something.

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

I am not sure what genre I fall into? As a blog writer I think my writing is different as it aims only to share a moment with the reader. More forthright blogs that teach or tell or have themes can be so fantastic, but my blog writing does not seek to teach or instruct in any way. I am just sharing thoughts and ideas as they come in a stream of consciousness. My only agenda is the desire to connect.

Why do I write what I do?
Last year I lost my father and I couldn't stop myself from writing about that. Its not easy to read other people's difficult emotions, I know that. But after one of my posts a woman wrote this to me "I lost my husband suddenly, inexplicably, almost six months ago. Your beautiful words here sum up exactly how I feel. Thank you." 

A few short months earlier my beloved aunt died and I couldn't stop myself writing about that. My cousins read my blog post as my aunt's eulogy. 

I wrote two posts years ago - one about restlessness and the other about presence and they struck a chord with other women. 

Thats why I write what I do. In the hope that what I express touches and connects me to someone else. That the story I am writing is not just my story and that what I write could mean something to someone I have never even met. 

What am I working on?
Today I started work on a novel - a story for young girls. In ten months time I will have a first draft in my hands. 

I write for my luthier at

I have joined a Writing group and now I call myself a 'writer', just in case its true.

And  I have invited a friend to work with me to turn this piece  into something. She has agreed to help me create a book from it, agreed to turn the words into actual pictures and I will watch her in awe.

How does your writing process work?

A recent course called "Unlocking Creativity"  taught me the discipline of short, timed bursts of writing to themes. No time to edit or proof as you go. Silence that inner critic and "Just get it out, baby, get it all out!". This process taught me a LOT.

Did you ever watch the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk where she describes the Greek concept of the muse and the Roman concept of 'genius' as a being or force separate from yourself? A force that inspires and generates the work of writers and artists? Where the inspiration works through you and is not of you? I get that. 

When I write blog posts I lie sequestered in my bed - (my favourite place in all the world) with my scruffy dog curled up like a hairy doughnut nearby.  I look out of the window, through the magnolia tree with its fairy flowers or its barren stalks and  up to that sweet little nest at its top.  I take in a great big breathe then I write ... whatever. I have been known to type a whole post on that ridiculously small keyboard on my phone. Being alone and writing relatively uninterrupted, in our tiny Smith house bursting with five people and a dog, is the most lavish luxury I have. I dream of a study, one's very own room, just like Virginia, but until then ...

This post has been written as part of a 'blog hop'. Bloggers all over the interwebs have written posts about why they write.  Thanks to Deb at Sew Craft Goodness for inviting me to participate. Part of the hop is to invite two more bloggers to participate, but I think all the bloggers I know have already been a part of it.But,if you would like to post on why you write, please leave a message in the comments and I will link you here with a photo and a bio! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Me and Ken Burns

The luthier made a truly stunning thing - a baroque instrument, a viola da gamba. He diligently took photographs of the entire process from the rough bits of wood to final completed instrument. I gathered up the shots and made a wee film of it with iMovie. It was a fantastic process. I didn't really know what I was doing, but nutting out how to crop shots and drop in music and lengthen clips and zoom and all was really fun.  Jane Campion, eat your heart out! Well, maybe not quite yet.

What the luthier does never fails to astound me. His work is superb and sculptural and fine. This instrument, with its beautiful Baroque quirks, caught my heart. The size (smaller than a cello), shape (flat backed with sharp edges) and its extraordinary range (7-gut strings of sound, - and when they say gut, they do mean gut) and its unique, sweet feur de lys embellishment, handpainted with love by the luthier, all came together to make an incredible objet d'art. 

So, if you would like to see how to make a viol in 4 and a half minutes, please do watch this little film, cropped and edited with love by moi. 

iMovie. So good!

I do just have one question though. Why do they call that zoom-y, croppy effect "Ken Burns"? Who is this Ken Burns? Anyone?

I obviously have no idea, but his natty, zoom-y effects are quite jazzy. Thanks Ken!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

And Still I Rise - Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Life


I love rain on a Saturday.
Staying in bed is legit on a rainy Saturday.
My bed is my favourite place in the world and the heart of Saturday morning Smith family life. 

This morning I have lain in state, me and my tablet, while the family has moved about me. 

I wish I had set up a time lapse film of this morning. It would have gone like this:
the kids coming in and out,
two little snugglers curling up next to me to watch a video of cute dogs,
then bustling out to play,
then coming in fighting
and being chased out by their father,
the Luthier bringing in coffee,
then breakfast
and the local rag or "two minutes silence" as a friend's father dubbed it,
the dog curled up on the end of the bed,
then next to me on the Luthier's side,
then curled up beside a kid on the end again,
barking to go out,
kids loom binding together on the bed,
Killing themselves at their own jokes,
the teen guy looking through catalogues and remarking "Oooh, carpets!
- said no thirteen year old boy ever.

Now the teen is beside me watching Tripod and Doc Brown comedy videos on YouTube and the two smalls have sorted all their loom bands into colours.

And what have I been doing all this time,  I hear you ask? Well, while sitting on my flat ass, propped on pillows, shifting occasionally when my legs go to sleep and happily watching the family flow in and out and all around me, I have done some research for the Luthier's trip to Malta. And may I say, She looks alright, Malta. My Mum lived there in her teens in the 50s. Can you imagine that? 1950s frocks and hand bags, dos and shoes on a tiny picturesque rock in the middle of the Mediterranean. What a romantic adventure for a teenage girl from post-war Plymouth! Her father was in charge of the Supply office for the British Navy under Lord Mountbatten and she attended a Catholic girl's school where their uniforms were individually tailored. She tells us stories of weekends out on yachts with officers and aristocratic girls with improbable names brought back from the Raj.

"If you love culture, history, and excellent weather you’ll love living in Malta. The Mediterranean Sea, a warm and sunny climate, a peaceful lifestyle waiting to be lived–that’s what to expect if you choose to live in Malta."

I just mentally moved to Malta.

The Luthier has been invited to be the Violin Maker in Residence and a Juror at the Malta International Music Competition.   One of his bows will be donated as a prize for the Violin competition. Competitors, musicians of many kinds of instruments, come from all over Europe, Asia and the US for the week. The opportunity for Phil to attend came through his profile on LinkedIn - who knew that LinkedIn would workpiece that? Exciting times!

A time lapse film of me and the Luthier packing up and heading to Malta for a week of Mediterranean-culture-soaked-bliss is my next wish. Fingers crossed for tonight's mega draw.

I don't imagine my bed would be my favourite place if I were in Malta.

This island's bedscape is now covered in toys, catalogues, a wet towel, kid's pyjamas and dressing gowns and my bedside table has collected an ex-breakfast bowl and a couple of dirty, empty coffee cups.  My teen is onto "Wicked" and Hugh Jackman-in-musical-theatre videos on his laptop  next to me now. And the dogue has returned, to curl up cat-like at my feet.

I love my bed and I love the internet - it makes my bed even better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


We Work The Black Seam

This place has changed for good
Your economic theory said it would
It's hard for us to understand
We can't give up our jobs the way we should
Our blood has stained the coal
We tunneled deep inside the nation's soul
We matter more than pounds and pence
Your economic theory makes no sense

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
Deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

The seam lies underground
Three million years of pressure packed it down
We walk through ancient forest lands
And light a thousand cities with our hands
Your dark satanic mills
Have made redundant all our mining skills
You can't exchange a six inch band
For all the poisoned streams in Cumberland

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
Deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

Our conscious lives run deep
You cling onto your mountain while we sleep
This way of life is part of me
THere is no price so only let me be
Should the children weep
The turning world will sing their souls to sleep
When you have sunk without a trace
The universe will suck me into place

One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can't control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
But deadly for twelve thousand years is carbon fourteen
We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

Monday, April 28, 2014


The writing course I am doing is progressing really well. I am really enjoying the daily practice of writing and am starting to realise how much can be achieved with just a little every day. The course focuses on opening up and just "... getting it out there, baby!" focussing on laying out the detail and emotion

This is a piece I wrote as an exercise. Remember, it is written as a first draft and is all about just getting it on the page. But it came out of nowhere and I quite liked it.

"He watched her high-heels dance up the stairs to her brownstone. The Autumn shower was drenching him, but he was oblivious. The bliss of that woman, that first kiss in the rain, , had lifted his feet off the ground, beyond care for the drops running over their faces and lips and the weather. He stood there drinking her in until she turned, blew a kiss to him and disappeared through the door into the light and warmth. His smile cracked open his face and he whooped and ran through the puddles, trousers drenched and shoes squelching. He lifted his face to the sky, drips falling into his eyes and mouth, blinking and spluttering, he sang the old song, a modern day Gene Kelly, kicking through red and yellow leaves and overflowing with love. An old man in a high-collared overcoat and an umbrella pulled down hard over his head, eyed him and grumbled "Lunatic!" Giggling, David slowed to a walking skip, stopping to shelter under a florist's awning, watching the drops dance as they hit the street. With his hands shoved deep in to his coat pockets and a glow in his cheeks, 'Glorious evening!' he said to no-one in particular, "Truly glorious!" "

Thursday, April 24, 2014


15 years
2 states
3 children
18 weeks of morning sickness
5 hospital stays and 4 operations for the kids 
11 years of business
Over 40 instruments
One 2 month adventure to France
9 jobs
1 mortgage
Bills, debts, mistakes and successes 
a motorbike
and a dog.

We are still friends, still in love, still planning our future and sharing our dreams. 

After 15 years of marriage, we sure do have a lot to celebrate.

Happy anniversary to us! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


As you can see I have been on blog hiatus. I just haven't had anything much to say. Not in a bad way. Just in a bit of a blank brain kinda way.

Life has trucked on in a jolly, Smithy, summery way. Climate change is certainly working for us on the island, I can't remember such a long summer.

Today I started a writing a course. Its a scary step. From spending the money, to committing the time and doing the work just scares the shit out of me and it is the sort of thing I have previously found very easy to duck out of. I want it bad, but there are so, so many other things to do, priorities, etcetera, etcetera. This time the luthier looked at me and said quietly and firmly, as only the luthier can, "You should do this."  So even though my knees do knock and my collies wobble, I am supported and not ducking out. 

Do you find that? That its far easier to do jobs and commit to everyone else, than it is to commit to yourself? Doing things for the kids, or the luthier, or school, or whatever, certainly sits more easily in my chest than time and effort that is 'just for me'. Madness. I know that is madness, but it is true.  And in an effort to break the habit and move forward a little, I have started a writing course. 
"If you love it, do it", thats the sage advice I freely hand out, often unsolicited, to my kids and my friends. The time has come to take my own advice. 

Writing for me is vulnerability, an exposure. While the act is always preceded by excitement, high expectations and lusty anticipation, often the reality, in my eyes, has a rather disappointing, withered result - much like a flasher in a raincoat under a lamppost in the park.

My first post to the course forum just went up for feedback. Let's hope they are gentle with me. 

Monday, January 27, 2014


 Happy New Year! 

I hope your 2014 has started full of sweetness, love and optimism. 

This has been the laziest holiday on record chez Smith. It's been all pjs till lunchtime, reading and watching movies.

Well, not entirely. The kids have been swimming lots and my two little 'sinkers' are finally getting fishy with it. In typical, slightly perverse style, Sach can suddenly swim 25 metres, but only backstroke. Whatever works for you, little man! 

Little Soph has had a growth spurt extraordinaire, Josh is weeks away from his first teen birthday and the luthier has been working, working, working. 

As for me, well, I've been baking. I have become a little obsessed with 'The Great British Bake Off'. It may be getting a little out of hand. I found myself at a party describing the joy of watching a baker with expert technique knead dough and my raptures were met with a sea of blank faces.  Its hard to believe not everyone appreciates the dark art of baking quite as much as me. 

I have, in particular, taken a shine to yeast baking - donuts and cinnamon scrolls and Chelsea buns so far and I think proper bread is next. There is something so therapeutic about kneading dough, watching it prove, then pulling the golden brown, sweet delights from the oven.

In these, the laziest holidays on record, it makes me feel like I've achieved something.