Great evening at Australia House where I was reporting for the Australian Times on the award for Australian Woman of the Year in the UK. Inspiring speeches by the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and Baroness Coatdyke, who was High Commissioner in Australia. They gave the mainly-young Australian female audience great advice about being strong climbing up the ladder but also about getting your priorities right if you have a family. Great to attend a high-powered female-dominated event. More please!
Am sitting writing this in Pret a Manger on Regent’s Street. The luscious windows of Fortnum & Massons pear over me. My neighbour has a pink silk tie and expensive cufflinks. A woman has just stepped in wearing a fur coat. Their accents reveal that they are certainly not tourists.
I was going to work in the London Library and meet a friend – but I couldn’t get in. I suppose when you pay that sort of annual membership, they can’t give a day-pass to any blogging riff raff, can they? Fair enough, I didn’t book in advance and they were terribly polite about it – but there was no way I was getting past that desk.
Anyway here I am. Mobile office and all that, very happy until I start watching The Establishment glide by with shiny cars on litter-free streets. It’s reminded me of a conversation I had last week with someone I adore. (I hope she doesn’t see this. Mentioning our discussion is fine, the word ‘adore’ – no way.)
She told me on no uncertain terms that my daughter Bella is being rude when she says ‘pardon’. I’m told it’s not about class, it’s about manners. And by the way, I have been heard saying ‘dinner’ instead of ‘supper’. Finally, I am warned that this six-letter word could make her an outcast if she were ever accepted into one those exclusive local secondary schools.
Yikes. These thoughts coupled with the lunch-time flood of pin-stripped suits have made me run for the tube to King’s Cross.
Phew, I am now safely tucked away in a corner of the British Library. It’s not a mirror reflection of British society but certainly feels a bit more real. And I can’t get to work until I rid myself of these niggling questions.
Let’s imagine Bella were offered a place at one of those elite London schools. Would I want her to go somewhere where she might be outcast for saying ‘pardon’? ‘Of course not!’ scream my values. Would I want my daughter to go to a brilliant school? ‘Of course’ says her mother.
Either I am going crazy or this country has not entered the 21st Century. Someone please tell me what it is all about. Actually, I don’t mean that. What I really want to know is why on earth it is still going on. In The Times last Saturday, Ralf Fiennes called class ‘this country’s Achille’s heel’. He thinks it’s a ‘media construct to run stupid articles about class and posh actors’.
Well, I’m sorry Ralf, I do not agree and here’s another blog post about it. This country’s obsession with class is as real as my neighbour’s gold cufflinks on Regent’s Street. I know nothing about the plight of actors but I’ve seen a few boardrooms and Prime Minister’s Question Time. This is one UK folly I do not relish describing to my Australian friends. Monty Python funny. Class thing not funny.
And that’s because the class club still holds some people back and still promotes others. Anyone who denies it should take a closer look at business and government. Fine, there are lots of successful people who don’t speak with plums in their mouths. But look around and tell me who is ruling this country and The City? We should be ashamed of how far away we are from being a meritocracy. How about some Americans and Australians get over here to give us some training?
Sadly, I can’t see any ‘kill the class club’ camps anywhere, please delight me and tell me I am wrong. As far as I know, the next generation of these cufflink-wearers even have tutors with the right contacts in the right schools.
I would love Bella to become one of these British Library cosmopolitan self-assured girls sitting next to me. Big boots, big hair and lots of big books. I’ve just spied two, earnestly listening to an older American woman lecturing them on the history of feminism. I want these opportunities for my daughter (whether she grabs them is something I’ll have to find out). And I also want to know whether accent and background will still impact her generation.
Hello, I just got back from a break. I went away to that distant offline world, not intentionally at first. Ironically, my trip began on the evening of the Mumsnet Bloggers conference. I had left energised and excited about continuing to write online, delighted that I was part of this world, that I had made this choice. But then then my energy was required elsewhere.
Until this week. Normality – or as close as I’ll ever be to it – is resuming. I’ve just sent my latest pitch to a paper, adamant it’s the most fascinating subject out there. Ha, shouldn’t have said that.
And while away, I have been doing some online tourism, reading some of your blogs, tweets, articles. I’m bursting to join back in. But for today, my little personal update. Feels good to summarise it all, just for me and of course you too, if you’re reading on.
Work-wise, I still feel like I am living the dream. There are days when I question it all. But then I continue to skip to school in the morning, often quite literally to the mortal embarrassment of my daughter.
No second baby still. I continue to dream of a baby brother and sister for Bella. I still yearn and crave for that extra little one in our family but I’m not focused on it anymore. It’s certainly not stopping me from living the ‘now’. I am petrified I’ll regret this current lack of action but I also know that some big decisions are brewing.
Parenting. I worry about Bella growing up. Becoming a teenager. Being OK. Being happy. I worry about the pressures of secondary schooling in London. Not giving into all the peer pressure. Remembering I just want her to be happy and healthy.
Wonderfully, my marriage is better than ever. I think we’re growing up.
My husband comes from and grew up in a small village near Tacloban in The Philippines. His grandmother and immediate family are OK but their house and little shop (on the left side) have been destroyed. We took this picture on our last visit, our daughter loved helping in the shop.
I am raising money which we will split into half to rebuild their house and half for the community of Julita. If you’d like to donate, please do so at this account solely set up for this purpose: Account number 19428463 / Sort code 30-67-72. Any amount is welcome, a little will go a long way.
There are too many things to say so I’ll leave it to my daughter who wrote this poem on Monday morning, whilst we awaited news.
Some of the things I have written …
My story on the pain of secondary infertility – ‘write about what you know ‘, so I do:
My story about changing my life – over a year later, I’m still skipping around:
I contribute to West London Mum, here on the teachers’ strike with my change management hat:
I love writing this column on our Anglo-Australian family:
A week in the life of …
Parents: The strangest call I have ever made. ‘Hum, I’m calling you to just say that, hum, Bella isn’t adopted. [...] Yes, I understand you were sure of this and hum, so was your daughter at school today and yesterday, but she’s not. Could you clarify that with your daughter, so that Bella actually believes me?”
Plots: I’ve submitted a short story to a competition. It’s not very good, not polished but oh how much I enjoyed just writing it. I played and played, digging into the deepest darkest basement of my brain. Your heroin can be anyone you want, I was told. So I made her a bit of me and a bit of a horrid (hopefully not me) other woman.
Paris: Dave (Lawza’s) birthday. I’ve been working hard to raise extra ££. Three parts to the present we gave him, wrapped in newspaper:
- Part 1: Two graphic novels on loan from the library (message = “don’t worry, am not spending any money Mr Spendthrift”)
- Part 2: Half-price men’s Nivea moisturizer – given to him every year since we met, he’s definitely a metro-sexual but would never actually buy the stuff, but loves it.
- Part 3: A baguette in aluminium foil. He thought it was a kebab. It could have been. We never buy each other presents. He sees the baguette has been cut open. He opens it. The filling is paper. Eurostar tickets to Paris for the three of us in November. A long weekend to my birthplace which he has do desperately wanted to share with Bella. Yeah! A present he actually loves.
Print: I’ve started a new weekly column in a small local paper and it’s also online … more fun.
And finally, just ‘coz I feel like it, here’s a couple of pics of our movie night with seven of Bella’s friends to watch Ballet Shoes. The DVD arrived when a couple of them were here, we booked it for a few days later, didn’t want anyone feeling left out, before I knew I had eight girls in our tiny living room. Sort of thing I would have never dreamt of doing before but how little labour I put in. I didn’t clean the flat before-hand. I bought quick food on the way home from work, 20 mins before they were arriving. Hey presto. OK, so it was hard to hear the film but I think we all had fun.
Bella has asked me if I will be grumpy like this weekend again. I say ‘focused darling’. One weekend. One writing competition. One half-marathon. One new column. One movie date with eight eight-year-olds. One sleep-over. One big daddy birthday. No, I won’t always be stressed like that, like I used to be.
PS – I won’t ever buy popcorn again. I was worried about my burnt home-made popcorn not cutting it. And I saw this super cheap packet stuff. Thought it was the easy option but YUCK. (Apart from the nice one someone brought, phew.)
This morning, I decided to brave it and follow up a work email I had sent a week ago. I felt shy and embarrassed. Am I bothering them? Will they shoo me away? But wow! Not for the first time, nor second time but for the third time recently, I received a lovely enthusiastic email back.
In this case, my initial email had been swallowed up into their inbox black hole and they had not noticed it. They had been trying to get in touch with me following our meeting but didn’t know how. And in the other instances, I was on their to do list but probably not at the top (how dare they!) and after my little chaser email, it was all done and the work was fixed up.
Years ago, I had a terrible meeting and my mentor-like manager told me afterwards that the person who had been horrible was going through a divorce, their behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with my work.
Likewise, radio silence is not always because people don’t want to answer. In fact, I am off to answer some lovely emails I’ve received through this blog. I am ashamed to say I haven’t done it earlier because they are so touching I had wanted to give each one a decent amount of time and thought. Yesterday, I realised I was drowning my words in clichés and it has to stop but just one final one, I can’t resist. Don’t be shy. We never know what someone is going through and people’s reactions often have nothing to do with us.
I am off tomorrow to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival with my mother, niece and daughter, oooh! Can’t wait, I hope you have a lovely weekend too.