The Woman I Am Privileged To Know

I apologise heartily for the ‘blip’ that was my last post. A bit of a low point, happily done with – although am excitedly making my way through my bucket list (I have a ‘pinterest’ board dedicated to it now. Yes, I have finally joined ‘pinterest!’ Here tis if you fancy a look: I am back to musing on films and books, and this week’s post comes courtesy of Caitlin Moran and Louisa May Alcott. 

I have just finished Moran’s novel How to Build a Girl. I will admit, I had my reservations. Secretly, my only worry was that Moran wouldn’t like me if she met me. Secretly, I didn’t think I was cool enough. Caitlin Moran always has something zeitgeist-y or witty to say.Cool Girls love Caitlin Moran. They talk about Caitlin Moran over dinner parties and have Interesting Things to say about the Feminist Movement. I always keep quiet here, because I don’t think I am a very good feminist. In fact, I have always eschewed the term. I thought because I had a lot of boy friends and didn’t mind boy banter about boobs or farts that perhaps I didn’t deserve to call myself a feminist. I digress a little here, but I do want to address it – I believe in equality, so I am a feminist. I may not talk about it very much, I may not get openly angry at the radio or newspapers, (this is mainly because I don’t want to be asked to back up my opinion. I get scared then) but I, like you, think that we deserve to all be on a level playing field in work, sex and life. Anyhoo, as I was saying – yes, I am not a Cool Girl. I have never been a Cool Girl (except for that brief period in 1998 when I spent my birthday money on a Puma jacket). But once I started reading How to Build a Girl, I realised that Caitlin Moran was never a Cool Girl either. 

Although protagonist Johanna is fictional, she does appear to be based on Moran herself. The same Wolverhampton upbringing, the same dive into the world of music journalism at age 16. Therefore, I feel comfortable using Johanna as a euphemism (is that the right word?) for her creator. Which brings me to a book quoted in Moran’s novel: Little Women. Another novel where the writer uses her own experience as a basis for her world; Louisa May Alcott tells the tale of her four sisters (she was indeed one of four) who reside in Orchard House, Concord (her actual childhood home. Also on my bucket list). Although set in 1860’s Massachusetts, Johanna Morrigan and Jo March (just as I type this I realise the initials are the same. I wonder if this was intentional). In a world where girls are expected to be pretty and find a husband, Jo writes with fervour, determined to become a published author and to bring the March family out of poverty. 

Both Johanna and Jo despair of their own awkwardness. Johanna does a Scooby Doo impression on TV, quotes the musical Annie and admits to liking outdated music. Jo burns her dress from standing to close to the fire, shakes hands instead of curtsying and cries to her mother “I’m ugly and awkward and I always say the wrong things… There’s just something really wrong with me. I want to change, but I can’t. And I just know I’ll never fit in anywhere.” Some of these quotes are altered; from the 1994 film rather than the book – I know some people hated Winona Ryder’s interpretation of Jo, but I was nine when it came out and thought she was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen. Indeed, Jo March felt like a love letter to me, this awkward girl who talked too much to cover up shyness, with interests woefully different than my peers. I knew about Morecambe and Wise, Led Zeppelin and Joyce Grenfell (I still crack out that impression at parties). I loved Jo’s inability to fit in. I was given a quill and scented ink for Christmas in 1995; I copied out the entire text of Little Women, sneaking out of bed when Mum and Dad had retired for the night. Jo March was fifteen at the time of the first novel. I am now 28 and she is still my hero. 

Indeed all of my Cool Girl friends were once Jo, too. They were also awkward as girls, with an intense love of literature, odd fashion sense and conversation more suited to adults than their fellow children. This is Johanna, too. But this is the thing. If you are an odd child, who does’t know what her place is – perhaps you grow into a Cool Girl. Johanna finds her place writing in London. Jo finds hers writing in New York. They “step over the divide between childhood and all that lay beyond.” 

About seven years ago, Mum introduced me to a daughter of her friend. This little girl was ten and very unhappy; she was getting picked on at school. According to her it was because she was weird. She liked The Beatles. Her favourite TV show was Dad’s Army. She liked to wear her Grandad’s glasses. I wish I could tell this girl just how OK it would all become one day. That liking things that are different will one day shape you into an individual. You don’t follow the crowd blindly; you are strong enough to know who you are. Not fitting in as a child will often result in a well rounded adult. Hard to tell a crying girl that, though. I’d love to know what she’s up to now. Perhaps I’ll find out. I like to think she’s off to uni, or travelling the world. Whatever it is, I hope she’s happy with her own individuality. 

Before I wrap up, make myself a jacket tater and finish series one of Arrested Development – I’ve watched seven episodes today – I’d like to note a few more similarities I spotted. Both Johanna and Jo muse on their own decency. Johanna searches her caustically typed reviews for a trace of her own goodness “Surely they will know underneath it all I’m a good and noble person, in love with the world?” Jo confesses her worries to her younger sister “I don’t know if I could ever be good, like Marmee. I rather crave violence.”  They both work hard to find their voice in their writing – Johanna adopts a scathing tone, ripping apart new bands – all just to fit in. Jo writes tales of murder and gore, hoping to get her short stories accepted by the newspapers. Both of them are encouraged to write as they truly are. Johanna by intuition, and Jo by her future husband “There is nothing here of the woman I am privileged to know.” Actually, while we’re on that – both of these women act incredibly bravely when it comes to men. Jo turns down a proposal from her best friend Laurie. Who just so happens to be very rich. As a child, I never understood why she did. Not only is Laurie her best friend in the world – and he’s Christian Bale for God’s sake, but he could bring her out of poverty. But I understand now. She loves him. But she isn’t in love with him. And she has to be true to herself. Instead, she marries an impoverished German professor, who challenges and adores her. 

And it is Johanna who inspires this post. Having suggested a threesome to impress the man she’s sleeping with, she suddenly realises that he’s a bit of an arse. And that she shouldn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do in order to impress somebody. The next quote made me smile “I have never prevented my own doom before! I have never stood in the path of certain unhappiness, and told myself – lovingly, like a mother to myself – ‘No! This unhappiness will not suit you! Turn around and go another way!”

I think this is lovely. And something we must all learn. I am not a Cool Girl yet, I haven’t quite found my place or come to terms with my own awkwardness. But I will. At least – one step forward – I think Caitlin Moran and I would quite get on. And Louisa May Alcott. I like to think of us three – along with my fellow Cool Girl/ Awkward Child friends – sitting down and having some gin and talking of books, laughing at the world. 

Jo and fr

Bucket List & Sandpaper Desolation

No, this isn’t a post on the questionable Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie. Last night was an odd low point. I couldn’t tell you why ~ I think tiredness has a lot to do it with it; have been working without a day off (really, truly, honestly!) and I think I just need a Good Sleep. An incident occured. The internet stopped working. Quite justifiably, this induced me to swear. It induced me to throw books across my tiny room. It involved me blubbing inexplicably for an hour or so, trying to keep quiet and not wake my flatmate. It was then I came to realise that perhaps it wasn’t the lack of internet that was upsetting me(although I had just settled down to wath Celeste and Jesse Forever on Netflix.) Believe it or not, I don’t tell you this for attention or to get sympathy. It’s because nearly everybody I know has suffered from a Low Point and I think it’s something that needs to be discussed. To remove the stigma. It happens to us all and I’m not ashamed that I spent last night wondering what I was doing with my life. 

Whatever the catalyst (ahem, internet) my little Sandpaper Desolation (this is what I call it when things are bad; it’s like sandpaper rubbing the same spot over and over again) resulted in me thinking, as I sat in bed this morning, eating my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. It is time to get a little control in my life. Is not that the key to happiness, for everybody? That and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, naturally.


I was terrified of moving into my current flatshare. Two years ago, it was. Newly single and nervous of meeting new people, the temptation was to stay in my little rut where it was comfortable. But it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve dressed up as Molly Ringwald, I’ve partied until the early hours, I’ve made lifelong friends and – without sounding like a smug Davina McCall during the Streemate years – two couples are now together because I moved in. I call that a good result. We are now coming to the end of our time together. This makes me very sad (especially as I will be homeless until the end of the Persuasion tour) but I am so pleased that I spent these two years with such wonderful people.

Likewise, my new job at Hampton Court caused sleepless nights. Terrified of getting it wrong (truth be told, I still am) and of looking like a stupid fool, I very nearly called up before my first day to tell them they’d made a huge mistake. But I didn’t and the sense of accomplishment was immense. Although I still said ‘fantastic’ the other day. Not sure that was OK. OK is also not OK.

So I can take one thing from this. To quote the old adage “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’m not sure if standing in the middle of the road when a bus is coming is the right kind of scared, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. A little thing every day that forces me out of my comfort zone. I’ll report back when I can think of something.


At the risk of sounding like one of those people who say “I just don’t have enough ME time.” “I need to spend some time on ME” (God, I hate those people. It is my opinion that those who say this are people who have far too much ME time already), I think maybe I need to think about what I want from life a little bit. I’m always so concerned about appearing selfish, or self-involved (I’ve edited this several times, I’m still concerned that I do!) that I tend to worry more about what other people want than me. When – inspired by the Break Up Bucket List that’s appeared on twitter – I thought about what would be on my Bucket List, I wasn’t really sure. But I’ve thought about it at length and here is a brief sample (money permitting) (money will probably never be permitting):

1) Go to New York. Amazingly, I am doing this in December, thanks to the kindness of two brilliant friends. Still can’t quite believe I’ll get to tick this one off.

2) Go to Russia. Probably not right now… I’d like to go to Saint Petersburg and see the Winter Palace.

3) Write a novel. I’ve started about three. One day I will finish.

4) Own my own home. I don’t know if this will ever happen. I hope it does.

5) Stand under a waterfall.

6) Lie under the stars and watch the sun come up.

7) Learn to drive

8) Learn an instrument and stop being so scared of playing it in front of people

9) Get a tattoo

10) Go travelling for an extended amount of time, to see the world. To not have to work for a little bit. Have adventures, meet new people, escape.

13) Learn to cook more complicated meals

14) To do something that really scares me. Perhaps jump out of a plane. Go bungee jumping.

15) Wear a beautiful ballgown. Go to a really fancy event. I presume the event will be decided at the time!

16) Have a party on a beach.

I promise that I will try and do as many of these as possible. Some will be more achievable than others. But I will endeavour to complete them.Of course, as ever, I shall report back. Perhaps I shall add some more. I would also LOVE to hear your own.

I apologise to everybody that this blog post is less of a film blog, and more of an emotional splurge. When Low Points happen, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that with friends or family and don’t really feel it’s something I can show anybody. As far as I’m concerned, it’s my job to help them, not their job to help me. I don’t like the attention and I don’t want to burden anybody with all the mush – because, for the most part, the mush clears fairly quickly. It is very important to discuss mental health though, is it not? If people don’t, there is a horrible silence that descends. So many people I know suffer from their own Low Points, be they sandpapery, or sharp, or painful, or numb. We should acknowledge this. It is utterly normal and part of the human condition. This is my way of talking about without actually talking about it.

Goodbye, Sandpaper Desolation! Here is a picture of a thing that makes me smile: