Friday
25
January
2013

The mother of all expenses

 

 

 

Writing in today’s Independent about new research that claims it costs £220,000 to raise a child to the age of 21. Seeing as most children seem to live with their parents until they are about 57 nowadays this seems a conservative estimate. On the other hand, who are these people who are spending, as the Centre for Economic and Business Research suggests, £302 a year on electronic gadgets for three-year-olds? I would quite like to go and live with these people because they appear to be loaded. Meanwhile: keep using contraception, everyone else!

 

NB This picture is not my child. It is the child of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday
03
January
2013

More apples for teacher

 

 

Writing in today’s Independent about the crisis in teaching revealed in the NUT’s latest poll. “Seven out of 10 teachers say morale has declined since the General Election in May 2010. Presumably, the remaining three out of 10 were too busy locking themselves in the stationery cupboard, weeping, to answer the question.”

A teacher friend messaged me to say: “The NUT surveys always attract the most whingey end of the profession.” Which I’m sure is true. But still.

Sunday
30
December
2012

Seeing Red: Angry, Me?

 

 

 

Let’s stop seeing red! From today’s Observer: Angry, me? How dare you? Writing about the cult of outrage and how it has become a language we’re all fluent in. Amusing to see conciliatory online comments for once: “Being in thrall to social media is like feeling compelled to listen to, comment on and get angry about the pronouncements of every single pub bore and nutter in the country.” “I will hold my hands up and admit that I sometimes come on here to make myself feel better about myself by beating someone else in debate.” “I find an evening out with Real Life Friends to be a wonderful antidote. Failing that reading a good book.” Read a BOOK? Real Life FRIENDS? What a preposterous suggestion. I am OUTRAGED.

 

Picture by Joel Dezafit, Galerie de Jef Safi.

Thursday
27
December
2012

Royal baby makes Muppets of us all

 

 

 

The Royal Baby has already made Muppets (and plebs) of us all. Writing in today’s Independent about what will surely be the biggest news story of 2013: The Royal Baby. I hesitate to add more column inches to the millions already dedicated to this subject. And the irony of saying “Stop talking about Kate and that baby” in a piece about Kate and that baby is definitely not lost. Which is why I have not used a picture of Kate Middleton to illustrate anything on here.

But I felt it needed saying. In early December we had no business knowing about a pregnancy of between five and eight weeks’ duration. Nor about her hospitalisation. Nor seeing the photos of her coming out of hospital. Nor of hearing about every cough, splutter and heave.

“The Palace must have decided that speculation would have been traumatic and widespread and, possibly, dangerous. Really? Worse than the feeding frenzy that resulted anyway? After everything that happened with Princess Diana, has no one learned anything?”

Friday
14
December
2012

Tales of the Homeland

 

 

 

From today’s Notebook in the Independent, Putin’s advice to Russians: have three children! “It’s always a brave move to suggest there’s an ideal number of children. It’s also rather foolish. If there’s one area of life where there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, then family size is definitely it.”

And from the motherland to the Homeland… a rant about Claire Danes in Homeland and why women don’t necessarily make better undercover agents than men. One fictional portrayal of a woman doing something well does not mean the patriarchy is under threat… Nor do spurious assertions about wimmin being able to “multi-task” amount to anything more than lazy reverse sexism. You don’t need to be a spy to work that out.

Sunday
09
December
2012

The Christmas party starts here!

 

 

From today’s Observer, I’m not exactly proud of this but this is how it is. “For some people Christmas is a time for family, relaxation and calm. Not in this house. Here Christmas is the time for culinary excess, gargantuan effort and a great deal of self-indulgence. It is the time for making professional canapes in industrial quantities. It is the time for concocting grandiose plans involving homemade eggnog, the ultimate festive hot crab dip and complicated mince pie recipes with ground almond pastry, cranberry and apple mincemeat and pecan and pistachio toppings.” Comment has already been passed about how unappetising the crab dip sounds. I promise: IT WAS AMAZING.

Friday
07
December
2012

A dictionary of Britishness

 

 

 

With apologies to David Foster Wallace, writing in today’s Independent about the words and expressions used frequently in festive recessional Britain which appear to mean one thing but actually mean something quite different. Before he died Foster Wallace was compiling a dictionary of “what words really mean”. He particularly hated “utilise” and “pulchritude”. Worst culprits over here? “Tax arrangements” (arrangements to pay no tax) and “hyperemesis gravidarum” (mass media virus that causes communication outlets spontaneously to vomit made-up information about newly pregnant royals). 

Tuesday
04
December
2012

Freelance 101

 

 

Writing in this month’s Mslexia about how to survive freelance life. There are so many myths about being freelance. Most people think it is a synonym for “having an independent income” and even some editors treat it like that. (A pox upon them.) Perhaps it was true a few years ago that you could spend most of your time eating biscuits in front of Loose Women and just knock off the occasional article for squillions of pounds. Personally I never worked out how to do this.

Now it’s definitely not true. With budgets slashed, advertising revenues plummeting and pagination shrinking, you have to fight for space as a freelancer — with great ideas, sparkling drive, endless motivation and a love for what you do. If you don’t have that? Don’t do it!

Here are my seven essential tips — see Mslexia for the full version

1. Know why you’re freelancing.

2. Be ruthlessly organised.

3. Develop a rhino hide.

4. Be an ideas junkie.

5. Know your pegs and hooks (to hang ideas on).

6. Be cash-aware.

7. Be yourself, be unique.

And seven things to avoid

1. Comparing yourself negatively with others.

2. Telling features editors your life story in long emails.

3. Blaming editors.

4. Exceeding your word count.

5. Taking on too many interesting but badly-paid commisions.

6. Skimping on the essentials of admin, accounting and tech support.

7. Telling people you’re a freelancer. They’ll just think you eat biscuits in front of Loose Women full-time.

Sunday
18
November
2012

Not much to celebrate in pregnancy

 

 

 

Today’s Mail on Sunday column has a go at the new research on drinking in pregnancy. “Now you can’t have a glass of wine – not even a small one. Coming to a laboratory soon: urgent tests on the barmaid’s apron. Heaven forbid mums-to-be get a whiff of that.” One of the best pieces I’ve read on this subject is by Zoe Williams in the Guardian in 2007, the last time extensive new research came out about drinking in pregnancy. Not much has changed. 

Also: Rihanna — they must be queuing round the block to duet with you, so why would you choose Chris Brown? Plus: Petraeus, morality and time-wasting. Why third class travel is a third class idea. And the horror that is the knitted beard cosy. Although if it stops foul liquor getting into their mouths, maybe we should issue them to all pregnant women. Just in case.

Sunday
11
November
2012

Mail on Sunday: A Woman’s Work…

 

Writing in Suzanne Moore’s old slot in today’s Mail on Sunday. There has been so much bad news for women this week that it’s hard to know where to start. The cost of childcare is rising so fast that we now pay double what other European countries pay. Thousands of middle-income families are about to lose their child benefit. I don’t mind better-off families picking up some of the slack in recession. But when bankers and high earners are not making sacrifices? It’s wrong.

Worst, the lack of progress on equal pay means that from this week onwards all working women basically work for nothing for the rest of the year. Earning on average 15% less than men means we work 15% of the year for ZERO MONIES. Not sensible or right.

Also: Why Kate Moss isn’t quite like the rest of us. Michelle Obama, give the Mom-in-Chief role a rest. Vigilant children and nut allergies. And a little dig at Goldman Sachs. They deserve it.

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