Talking to Bath Short Story Award about Helen Dunmore, Bulgakov and making voodoo dolls of people who have rejected you.
In TW11 magazine doing stand-up for Oxfam Get Together for International Women’s Day.
Talking to Bath Life about Ben’s Cookies, Amitav Ghosh and jumpsuits.
Talking to Laugh Out London about The Night I Died, standing on a wet cardboard stage in Croydon and Rich Fulcher repeatedly saying, “You look Chinese.”
Talking to Run Riot about Upstairs Downton: The Improvised Episode (latest news: the show will be at The Hive at Heroes of the Free Fringe in Edinburgh from 2 to 25 August).
Interview with Amanda de Cadenet in this month’s Red magazine. Amanda was exactly as she seems in the interview. Open. Interested and interesting. Very LA in the way she talks and in the way she sees the world. I was half-expecting Gwynnie or Demi to phone her during our meeting — “Excuse me, Viv, I’ve just got to take this call” — but to my great distress this did not happen. Good luck to her and her Conversation (her on-line talk show — which is actually good and has extraordinary guests like The Gaga.)
Covering for Rachel Johnson in today’s Mail on Sunday: stay-at-home mothers, respect and latte money (yes, we should value what they do — but the real question is how to help the women who want to work stay in work); the disturbingly slim win of Nigel Farage at this week’s Intelligence Squared debate (it only takes one per cent and we’re out of Europe); and what’s more stupid — someone who puts petrol in Obama’s diesel limo, The Beast, OR a woman who crashes her car into a wall in a multi-storey car park? Don’t answer that. Because the woman is me.
Two wonderful page-turners reviewed this month: Francesca Segal’s The Innocents for The Observer, which is the story of a newly-engaged couple where the man is having serious doubts about the relationship. I like his bold strategy: if in doubt about the person you are marrying, just bring the wedding forward and everything will be fine. This is an entertaining, elegant read, nicely pitched in the territory between literary and commercial. I’d happily recommend it to anyone as a light read. But for something a bit more quirky and inventive with similar themes? Nell Freudenberg’s The Newlyweds.
Lucy Ellmann’s Mimi, reviewed for the Sunday Telegraph, meanwhile, is so unusual and so crazy (but good crazy) that it’s really in a territory all of its own. Mimi is an eccentric speech-writer who saves Harrison, an equally eccentric plastic surgeon, when he falls over in the street and sprains his ankle. We know they’re going to cross paths again and fall in love and sure enough they do. This feels like a Woody Allen film encapsulated in a novel. It’s madcap, funny, wild, romantic, experimental, demented and I loved everything about it.
In Bath and very excited to be taking over from James Runcie as Artistic Director of the Independent Bath Literature Festival. The launch party for his outgoing programme was last night in the Guildhall, with a rousing speech from Independent editor Chris Blackhurst and music from The Bookshop Band (once a rather wonderful elderly Bath lady had unexpectedly got hold of the microphone and told everyone to “please be quiet and listen to these lovely musicians”).
The Festival’s on over the next nine days and features JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Aminatta Forna, Sandi Toksvig, Kate Mosse, Elif Shafak and many other greats. No pressure for next year, then…
To the Donmar for BBC Radio 4’s Front Row to review Trelawny of the Wells, a 1898 play by Arthur Wing Pinero which has been subtly reworked by Patrick Marber. Unusual, fresh and entertaining play directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina). Ron Cook — Mr Crabb the accountant in Mr Selfridge — absolutely steals the show with his dual role as Mrs Mossop, the Peggy Mitchell-style housekeeper, and Sir William Gower, the snuff-addicted grumpy uncle. I enjoyed it very much indeed, as I said about 56 times during the programme.
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.
Yes, I think it must be agreed that 2012 was a good year for feminism. But will 2013 be even better? Love this report by AFP which references the influence of Rhiannon Coslett and Holly Baxter of Vagenda, Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, Lucy-Anne Holmes of No More Page Three, Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates and, of course, the MASSIVE Stand-Up to Sexism gig.
Disclaimer: Yes, I am the one at this gig who talked about the 26, 241 nipples published in The Sun. The odd number is not because I am a woman and therefore bad at maths. It is because one time Melinda Messenger stood side on.
Here’s what we want more of in 2013:
— More initiatives by (especially young) women to inspire debate. What we have is great. It needs to multiply.
— More menz* involved generally.
— More debate about gender stereotypes. A lot of what still passes for “feminism” is just reverse “them versus us”. It’s not about gender-blindness. It should be.
— More men primary school teachers. 12% of primary school teachers are male, compared with 38% male secondary school teachers (also not great). This is not because I want to lech at menz during one of my only daylight interactions with other adults. No, it isn’t. That would be lazy gendered stereotype of a hormonal middle-aged woman. Though accurate.
— I may have missed a few ideas. Tweet more: #feminism2013
* menz = counterpart of wimminz
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.